The word ‘Nephilim’ is found in the Old Testament Bible and some have suggested that their existence before the global Flood in Noah’s day was the reason God sent it to destroy all air-breathing life (nephesh chayyah) on the surface of the Earth. Certainly there is both biblical and archaeological evidence that giants, giant-sized people, have existed, but was there really ever a Nephilim problem? Could it be that that was at least part of the reason God sent the Flood?
There is much written about this controversial subject, for example, in books,1 and on the web2-5 as well as online video discussions and documentaries6 and articles proposing that certain elongated ancient skulls are from the Nephilim.7 Some articles refer to a Nephilim problem and that “part of the reason for God sending the Flood was to stop the Nephilim problem”.5 But was there really a Nephilim problem at all?
The word Nephilim is derived from the Hebrew word נְפִיל/נְפִל nphiyl (nef-eel’), which appears in Genesis 6:4;
There were giants [nphiylim] in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown. KJB (= King James Bible)
Various versions translate this as ‘giants,’ or not at all, leaving the untranslated Hebrew word, where the ending ‘im’ indicates it is plural;
The Nephilim# 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. ESV (=English Standard Version) ESV endnote #: giants.
My Hebrew dictionary (Mickelson’s Enhanced Strong’s Greek and Hebrew Dictionaries, 2008) translates נְפִיל/נְפִל nphiyl as a feller, i.e. a bully or tyrant. The KJB translates the plural form as ‘giants’ and the ESV has an endnote: ‘giants.’
The Brown-Driver-Briggs Lexicon gives the meaning of Nephilim as ‘giants.’ Many have suggested the correct interpretations are based on the assumption that the word is a derivative of Hebrew verbal root n-ph-l “fall” hence the translation ‘fallen ones.’ But according to the Brown-Driver-Briggs Lexicon, the basic etymology of the word Nephilim is “dub[ious],” and various suggested interpretations are “all very precarious” (p.658). But no one really knows precisely what the word ‘Nephilim’ means.
The relevant passage to read is Genesis 6:1-17:
1 And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, 2 That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose. 3 And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years. 4 There were giants [Nephilim] in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown. 5 And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6 And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. 7 And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them. 8 But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD. 9 These are the generations of Noah: Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God. 10 And Noah begat three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. 11 The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. 12 And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth. 13 And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth. 14 Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch. 15 And this is the fashion which thou shalt make it of: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, the breadth of it fifty cubits, and the height of it thirty cubits. 16 A window shalt thou make to the ark, and in a cubit shalt thou finish it above; and the door of the ark shalt thou set in the side thereof; with lower, second, and third stories shalt thou make it. 17 And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; and every thing that is in the earth shall die.
There are no doubt some difficulties interpreting some aspects of these verses, hence the controversy for a long time. Probably the expression ‘sons of God’ (Hebrew: bene elohim) in Genesis 6:2,4 is the most hotly debated, but also the Hebrew word ‘Nephilim.’
Let us assume, as many do, that the phrase “and also after that” in Genesis 6:4 refers to the pre-Flood period. The connection of ‘Nephilim’ to the ‘children’ from the union of the ‘sons of God’ when they “came in unto the daughters of men” is not established by Scripture. It is tenuous at best. Scripture must interpret Scripture. If it was so clear why was the mystery not resolved long ago? Was there really a Nephilim problem?
What can we absolutely establish from Scripture without theorizing? Genesis 6:6 tells us that God was grieved in His heart that He made man when He saw “the wickedness of man” (vs 6:5), “the earth was filled with violence” (vs 6:11,13) and earth (meaning man) was corrupt (vs 6:12). “All flesh” in verse 6:12 can’t mean 100% of humans because Noah found grace in the eyes of God and God chose him and his family because of this (vs 6:8-10).
The competing theories3 that interpret this can be divided into two categories:
- Human/demonic hybridization of the human race, i.e. the corruption of the flesh of man physically. This is promoted as Satan trying to overcome the woman (Genesis 3:15) and defeat the godly lineage, which ultimately led to Christ.
- All other variants, which involve only humans breeding with humans, but of godly or ungodly lineages. In this category it could still be interpreted as Satan trying to corrupt the godly lineage of man, but in this case only spiritually, not by physical demonic seed creating human-demon hybrid flesh creatures.
