Who were the Nephilim

The subject of the Nephilim is one of the great puzzles of the Bible. The same general theme is found throughout ancient writings of many peoples and is not confined exclusively to the Judeo-Christian Scriptures.

The first canonical reference to the nephilim comes from Genesis 6:4 'The Nephilim were on the earth in those days-and also afterward-when the sons of God went to the daughters of men and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown.'

The Nephilim, if they were not purely mythical in nature, were apparently a race of impressive physical stature compared to the smaller Hebrews.

Numbers 13:33 "And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight." This particular reference is glossed by a statement which implies that the offspring of Anak in Canaan were descended from the renowned Rephaim or Nephilim

Translation / Etymology

Nephilim" is a Hebrew word, there is some debate as to its actual meaning or linguistic root.

Fallen Ones

The Hebrew word nephel {Nepel} is probably the root word from which Nephilim is derived- nephel means: 'untimely birth, abortion, miscarriage'. Nephilim would therefore be 'Unnaturally begotten men' or bastards from 'abortion' or 'miscarriage' . "It comes from the verb (napal 1392), fall, lie down, be cast down, fail. The plural word means 'fallen ones,' mostly by the sword, and occurs in Joshua 8:25, Judges 20:46, 2 Kings 25:11, Psalm 145:14, Jeremiah 39:9, 52:15, Ezekiel 32:22 and 24." [1]

Therefore the traditional consensus of its meaning was 'those who have fallen.' Such as Fallen Angels.

Dependant upon the context in which it is used it could also mean 'those who fall upon," in the sense of invaders or hostile and violent men, such as in Eziekel 32:20. ' They will fall among those killed by the sword. .... '

Modern Theories on the Nephilim

In recent years numerous Alternate Theories have been presented most of which are not without merit.

Nephila - The Constellation Orion

The most noteworthy alternative opinion regarding the derivative word of Nephilim and popularized by ancient astronaut theorists is that it refers to a class of Angels descended from Orion. In ancient Aramaic , the constellation Orion was known as Nephila, Orion's descendants would then be known as Nephilim [ Peakes Commentary on the Bible ]

Nephilim as Noblemen

Many Jewish commentaries and translations describe the Nephilim as being from the offspring of "sons of nobles" rather than from "sons of God" or "sons of angels". This is also the rendering suggested in the Targum Onkelos.[ 2 ]

'A long-held view among some Christians is that the sons of God did not birth the Nephilim spoken of in the text, but the formerly righteous descendants of Seth who rebelled, while the daughters of men were the unrighteous descendants of Cain, and the Nephilim the offspring of their union. This view dates to at least the 3rd century AD, with references in Sextus Julius Africanus, as well as throughout the Clementine literature. Holders of this view have looked for support in Jesus' statement that "in the days before the flood they (humans) were marrying and giving in marriage' [Wikipedia]

The Nephilim in Ancient Texts

Book of Enoch - Enochian Legends

The Fallen Angel version of the Nephilim begins with a story that Originated in the Book of Enoch [ Legends of the Jews ] .

Shemhazai or Shernihaza, an angel of high rank, led a sect of angels in a descent to earth to instruct humans in righteousness. {The legends of the Jews } . The mission lasted for a few centuries, but soon the soldiers/missionaries/angels became corrupted in their lusting after human females. After lusting, the fallen angels instructed the women in magic and conjuring, mated with them, and produced offspring, who would later be referred to as the Nephilim.

Enoch was probably as well known to the ancient readers as he is unknown to modern readers . Genesis says of him only that he "walked with God," and afterward "he was not, because God had taken him" (Gen. 5:24). This passage made Enoch an exalted figure of considerable fascination.

Book of Giants builds upon the Fallen Angel saga presented in the Book of Enoch . Also known as the Book of Ogias the Giant, it is believed to be based on the Book of Enoch. Whether by design or coincidence it fills in many details about the giants and their offspring that the book of Enoch leaves out. It is another work concerned with the fallen Angels and Enoch , It was widely read in ancient Rome and Greece but only fragments of it, some un-translated currently are known.

