Nephilim in the Hebrew BibleEdit
(Translations according to New International Version. Note that translations frequently differ. In the King James Version of the Bible, "Nephilim" is translated as "giants" in the following examples.)
- 1. When men began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them,
- 2. The sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose.
- 3. Then the LORD said, "My Spirit will not contend with man forever, for he is mortal; his days will be a hundred and twenty years."
- 4. The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went to the daughters of men and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown.
The second is Numbers 13:32-33, where the Hebrew spies report that they have seen fearsome giants in Canaan:
- 32. And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, "The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size.
- 33. We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them."
- This subject also relates to the etymology and meaning of the phrase "sons of God as well as the fallen ones.
"Nephilim" (נְפִילִים) probably derives from the Hebrew root npl (נָפַל), "to fall" which also includes "to cause to fall" and "to kill, to ruin". The Brown-Driver-Briggs Lexicon gives the meaning as "giants" Robert Baker Girdlestone argued the word comes from the Hiphil causative stem. Adam Clarke took it as passive, "fallen", "apostates". Ronald Hendel states that it is a passive form "ones who have fallen", equivalent grammatically to paqid "one who is appointed" (i.e. overseer), asir, "one who is bound", (i.e. prisoner) etc.
Ezekiel's "mighty fallen": nephilim as ancient warriorsEdit
Ezekiel 32:27 speaks of "the fallen mighty (gibborim nophelim, גִּבֹּורִים נֹפְלִים) of the uncircumcised, which are gone down (yaradu, יָרְדֽוּ) to the grave with their weapons of war"; a change to the vowels would produce the reading gibborim nephilim.
Numbers and Amos: Nephilim as giantsEdit
In Amos 2:9, while not using the word "nephilim", Yahweh reminds the prophet that he "destroyed the Amorites before you, whose height was as the height of cedar trees". Genesis 6:4 says "the nephilim were on the earth in those days (before the Flood), and also after", and most later compositions and translations, including the Septuagint, therefore understand the nephilim to be giants.
Ambiguity in Genesis 6:4Edit
The nature of the nephilim is complicated by the ambiguity of Genesis 6:4, "the sons of God joined with the daughters of mankind, who bore them children - they were the ancient warriors, the men of renown", which leaves it unclear whether they are the "sons of God" or their offspring who are the "ancient warriors". Richard Hess in The Anchor Bible Dictionary takes it as read that the nephilim are the offspring, as does P. W. Coxon in Dictionary of deities and demons in the Bible
Arguments from culture and mythologyEdit
In Aramaic culture, the later term niyphelah refers to the Constellation of Orion, and thus nephilim to the offspring of Orion in mythology. However Brown-Driver-Briggs Lexicon notes this as a "dubious etymology" and "all very precarious".
J. C. Greenfield mentions that "it has been proposed that the tale of the Nephilim, alluded to in Genesis 6 is based on some of the negative aspects of the apkallu tradition". The apkallu (sages) were seven in number, legendary culture-heroes from before the Flood, of human descent, but possessing extraordinary wisdom from the gods, and one of the seven apkallu, Adapa, was therefore called "son of Ea", despite his human origin. The tradition of the Seven Sages became widespread in the 2nd and 1st millennia. However the seven apkallu do not fall, nor have offspring, and are not sons of the fallen.
Genesis 6 - two interpretationsEdit
- 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. (Nonetheless, a few commentators dispute the interpretation of this reference.) 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 Enochic 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. However, "Angels" in this context has sometimes been considered to be a sarcastic epithet for the offspring of Seth who rebelled (see above). 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.
Others do not take either view, and believe that they are not historical figures but are ancient imagery with questionable meaning.
The fallen angels interpretationEdit
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 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 Book of Numbers 13:33 were the direct descendants of the antediluvian Nephilim, or were fathered by the same supernatural parents.
Evidence in favour of the "fallen angels" interpretation includes the fact that the phrase "the sons of God" (Hebrew, בְּנֵי הָֽאֱלֹהִים; literally "sons of the god") 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".