Sons of God
Category 1 hangs on the meaning of bene elohim, the ‘sons of God.’ The expression only appears in five verses in only two books of the Old Testament. Two verses are found in the Genesis 6 account (vs 6:2,4) and the other three verses are found in the book of Job (vs 1:6, 2:1, 38:7). From the book of Job, the context clearly indicates that the ‘sons of God’ are angelic beings, since they enter directly into God’s presence (Job 1:6; 2:1) or existed before the creation of the earth (Job 38:7).
Though the expression ‘sons of God’ does not appear anywhere in the Old Testament in reference to humans we find similar phrases, such as in Psalms 82:6 where God has referred to humans saying:
Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High [עֶליוֹן ‘elyown]. Psalms 82:6 KJB
where עֶליוֹן ‘elyown has the meaning ‘most high’ or ‘the Almighty,’ a title.
However, in Psalms 82:1 we read,
God standeth in the congregation of the mighty [אֵל ‘el]; he judgeth among the gods [אֱלוֹהִים ‘elohiym]. Psalms 82:1 KJB
where אֵל ‘el is a word for God, meaning ‘Almighty,’ or ‘strength’ (noun) or ‘mighty’ (adjective). But אֱלוֹהִים ‘elohiym can be referring to angels in God’s [אֵל ‘el] council chambers.
God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment: Psalms 82:1 ESV
Also the phrase “sons of the living God” is used in reference to godly humans in Israel. Hosea 1:10 reads:
…Ye are the sons of the living [חַי chay] God [אֵל ‘el]. Hosea 1:10 KJB,
where חַי chay means ‘alive.’
Psalms 89:6 refers to “sons of the mighty”;
For who in the heaven can be compared unto the LORD? who among the sons of the mighty [אֵל ‘el] can be likened unto the LORD? Psalms 89:6 KJB
where as already mentioned אֵל ‘el is a word for God, meaning ‘Almighty,’ or ‘strength’ (noun) or ‘mighty’ (adjective). And based on this translation it does not necessarily mean ‘angel’ but that is suggested in the ESV rendering of the verse.
For who in the skies can be compared to the LORD? Who among the heavenly beings* is like the LORD, Psalms 89:6 ESV
The ESV “Footnote *: Hebrew the sons of God, or the sons of might” suggests the translators themselves were not sure. Yet the following verse (Psalms 89:7) supports the idea of ‘the council of angels.’
In the New Testament ‘sons of God’ always refer to redeemed human beings (Matthew 5:9; Luke 20:36; Romans 8:14,19; Galatians 3:26). That is significant to this discussion that Galatians 3:26 reads “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” Here it is by faith just as Noah also found, i.e. through faith, for which he was saved by Christ in the like figure of his deliverance by the ark from the flood waters (1 Peter 3:21)
Was there a Nephilim problem? It all seems to hinge on connecting the first part of Genesis 6:4 “There were giants [nphiylim] in the earth in those days;” with the second part, “and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.”
It seems that the text does not connect the giants (Nephilim) with the offspring of the union between the conjectured male fallen angels and human females. The offspring of the union of the sons of God with the daughters of men were mighty men. That is clear and not conjecture. It does not say the mighty men were giants or Nephilim, but men of renown.
Certainly the ‘sons of God’ took wives of the ‘daughters of men.’
That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose. Genesis 6:2 KJB
So it may be perfectly just to say that there were giants in the land then. A plain reading from the KJB. They were tyrants or bullies intimidating and oppressing others (what’s new?). But if we read the following verse….
And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. Genesis 6:5 KJB
But there is no mention anywhere in Scripture of human-demonic-angel hybrids. If it was so significant why is it not mentioned? But what about Jude 6-7 and 2 Peter 2:4-6?
And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day. 7 Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. Jude 6,7 KJB
In Jude the Lord is warning the believers to stay on the path (Jude 3) “ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” and through Jude cites instances in the past where men have strayed. These are listed as separate events: vs 5, after deliverance from Egypt God destroyed them that believed not; vs 6, some angels which rebelled against their calling and left their proper place (implying in heavenly realms under God’s supervision) God chained in hell awaiting judgement; and vs 7 because of the perverted sexual sins of humans in Sodom and Gomorrha God judged them with eternal hellfire.
