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The Nephilim are named only in two verses in the Bible, in Genesis 6:4 and Numbers 13:33. Numbers 13:33 says that the Anakim come from the Nephilim, but different translations render this in a variety of ways, some making it seem like an integral part of what the spies are saying, some making it seem like an aside, possibly by the narrator or even a later editor.

Numbers 13:33 (ESV): 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 13:33 (NASB): There also we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak are part of the Nephilim); and we became like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.

Numbers 13:33 (CEV): In fact, we saw the Nephilim who are the ancestors of the Anakim. They were so big that we felt as small as grasshoppers.

Numbers 13:33 (JPS Tanakh): And there we saw the Nephilim, the sons of Anak, who come of the Nephilim; and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.

With the diversity of renderings these translations give I assume the Hebrew of the verse is not the clearest. Still, based on what we know of Hebrew grammar, narratives, and dialogue, does the Hebrew text of this verse most likely mean that this phrase is something the narrator is asserting, or only a report of something the spies said?

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    I have always regarded the spies' report as a misrepresentation. It had not previously occurred to me that their delivery could also be deliberately indistinct and deceitfully ambiguous in order to at least exaggerate if not downright falsify. I hope someone can demonstrate the Hebrew for us. +1.
    – Nigel J
    Aug 19 '19 at 8:28
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    An intriguing Q, but, assuming it could be ascertained via Hebraic grammar, exactly who stated this, surely that wouldn’t impact on the accuracy of what is said?
    – Dave
    Oct 14 at 1:46
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    @Dave It makes a huge difference if Numbers is faithfully quoting the false report of the spies that the Anakim come from the Nephilim, compared to the narrator of Numbers themselves asserting that the Anakim come from the Nephilim. If you believe Numbers is inspired then the later means God himself is telling us.
    – curiousdannii
    Oct 14 at 1:49
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    OK - now I see where your coming from - but this prompts another Q - how are you assuming the spies report was false?
    – Dave
    Oct 14 at 2:07
  • @Dave Sure, that's another question. But even if their report was true, since it could be false, then it matters whether this assertion is from them or the narrator.
    – curiousdannii
    Oct 14 at 2:16
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+50

The Question:

Does the narrator of Numbers assert that the Anakim come from the Nephilim?

The Nephilim are named only in two verses in the Bible, in Genesis 6:4 and Numbers 13:33. Numbers 13:33 says that the Anakim come from the Nephilim, but different translations render this in a variety of ways, some making it seem like an integral part of what the spies are saying, some making it seem like an aside, possibly by the narrator or even a later editor. ... With the diversity of renderings these translations give I assume the Hebrew of the verse is not the clearest. Still, based on what we know of Hebrew grammar, narratives, and dialogue, does the Hebrew text of this verse most likely mean that this phrase is something the narrator is asserting, or only a report of something the spies said?

The Spies' Report

The report of the 10 spies did not conflict with the report of the two faithful spies, Caleb and Joshua. In what concerns the content of their reports, there was no difference. The report itself appears to have been all true. The "evil" part of the report was the conclusion that the spies urged upon the people--that they could not possess the land for themselves--supported by their restatement of the fact that the land was inhabited by the descendants of Anak, whom they then equated with the nephilim. Those ten lacked faith in what God could do, and showed themselves to be unbelieving. Their unbelief was the "evil" in their report.

The KJV translators rendered the three occurrences of the Hebrew word הַנְּפִלִ֞ים/han·nə·p̄i·lîm (nephilim) as "giants." But with the first occurrence of this word applying to people that existed before the Flood, it is possible that this original group of "giants" was even larger in stature and strength than the giants who descended from them. When the evil spies used this word "nephilim" to apply to the sons of Anak, it may have been like saying "mammoths" to apply to elephants--a word that, while very similar, and with a degree of truthfulness, was nonetheless used with the intent to magnify the "problem" as they chose to see it.

The Only Uses of "Nephilim"

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 bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown. (Genesis 6:4, KJV)

And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight. (Numbers 13:33, KJV)

Identification of Nephilim

It is in Numbers 13:33 where the connection to giants is clearly made, because the "sons of Anak" are addressed in other passages, and they are here said to be the nephilim.

Just five verses prior we see:

Nevertheless the people be strong that dwell in the land, and the cities are walled, and very great: and moreover we saw the children of Anak there. (Numbers 13:28, KJV)

These children of Anak were considered to be "strong." They are also called Anakim. This would be similar to saying "Anakites." (Remember, the -im suffix to a Hebrew word is what makes a masculine-gendered word plural, so seeing "nephilim", "anakim", "cherubim", etc. tells us we are looking at a plural form. Because it is already plural, it is actually odd to add a further "s" to it, e.g. "Anakims", as is done in the KJV.)

