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What Is a Nephilim?

Angela loves researching new facts, especially those about science and history. She feels that knowledge is essential in growth.

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The term Nephilim, derived from the Greek word nephal, which means "to fall," is mentioned only twice in the bible. Once in Genesis 6, which is before the flood, and then again in Numbers 13, which refers to a time after the flood.

Unfortunately, many disagree as to what precisely a Nephilim is. Some non-biblical views are that the Nephilim are space aliens. Those who see it from the biblical perspective tend to fall into four categories, which is dependent on how they view who the "sons of God" are:

  • The Fallen Angel View (believe that sons of God were angels)
  • The Fallen Angels Took Over Men View (believe that sons of God were men overtaken by angels
  • The Sethite View (believe that sons of God were descendants of Seth, Adam's son)
  • The Fallen Men View (believe that sons of God were godly men who had fallen away from God)

From a biblical standpoint, understanding what a Nephilim is is not crucial to understanding God's message. Many associate them as mere giants since the King James Version uses that term. This translation was in part because the early Latin translation by Jerome used the term Gigantes. The Septuagint, which was the translation used around the time of Christ, also used the Greek word Gigantes. Therefore, it is safe to assume that regardless of what viewpoint you believe, Nephilim was abnormally large.

Although later claimed to have been a hoax, this giant/nephilim remains were found in San Diego. The Smithsonian bought it in 1895.

Although later claimed to have been a hoax, this giant/nephilim remains were found in San Diego. The Smithsonian bought it in 1895.

The Fallen Angels View

To understand each viewpoint, one must understand what definition they believe the Bible refers to when it states "sons of God, as well as how they view the Nephilim. For those who believe the Fallen Angels View, they would interpret them as:

  • Sons of God: Fallen angels
  • Nephilim: Mix of human and angel

The Fallen Angels View is one of the most popular views. Many believe that sons of God refer to fallen angels since Job 1:6, 2:1, and 38:7 refers to angels as sons of God. Unfortunately, the exact wording is not used in each context, although the sentiment is the same.

Some feel that by understanding that Nephilim are half-angel/ half-human, other things in history begin to make sense, such as the lore of demi-gods or why God wanted to destroy entire nations. There is also support in ancient texts such as the Book of Enoch, which is not part of the Bible. I go into detail about this later on.

Some also point to 2 Peter 2:4 as proof when it says, "the angels who sinned." Although this is somewhat misleading as it does not state, those fallen angels had sexual relationships with women nor procreated.

Jude 6 also points out angels "who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode," then Jude 7 goes onto compare them to Sodom and Gomorrah, where it states "in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh." Reading these back to back like that does show possible proof that the fallen angels had sexual immorality as well, but it does not implicitly say that.

Supporters of this view will also point to Genesis 19:5, where the men of Sodom request to have sex with the "two men" who had visited the night before. According to Genesis 19:1, these "men" were angels. Although the men of Sodom wanting to mate with angels is not the same as actually having intercourse with them.

One of the biggest criticisms of this theory is that angels being spiritual beings would not have DNA that could combine with a woman. Nowhere in the Bible do fallen angels ever appear to men, nor does it ever state they have DNA like other living things on earth. Some argue that if angels can appear to man, then so can fallen angels. Yet, being able to appear to men and being able to reproduce with them are two different things altogether.

Another argument is that sometimes men are referred to as sons of God, such as in Luke 3:38, Matthew 5:9, Romans 8:14 and 19, and Galatians 3:26. Unfortunately, each of these is in Greek and Genesis was written in Hebrew, so the exact root is not definite.

Another problem with this idea as Jesus states that there is no marriage in Heaven (Matthew 22:30), which would mean there would not be procreating. So angels would not need the equipment needed to procreate.

The Fallen Angels Overtook Men View

Those who believe that the fallen angels overtook men use these definitions:

  • Sons of God: Men overtaken by fallen angels/demons
  • Nephilim: 100% human

Since Nephilim is derived from the verb "to fall," this would seem to be a possible fit. A possible interpretation of fallen angels overtaking men would be that demons possessed them. This would mean that the offspring or Nephilim were completely human, not hybrids like the first view. Mark 5:15 shows demon possession, which proves that it can indeed happen, but would those possessed by demons be considered sons of God? Nowhere in the biblical texts is there a reference to such men given that title.