Aramaic fragments of this book, along with other fragments of the Book of Enoch, were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran.

The following are some relevant excerpts, even with the large volume of missing sections we can still extract a basic overall meaning.

[?] they knew the secrets of [?] [ ? si]n was great in the earth [ ? [?] [ . . . ] and they killed many [ ? ] [? they begat] giants [ ? ] [ ?everything that the] earth produced [?] [ ?] the great fish [?] [ ? ] the sky with all that grew [?] [ ? fruit of] the earth and all kinds of grain and all the trees [?] 1... male and female, and among humans [?]

It is interesting to note that one the Giants referred to in this work is Gilgamesh, for any who are familiar with the. (i.e., 4Q531, 6Q8 Frag. 2 and 4Q530 Col. 2), "the name of one of the giants is Gilgamesh, the Babylonian hero and subject of a great epic written in the third millennium B.C.E." - (1996) p. 247

Book of Jubilees

The Book of Jubilees describes the origin of angels and the story of how a group of fallen angels mated with mortal females, giving rise to a race of giants known as the Nephilim. Their hybrid children, the Nephilim in existence during the time of Noah, were decimated out by the great flood.

However, Biblical references to the Nephilim continue after the flood, they can be found in Numbers, Deuteronomy, and Joshua . The antediluvian Nephilim are referred to as "Anakim" or "Rephaim". (As in Num. 13:33, which refers to the sons of Anak as 'Nephilim'.) These references do not necessarily contradict the account of the original Nephilim being completely destroyed in the Deluge.

Jubilees does state that God granted ten percent of the disembodied spirits of the Nephilim to try to lead mankind astray after the flood.

The Ethiopian version states that the "angels" were in fact the disobedient offspring of Seth (Deqiqa Set), while the "mortal females" were daughters of Cain. This is also the view held by most of the earliest commentators.

Biblical References to the Nephilim

Genesis 6:4 The Nephilim were on the earth in those days-and also afterward-when the sons of God went to the daughters of men and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown.

Numbers 13:22 They went up through the Negev and came to Hebron, where Ahiman, Sheshai and Talmai, the descendants of Anak, lived.

Numbers 13:28 But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there.

Numbers 13:33 We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them."

Deuteronomy 1:28 Where can we go? Our brothers have made us lose heart. They say, 'The people are stronger and taller than we are; the cities are large, with walls up to the sky. We even saw the Anakites there."

Deuteronomy 2:10 (The Emites used to live there-a people strong and numerous, and as tall as the Anakites.

Deuteronomy 2:21 They were a people strong and numerous, and as tall as the Anakites. The LORD destroyed them from before the Ammonites, who drove them out and settled in their place.

Deuteronomy 9:2 The people are strong and tall-Anakites! You know about them and have heard it said: "Who can stand up against the Anakites?"

Joshua 11:21 At that time Joshua went and destroyed the Anakites from the hill country: from Hebron, Debir and Anab, from all the hill country of Judah, and from all the hill country of Israel. Joshua totally destroyed them and their towns.

Joshua 11:22 No Anakites were left in Israelite territory; only in Gaza, Gath and Ashdod did any survive.

Joshua 14:12 Now give me this hill country that the LORD promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the LORD helping me, I will drive them out just as he said."

Joshua 14:15 (Hebron used to be called Kiriath Arba after Arba, who was the greatest man among the Anakites.) Then the land had rest from war.

Joshua 15:13 In accordance with the LORD's command to him, Joshua gave to Caleb son of Jephunneh a portion in Judah-Kiriath Arba, that is, Hebron.

Joshua 15:14 From Hebron Caleb drove out the three Anakites-Sheshai, Ahiman and Talmai-descendants of Anak.

Joshua 21:11 They gave them Kiriath Arba (that is, Hebron), with its surrounding pastureland, in the hill country of Judah. (Arba was the forefather of Anak.)

Judges 1:20 As Moses had promised, Hebron was given to Caleb, who drove from it the three sons of Anak.