THE early history of our race possesses a strange fascination for all of Adam’s descendents. Most nations have a mythology, consisting chiefly of heroes of immense stature who perform great exploits. This is especially true of the Greek myths, and probably accounts for the fact that the translators of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek, in the third century before Christ, introduced gigantes, or giants, into the story (Gen.6:4(5)). In a single verse they translate two different words giants, when neither of them has that signification. The Authorized Version has followed them in one case. The Revised version changes this to “Nephilim.” These are the most interesting characters in the drama of primitive humanity.

The eighth volume of UNSEARCHABLE RICHES contained a series on this subject, which was never completed. Many have written, asking that the theme be resumed, and the difficulties, which it created. be dissolved. As we had in mind a thorough investigation of the Hebrew text, it was deemed best to wait until this was finished. As a result, almost all of the earlier studies have been confirmed, but the later installments, dealing specifically with the Nephilim and the Rephaim have been found untenable.


Some of the difficulties, which were submitted for solution, were as follows: As the Nephilim were not exterminated by the deluge how can Genesis 7:21-23 be true? There we are told that all flesh that moved on the earth died, all in whose nostrils was the breath of life died, and everything that rises was wiped out. The only exception was Noah and those with him in the ark. As the “Nephilim” certainly were flesh, and moved on the earth and had breath, it is impossible that they should have survived the deluge. Besides, they were supposed to be incurably wicked, and the flood was sent for the very purpose of removing the evil from the earth. A careful review of the argument in favor of the preservation of the Nephilim through the deluge showed that it was based on inferences, not on direct statements. In such a case there is no choice. We must believe God, and revise our deductions to conform to His declarations. We cannot change His word.

Another very grave objection arises in connection with the present day attack upon Genesis by evolutionists. They claim that there is no impassable gulf between species, but that all creatures evolved from the same aboriginal form. Genesis definitely states that God created distinct species. And so it is today. While there is vast variety within species, no new species have arisen, and it is impossible to breed one that will propagate itself, even from closely allied species. It is therefore utterly contrary to God’s arrangements to have mankind mix with creatures that are not human. Humanity springs from Adam. The very word in Hebrew is adam. A very explicit statement, with an explanation, is needed if a new species of beings sprang from a mixture of men and messengers. If not a miracle, it would be contrary to the first of Genesis.

During the last three generations there has been a determined effort on the part of pseudo-scientists to destroy the teaching of God’s word that the propagation of living forms on the earth is always “for its species.” No actual examples have ever been found of any intermediate species, either as fossils or alive. After a generation or so, hybrids cannot reproduce. This is true of animals, which resemble each other very closely. We should certainly be most thankful to God that He has made this provision. Otherwise the earth would be infested with the most grotesque, the most hideous, the most terrible creatures that it is possible to imagine.


It is of the utmost consequence that we should stand firm on these great laws of the Creator, and not interpret any of God’s Word contrary to His own decrees. If it is possible to originate a new species by combining the genus Homo with celestial visitants, who differ from him much more than the animals differ from one another, then the myth of evolution may have a basis of truth.

As very few of our readers have access to the eighth volume of the magazine, we will briefly summarize and revise what was then given, so that the present exposition will be complete in itself, and may be understood with or without the previous presentation.

Any teaching concerning the Nephilim is closely bound up with the interpretation of the first few verses of the sixth chapter of Genesis. A careful examination of the facts of the original must precede a true interpretation. Moreover, there must be a close cleaving to the context. This is not an isolated monograph, but has its proper place in that primitive revelation.


