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In the Book of Numbers, we read about the "sons of Anak being part of the Nephilim." These were "men of great size" as described in the text (13:32):

Numbers 13:32-33: "So they gave out to the sons of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying, 'The land through which we have gone, in spying it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants; and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great size. 33There 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" (emphasis added).

We also read of Goliath in the Book of 1st Samuel during his encounter with young David:

1 Samuel 17:4: "Then a champion came out from the armies of the Philistines named Goliath, from Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span" (emphasis added).

Goliath's height appears to be at least 9 feet! Of course, he is never referred to as a "Nephilim."

The only other mention of such great men of stature that I can find appears in the Book of Genesis:

Genesis 6:4: "The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went to the daughters of humans and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown."

If I understand correctly, there seems to be controversy over whether the Nephilim were human beings at all. Is this a common belief — that these warriors were not human, and if so, can someone expound on the interpretation(s) of Genesis 6:4 that leads to this conclusion?

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  • One obvious reason would be that angels themselves are called men in various scriptural passages (because they took human shape when they appeared to people).
    – Lucian
    Aug 13 at 9:44
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It is true that Nephilim are only mentioned in Num 13:33 and Gen 6:4. The idea that Nephilim were more than simply giants but might be the product of copulation of humans and fallen angels is at least as old as the book of First Enoch (approx 250 BC??). This book was well-known in NT times and a few quotes from it are scattered through the NT.

BDB simply defines the meaning of Nephilim as "giants". There have been a number of theories about these people such as:

  1. They are the product of human-angelic copulation as per 1 Enoch. However, Jesus taught that this is impossible, Matt 22:30.
  2. They are a reference to Neanderthals with large heavy bodies and larger brains than ordinary humans

Whatever we make of the Nephilim, they can be nothing more than "giants" (as there always has been in every age). If they were a special race of people in Gen 6, then they would have been all wiped out at the flood. However, we see giants well after the flood such as those noted by the OP - Num 13:33, and Goliath (1 Sam 17), 1 Chron 20:6, 2 Sam 21:20, etc.

Giants still exist today and are well-known but not a separate, special race, just flukes of natural causes.

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  • Jesus did NOT say it’s IMPOSSIBLE, He said Heaven hosts don’t marry. That does not exclude the possibility of copulation. Gen3:15 states clearly that heaven beings will have seed. You are conflating the subject about who’s wife will she be with the ability of heavenly beings to copulate. It is true heavenly beings unlike Adam were not given female counterparts which is exactly why Gen6 speaks of them coveting the daughters of men. But that didn’t prevent them from raping the human women and giving rise to halflings we refer to as nephilim Aug 14 at 2:14
  • @NihilSineDeo - does that mean you believe that the sons of the serpent are the same sons of the Devil as per John 8:44 and that the "sons of God" were literal biological sons of God? Does it also mean that 1 John 4:1 are literal sons of the Father in Heaven?
    – Dottard
    Aug 14 at 4:05
  • Unless in the same verse the seed of the woman follows the same pattern also, then John 8:44 cannot apply to G3:15, whereby the child of the deceiver is a seed by virtue of his conduct and the child of the woman, is a seed by virtue of physical descent/lineage. (You would have to expand on 1 J4:1 for me to address the second point). Aug 14 at 11:22
  • I feel like I grasp what you’re getting at with 1 John but notice that the comparison in 1 John is between satan the father and God the father. This is not a comparison between physical offsprings which is what G3:15 speaks of with respect to Eve. The promise was that Eve’s seed not God’s seed would crush the head of the serpent. It’s would be highly inconsistent to compare a metaphor with a physical event. Aug 14 at 11:56
  • @NihilSineDeo - Gen 3:15 is a Messianic promise - the seed of the woman is the Messiah who would crush the head of the serpent. The seed of the serpent is the same seed that Jesus discusses in John 8:44.
    – Dottard
    Aug 14 at 12:36
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‘Giants’ of the stature of the Nephilim of the Bible do not exist today. The size of these Nephilim was well outside of these.

DEUT 3:1 Og king of Bashan was the last of the Rephaites. His bed was decorated with iron and was more than nine cubits long and four cubits wide.

