Reading random things (of which I admit I am guilty and do a lot – perhaps too much, some might say) the other day, I came across something that meant absolutely nothing whatsoever to me.
I tried to guess what it meant but failed miserably. As is my wont, my interest in learning about things that I know nothing about and my general thirst for knowledge took me on a journey of discovery.
I’m talking here about some mysterious beings or people mentioned in the Hebrew Bible. The name given to them is “The Nephilim”.
Large and Strong
Wikipedia says of the Nephilim: They were large and strong; Nephilim is loosely translated as giants in some Bibles but left untranslated in others. Some traditional Jewish explanations interpret them as fallen angels. The primary reference to them is in Genesis, but the passage is ambiguous, and the identity of the Nephilim is disputed. According to Numbers 13:33, they later inhabited Canaan at the time of the Israelite conquest of Canaan. A similar or identical biblical Hebrew term, read as “Nephilim” by some scholars, or as the word “fallen” by others, appears in Ezekiel 32:27.
The Brown-Driver-Briggs Lexicon (1908) gives the meaning of Nephilim as “giants”, but watch out: etymologies of the word are “all very precarious”. Many suggested interpretations assume that the word is a derivative of Hebrew verbal root n-p-l, “fall”. Robert Baker Girdlestone argued in 1871 that the word comes from the hiphil (a verbal stem formation in Biblical Hebrew) causative stem, implying that the Nephilim are to be perceived as “those that cause others to fall down”.
The majority of ancient biblical versions—including the Septuagint (the Greek Old Testament), Theodotion (translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek), Latin Vulgate, Samaritan Targum, Targum Onkelos, and Targum Neofiti—interpret the word to mean “giants”. Symmachus, who translated the Old Testament into Greek, interprets it as “the violent ones”, and the translation by Aquila has been interpreted to mean either “the fallen ones” or “the ones falling [upon their enemies]. There are so many interpretations and translations of what is known as the Bible that people everywhere can be excused if they feel confused – despite the text above and the explanations I have provided, it’s by no means clear. One thing is for sure: The stone from David’s sling certainly had the effect of causing Goliath ‘to fall down’.
The Nephilim and the great Flood
The Nephilim may have been one of the primary reasons for the great Flood in Noah’s time – the Bible says God’s disapproval of these fallen angels was the reason for the Flood.
If you do a Google search, you will find the pros and cons of this theory.
Was Goliath a Nephilim?
The giant Goliath is best known for engaging in a losing battle with David, a formidable opponent but a dwarf, compared to his own size. Many theorists believe that Goliath was a descendant of the Nephilim of Genesis 6. Yet other theorists, whilst acknowledging that Goliath was a giant, say he was not Nephilim (read here for a discussion on this).
The book of Genesis contains some of the most famous origin myths in Western culture: God’s creation of the heavens and Earth, Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, and God commanding Noah to collect two of every animal to survive the great Flood which would engulf the world.
Hidden among these better-known stories in genesis is the intriguing and somewhat confounding account of ‘fallen angels’ and a race of superhuman giants roaming the Earth. You need to go to three verses at the start of Genesis, chapter six. In the King James Version of the Bible, it says:
‘And it came to pass when men began to multiply on the face of the Earth, and daughters were born unto them, that the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose… There were giants 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 became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.’
While the giant Nephilim are barely mentioned in the Genesis narrative, they were the subject of great fascination in later apocalyptic literature, especially the Book of Enoch. In that text, which didn’t make it into the Bible, a group of lusting angels conspires to sleep with human women, giving birth to a race of giants that spoil God’s creation so completely that he has no choice but to send the floodwaters and wipe Earth clean.
Worth reading is what Britannica.com says:
‘Nephilim, in the Hebrew Bible, [were] a group of mysterious beings or people of unusually large size and strength who lived both before and after the Flood. The Hebrew word nefilim is sometimes directly translated as “giants” or taken to mean “the fallen ones” (from the Hebrew naphal, “to fall”), but the identity of the Nephilim is debated by scholars.’
