Truth in the Text Part V – Who were the Nephilim?

The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God went to the daughters of the human beings, and had children by them. These were the heroes of old, men of renown. (Genesis 6:4, TNIV)

There were giants in the earth in those days: and also after that, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown. (KJV)

So who exactly are these ‘sons of God’, daughters of men, and their offspring, the Nephilim, in the time of Noah?

I’ll briefly cover the primary theories, the ones discussed in Biblical circles anyway. There is an alien invasion theory that has a following, too, but I won’t go there in this blog.

I. Fallen Angel View (most popular view)

The ‘sons of God’ are angels that chose to leave heaven, often called ‘fallen angels.’ They bred with human women and the Nephilim were the offspring.

Supported by:

a. Other uses of ‘sons of God’ in the Bible refer to heavenly beings (Job 1;6, 2:1, 38:7, Ps 82:6, 29:1, 89:6)

b. Angels are able to leave heaven and sin. Some are ‘in chains’ because of their sin in Noah’s day. Their sin seems to be associated with sexual misconduct. (I Peter 3:18-20; 2 Peter 2:4-10, Jude 6).

c. The word nephilim is related to the Hebrew verb ‘to fall.’

d. The Nephilim are described as ‘mighty men, men of renown.’ The word is translated as ‘giants’ in the King James Bible. The half angel, half human idea lends itself to this idea.

Arguments against:

a. Godly human men are sometimes called ‘sons of God.’ (Luke 3:38, Mt 5:9, Romans 8:14, 8:19, Galatians 3:26).

b. There is a Hebrew word for angels, so why wouldn’t Job use this term instead of ‘sons of God’? (Job 1:6)

c. Angels are spiritual beings and can’t breed with humans. [The Bible doesn’t tell us if angels can reproduce. It says they don’t marry, not they ‘can’t]


II. Modified Fallen Angel View

The ‘sons of God’ were human men overtaken by fallen angels/demons. They took human wives and had human children.

Pros/cons: It’s possible for men to be overtaken by demons (Mark 5:15), however their children wouldn’t automatically be possessed and could be godly as easily as not.


III. Sethite View

The ‘sons of God’ are godly men from the line of Seth, Adam’s son. The daughters of men are ungodly women from the line of Cain, son of Adam. Nephilim offspring, fully human, ‘fell’ from God’s standards.

Supported by:

a. Context – the last half of Genesis chapter 4, then chapter 5 deal with the lineage of Cain and Seth. Chapter 6 starts with the verse about the sons of God.

b. There aren’t any supernatural explanations required to understand how the children came about.

Arguments against:

a. It seems odd that these rebellious offspring are described as ‘mighty men,’ and that the term nephilim would be translated ‘giants.’


IV. Royalty View

The sons of God are polygamous kings and tyrants who took wives to form large harems. They possibly viewed themselves as gods and their children as demi-gods.

Supporting thoughts:

a. The word for God, as in ‘sons of God,’ is ‘elohim. It’s translated as ‘rulers’ or ‘judges’ in Exodus 21:6 and 22:8.

b. Ancient Eastern literature mentions kings who believed they were gods.

Arguments against:

a. We don’t know they were polygamous or that wives were taken by force. There is no evil in a ruler obtaining a common wife.


One More Thought:

The term Nephilim is used only three times in the Bible, Once in Genesis 6:4 and twice in Numbers 13:33. In Numbers it refers to sons of Anak, who were those really tall guys fromCanaan. Goliath, of David and his slingshot fame, was a son of Anak.

Wait! The events in the book of Numbers occur after the flood so how can there be any Nephilim? And for that matter, what’s up with all those other giants in Bible???

Next time!



I’m sticking with the fallen angel view but sure wouldn’t place any bets on it. Who knows for sure? We’ll find out in heaven one day.

I’ll give you a few references to start your own study:

Who were the Nephilim? By Bodie Hodge,

Battle over the Nephilim by Tim Chaffey,, Jan-Mar 2012


Thanks for Reading!

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Posted July 14, 2012 by Rachel in category "Genesis

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