But even the few details from the Bible that we can relate to the size of these giants makes it clear that these were of extraordinary size.

The Bible is relatively light on detail concerning this phenomena - sons of god cohabiting with human women. This has made it possible to support alternative understandings of what is described in Genesis 6, ‘teachings’ that discount the idea that these ‘sons of God’ were not angels.

However recent findings in the caves around Qumran, those of the Essenes, Jewish believers who had separated from the predominant religious groups of Pharisees, Sadducees, Zealots etc who had distorted Torah clearly point to the fact that these were angels, and that they did cohabit with women. As well, this group also had several non- canonical writings they validated, which also support this viewpoint. Then add the support of the early Septuagint, the Torah’ used in the times of Jesus - and this adds increasing weight to this view.

However we don’t need to conduct an apologetic debate on this, but just to say this outline supports this view - and we only put it up for consideration. There are already other answers that don’t take this view, so there is balance.

Genesis 6 introduced lines of a genetic ‘corruption’. The flood was intended to, and did ‘clean this up’. However as Gen 6:4 states, this line re-emerges after the flood. We have ‘groups’ associated with this ‘line’, the Raphael, Amorites, and several other groups. These were ‘cleaned up’ by Joshua, with a remnant including Goliath and his brothers being left for David and his ‘mighty men’.

This genetic corruption was a serious threat to the lineage that Jesus would come from. Noah was ‘saved’, he was ‘tāmîm’ (Gen 6:9). tāmîm - complete, whole, entire. The same word used to describe what was expected of the offerings , that they were ‘without blemish’ - exactly as Jesus was to be!

God made ‘man’ in his image. These ‘genetically corrupted’ offspring were not. Their ‘Image’ did not come via Adams ‘seed’. It came via another ‘seed’.

The New Testament helps with understanding this.

ROMANS 1:29 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;

Someone who reaches this ‘stage’ of being reprobate is unsavable. The word translated ‘reprobate’ is the Greek ‘adókimos’ - and it literally means something that is no longer 100% ‘pure’. That is, no longer ‘fully human’. The point being that it is possible for ‘man’ to reach a ‘stage’ where they are no longer ‘seen’ (by God) as being [fully] human. As were the Nephilim.

So, yes, the Nephilim were definitely [as you say, or rather ask] inhuman. As were those groups squatting in the ‘promised land’.

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The confusion arises because technically there should not have been any Nephilim surviving the world wide flood of Noah. So how was it possible for them to cross over into the new world? This in reverse attempts to dismantle the heavenly hosts copulating with human women because there was never a second incursion after the flood. So therefore if there were Nephilim post flood without an incursion then the first Nephilim a must have been fathered by humans pre flood just like post flood. But that’s a simplistic and incorrect conclusion.

This subject is far more complex and nuanced. A simple answer will be picked apart, requiring the whole picture to be painted.

Nephilim were the great men of old. Even the Bible calls them men v4 אנשׁי of renown.

They are men in that their mothers were human women. Their fathers who raped their mothers were heavenly beings. Heavenly beings were not intended to marry. Jesus says as much in Matthew 22:30. They were never given a female counterpart. But that doesn’t preclude them from being capable of procreation

Adam who is also called a son of God, made a little lower than the heavenly beings psalm 8, was given a female counterpart and told to procreate.

The heavenly beings curious as they were, also called sons of God or Benei ha’Elohim, are also called Watchers, observed the ways of men and without going into their motivation for their actions, a select number of them decided to abandon their abode, raped the human women, impregnating them.

The obvious question then becomes how is that possible? Is it possible?

“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”” ‭‭Genesis‬ ‭3:15‬ ‭

It is clear that whoever this being was, could have offsprings. We just read as much.

“And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.” ‭‭Revelation‬ ‭12:9‬ ‭

Revelation identifies him as satan or deceiver, and we know him to be a heavenly being. We can extrapolate that heavenly beings are capable of procreation because Gen3:15 speaks of their seed or their offspring in a more modern interpretation.