A correct commentary on the sixth chapter of Genesis will be in accord with its context. The first eight verses belong to the same subject as the fifth chapter, which deals with The Posterity of Adam. It is carried on until Noah, with whom a fresh beginning is made, seeing that all except his family are destroyed in the deluge. The first section of “The Book of the Generations of Adam” (Gen.5 and 6:1-8) deals with Adam’s sons, the second with his daughters. One gives the succession genealogically and chronologically, through the male line. The other deals with his female offspring and their progeny. This is the key to the passage (Gen.6:1-8). It concerns the daughters of Adam. Much space was given to Adam’s sons, Cain and Abel and Seth. Now a few words are said concerning his daughters. This is concealed in our versions by translating the singular, “the man,” by the plural men. At times this is justified by English idiom, but here we are still dealing with Adam, the head of the race.

Attempts have been made to confine this passage to Adam, the man, on the ground that the Hebrew has the article. It is true that, in every passage preceding this, “the man” refers to Adam personally. Hence there is nothing out of the way in referring it to him here. But this conclusion cannot be based on the presence of the article, for all of the occurrences without the article (Gen.1:26; 4:25; 5:1,1,2,3,4,5) also speak of Adam. Moreover, the next occurrence with the article (7:21, “and every the man”) cannot refer to Adam. We will do well to avoid all inferences along this line. They cannot be conclusive. The article does not decide the individual to whom the word refers.

The key to the subject of the Nephilim lies in the meaning of the name. For many years I could not see that any other derivation was possible except nphl, FALL. But, since I have analyzed all of the Hebrew word families, and recognize more and more the passive force of the letter n, I have come to admit the possibility of deriving it from phl, passive of DISTINGUISH. This has proven so satisfactory that no doubt lingers in my mind that this is the true signification of nephilim, DISTINGUISHED. The passive is inherent in the English word, so need not be expressed.


In Hebrew roots containing servile letters, which are used in the variations of grammar as well as the formation of roots, some of the forms may be spelled the same as words derived from a shorter root. So here nphl may be the passive form of phl. The matter must be tested by the resultant translation. In Genesis 6:4 the root DISTINGUISH is far preferable to FALL.

It is necessary to fix the correct derivation of nphlim. It is now spelled with an extra i in Hebrew texts, nphilim, but Kennecott’s collation shows that most of the old Hebrew manuscripts, especially the Samaritan, leave out the i. In Genesis 6:4 only about a dozen out of nearly four hundred manuscripts have the extra i. In Numbers 13:33 Kennecott inserts the i in the first case, though the Samaritan omits it. Fifteen manuscripts also omit it. In the second case he leaves it out, and notes about twenty-six manuscripts which have it. This seems sufficient evidence to show that nphlim is the plural participle, is either from nphl, FALL, or a passive form of phle, DISTINGUISH.

Perhaps no better way to prove that, phle means DISTINGUISHED can be followed than to give the Authorized Version renderings. This will, at the same time, expose the bewildering variety of that version, and the need of a concordant translation. Note that the underlying thought common to every occurrence is DISTINGUISH. Anyone who is separated, wonderfully made, severed, set apart, on whom the Lord put a difference, is necessarily DISTINGUISHED. This term fits into each context. This is further confirmed by the other forms, which use these two letters in their root. Thus phla means MARVELOUS, phll is MEDIATE, and nphl, FALL. That which is marvelous must be distinguished, and a mediator is distinguished from both sides.

Following are the references of phle:

phle, DISTINGUISH, as in Authorized Version

Ex. 8:22 and I will sever in that day

9:4 and the Lord shall sever between

11:7 the Lord doth put a difference between

33:16 so shall we be separated, I and thy

Ps. 4:3 and the Lord hath set apart him

139:14 I am fearfully and wonderfully made


In no case does distinguish imply physical size. The Israelites were not distinguished from the Egyptians by their stature, but by the judgments of God and the death of the firstborn. (Ex.11:7) The same applies to the land of Goshen. It was not severed, but distinguished (Ex.8:22), as were the cattle of the Israelites (Ex.9:4). In Psalm 4:3 Jehovah distinguishes the kindly for Himself. The nphlim, to use the preferred form, were those who were distinguished above their fellows. As stated later on, they were “mortals with a name. (Gen.6:4)

There was a saying in the days of Moses, which was known even among the tribes of Israel. Men asked, “Who can stand before the sons of Anak?” (Deut.9:2) These dwelt in Hebron, which was first known by the name of Anak’s father, Arba. When the land was allotted, Hebron was given to Caleb. Thirty-eight years before, he and Joshua alone, of the twelve spies, had faith to enter the land. Hence Caleb was sent to drive out the sons of Anak, Sheshai, and Ahiman, and Talmai, for they were distinguished above all men for their valor in battle. On this account they and their forebears were called “nephilim.”

