Epicness in the Bible: The Nephilim

This post forms part of my series of posts on “Epicness in the Bible“.

The Nephilim is one of those curios stories in the bible, dropped here and there, and overlooked by many. But the trail can be followed all the way from early Genesis to Samuel. It all started a while after God created  humans and they multiplied. The Bible tells us that the “sons of God” saw the “daughters of men“, and thought they were pretty darn smashing. So they chose against the natural order of things, came to the earth and married these human women. The children that came from those unions were giants, called Nephilim.

Now at this point in the story, there is a lot that can be speculated, seeing as the bible doesn’t really go into much more depth concerning them. The assumption is that the “sons of God” had to be either angels or demons (fallen angels, and therefore still actually angels). So these Nephilim were the children of either demons or angels. What do you get when you cross a demon with a human? No it’s not a joke, it’s a rhetorical question. Did they have supernatural powers that other humans don’t have? Were they maybe able to fly? To walk in the spiritual dimention? The only thing we know is that they were really big, and mighty warriors. In the book of Enoch there is written some more about them, but I haven’t gotten around to reading that yet so I can’t say (the book of Enoch is referenced in the bible, but is not part of the text).

The Nephilim are referred to as “the mighty men who were of old“. They were pretty bad-ass apparently. Now all of this happened before the great flood (you know the whole Noah story). It seems like the Nephilim were so bad, and were making the world so rotten, that God finally had to destroy the world in order to save it from the evilness of man. But the story of the Nephilim doesn’t end with the flood… you remember that Noah, and his children, and their spouses all went on the ark together? Well it seems like one of them were still carrying some of that Nephilim DNA, and thus the giants’ lines weren’t totally wiped out with the flood.

So skipping forward a few hundred years, we now find the Israelites traveling through the desert to get to the promised land (the exodus from Egypt). So they are camped on one side of the Jordan river, and they send out spies to go and scout out the land on the other side of the river to see if they can take it over by conquest, but the report brought back from the spies was not favorable: “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“.

So at some point, the Nephilim gene came through strong again in a man by the name of Anak. He spawned a lot of people in whom the gene was strong again, and so his offspring, the Anakim, were mostly giants as well. Surely they were not as hardcore as the Nephilim of old, because of their DNA mixing with normal people through the years (no time for a lesson in genetics 101 now) – but some of those traits still came through.

The Israelites took over most of Canaan by conquest nonetheless (having the advantage of God on their side). During the years of the long conquest of Canaan, Joshua drove the Anakim from the hill country, and then Caleb finally drove them out of Hebron as well – but a small remnant stayed alive and went to live in the cities of Gaza, Gath, and Ashdod.

Fast forward another few hundred years. The Israelites, under the kingship of their new king Saul, are encamped against the Philistene ranks, ready for war. And every day a giant from Gath, named Goliath comes out to taunt them. He is said to be three meters tall and everyone is afraid of him. Is it a coincidence that the well known giant Goliath came from Gath, one of the places where the last Anakim were driven to? Probably not, I think it is safe to assume that Goliath himself was Anakim, a descendant of the Nephilim.

Now the rest of the story most people know, Goliath met his end at the hand of David who was later to be king of Israel. But this is not the last recording of the Anakim, we also see David’s mighty men killing off more giants, named Ishbi-Benob, Saph (Sippai), and Lahmi, as well as an unnamed giant with six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot.

This is as far as I can trace the mentions of the Nephilim and their descendants, it is possible that the last of the really serious giants were killed off in David’s time. I plan on writing more on David, his mighty men, and their exploits in later posts.

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4 thoughts on “Epicness in the Bible: The Nephilim

  1. There’s also another line of thinking that “sons of God” may refer to those belonging to the line of Seth, intermarrying with the lineage of Cain. I find the Nephilim DNA in the sons of Anak theory quite interesting.