We understand that Genesis 6 claims that ALL creation had been corrupted EXCEPT for Noah and his family who were Tamaiym or pure or untainted. However the three sons ended up taking three wives (one each) and these were not referred to as pure. Their tainted genome crossed over from the old world destroyed by the flood into the new world through Noah’s grandchild Canaan who Noah curses for Ham’s actions. Which means Ham did something out of desperation due to Canaan his son, Noah’s grandchild. Otherwise Noah ought to have cursed Ham.

Canaan’s lineage would actively select to procreate and select for the Nephilim phenotypes. They also happen to concentrate in Shem’s geographically assigned region rather than Ham’s geographic portion, because the land of Israel was situated here, possibly the location of the garden of Eden. These Canaanite’s had Nephilim blood and the sons of Anak, who descended from Canaan the grandchild of Noah, had a very strong expression of their genes, especially known for their size.

Goliath was a dwarf in comparison to a true Nephilim.

““Yet it was I who destroyed the Amorite before them, whose height was like the height of the cedars and who was as strong as the oaks; I destroyed his fruit above and his roots beneath.” ‭‭Amos‬ ‭2:9‬ ‭

Cedars don’t grow to 7 feet tall, a small cedar grows at least 25ft tall.

Conclusion

Are Nephilim men? In a sense yes, because they were halflings, part human. They certainly had the phenotypes of men and were generally indistinguishable from men except for their Nephilim features, be it height, extra digits 1 Chron20:6, elongated skulls, animal fur covered bodies Gen27:16 or other distinguishing feature.

They are not fully human per se. Which is why some would not consider them human and are categorized in their own separate grouping the Nephilim or the halflings. Remnants of the their genetics still exist today. Passed through the mother they could have been eliminated entirely from the gene pool. But deliberate selection kept them in the human gene pool.

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  • If I understand this correctly God created angels with procreative organs? Why would He ever do that? Another question: How can anything ever transpire against the will of a Being with absolute power (Rev. 12:9)? Is God not omnipotent? Why, then, does God call angels His ministering spirits (Heb. 1:14) if He knew (omniscience) they would become treasonous insurrectionists? Do all these things make sense to you? Is it at least possible that mention of "your seed" to Satan is metaphorical of those who would fall away, refusing God's offer, not literal children? Sorry, had to ask.
    – Xeno
    Aug 14 at 3:44
  • God created them with bodies, heavenly bodies. He just never gave them a female counterpart to multiply because God made all of them at once. With Adam God told Adam to multiply. Why did God give heavenly beings organs they wouldn’t use? Because those organs don’t only serve for procreation purposes only. It’s a whole system. Aug 14 at 3:48
  • Your second question is somewhat ridiculous. Sounds like a Calvinist is asking it. Since God is sovereign, then God made Adam and the heavenly beings sin, kind of deal - God predetermined they’d fall. No! God’s AUTHORITY is not negated or belittled by disobedience. He remains in control. God is not intimidated by free will choices. In fact He prefers them because in this way he selects those who genuinely want to be with Him for genuine reasons and those who don’t. No satan’s offsprings cannot be metaphor just as Eve’s offspring, descendant Jesus was not a metaphor but a real descendant/seed. Aug 14 at 3:54
  • May I then ask who Satan's wife was? Didn't you say that angels were all male? Did he too have sex with toothless, germ-ridden human women who were so alluring and beautiful to spiritual beings? By the way, I am the farthest thing imaginable from a Calvinist.
    – Xeno
    Aug 14 at 4:05
  • @Xeno Its not about ‘productive organs’ - its all about ‘seed’. Read Genesis 1, everything reproduces after it’s own kind. That’s how the whole ‘earth’ works. Seed is absolutely foundational to everything. So when angels took on ‘bodies’ to interact with the earth (physical world), then ‘by default’ there was a ‘means’ to pass on ‘seed’. Angels in ‘heaven’ do not have ‘seed’ - because the principle of ‘seed’/reproduction is an earthly principle [only]. The angels who left their spiritual body and took on an ‘earthly body’ were chained because of this violation (1 Peter 3).
    – Dave
    Aug 14 at 4:11
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Things to consider.

