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Angelic Giants - Nephilim

 

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Nephilim are beings who appear in the Hebrew Bible, specifically in the Book of Genesis, and are also mentioned in other Biblical texts and in some non-canonical Jewish writings. In the Bible, specifically the Book of Genesis, Chapter 6, verses 1 through 4 describe the origin of the Nephilim:
"Now it came about, when men began to multiply on the face of the land, and daughters were born to them, that the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves, whomever they chose. Then the LORD said, "My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, because he also is flesh; nevertheless his days shall be one hundred and twenty years." The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown.
Bible Commentary.

According to the New American Bible, the Nephilim appear as part of the “increasing wickedness of mankind”. Their appearance accounts for the prehistoric “giants” of Canaan, whom the Israelites called the Nephilim, but additionally to introduce the story of the flood with a moral orientation.
Also, the commentary suggests that the phrase “(as well as later)” stated above is a reference to the Book of Numbers 13:33, how the Israelites likened the tall aborigines (“Anakim”) to the Nephilim, possibly due to seeing the very tall structures of Canaan that appeared to have been built by a race of giants.

The New American Bible commentary draws a parallel to the Letter of Jude and the statements set forth in Genesis, suggesting that the Epistle refers implicitly to the paternity of Nephilim as heavenly beings who came to earth and had sexual intercourse with women:
“The angels too, who did not keep to their own domain but deserted their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains, in gloom, for the judgement of the great day. Likewise, Sodom, Gomorrah, and the surrounding towns, which, in the same manner as they, indulged in sexual promiscuity and practiced unnatural vice, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.”
According to the New Oxford Annotated Bible, the Genesis verses only indicate that the Nephilim existed at the same time as the products of divine-human intercourse.

In Biblical criticism
Etymology
The Hebrew of nephilim is ?????, which may mean “those causing others to fall”. Abraham ibn Ezra proposes that they were called this because men's hearts would fail at the sight of them. Some (e.g. Jean Leclerc and Peter of Aquila) suggest that it is derived from the warlike nature of the Nephilim, comparing the usage of Naphal in Job 1:15 "And the Sabeans fell upon them" where Naphal means "to take in battle". Alternatively, Shadal understands nephilim as deriving from the Hebrew word ??? Pela which means wonderous.

The nephilim come from a union between “sons of God” (??? ?????? “b’nei ha-'elohim” Lit. "Sons of the powers" ) and “daughters of man”. In Aramaic culture, the term Nephila specifically referred to the constellation of Orion, and thus Nephilim to Orion's semi-divine descendants (cf. Anakim from Anak); the implication being that this also is the origin of the Biblical Nephilim. Some commentators have suggested that the Nephilim were believed to have been fathered by members of a proto-Hebrew pantheon (which is controversial among Jewish peoples) and are a brief glimpse of early Hebrew religion, most of the details of which were later edited out from the Torah (or at least would have been edited out when, as some claim, it was redacted together), and that this passage may have offered monotheistic Hebrews a way to fit semi-divine pagan heroes into their cosmogony.

The idea that the Torah was somehow changed is not in keeping with traditional Hebrew practice, in which if even a single character is out of place in a parchment translation of the original Hebrew Torah, the entire parchment must be destroyed and replaced anew. However, there are several variations, some of great significance, between ancient manuscripts of the Torah, between Septuagint, Syriac Peshitta, Dead Sea Scrolls, masoretic text, Samaritan Pentateuch, and the versions in the Hexapla, as well as between various manuscripts within each of these groups.

In the Hebrew Bible, there are a number of other words that, like "Nephilim", are sometimes translated as "giants":
• Emim ("the fearful ones")
• Rephaim ("the dead ones")
• Anakim ("the [long]-necked ones")

Rephaim
"Rephaim" is a general title that the Book of Joshua states was given to the aborigines who were afterwards conquered and dispossessed by the Canaanite tribes. The text states that a few Rephaim had survived, one of them being Og, the king of Bashan. Og of Bashan is recorded as having a 13-ft long bed.
“Only Og king of Bashan was left of the remnant of the Rephaites. His bed was made of iron and was more than thirteen feet long and six feet wide. It is still in Rabbah of the Ammonites.”
The Rephaim may have been the same Canaanite group known to the Moabites as Emim, i.e., fearful, and to the Ammonites as Zamzummim. The second of the Books of Samuel states that some of them found refuge among the Philistines, and were still existing in the days of David. Nothing is known of their origin, nor of anything specifically connecting them with Nephilim, though the connection is made by Jewish tradition.

