Nephilim (נפַילַים) occurs only in the plural form, and in the two passages (Ge 6:4; Nu 13:33) where it is rendered in the English version "giants." This meaning is given by all the old versions (Sept. γίγαντες; Aquila, ἐπιπίπτοντες; Symm. βιαῖοι; Vulg. gigantes; Onk. גָּברִיָּא; Luther, tyrannen), and is demanded by the latter passage. "The word is derived either from פָּלָה br פָּלָא (=-'marvelous'), or, as is generally believed, from נָפִל, either in the sense to throw down, or to fall (= fallen angels [Jarchi]; comp. Isa 14:12; Lu 10:18), or meaning ἣρωες, irruentes (Gesen.), or collapsi (by euphemism, Bottcher, De Inferis, page 92); but certainly not because men fell from terror of them (as R. Kimnchi). That the word means giant is clear from Nu 13:32-33, and is confirmed by נַפלָא, the Chaldee name for 'the aery giant' Orion (Job 9:9; Job 38:31; Isa 13:10; Targ.) unless this name arise from the obliquity of the constellation (Genesis of Earth, page 35). We now come to the remarkable conjectures about the origin of these Nephilim in Ge 6:1-4. (An immense amount has been written on this passage. See Kurz, Die Ehen der Sohne Gottes, etc. [Berlin, 1857]; Ewald. Jahrb. 1854, page 126; Govett's Isaiah Unfufi1lled; Faber's Many Mansions [J. of Sac. Lit. October 1858], etc.) We are told that 'there were Nephilim in the earth,' and that afterwards (Sept. καὶ μέτ᾿ ἐκεῖνο) the 'sons of God' mingling with the beautiful 'daughters of men' produced a race of violent and insolent Gibborim (גַּבֹּרַים). This latter word is also rendered by the Sept. γίγαντες, but its meaning is more general. It is clear, however, that no statement is made that the Nephilim themselves sprang from this unhallowed union. Who, then, were they? Taking the usual derivation (נָפִל), and explaining it to mean 'fallen spirits,' the Nephilim seem to be identical with the 'sons of God;' but the verse before us militates against this notion' as much as against that which makes the Nephilim the same as the Gibborim, viz. the offspring of wicked marriages. This latter supposition can only be accepted if we admit either (I) that there were two kinds of Nephilim — those who existed before the unequal intercourse, and those produced by it (Heidegger, Hist. Patt. 11), or (2) by following the Vulgate rendering, postquam enim ingressi sunt, etc. But the common rendering seems to be correct, for is there much probability in Aben-Ezra's explanation that אִחֲרֵיאּכֵן ('after that') means אחר המבול (i.e., 'after the deluge'), and is an allusion to the Anakims." We may remark, however, that the Hebrew word Nephilimi may rather be taken in an active sense =those who fell upon others, i.e., the violent tyrants of those days (Aquila, ἐπιπίπτοντες); and this agrees with the evident lawlessness of the times. SEE ANTEDILUVIANS.

See also the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.

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