Nephilim Before and After the Flood

Posted by on Dec 15, 2021

The Book of Genesis tells us that there were creatures, nephilim, who were on the face of the earth before the Flood. Those creatures concerning whom the narrator of Genesis was very careful not to call them “humans” or “living beings”, nor did he even say they lived on the earth but “were on the earth”, were the offspring of the sons of Elohim, who cohabited with the daughters of men.

Who or more properly what were those creatures whom the women bore to the sons of Elohim? And who were the sons of Elohim? It is the object of this work to point out certain obscure passages which occur in Genesis and are not distinctly explained but hinted in the text.

The reader has therefore to expect that not all questions will be clarified in their entirety due to the nature of the subject of nephilim and the Flood mentioned in the introduction. It is for this reason that we will entertain the idea to resort to sources outside of the Scriptural canon.

The fall of the angles from grace

Innichen (South Tyrol), Saint Michael Parish Church: Frescos depicting the fall of the rebelling angels by Christoph Anton Mayr (1760)

Innichen (South Tyrol), Saint Michael Parish Church: Frescos depicting the fall of the rebelling angels by Christoph Anton Mayr (1760)

A good departure point to describing the subject of the nephilim is to explain first the term “the sons of Elohim”. Thus, it will be clear to the reader that the perception of nephilim is closely related to the explanation of this term.

And it came to be, when men began to increase on the face of the earth, and daughters were born to them, that the sons of Elohim saw the daughters of men, that they were good. And they took women for themselves of all whom they chose. (Gen 6:1-2)

The phrase “the sons of בְּנֵי benei God הָאֱלֹהִים Elohim” requires an explanation. If we want to understand what the Hebrew word for Elohim means, we must pay attention to how the Hebrew language and culture defines it.

The sages are not in agreement as to what exactly the term “sons of Elohim” means. Every time the Hebrew word אֱלֹהִים elohim appears in the Scripture, it expresses authority, and the following proves it: Exod. 4:16, “And you shall be to him as a lord”, speaking to Mosheh, and again later in Exo 7:1, “See, I have made you a lord”. It is the absurd that some translations call Mosheh a “god”: “you shall be to him [Pharaoh] a god”. Therefore, the word elohim, which we explained in more details in the article Is It Lawful to Call Yeshua ‘Elohim’? of Time of Reckoning Ministry, should be understood as one of power and authority: whether men, angels, or the Creator Himself.

These examples have led this phrase in Gen 6:4 to be rendered by some sages as “the sons of the nobles” or the sons of the princes (Targumim) and “the sons of the judges” (Bereishit Rabbah 26:5), i.e., the sons of Elohim are humans. But that compels us to consider the question: if that is the meaning of the term “the sons of Elohim” in our verse, why are we told that those sons of Elohim took the daughters of men as wives? But is it not natural for humans to cohabit with other humans?

Those who say that “the sons of Elohim” refers exclusively to men are giving the term a meaning that it is not limited to.

This is how the verse in question would sound, if we accept the above explanation: “the men saw the women that they were good. And they took wives for themselves of all whom they chose”. Is this not self-evident that men and women can marry?

But if “the sons of Elohim” does not refer to humans but to angels, then there is indeed the necessity for the specific wording in verse 4; as if the narrator was hinting to something else. Hence, there is another explanation, as pointed out in Pirkei DeRabbi Eliezer 22 which makes more sense in the overall context: the sons of Elohim are the princes, who go as messengers of the Omnipresent,

The angels who fell from their holy place in heaven saw the daughters of the generations of Cain walking about naked, with their eyes painted like harlots, and they went astray after them, and took wives from amongst them.

Rabbi Zadok said:

From them were born the giants (Anakim), who walked with pride in their heart, and who stretched forth their hand to all (kinds of) robbery and violence, and shedding of blood, as it is said, “And there we saw the Nephilim, the sons of Anak” (Num 13:33); and it says, “The Nephilim were on the earth in those days”.

Apart from Genesis, the accounts in Job 1:6 Job 2:1 Job 38:7 also testify that the term “the sons of Elohim” can refer to the heavenly beings: the messengers of Elohim aka “angels”.

And the day came to be that the sons of Elohim came to present themselves before Yehovah, and the satan also came among them. (Job 1:6)

Hardly here “the sons of Elohim” could be understood as humans. If we examine the arguments that have been cited in favor of the latter interpretation, we need to accept that these angels, who fell from grace before the Flood, were the ones who came into the daughters of men and begat the nephilim. If that explanation is accepted, then hereafter we will address the term “the sons of Elohim” in the manner of the early commentators on the verse, namely as the angels of Elohim.