Studying further into the descendants of Anak, variously called "sons of Anak," "Anakims", etc., we learn that there are other Hebrew words which are used synonymously for this group of people.

Giants of the Bible

  • Anakims: Deuteronomy 1:28; 2:10-11, 21; 9:2; Joshua 11:21-22; 14:12,15
  • Rephaim/Rephaims: Genesis 14:5; 15:20
  • Zamzummims (another name for Rephaim): Deuteronomy 2:20
  • Emims ("giants, as the Anakims"): Genesis 14:5; Deuteronomy 2:10-11

The word "giants" is the most common translation for the Hebrew רְפָאִים/rephaim, and this is the more common word for giants among those listed above. T

Anak had a number of sons.

And they ascended by the south, and came unto Hebron; where Ahiman, Sheshai, and Talmai, the children of Anak, were. (Now Hebron was built seven years before Zoan in Egypt.) (Numbers 13:22, KJV)

Compare the following verses to see how Rephaim compare with Anakim and Nephilim and Zamzummins.

And there we saw the giants [Heb. nephilim], the sons of Anak, which come of the giants [Heb. nephilim]: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight. (Numbers 13:33, KJV)

Which also were accounted giants [Heb. rephaim], as the Anakims; but the Moabites called them Emims. (Deuteronomy 2:11, KJV)

(That also was accounted a land of giants [Heb. rephaim]: giants [Heb. rephaim] dwelt therein in old time; and the Ammonites call them Zamzummims; (Deuteronomy 2:20, KJV)

On Rare Words

Relative to the original question, when a word is rare in Hebrew it is much easier to find a tangential interpretation for it which is difficult to refute. Many have done exactly this with the word nephilim. But the Bible clearly links the word with both anakim and rephaim, words that are used many times. The word "Zamzummim" occurs only once--less often, even, than the word "nephilim." But it is correlated directly with the rephaim, which is also linked to the anakim, and from there back to the nephilim.

Conclusion

When studied with its connection to other Hebrew names/words, the word "nephilim" is not nearly so ambiguous as some might suppose. It is clearly connected with other words that meant "giant."

The original Hebrew lacked punctuation, but as we might punctuate Numbers 13:33 today, it could be interpreted to say "And there we saw the nephilim/giants, the sons of Anak are from the nephilim/giants; and we were in our own sight like grasshoppers, as we were in their sight." This appears to be a part of the spies' report emphasizing the powerful ancestry of the Canaanites, but it cannot be ruled out that the writer of Numbers added this parenthetical information for clarity. Either way, the statement goes uncontested in the record.

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    Thanks, I appreciate your answer. My take away is that it might not matter so much whether or not the narrator asserts it here, because the narrator uses all these parallel terms in other places. And either way, it doesn't necessitate a direct connection to the Genesis 6 'nephilim'.
    – curiousdannii
    Oct 16 at 1:06
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Given the limitations of what we can know for certain, the grammar and the context seem to indicate a narrator explanation of who the sons of Anak were. In considering the circumstances of the fear and high stakes nature of the report, it is unlikely that the spies would have bothered to give a history lesson about the origins of the giants.

It is also unlikely that the Israelites had ever heard of Anak, since the spies had only recently been sent to gather information about Canaan and its inhabitants. They would have likely heard of the Nephilim, since those fearsome giants had been around for centuries. So that extra information about Anak would have meant nothing to them at the time, so why would the spies say it?

The NASB is a reasonable translation, adding parentheses,

There also we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak are part of the Nephilim); and we became like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.

It seems a little stilted for the spies to repeat Nephalim twice when they could just say

33וְשָׁ֣ם רָאִ֗ינוּ אֶת־ הַנְּפִילִ֛ים בְּנֵ֥י עֲנָ֖ק

And there we saw the Nephilim, the descendants of Anak.

The Septuagint doesn’t even include the insertion, and it sounds more like something the spies would have said.

33καὶ ἐκεῖ ἑωράκαμεν τοὺς γίγαντας, καὶ ἦμεν ἐνώπιον αὐτῶν ὡσεὶ ἀκρίδες· ἀλλὰ καὶ οὕτως ἦμεν ἐνώπιον αὐτῶν.

"And there we saw the giants (gigantas), and in their eyes we were locusts. Yes, even so were we in their sight."

It is possible that Moses made the clarifying comment based on superior knowledge (he had been educated in Pharaoh's courts) or revelation from God, but in opposition to that would be his reluctance to make it appear the spies said something they didn't. Unless you insist that the spies really wanted to emphasize the connection between the giants in the land with the Nephilim it is most likely, from a grammatical point of view, that it was a later source who added it after Israel was already in the land when the people had become familiar with the Anakites. Caleb later took the city of Hebron from the three sons of Anak (Joshua 15:13-14).