Jude 6 is supported by 2 Peter 2:4. 2 Peter is a warning against those who use false words to deceive the brethren, including heresies.
But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, 2 Peter 2:1 KJB
Such people will be judged by God and 2 Peter 2:4-6 gives examples of this.
4 For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell [Tartarus], and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment. 5 And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly; 6 And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly; 2 Peter 2:4-6 KJB
But Scripture does not connect the 2 Peter events of vs 4 with vs 6, nor does Jude connect the events of vs 6 with vs 7. It connects the results of those rebellions “making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly” but not a causal link. In the ESV Jude 6-7:
6 And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day— 7 just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire. ESV Jude 6-7
Some conclude that vs 7 implies in vs 6 the similar sexual sins are suggested. But even though the ESV is translated from a different Greek text (not Textus Receptus) it all hinges on the connecting link between the two verses, which is defined with “likewise” in ESV which may be from the translator’s use of dynamic equivalence translation technique, not word for word verbal equivalence that KJB translators mostly used. A similar phrase “in like manner” appears in the KJB, but in the context in the KJB it seems to be referring to the “cities about them” that similarly committed sexual sins.
There still is no reference to a human-demon hybrid here.
Post Flood Giants
There were many post-Flood instances of giants (Numbers 13:33; Deuteronomy 2:11,20; Deuteronomy 2:21; Deuteronomy 3:11,13; 1 Samuel 17:4; 2 Samuel 21:15-22). When the spies of the children of Israel returned to report what they saw and complained of giants (Numbers 13:31-33), it may be true they were using that as an excuse, but there were giants in the land (Deuteronomy 3:11; 1 Samuel 17:4; 2 Samuel 21:15-22).
Just as before the Flood, there were giants after the Flood. But there is no scriptural evidence of a genetically different race of people either before or after the Flood. To discuss whether they passed mutated genes on through Noah’s family and their offspring is kind of off-topic. It was the wickedness in their hearts here not their genetic material that concerned God before the Flood, and it is the same after the Flood.
In Numbers 13, 14 the ‘evil report’ was given and it was disputed but the fact of the existence of giants was not disputed.
Goliath stood about 3 metres (10 feet) tall. We read in 1 Samuel 17:4, his height was “six cubits and a span” assuming a cubic is 18 inches. And in 2 Samuel 21:19 “the staff of whose spear was like a weaver’s beam.” That does not sound like a medium-sized man’s spear. Then there was Og king of Bashan, the pagan nation that worshipped Astaroth.
“For only Og king of Bashan remained of the remnant of giants; behold, his bedstead was a bedstead of iron; is it not in Rabbath of the children of Ammon? nine cubits was the length thereof, and four cubits the breadth of it, after the cubit of a man.” Deuteronomy 3:11 KJB
His bed was about 4 metres (13.5 feet) long. There is no question that the size of the Canaanite inhabitants (Anakim) were big, much bigger than average.
Noah could not have had corrupted DNA from demons (not that I believe that ever existed) but the post-Flood giants must have derived their genetic information from Noah’s family. So the existence of giants post Flood and the latter fact then suggests that Genesis 6:4, as translated in the KJB, had nothing to do with corrupted DNA. The word ‘giants’ with the meanings of tyrant and bullies seems to be a suitable translation.
In reference to this Josephus wrote the following, which is consistent with the scriptures.
“They had a man who was six cubits tall, and had on each of his feet and hands one more toe and finger than men naturally have. Now the person who was sent against them by David out of his army was Jonathan, the son of Shimea, who fought this man in a single combat, and slew him; and as he was the person who gave the turn to the battle, he gained the greatest reputation for courage therein. This man also vaunted himself to be of the sons of the giants. But after this fight the Philistines made war no more against the Israelites.”8
In other words there was giant problem but there never was a ‘Nephilim’ problem. It only has existed in the mind of fallen man for the past two thousand years or more. This is evidenced by writers like Josephus who have commented on this mixing truth with much embellishment after Greek mythology. There has been a wickedness problem and there still is one today.
“For many angels^ of God accompanied with women, and begat sons that proved unjust, and despisers of all that was good, on account of the confidence they had in their own strength; for the tradition is, that these men did what resembled the acts of those whom the Grecians call giants.”8 (Footnote ^ This notion, that the fallen angels were, in some sense, the fathers of the old giants, was the constant opinion of antiquity.)