Again, the narrator of Genesis chose carefully his words, when he said that the sons of Elohim took “women” for themselves as they wished. The word the narrator used for “women” is an irregular plural for a woman: נָשִׁים nashim, instead of the more often form אִשָּׁה ishshah. This irregular form is used in the same wide sense as the masculine enosh, man, to mean each, every, female, adulteress, or harlot.

As a result of this act of defiance, offspring were born to the sons of Elohim, who appear to have been hybrids of humans. Those half-human beings are called “nephilim”.

The nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of Elohim came into the daughters of men, and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, the men of name. (Gen 6:4)

When the Most High became grieved

And the Creator became grieved and decided to wipe off man from the face of the earth for the earth was corrupt before Him and filled with violence through them (Gen 6:11-13). And Elohim said to Noach,

The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth is filled with violence through them. And see, I am going to destroy them from the earth. (Gen 6:13)

But who were “them” through whom the corruption and violence came on the earth?

The nephilim. These half-human and half-angelic beings were called נְּפִלִים nephilim because they fell (from נָפַל naphal to fall, perish), and caused the downfall (הפילו) of the world (Bereishit Rabbah 26:7). Another derivative of נָפַל naphal is נֵפֶל nephel, which means abortion; premature, not viable birth.

As we see from the meaning of the Hebrew word nephilim, everything that has fallen or has become dead is related in some way to the beings the Scripture calls nephilim. Thus, the nephilim, whom the sons of Elohim begat, were crossbreed between humans and angels, and were called such because they caused the downfall and destruction of mankind.

Prior to the appearance of nephilim in Gen 6:4, there is no indication that men were corrupted, and the earth was filled with violence. But just in five verses, the Creator regretted and saw the necessity to obliterate both humans and beasts from the face of the earth. Why?

Elohim hates sexual perversion and moral corruption more than anything else. Everything is under the control of heaven except man’s decision to live in awe of the Creator or to defy Him. Mosheh told the people that YHVH their Elohim asked them to revere Him and guard His commands for their good; Mosheh did not say that YHVH had commanded them, but that He asked them (Deu 10:12).

But the sons of Elohim and daughters of men desecrated the world and as a result were wiped in the waters of the Flood. The human race became not only morally corrupted on the account of morality but also genetically corrupted. Thus, the human body after it had become corrupt was not fit to be a permanent home for the soul: hence, the necessity to preserve the human race came through a total obliteration of the corrupted flesh.

Yet, one man and his family were found righteous and uncorrupted in that generation, and from that man the mankind continued: Noach.

A partial flood as per the tradition

The account in Gen 6:4 is giving us additional information that otherwise is easy to overlook. We are told that the nephilim were on the earth in those day, i.e., before the Flood, “and also afterward”. Afterward what?

According to the medieval Tanak commentator Rashi (Shlomo Yitzchaki, 1040–1105), the sons of Elohim came down on the earth in the days of Enosh and corrupted the humans. These messengers (angels) had fallen from the upper world in disgrace and had in turn caused the humans to fall too into immorality and lawlessness. This they did by coming into the daughters of men and begetting the nephilim (giants).

And according to Mechilta Yithro, Massechta Bachodesh 6; Sifrei Ekev 743, there was another destruction by water, although not so total as the Flood, when the ocean rose up and covered with water a third of the world and destroyed the nephilim.

And although the first nephilim were wiped out in the first flood, when the ocean flooded upon them, the sons of Elohim came again into the daughters of men, and they gave birth to what appears to be a second generation of giants. This is supported by most of the sages.

Therefore, according to the sages, a partial flood had taken place in the generation of Enosh. Although the generation of Noach had seen the destruction in the time of Enosh, they did not humble themselves to learn from them.

In fact, Genesis makes no reference to such a partial flood, nor do the extra-Biblical sources, but to only one universal flood that wiped out all flesh. Therefore, the matter of “partial flood” has no bearing on us to prove our point.

