The Nephilim

Genesis 6:4 reads:

4. There were giants 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 which were of old, men of renown (KJV).

Much speculation and scholarship has been written, discussed, debated, and said over the millennia regarding this passage. One popular thought is that fallen angels/demons (i.e. “sons of God”, cf. Job 1:6) procreated with human females to give birth to unnatural offspring. It is then assumed that these unnatural offspring explain the existence of men like Goliath, who was six cubits and a span tall, or roughly 9 -13 feet in height, depending on the length of a cubit and what a span means (See 1 Samuel 17:4). And not only Goliath, but others, variously referred to as the Anakim, Emims, and/or the Rephaim (e.g. Deuteronomy 1:28, 2:10-11, and Genesis 15:20, respectively).

But I would like to offer a different view. I admit to two things here. 1.) This view does not originate with me; rather I suspected the truth of it, then, after the fact, found that others had come to similar conclusions, and 2.) I am not a Hebrew scholar, and though I have a decent amount of under-graduate level linguistic training, some in Hebrew, but mostly in other languages (Spanish, French, Japanese, Arabic), I cannot in all honesty say that I am an expert on the subject. So what I’m going to present here is more a what if? type scenario that seems plausible, even sensible. However, I don’t intend to be overly dogmatic and so, I am allowing myself the right to change views, if what I write here is ever refuted.

The first thing to know is the Hebrew word used for giants. It’s nephilim, the plural of nephil. Hebrew, like any other Semitic language, has a small select amount of root words, each being three letters in length, from which other words, when expanded from the original root, can be created. In addition, Hebrew doesn’t have any official vowels, hence the three letter roots. So, when looking at nephilim, we should think of the word like this:

nphlm

No vowels, remember? Going one step further, we can reduce “nphlm” back to its original root: nphl. Now, in English, that’s four letters, right? Well, the “ph”, in Hebrew, is only one letter, namely: פ or pe, sometimes pronounced fe, from whence we get the f-sound of “ph”.

Make sense?

So, we might say that in this instance, the root word, transliterated literally into English is: nfl.

The original Hebrew Scriptures, written in what is called paleo-hebrew, is not the Scriptures used by most to translate the Old Testament in today’s Bibles. Almost all modern Bibles, and even not-so modern Bibles (e.g. King James Version) are based on the Masoretic Text of the Old Testament, a reconstruction of the ancient Hebrew texts by the Masoretes, a group of mostly Karaite Jews existing in Israel (with some in modern day Iraq) between the 7th and 11th centuries, A.D.

This is important to know because the Masoretes created a system of vowel pronunciation markers, to go along with the consonant only Hebrew text, indicating how Hebrew words should be vocalized, meaning pronunciation was restored to an otherwise dying language.

Imagine if English had no vowels. How would we know how to read or write? While some words would be easily identifiable, other words would be almost impossible to guess at.

Take an easy example: Let’s say we had the word “rd”. Without vowels, how would we know what word was really meant? It could refer to the color red, it could mean a rod, it could be rid, as in to get “rid” of something, and etc. It could even be road, read, or raid. Context may help, but if an entire sentence was made up of vowel-less words, we can see how difficult it would be to gain any understanding at all.

The point is, is that once upon a time, the Old Testament Scriptures, first and originally written in paleo-hebrew, were so written. While we owe a great debt to the Masoretes for resurrecting Hebrew, we must also acknowledge that they were mere humans, i.e. capable of error.

This means that nephilim, as we now have it, is just as much a Masorete construction as it is an original paleo-hebrew form, if not more so. The Masoretic text puts vowel pronunciation markers around the consonants, and so, we have the word as is. But those markers, not being original, can easily be ignored as un-inspired by God. Going back to the example, as a Masorete, I could lead you to believe that “rd” means red, and you might believe me, because I’m the expert. But what if I’m wrong? What if “rd” really means road? A big difference, right?

Therefore, when we consider this text from Genesis, keep in mind that, if looked at one way (i.e. the Masoretic way) we get nephilim, meaning giants. But if we look at it another way, which is allowable since the vowel pronunciation markers supplied by the Masoretes are not original to the text, we might get a different meaning.

I’m here to suggest to you that we should pursue a different meaning. Remember, the original word here is “nphlm”. It could be pronounced nephilim, naphilim, nophilim, nepholam, and etc., giving a new meaning with each variation. It all depends on one’s personal view and which expert they agree with. While some forms can be immediately discounted (since some forms are not actual words in Hebrew) other forms, when inspected and placed in context, can easily give us a different meaning worth considering.

Pretty much all Bible lexicons indicate that nephilim comes from the word naphal, which generally means to fall, usually indicative of falling to one’s death, or to fall in battle. In this sense, it can also mean to fail, to be thrown down, and/or waste away. It has been suggested, therefore, that nephilim then refers to something which is fallen, hence the idea of fallen angels. Consequently, since giants, like Goliath, for example, were capable of throwing down lesser opponents, seeing their foes fall before them in battle, it’s been believed that giants is the best translation here in Genesis 6:4.