My opinion is that the giantism that existed before and after the Flood was derived from the original created genetic information that God created in the first man Adam and was passed to all humankind. Because of sin in the heart of man, tradition and sin has embellished the stories beyond human scope.
Problems with human/demonic hybrids.
The human/demon hybrid conjecture makes no sense to me for these reasons:
- Mixing of human DNA with angelic DNA. Are they the same created kind? Do angels have DNA at all since they have abilities to move through the spiritual realm? They have different nature: Jesus did not take the nature of angels when born on Earth but of the seed of Abraham (human) (Hebrews 2:16). Angels have taken human bodily form (Genesis 18:1,2; Mark 16:5) and even eaten food (Genesis 18:8). So did Jesus after His resurrection (John 20:26; Luke 24:15) in His resurrection body, which was not a human body. But in that new celestial body He ate food (John 21:13; Luke 24:30) but His body could pass through solid walls (John 20:26—the doors were shut). He had flesh and bones (Luke 24:39) but not blood. Do angelic bodies digest food when they cannot die in the human sense? How could humans and angels hybridise? Creationists argue against hybridizing across created ‘kind’ boundaries, but this is much harder to believe. It makes no sense!
- Can demons create anything new? New genetic material? No! Can demons heal? It does seems so. Satan is able to display “power, and signs and lying wonders” (2 Thessalonians 2:9). Satan has power over the spiritual realm to some degree (Exodus 7:10-12, 22; 8:7; Luke 4:6; Revelations 16:14). But if Satan/demons were able to create new genetic material in sperm to fertilise a human egg (under the assumption that they were/are not human compatible, i.e. not the same ‘kind’) then it would have to have been part of God’s Will. So why would God say in Genesis 6:6,7 that He was sorry He made man, if He made them this way Himself through giving demons human seed? It makes no sense!
- Were there giants post Flood? Yes, there were! Numbers 13,14. Number 13:13 uses the same Hebrew word Nephilim (נְפִיל/נְפִל nphiyl). Denial, saying that the spies just made it up does not hold water, considering the sizes explicitly given (see examples above). So if giants up to 3.5 m (10 feet) tall lived in Canaan their genes were passed through Noah’s DNA. But Noah was not contaminated, hence he had normal DNA. This argues that the ‘giants’ (Nephilim) had normal DNA, not corrupted by demonic seed.
- God does not say He sent the Flood for any reason other than “wickedness of man” and “violence” which is consistent with ‘giants’, i.e. bigger people who lorded it over others as tyrants and bullies.
- God is sovereign over His whole Creation. The idea of Him destroying all that breathed air (nephesh chayyah) on the surface of the Earth to fix a problem of human/demon hybridization that He easily could have prevented, since these angels can do nothing without His permission (Job 1:6-12, 2:6 and Jude 6), makes no sense.
- Scripture does not directly state that the Nephilim were the result of the union of human females with demons/fallen angels (even if we accept ‘sons of God’ as angels in Old Testament).
Satan is the author of confusion and this seems to be a good ploy.
In my opinion it was never about the flesh but the heart of man, which Holy Scripture tells us is desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9) without the Lord. This applies both before and after the Flood.
All these ideas seem to have been predicated on a false gospel from the book of Enoch. The book of Enoch claims to be from the time before Noah and the Flood. Here is an excerpt:
“And it came to pass when the children of men had multiplied, that in those days were born unto them beautiful and comely daughters. And the angels, the children of heaven, saw and lusted after them, and said to one another: ‘Come, let us choose us wives from among the children of men and beget us children.’ And Shemihazah, who was their leader, said unto them: ‘I fear you will not agree to do this deed, and I alone shall have to pay the penalty of a great sin.’ And they all answered him and said: ‘Let us all swear an oath, and all bind ourselves by mutual imprecations not to abandon this plan but to do this thing.’ Then they all swore together and bound themselves by mutual imprecations upon it. And they were in all two hundred who descended on the earth in the days of Jared.” (Enoch 6:1-6)
It continues that the wives gave birth to giants. Then Michael the archangel accuses the 200 angels of their sin and has them bound for 70 generations in Tartarus (hell). But it is false and bogus. God preserved His Word and this is not in it. That is why Enoch is not in the canon of Holy Scripture.