Nephilim after the Flood

According to the sages, there is an alternative interpretation of the phrase “and also afterward” in Gen 6:4. The phrase in question could also mean “also after the Flood”. Per this interpretation, the nephilim still existed even after the Flood, since the Torah testifies that the sons of Anak were of the sons of Elohim,

The land, through which we have passed to spy it out, is a land that eats up its inhabitants, and all the people that we saw in it are men of great stature. And there we saw the nephilim, the sons of Anak, who come of the nephilim. And we were in our own eyes as grasshoppers, and so we were in their eyes. (Num 13:32-33)

The Torah informs us here that the nephilim the spies saw during their tour of the land of Kana’an had been the same people in the time before the Flood. Therefore, the words “and also afterward” could mean that even after the Flood there continued to be such gigantic specimen of half-human beings, descendants of the nephilim.

Therefore, the account by using the phrase “and also afterward” in Genesis speaks of different periods, which commenced with the coming of the sons of Elohim onto the earth and with begetting of the mixed race of the nephilim. These were the giants, who had made a name for themselves due to their extraordinary size and strength.

The nephilim still existed in the time of conquest of the land, because when the Israelites came to the land of Kana’an there were a very few of the former giants still surviving, mostly concentrated around Hevron,

And Kalev drove out from there the three sons of Anak: Sheshai, and Ahiman, and Talmai, the children of Anak. (Jos 15:14)

Big and tall, the nephilim, who lived long after the flood, gained a name due to their unusual size, such as Goliath about whom it is said: “his height was six cubits and a span” (1Sa 17:4); or similarly, “a man of great height”, all about beings of great size: genetical mutants,

And there was a battle in Gath again, where there was a man of great height, who had six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot, twenty-four in number. And he also was descended from the giants. (2Sa 21:20) (see also 1Ch 11:23)

With that said, it is possible that those survivors of the race of the nephilim still practiced the lifestyle of the mutants before the flood.

But how could that be? Did not all flesh but a few die in the universal flood?

The sages continued reasoning that it must be accepted that either the wives of Noach’s sons were of the descendants of the nephilim, or that there was an escape and some nephilim survived the Flood.

The present author’s opinion is that all living beings (except for Noach and his family) died in the Flood, along with the nephilim. But how can then we explain the texts in the post-flood accounts that the nephilim were still in existence?

Considering the nature of those beings, the spirits of the nephilim being the spirits of angels, exist forever; they cannot die. Therefore, it is possible that somehow the spirits of the nephilim had returned to the earth after the Flood to become incarnated in human bodies.

This interpretation of the present author seems to fit better in the textual context and language employed in Genesis than the supposition that Noach’s daughters-in-law had already been genetically corrupted, or there had been an escape from the Flood. But if some want to except these suppositions, then they should explain why the Most High had not have known or allowed it to happen.

Extra-Biblical sources of nephilim

According to the tradition, the nephilim descended from the fallen sons of Elohim Shamhazai (Nidah 61a) and Azazel (Yoma 67b), who fell from heaven in the generation of Enosh long before the Flood.

Chester Beatty XII, Greek manuscript of the Book of Enoch, 4th century

Chester Beatty XII, Greek manuscript of the Book of Enoch, 4th century

This tradition must have come from the first Book of Enoch, Chapter 6:1-8, wherein we find a detail account of the plot of the some of the sons of Elohim to come down onto the earth to corrupt the human race. We read from The Book of Enoch, translated by R. H. Charles, D.LITT., D.D., London, Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1917.

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. (See also Enoch 69:4-6)

The Book of Enoch is quoted by Apostle Yehudah,

And Chanoch, the seventh from Adam, also prophesied of these, saying, “Behold, Yehovah comes with His myriads of set-apart ones, to execute judgment on all, to punish all who are wicked among them concerning all their wicked works which they have committed in a wicked way, and concerning all the harsh words which wicked sinners have spoken against Him. (Jud 1:14-15)

The apostle quoted the Book of 1Enoch Chapter 1 in what appears to be a prophecy concerning the destruction of the wicked in the Flood and the deliverance of the righteous (Noach and his family),

And behold! He cometh with ten thousand of His set-apart ones to execute judgment upon all, and to destroy all the ungodly, and to convict all flesh of all the works of their ungodliness which they have ungodly committed, and of all the hard things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him, (Book of 1Enoch 1:9)

That the sons of Elohim came down from heaven and begat the nephilim was the understanding in the first century Judea, as we read in Antiquities of the Jews. Flavius Josephus too wrote about the sons of Elohim, who cohabited with the daughters of men and corrupted the human flesh begetting the nephilim, the giants,

For many angels of God accompanied with women, and begat sons that proved unjust, and despisers of all that was good, on account of the confidence they had in their own strength; for the tradition is, that these men did what resembled the acts of those whom the Grecians call giants. (Antiquities of the Jews, Book 1, 3:1)

