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Posts Tagged ‘Nephilim’

The Nephilim of the Bible

Posted by Kreikey on October 20, 2009

The subject of the biblical Nephilim is of much controversy, which most mainstream theologians would rather avoid. I’m not a theologian, but I do know the Bible. While mainstream theologians contend that the Nephilim were the illigitimate children of lustful men who took as many women for themselves as they pleased, the Bible actually has something different to say. In this article, I’ll trace the roots of the Nephilim from their pre-flood beginnings in Genesis all the way to their end in 1 Chronicles. We’ll also see if my view has New Testament support.

Pre-Flood Beginnings

The nephilim first appear in Genesis chapter 6. Verses 1-4 state:

Now it came about, when men began to multiply on the face of the land, and daughters were born to them, that the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves, whomever they chose. Then the LORD said, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, because he also is flesh; nevertheless his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.” The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown. (NASB)

There are 3 things to notice here. First, the Nephilim were the offspring of the “sons of God” and the daughters of men. Second, the Nephilim were on the earth not just then, but also after the flood. Third, these Nephilim were mighty and famous. Presumably they were fighting men of great strength.

This raises some questions. What are the “sons of God?” The Hebrew wording used here is “B’nai Ha Elohim.” We can gain some meaning from this wording by comparing it to other places where this wording is used. All other uses of this wording are found in the book of Job, 3 times. Job 1:6 states:

Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them. (NASB)

Likewise, Job 2:1 states:

Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the LORD. (NASB)

Also, Job 38:4-7:

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding, Who set its measurements? Since you know. Or who stretched the line on it? On what were its bases sunk? Or who laid its cornerstone, When the morning stars sang together And all the sons of God shouted for joy?” (NASB)

From these verses it is clear that the “sons of God” were angelic beings who were present at creation. The term encompasses both good and fallen angels.

The fact that the Nephilim were also on the earth after the flood is significant because it allows us to trace them later in history and gain much more detailed information on them. One can also speculate on the motivation for them being there after the flood. In particular, it could have been Satan’s plan to use the Nephilim to discourage the Israelites from entering the promised land. Indeed, they delayed their entry into the promised land for a whole 40 years.

Why are these Nephilim mighty and famous? If they were just illegitimate children, would there be any reason for them to be mightier or more famous than any other people? No. Clearly, there was something else going on. How is it possible that the Nephilim were the result of intercourse between angels and women? The Bible offers some more clues in that angels can appear as men, in human flesh. This is made abundantly clear in Genesis 19, where Lot unwittingly invites two angels to stay the night with him. They even eat the feast that is put before them. If angels can eat like humans, why can’t they breed like humans?

Delving into some theory here, there is speculation in the field of physics that the universe is made up of 10 or 11 dimensions, not just 3 or 4. Whereas humans can only operate in 3 dimensions, angels could theoretically operate in more of those dimensions. This means they could do strange things, like materialize and dematerialize at will, travel in any way they choose, and take any form they wish. Now if angels can take any form they wish, why couldn’t they become giant humans with modified genetics? Anything is possible. The theory is that fallen angels took the form of giant humans with modified genetics, bred with the women on the earth, and thereby created a race of giants that kept going for multiple generations. This is why the the Nephilim, their offspring, were mighty and famous.

Nephilim and Rephaim

The Bible also mentions a group of people called the Rephaim. These are the same as the Nephilim, and can be used interchangeably. The key to this discovery is the Anakim, who were a specific tribe of Nephilim descended from a man named Anak. Numbers 13:33 states:

“There also we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak are part of the Nephilim); and we became like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.” (NASB)

Deuteronomy 2:11 states:

Like the Anakim, they are also regarded as Rephaim, but the Moabites call them Emim. (NASB)

So the Anakim are Nephilim, and the Anakim are also Rephaim. Clearly, the Nephilim and Rephaim are one and the same. Similarly to the above verse, Deuteronomy 2:20 also links the Anakim to the Rephaim, through the Zamzummin. Interestingly, both of these verses describe the Anakim and Rephaim as great, numerous, and tall.

Now a word about definitions. What do the words “Nephilim” and “Rephaim” actually mean? “Nephilim” means “fallen ones” [NIV Study Bible publish Zondervan, through Wikipedia]. “Rephaim” can also refer to residents of Sheol (the place of the dead), and can literally mean “dead ancestors” [Wikipedia].

My own speculation is that the definition for “Nephilim” could be derived from the fact that they were spawned from fallen angels, though I do not know if such beings were referred to as “fallen angels” by the ancient Hebrews. Isaiah 14:12 would seem to lend some credence to this, however, in that it symbolically refers to Satan, the chief of the fallen angels.

Rephaim is a bit more difficult, but it has connotations of a spirit being not tied to a body. Perhaps they were so named because their male ancestors were angels or spirits which could appear and disappear at will. They could also be described as ghosts or phantoms.

Post-Flood Nephilim

The first mention of Nephilim after the flood is in Genesis 14:5 and 15:20, during the time of Abraham. The term used here is Rephaim, but I will use the terms interchangably, as they are one and the same. Here they are also connected with the Emim and Zuzim, which could be a variant of Zamzummin mentioned in Deuteronomy. Several middle-eastern kings defeat the Emim, Zuzim, and Rephaim. In the next chapter, God promises Abraham that his descendents will inherit the land of several Canaanite tribes and the land of the Rephaim. Apparantly the fallen angels had come back already, during Abraham’s time, and intermarried with the Canaanites. At least part of the Canaanites were described as Rephaim, which gives credence to the idea that they came specifically to thwart God’s plan to give Abraham’s descendents the promised land. Of course the Bible records that simple lust was also a motivation, so there may have been a dual motivation here.