Because these men were mighty in battle, it was inferred that they were giants. But this is in the context, not in the word. Those in the sixth of Genesis may not have been distinguished in the same way, or for the same reason, as the sons of Anak.

The fatal objection to making the Nephilim, the FALLEN, lies in the fact that it is applied to the sons of Anak, who, at that time, were by no means fallen. (Num.13:33) The spies saw the nephilim, the sons of Anak, and were fearfully afraid of them because they could not visualize them as fallen at all! But this would not be sufficient ground to settle the significance. That which does definitely decide the point is the fact that these men were distinguished above all others of that day for their prowess in war. Even Israel had heard the saying, “Who can stand by before the sons of Anak?” (Deut.9:2) This proverb satisfactorily settles the sense of the name nephilim.


In the sixth of Genesis, the only other occurrence of the word, there is not sufficient in the context to determine its meaning, especially as the whole passage is somewhat unsettled. So the wise way is to go to its other occurrences and bring back to the first the evidence there found. Some may infer that, since the Anakim were giants, and were distinguished for their valor, the translation giants is warranted. But this is true only in a figurative sense. The usage of the verb does not, by any means limit the distinction to physical stature. In fact, it never refers to that. Sever, put a difference, be separated, set apart, and wonderfully made, never suggest giants. It is a mistake often made by students and lexicographers, but it is not logical to reason from the particular to the general. Men may be distinguished in many ways.

We are now ready to consider the context, so we present a concordant rendering of Genesis 6:1-4:

1 “And coming is it that humanity starts to be multitudinous on the surface of the ground, and daughters are born to them.

2 And seeing are sons of the Elohim the daughters of the human, that they are good, and taking are they for themselves wives of all whom they choose.

3 And saying is Yahweh Elohim, “Not abide shall My spirit in the human for the eon, in that moreover, he is flesh. And come shall his days to be a hundred and twenty years.”

4 Now the distinguished come to be in the earth in those days, and, moreover, afterward, coming are those who are sons of the Elohim to the daughters of the human, and they bear for them. They are the masters, who are from the eon, mortals with the name.


Every passage of Scripture should be interpreted in accord with the book in which it is found, and the special division of the book in which it occurs. Thus, “Genesis” deals with beginnings. After the introduction (1:1-2:4) there are eleven “generations,” or posterities. The first is “The Generations of the Heavens and the Earth” (Gen.2:4). The second is “The Book of the Generations of Adam” (Gen.5:1). The third is “The Generations of Noah” (Gen.6:9). All, from the first verse of the fifth chapter to the ninth verse of the sixth chapter, deals with Adam’s posterity. The fifth chapter treats of the male line, with the slight statement that he is begetting sons and daughters (Gen.5:4). The first four verses of the sixth chapter are concerned with Adam’s daughters and his posterity through them.

There is not much sense to the reading of our Authorized Version because the translators tore it out of its context by their renderings. If “men began to multiply” there is little point in adding that “daughters were born unto them,” for there is no other way in which they could multiply. But, having treated of Adam’s sons, it is quite in keeping to have a few words regarding his daughters and the men they married. We must remember that, even though Adam had sinned, he was still head of the race. His was the “first family,” and his daughters had a social position and a physical heritage better than any others. Hence they were sought by men of distinction, mortals of renown, the nephilim. In those days sin had not sapped the vitality of the race as in later eras. Men made a name for themselves the fame, which has persisted in myths and legends in all lands. These great men chose Adam’s daughters for their wives.

