“Nephilim.” “Nephilim” is a transliteration of the Hebrew word nephilim, which is the plural form of the word nephiyl (#05303 נְפִיל), from the Hebrew root word naphal, “to fall.” The word nephilim means “fallen ones,” and it is translated that way in Young’s Literal Version of the Bible. The Nephilim were a mutant humanoid race produced when fallen angels genetically manipulated human females. Because this race of mutant humans was a totally new species, the REV, as well as many other English versions, transliterate “Nephilim” directly into the English text rather than having a translation such as “fallen ones.” All humans are sinful and “fallen” in nature, but not all humans are demonically genetically mutated to be Nephilim.
There are a few English Bibles that translate nephilim as “giants,” and there are some lexicographers who accept that as the meaning of the Hebrew word, but the evidence is against it. However, the Septuagint uses the Greek word gigantes, “giants,” as the translation of the Hebrew word nephilim, and that is no doubt at least partly why some English versions, especially early ones like the Geneva Bible, King James, and Douay Rheims, say “giants.” But it is also possible that the Septuagint translators used the word gigantes because the Bible says that at least some of the Nephilim were huge people, even giants.
It is worth noting that some scholars say that the Greek word gigantes should not be translated as “giants” in verses that refer to the Nephilim, because the Greek mythology, taken from Hesiod’s Theogony, depicts the races of giants—including the Hundred-handers, Titans, and Cyclopes—as the descendants of Uranus, and Gaia (the goddess personification of “Earth,” from ge, “earth” or “land”), and therefore gigantes should be rendered “earthborn.” Although that etymology of gigantes is likely not correct, it is worth noting that in Greek mythology various races of giants came from the gods, and biblically that would include the Nephilim.
The Nephilim were “Fallen Ones,” that is, “fallen” creatures made by demons, and they were made the same way the Devil and his demons made God’s wonderful plants into thorny plants and God’s wonderful animals into dangerous animals. The Devil has the ability—which we humans now have to some extent as well—to change the genetics of a plant or animal and mutate it into something different than its original state. When the Devil gained control over the earth after Adam and Eve sinned, one of the things he did was manipulate the genetics of things so that they became evil. This is not directly stated in the Bible, but the reason for that is at least twofold: the people on earth at that time were not knowledgeable about genetics and would not have understood the concepts and also the conclusion can be deduced logically, and God expects us to think logically when reading the Bible. God would never have made His wonderful, “very good” Eden-world into the harsh and dangerous place it is today, and Adam did not have the ability to do it. Only the Devil had both the power and motivation to turn God’s paradise that He loved into a place of thorns, poisons, and danger. The Devil genetically altered God’s creation and then the genetically altered plants and animals reproduced after their kind so that the whole earth is now covered with these dangerous and poisonous plants and animals.
No one knows exactly what the Devil did to manipulate the genetics of the plants and animals, but it is clear that he did it. He did it to plants and animals, and he did it to human beings. So the Bible says that Satan’s demons, the “sons of God,” married human females and produced a race that the Bible calls the Nephilim. The Bible does not use the terminology or vocabulary that a modern geneticist would use to describe what the demons did to the human women so that they gave birth to the Nephilim. Instead, Genesis 6:2-4 uses simple terminology that the people of the time could understand: the “sons of God” (fallen angels) took the human females as wives, and “came into them,” (the standard biblical vocabulary for sexual intercourse), and the women “bore” children to them. But the “children” were not demons, nor were they “normal” humans—the way Adam had been created by God. They were a mutant human race: the “fallen ones.” They were completely fallen in their very nature, genetically engineered to be evil, and they were not capable of being godly or being saved. There is little doubt that the demons came into human form and had sex with the women. They still do that today. A demon that comes into concretion as a male and has sex with women is called an “incubus,” while a demon that comes into concretion as a woman and seduces a man is referred to as a “succubus.” Although many think that the existence of an incubus or succubus is just mythology, demons are real and that they come into human form is well documented just as it is stated here in Genesis 6, and most of the time they do we know them as “ghosts.” But the key to understanding Genesis 6 is realizing that a human woman’s egg cannot be fertilized by a demon. A demon is an angel and angels do not even marry (Matt. 22:30), and furthermore, God designed things to reproduce after their kind. So while a demon might have sex with a human woman, he could not impregnate her, but he could alter her genetics (or the genetics of a fertilized egg inside her) so that she gave birth to a genetically altered baby—a Nephilim.
