Who Were the Nephilim?

ORIGINAL ARTICLE BY DOUG HAMP @ DOUGLASHAMP.COM

Previously we saw that the sons of God were in fact fallen angels who had relations with the daughters of Adam. Their union produced unique offspring which the Bible refers to as Nephilim.

The Nephilim [hanephilim הַנְּפִילִ֛ים] were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown, (Genesis 6:4 ESV).

The Hebrew word Nephilim comes from the root naphal meaning to fall. Gesenius in his Hebrew Lexicon notes: “Those who used to interpret the passage in Genesis of the fall of the angels, were accustomed to render [נְּפִילִ֛ים] fallers, rebels, apostates.” The Greek Septuagint, translated approximately 270 B.C. translates the word as “the giants” (oi gigantes οι γιγαντες). We find that this same word was used in classical Greek literature to refer to men or creatures that were half god and half man. [i] Jonathan M. Hall in his book Ethnic Identity in Greek Antiquity notes that gegenes in fact means “earth born”: “From the time of the Iliad, Erekhtheus was treated as a son of the earth, and Herodotus calls him gegenes (“earth-born”)” [ii] “gigantic” or “monstrous”.

In Greek mythology the Giants (from gegenes) were the children of Heaven (Uranos Ουρανός) and Earth (Gaea Γαία) (though some would argue that their father was Tartaros, the hell pit [iii]). “The giants of Greek mythology, or Gigantes (‘the earth-born‘) as they are called in the Greek tongue, were a class of oversized and ofttimes monstrous men who were closely related to the gods.” [iv] Consider also Kekrôps, who according to Apollodorus (iii. 14. § 1, &c.) was the first king of Attica, was known as “a gêgenês, the upper part of whose body was human, while the lower was that of a dragon.” [v]

If the translators of the Septuagint didn’t want us to think about demigods or men of enormous stature, they sure picked the wrong word! However, if by gegenes they understood hybrids between fallen angels (“the gods”) and women, then they chose the perfect word to describe these ungodly and unnatural creatures which parallels the biblical description of the sons of God (from the heavenlies) coming down to earth and fathering children. Considering the exposure those Alexandrian Jews must certainly have had to Greek literature and the numerous stories of giants, we would be completely ignoring their testimony if we were to understand the word as anything other than creatures who were hybrids of fallen angels and humans – who were also of colossal stature. In fact, in Greek mythology these Giants were sometimes 30 feet tall! If the translators had wanted to merely indicate that these men were the offspring of the godly line of Seth and the ungodly line of Cain, they should have chosen a different word.

Targum Jonathan translates Genesis 6:4 “Schamchazai and Uzziel, who fell from heaven, were on the earth in those days.” Shamchazai and Uzziel were fallen angels that we saw in the book of Enoch as being the ones that took the daughters of men. Targum Jonathan specifically adds “who fell from heaven” giving testimony to how they understood the word NephilimTargum Onkelos translates the verse in a similar fashion: “Giants were in the earth in those days; and also when, after that the sons of the mighty had gone in unto the daughters of men,” (Targum Onkelos, Genesis 6:4 emphasis mine). The interpretation of this verse is very consistent in the ancient witnesses: Demons came down from their habitation and took wives and from their sexual union came a race of giants which were hybrids: half-man and half-demon.

If one should ask how there could be Nephilim afterward when they were all destroyed in the flood the answer is simple: the fathers of the Nephilim were demons. While it appears that the demons that crossed the line when mingling with humans were thrown into the pit, other demons must have taken woman and had Nephilim with them after the flood. As a result we discovered that there were Nephilim in the land of Canaan when the children of Israel came to take possession of their Promised Land. Upon seeing the Nephilim they lost faith that God could win the battle for them and so they were taken back to the wilderness where they wandered for another forty years. When they came back to the land forty years later, the Nephilim were still there, but the children of Israel finally trusted in God.

According to the Bible, Who Were the Nephilim?

Looking at the ancient translations gives us a solid start as to what the word Nephilim means. Let’s now look at what else the Bible has to say about these gigantic half-man, half-demon hybrids. First of all we note that there are a series of verses which act as equations just like saying: A=B=C. Even though each letter is unique and has a different name, the value is the same for all. For example four quarters are equal to ten dimes, which are equal to one dollar. In the same way the verses concerning the Nephilim show us that they were known by different names in different countries, but they were equal and one and the same.

The following table demonstrates the equation of giants to each other that appears in Scripture. In the left column is the name given to a group of giants (starting with the Nephilim) with an equal sign to the name of the corresponding giants in another place. The right column gives the truncated portion of Scripture that proves the relationship. The complete verses are given in appendix four for review (ESV is used for clarity of the names).