In Second Temple JudaismEdit
Main articles: Book of Enoch, Book of Jubilees, and Watcher (angel)The story of the Nephilim is chronicled more fully in the Book of Enoch. The Greek, Aramaic, and main Ge'ez manuscripts of 1 Enoch and Jubilees obtained in the 19th century and held in the British Museum and Vatican Library, connect the origin of the Nephilim with the fallen angels, and in particular with the egrḗgoroi (watchers). Samyaza, an angel of high rank, is described as leading a rebel sect of angels in a descent to earth to have sexual intercourse with human females: And it came to pass when the children of men had multiplied that in those days were born unto them beautiful and comely daughters. And the angels, the children of the heaven, saw and lusted after them, and said to one another: 'Come, let us choose us wives from among the children of men and beget us children.' And Semjaza, who was their leader, said unto them: 'I fear ye will not indeed agree to do this deed, and I alone shall have to pay the penalty of a great sin.' And they all answered him and said: 'Let us all swear an oath, and all bind ourselves by mutual imprecations not to abandon this plan but to do this thing.' Then sware they all together and bound themselves by mutual imprecations upon it. And they were in all two hundred; who descended in the days of Jared on the summit of Mount Hermon, and they called it Mount Hermon, because they had sworn and bound themselves by mutual imprecations upon it...—According to these texts, the fallen angels who begat the Nephilim were cast into Tartarus (Greek Enoch 20:2), a place of 'total darkness'. However, Jubilees also states that God granted ten percent of the disembodied spirits of the Nephilim to remain after the flood, as demons, to try to lead the human race astray (through idolatry, the occult, etc.) until the final Judgment.
In addition to Enoch, the Book of Jubilees (7:21–25) also states that ridding the Earth of these Nephilim was one of God's purposes for flooding the Earth in Noah's time. These works describe the Nephilim as being evil giants.
There are also allusions to these descendants in the Catholic deuterocanonical books of Judith 16:7, Sirach 16:7, Baruch 3:26–28, and Wisdom of Solomon 14:6, and in the non-deuterocanonical 3 Maccabees 2:4.
In the New Testament Epistle of Jude 14-15 cites from 1 Enoch 1:9, which many scholars believe is based on Deuteronomy 33:2. To most commentators this confirms that the author of Jude regarded the Enochic interpretations of Genesis 6 as correct, however others have questioned this.
The descendants of Seth and Cain interpretationEdit
Despite the apparent prevalence of Enochic interpretations such as 1 Enoch, Jubilees, Philo, in Second Temple Judaism, and at Qumran (e.g. Ogias the Giant), orthodox Judaism has always taken a consistent line against the idea that Genesis 6 refers to angels or that angels could intermarry with men. Shimon bar Yochai pronounced a curse on anyone teaching this idea. Rashi and Nachmanides followed this. Pseudo-Philo, Biblical Antiquities 3:1-3 may also imply that the "sons of God" were human. Consequently, most Jewish commentaries and translations describe the Nephilim as being from the offspring of "sons of nobles", rather than from "sons of God" or "sons of angels". This is also the rendering suggested in the Targum Onqelos, Symmachus and the Samaritan Targum which read "sons of the rulers", where Targum Neophyti reads "sons of the judges".
Likewise, a long-held view among some Christians is that the "sons of God" who fathered the Nephilim spoken of in the text, were in fact the formerly righteous descendants of Seth who rebelled, while the "daughters of men" were the unrighteous descendants of Cain, and the Nephilim the offspring of their union. This view dates to at least the 3rd century AD, with references throughout the Clementine literature, as well as in Sextus Julius Africanus, Ephrem the Syrian and others (see below, "In other texts"). Holders of this view have looked for support in Jesus' statement that "in the days before the flood they (humans) were marrying and giving in marriage"
Some individuals and groups, including St. Augustine, John Chrysostom, and John Calvin, take the view of Genesis 6:2 that the "Angels" who fathered the Nephilim referred to certain human males from the lineage of Seth, who were called sons of God probably in reference to their being formerly in a covenantal relationship with Yahweh (cf. Deuteronomy 14:1; 32:5); according to these sources, these men had begun to pursue bodily interests, and so took wives of the daughters of men, e.g., those who were descended from Cain or from any people who did not worship God.
