Who were the nephilim? The word nephilim appears twice in the Old Testament of the Bible. They are first mentioned in chapter 6 of the book of Genesis and then again in Number 13:33. But their brief mention in the Bible has led to an ongoing debate as to who or what the nephilim were. Much of this debate stems from the passage in the Bible that states:
When people began to multiply on the face of the ground, and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that they were fair; and they took wives for themselves of all that they chose.
The Nephilim were on the earth in those days – and also afterward – when the sons of God went in to the daughters of man, who bore children to them. These were the heroes that were of old, warriors of renown . – Genesis 6: 1-4
The Sons of God Saw the Daughters of Men That They Were Fair (1923) by Daniel Chester French. Corcoran Gallery of Art. ( CC0)
What Does ‘Nephilim’ Mean?
The traditional definition of Nephilim is giant. Some dictionaries describe the nephilim as being giants who also possess super human strength. The Greek Septuagint, an ancient translation of the Hebrew Bible , refers to them as gigantes, which actually means “earth -born,” a concept we will be coming back to as we continue.
It is believed that the word Nephilim comes from the root word “Naphal” which means to fall. In biblical circles this definition has quickly put the Nephilim into the role of the children of the fallen angels . The word Naphal, however, is never directly associated with the concept of fallen angels. Its meaning in context is more closely associated with the idea of lying prostrate or of prostrating oneself. There are also ties in this word to the concept of failure, falling short, or being cast down.
Mythos of the Nephilim
Over the years a mythos has developed around the concept of the nephilim. It alleges that these giants were the offspring of the “Sons of God” and the “Daughters of Man”. Are the nephilim the children of the untoward relationship?
The connection between the biblical text and this claim, although commonly pointed to as the basis of this belief, is unfounded. The document in which we find statements that support this claim actually comes from the apocryphal Book of Jubiliees :
And it came to pass when the children of men began to multiply on the face of the earth and daughters were born unto them, that the angels of God saw them on a certain year of this jubilee, that they were beautiful to look upon; and they took themselves wives of all whom they chose, and they bare unto them sons and they were giants. The Book of Jubilees – Chapter V: 1
Is the claim that the nephilim were the offspring of the sons of god and the daughters of men supported by sources outside the Judeo-Christian tradition? In other words, does mythology worldwide support this belief?
The Sons of God Saw the Daughters of Men That They Were Fair, by Maurice Greiffenhagen. ( Public Domain )
Giants Roaming the Earth Across Cultures
The notion of giants roaming the earth can be found in cultures worldwide. Greek mythology tells us that the Titan Cronus castrated his father Uranus in order to gain control of the Greek pantheon . It is from the blood of the castrated Uranus that fell upon the earth that the giants, the “earth-born”, were created.
The Earth-born, when compared to us, were giants. The giants, lived under the rule of Cronos during the golden age, in a time that was free from sorrow or care and everyone lived happy and joyous lives.
It was only after Cronos’ son Zeus fought for control of both the heavens and the earth that everything changed. In his new role, Zeus, according to Greek myth, put the giants to work. It was just a matter of time before the giants started ignoring the god’s mandates.
Bell krater depicting Zeus fighting against the giant Porphyrion. (Egisto Sani/ CC BY NC SA 2.0 )
They were no longer prostrating themselves to the will of the gods. Their lack of complete servitude and their failure to comply with the god’s demands incited the “children of god” into a full blown rebellion against the heavenly gods. Heavy losses were taken on both sides, but their revolution was finally suppressed by the gods.
A truce was declared. As part of their reparations to the giants it was decided to create a new race to handle the burdens that were cast upon the giants – man.
Padraic Column in his book entitled Orpheus, Myths of the World , relates this tale about the creation of man : Aztec legend recounts how the Earth-mother, Citlalicue, gave birth to a flint knife. When the knife was flung down onto the Earth, it was transformed into sixteen hundred “earth-gods.” (Is there connection between the flint knife, flung down by Citlalicue, and the sickle used by Cronus to castrate his father?)