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    1. I think it’s important to note that in the old testament, all men are called “sons of Adam” and not “sons of God” – as Adam was the only one directly made by God. It’s only from Christ that christians are again referred to as “sons of God”. Hence I find the angels/demons school of thought more plausible.

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      1. Hello, I know this post is a long shot but my multitasking and ADHD brain thought it was worth a try. I was wondering if you have any more theories as to the Nephilim? Since we were made in the image of God and as descendents of Adam and Eve, it makes my cogwheels turn. Have you ever heard it discussed in your church/parish/family priest? I have not in mine, yet I first heard about this through a mutual friend whilst discussing an exorcism. I admit I have not dwelled into the topic greatly as it partially terrified me because it led to a series of disturbing questions. I do realize the Bible is a somewhat metaphor but it makes me wonder. Weren’t angels beings that were not apt for procreation? Wasn’t the devil a fallen angel because he envied Gods love for men? Where do we find the Nephilims existence in all of this? If angels could love men and create another race that is not pure human…does that leave room to believe there could be other races? I realize these questions are very far fetched and maybe not very well formed. Maybe that is why I am asking them online on a strangers blog. But something led me here (God or Tolkien…though I do believe those two were on the same side ;) )
        If by any chance whatsoever You or anyone knowlegeable reading this has a smart and honest answer to this or a continuation of the thought please comment. And do excuse any gramatical mistakes, they have not been made consciously.

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  2. Thanks for the comment Monika.
    Quite a meaty bit of comment/questioning there! I think I’ll try to reply by responding to your questions line-by-line as there were a few:

    “Weren’t angels beings that were not apt for procreation?”

    – I am not aware of any reference in the bible that would imply angels were not apt for procreation. As you say, the bible states “we were made in the image of God”, but then the bible also says that we were made a little lower than the angels (http://biblehub.com/hebrews/2-7.htm) which could hint that we are made roughly of the same stuff. More to this, we see many angels doing very human acts in the bible – like eating a meal with Abraham. So I don’t see the idea of angels transgressing into the physical realm in that capacity as something that is contrary to a biblical philosophy.

    “Wasn’t the devil a fallen angel because he envied Gods love for men?”

    – I am not aware of any reference in the bible that even hints at that. It seems more to me like Satan became fallen when he tried to raise himself above God (https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Isaiah%2014:13-15), his original sin didn’t appear to involve humans at all. More to this, I don’t think the bible clearly states when the “fall of angels” happened, so it could have been even before the creation of the world, before humans existed. The bible doesn’t give us a time of creation of the angels in the way that it does for humans.

    “If angels could love men and create another race that is not pure human…does that leave room to believe there could be other races?”

    – I think that technically the possibility is there that the same thing could have happened elsewhere, and other “races” could exist, yes. In literature I know both JRR Tolkien (The Silmarillion) and CS Lewis (The Space Trilogy) explore this possibility. To me it doesn’t clash with a biblical worldview and the same “base rules” will/would have applied to these other races ie that if they fall short of the glory of God then they will be destroyed or will need atonement (like humans through Christ). When one thinks of it, God already created more than one “race” because we know he created both angels and humans – but for all that we know there can even be different types of angels and they are not all the same “race”. The bible doesn’t clearly state all angels are the same… so even the possibility of multiple angelic races could exist. It might be important to note though that the Nephilim being “made” by angels was an abomination so bad that God literally destroyed the world with a flood to set it right. So even though it can/could be possible, it seems to me unlikely that this would have been a common occurrence.

    Just a disclaimer here: This blog is – as per its title – musings on fantasy and scifi. I make no claim to being a trained bible scholar. Whilst there are certain things I believe to be hard facts, my replies to this line of questioning should be seen more as “exploring possibilities”.

    My method of exploration in the area of the bible is that I try to keep the biblical worldview in-tact when testing it with possibilities. But as I am myself a mere fallen man I could be getting this all wrong! Nevertheless I believe exploring and “testing” all world-views is the best way to determine it’s stability and therefore I indulge in this. I believe merely that as I seek the truth, the truth will set me free.

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