Since possession did happen before and after the flood, this would allow for Nephilim to reappear after the Flood. Yet, one question that does arise with this theory is, then why aren't there Nephilim born today? During the time of Christ, there were demon possessions for sure, yet no references of Nephilim.

what-is-a-nephilim

Sethite View

The Sethite view, unlike the others, does not believe angels were involved at all. Believers of this theory would use these definitions:

  • Sons of God: 100% human
  • Nephilim: 100% human

This viewpoint is probably the second most popular. Many feel that this definition of Nephilim fits the contexts best, specifically if you look at Genesis 5. There are different theories as to who the humans referred to as sons of God might be. Some believe that they were kings or rulers. Some believe that Psalm 82:1-6 supports this. Psalm 82 also clears up confusion about demi-gods if you take this interpretation.

Others believe that the humans referred to as sons of God were from the godly lineage from Adam to Seth, down to Noah. That lineage goes: Adam, Seth, Enosh, Kenan, Mahalalel, Jared, Enoch, Methuselah, Lamech, then finally Noah. Since these godly men married ungodly women, their unions had fallen from God's grace, and their offspring were termed Nephilim. There is support for this definition in Psalm 72:15, as well as Hosea 1:10. Unfortunately, others believe since they are only similar in wording and not exact wording that this does not fully support the Sethite view.

Similar wording was also used in Job1:6, 2:1, 38:7, and Daniel 3:25, which referred to angels as pointed out earlier since both have been referred to as sons of Gods, without exact wording, many lean more on the context of the previous chapters to understand that definition.

The one problem with this view is that they assume that all of Seth's descendants were godly. We do know Enoch and Noah were, but what about their siblings and the others in the line. After the flood, they were all descendants of Seth, yet Nephilim still occurred.

The Fallen Men View

The Fallen Men View is very similar to the Sethite View and uses these definitions:

  • Sons of God: 100% human
  • Nephilim: 100% human

This view is different than the Sethite view because it does not assume that all Seth's descendants were considered godly. It deems sons of God to be all godly men of the time in Seth's line and outside of it. It also implies that not all in Seth's line were godly.

This implies that godly men were taking wives who were not godly and thus falling away from God's favor, which produced Nephilim. Unfortunately, this theory has the same problems as the Sethite view. Also, how marriages now have one godly spouse and one that is not don't produce Nephilim.

what-is-a-nephilim

Book of Enoch

When talking about Nephilim, it seems essential to discuss the book of Enoch. The first and most important thing to point out is that the Book of Enoch is not part of the Bible. It is not the inspired Word of God. But instead, it is historical and may reveal historical elements. Many believe it was written by Enoch, who was in the lineage between Seth and Noah. The bible cited Enoch as being so godly; therefore, he never died on this Earth, but God took him up to be with Him.

The chapters that give the most insight into the Nephilim debate are chapters 6 and 7. It tells of angels who "took unto themselves wives... and they began to go in unto them and to defile themselves with them, and they taught them charms and enchantments... And they became pregnant, and they bare great giants, whose height was three thousand ells." It goes into more graphic detail, but worth considering when studying the debate. Understanding chapters six and seven fully supports the Fallen Angel View and is why that view is often most popular.

Keep in mind that this is not the Word of God and written by fallible man. What it does reveal though is that of the time, some people believed fallen angels birthed the Nephilim.

Another thing to note is that it does mention Mount Sinai, named until after the Flood, which causes one to question the age and validity of the Book of Enoch.

The most important thing to keep in consideration is that understanding who the Nephilim are is not integral to understanding the Word of God. There are many theories, and all possibilities are worth considering. Be wary of being caught up on things that may distract you from understanding who God is and why He sent His Son here.

Citation Maker

  • Brand, Miryam, PhD. "The Benei Elohim, the Watchers, and the Origins of Evil." TheTorah.com. 2017. Accessed May 21, 2018. https://thetorah.com/the-benei-elohim-the-watchers-and-the-origins-of-evil/.
  • Hodge, Bodie. "Who Were the Nephilim?" Answers in Genesis. July 09, 2008. Accessed May 21, 2018. https://answersingenesis.org/bible-characters/who-were-the-nephilim/.
  • Livingston, David. "Who Were the Sons of God in Genesis 6?" The Human Race: A Young Species? February 04, 2011. Accessed May 21, 2018. http://www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2011/02/04/Who-Were-the-Sons-of-God-in-Genesis-6.aspx?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI2b3U9_aX2wIVSNbACh20LgP-EAAYASAAEgIeKvD_BwE.
  • White, Ellen, PhD. "Who Are the Nephilim?" Bible History Daily. June 13, 2017. Accessed May 21, 2018. https://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/biblical-topics/hebrew-bible/who-are-the-nephilim/.

