THE NEPHILIM: Bible Mystery of Giant Proportion (Angels or Jinn)?
The Nephilim (pron.: /ˈnɛfɨˌlɪm/) were mentioned in the first book of the Bible, Genesis, as the offspring of the "sons of God" and the "daughters of men" in chapter 6, verse 4.
We find also in the Old Testament these were the giants who inhabited Canaan according to Numbers 13:33.
A similar biblical Hebrew word with different vowel-sounds is used in Ezekiel 32:27.
This one refers to the dead Philistine warriors.
But what else do we know about these Nephilim - these mighty men of old?
Nephilim In the Hebrew Bible?
The term "Nephilim" occurs just twice in the Hebrew Bible, both in the Torah. The first is immediately after the story of Noah's Ark in Genesis 6:1–4:
"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."
The second is Numbers 13:32–33, where the Twelve Spies report that they have seen fearsome giants in Canaan:
"So they gave out to the sons of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying: 'The land through which we had gone, in spying it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants; and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great size. 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.'"
The nature of the nephilim is further complicated by the ambiguity of Genesis 6:4, leaving it unclear whether they are the "sons of God" or their offspring who are the "mighty men of old, men of renown".
Richard Hess in The Anchor Bible Dictionary takes it to mean that the nephilim are the offspring, as does P. W. Coxon in Dictionary of deities and demons in the Bible.
There are effectively two views regarding the identity of the nephilim, which follow on from alternative views about the identity of the sons of God:
• Offspring of Seth: The Qumran (Dead Sea Scroll) fragment 4Q417 (4QInstruction) contains the earliest known reference to the phrase "children of Seth", stating that God has condemned them for their rebellion.[original research?]
Other early references to the offspring of Seth rebelling from God and mingling with the daughters of Cain, are found in rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, Augustine of Hippo, Julius Africanus, and the Letters attributed to St. Clement. It is also the view expressed in the modern canonical Amharic Ethiopian Orthodox Bible.
• Offspring of angels: A number of early sources refer to the "sons of heaven" as "Angels".
The earliest such references seem to be in the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Greek, and Aramaic Enoch literature, and in certain Ge'ez manuscripts of 1 Enoch (mss A–Q) and Jubilees used by western scholars in modern editions of the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha.
Also some Christian apologists shared this opinion, like Tertullian and especially Lactantius. The earliest statement in a secondary commentary explicitly interpreting this to mean that angelic beings mated with humans, can be traced to the rabbinical Targum Pseudo-Jonathan, and it has since become especially commonplace in modern-day Christian commentaries.
The New American Bible commentary draws a parallel to the Epistle of Jude and the statements set forth in Genesis, suggesting that the Epistle refers implicitly to the paternity of nephilim as heavenly beings who came to earth and had sexual intercourse with women.
The footnotes of the Jerusalem Bible Jerusalem Bible suggest that the Biblical author intended the nephilim to be an "anecdote of a superhuman race". Genesis 6:4 implies that the nephilim have inhabited the earth in at least two different time periods—in antediluvian times "and afterward."
If the nephilim were supernatural beings themselves, or at least the progeny of supernatural beings, there is a theory that the "giants of Canaan" in Numbers 13:33 were the direct descendants of the antediluvian nephilim, or were fathered by the same supernatural parents.
Some Christian commentators have argued against this view, quoting Jesus' statement - angels don't get married.
Others believe Jesus was referring only to the angels in heaven (that don't get married).
Evidence in favor of the "fallen angels" interpretation includes the fact that the phrase "the sons of God" (Hebrew, בְּנֵי הָֽאֱלֹהִים; literally "sons of the gods") is used just two times outside of Genesis chapter 6. In both instances (namely, Job 1:6 and Job 2:1) the phrase explicitly references angels. This is supported by the Septuagint version of the Codex Alexandrinus, which, in Genesis 6:2, renders the phrase "angels of God".
Angels or Jinn?
They were sometimes referred to as 'the sons of God', and it has been said they had sexual intercourse and mated with 'the daughters of Man' ~ But exactly, 'Who' or 'What' - were these beings, these Nephilim?
