THIS IS THE NINTH IN A SERIES ON THE SERAPHIM. In Genesis 6, the conflict between the seed of the nachash/saraph and the seed of the woman resumes. During this period, “the wickedness of man was great” and “the earth was filled with violence”. We observe that “there were giants [nephilim] 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 [not “became”, but “were”] mighty men which were of old, men of renown” (Gen 6:4). The KJV borrows from the Septuagint in translating the Hebrew nephilim as “giants”. There has been much conjecture about them. Here is our take.
Verse 4 states that “the same” were males; hence its antecedent cannot be “children”. The offspring born from these marriages would include females. “The same” must refer back to the sons of God. It follows then that the sons of God were men-mighty men, men of renown. Antediluvian nephilim were a band of seraphic Cainites who preyed on Sethite families. Their appearance and activities awakened the enmity, which had laid dormant since Cain slew Abel.
Since they were men, we can also dismiss the notion that angels (watchers) intermarried with women and sired children, notwithstanding the Book of Enoch, which is a collection of writings dating but a few centuries before Christ into the Christian era. Nor does the bible quote from The Book of Enoch in Jude 15. The two passages don’t match, though similarities point to an ancient source. 2 Peter 2:4 and Jude 6 may suggest that angels intruded upon the antediluvian earth. If so, and were they capable of sex, no life could come of it. Only the adam was a cherub of extension (see the King of Tyre in the Cherubim series.)
Were the Cainites giants? The Septuagint translators borrowed from Greek mythology, when they described nephilim as gigantes (giants). In Hesiod’s Theogony, the gigantes were the offspring of Uranus (sky) and Gaia (earth). During the classical period, they were depicted as mighty Hoplite warriors, human in appearance and size, notorious for waging war against the gods. Later, the Greeks portrayed their gigantes as tall, grotesque savages who wore animal hides, flung boulders at their prey and feasted on human flesh. The Book of Enoch reflects this later influence.
In contrast the Alexandrian Jews, who translated the Pentateuch into Greek in mid 3rd century BC had little, if any exposure to this evolution in Greek mythology and art. They evoke the classical imagery in their rendering Rephaim, and Anakim as gigantes (Gen 14:5 and Deut 1:28 respectively). The Rephaim and Anakim were civilized peoples, occupying areas of Canaan and Transjordan. At the time of Moses they dwelt in great walled cities, such as Hebron, the city-state of the Anakim. The Septuagint translates nephilim as “gigantes” in Nu 13:32,33. In this verse, Israelite spies sent to reconnoiter Canaan report back that “all the people that we saw in it are men of great stature. And there we saw the giants [nephilim], the sons of Anak, which come of the giants [nephilim]: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight”. Since gigantes in the classical mode need not be tall, the spies weren’t stating the obvious.
Were the Anakim, the nephilim of Moses’ time, the offspring of Cainites who had survived the flood? No, but this is what did survive: Antediluvian tales of nephilim, perhaps of angels as well, filled mythologies and popular imaginations with exploits of gods, demigods and heroes. Aspiring tyrants drew flattering parallels. It’s possible that Anak, the ancestor of the Anakim, adopted this conceit, but its also possible that “nephilim” has its own meaning.
It’s etymology is uncertain, but there’s general agreement that it comes from the verb “naphal”, to fall. However, this verb’s singular noun form “naphil” is missing in the Hebrew, and other routes from verb to plural noun are dead ends. The active participle yields nophelim, falling ones. The passive participle is nephulim, fallen ones. Obviously, there’s no precise match, but do we need one? Hebrew names frequently reflect play on words. For example Eve named her son Shet (Seth). It sounds like the verb shat, “appoint” and she ascribed this meaning to his name. Similarly, Nephilim and naphal share the same root. Our verb’s participles sound like nephilim, hence the latter conveys the sense of “falling ones”. Note also the existence of the noun naphil in Aramaic, a language spoken by Jesus and very similar to Hebrew. This lends support to the idea that the noun once existed in the Hebrew. If so, its plural is nephilim, “falling ones”.
The nephilim, those before and after the flood, were raiders, bogeymen of exceptional strengh who fell upon others. In Noah’s time, expanding populations brought Cainites in contact with Sethite settlements. They fell upon the unsuspecting, took the women and whatever else they desired. Cainites were well adapted to this new role, owing to a mostly nomadic culture, the technology to make metal weapons, and, of course, their physical superiority.
Yet, they were lionized for their exploits! Over time hostilities ceased, alliances were formed, and power consolidated. The introduction of Cainite culture improved the everyday lives of their erstwhile victims.
Contact with the Sethites had its corrupting influence. To entice a saraph, Satan must work from the outside in. With flesh and blood man, he has an additional avenue, the enmity implanted in the flesh, which Paul describes in Romans 7 and 8. The Sethites tutored their new allies in all manner of evil. Scripture calls them an ungodly people and in the same verse (2 Peter 2:5), Noah a preacher of righteousness. Yet, Noah’s family was the only one found worthy to enter the ark.
God’s painful decision to end the seraphic line (see The Impostor), was necessitated by the danger posed by the intermarriage of Cainite daughters with Sethite males. Alas, we are not born seraphim, but take solace in this. Our God is a consuming fire and we are his “burning ones” (seraphim). He has not forgotten his purpose for us and the future is glorious.