God created mankind in His image. The Devil had the Nephilim made in his image: evil. He knew that the Messiah who was foretold to destroy him would be a human, so he tried to keep the Messiah from coming by producing the Nephilim. Then they could destroy all of the humans who had not been genetically altered and keep the Messiah from being born. Quite a few ancient sources say the Nephilim were the offspring of fallen angels and human females, including references in the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, and the writings of Josephus. This position was also believed by early Church Fathers such as Tertullian and Lactantius, who was an advisor to Emperor Constantine. In fact, in his book, The Genesis Record, Henry Morris wrote: “Apparently the first Christian writers to suggest the Sethite interpretation [that the “sons of God” were humans] were Chrysostom and Augustine.”a
When we understand who the Nephilim were and where they came from, we can solve some of the perplexing questions many people have about God and the Bible. Two of those difficult questions are: “If God loved the world, why did He cause the Flood and kill everyone?” And, “If God is a loving God, why did He command the Israelites to totally destroy the inhabitants of the Promised Land, including the children?” (Deut. 7:1-6; 20:16-18). The answer is that God had to protect the human race from Satan’s race of “Fallen Ones” that were not genetically like God’s original humans. The problem was in the genetics of the Nephilim, so their “race” had to be killed off.
The Nephilim were well-positioned to destroy humans on earth. They were very wicked and at least some of them were very large and powerful. For example, Og, one of the Nephilim, had a bed that was over 13 feet (four meters) long and six feet (two meters) wide (Deut. 3:11). Goliath of Gath was over nine feet (three meters) tall (1 Sam. 17:4). There have been a number of archaeological discoveries and ancient drawings of very large people. Many anthropologists have assumed that when a very large person is depicted next to smaller humans, the picture was not meant to be an accurate depiction, but rather to show that the larger person was a king or one of the gods. However, that conclusion is an assumption and may well be wrong: the picture may be accurate and the larger person may actually be one of the Nephilim.
The Nephilim were the result of demonic genetic manipulation, so there was no way to teach or train them to be godly. Furthermore, when the Nephilim reproduced, they made more of their kind, just like when the genetically changed thorns and thistles reproduced, they made more thorns and thistles, and when poisonous snakes reproduced they made more poisonous snakes. Because of their size and strength, and the demonic power behind them, before Noah’s Flood, the Nephilim were both reproducing themselves and also killing off humans who were not Nephilim, and this resulted in more and more of the earth’s population being Nephilim. The abundance of Nephilim on the earth explains why the Bible says that shortly before the Flood, mankind got to the point that “every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5).
In fact, there is evidence that right before the Flood the only genetically pure line of humans left on earth was Noah’s line. Genesis 6:9 says that Noah was “blameless” in his generation. But the Hebrew word translated “blameless” is tamiym (#08549 תָּמִים), which means “whole, sound, complete or entire, innocent, having integrity,” and it is mainly used of animals that are without defect and therefore could be used for sacrifice. It is likely that in Genesis 6:9 the Bible is saying that “in his generation,” Noah was “without defect” genetically, as well as saying that Noah obeyed God.
The fact that mankind was completely wicked before the Flood is good evidence for the existence of the Nephilim. There are only 1,656 years from the creation of Adam to the Flood, but we can see that mankind became totally wicked in much less than that time because the Nephilim did not come along until people really began to multiply on the earth (Gen. 6:1). In contrast, it has now been more than 4,000 years since the Flood, and there are many good and loving humans on earth. This shows that humans do not become totally wicked on their own as a function of human genetics. It took demons genetically changing humans into a mutant race of “fallen ones” to make everyone so evil that every intention of their hearts was evil all the time.
