The Nephilim

Of course, any joker with a Bible can string verses together and come up with a new doctrine. But there are enough of these verses to present a troubling and compelling problem. Who are the “sons of God”? And if they are angels, what is Genesis 6 all about? How does answer or address the OOParts (out of place artifacts) issue and the genius of ancient man? Who were the Nephilim (KJV, “giants”), and are they all that mysterious?


The root word, naphal, means to fall, be thrown down, or lie down, and is translated in this fashion 453 times in the Old Testament (KJV)

Nephilim is translated “giants” in the King James Version, but in newer translations it is simply transliterated as “Nephilim”, meaning the word is brought into English directly from Hebrew.

From the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (2:587)

“The word may be of unknown origin and mean “heroes” or “fierce warriors” etc.”

Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon on this word:

“I prefer with the Hebrew interpreters . . . falling on, attacking, . . . Those who used to interpret the passage in Genesis of the fall of the angels, were accustomed to render [this word] fallers, rebels, apostates.” [Italics original]

Use in Scripture:

Nephilim is used in two Old Testament passages: Genesis 6:4; Numbers 13:33

The Nephilim were on the earth in those days (and also after this) when the sons of God were having sexual relations with the daughters of humankind, who gave birth to their children. They were the mighty heroes of old, the famous men. (Gen 6:4 NET)

We even saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak came from the Nephilim), and we seemed liked grasshoppers both to ourselves and to them.” (Num 13:33 NET)


There is an old understanding of Genesis 6:1-4 as the fall of angels, lured by the beauty of human women, with whom they procreated. Note that all angels in the Bible are referred to as “he”. (Even Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 11:10 suggest that angels notice if a woman’s head lacks a “symbol of authority”, further suggesting that a free woman affects angels in some way.) Their children became the “mighty men of old, men of reknown” because they were thought to be superior to other men. Based on this, many believe the stories of the Titans and gods in ancient mythology are based upon the deeds of these “heroes”. However, any theory applied to Genesis 6 must also fit with Numbers 14.

Another theory suggests that the Nephilim were the men (and women) who were the offspring of the sons of Seth and the daughters of Cain. This theory isn’t nearly as exciting, and attempts to put “sons of God” into a more human context. “Sons of God” are also seen in Job 1:6 and 2:1, as coming before the Lord in heaven, which suggests at that point that they have a heavenly origin. The burden here is explaining how the sons are mere men in Genesis and heavenly beings in Job.

It is sufficient for our understanding of Genesis 6 that these Nephilim were instrumental in causing and creating such a world where the thoughts of men were evil continually and worthy of the judgment of God in the Flood. Their title suggests the fall of Adam, implying that they fall even further than he did. They may also be the ones who cause many others to fall into greater sin. By contrast, Noah was “a just man and perfect in his generations” and a man worthy to carry humanity through the Flood.

And for this to be a true interpretation, certain things have to be established. Namely,

  • The identity of the Sons of God. They must be angels in order for this argument to make sense.

  • That these angels had the power to take on the form of men, capable of procreation.

  • That this transformation was irreversible, and made them subject to death.

  • That these former angels are what the Bible calls “Nephilim”

  • That these Nephilim may also have been the mighty men of reknown (and possibly the basis for the many tales of mythology of the ancient world)

  • That when these Nephilim perished in the flood, God reserved a special prison for them, the abyss or Tartarus, where they would be chained until a day He has prepared.

  • That these are the same “spirits in prison” Jesus spoke to in the Spirit and the purpose of this visit was to prepare them for their role in judgment in Revelation 9.

  • That these “spirits in prison” are the locusts of Revelation 9 who will be unleashed for five months upon the earth.

As the first sinner, Satan received great leniency with God. Satan was not punished as the “sons of God”.

Genesis 61 “sons of God” = Revelation 9 “locusts”

Gen 6:4

The Nephilim were on the earth both in those days and afterward, when the sons of God came to the daughters of mankind, who bore children to them. They were the powerful men of old, the famous men.

What if the word “Nephilim” (lit. “fallen ones”) refers to the “sons of God” who came to the daughters of mankind, rather than to their children? Nephilim could be the Bible’s subtle way of telling us these beings were transformed, which in turned corrupted the world.

1Pe 3:19-20

In that state He [Jesus] also went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison who in the past were disobedient, when God patiently waited in the days of Noah while an ark was being prepared. In it a few–that is, eight people–were saved through water.

2Pe 2:4-5

For if God didn’t spare the angels who sinned but threw them down into Tartarus and delivered them to be kept in chains of darkness until judgment; and if He didn’t spare the ancient world, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others, when He brought a flood on the world of the ungodly;

Jud 1:6

and He has kept, with eternal chains in darkness for the judgment of the great day, the angels who did not keep their own position but deserted their proper dwelling.

Jud 1:14-15

And Enoch, in the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied about them: Look! The Lord comes with thousands of His holy ones to execute judgment on all and to convict them of all their ungodly acts that they have done in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things ungodly sinners have said against Him.

Rev 9:1-3

The fifth angel blew his trumpet, and I saw a star that had fallen from heaven to earth. The key to the shaft of the abyss was given to him. He opened the shaft of the abyss, and smoke came up out of the shaft like smoke from a great furnace so that the sun and the air were darkened by the smoke from the shaft. Then locusts came out of the smoke on to the earth, and power was given to them like the power that scorpions have on the earth.

Rev 9:7-11

The appearance of the locusts was like [these beings are horribly corrupted from their original state as angels of God]

  • horses equipped for battle. [armored and decorated for war]

  • Something like gold crowns was on their heads; [a sign of their authority]

  • their faces were like men’s faces; [that they were once men?]

  • they had hair like women’s hair; [the glory of a woman, 1 Cor 11:15, and the cause for Paul’s concern that women keep their head covered]

  • their teeth were like lions’ teeth; [their ferocity and taste for flesh, 1 Peter 5:8]

  • they had chests like iron breastplates; [their invincibility]

  • the sound of their wings was like the sound of chariots with many horses rushing into battle; [wings, DUH, and their proficiency and speed in war]

  • and they had tails with stingers like scorpions, so that with their tails they had the power to harm people for five months. [their unique power at this time, not to kill, but to make men suffer]

They had as their king the angel of the abyss; his name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek he has the name Apollyon [“destroyer”]. [normal locusts have no king, but this king is a star who fell from heaven and now reigns as the king of these beings] Also, some research suggests that Apollyon and Apollo have some connection here, but nothing is definitive.

Sons of God used their power to become human, and corrupted humankind. God wiped them all out with a flood! Becoming human has a price.

Hell is described is having different levels, though details are uncertain. Hades is the abode of the human dead, while the Abyss (Tartarus) is the prison for these fallen spirits. In Revelation 9, Apollyon is given the key to this abyss to release the curiously described “locusts”. These locusts were not helicopters, but are much worse. These are the angels who “left their first estate” and are imprisoned in this lowest pit.

Jesus made proclamation to these spirits. Why? Was He gloating? Was He preparing them for their future mission? Was this a chance for their redemption? Or was He demonstrating that in Him and through Him the presence of the Spirit is properly given to men, unlike their own methods? Jesus Christ is the perfect God-Man, the presence of the real, true God among men that these angels attempted to copy in their Nephilim, which I believe became the basis for many of the mythological elements we know of today.

1 the sons of God saw that the daughters of mankind were beautiful, and they took any they chose as wives for themselves. (Gen 6:2)

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I've been in ministry in the Christian Churches/ Churches of Christ for 20+ years. Finished my doctorate in Biblical Studies in 2015. Serve today as a Hospital Chaplain.

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