If you have an interest in the more esoteric aspects of Judeo-Christian lore, then you may have some passing familiarity with the Nephilim. But you probably have more questions than answers.
Were the Nephilim fallen angels? Were they the children of fallen angels? Were they entirely human? Almost any discussion about the Nephilim is going to be rife with controversy and confusion—and for good reason.
Nobody knows who the Nephilim really were.
How can we break down a complicated topic? Well, let’s start by looking at references to Nephilim in the Bible and the Book of Enoch. Then we can explore some of the different theories that scholars, philologists, and theologians have proposed. Among those hypotheses is one which should particularly intrigue you: It is possible that the Nephilim were none other than the Annunaki.
What Does the Word “Nephilim” Mean?
According to the Brown-Driver-Briggs Lexicon, the word “Nephilim” translates to “giants.” The idea of Nephilim as giants seems to be just about the only thing most scholars agree on.
Unfortunately the etymology of the word is complicated and quite nebulous. Nobody is totally sure of the root of the word, but it may be derived from the Hebrew verbal root n-ph-l, for “fall.”
What does that indicate about the Nephilim? No one is sure. Anglican cleric Robert Baker Girdlestone asserted it should be interpreted as “those that cause others to fall down” (this could be a literal giant reference or a figurative demonic reference). Professor Ronald Hendel thinks it means “ones who have fallen.”
Nephilim in the Bible
Let’s go over the actual scriptural references to Nephilim.
In the Hebrew Bible:
Genesis 6:1-4 (just before the Flood story):
“4 The Nephilim were in the earth in those days, and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bore children to them; the same were the mighty men that were of old, the men of renown.”
Numbers 13:32–33 (The Twelve Spies report seeing giants in Canaan):
“33 And there we saw the Nephilim, the sons of Anak, who come of the Nephilim; and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.”
In the Book of Enoch
The following passage describes the Nephilim as descendents of the Watchers (fallen angels):
“And it came to pass when the children of men had multiplied that in those days were born unto them beautiful and comely daughters. And the angels, the children of the heaven, saw and lusted after them, and said to one another: ‘Come, let us choose us wives from among the children of men and beget us children.’ And Semjaza, who was their leader, said unto them: ‘I fear ye will not indeed agree to do this deed, and I alone shall have to pay the penalty of a great sin.’ And they all answered him and said: ‘Let us all swear an oath, and all bind ourselves by mutual imprecations not to abandon this plan but to do this thing.’ Then sware they all together and bound themselves by mutual imprecations upon it. And they were in all two hundred; who descended in the days of Jared on the summit of Mount Hermon, and they called it Mount Hermon, because they had sworn and bound themselves by mutual imprecations upon it…”
This passage continues with the names of the participants, and then continues:
“Then they took wives, each choosing for himself; whom they began to approach, and with whom they cohabited; teaching them sorcery, incantations, and the dividing of roots and trees.
“And the women conceiving brought forth giants,
“Whose stature was each three hundred cubits. These devoured all which the labor of men produced; until it became impossible to feed them; When they turned themselves against men, in order to devour them; And began to injure birds, beasts, reptiles, and fishes, to eat their flesh one after another, and to drink their blood. Their flesh one after another.”
It seems that all those worldly arts of civilization came at quite a steep price. The essential implication is that the fallen angels enslaved humankind. They bewitched us with wonders and then worked us to death.
“Impiety increased; fornication multiplied; and they transgressed and corrupted all their ways.
“Amazarak taught all the sorcerers, and dividers of roots: Armers taught the solution of sorcery; Barkayal taught the observers of the stars, Akibeel taught signs; Tamiel taught astronomy; And Asaradel taught the motion of the moon,
“And men, being destroyed, cried out; and their voice reached to heaven.”
Now that you have seen the scriptural passages, we can talk about popular interpretations.
- The Nephilim are descendents of fallen angel fathers and mortal human mothers, in other words, a hybrid race.
- The Nephilim are fully human.
Let’s take a look at the arguments for each…
The Nephilim as Hybrids
If you put stock in the Book of Enoch, you pretty much have to accept the Nephilim as hybrid children of mortal women and fallen angels. The book is pretty clear and specific on this point.
So why is there controversy?
Well, angels are traditionally seen as sexless beings, so in theory they should be incapable of procreation. Of course, we may not know all there is to know about angels. And perhaps fallen angels are different. Maybe their sins reflected not just a change in their actions, but also a shift in their nature.