Were they really the same as the sons of God?
Nephilim have been referred in one of the most mystifying passages of the Bible. The word appears in the Book of Genesis (6: 1-4). According to the 1953 RSV Bible (Revised Standard Version) we find what follows:
When men began to multiply on the face of the ground, and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were fair; and they took to wife such of them as they chose.
Then the Lord said, "My spirit shall not abide in man for ever, for he is flesh, but his days shall be a 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. These were the mighty men that were of old, the men of renown.
As will be seen, several different identities have been offered during centuries of profound theological controversy and discussion regarding the Nephilim and the sons of God.
Before we can entertain any thoughts concerning these identities, however, it is important to examine the origin and meaning of this problematical Genesis passage (hereafter referred to for convenience as the Nephilim Passage).
Notwithstanding the tradition that Moses wrote the entire Pentateuch (the first five books of the Old Testament), most modern-day biblical scholars believe, as noted by N.H. Snaith in The Century Bible (1967), that this quintet is a compilation of at least five different sources. The earliest is the Jehovist (Yahwist) document (designated as J), dating back to c.850 BC, of southern origin, and split by later scholars into J1 and J2. Next is the Elohist document (E), dating back to c.750 BC, of northern origin, and combined in c.700 BC with J to yield the JE document. They are the documents most relevant to the subject of the Nephilim.
In addition, there are numerous different translations of these, which means that the Nephilim Passage has appeared in a variety of forms, thereby yielding all manner of interpretations and speculation as to its precise meaning. For instance, in The Anchor Bible: Genesis (1964), E.A. Speiser offers the following version of verse 4:
It was then that the Nephilim appeared on earth - as well as later - after the divine beings [sons of God] had united with human daughters. Those were the heroes of old, men of renown.
In contrast to the earlier-quoted RSV version, which sets the Nephilim entirely apart from the sons of God, the Anchor Bible's wording indicates that the Nephilim were the offspring resulting from unions between the sons of God and mortal women. Indeed, according to George A. Buttrick et al., writing in The Interpreter's Bible (1972), verse 2 originally concluded with some such sentence as: "and they conceived and bare the Nephilim". Also, 'sons of God' and 'divine beings' as featured in versions of the Nephilim Passage are translations of the Hebrew Elohim, i.e. they have their own name, distinct from 'Nephilim'.
Yet Raymond E. Fowler notes in his book The Watchers (1991) that 'Nephilim' literally translates as the 'fallen-down-ones'. This indicates that these entities fell from the sky and were therefore celestial - in turn suggesting that they were one and the same as the sons of God.
So which, if any, of these three mutually-exclusive scenarios is the correct one?
Another weighty issue upon which to ponder is the precise moral significance of the Nephilim Passage. Were the unions between the sons of God and mortal women judged by the authors of Genesis to be normal or abnormal, good or bad?
Some scholars, such as Frank E. Gaebelein, editing The Expositor's Bible Commentary (1990), consider the Nephilim Passage to be nothing more than a summary of the previous chapter (fifth) of Genesis, thus merely reminding the reader that the offspring of Adam had greatly increased in number, had married, and had continued to have children, i.e. that it was nothing unusual. In contrast, many scholars down through the ages have considered this passage to be an introduction to the account of the Great Flood - deeming the union of divine and human beings to be sinful, and the Flood to be God's punishment for this sin.
Yet another area of contention, and one that is closely linked with the previous one, is verse 3's statement that man's days "...shall be a hundred and twenty years". Does this mean that hereafter man's lifespan will be limited to 120 years? (Prior to the Nephilim Passage, Genesis had contained details of humans living to ages far in excess of this.) Adherents of this viewpoint suggest that a 120-year age limit was imposed by God to ensure that children resulting from matings between the divine beings and human women did not inherit eternal life from their fathers. Or, as assumed by Luther, Calvin, and the Scofield Bible, is 120 years a period of reprieve, granted by God to humanity before the onset of the Flood? The attractiveness of this second option is that, unlike the first, it does not conflict with post-diluvial records in Genesis of people living far beyond 120 years of age.