It is also unlikely that the spies would have gained information about the origins of the Anakites on a short spying trip, so if they did make a connections with the Nephilim, it would have likely been falsified information or unfounded conjecture. Their testimony was not to be trusted anyway since they were not speaking the truth that God wanted his people to hear, which is that they could conquer the land.

If an editor added the information later based on solid research, that should still not affect our faith in the inspiration of scripture since the Holy Spirit can also inspire editors or at least prevent serious error from contaminating scripture. The essential message of the spies was clear. If we try to take the land we will get wiped out by giants. It didn’t matter who the ancestors of the giants were.

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The problem in Num 13:33 is how to translate an apparently self-contradictory statement which literally reads:

וְשָׁ֣ם רָאִ֗ינוּ אֶת־הַנְּפִילִ֛ים בְּנֵ֥י עֲנָ֖ק מִן־הַנְּפִלִ֑ים = and there we saw the Nephilim the sons of Anak came from the Nehpilim

Thus, are we to understand this to be:

  • The Nephilim came from the sons of Anak?
  • The sons of Anak came from the Nephilim?

Various versions make some suggestions about how to deal with this such as:

  • NIV: We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim)
  • ESV: And there we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak, who come from the Nephilim)
  • BSB: We even saw the Nephilim there—the descendants of Anak that come from the Nephilim!
  • NKJV: There we saw the giants (the descendants of Anak came from the giants)
  • NASB: We also saw the Nephilim there (the sons of Anak are part of the Nephilim)
  • CSB: We even saw the Nephilim there—the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim!
  • HCSB: We even saw the Nephilim there—the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim!
  • NET: We even saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak came from the Nephilim)

Thus far, the above versions all give the same sense. A few versions leave the problem ambiguous such as ASV, WEB & YLV.

However, some, give the opposite sense such as ISV and CEV, but to do this, they actually delete part of the text. Let me be more specific:

  • CEV: In fact, we saw the Nephilim who are the ancestors of the Anakim. Note that this version deletes the part of the verse that says "sons of Anak".
  • ISV: We also saw the Nephilim, the descendants of Anak. This version deletes the part of the verse that says "came from the Nephilim".
  • GNT: and we even saw giants there, the descendants of Anak. This version deletes part of the verse that says "came from the Nephilim".

The LXX has: (Brenton) And there we saw the giants; and we were before them as locusts, and thus, the LXX appears to be based on a different text.

With the above considerations, it appears that the only way to make sense of the Hebrew is as per the majority versions quoted above - a parenthetical statement, possibly inserted by the author or a later editor.

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  • Right, but the CEV having it backwards wasn't the point of my question (maybe I should've chosen a different translation.) I'd like to know if there's anything in the text that clearly distinguishes between it being part of the quoted speech, or whether it could be the narrator's insertation.
    – curiousdannii
    Oct 14 at 11:28
  • @curiousdannii - there is nothing there as my translation above shows. A parenthetical insertion is the only way to make sense of this verse. I have added some further analysis to see if that helps.
    – Dottard
    Oct 15 at 21:37
-1

The question in the title section is different than the question in the summary.

  1. No. It is best translated in Young's.

"and there we saw the Nephilim, sons of Anak, of the Nephilim; and we are in our own eyes as grasshoppers; and so we were in their eyes.'" (YLT)

The "narrator," who is in the ultimate sense the Holy Spirit, is not asserting that the Anakim came from the Nephilim. Numbers 13:33 states very clearly that the "Nephilim" were sons of the Anakim... sons of Anak. Being sons of the Anak, the Nephilim came from the Anakim, not the other way around.

  1. The statement in Num. 13:33 is part of a quoted section spoken by the spies. It begins in vs. 31 with

"And the men who have gone up with him said, ..." (YLT)

The first part of the quote ends in vs. 31, and is picked up again in vs. 32. with

"...`The land into which we passed over to spy,,," (YLT)

The rest of vs. 32 and 33 are quoted from the spies report. So the "narrator" was reporting the words spoken by the spies.

From the Interlinear, reading left to right:

“wə•šām rā•’î•nū ’eṯ- han•nə•p̄î•lîm bə•nê ‘ă•nāq min- han•nə•p̄i•lîm wan•nə•hî ḇə•‘ê•nê•nū ka•ḥă•ḡā•ḇîm, wə•ḵên hā•yî•nū bə•‘ê•nê•hem.”

Tranlsated in English as:

“And there we saw the Nephilim the descendants of Anak came from the Nephilim and we were in our own sight like grasshoppers so we were"

The grammar needs to be viewed in context with the scriptures in this chapter. In vs. 30, Caleb had affirmed that they were able to take the land, as he knew God would be with them (Josh. 14:14). Essentially, the untrusting and scaredy-cat spies doubled down on their claim that they could not fight the giants in the land because they were “grasshoppers” compared to the giant tall people of that land. They were afraid, so they repeated the name “Nephilim” before and after the father Anak to make a point. It was hyperbole, which was a very common usage in their culture.