This also is the view of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, supported by their own Ge'ez manuscripts and Amharic translation of the Haile Selassie Bible - where the canonical books of 1 Enoch and Jubilees differ from western academic editions. The "Sons of Seth view" is also the view presented in a few extra-Biblical, yet ancient works, including Clementine literature, the 3rd century Cave of Treasures, and the ca. 6th Century Ge'ez work The Conflict of Adam and Eve with Satan. In these sources, these offspring of Seth were said to have disobeyed God, by breeding with the Cainites and producing wicked children "who were all unlike", thus angering God into bringing about the Deluge, as in the Conflict: Certain wise men of old wrote concerning them, and say in their [sacred] books, that angels came down from heaven, and mingled with the daughters of Cain, who bare unto them these giants. But these [wise men] err in what they say. God forbid such a thing, that angels who are spirits, should be found committing sin with human beings. Never, that cannot be. And if such a thing were of the nature of angels, or Satans, that fell, they would not leave one woman on earth, undefiled... But many men say, that angels came down from heaven, and joined themselves to women, and had children by them. This cannot be true. But they were children of Seth, who were of the children of Adam, that dwelt on the mountain, high up, while they preserved their virginity, their innocence and their glory like angels; and were then called 'angels of God.' But when they transgressed and mingled with the children of Cain, and begat children, ill-informed men said, that angels had come down from heaven, and mingled with the daughters of men, who bare them giants.
In the Hebrew Bible, there are a number of other words that, like "Nephilim", are sometimes translated as "giants":
Anakim (or Anakites) are the descendants of Anak, and dwelt in the south of Canaan, in the neighbourhood of Hebron. In the days of Abraham, they inhabited the region later known as Edom and Moab, east of the Jordan river. They are mentioned during the report of the spies about the inhabitants of the land of Canaan. The Book of Joshua states that Joshua finally expelled them from the land, excepting a remnant that found a refuge in the cities of Gaza, Gath, and Ashdod. The Philistine giant Goliath, whom David later encountered, was supposedly a descendant of the Anakim. The land, through which we have gone to spy it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people that we saw in it are of great height. And there we 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.—Numbers 13:32–33, English Standard Version==Nephilim in popular culture==
- Ayn Rand's magnum opus, the novel Atlas Shrugged, is known in Hebrew translation as "Mered HaNephilim" (מרד הנפילים, literally: the revolt/rebellion of the Nephilim)
- Ancient astronauts theorists believe that the "sons of God" in Genesis 6:2, but not those after the flood, are actually Extraterrestrials.
- In the CW TV series Supernatural, the angels match the description of Nephilim, in the sense that the angel Castiel describes his true form being "the size of your Chrysler Building" dwarfing humans in his true form. All other angels in the show are gigantic, which is why they need to possess humans to communicate with them.
- In the film The Devil's Tomb, Nephilim are portrayed as corrupted, fallen angels.
- The Nephilim figure prominently in the Madeleine L'Engle novel Many Waters, primarily in an antagonistic role.
- The Nephilim are featured in the Mortal Instruments and Infernal Devices book series by Cassandra Clare as the offspring of angels and humans also known as "shadowhunters".
- Episode 17 of the 5th season the television series The X-Files, entitled "All Souls", featured a plot involving Nephilim.
- Author Richard Kadrey's "Sandman Slim" series feature a main character by the name of Stark (aka Sandman Slim) who discovers his magic and healing ability are the result of being a Nephilim.
- In the video game El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron, the Nephilim are depicted as semi-humanoid, blob-like creatures that enjoy frolicking through the Tower of Babel. This belies their true nature, as the Nephilim are slowly consuming one another, growing more monstrous and threatening to consume the world. Enoch, the main character, must return the creatures to oblivion by purifying the souls of the Fallen Angels that parented them.
- Fields of the Nephilim are a semi active goth rock band formed in 1984.
- Author Zecharia Sitchin wrote that that Nephilim were ancient astronauts from the planet Nibiru.
- In the novel Angelology by Danielle Trussoni, Nephilim appear as the antagonists to a group of Angelologists, people who study angels, and the battle between the two groups to gain control of a powerful, sacred object.
- In the debut novel of author Jason Jowett Versistasis, the Nephalim are time-travelling individuals, integral members of a collective, engaging on alien planets, in possession of host consciousnesses and breeding with the population.
- In the Fallen novels by Lauren Kate, a Nephilim is any person with angel DNA. The Nephilim featured in the novels attend Shoreline school near Mendocino, California, and have not yet made their final choice between good and evil.
- In the mythology based game God of War III, Kratos kills Poseidon, leading to a flood that destroys all that is known to ancient Greece, similar to the flood that killed the Nephilim.
- In the post-apocalyptic video game Darksiders. the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (referred to as War, Death, Fury, and Strife) are shown to be Nephilim and are the last of their kind after the Nephilim suffered devastating casualities during a war between Heaven and Hell centuries prior to the main storyline. The Nephilim are portrayed as tall, muscular demigods capable of incredible power, such as shapeshifting into giant demons and possessing incredible advanced weaponry.