Some people deny that the Nephilim were a mutant race of humans produced by demons, for three major reasons. Some say the Devil and demons do not exist, but we reject that argument and assert that the Bible makes it plain that they do. Others say that the vocabulary in Genesis 6 does not support the interpretation that demons somehow mated with humans and that the phrase “sons of God” can refer to descendants of Adam through Seth. However, a study of the phrase “sons of God” in the Hebrew text will show that it always refers to beings created directly by God, such as Adam, Jesus Christ, and angels (this must be a study of the exact Hebrew phrase, not the general idea of “son” of God, because, for example, Israel is referred to as God’s “son.” But the exact Hebrew phrase used in Gen. 6 of the “sons of God” is only used of God’s directly created beings).
There are many other lines of evidence besides the meaning of the phrase “sons of God” that show that the Nephilim were not ordinary humans. One is that the “sons of God” could take any human female they wanted, which is not normal human-to-human behavior, whereas demons would have the power and evil nature to take any human female they desired. Also, the blame for the evil “marriages” between the sons of God and daughters of men was never placed on the women, which would make sense if the women were forced into these unions by demons, but not if they had married evil husbands by choice. Also, the offspring of the “sons of God” and “daughters of men” are called “Fallen Ones.” But both godly and ungodly humans are “fallen,” so the specific designation, “Fallen Ones,” shows that these “children” were fallen in a different sense than just the regular fallen state of all humans. Also, many of the Nephilim were giants, but a marriage between a believer and an unbeliever does not produce children who are giants. To produce the giant Nephilim, one of the “parents” was not a normal human.
Lastly, the offspring of these “sons of God” and human women were extremely wicked, so much so that every thought of their heart was evil, and in not too much time the whole earth was populated by beings who were this way. But even if the children of believers and unbelievers turn from God, rarely if ever is it true that every thought they have is wicked—that is not normal human behavior. All these facts together show that the Nephilim were the genetically manipulated progeny of humans and demons, engineered to be evil.
A third reason people say that fallen angels could not produce offspring by human women is because God made things to reproduce after their own kind (cp. Gen. 1:11, 21, 24, 25). While it is true that in a natural environment things reproduce after their own kind, plants and animals (including humans) can be changed so that they reproduce in a way that does not follow their natural family or genus. Mutations and genetic changes can occur. Today, humans are doing many different kinds of genetic manipulation on plants and animals, and those genetically changed things then reproduce after their kind—and that is exactly what the Devil did to plants, animals, and even humans after the Fall. But the Bible warns against trying to crossbreed species: “You must not crossbreed two different kinds of your livestock” (Lev. 19:19 HCSB).
God responded to the Devil’s making of the Nephilim in two ways: He dealt with the demons who produced the Nephilim and He dealt with the Nephilim themselves. As for the demons who produced the Nephilim, God shut them up in Tartarus (2 Pet. 2:4), in the Abyss (Luke 8:31; Rev. 20:1), in “gloomy darkness” (Jude 1:6), so they were not free to do evil on earth anymore. As for the Nephilim themselves, they were mortal and were killed off.
There were two times in history the demons produced Nephilim; before and after Noah’s Flood. In the first outbreak of Nephilim before Noah’s Flood, God killed them all off in the Flood. In the second outbreak of Nephilim after the Flood, people killed them off, just as God told Israel to do.
In spite of the fact that God put the demons who produced the Nephilim who lived before the Flood into Tartarus, it was not long after the Flood that the Devil again tried to stop the Messiah by producing more Nephilim. However, it seems the Devil had become aware that demons who participated in making the Nephilim would be imprisoned in Tartarus, so in the second outbreak of Nephilim there were only a limited number of them, and they seemed to be mostly concentrated in Israel, the Promised Land. However, there is evidence that there were also some Nephilim in other parts of the world. The Bible tells us that the Nephilim were the famous men who lived in ancient times (Gen. 6:4). Although many histories and ancient mythologies have been lost, distorted, or exaggerated, there are ancient records and mythologies that claim that “gods” cohabited with women and produced leaders and heroes such as the Greek heroes Perseus and Hercules, who were indeed famous. So even this second outbreak of Nephilim, although more limited in number, could have been widely spread.
