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Who Are The Nephilim Or Giants In The Bible?

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Nephilim, are a mysterious and powerful being mentioned in both Jewish and Christian scriptures, is shrouded in obscurity due to the lack of clarity from apocryphal sources. However, it is generally understood that Nephilim is a colossal figure with considerable strength.

So what do we know about the Nephilim? Are they giants? Do they descend from angels or fallen angels? Was the famous giant Goliath one? What have other historical figures been labeled “Giants” by the ancient Jews?

What does the Bible say about Nephilim?

The phrase “Nephilim” appears in three locations in the Bible. Once in the Book of Genesis, once in the Book of Numbers and another in the Book of Ezekiel.

The first mention in the Book of Genesis occurs in Genesis 6:4, during Parashat Noah. The verse is as follows:

“The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of the nobles would come to the daughters of man, and they would bear for them; they are the mighty men, who were of old, the men of renown.”

Genesis 6:4

Before this, Genesis 6:2 states the following verse:

“That the sons of the nobles saw the daughters of man when they were beautifying themselves, and they took for themselves wives from whomever they chose.”

Genesis 6:2

When translating “bnei elohim,” the phrase can be rendered as either “sons of God” or, according to Rashi’s biblical commentary, a reference to the children of princes and judges. Others believe that these sons were actually angels who procreatively merged with humans – an act which purportedly produced Nephilim.

Jewish Roots

This idea is commonly associated with Christianity, yet it also has strong roots in Judaism through the Midrash. These stories are not called into question; they are even referenced in the Talmud of Nidah 61a and Yoma 67b. Where there is a difference lies between how literally one should take this concept due to the Jewish belief that messengers (including Satan) have no ability to make decisions on their own as they work strictly under God’s orders.

According to Rashi’s commentary on Genesis 6:4, the term Nephilim is derived from “naflu,” which has its root in the verb “to fall.” Not implying they were fallen angels but rather that they brought disaster and ruin upon mankind, eventually leading to The Great Flood.

According to Numbers, the following passage mentions Nephilim again: ‘And there we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak, who come from the Nephilim), and we seemed like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.’ This is an intriguing account that speaks of a mysterious race with giants.

“They spread an [evil] report about the land which they had scouted, telling the children of Israel, ‘The land we passed through to explore is a land that consumes its inhabitants, and all the people we saw in it are men of stature. There we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, descended from the giants. In our eyes, we seemed like grasshoppers, and so we were in their eyes.'”

Numbers 13:32-33

How Nephilim Is Translated

When we consider the term “Nephilim” as it is translated here, the giant appears to be an inconsistent interpretation. This discrepancy arises again throughout this passage. The verse also mentions Anak and his sons referred to as Anakim; while there’s some dispute about whom exactly he represents, historic evidence supports that a people known by such name did exist – perhaps not giants but certainly a real group of individuals mentioned in ancient Egyptian accounts.

The Book of Ezekiel contains the final Biblical citation regarding Nephilim; this passage reads as follows:

“But they will not lie with the mighty men, [for they are] inferior to the uncircumcised who descended to the Grave with their weapons, and they laid their swords under their heads and their iniquities were upon their bones, for the destruction of the mighty was in the land of the living.”

Ezekiel 32:27

Here, the phrase “mighty men” in Hebrew is either “Gibborim noflim” or “Gibborim Nephilim.”

If the case is the former, which seems likely, then it simply means “fallen heroes” or “fallen warriors.”

Who are the fallen angels in the Bible?

The relationship between fallen angels and Nephilim has been widely discussed among Jewish legends, Midrash, and other religious circles. Despite the numerous speculations surrounding this subject matter, modern Judaism holds a traditional belief that such phenomena do not exist due to their view of angelic beings.

What about other giants in the Bible?

As perplexing as the mysterious Nephilim are, their several references in the Bible isn’t even close to being an all-encompassing overview on giants. Apart from Anakim, there is also mention of Repha’im or Rephaites throughout scripture; however, it’s still a topic of much discussion whether they were truly physical giants or more spiritual beings such as ghosts and deified ancestors.

Then there are the Amorites, the Amorim, who were one of the nations in the Land of Canaan. The Amorites are verified as having existed based on other contemporary records and accounts in the region, though the Bible describes them as massive, gigantic figures.

Among specific giants in the Bible, however, two stand tall above the rest: Og and Goliath.

Regarding Og, he is described in the Book of Numbers as the King of Bashan, an enemy of the Israelites who they defeated. Who Moses said was one of the last of the Rephaim.

The Rephaim

The word “The Rephaim” comes from a root in the language of Ugarit. This root is found in texts that talk about ancient kings who have died. In these texts, Og represents the last king of this line. He dies after all his sons are killed.

In Deuteronomy 3:11, Og is portrayed as a “giant” (little G meaning sons of god) based on the size of his iron bed which matches the dimensions and description of a ritual bed found in excavations at Etemenanki. This was used for pagan sexual rituals, suggesting that Og may have been a product of demonic fornication.

The exact size of Og remains a topic of heated dispute.

The Other “Giant”

The Bible tells the gripping story of Goliath, an intimidating giant serving in the Philistine army who issued a challenge to battle with Israel’s champion. David—future king–rose to accept and emerged victorious by way of sling.

Regarding Goliath’s height, is also something that has been debated. But regardless, the results are far less “gigantic” than other giants, like how big the Nephilim are commonly assumed to be.

According to the ancient Dead Sea Scrolls and the writings of Josephus, Goliath was estimated to be four cubits and a span tall (6 feet 9 inches or 2.06 meters), which is considered a more moderate estimate compared to other translations that suggest he stood at six cubits and a span in height (9 feet 9 inches or 2.97 meters). Remarkably, this would have been far larger than anyone else at that time; however, it has occurred in real life on multiple occasions before – thus making such an estimation very much realistic.

The Book of Giants

The Bible mentions giants in other books too, like the Book of Enoch and the Book of Jubilees. But one special book is the Book of Giants. This book is very old and was found among the Dead Sea Scrolls.

It is essential to note that the Book of Enoch was not canonized yet still held high importance. If the writings weren’t they never would have been placed with the scrolls.

This book discusses the fallen angels, known as the Watchers or Grigori. Their descendants with humans were known as the Nephilim, or Rephaim, or even Gibborim.

In the Qumran Book of Giants mentions figures from Sumerian mythology, such as Gilgamesh and Humbaba, are connected to Watchers and giants. This is similar to its Manichaean equivalent, in which these characters have a related narrative.

This is a very brief summarization of who the Nephilim are, and we will further dive into this in a further post.

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Jon Giunta Editor in Chief
Meet Jon. He has spent his lifetime researching and studying everything related to ancient history, civilizations, and mythology. He is fascinated with exploring the rich history of every region on Earth, diving headfirst into ancient societies and their beliefs. His curiosity about how ancient civilizations viewed the world and how those views affected their belief systems and behaviors is what drives him.

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