- In Magic:The Gathering's Ravnica block, the Nephilim are a group of giant monstrosities that wreck havoc on the titular plane. They are the symbols of Ravnica's past and were sealed away prior to the main storyline, but returned after consuming a dragon's corpse. Three of them are killed by Niv-Mizzet and Rakdos the Defiler.
- In the books by Becca Fitzpatrick, Hush, Hush, Crescendo (novel) and Silence, fallen angels, Nephils and Nephilim are mentioned, as the main characters and conflicts form around these terms
- In Thomas Sniegoski's series The Fallen, Nephilim are referred to as the children of fallen angels and human women, who are eventually responsible for protecting the world from impending darkness.
- In Tom Egeland's book Gospel of Lucifer, Nephilim are referred to as mysterious extraterrestrials who came to the earth over 5000 years ago, to help us advance as societies by teaching us maths, physics and technology.
- The rock band AFI's 5th album The Art of Drowning features a song called "The Nephilim"
- The UBI Soft MMORPG had a playable race called "Nephilim"
- The second and third Prophecy movies deal with fallen angels and one of the Nephilim.
- The silicon-based vampiric creatures in the Tim Powers fantasy/horror novel The Stress of Her Regard are referred to as nephilim.
- In the Exile computer game series and its successor the Avernum computer game series produced by Spiderweb Software the Nephilim are a cave dwelling monster race, the most common antagonists in the games.
- Ancient astronauts
- Angelology (novel)
- Crescendo (novel)
- Deluge myth
- Ethereal creature
- Giant (mythology)
- Giants in mythology and folklore (list)
- Gibborim (biblical)
- Hush, Hush (novel)
- Serpent seed
- Sons of God
- The Cain Tradition
- The Infernal Devices (book series)
- The Mortal Instruments (book series)
- ^ Brown Driver Briggs Hebrew Lexicon p.656; Strongs H5307
- ^ Girdlestone R. Old Testament Synonyms p54
- ^ Hendel R. ed. Auffarth Christoph; Loren T. Stuckenbruck The fall of the angels Brill (22 Feb 2004) ISBN 978-9004126688 p.21, 34
- ^ Marks, Herbert "Biblical Naming and Poetic Etymology" Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 114, No. 1 (Spring, 1995), pp. 21-42
- ^ W. Zimmerli, Ezekiel vl.2 Translated J. D. Martin; Hermeneia; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1983 p168, 176
- ^ RS Hendel, Of Demigods and the Deluge: Towards an Interpretation of Genesis 6:1-4, JBL 106 (1987) p22
- ^ K. van der Toorn, Bob Becking, Pieter Willem van der Horst, "Dictionary of deities and demons in the Bible", p.619
- ^ a b Christoph Auffarth, Loren T. Stuckenbruck, "The fall of the angels", p.21
- ^ Richard Hess, article "Nephilim" in Freedman, David Noel, ed., The Anchor Bible Dictionary, (New York: Doubleday) 1997, 1992.
- ^ P. W. Coxon, article "Nephilim" in K. van der Toorn, Bob Becking, Pieter Willem van der Horst, "Dictionary of deities and demons in the Bible", p.619
- ^ e.g. Peake's commentary on the Bible 1919
- ^ Brown Driver Briggs Hebrew Lexicon p.658; Strongs H5307
- ^ J. C. Greenfield, Article Apkallu in K. van der Toorn, Bob Becking, Pieter Willem van der Horst, "Dictionary of deities and demons in the Bible", pp.72-4
- ^ J. C. Greenfield, Article Apkallu in K. van der Toorn, Bob Becking, Pieter Willem van der Horst, "Dictionary of deities and demons in the Bible", pp.73
- ^ G. Milton Smith Knowing God in His Word-Genesis 2005 Page 140 "The other view holds that the sons of God were fallen angels who had some sort of union with the women of Noah's"
- ^ paleographically dated by Milik as c150BC see Michael E. Stone Selected studies in pseudepigrapha and apocrypha 1991 p248
- ^ either stolen or purchased from street vendors by the British in the reign of Tewodros
- ^ compare: R.H. Charles 1 Enoch 7:2 "And when the angels, (3) the sons of heaven, beheld them, they became enamoured of them, saying to each other,Come, let us select for ourselves wives from the progeny of men, and let us beget children. Ethiopian Orthodox Bible Henok 2:1-3 "and the Offspring of Seth, who were upon the Holy Mount, saw them and loved them. And they told one another, "Come,let us choose for us daughters from Cain's children; let us bear children for us."