Table: Correlation of Names of Nephilim

Names Scriptures (emphasis mine)
Nephilim = Anakim The descendants of Anak came from the giants [Nephilim], (Numbers 13:33)
Anakim = Rephaim = Emim The Emim formerly lived there, a people great and many, and tall as the Anakim. Like the Anakim they are also counted as Rephaim, but the Moabites call them Emim (Deuteronomy 2:10,11 ESV)
Rephaim = Zamzummim = Anakim (It is also counted as a land of RephaimRephaim formerly lived there-but the Ammonites call them Zamzummim– a people great and many, and tall as the Anakim (Deuteronomy 2:20-21a, ESV)
Og, King of Bashan = Rephaim Og the king of Bashan was left of the remnant of the Rephaim,(Deuteronomy 3:11 ESV)
Bashan = Rephaim All that portion of Bashan is called the land of Rephaim, (Deuteronomy 3:13, ESV).

Sihon of the Amorites = Rephaim = Amorites

For Heshbon was the city of Sihon the king of the Amorites (Numbers 21:26 ESV).

Og, King of Bashan = Rephaim = Amorites

His land and the land of Og, the king of Bashan, the two kings of theAmorites, who lived to the east beyond the Jordan; (Deuteronomy 4:47 ESV).What you did to the two kings of the Amorites […] Sihon and Og. (Joshua 2:10).
Goliath and his brothers = Anakim = Rephaim At Gath, where there was a man of great stature, […] and he also was descended from the giants [Rephaim, LXX reads: from the giants, γιγαντων], (2 Samuel 21:20 ESV).Lahmi the brother of Goliath the Gittite [Gath]. […] at Gath, […] he also was descended from the giants [Rephaim, LXX reads: giants, γιγαντες]. […] These were descended from the giants in Gatt (I Chronicles 20:5-6, 8 ESV).

The Amorites

In addition to the verses above, we see that Abraham was the first to encounter the Rephaim, Zuzim (presumably the Zamzummim) and Emim in the land. They remained there through the days of Joshua and Judges.

  • In the fourteenth year Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him came and defeated the Rephaim in Ashteroth-karnaim, the Zuzim in Ham, the Emim in Shaveh-kiriathaim, (Genesis 14:5, ESV, emphasis mine).
  • In the land of the Perizzites and the Rephaim, (Joshua 17:15 ESV, emphasis mine).
  • For you heard on that day how the Anakim were there, with great fortified cities. It may be that the Lord will be with me, and I shall drive them out just as the Lord said.” (Joshua 14:12 ESV, emphasis mine).
  • The name of Hebron formerly was Kirjath Arba (Arba was the greatest man among the Anakim), (Joshua 14:15).

After the battle, which Abram led to rescue his nephew Lot, God showed up and promised to Abram that he would have a son and would inherit the land. He mentions something very interesting concerning the Amorites: “for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete,” (Genesis 15:16). Notice that the reason that his descendants will come back in the fourth generation is because of the iniquity of the Amorites suggesting that the Amorites, who were Nephilim, were performing great wickedness in the meantime.

We next encounter the Amorites just after Israel had received the Law at Mt Sinai. Within a year’s time, God led them up to the border of the Promised Land and God specifically mentioned that His Angel would go “before you and bring you in to the Amorites […] and I will cut them off. You shall not bow down to their gods, nor serve them, nor do according to their works; but you shall utterly overthrow them and completely break down their sacred pillars, (Exodus 23:23, 24). We find that the Amorites were still in the land into the time of Judges from the passage “do not fear the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell” (Judges 6:10).

Finally the moment of truth for the Israelites after coming out of Egypt, was when they arrived at the border of the Promised Land, at Kadesh Barnea. They sent in spies to check out the land who returned saying that the land was all that God had said it was.

The Amalekites dwell in the land of the Negeb. The Hittites, the Jebusites, and the Amorites dwell in the hill country. And the Canaanites dwell by the sea, and along the Jordan.” But Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, “Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it.” Then the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we are.” So they brought to the people of Israel a bad report of the land that they had spied out, saying, “The land, through which we have gone to spy it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people that we saw in it are of great height. And there we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak, who come from the Nephilim), and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them” (Numbers 13:29-33, ESV).

The fact that God commanded the Israelites to destroy man woman and child becomes logical if we understand that (as the text says) all people in the land were not merely sons of Adam, but were a mix between the sons of God (demons) and human women just like in the days of Noah.

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