These newly formed earth-gods lived as men and women and labored in search of food. After some time, the Earth-gods began to think that this work was below their station. They were, after all, the children of the Sky-father and Earth-mother. They asked their mother Citlalicue to make a race who would serve them and bear the burdens they faced. With the help of Citlalicue, mankind was created .
‘A group of natives in the central highlands of Mexico, capturing and putting to death a giant.’ ( CC0)
Based upon these mythological traditions it seems clear that the earth-born giants, the nephilim, existed long before man first inhabited the earth. Thus when you read the line “The Nephilim were on the earth in those days – and also afterward” it seems clear from this perspective that the authors were not being vague. Instead they were just making a statement of fact – that the Nephilim, the earth-born, were on the earth at that time.
The Offspring of the Sons of God and the Daughters of Man
So who were the offspring of the sons of god and the daughters of man? The Hebrew Bible refers to them as gibborim. The inferred meaning of this word is men of great stature, heroes, men who are valiant or brave.
The Greek Septuagint identifies them as the renominati or men or renown. In Greek mythology the gods have a long history of having relations with humans. The names of some of these “demi-gods”, or semi-human individuals, whose names have withstood the tests of time include were Hercules, Perseus, and Achilles. In India they are called Hanuman and Garuda and in Sumer Gilgamesh and Adapa.
Interestingly, a parallel myth to this biblical narrative does exist. It comes to us from the pages of the Hindu epic the Ramayana. The Ramayana is the epic tale of Rama, the 7th avatar of the supreme god Vishnu.
Rama lived during the Treta Yuga. It was an age where the world was filled with giants. Around the same time as Rama’s birth, the supreme god Vishnu, knowing what was in store for him, requested that all of the gods descend to the earth and mate with the apes and the bears. This request was made in order to, when the time was right, provide Rama with an army he could use to help him conquer Ravana – the giant demon king of Lanka.
Fight between Rama and Ravana. ( CC0)
The offspring of these unions obtained an array of impressive skills from their divine parents. The mighty Sugríva was the ruler of the vanara, the ape-men. His father was Surya, the chief solar deity. The demi-god Hanúmán was the son of the wind god and is described as being able to travel very fast, while Nala was the son of the god of building and construction and is the vanara that helps Rama to build a bridge from mainland India to Lanka.
These thousands did the Gods create
Endowed with might that none could mate,
In monkey forms that changed at will;
So strong their wish the fiend to kill.
The Nephilim, Anunnaki and More: Four Common Mistakes Made When Interpreting Mythology
The 19th century gave us some of the best work on mythology, but much of it has been ignored over time. Since around the 1960s, when excitement was at its peak regarding space travel and the moon landing, a generation decided to look at mythology in a new light, giving way for the ancient astronaut theory. While a lot of good has come of it, many mistranslations have also plagued it. These are just a few prominent examples.
Perhaps the most common mistake made by modern researchers is equating the Nephilim with the fallen angels . Gen. 6:2-5, OT states:
And it came to pass when men began to be numerous upon the earth, and daughters were born to them, that the sons of God having seen the daughters of men that they were beautiful, took to themselves wives of all whom they chose. And the Lord God said, My Spirit shall certainly not remain among these men for ever, because they are flesh, but their days shall be an hundred and twenty years. Now the giants were upon the earth in those days; and after that when the sons of God were wont to go in to the daughters of men, they bore children to them, whose were the giants of old, the men of renown.
The Sons of God Saw the Daughters of Men That They Were Fair, by Daniel Chester French, modeled by 1918, carved 1923 – Corcoran Gallery of Art. ( CC0)
The gibbōrīm, “mightie men,” (NT) the “men of renown,” termed gigantes in Greek and anglicized as giants in the Septuagint (LXX) are the transliterated Hebrew word nephīlīm. The term is related to the Hebrew naphal, meaning “to fall,” but is not the same word. Such mistaken interpretations have led to the assumption of many that the Nephilim were the fallen angels who allied alongside Lucifer during the rebellion. Other giants include Emim, Rephaim, Gibborim, Zamzummim, Anakim and Ivvim. These were all different tribes of giants, not fallen angels or gods.