All of this is supposition—but there was likely quite a bit of that going on when the holy books were originally penned anyway.
The Nephilim as Humans
The other possibility is that the Nephilim were fully human. Giant humans may sound strange—but read the section just after this one on Goliath and you will see there is already scientific precedent.
If the Nephilim were human, most scholars believe they may have represented the descendents of Seth. More specifically, they could have been children of the sons of Seth and the daughters of Cain.
The children of Seth were previously considered righteous, but they lost that status (“fell”) when they rebelled against God. The daughters of Cain were never considered righteous.
Was Goliath a Nephilim?
The most obvious reference to a giant in the Bible that you may remember from Sunday school is Goliath. Was Goliath a Nephilim? Probably not, considering the story of David and Goliath is supposed to take place after the Great Flood. As the Flood supposedly wiped out everyone but Noah and his family, all the Nephilim should have perished.
There are a couple alternate explanations. Maybe some Nephilim did survive somehow and made a return and Goliath was one of them. Or maybe Goliath was just a really tall human; bones of a human being larger than Goliath have been discovered.
As I stated at the start of this discussion, there is one more possible explanation for the Nephilim which should interest you greatly—they could be the Anunnaki.
Who Were the Anunnaki?
Just to clarify, I want to take a moment to discuss who the Anunnaki were. I am guessing if you are here reading this, you already know a lot about the Anunnaki, but I don’t want to make any assumptions.
If this happens to be one of your first readings on the Anunnaki, then you should know that they represent the deities of the ancient Mesopotamians (Marduk, Enlil, etc.). They were the gods worshipped by the Sumerians, Babylonians, Assyrians, and Akkadians.
Many people today believe that the Anunnaki may have actually been reptilian alien visitors who came to earth. This view was popularized by author Zecharia Sitchin as well as David Icke.
When I talk about the Anunnaki in this article, I am referring primarily to their original role as Sumerian deities. If you are a believer in the reptilian theory, you can extend the connections here to encompass the modern mythology of ancient astronauts.
The Great Flood Connection
Let’s get back to talking about the Nephilim. You may have already started to figure this out. If you have read up on the Anunnaki, you know that the Flood story is woven into their mythos in a couple of different respects:
- The Great Flood plays a prominent role in Sumerian mythology.
- You may also know about planet Nibiru. Those who believe that the Anunnaki are reptilians from space believe that Nibiru is the homeworld of the Sumerian gods. Nibiru is in theory part of our solar system, but it has a very long orbit and rarely comes close to Earth. The last time it did, the gravitational effects of its presence caused the Great Flood.
In Judeo-Christian lore, the story about the Nephilim takes place right before the Great Flood. The Book of Jubilees actually states in 7:21-25 that God flooded the earth specifically to get rid of the Nephilim:
“21 For owing to these three things came the flood upon the earth, namely, owing to the fornication wherein the Watchers against the law of their ordinances went a whoring after the daughters of men, and took themselves wives of all which they chose: and they made the beginning of uncleanness.”
It is clear that the Nibiru story and the Biblical story are both referring to the same cataclysmic event. The stories may differ as to the cause of the Flood, but both narratives connect to a mysterious race of powerful beings which used humanity for its own ends. It seems likely that they are referring to the same race of overlords.
Additional Connections to Sumerian Mythology
We can also look to Sumerian lore for even more insight into the Nephilim and the Anunnaki.
According to scholar J. C. Greenfield, it is possible that the Nephilim story in the Bible is actually derived from Sumerian mythology. Judeo-Christian mythology borrows liberally from pagan myth, so this would not be a surprise.
In particular, Greenfield points toward the story of the Apkallu. The Apkallu were seven demigods created by Enki, one of the chief Sumerian gods. You may also hear Enki referred to as “Ea,” which is the name he was later given in Babylonian and Akkadian mythology.
These seven demigods were:
- Uanna, “who finished the plans for heaven and earth”,
- Uannedugga “who was endowed with comprehensive intelligence”,
- Enmedugga “who was allotted a good fate”,
- Enmegalamma “who was born in a house”,
- Enmebulugga “who grew up on pasture land”,
- An-Enlilda “the conjurer of the city of Eridu”,
- Utuabzu “who ascended to heaven.”
These beings were sent by Enki to teach human beings the arts of civilization: agriculture, writing, building, and so on. You may recall this is a direct parallel to the Book of Enoch, where the fallen angels taught humanity about astronomy, astrology, and so forth.
