Who Were the Nephilim?

“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”

Genesis 6:4

Because of its ambiguity, Genesis 6:4 has become one of the most controversial and heavily debated verses in the bible. Who exactly were the sons of God and the daughters of men?

This verse is contested due to several reasons; one being that Nephilim in the Hebrew bible is translated to “the fallen ones” as it is so similar to the Hebrew word Naphal, which means “to fall.”

The Nephilim are mentioned once more in the bible in the book of Numbers. Numbers 13:33 says, “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 verse stating that their descendants were giants supports the fact that they could have very well been giants. However, it does not necessarily mean that they were not fallen angels (a.k.a demons).

These verses support several of the following theories that we are going to take a closer look at today. The four most popular theories are as follows:

Theory 1 – The fallen angels view: This view says that the fallen angels had relations with the daughters of men resulting in the giant beings or “men of renown” that were the Nephilim.

Theory 2 – The Sethite view: This view claims that the “sons of God” refers to men from the lineage of Seth while “daughters of men” refers to the lineage of Cain.

Theory 3 – Possession: This view states that the fallen angels possessed godly men, then procreated with the daughters of men.

Theory 4 – Fallen men: This view states that the men who were once godly simply became ungodly and had relations with the daughters of men resulting in an unholy/evil covenant that created the Nephilim.

Theory 1 Support:

The fallen angels view is one of the most popular views in the church today, and is heavily supported by Judaic religion because of the aforementioned translation of “Naphal” to “to fall”, and because of support from other non-canonical biblical books(the book of Enoch). For biblical support of this perspective, we can look to Job 1:6 “Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves to the Lord, and Satan also came among them.” Job 38:7 states that ” when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy.” Both of these verses support the idea that the sons of God are in fact angels (or for the opposition, at the very least “heavily implies it”).

 In the times of Sodom and Gomorrah, angels were said to have wandered the earth in search of sexual immorality and of strange flesh, which can also imply that they sought after women to procreate with. Now “strange flesh’ could simply mean that the flesh was strange to them as they were angels and the flesh was human, or it could mean that they were searching after women who knew unholy methods/pagan rituals and worshiped false gods.

Opposition to Theory 1:

There is no proof that the angels were able to successfully procreate with the women of Sodom and Gomorrah even if they had sexual relations with them.

Another side that many take is the fact that angels are angelic spirits and that they do not have the DNA to combine with humans. They are spiritual beings, therefore, they cannot produce offspring. That being said, when we go to heaven we become spiritual beings so although it may be a bit more of a leap, the reversal of this may be true for the angels that come down to earth, and the darkness and eternal chains could be metaphorical for their mortality.

However, this verse could also be supportive of the possession theory and the eternal chains and darkness may reference their inability to leave the darkness, but it may not hinder their ability to possess men.

Theory 2 Support:

The Sethite view is perhaps the second most popular view, stating that the entire lineage from Seth to Noah was comprised of Godly men and it was these Godly men that fell away and turned to women from the line of Cain.

This view is supported again by the translation of Nephilim to “the fall” of men from their godly lineage. These men may very well have been known as the sons of God more so than not because they also had the longest lifespan.

While Cain died at the age of 730 (still quite impressive by today’s standards) Seth lived until he was 912, Noah until he was 950, and Methuselah until he was 969, bringing into form ideas about “demi-gods,” which are mentioned many times in mythology and may very well have been influenced by the holy lineage of Seth.

Opposition to Theory 2:

The opposition to this view is comprised mainly of support for the separate views: the amount of support and evidence for the sons of God being fallen angels and the amount of support it receives through non-canonical works such as the book of Enoch. This fact makes this view a rising and increasingly more popular view among Christians and Jews (aside from Ethiopian Jews who consider Enoch canon).

Theory 3 Support:

The idea of demonic possession seems more viable to some as the belief in possession is quite commonplace worldwide, the idea of which is included in religions and beliefs outside of Christianity. The main opposition to this theory is that men of God cannot be possessed by demons, which is a very strong opposition that is supported biblically.

James 4:7 says “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” However, if we look into the history of Godly men, they are able to be contacted and influenced by the devil and demons, such as Eve was in the garden of Eden, or as Jesus was tempted by Satan in the desert.

 This brings us to a possible theory about the nature of their possession. First, they may have been tempted or drawn in by Satan and one of his fallen angels, which secondly, would lead them into sin, which could, in turn, lead them into completely giving in to sin, turning on God, and allowing possession to occur.

Theory 4 Support:

The theory of fallen men of God creating a covenant with the daughters of men is one of the less common views. This view is still viable and brings to mind the amount of influence that the fallen angels had in those times.

Pagan rituals were commonplace in those times so if men were to fall from God to the demonic influence of pagan rituals, which would have been more common then not, as the lineage of Seth was less populated than the lineage of Cain, causing the likelihood of demonic influence to be very high.

Who were the descendants of the Nephilim?

The Nephilim were still around after the flood, and their descendants were said to be the Rephaim and the Anakim, the descendants of Anak(Numbers 13:32-33). Goliath, the Gittite, is one of the most well-known examples of giants in the bible. There were many instances where the people of God clash with the giants in the post-flood world which leads us to the question:

How did they survive the great flood if Noah and his offspring were the only ones left?

Well, the possibilities support several of these theories, while excluding one. The theories that it supports include:

Theory 1: The offspring are created by fallen angels, and those fallen angels simply continued to reproduce with human women after the flood, just as they did in the time of Sodom and Gamorrah.

Theory 3: The offspring are created by demonic possession, which could be just as common years after the flood, as sin has a way of coming back.

Theory 4: The influence of demons and Satan, which also survived the flood.

The one possibility that was ruled out was the Sethite theory; theory 2. There were no unholy survivors after the flood, therefore, with the lineage of Cain wiped out, this theory may be the most logically ruled out.

One of the most interesting things in the Bible is the fact that the first verse where the Nephilim are mentioned – Genesis 6:4 – states that they were heroes of old; men of renown, which implies that the people of old had respect and admiration for them at least on some level.

The rest of the Bible paints them in a different light with the people who followed God clashing with them in war. This brings to mind a fifth possibility or more so a theory combining the former theories with a new one. Perhaps they were simply men with different genetic makeup that made them physically stronger and larger people and those people fell to the influence of Satan.

This is a lesser-known theory, however, it is a good one to keep in mind as we occasionally do see people that nearly reach the height of giants in today’s world (although it is quite rare).

My personal beliefs on the subject remain as such: there are equally valid points to the several views on it and while I may resonate with one more than the other, as a human I lack firsthand knowledge of the situation, as do all of us. Therefore, one’s opinion on which theory is true should not be used to create a rift between fellow believers.

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