As can be appreciated from the above selection of examples, the identities on offer for the Nephilim are greatly influenced by the range of interpretations for this passage's meaning.
GIANTS IN THE EARTH?
Perhaps the most familiar identity proposed for the Nephilim is that they were a race of giants. Indeed, in the Septuagint (the 3rd-2nd Century BC Greek translation of the Old Testament produced in Egypt) and also in the Authorised King James Version of the Bible (KJV), the word 'Nephilim' is replaced by 'giants'. This yields the oft-quoted phrase: "There were giants in the earth in those days".
The giant identity is substantiated to a degree by the second (and only other) RSV biblical mention of the Nephilim by this name - in the Book of Numbers (13: 33):
And there [in Canaan] we [the Israelites] 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.
The Nephilim mentioned in this passage from Numbers (hereafter referred to as the Second Nephilim Passage) comprised a tribe of pre-Israelite inhabitants of Canaan in the hill country (especially Hebron) west of the Jordan. Known as the Anakim, they were descended from a great warrior called Anak, whose father, Arba, was the greatest of them all. They had been sighted by twelve Israelite spies, who were struck with terror at the awesome spectacle of this people. And certainly, the Second Nephilim Passage makes it clear that these Nephilim were of great size, but it also poses a very sizeable problem.
According to Genesis, the only people who survived the Flood were Noah and his family. Yet if the Nephilim encountered by the Israelites were indeed bona fide Nephilim, i.e. descended via Anak and Arba from the same lineage as those mentioned in Genesis 6, this means that a race of giants had also survived the Flood - but how? Seeking to resolve this anomaly, some scholars, such as Speiser, suggest that the Anakim were not true Nephilim at all. Instead, they were merely giants (as described in the Septuagint and the Latin Vulgate in preference to Nephilim) who reminded the Israelites of the real, pre-diluvial Nephilim.
Also referred to as the Rephaim, the Anakim were known to the Moabites as the Emim, and to the Ammonites as the Zamzummim. Irrespective of their identity and names, however, and despite their huge size, the Anakim were ultimately overcome by the Israelites, led by Joshua, who drove them out of Hebron, Debir, and the hill country of Judah. A few seemingly lingered for a while in the Philistine regions of Ashdod, Gath, and Gaza.
'The Sons of God Saw the Daughters of Man That They Were Fair', Daniel Chester (1923), in the Corcoran Gallery (sandstead.com)
Returning to the original Nephilim, in Genesis: there is an etymological argument against identifying them as giants, because 'Nephilim' is distinct from the standard Hebrew term for giants, redupª’îm, which indicates that the Nephilim were something more than just giants.
Leading on from this is a recent, highly original idea, encapsulated in an online (Internet) research paper authored by John Denton in December 1996 (which can currently be accessed at:
Entitled 'Neanderthal=Nephilim?', Denton analysed the entertaining possibility that the Nephilim, whose biblical references date back around 4500 years, are synonymous with the Neanderthals. These hominids officially died out around 30,000 years ago but may well have lingered into more recent times, judging from folkloric and certain cryptozoological testimony, as well as recent palaeontological evidence.
However, whereas the biblical account clearly describes the birth of Nephilim from matings between divine beings and mortal humans, new paleontological and molecular researches have confirmed that the Neanderthals and modern humans are not descended one from the other, but are two wholly separate lineages that branched off from a common ancestor.
WHO? OR WHAT? - WERE THE 'SONS OF GOD'?
Today, the most popular theological views regarding the sons of God and the Nephilim are that they were one and the same, or that the Nephilim were giant monstrous progeny of the sons of God. But if either view is true, then who, or what, were the sons of God?
One popular idea is that they were righteous men from the line of Seth, the son of Adam and Eve, after Cain had killed his brother Able. The story goes that the children of Seth were ultimately led astray by Cain's female descendants, or possilbly by unspecified immoral women.
Alternatively, as suggested by Gaebelein, the Nephilim may just have been the ten great men of antiquity that had just been listed in Genesis (5: 3-32).
However, there is etymological (based on anicent Hebrew language) evidence to dispute both of these mortal, human-based interpretations.