Just as things turned sour in the Book of Enoch, they went badly in Sumerian lore as well. Interestingly enough, this is where the timeline starts to get murky.
In Biblical lore, the Nephilim angered God before the Flood, which was one of the reasons the Great Flood happened in the first place.
In the Sumerian story, events took place in a different order, but it is easy to imagine that the players were the same. At some point after the Flood, four Apkallu-human hybrids make an entrance: Nungalpirriggaldim, Pirriggalnungal, Pirriggalabsu, and Lu-nana. This indicates that Apkallu and humans were capable of interbreeding, a parallel to the idea that fallen angels and humans were capable of interbreeding.
This is another link to the Bible story.
This is why many scholars believe that the Nephilim myth was directly derived from the story about the Apkallu. It could be that the Nephilim represent the Apkallu themselves or (more likely) their hybrid descendents. Do not forget, in Biblical lore, the Nephilim are the children of fallen angels, not fallen angels.
So let me take a second to clarify.
If anything, the Nephilim can probably be equated to the Apkallu-human hybrids, not the Anunnaki themselves. Remember, the Anunnaki were gods. The Apkallu were demigods.
We Now Have Three Versions of One Story
Now that we have stepped in close to look at all the details, let’s take a few steps back and take a look at the big picture.
Stories about the Nephilim are vague at best, but we now have three (rough) versions of a single set of events.
- The Judeo-Christian Story
Splicing together the information from Genesis, Numbers, The Book of Enoch and Jubilees, we get the following basic story:
The Nephilim were either entirely human giants or they were a race of hybrids spawned by human women and fallen angels. The fallen angels and/or Nephilim gave many arts of civilization to humankind. Nonetheless, men were “destroyed” by this interference. In His wrath, God flooded the world to wipe out the Nephilim and humanity (save for Noah and his family).
- The Sumerian Story
One of the Anunnaki, Enki, created seven demigods to help civilize humankind. These demigods were known as the Apkallu. Apkallu and human beings were capable of interbreeding. After the Great Flood, four human-Apkallu hybrids appeared who evoked the wrath of the gods.
- The Reptilian Story
Reptilian theorists believe that the Anunnaki were real, literal beings, and moreover, that they came from space. Their homeworld is an undiscovered planet called Nibiru in a long orbit around the earth. When they came to earth, they brought many of the arts of civilization, but like the fallen angels of Christian lore, they used human beings for their own purposes. The gravitational tides caused by their planet’s close proximity to ours created the Great Flood.
Some reptilians survived on Earth, but Nibiru moved along in its rotation. The next time it returns, we can expect further cataclysms. The remaining reptilians have gone into hiding or live amongst us as human shapeshifters. Like the Apkallu and the fallen angels that spawned the Nephilim, they are capable of interbreeding with humans. This means that some of their descendents could be real-life Nephilim. What do Nephilim look like today? Probably just like us.
*** Remember, All Stories are Interpretive ***
There are many people who believe that their religions are literal truth, perfect in every detail.
But think for a moment about the way that stories are told. There is no such thing as objectivity in storytelling. This is a hard lesson that every journalist learns well. Even something as simple as deciding where to point a video camera when filming a documentary can paint a story with a certain hue. Some information receives a great deal of focus while other information gets left out altogether.
Which story about the Nephilim is true? It could be that all of them are true in some respects—and false in others.
In other words, none of these stories are the truth. They are simply different versions and interpretations of the same set of events. That set of events is the actual truth. But as none of us have the benefit of witnessing those events directly, we are stuck trying to fit the pieces together. The pieces we have are biased and incomplete.
Each of these stories was transcribed through a certain cultural lens. The understanding of the authors was limited by their knowledge of the universe at that time, which limited their language as well.
So were the Nephilim the children of fallen angels? Gods? Aliens? Maybe the simple answer is … yes. Who says that there is one right answer here?
What we call gods or aliens or angels is simply a reflection of our cultural lenses of understanding.
The real Nephilim were simply whatever they were (or are whatever they are, if descendents of Nephilim today are still among us). They might not describe themselves as gods, angels, or aliens at all.
If we want to become like gods or angels ourselves, the best thing we can do is to keep an open mind. That is how we learn to go beyond our existing definitions and limitations. That and avoiding literal, immutable interpretation is the key to learning more about our place in the universe. If there is a place for us among the gods and the stars, we will need to evolve a fluid understanding.