Nephilim - Part 1, The Angels Answer

Angels in the Old Testament

There were giants (Nephilim) 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 (Gibbor) of old, men of renown. Genesis 6:4

Nephilim, a strange sounding name. Who were they? The translators of the Old Testament decided that they were giants. Some people today think they were aliens. But who were they really? The simple answer is the most unsatisfying; they were the offspring of the sons of God. A more pertinent question, then is, who were the sons of God?

There are basically two theories regarding the sons of God; they were either human, or they were angels. The term itself is used in only two places in the Old Testament, in Genesis 6 (twice) and in Job (three times, 1:6, 2:1, and 38:7). It is the passages in Job that give us the most information, especially the last one.

Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said, Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge? Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me. Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? Declare, if thou hast understanding. Who hath laid the measures of thereof, if thou knowest? Or who hath stretched the line upon it? Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? Or who laid the cornerstone thereof; When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy? Job 38:1-7

From this passage, we gather that the sons of God existed before the earth was created. This is a part of creation that we are told nothing about in the scriptures. This appears to be the first four days of the Creation week (vs. 4 = Day 1, vs. 5 = Day 2, vs. 6 = Day 3, vs. 7 = Day 4), or maybe I’m stretching things a bit. This passage refers to the earliest days of creation when the sons of God were present. This can only mean that these are not humans but supernatural beings, and therefore angels.

Now some have declared that the sons of God in Job were Job’s sons. Consider then Job 2:1;

Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them to present himself before the Lord.

This passage occurs after the death of Job’s sons in 1:19, therefore we can say that the sons of God are not synonymous with the sons of Job. The only remaining mention of the sons of God is in Job 1:6, where the sons of God present themselves before the Lord. The only clear thought we can derive from these passages is that the sons of God were present at some early point in the creation week, not at the end like Adam. The implication is that they are angels and not men. In none of the four passages in which the sons of God are mentioned, is there clear evidence that they are men, while there is clear evidence in at least two that they are angels.

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Angels in the New Testament

There are some, however, who point out that Jesus taught that angels cannot marry. The actual verse reads:

For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven. Matthew 22:30

What this verse shows is that angels in heaven do not marry. By implication, these angels are ones that are obedient to God. What then of disobedient angels?

There is not a lot of information given to us about fallen or disobedient angels. One passage, however, is to be found in 2 Peter 2:4-6:

For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment; And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly; And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an example unto those that after should live ungodly;

This passage appears to give us a chronological sequence. The last in time is the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, previously there was the old world, and before that, the angels that sinned. Where in the Old Testament, before the flood, do we find that angels sinned? Only in Genesis 6, when the sons of God, angels, took them wives of the daughters of men.

A passage in Jude provides us just a little more information:

And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day. Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. Jude 6-7.

Here, Jude makes a comparison of the sinning angels with Sodom and Gomorrah. The angels apparently sinned twice; first, they left their own habitation. The idea is, that they abandoned their post, they gave up the position that God had given them, and second, like the people in Sodom and Gomorrah, they went after strange flesh, in the case of the angels that would be the daughters of men.

The Bodies of Angels

For the sons of God to have children they would have needed bodies; according to Psalm 104:4 angels are spirits (also quoted in Hebrews 1:7). This is the first estate that they abandoned. We know that the angels that visited Abraham in Genesis 18 had physical bodies. These bodies had feet that could be washed, and with these bodies, the angels ate the food that Abraham set before them. Interestingly, in Genesis 18 they are referred to as men, while in Genesis 19 they are specifically spoken of as angels. When Lot entertained the angels, he also washed their feet and gave them a meal to eat. From this, we can see that angels do assume functioning physical bodies.

What were the bodies of these angels like? It has been suggested that there are classes of angels, each having a specific form. The sons of God would have been of the class of messenger angels, the only form that they could take was human. Assuming a human body, that body was fully human including the DNA.

The Nephilim

What then, were the Nephilim? The offspring of angels with human bodies. Those bodies were not the bodies of ordinary men possessed by the angels, they were the angels own specially formed bodies, but bodies that were fully human. Genetically, this made the Nephilim human. Why then are they referred to as giants?

The Nephilim are referred to as giants in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament. Some believe that the term gigantes is simply a reference to their being of part human, part angel, descent. Others believe it is a reference to their size. The latter belief is supported by the second use of the word Nephilim in the Old Testament; this is found in Numbers 13:32-33:

And they brought up an evil report of the land which they had searched unto the children of Israel, saying, The land, through which we have gone to search it, is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof; and all the people that we saw in it are men of a great stature. 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.

We need to keep in mind that this passage is “an evil report”. The ten fearful spies were trying to convince the people of Israel not to enter the Promised Land. They saw “men of a great stature” which they equated with the Nephilim, giants. It would seem that the people of the time believed that the Nephilim were of a giant size. The Books of Enoch and Jubilees both declare that the Nephilim were giants. There are physical limitations to size, which leads me to wonder, was the size of the Nephilim supernatural, genetic, or developmental?

The size of the giants given in the Book of Enoch (3000 cubits or 4500 feet!) could only be supernatural, a hypothesis which I reject. The giants of the Bible measure in at 8 cubits, or about 12 feet. A man this size would weight about 1000 pounds (450kg). This would require a genetic element, as mere diet and exercise would not make a major difference in height. That there may have been unique genetic elements in the makeup of the sons of God is suggested by the fact that Genesis 6 records only sons being born of their union with the daughters of men (there is no reciprocal daughters of God/sons of men unions). Josephus also states that the lifespan of the Nephilim was limited to 120 years, the divine fiat of Genesis 6:3 perhaps manifesting as a genetic defect associated with giantism.

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Conclusion

The Nephilim then, were the fully human offspring of angels with their own human bodies, and human woman. Genetically they were unique as to size, but still within the physiological limitations of being human. The Nephilim perished in the flood along with their parents.

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6 comments

Michele Travis profile image

Michele Travis 3 years ago from U.S.A. Ohio

Very interesting hub. I do agree humans can only grow to a certain size before they start having physical limitations.


barrydan profile image

barrydan 3 years ago from Calgary, Alberta, Canada Author

Thanks for the comment Michele.


Reynold Jay profile image

Reynold Jay 3 years ago from Saginaw, Michigan

I can use this in a novel. I did not know any of this. Wonderful article and graphics for me. Keep it going like this.


barrydan profile image

barrydan 3 years ago from Calgary, Alberta, Canada Author

Thanks RJ, I' m glad you found it helpful.


North Wind profile image

North Wind 3 years ago from The World (for now)

Very interesting read, barrydan.

It never occurred to me that the sons of God could be anything other than fallen angels, that is, angels who disobeyed God. I have heard of the other arguments as well though. I look forward to reading more, of course.


Niecey Doc profile image

Niecey Doc 15 months ago from Firth, Nebraska

This is very well explained, a great introduction to the concept of Nephilim and fallen angels.

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