According to Allen C. Myers, editing The Eerdmans Bible Dictionary (1987), the term Elohim, from which 'sons of God' is derived, refers to gods in general, and is also the most frequent Old Testament name for God.
Similarly, a term sometimes employed in relation to the sons of God is 'the Watchers'. Derived from the Aramaic ‘îr, it appears in the Book of Daniel too, where it is taken to mean an angel, a messenger, or an agent of Yahweh (the covenant name of the God of Israel).
Thus, it seems highly unlikely that such well-defined, divine-specific terms would be used to describe mortal (albeit righteous or renowned) men.
ANGELS OR DEMI-GODS?
This in turn leads to the inevitable conclusion that the sons of God were indeed divine, immortal beings, rather than mortal men, and down through the ages two different identities of this nature have been considered. Some scholars have proposed that these entities were angels, i.e. mediators between God and men. Others have considered them to be demigods, not descended from God in the literal sense of the term 'sons', but belonging to a lesser hierarchy of deities, analogous to the stratification of deities in classical Greek mythology.
For many centuries, however, the concept that the sons of God were divine entities who had nonetheless liaised sexually with mortal women was viewed as scandalous, and was vigorously suppressed by the early Christian Church fathers. After all, as stated in the RSV version of Matthew (22: 30): "For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven", thus emphasizing the purity of angels.
Even so, there were certain controversial documents that not only supported this heretical scenario but also provided details not present in Genesis. Furthermore, they had once been well known to theological scholars. These were the Books of Enoch.
THE REVELATIONS OF ENOCH (Idris in Arabic)
Enoch (Idris) was a direct descendent of Seth, the son of Adam by way of Jared and also the father of the famous man who lived to be a thousand, Methuselah (Matu Salah?).
Enoch spent his 365 years (a short life by comparison of the times) in spiritual communion with God. According to the Biblical accont, it was because of this communion with God, that he did not actually die. Rather, he was taken up physically by God to Heaven, where he beheld the indescribable wonders of the seven heavens.
Little is said of Enoch in the Bible, as the pseudo epigraphical work (i.e. claiming to be authored by a biblical figure) known as the Book of Enoch, Ethiopian Enoch, or '1 Enoch' was not included in either the Hebrew or most Christian biblical canons.
It was probably written by several different authors, as were many of the Old Testament writings. That manuscript could possibly date back to at least a hundred years before the birth of Christ.
Originally written in Aramaic (the language of Jesus), it was later translated into Greek and Latin, but was lost, seemingly irretrievably, within three hundred years after Jesus.
In 1773, however, James Bruce, a Scottish explorer, returned home from Ethiopia with no less than three copies, all Ethiopic (Ge'ez) translations from Coptic monasteries, two of which are still retained in Oxford's Bodleian Library.
Also, parts of this book's original Aramaic version have been discovered among the Dead Sea fragments in Qumran Cave 4.
There is also a Slavonic document variously termed the Slavonic Enoch, 2 Enoch, or 'The Book of the Secrets of Enoch'.
This one parallels the Ethiopian Enoch to some extent, and may have been written in Alexandria a couple of centuries after the latter was authored.
According to the Ethiopian Enoch, the sons of God were many angels who became filled with lust and desire by the beauty of the daughters of men.
Two hundred descended to earth on Mount Armon, led by Samyasa and also including Urakabrameel, Azibeel, Tamiel, Ramuel, Danel, Azkeel, Sarakuyal, Asael, Armers, and Batraal. Choosing wives from the daughters of men, they lived with them and eventually degenerated into unrestrained sexual abandon.
They also taught these mortal women secrets of sorcery [compare to Quran chapter 2, verse 102], astronomy, cosmetics, and herbalism; and the women became pregnant by them, giving birth to immense giants, the Nephilim.
So was it magic, knowledge of the stars, moon, and planets, the sexual allure provided by cosmetics, and the medical and hallucinogenic properties of plants that became known to humanity?
Was this the source for these 'semi-divine, half-breed giants' walking the lands?
The profanation by these so-called 'fallen angels' of their divine arcane wisdom, which was ultimately harnessed to great evil by mankind, was so devastating that only a deluge, washing away humanity entirely from the face of the earth, could restore the equilibrium formerly existing between the immortal and mortal.