There are many books on Amazon that refer to the Nephelim in their title. One that caught my eye is The Rise and Fall of the Nephilim: The Untold Story of Fallen Angels, Giants on the Earth, and Their Extraterrestrial Origins – by Scott Alan Roberts (Author), published by New Page Books. The book (kindle edition) is available from here. The Amazon description of the book tempts you to buy the book to find out what it all means – that is if you are curious about such things:
‘The ancient books of Genesis and Enoch tell us that sprit beings known as the Watchers descended to the Earth, had sex with women, and begat a hybrid race of offspring known as the Nephilim. Such tales are as old as humanity itself. These histories and accounts of visitations and subsequent mixed-blood, alien-human races comprise the bulk of the world’s myths, legends, religions, and superstitions. What if the old spiritualities and religions weren’t just legends? What if there was something living and breathing beneath the surface, a tangible interlinking of religious thought and spirituality, science and myth, inter-dimensionality and cold, hard fact? The Nephilim walked among us… and still do today.”
Criticised, but was it unfair?
The biblicalarchaeology.org website says:
“It was once claimed that the mating of the sons of God and the daughters of Adam that resulted in the Nephilim caused the Flood, and this caused the Nephilim to have a negative reputation. This was believed because the next verse (Genesis 6:5) is the introduction to the flood narrative and because their name means “fallen ones.”
However, as they say, it is unlikely that this interpretation is correct because Genesis 6:4 presents nothing but praise for the Nephilim, and no criticism is present. In addition, the name “fallen ones” is likely a reference to their divine paternity transforming—falling—into the human condition, albeit an almost superhuman condition. No one knows for sure who or what were the Nephilim. However, the Bible gives us clues about who the “sons of God” and the “daughters of men” were in Genesis 6:1-4.
Sources and Additional Reading
- Book: The Rise and Fall of the Nephilim: The Untold Story of Fallen Angels, Giants on the Earth, and Their Extraterrestrial Origins – by Scott Alan Roberts (Author), published by New Page Books. Available at: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Rise-Fall-Nephilim-Extraterrestrial-Origins-ebook/dp/B07J12WWDV/
- Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nephilim Text under CC-BY-SA license ↑
- Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nephilim ↑
- See: Brown, Francis; Driver, S. R.; Briggs, Charles A. (1907). A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament. p. 658; p. 658 ↑
- Source: Girdlestone R. (1871) Synonyms of the Old Testament: Their Bearing on Christian Faith and Practice. p. 91 ↑
- The Samaritans, defined here, were half-Jew, half-Gentile. The race came about after the Assyrian captivity of the northern kingdom of Israel in 721 B.C. Certain people from the nation of Israel stayed behind. These people intermarried with the Assyrians producing the Samaritans. Targum means ‘translation’ or ‘interpretation’ ↑
- Targum Onkelos (or Onqelos), is the primary Jewish Aramaic translation of the Torah, accepted as an authoritative translated text of the Five Books of Moses and thought to have been written in the early 2nd-century CE. It is traditionally attributed to Onkelos, a famous convert to Judaism. ↑
- Targum Neofiti or Targum Neophyti, composed in Talmudic Israel (c.30 – c.70 CE), is the largest of the Western interpretations of the Torah, or Palestinian Targumim – consisting of 450 folios. ↑
- Symmachus was the son of a prominent aristocrat, Lucius Aurelius Avianius Symmachus and a daughter of Fabius Titianus, who had been twice urban prefect of Rome. Symmachus was educated in Gaul, apparently at Bordeaux or Toulouse. In early life he became devoted to literature. In 369 he met Ausonius; their friendship proved mutually beneficial. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quintus_Aurelius_Symmachus#cite_note-5 ↑
- Aquila (meaning an eagle), was a Jew whom St. Paul found at Corinth on his arrival from Athens. (Acts 18:2) (in 52 AD). ↑
- See: https://people.howstuffworks.com/nephilim.htm ↑
- Source: https://people.howstuffworks.com/nephilim.htm ↑
- See: https://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/biblical-topics/hebrew-bible/who-are-the-nephilim/ ↑