By the insertion of the word “became” (Gen.6:4) the impression is given that the offspring of Adam’s daughters were the “mighty men which were of old, men of renown.” This probably suggested the idea that their greatness was due to a superhuman parentage, and led to the invention of the celestial origin of their fathers. But there is nothing said of the progeny of Adam’s daughters. It all concerns their husbands. They were distinguished, sons of God, mighty ones who are from the eon, mortals with a name. All of these titles are in apposition. They refer to the same persons. This greatly simplifies an inquiry into their character.

We may be sure that Adam’s daughters were mortal. The men they married were also mortals, involved in the sin of Adam, hence members of the human race. In fact, they are the first ones who are called anushim, mortals, though later on, the term seems to be applied, in the plural, merely to men, as such, without reference to their dying state. But this need not be debated, for no one doubts that they are dead.

One of the striking confirmations of the first of Genesis is contained in the creation of great monsters (Gen.1:21), such as no longer live on the earth today, but whose skeletons have been found preserved in the ground. So the sixth chapter provides a notable point of contact with the surviving myths of antiquity, which are filled with the shadowy forms of mighty men whose exploits kept their names alive for many a day, and whose powers have never been equaled in later history. These men lived at the beginning of our race, and by virtue of their superiority, they chose for themselves mates from the first family on earth. They wedded the daughters of Adam.


None of the names given to these nephilim suggest that they were spirit beings except the phrase “Sons of God.” That this is far from conclusive is evident from the fact that Adam is called a son of God (Luke 3:38) and he certainly was not a spirit being. Sonship is used quite as freely of mankind as of messengers. Now all believers are sons of God in measure as they conduct themselves like God. The special title used of the nephilim, is Elohim, Disposer, Arbiter. It suggests that these mighty men acted as arbiters among their fellows and disposed of their inferiors as if they were in the place of deity. This accords with their mastery and the fame accorded them by their fellows.

The name of God (Elohim) has a usage in Hebrew, which hardly finds a parallel in English. Nineveh, we read, was a city “great to God.” Even in Greek we find this idiom, for Moses was “handsome to God” (Acts 7:20). The mountain of Bashan is called a “mountain of God.” In Psalm 65:9, we read of a [peleg or rill] “rillet of God.” The phrase “man of God” is used of a celestial messenger by Manoah’s wife (Judges 13:3,6). It is also applied to a prophet who spoke to Eli concerning Samuel. (1 Sam.2:27) Moses and David are each called a “man of God” (Deut.33:1; 2 Chron.8:14).

Israel was called God’s son in Hosea’s prophecy. (11:1, 9) Moses was told to say to Pharaoh, “Israel is My son, My firstborn.” To them Moses said, “You are the sons of Jehovah, your God. (Deut.14:1) Anyone who exercises the prerogatives of deity may be called a son of God. In the earliest days of the race, before human government had been instituted after the deluge, those who were distinguished above their fellows, who possessed a special measure of might, and whose fame gave power to their name, would naturally lord it over their inferiors and arrogate to themselves the prerogatives which belong to God. He is the absolute Arbiter. In their way they were like Him, hence His sons.

There is no choice between human and superhuman beings in the sixth chapter of Genesis. The great law has been laid down that all life must be propagated within the limits of its species. Each kind of creature needed a special creation “for its species.” Some of these species are so nearly akin that they can mingle and produce a temporary hybrid. But no new species has ever been evolved. There is not a single species in the world today or in fossil form, which was derived from any other species. God has put insurmountable barriers between them.

The difference between a bird and a beast is not nearly so great as that between creatures celestial and terrestrial. Flyers and fishes are closer akin than the denizens of the heavens and the earth. The four kinds of flesh on the earth, men, beasts, flyers, and fishes are related in many ways, and in close contact, yet they do not mingle. How much less likely that creatures from another sphere should mix with humanity!