The next place where we see Rephaim mentioned is in Deuteronomy 2. Here we learn that the Moabites called them Emim, and the Ammonites called them Zamzummin. The Emim formerly lived in the land of Moab, and the Zamzummin in the land of Ammon. It is interesting that God specifically commands the the Israelites not to attack the Moabites or Ammonites, because God gave that land to them. It appears that God was on a campaign to wipe out all the Rephaim, giving some of their land to the Moabites, some to the Ammonites, and some to the Israelites.

Deuteronomy 3 mentions Og king of Bashan,  who was one of the last Rephaim. Specific dimensions are given for his beadstead, being nine cubits in length and four cubits in width. This is by ordinary cubit, literally “by a man’s forearm,” so that works out to about 13 feet long. Clearly he was a giant, and this is significant, because one can argue about the meaning of words, but one can’t argue about specific dimensions. The Bible indicates that there were whole people groups of such dimensions, ruling out genetic anomalies and rare health conditions.

The Nephilim are mentioned again in Deuteronomy 9 in the form of the Anakim. Joshua admonishes the Israelites to trust in God, who will go before them and defeat the Anakim, of whom it is said “Who can stand before the sons of Anak?” The Anakim are also described as great and tall.

Joshua 14 and 15 record how Caleb son of Jephunneh asked Joshua for the land that had been promised to him by Moses. Anakim were living there at the time, but Caleb defeated them and took over the land, which was named Hebron. Joshua 11:21-22 gives a broader overview:

Then Joshua came at that time and cut off the Anakim from the hill country, from Hebron, from Debir, from Anab and from all the hill country of Judah and from all the hill country of Israel. Joshua utterly destroyed them with their cities. There were no Anakim left in the land of the sons of Israel; only in Gaza, in Gath, and in Ashdod some remained. (NASB)

This last verse is important because it allows us to continue tracing the Nephilim. Gaza, Gath, and Ashdod were Philistine-controlled territory at the time, and it appears that the Anakim intermarried with them. In fact, hundreds of years later, during the time of David, the Nephilim make their final appearance.

The Remnant from Gath

We’ve all heard the story of David and Goliath, and we know that Goliath was big. Taken by itself, one could assume he had a genetic anomaly, but when you look at the bigger picture, you can see much more significance.

How tall was Goliath? He was 6 cubits and a span, which gives different measures depending on which cubit was used. The Egyptian royal cubit was different from the common cubit, and it is not specified which measure was used. Based on the Wikipedia article about ancient Egyptian units of measurement, Goliath would be between 9.6 and 11 feet tall. This is less than Og king of Bashan, but still far bigger than an ordinary human. After hundreds of years, his angelic DNA would have been diluted from successive generations of marriage with humans. Nevertheless, he was still very much a giant.

The important thing to note is that Goliath was from Gath. This is recorded in 1 Samuel 17:4, along with his height. Gath was one of the few towns where some of the Anakim had remained! Clearly, given his dimensions, Goliath was one of the remnant of the Anakim, who were Nephilim. Goliath was a distant descendent of the Nephilim! More support for this comes from 1 Chronicles 4-8:

Now it came about after this, that war broke out at Gezer with the Philistines; then Sibbecai the Hushathite killed Sippai, one of the descendants of the giants, and they were subdued. And there was war with the Philistines again, and Elhanan the son of Jair killed Lahmi the brother of Goliath the Gittite, the shaft of whose spear was like a weaver’s beam. Again there was war at Gath, where there was a man of great stature who had twenty-four fingers and toes, six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot; and he also was descended from the giants. When he taunted Israel, Jonathan the son of Shimea, David’s brother, killed him. These were descended from the giants in Gath, and they fell by the hand of David and by the hand of his servants. (NASB)

The word translated “giant” here is Raphah, the singular form of Rephaim. The change in wording may be due to a gradual language change, since 1 Chronicles was written much later than Deuteronomy and Joshua. The meaning is clearly the same. There were Rephaim left in Gath, and Goliath’s brother was one of them. Therefore, Goliath himself was one of them. It’s interesting to note the descriptions of Goliath’s equipment, both here and in 1 Samuel. Though we don’t intuitively know how big they were, it is clear that the Bible is describing big, heavy weapons, which a normal human could not wield. Then there was yet another man of great stature, who had 6 fingers on each hand and 6 toes on each foot. Clearly not human genetics!

New Testament Support

Is there any New Testament support for this view of the Nephilim? There is, in fact, one passage in the New Testament to support this view. It is Jude 1:6-7:

And angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day, just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire. (NASB)

This makes it pretty clear. Angels left heaven and came to earth, and engaged in sexual immorality with the people, like the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah. The result was the Nephilim, a race of angel-human hybrids that lasted for hundreds of years, both before and after the flood. The idea that the Nephilim are merely illegitimate human children simply doesn’t explain half of it. The angel-human hybrid theory is the only one that makes sense.

Note: Much inspiration was gained from the works of Chuck Missler, though I have not used his writings for this article, apart from what I can remember.

Now it came about, when men began to multiply on the face of the land, and daughters were born to them,
that the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves, whomever they chose.
Then the LORD said, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, because he also is flesh; nevertheless his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.”
The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown.

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