A straightforward reading of the Scriptures tells me God destroyed the pre-Flood world because He regretted letting mankind live due to their wickedness and violence. He decided to start again for His own reasons. We are not God and He knows what He is doing. ‘Regretted’ is a human word. God does not really regret. He knows everything and is not subject to human frailties. We can never really know the mind of God.
Scripture does not tell us that part of the reason was to fix a Nephilim problem like getting rid of cockroaches infesting your house. Who says there was a ‘Nephilim problem’?
It even makes it all the more mysterious when a Bible translator uses the original Hebrew word untranslated, or a derivative thereof. There were giants before and after the Flood and like Goliath of Gath they were about 3 metres (10 feet) tall. On rare occasions such giants still are observed today, though probably from a genetic defect.
Big deal, the main problem was the violence and wickedness of man, and it was much less likely a Nephilim human/demonic hybrid problem. And still we have tyrants and bullies; they are everywhere. Maybe Mao, Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot and the likes could be labeled ‘Nephilim’?
- Bates, G., Alien Intrusion, Creation Book Publishers, 2010 ; Who were the “sons of God” in Genesis 6? (PDF)
- The return of the Nephilim? June 6, 2009.
- B. Hodge, Who Were the Nephilim? July 9, 2008.
- T. Chaffey, Battle over the Nephilim, January 1, 2012.
- The watchers and genetic diversity, February 22, 2014.
- YouTube videos: We found the Nephilim!; Nephilim: True story of Satan, Fallen Angels, Giants, Aliens, Hybrids, Elongated Skulls & Nephilim.
- DNA Analysis of Paracas Elongated Skulls Released: Unknown To Any Human, Primate, or Animal; Calm down, the Paracas skulls are not from alien beings; DNA results for the Nephilim skulls in Peru are in and the results are absolutely shocking; DNA Testing on “Nephilim” Skulls – Not Human!
- Quotes from Josephus concerning Giants, http://www.generationword.com.
5 replies on “The Nephilim problem?”
John, I recommend you view these short 2 minute clips in regards to this topic (also a DSS 1Sam text says that Goliath was 6.5 feet):
Etymology of ‘Nephilim’ – http://youtu.be/JqeE_Wzl360
Supernatural element – http://youtu.be/RXe-4Rx4tyU
Yes, there is a Dead Sea Scroll text of 1 Samuel 17:4 and the same scholar Michael S Heiser, as in those video clips, discusses Goliath’s height from DSS texts which record 4 cubits instead of 6. He also states Josephus, the Jewish historian, as giving 4 cubits, but the quote I cited from Josephus gives 6 cubits. However this is not the only source. The king of Bashan had a bed 9 cubits long, indicating he was big. Why even mention it if he was like everyone else, or only marginally taller? Finally I believe in plenary preservation of God’s Words and He has preserved them in the Masoretic texts. Psalms 12:7. But thanks for the comment.
Brother, that’s a pretty good essay on the subject. I worked long and hard on the subject to put together the powerpoint presentation at the Creation Science Fellowship of New Mexico website, creationsciencenm.com. I separated the Nephilim from the post-flood giants because the only place after the flood where Nephilim are cited is where untrustworthy witnesses were claiming the Anakim were of the Nephil lineage, and because I didn’t care to argue over the nature of the Nephilim when so much could be said about the guys after the flood. I found notable limitations on the size of the humanoid body, and showed through scripture how Goliath’s spear shaft is a specific second witness to Goliath’s size. I agree that rampant sin is the clear occasion for the flood. I feel God had to destroy Man “with the earth” because in his dominion of the earth Man had corrupted the earth. The Chaldee equivalent of “bene elohim” is used in the Shadrak, Meshak, and Abednego incident- “bar elah”.
This is an excellent article. Obviously, I take the same position as you (see “Don’t Miss the Boat”, published by Master Books). It is notable that commentaries by John Calvin, Martin Luther and Jon Bunyan all take the same position. In Calvin’s commentary, he is aware of the “fallen angel” theory about the sons of God, but refutes it thoroughly.
Great work. I agree. It is all about the fall of the ‘godly line’ that leads to the flood!