The Anunnaki & Nibiru
Thanks to Zecharia Sitchin , most ancient astronaut theorists (and their fans) believe the Anunnaki are a mysterious race of beings who came from a planet called Nibiru. The term Anunnaki derives from an, “heaven,” and nuna-ke-ne, “princely offspring.” Thus, they are the offspring of Anu, father of Enki and Enlil. The first mention of Nibiru is in the Enûma Eliš , in Tablet V verse 6: “He founded the station of Nebiru to determine their (heavenly) bands”. The second mention is at the end of Tablet VII, verse 126: “Nebiru is the star which in the skies is brilliant.”
Image of the Sumerian god Enki. Modern reproduction of a detail of the Adda seal (c. 2300 BC). ( Public Domain )
In both, translator E. A. Speiser clearly states Nibiru is Jupiter and L. W. King states the same in his translation. Nibiru derives from eberu, “to cross,” from which Sitchin dubbed his Nibiru as the “planet of crossing.” But the cross is that of the zodiac, upon which is the celestial Sun. The alleged orbit of Sitchin’s planet is 3,600 years. The number is a sar, the Sumerian unit of time equal to 3,600 earth years, generated by multiplying 6 by 10 (pur), arriving at 60 (soss); 60 X 10 gave 600 (ner), and 600 X 6 = 3,600 (sar). Nowhere in the creation epic does it associate this figure with Nibiru and nowhere else in Sumerian mythic literature is Nebiru mentioned. Thus, Anunnaki is simply a Sumerian term for the gods , who did not come from another planet.
Early Babylonian Kudurru-reliefs of zodiacal symbols within the heavenly circle surrounding an undulating serpent representing the Milky Way. Shown are three classic planetary symbols of Sumero-Mesopotamian religious art: the Moon (crescent), Sun (estoile) and Venus (octactinal star). (Author provided)
The Forbidden Fruit
For millennia people have assumed the forbidden fruit of Eden to be an apple. Genesis states:
Now the serpent was the most crafty of all the brutes on the earth, which the Lord God made, and the serpent said to the woman, Wherefore has God said, Eat not of every tree of the garden? And the woman said to the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden, but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. (Gen. 3:2-4, OT)
‘Eve Tempted by the Serpent’ (1799-1800) by William Blake. ( Public Domain )
The assumed consensus has always been the image of the serpent handing Eve an apple, but the Bible (or any other source for that matter) does not mention an apple at all, but uses the generic term “fruit,” which obviously could mean any fruit. The association was made in the early history of the Church using a paronomasia when preaching to the ignorant masses. In Latin, the word for “bad” is malus and the word for “apple” is malum.
This simple yet specious pun spawned an apple in every piece of artwork concerning the event. But the fruit is not an apple at all, it is described as “like the appearance of a bunch of grapes of the vine” (ApAb. 23:6) and “its fruit is like a cluster of white grapes.” (Orig. World 110)
‘The Fall and Expulsion from Garden of Eden’ by Michelangelo Buonarroti on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, bay 4. ( Public Domain )
The Sumerian Tree of Life
Depictions of the Sumerian Tree of Life has befuddled ancient astronaut theorists, many of whom speculate every few months over what they call “ handbags.” The Assyrian bas-relief from the walls of the Northwest Palace of Ashurbanipal II (reigned 883-859 BC) at Nimrud (ancient Kalhu), c. 870 – 860 BC, shows two Apkallu gods flanked, each with a pinecone and a situla (water bucket), representing the food and water of immortality. This simple yet definitive answer was known to the mythologists of the 19th century, well established decades before the appearance of ancient astronaut theory.
Assyrian relief carving from Nimrud, 883–859 BC, depicting a so-called handbag. ( Metropolitan Museum of Art )