Anakim
Anakim are the descendants of Anak, and dwelt in the south of Canaan, in the neighbourhood of Hebron. In the days of Abraham, they inhabited the region afterwards known as Edom and Moab, east of the Jordan river. They are mentioned during the report of the spies about the inhabitants of the land of Canaan. The book of Joshua states that Joshua finally expelled them from the land, excepting a remnant that found a refuge in the cities of Gaza, Gath, and Ashdod. The Philistine giant Goliath, whom David later encountered, was supposedly a descendant of the Anakim.
“The land, through which we have gone to spy it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people that we saw in it are of great height. 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.”

The Sumerians called their gods the Anunaki; according to a Midrash, Abraham was the son of an idol manufacturer in the Sumerian city of Ur.
It is more commonly suggested by traditional Jewish sources (such as the Midrash) that the spies saw large and powerful inhabitants in Canaan and because of their own fears, cowardice, and inadequate faith in Yahweh, saw themselves as grasshoppers in the eyes of the Canaanites, whether they were actual 'giants' or not.

In other texts
Main articles: Book of Enoch, Book of Jubilees, and Grigori
In the texts of Ugarit, there were 70 sons of God, each one being the special deity of a particular people from whom they were descended. Some memory of this is found in Biblical texts which speak of Baal Melkart of Tyre or Chemosh of Moab.

The story of the Nephilim is chronicled more fully in the Book of Enoch (part of Ethiopian biblical canon). Enoch, as well as Jubilees, connects the origin of the Nephilim with the fallen angels, and in particular with the Grigori (watchers). Samyaza, an angel of high rank, is described as leading a rebel sect of angels in a descent to earth to instruct humans in righteousness. The tutelage went on for a few centuries, but soon the angels pined for the human females and began to instruct the women in magic and conjuring. The angels consummated their lust, and as a result produced hybrid offspring: the Nephilim.

According to these texts, the fallen angels who begat the Nephilim were cast into Tartarus/Gehenna, a place of 'total darkness'. However, Jubilees also states that God granted ten percent of the disembodied spirits of the Nephilim to remain after the flood, as demons, to try to lead the human race astray (through idolatry, the occult, etc.) until the final Judgment.

In addition to Enoch, the Book of Jubilees (7:21-25) also states that ridding the Earth of these Nephilim was one of God's purposes for flooding the Earth in Noah's time. The Biblical reference to Noah being "perfect in his generations" may have referred to his having a clean, Nephilim-free bloodline, although it may be inferred that there was more diversity among his three daughters-in law.
These works describe the Nephilim as being evil giants.

There are also allusions to these descendants in the deuterocanonical books of Judith, Sirach, Baruch, 3 Maccabees, and Wisdom of Solomon.

Some individuals and groups, including the great Protestant church Reformer John Calvin (in his commentary on Genesis), the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and the Latter-day Saints, take the view of Genesis 6:1 that the "Angels" who fathered the Nephilim referred to certain human males from the lineage of Seth, who were called sons of God probably in reference to their being formerly in a covenantal relationship with Yahweh (cf. Deuteronomy 14:1; 32:5); according to these sources, these men had begun to pursue fleshly interests, and so took wives of the daughters of men, i.e., those who were descended from Cain. Not only is this unequivocally stated in Ethiopian Orthodox versions of I Enoch and Jubilees, but this is also the view presented in a few extra-Biblical, yet ancient works, particularly the Conflict of Adam and Eve with Satan. In these sources, these offspring of Seth were said to have disobeyed God, by breeding with the Cainites and producing wicked children "who were all unlike", thus angering God into bringing about the Deluge.

Nowhere is the Ethiopian view presented more explicitly than in the Conflict of Adam Book 3, chap. 4:
"Certain wise men of old wrote concerning them, and say in their [sacred] books, that angels came down from heaven, and mingled with the daughters of Cain, who bare unto them these giants. But these [wise men] err in what they say. God forbid such a thing, that angels who are spirits, should be found committing sin with human beings. Never, that cannot be. And if such a thing were of the nature of angels, or Satans, that fell, they would not leave one woman on earth, undefiled... But many men say, that angels came down from heaven, and joined themselves to women, and had children by them. This cannot be true. But they were children of Seth, who were of the children of Adam, that dwelt on the mountain, high up, while they preserved their virginity, their innocence and their glory like angels; and were then called 'angels of God.' But when they transgressed and mingled with the children of Cain, and begat children, ill-informed men said, that angels had come down from heaven, and mingled with the daughters of men, who bare them giants."

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This entry incorporates text from the public domain Easton's Bible Dictionary, originally published in 1897.

This is a Modified Version of the Original -17 July 2009 - 2011
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