That second outbreak of Nephilim occurred shortly after the Flood. We know that because when Abraham entered the land of Canaan, about 400 years after the Flood, “the Canaanite was already in the land” (Gen. 12:6). These “Canaanites” were Nephilim. We know that because, by Genesis 14:5, some of the inhabitants of Canaan were being called “Rephaim,” and the Rephaim were Nephilim, and were descendants of “Rapha.”
Like humans, the humanoid Nephilim had names, and the Bible gives us the names of some of them. “Rapha” was one of the names (Rapha apparently lived in the Philistine country in or near Gath, because his descendants were from around there, and some joined the Philistines and fought against Israel, including Ishbibenob, Saph, and two others who are unnamed, one of whom was Goliath’s brother and the other is called “a man of great size” (2 Sam. 21:15-22; 1 Chron. 20:6-8). Also, one of the Nephilim was “Anak” (Num. 13:33), and the descendants of Anak were the Anakim. Anak’s father was Arba (Josh. 15:13), which shows us that the child of a Nephilim was also a Nephilim. It is likely that Arba and Rapha were the names of two of the Nephilim who were, or were close to, the first generation “progeny” of fallen angels and human women.
After the Exodus, when the Israelites came out of Egypt, Moses sent spies into the Promised Land. The spies encountered Nephilim in the Promised Land and returned to Moses and the Israelites in the wilderness. The spies reported: “And we saw the Nephilim there (the sons of Anak come from the Nephilim), and in our own sight we seemed like grasshoppers, and we seemed that way in their sight” (Num. 13:33 REV). The report of the spies shows they knew what the Nephilim were and that the Nephilim were very large people, even “giants.” Moses told Israel to conquer Canaan and not to be afraid of the Nephilim. Moses said, “Hear, O Israel: you are to cross over the Jordan [River] today, to go in to dispossess nations greater and mightier than you, cities great and fortified up to heaven, a people great and tall, the sons of the Anakim, whom you know, and of whom you have heard it said, ‘Who can stand before the sons of Anak?’” (Deut. 9:1-2 ESV). Thus in Numbers and Deuteronomy Moses referred to the Canaanite nations as being “Anakim,” descendants of Anak, which meant they were Nephilim (Num. 13:33).
Joshua and the Israelites conquered the Promised Land and killed off the Nephilim—except for the ones who lived in the southwest seacoast area bordering the Mediterranean Sea. That area was inhabited by the Philistines, whose capital cities were Gaza, Gath, Ashkelon, Ashdod, and Ekron (Josh. 13:3; 1 Sam. 6:17). “At that time Joshua proceeded to exterminate the Anakim from the hill country—Hebron Debir, Anab—all the hill country of Judah and of Israel. Joshua completely destroyed them with their cities. No Anakim were left in the land of the Israelites, except for some remaining in Gaza, Gath, and Ashdod” (Josh. 11:21-22 HCSB). So the cities that still had Nephilim after Joshua conquered Canaan included the city of Gath, and that is where Goliath, one of the Nephilim, came from.
The Nephilim that Joshua left in the Philistine cities were killed off by David, who had war after war with the Philistines. But whereas Joshua referred to them as “Anakim” because they were descendants of Anak (Josh. 11:22), in other places they are referred to as Rephaites or Rephaim because some of them descended from Rapha (1 Chron. 20:4, 6, 8). We should not be confused about the Nephilim in Israel sometimes being called Anakim and sometimes being called Rephaites or Rephaim because it is likely that descendants of Anak married descendants of Rapha. After all, both Anak and Rapha were Nephilim and lived and had children in the same general area, so in a few generations, some of those children would be both Anakim and Rephaites.
Some of David’s wars with the Philistines specifically mention fights with descendants of Rapha. In one war, Sippai the Raphaite was killed; in another war, Lahmi, the brother of Goliath, was killed (which is how we know that Goliath was one of the Nephilim; if his brother was, so was he), and in still another war a huge man who was a descendant of Rapha, who had six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot, was killed. These men were all descendants of Rapha (2 Sam. 21:16-22; 1 Chron. 20:4-8. In many English Bibles, “Rapha” is not transliterated as a name but translated as “giant.” He would have been a giant, but it helps us to follow the mutant race of Nephilim if he is called “Rapha”).
