Nephilim in the Land: Genesis 6:4

Nephilim in the land (2)

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This post carries a trigger warning for very disturbing historical information.

g) Gen 6:4: Moses wrote, “The Nephilim were in the land in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of the gods went into the daughters of men. And they bore to them those mighty ones from of old, men of renown.”

Some scholars remain uncertain how this verse fits with those preceding it (Gen 6:1–3).[1]

While “In those days” refers to the period before the flood, the phrase “And also afterward” indicates that such people reemerged from among the descendants of Noah.[2]



This brings us to another point of contention. Who exactly were the Nephilim?

Were they typical people living at that time, the sons of the gods themselves, or the progeny resulting from illicit unions between kings and the women they assaulted?[3]

Within the Old Testament (OT), only the account of the men who did reconnaissance prior to Israel entering Canaan also mentions Nephilim (Num 13:30–33).[4]

The Greek translation of the OT called these men in the book of Numbers “giants” (Num 30:33).[5]

“Nephilim” derives from a verb which means “to fall” (naphal),[6] making a literal translation “fallen ones” (Deut 22:4).[7]

Their name connotes that anything so gigantic and exalted must fall (Jer 46:6; Ezek 26:15–18; Ezek 31:16–18).[8]

Many commentators identify the Nephilim as children of the violent tyrants of Gen 6:2.[9]

Their designation refers to particular characteristics of people—[10] men of great physical prowess and military might—[11] rather than depicting their ethnicity.

Some compare these heroic warriors to knights from the Middle Ages who wandered in search of great quests.[12]



After the parenthetical comment about these mighty men, Moses again described the sin of the sons of the gods (Gen 6:1–4).

He noted that they “went into” the daughters of men. While the word bo has many meanings, here it serves as a euphemism for sexual intercourse.[13]

When human sexuality did not involve reciprocal enjoyment but reproduction or lust, Scripture employs the phrases “go into” (bo) (Gen 16:2; Deut 22:13; Ruth 4:5, 13)[14] or “lie with” (shakav) (Gen 39:7–12; 2 Sam 11:4).[15]

This verb alone exonerates Bathsheba an as unwilling participant in David’s sin.[16]



Due to the actions of the sons of the gods, women “bore to them those mighty ones (gibor) from of old.”

While the word olam usually depicts a long duration into the future, it can also denote remote antiquity.[17] Examples of this occur in Josh 24:2 and 1 Sam 27:8.[18]

Although prior to the flood Moses named none of these individuals, we have several examples of these “mighty ones” later in history. Gilgamesh represents the epitome of these men.[19]

His epic describes him as “accomplished in strength, [who] like a wild ox lords it over the folk.”[20]

In Gen 10:8–12, Moses depicted Nimrod as one “mighty on the earth.”

Nimrod’s activities included great hunting exploits and founding eight municipalities.

Several of those cities became the most prominent of antiquity. Instead of the Bible treating legend as history, it appears that actual events have been transformed into the mythologies of the Ancient Near East.[21]

Image via Wikimedia Commons


Read Gen 6:4. Who were the Nephilim? How did Moses describe the offspring of the sons of the gods and the daughters of men?




Go to Rebellious Angels (Jude 6–7)

[Related posts include Sons of God or Sons of the Gods? (Gen 6:1–2); Descendants of Seth as the Sons of God (Gen 6:1–2 cont.); Fallen Angels as the Sons of God (Gen 6:1–2 cont.); Kings as Sons of the Gods (Gen 6:1–2 cont.); Taking Wives for Themselves (Gen 6:1–2 cont.); Limiting Human Life Spans (Gen 6:3); God Grieves (Gen 6:5–6); Wiping Out Everyone (Gen 6:7); Eve Acquires a Man (Gen 4:1); It is Good Not to Touch (1 Cor 7:1‒5); Modern Scholars’ View of 1 Pet 3:19–20; Rebellious Angels (Jude 6–7); Guilty of Misconduct (Jude 8); Author and Date of Genesis; and Greek Translation of the Old Testament]

[Click here to go to Women and Marriage Throughout Redemptive History; or to Chapter 5: Groaning and Grieving (Genesis 5:28–6:8)]


[1]Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 142.

[2]Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 143.

[3]Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 269.

[4]Walton, Genesis, 296.

[5]Brannan, et al., LES, Num 13:33.

[6] Brown, Driver, and Briggs, “ןָפַל” (naphal), BDB 656–8, 656,

[7]Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 270.

[8]H. Seebass, “ןָפַל” (naphal), TDOT 9:488–97, 497.

[9]Waltke and Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, 118.

[10]Matthews, Chavalas, and Walton, IVPBBCOT, Gen 6:4.

[11]Waltke and Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, 116–7.

[12]Matthews, Chavalas, and Walton, IVPBBCOT, Gen 6:4.

[13]H. D. Preuss, “בּוֹא” (bo) TDOT 2:21–49, 21.

[14]Brown, Driver, and Briggs, “בּוֹא” (bo), BDB, 98,

[15] Holladay, “שָׁכַב” (shakav), CHALOT, 368.

[16] Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 220.

[17]Brown, Driver, and Briggs, “עוֹלָמ” (olam), BDB, 761–3, 761,

[18] Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 143.

[19]Walton, Genesis, 294.

[20]Speiser, trans., “The Epic of Gilgamesh,” in ANET, 1.4.36–9, 75,

[21]Waltke and Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, 118.