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The Sons of God Saw the Daughters of Men That They Were Fair, sculpture by Daniel Chester French.

The Nephilim, also known as Nephilites (/ˈnɛfɪˌlɪm/; Hebrew: נְפִילִים) are mysterious beings mentioned in the Hebrew Bible―who are said to be large and strong.[1] The word "Nephilim" is narrowly translated as giants in some Bibles but left untranslated in others. They are mentioned in the following books: Genesis, Numbers, and Ezekiel in the Hebrew Bible. The Nephilites and their identity are still unknown to this day.[2]

Numbers 13:33 says that they later lived in Canaan when Israel conquered Canaan. A similar Hebrew term, read as "Nephilim" by some scholars, or as the word "fallen" by others, appears in the Biblical book Ezekiel 32:27

What are the Nephilim[change | change source]

Some people think the Nephilim are giants that were created when fallen angels mated with humans, while others think they were famous ancient warriors and heroes that were created when the descendants of Seth wed the descendants of Cain. [3][4][5][6][7][8][9]

Brown-Driver-Briggs thought that the Nephilim were giants.[10] Robert Baker Girdlestone thought that they are "the ones that caused the downfall."[11] Donald Hendel thinks that it means "ones who have fallen."[12][13]

The majority of ancient biblical translations think they were "giants."[14] Symmachus thought they were "the violent ones,"[15][16][17] and Aquila thought they were either "the fallen ones"[15] or "the ones falling [on their enemies]."[17][18]

The Fall of the Rebel Angels by Hieronymus Bosch is based on Genesis 6:1–4

Some Jews believe that the Nephilim had children called Elioud. Aramaics think that Nephilim refers to the children of Orion.[19][20] J. C. Greenfield thinks that the Nephilim is based on bad things in Sumerian beliefs.[21] Early Arabs thought that fallen angels were sent to Earth looking like men, and they mated with humans.[22][23]

Mentions of the Nephilim in the Hebrew Bible[change | change source]

In Genesis 6:4:

The Nephilim were in the earth in those days, and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bore children to them; the same were the mighty men that were of old, the men of renown.[24]

In Numbers 13:32–33:

And there we saw the Nephilim, the sons of Anak, who come of the Nephilim; and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.[24]

In Ezekiel 32:27:

They lie with the warriors, the Nephilim of old, who descended to Sheol with their weapons of war. They placed their swords beneath their heads and their shields upon their bones, for the terror of the warriors was upon the land of the living.[25]

Idea about the Nephilim's fossils[change | change source]

Cotton Mather thought that fossilized leg bones and teeth discovered near Albany, New York, in 1705, were the remains of Nephilim who died in a great flood, though paleontologists thought they were mastodon remains instead.[26][27]

References[change | change source]

  1. "Nephilim". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2020-11-06.
  2. Doedens, J. J. T. (2019). The Sons of God in Genesis 6:1–4: Analysis and History of Exegesis. BRILL. pp. 75–76. ISBN 978-90-04-39590-9. Retrieved 10 October 2020.
  3. Kosior, Wojciech (2010-01-01). "The Sons of Gods and the Daughters of Man. The Cosmic Misalliance and Its Effects in Genesis 6:1-6 (Synowie bogów i córki człowieka. Kosmiczny "mezalians" i jego efekty w Księdze Rodzaju 6:1-6)". Ex Nihilo. Periodyk młodych religioznawców 1(3)/2010, pp. 68-83.
  4. New American Bible, footnotes page 1370, referring to verse 6.
    The angels too, who did not keep to their own domain but deserted their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains, in gloom, for the judgement of the great day. Likewise, Sodom and Gomorrah, and the surrounding towns, which, in the same manner as they, indulged in sexual promiscuity and practiced unnatural vice, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.
    —Jude 1:6–7, New American Bible.
  5. Bob Deffinbaugh, Genesis: From Paradise to Patriarchs, The Sons of God and the Daughters of Men
  6. "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 ( translation)
  7. Later Judaism and almost all the earliest ecclesiastical writers identify the "sons of God" with the fallen angels; but from the fourth century onwards, as the idea of angelic natures becomes less material, the Fathers commonly take the "sons of God" to be Seth's descendants and the "daughters of men" those of Cain.
    —Jerusalem Bible, Genesis VI, footnote.
  8. "Matthew 22:30"., from the New American Standard Bible translation.
  10. Brown, Francis; Driver, S. R.; Briggs, Charles A. (1907). A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament. p. 658; p. 658.
  11. Girdlestone R. (1871) Synonyms of the Old Testament: Their Bearing on Christian Faith and Practice. p. 91
  12. Auffarth, Christoph; Stuckenbruck, Loren T. (22 February 2004). "The Nephilim were on the Earth: Genesis 6:1–4 and its ancient Near Eastern context". In Auffarth, C.; Stuckenbruck, L.T. (eds.). The Fall of the Angels. Brill. pp. 21–34. ISBN 978-90-04-12668-8.
  13. Marks, Herbert (Spring 1995). "Biblical naming and poetic etymology". Journal of Biblical Literature. 114 (1): 21–42. doi:10.2307/3266588. JSTOR 3266588.
  14. Van Ruiten, Jacques (2000). Primaeval History Interpreted: The rewriting of Genesis I–II in the Book of Jubilees. Brill. p. 189. ISBN 978-90-04-11658-0.
  15. 15.0 15.1 Wright, Archie T. (2005). The Origin of Evil Spirits: The reception of Genesis 6.1–4 in early Jewish literature. Mohr Siebeck. pp. 80–81. ISBN 978-3-16-148656-2.
  16. The Greek translation reads 'οι βιαιοι; the singular root βιαιος means "violence" or "forcible" (Liddell & Scott, eds. (1883). Greek–English Lexicon. New York, Harper – via Internet Archive (
  17. 17.0 17.1 Stackhouse, Thomas (1869). A History of the Holy Bible. Blackie & Son. p. 53.
  18. England) Rich Seminar on the Hexapla (1994 Oxford (1998). Origen's Hexapla and Fragments: Papers Presented at the Rich Seminar on the Hexapla, Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies, [July] 25th-3rd August 1994. Mohr Siebeck. p. 190. ISBN 978-3-16-146575-8.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  19. e.g. Peake's commentary on the Bible 1919
  20. Brown Driver Briggs Hebrew Lexicon p. 658; Strongs H5307
  21. Karel van der Toorn; Bob Becking, Pieter Willem van der Horst (1999). Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. pp. 72–4. ISBN 978-0-8028-2491-2.
  22. Reed, Annette Y. ""Fallen Angels and the Afterlives of Enochic Traditions in Early Islam&quot". {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)[permanent dead link]
  23. El-Zein, Amira (2009). Islam, Arabs, and Intelligent World of the Jinn. Syracuse University Press. p. 35. ISBN 978-0-8156-5070-6.
  24. 24.0 24.1 Pentateuch. Jewish Publication Society. 1917.
  25. Hendel, Robert S. (1987). "Of demigods and the deluge: Towards an interpretation of Genesis 6:1–4". Journal of Biblical Literature. 106 (1): 22. doi:10.2307/3260551. JSTOR 3260551.
  26. Rigal, Laura (2001). American Manufactory: Art, Labor, and the World of Things in the Early Republic. Princeton University Press. p. 91. ISBN 978-0-691-08951-5.
  27. Rose, Mark (November–December 2005). "When Giants Roamed the Earth". Archaeology. 58 (6). Retrieved 15 October 2014.

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