Such an occurrence would not be passed over casually, as in the sixth chapter of Genesis. It would call, not only for comment, but for condemnation and judgment. In the following verses, which speak of human depravity, no mention is made of this as a transgression. Indeed, there is no indication of evil connected with these nephilim, more than with the rest of mankind. Adam is singled out, but they are not denounced.


The question has been asked, “What was there to hinder Cain from marrying one of the Nephilim women?” To begin with, we never read of Nephilim women. The sons of Anak and the sons of Elohim were not women. Even if there was a “pre-Adamite race” (of which there is not a single definite trace), they would not be human, or bisexual. Some of the standard works on earth’s earliest ages are compounded largely of inferences and a lawless imagination. The term nephilim has been made a mere peg on which to hang mysterious suppositions. It gives no hint of a pre-Adamite race.

Let us firmly grasp this fact: There are no human beings apart from Adam. Adam means “human.” The term is never literally applied to creatures above or below him. The race of mankind had its beginning in Adam. The animals below him are very much like him, but no race has ever come from the union of the two. That is impossible. Neither has any race come from combining human and celestial creatures. The chasm between these two is necessarily far greater.


Even if we admit a pre-Adamite race, they could not be human. All of the teaching of God’s Word concerning Adam would be discredited. Then God did not make every nation out of one. (Acts 17:26) All are not dying in Adam. Eve was not the mother of all living. The injection of a different strain into the race is destructive of every argument concerning its sin and its redemption. All this havoc is wrought without the slightest trace of actual evidence, either in nature or revelation.

There are a few loose translations in the Authorized Version which seem to give license to such speculations. One is the word “replenish.” (Gen.1:28) It is the common Hebrew term for fill, as in 6:13, “the earth is filled with violence.” It never implies that the filling is a refilling of that which had been full before. It is seldom translated replenish, which is just another example of the pernicious rule of our translators which made them use a variety of terms in order not to slight any deserving English word. Adam is not exhorted to replace another race on the earth, but to fill it with his own.


In seeking added light upon this theme, and to obtain confirmation for the conclusion that the sons of God were spirit beings, it is usual to appeal to several passages in Peter’s epistles and in Jude. We read that our Lord, after He had been made alive, went to the spirits in the jail, and proclaims to those stubborn at one time, when the patience of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being constructed. (1 Peter 3:20) Now the passage in Genesis six has nothing to say concerning the days of Noah. It concerns the days of Adam. Noah was not born until Adam had been dead for many, many years. He probably did not construct the ark until after the birth of Shem, Ham, and Japheth, more than five hundred years later. The passage in first Peter is dated at least seven hundred years too late.

The passage in second Peter is not dated. (2 Peter 2:4) There we read that God spared not sinning messengers, but thrust them into the gloomy caverns of Tartarus, to be kept for chastening judgment. In Genesis there is not the slightest intimation that “the sons of God” were so summarily judged. Indeed, the whole tenor of the passage is quite the contrary. If, as some suppose, these are identical with the imprisoned spirits of Peter’s first epistle, then they certainly have no connection with the nephilim.

Jude, speaking of the messengers who kept not their own sovereignty, but left their habitation, tells us that God has kept them in imperceptible bonds under gloom for the judgment of the great day. (Jude 6) But he does not connect their sin with the antediluvians. Besides this, Enoch, who lived during the latter part of Adam’s life, is quoted by Jude (14), but he says nothing of the judgment of superhuman beings.

We conclude, therefore, that the term nephilim refers to those in the days of Adam who were distinguished above the rest of the race, and who chose the daughters of Adam for their wives. It is also used of the sons of Anak, who were distinguished in their day as the most valorous of mankind. It is not the name of a race, or of a tribe, but a descriptive term applicable to anyone whose name or fame sets him above his fellows.

A. E. K.


THE NEPHILIM [Adolph E. Knoch]          1


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