Accordingly, God tells Enoch to inform these fallen angels that He would show them no mercy, and would rid the world of their monstrous offspring.
Then to reply, these god-angels send Enoch up to Heaven to speak to God on their behalf, but to no deal.
The god-angeles were duly imprisoned to wait for the Day of Judgement, and then God sends the Great Flood to cleanse the world of sin, sparing only Noah and the righteous of his family.
Inevitably, the Enoch documents were viewed with horror by the zealous early Christian Church fathers.
So, once these manuscripts were lost (or deliberately hidden?), they and their successors were swift to put doubt in the minds of future generations of scholars and worshippers as to whether such works had ever existed at all. In this way, they facilitated their desire to deny any prospect of angelic fallibility.
Indeed, so successful was their goal to eradicate the books of Enoch from the minds of their acolytes that by the 4th Century AD, the scholar-monk St Jerome, author of the Vulgate, asserted that these works were truly apocryphal, never having existed in reality, only in rumor.
But of course, today we can see clearly this was a mistake. The manuscripts have survived, or at least copies of them have been preserved.
Notwithstanding this, sections of the Ethiopian Enoch were clearly alluded to in the Book of Jude (verses 14-15), possibly inspired a portion in the First Book of Peter (3: 19) too, and gained a whole new following after the rediscovery in 1773 by Bruce.
Like so much speculation arising from ancient documents, however, it is exceedingly unlikely that we shall ever uncover the truth concerning the Nephilim and the sons of God.
Yet there are sufficient curiosities and anomalies associated with the Nephilim Passages to suggest that their words have indeed locked away a notable secret not deemed suitable by early religious figures to be made accessible to the masses.
If only we could find the key...
(or is it the End?)
The 'Key' mentioned by the researcher (above) is nothing less than the Quran itself and what we see in the Book of Allah is more than just a casual mention of the 'jinn'. In fact, we come to know in the Quran, 'jinn' were created before Adam (humans) and they were given the freedom to choose, whether to do good or do evil. Mos to them found many ways to do evil. Not all of them were evil though. Some of them heard the Quran and changed to be believers.
The chapter (surah) is named "Al Jinn" and is found on our website at:
1. Say, [O Muhammad], "It has been revealed to me that a group of the jinn listened and said;
"Indeed, we have heard an amazing Qur’an".
2. It guides to the right course, and we have believed in it. And we will never associate with our Lord anyone.
3. And [it teaches] that Exalted is the Nobleness of our Lord; He has not taken a wife or a son
4. And that our foolish one has been saying about Allah an excessive transgression.
5. And we had thought that mankind and the jinn would never speak about Allah a lie".
6. And there were men from mankind who sought refuge in men from the jinn, so they [only] increased them in burden
7. And they had thought, as you thought, that Allah would never send anyone [as a messenger].
8. And we have sought [to reach] the heaven but found it filled with powerful guards and burning flames.
9. And we used to sit therein in positions for hearing, but whoever listens now will find a burning flame lying in wait for him.
10. And we do not know [therefore] whether evil is intended for those on earth or whether their Lord intends for them a right course.
11. And among us are the righteous, and among us are [some others] not so; we were divided of ways.
12. And we have become certain that we will never cause failure to Allah upon earth, nor can we escape Him by flight.
13. And when we heard the guidance, we believed in it. And whoever believes in his Lord will not fear deprivation or burden.
14. And among us are Muslims [in submission to Allah], and among us are the unjust. And whoever has become Muslim – those have sought out the right course."
15. But as for the unjust, they will be firewood for Hell.
16. And [Allah revealed] if they had remained straight on the way, He would have given them abundant provision.
17. So [Allah] might test them therein. And whoever turns away from the remembrance of his Lord He will put into horrible punishment.
Now we have heard from both the Bible (Bibles?) and from the Quran.
What do you gain from this? Are there now more questions than answers?
Or did you find some sort of direction or guidance from this short story?
Find out more on ~ www.911Bible.com ~ Look for "Bible: A Closer Look" - Yusuf Estes