Demons are non-deities

The Song of Mosheh in Deuteronomy 32 embraces the whole of the future history of Israel, and bears all the marks of a prophetic testimony from the mouth of the lawgiver,

They moved Him to jealousy with alien things, with abominations they provoked Him. They sacrificed unto demons, non-deities, deities that they knew not, new deities that came up of late, which your fathers feared not. (Deu 32:16-17)

Forsaking YHVH the Rock of its salvation, Israel would give itself up to worshiping of worthless idols. They would slaughter to demons, which are non-deities; to things that possess no power at all, which they did not even know of as such, nor did their fathers. These non-deities were not even equal to angels but disembodied spirits, which Mosheh called שֵדִים shedim, “demons”.

The word שֵדִים shedim that signifies demons (devils) occurs only twice in the Hebrew Scripture: in Deu 32:17 and Psa 106:37. They are called “non-deities” because these demons possess no power whatsoever, unlike the sons of Elohim, who do possess power and authority given to them by the Most High and for that reason are called elohim.

But why did Mosheh call the shedim “non-deities” that possess no power but to tell the Israelites that these demons are as mortal as is man himself. Shedim are not like מַלְאָכִים mal’achim, “messengers”, who were created by Elohim and are indeed called elohim; nor are they in the rank or status of mal’achim. Shedim were never called elohim until they are fashioned and called such by their worshipers, who thus have raised them up to be elohim.

So, if the demons are not at all like the messengers of Elohim, what are they?

The present author has insufficient knowledge on the matter, and the only thing he can offer to the reader is his opinion. According to this opinion, since the demons are not angels, they are the spirits of those nephilim whose bodies were destroyed in the Flood, but their spirits did not find bodies to occupy and continued wandering on the earth.

These “non-deities” Mosheh also called “new deities that came up of late” thus implying that these demons (disembodied spirits) had been lately risen up again.

Note: Psa 90:1-17 and Psalm 91:1-16 were probably the psalms David sang in order to exorcise demons from King Saul: 1Sa 16:14-23.

Shedim (demons) has the same meaning as the word se’irim (satyrs) in “the satyrs after whom they whored” (see Lev 17:7). Se’irim is a word that comes from “to fear”. They are called se’irim because all who see them are terrified. Therefore, the word se’arum (feared) in the verse “which your fathers feared not” is related to the word se’irim, hence to shedim. We explained the words shedim and se’irim in accordance with what we have written the article The Exodus from Israel’s Whoring in Egypt – Time of Reckoning Ministry.

Why did Mosheh tell Israel that they would think that these demons were deities, when they did not even know they existed (neither did their fathers) but to forewarn them of what they would see in the Land?

Demons in the Apostolic Writings

The demons are also known in the Scripture as “evil spirits” or “unclean spirits”. The Apostolic Writings have a great number of examples to offer. For instance, Yeshua taught us the following parable concerning the demons.

Now when the unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none. Then it says, “I shall return to my house from which I came”. And when it comes, it finds it safe, and ready. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they enter and dwell there. And the latter state of the man is worse than his first. So shall it also be with this wicked generation. (Mat 12:43-45)

What this parable is teaching us is this. If one who has cleaned his soul from sins and idols but has not deal with the matters that have provoked the affliction, then surely the affliction will return and cause the whole soul to be destroyed. In other words, Yeshua taught us that a forgiven man who after he was forgiven allowed the sin to return into him, his latter state is worse than his first.

Yeshua healed many who were sick with various diseases and cast out many demons but did not allow the demons to speak, “because they knew him” (see Mar 1:34).

Or whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the son of Elohim”. But he warned them that they should not make him known to the people that he was the Messiah (Mar 3:11-12).

Why was that precaution necessary? For further knowledge on the matter, the reader may do well to read what we have written in our commentary in Chapter Redemption Plan of YHVH from the Book The Reckoning of Time.

In conclusion, are the sons of Elohim simply humans, or heavenly beings: the messengers of Elohim?

If we suppose that the term “the sons of Elohim” refers to men, as some sages claim, then we have the burden to explain as to how humans could have given birth to the nephilim, the genetical mutants of an extraordinary size and fearful look, who existed before and after the Flood.

But if we suppose that the sons of Elohim were fallen messengers, who came down on the earth and corrupted the human flesh, then all we have said above come to make more sense.

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May we merit seeing the coming of our Mashiach speedily in our days!