  1. The chromosomes of the הַנְּפִלִ֞ים had to be a close enough match to humans to have offspring. If it wasn't an exact match, how did their offspring propagate. (Gen. 6:4)

  2. How did the הַנְּפִלִ֞ים survive the flood? (Gen. 6:7; Numbers 13:33)

†נְפִלִים n.m.pl. giants, according to 𝔊 γίγαντες, so 𝔖𝔙; הַנְּפִלִים Gn 6:4 (J), הַנְּפִילִים בְּנֵי עֲנָק מִן־הַנְּפִלִים Nu 13:33 (JE); 𝔊 om. בְּנֵי וגו׳, and so Di; these words perhaps doublet, but already in Sam., also 𝔙 (etym. dub.; cf. Aramaic נִיפְלָא, נְפִיּלָא Orion; conject. v. in Thes Di ad loc.; Tuch Kn Len i, 344, 345 f.; Che . iii (1887), 175, 176; all very precarious). -- Brown, F., Driver, S. R., & Briggs, C. A. (1977). Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (p. 658). Oxford: Clarendon Press.

נָפַל S5307 TWOT1392 GK5877433 vb. fall, lie (NH = BH, 𝔗 נְפַל, Syriac ܢܦܰܠ (npal); cf. also Arabic نَفَلَ (nafala) dedit praedam (Nö xl (1886), 725 Frä 153 f.), Min. נפל remove Hom 128) -- Brown, F., Driver, S. R., & Briggs, C. A. (1977). Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (p. 656). Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Because נְפִלִים appears to be related to the root meaning to fall and could be translated the fallen (plural as collective), that has lead some to believe they are the offspring of fallen angels with women. However there is no indication that angels can have offspring.

 For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. (Matt. 22:30, ESV)

However, Nihil Sine Deo gives this alternative that the fallen angels were capable of violating nature.

That’s an assumption that their genes had to be close. These were endowed with wisdom and knowledge. The fact that they were able to corrupt this knowledge into what we refer to as the dark arts means they were also able to manipulate and force together that which would normally have natural limitations. But they are supernatural beings, they are above the natural. They can impose onto the natural and exceed the laws of nature, forcing hybrids like humans and animals, better known as monsters.

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  • That’s an assumption that their genes had to be close. These were endowed with wisdom and knowledge. The fact that they were able to corrupt this knowledge into what we refer to as the dark arts means they were also able to manipulate and force together that which would normally have natural limitations. But they are supernatural beings, they are above the natural. They can impose onto the natural and exceed the laws of nature, forcing hybrids like humans and animals, better known as monsters. Aug 14 at 2:20
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By comparison to our sizes today, Adam and Eve where nephilim (giants). Our original health, vigor, and stature were all far greater before thousands of years of sin dragged us down to our present condition.

The Hebrew word nephilim, however, is not limited to size or stature. In fact, Hebrew uses a different word altogether for something large or even very large.

Here is Strong's definition for "nephil" (singular of nephilim):

נְפִיל nᵉphîyl, nef-eel'; or נְפִל nᵉphil; from H5307; properly, a feller, i.e. a bully or tyrant:—giant.

So while "giant" may be the technical meaning, it can also refer to a bully or a tyrant. Obviously, it would be easier to bully others if you exceeded them in size.

In Numbers, the reference to nephilim is clearly applied to giants, which helps us understand that this is the Biblical usage.

There is nothing in the Bible to indicate an angel's size. When they appear as men, they do not have super-human size. Neither is there any indication for exactly how large they are when appearing as themselves, as angels. We simply do not know how large an angel is supposed to be. We do know that an angel is very strong, but strength can come in small sizes. In any case, the nephilim cannot be angels, because the children of Israel were not fighting against angels. Had the nephilim truly been angels, or even the offspring (descendants) of angels, then the children of Israel might have had an excuse for their fear and their complaints at the entrance to Canaan upon hearing the spies' report, for it is certainly true that they would not have had a chance warring against angels or even part-angels (if such an impossibility could actually have been true).

Jesus said angels do not marry. (See Mathew 22:30; Mark 12:25.) If there are no angel babies in heaven, there cannot be inter-species angel babies on earth. Furthermore, God's holy angels would most definitely not be here to bully us. God, who sees and knows all, would never allow such.

The nephilim were simply giants, throwbacks to the original DNA of Adam and Eve who most certainly exceeded our sizes as of today.

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