- ^ Wickstrom, Mark (2008). The Gospel of Grace. Beaver's Pond Press. pp. 46–47. ISBN 978-1-59298-232-5.
- ^ 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.
- ^The author does not present this episode as a myth nor, on the other hand, does he deliver judgment on its actual occurrence; he records the anecdote of a superhuman race simply to serve as an example of the increase in human wickedness which was to provoke the Flood.—Jerusalem Bible, Genesis VI, footnote.
- ^ Who are the sons of God and the Nephilim?
- ^ "Matthew 22:30". BibleGateway.com, from the New American Standard Bible translation.
- ^ Bob Deffinbaugh, Genesis: From Paradise to Patriarchs, The Sons of God and the Daughters of Men
- ^ http://www.ancienttexts.org/library/ethiopian/enoch/1watchers/watchers.htm
- ^ R. H. Charles A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Revelation of St John p239 "He may be Uriel, if it is legitimate to compare 1 Enoch xx. 2, according to which he was the angel set over the world and Tartarus (ὁ ἐπὶ τοῦ κόσμου καὶ τοῦ Ταρτάρου). In 1 Enoch, Tartarus is the nether world generally,"
- ^ Archie T. Wright The origin of evil spirits: the reception of Genesis 6.1-4 6:1-4 in Early Jewish Literature. 2005 Page 82 "Targum Neofiti's rendition of nephilim follows that of Onkelos ... Targum Pseudo-Jonathan interprets the Genesis 6.4 passage with significant changes, which indicate a strong negative"
- ^ "1.9 In 'He comes with ten thousands of His holy ones' the text reproduces the Massoretic of Deut. 33² in reading אָתָא = ἔρχεται, whereas the three Targums, the Syriac and Vulgate read אִתֹּה = μετ' αὐτοῦ. Here the LXX diverges wholly. The reading אתא is recognised as original. The writer of 1-5 therefore used the Hebrew text and presumably wrote in Hebrew." R.H.Charles, Book of Enoch: Together with a Reprint of the Greek Fragments London 1912, p.lviii
- ^ "We may note especially that 1:1, 3-4, 9 allude unmistakably to Deuteronomy 33:1-2 (along with other passages in the Hebrew Bible), implying that the author, like some other Jewish writers, read Deuteronomy 33-34, the last words of Moses in the Torah, as prophecy of the future history of Israel, and 33:2 as referring to the eschatological theophany of God as judge." Richard Bauckham, The Jewish world around the New Testament: collected essays. 1999 p276
- ^ "The introduction.. picks up various biblical passages and re-interprets them, applying them to Enoch. Two passages are central to it The first is Deuteronomy 33:1 .. the second is Numbers 24:3-4 Michael E. Stone Selected studies in pseudepigrapha and apocrypha with special reference to the Armenian Tradition (Studia in Veteris Testamenti Pseudepigrapha No 9) p.422.
- ^ e.g. Michael Green The second epistle general of Peter, and the general epistle of Jude p59
- ^ Questions and Answers in Genesis 1:9
- ^ James L. Kugel Traditions of the Bible: A Guide to the Bible As It Was at the Start of the Common Era (9780674791510)
- ^ "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 (chabad.org translation)
- ^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.
- ^ Kitab al-Magall
- ^ Julius Africanus at CCEL
- ^ Commentary in Genesis 6:3
- ^ Rick Wade, Answering Email, The Nephilim
- ^ "Matthew 24:38". BibleGateway.com, from the New American Standard Bible translation.
- ^ Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, Sunday Schools Department: The "Holy Angels" (in Amharic)
- ^ The Amharic text of Henok 2:1-3 (i.e. 1 En) in the 1962 Ethiopian Orthodox Bible may be translated as follows: "After mankind abounded, it became thus: And in that season, handsome comely children were born to them; and the Offspring of Seth, who were upon the Holy Mount, saw them and loved them. And they told one another, "Come,let us choose for us daughters from Cain's children; let us bear children for us."
- ^ Samuel 21:19, some translations have brother of Goliath rather than just Goliath, though the latter is more accurate to the Masoretic text.