Questions & Answers

Question: Who were the first humans on this planet?

Answer: My personal belief is that it was Adam and Eve.

© 2018 Angela Michelle Schultz

Comments

Florian on June 16, 2020:

Nephilim is in Albanian language NË FILLIM,is translating In the biggin.

Lou Tenant on October 22, 2019:

Nice article! I personally take the fallen angels view, but this article does a good job of presenting all viewpoints.

Angela Michelle Schultz (author) from United States on September 26, 2019:

Harry that is a very interesting perspective. Hmmm... I am currently reading through the bible again, I will look to see if I see evidence of what you said.

Harry on September 22, 2019:

My belief on this subject is different than all others and I believe it bears out to scripture. In Genesis 1:28 after God created man, The very first thing he told them was to be fruitful and multiply. My belief is that an entire race came before Adam fell and these humans are the sons of God, only not in a sinful state of their bodies. The Lord Jesus refers to people as trees, saying we would know them by their fruits.

And in the garden where Adam sinned, I believe the trees that were good referred to people, and angels, before the fall of man. The sons of God referred in Job were not associated to Satan (fallen angels) .I believe they are men unscathed by Adams sin and are as angels, only they remain with the Father.

Kastrioti on September 14, 2019:

( Nephifim ) In the Albanian language ( Në Filim - toskë dialect in the beginning in dialect Gegerishtja Ne Fillim the beginning..

( gigentes ) ( In the Albanian language egjata egjat it means the long road..

( Pelasgian )- Albanian language Pigeon the long way..

Donald Fernandes on March 29, 2019:

I am a regular reader of the Book of Genesis. I am involved in History of Medicine and Archaeology, particularly the Indus culture. My humble opinion is that the Nephilims were the survivors of the Indus Valley who were defeated by an unknown race and called themselves the 'fallen ones'. As they were dark in complexion they were known as the 'black headed ones'. They came to Mesopotamia in search of a new home. They built the cities of Erech, Eridu and Ur. They were great builders of cities. Their cities were called Ur and their rivers Aar. these words are of Tamil origin. Even Ziggurat is of Tamil origin. Tamil may have been the language of the Indus Valley and (Crete). They were not Demons, Angels or Aliens. So there is no controversy at all.

Angela Michelle Schultz (author) from United States on July 23, 2018:

Dohn121, I actually am intrigued by possible cover-ups. It does seem the more research you do, the more likely a cover-up seems to be.

Angela Michelle Schultz (author) from United States on July 23, 2018:

I actually would love to hear what you believe Doris. I find other people's beliefs interesting.

dohn121 from Hudson Valley, New York on July 23, 2018:

An interesting and thought-provoking article on the subject matter and well researched. The Smithsonian and really the entirety of science does not want the public to know about the Nephilim or ancient aliens as it raises too many questions they aren't prepared to answer. Instead, they have and will do anything in their power to hide such findings as hoaxs or mutations so as to save them the chore of having to rewrite history, science, and even religion. Until the day comes when we will have full disclosure, the true secret of the Nephilim and ancient aliens will be hidden from us in plain sight. Kudos to you for trying to uncover such!

Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on July 23, 2018:

Angela, you have a good neutral analysis here of a very controversial subject. It never ceases to amaze me that people believe that a book put together by a Roman council from the writings of a bunch of bickering religious leaders is "the infallible word of God." Look at 1 Samuel 15:10, 11 where "god" says that he made a mistake and regrets his decision of making Saul king.

I took 6 semester hours of religion at a Presbyterian College. Our brilliant professor, a Christian minister with a doctorate in theology, introduced us to all the major religions starting with Zoroastranism and gave us many outside readings in ancient religions besides the Christian religion. He taught us to go outside the Bible to get answers to questions the Bible brought up. He also used science to back up his Bible beliefs. That is why I have no trouble using archaeology and history to supplement my beliefs.

I believe that we have scientific evidence as to whom the Nephilim were and to believe that they were only spirits (angels) is man's delusion perpetuated by their concrete belief that the Bible is the "infallible word of God." Ask questions like "where is the missing link". Why do some people contain Neanderthal genes? Wow, those people, myself included, are actually part original human. Where does the rest of our DNA come from? Not from earth. I won't go into what I believe, but I will say that anyone who believes that Nephilim were heavenly spirits simply because they are mentioned in the Bible are still in the category of "Flat Earthers."

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