The Holy Spirit relayed the words the spies spoke. These are quotes from the spies, and not the words of God. We cannot not treat them as “truth” or “inspired” but as a truthful and accurate report of what the spies said.

It is directly related in vs. 32 to “and all the people whom we saw in its midst [are] men of stature;” The Hebrew states in vs. 33 that these men of stature, those very tall PEOPLE were called the Nephilim, and that they were sons of Anak.

Excerpt from Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary at Num. 13:33 –

“we were in our own sight as grasshoppers—a strong Orientalism, by which the treacherous spies gave an exaggerated report of the physical strength of the people of Canaan.” Source: Biblehub

Excerpt from Adam Clarke’s Commentary at Number 13:33 –

“Many of the spies contribute to this by the bad reports they bring of the heavenly country. Certain preachers allow "that the land is good, that it flows with milk and honey," and go so far as to show some of its fruits; but they discourage the people by stating the impossibility of overcoming their enemies. "Sin," say they, "cannot be destroyed in this life - it will always dwell in you - the Anakim cannot be conquered - we are but as grasshoppers against the Anakim," etc., etc. Here and there a Joshua and a Caleb, trusting alone in the power of God, armed with faith in the infinite efficacy of that blood which cleanses from all unrighteousness, boldly stand forth and say: "Their defense is departed from them, and the Lord is with us; let us go up at once and possess the land, for we are well able to overcome." Source: here

As the entire possibility of heavenly messengers (mistakenly referred to in the English by the transliterated Greek “angels”) is negated by Christ’s clear statement in Matt. 22:30, Mark 12:25, and Luke 20:34, then the commonly held belief that heavenly messengers fornicated with earthly women is not possible; and therefore applying that belief system to the scriptures at Num. 13:33, or to Gen. 6:4 is also not exegetical.

Many of the giants were called by different names in different locations by different people.

“10 The Emims dwelt therein in times past, a people great, and many, and tall, as the Anakims; 11 Which also were accounted giants, as the Anakims; but the Moabites called them Emims.” (Deu 2:10-11, YLT)

I go through a list of all of these named giants at my blog here.

See also “The Meaning of ‘Sons of God’ in Gen. 6:1-4” by Trevor Major at ApologeticsPress.org - here

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  • The question title and body are not asking different things. And I'm aware that the whole thing on the surface level appears to be all the words of the spies. But it's not always easy to determine. Consider John 3:16-21 where translators and interpreters disagree whether it's the words of Jesus, of John, or a mix. Sometimes we can tell the voice of a later editor, such as Genesis 35:20. But for this verse, what evidence from the Hebrew do you have that it should be read as the voice of the spies vs the voice of the narrator's own assertions?
    – curiousdannii
    Aug 22 '19 at 13:15
  • Actually Young’s says both that the Nephilim observed by the spies were descendants of Anak and that Anak was a descendant of the Nephilim. Meaning Anak was a “giant” himself. His father was Arba Joshua 21:11 and Arba was the greatest of all the Anakim. He was a descendant of Canaan Judges 1:10. And Canaan is speculated to have been cursed by Noah for having Nephilim DNA which prompted his father Ham to see the nakedness of his father (slept/had sex with his mother Leviticus 18). Hence the DNA of the Nephilim passed from prior to the flood to after the flood through Canaan’s mother Ham’s wife. Aug 22 '19 at 13:21
  • @Nihil -All of the people living in the land of Canaan were very tall PEOPLE (Deu. 1:28, 2:10, 21; 9:2). Robert Young translated from the definitions of the Hebrew words. The speculation is from unscriptural sources such as the Book of Enoch which is from Jewish mysticism. Only scripture interprets scripture. As my previous answer was deleted, I would have to go thru all of the scriptures again to prove that it was human DNA, not heavenly messenger DNA that was the cause of great height, just like hair color, skin color, eye color, etc.
    – Gina
    Aug 22 '19 at 14:45
  • I know that this flies in the face of majority belief, but if the majority of ppl came to believe that Christ was not resurrected will you deny the scriptures? The scriptures must stand as the final authority... not the Book of Enoch. I invite you to read my post "Giants: Rephaim, Zamzummim, Emim, Amorite, Anakim, Nephilim, Zuzim" at my blog ShreddingTheVeil.org.
    – Gina
    Aug 22 '19 at 14:46
  • @curiousdannii - I'll add the literal Hebrew that Robert Young translated.
    – Gina
    Aug 22 '19 at 14:47

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