Scripture connects the Anakim and Rephaim, showing that they were both Nephilim. They were both huge in size and very wicked, and lived in the same area, and Deuteronomy 2:10-11 connects them, adding another twist: there are other names for these Nephilim. For example, Deuteronomy 2:11 says that the people of Moab called them “Emim,” which means “Terrors,” and Deuteronomy 2:20 tells us the Ammonites called them, “Zamzummim” (the meaning of Zamzummim is disputed, but E. W. Bullinger says it means “Noisy Ones.”b Among them, we can be sure that all of the nations of Canaan had Nephilim intermixed with them. For example, Genesis 15:18-20 lists the Raphaim among other nations of Canaan; the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites, and Jebusites. The Bible gives other lists that include these nations, sometimes leaving some nations out and including others (cp. Exod. 3:8, 17; 23:23; Deut. 7:1; 20:17; Josh. 12:8).
Once we understand that the gene pool of the Canaanites had been corrupted by the Nephilim, a mutant race that was evil and unable to be saved, we can see why God commanded Moses and Joshua to wipe them out, including the children. The baby of a Nephilim could not be trained to be godly any more than a baby rattlesnake could be trained not to have venom. Their behavior is influenced by their genetics.
God allowed the Israelites to marry women from the nations around the Promised Land (Deut. 20:10-15) because they had not been intermixed with Nephilim. But when it came to the nations in the Promised Land, the Israelites were to kill them off (Deut. 7:1; 20:16-18). God said if the Israelites allowed the Canaanites to remain alive, “they will teach you to follow all the detestable things they do in worshiping their gods” (Deut. 20:18 NIV84). God never said a word about Israel being able to convert the Canaanites to being godly, because they could not be. The Devil had Nephilim made to destroy the human race and prevent the Messiah from coming, and God had to save the human race by having the Nephilim killed off. So God was not being unloving when He caused the Flood or told Joshua to kill the inhabitants of Canaan. He was being loving; determined to bring forth the Messiah and save the human race.
[For more on the meaning of the phrase “sons of God,” see commentary on Genesis 6:2. For supporting information on demons producing offspring via human women, see commentary on Jude 1:6 and 1:7. For more information on Tartarus, the “god prison,” see commentary on 2 Peter 2:4. For more information on the first outbreak of Nephilim occurring in the time before the Flood, see commentary on 1 Peter 3:20. For more information on the Abyss, see commentary on Revelation 20:1.]
“those days.” “Those days” were the “days,” or “time,” actually a period of years, when mankind was increasing on the earth and demons were at work producing the Nephilim. The earth was becoming a very evil place and the genetically pure humans were becoming scarcer, so God instructed Noah to build the ark and prepare for the Flood. In that context, the phrase, “and also after this,” means after that time before the Flood, i.e., after the Flood. Thus the Bible lets us know that the Nephilim were on earth after the Flood as well as before it.
“the mighty men who were of old, the famous men.” The Nephilim were big and powerful and rose to the top of many societies. Nephilim like Og became kings (Deut. 3:11), and men like Goliath were renowned warriors. These people were some of the famous people of the ancient legends. No doubt most of those ancient legends have been lost. One reason for that is that ancient societies fought one another and the losing towns were often burned, just like the great libraries of Alexandria in Egypt and Ephesus in the Roman province of Asia were burned.
In spite of that, we still have records of some Greek heroes who seem to have been Nephilim. For example, Hercules was the son of Zeus and the mortal woman Alcmene; Perseus, who beheaded Medusa, was the son of Zeus and the mortal woman Danae; Helen of Troy was the daughter of Zeus and Leda; Minos, the son of Zeus and the mortal woman Europa, was the king of Crete and the first one to build a navy; Achilles, hero of the Trojan War and greatest warrior in Homer’s Iliad, was the son of the nymph Thetis and Peleus; and Odysseus (better known by his Latin name, Ulysses), was the hero of Homer’s Odyssey and a great-grandson of Zeus. The ancient mythologies are likely distorted, exaggerated, and somewhat fabricated, but the Bible says that some of the people who were the heroes of the ancient legends were actually Nephilim, “heroes” of old time.