But check this out:

Job 3:16, Psalm 58:8, and Ecclesiastes 6:3 all have within them a derivative of the word naphal, namely nephel. Quite close, right? And who are we to say if the original paleo-hebrew text of Genesis 6:4, with no vowel pronunciation markers present, should be understood in any exact way with no other possibilities? Remember, all the Hebrew text has, without the Masoretic additions, is this: nphlm. The –im at the end merely suggests pluralization. So, in reality, we only originally have: nphl. We might make the case that nephel, instead of naphal should be understood here.

This majorly matters! If we do that, we have an entirely different word with an entirely different meaning!

Going back to Job, Psalms, and Ecclesiastes, when looking at the verses just mentioned, we read, in the King James Version, this phrase: untimely birth, i.e. a miscarriage/abortion.

Now, let’s look at Genesis 6:4 again, with this meaning in place:

4. There were abortions in the earth in those days…

WOW! A totally new meaning?

But is it justified? On six levels, yes.

1.) The context of the passage is primarily about sexual relationships/marriages and the conception of children (See Genesis 6:1-4, “men began to multiple”, “daughters born”, “took them wives”, God talking about His Spirit and human flesh, which, when joined into one, creates human life or living souls [see Genesis 2:7], “came in unto the daughter of men”, and “bare them children”).

2.) Genesis 6:5-7 speaks of the LORD seeing the great wickedness of humanity upon the earth, i.e. that every imagination of the human heart was continuously evil. For that reason, God sorrowed within Himself for having created the human race, and decided to annihilate it. There is no greater wickedness than the murder of an unborn child. To even entertain it as an option is abominable. Such evil always brings the wrath and judgment of God.

3.) Noah, his children, and their wives, were the only ones who survived the Flood. This means that Goliath, the Anakims, Emims, and Rephaims, as giants, are not descended from some other especially strange race of human-demon hybrids. These giants, though gigantic, are still humans only, somehow descended from Noah and his offspring.

4.) Fallen angels are spirits, and cannot marry, let alone procreate (Compare to Matthew 22:30, Mark 122:25, and Luke 20:35-36). To do so would require an act of God as their Creator, to allow them or give them the ability to do so. But God would not do so.

5. The end of days and the coming of the Son of Man, the Lord Jesus, is comparable to the “days of Noah” (Luke 17:26). Right now, abortions throughout the world are at an all-time high. We’re talking hundreds of millions, folks. Just to give you an idea, Russia recently reported that for every ten live births, there are 13 abortions. Since becoming legal, some 50-60 million abortions have been carried out in the U.S. over the last 35 years. This all indicates what was really going on in Noah’s day that set God off so badly, enough to destroy the world with the Flood. It also helps explain why God intends to overthrow the world at the end when Jesus comes through the clouds.

6. And lastly, when considering the literal meaning of each word of the text, we can create a more accurate translation that works perfectly well. See below (words in bold indicate allowable changes in translation):

4. There were abortions in the earth in those days; forasmuch, (from following after), since the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bear children to them; the same [i.e. the sons of God, not the “children”][were] impetuous men [i.e. hasty, violent men], which were of old [i.e. existing for a long time, since at least Cain], [who were] men of ignoble repute/infamy.

Now I realize that’s a lot to unpack, especially with all the brackets. So let me break it down:

There were abortions in the earth in those days because of and on account of the fact that the sons of God copulated with the daughters of men and they, that is, the sons of God, begat children with them (the daughters). These sons of God [were] impetuous men, having existed for a long time, [and were] infamous (or of a bad reputation).

Make better sense now? These so-called sons of God, who descended from Seth, Abel’s replacement, who were supposed to be righteous, were actually fornicators, giving themselves over to their evil imaginations. The women with whom they fornicated became pregnant. The pregnancy was an obvious sign of the fornication, and so, to hide the sin, these sons of God and daughters of men proceeded to abort their children to cover up their tracks, as it were. But they were eventually found out, by God if no one else, and so, in the annals of Genesis, they became known as infamous, i.e. famous for being evil.

It all fits, doesn’t it?

In conclusion:

Can I prove absolutely beyond a shadow of a doubt that I’m right, or that this position is right? Again, I’m not a Hebrew scholar. So no, I can’t prove it. But the position certainly, to my knowledge, seems justified, and makes way more sense than some super-spiritual or mystical human-demon hybrid theory not supported by any other facts found in Scripture. It also gives us a better reason behind the Flood. When God saw His kids killing their own kids–in the womb, no less–God sorrowed to the point of wishing He had never created the human race. Mass abortion, I suppose, will do that to Him.

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~ by votivesoul on 03/01/2013.

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