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Who are the Sons of God, the Daughters of Man, and the Nephilim?

by Doug Becker

Why Blog on This?

One of the things our church is known for is preaching through books of the Bible, chapter by chapter, verse by verse. Sometimes we might only do parts of books, and sometimes we might cover a lot of text in one week, but we are thankful that the Lord has enabled us to pattern our teaching after the way he has laid things out for us in his Word. And so, in those rare instances where we skip something in the text, a few eyebrows usually get raised. This is especially true when a passage that gets short shrift is a juicy one that people have a lot of questions about.

Enter Genesis 6:1–4, the juiciest of the juicy. Pastor Ryan didn’t skip this one. But he didn’t dwell on it either, and he didn’t base any of his main points off of it. He gave his view and moved on, directing anyone interested to the post you’re reading right now (maybe that’s why you’re here!).

Why would I introduce this passage this way? Why not just get on with the main course? Well, sadly, some people are very confident that they know exactly what this passage means, and are vocal about what a scandal it is that we don’t hear this one preached more from the pulpit. Harumph! Instead, the implication is made that yellow-bellied preachers, afraid of weird spiritual stuff, would rather sweep uncomfortable texts like this into the messy closet alongside the saints who rose from the dead after Jesus’ death and the archangel Michael duking it out with the Prince of Persia. Our interpretive gurus will always be there, channeling Jack Nicholson in his prime, reminding us, “You can’t handle the truth!”

But what if the truth is something less comforting than a tidy interpretation with no loose ends? What if there is no line of reasoning that completely clobbers all others, that everyone “who has actually studied” this stuff agrees on, that we simply miss because we aren’t “scholarly enough”? What if the experts are actually all over the place on what this passage means, with the only real “consensus” being that we all need to remain humble because no one can be certain about any of the (at least) ten conundrums found in these four measly verses—a passage that one very well-respected commentator calls “unquestionably … the most demanding passage in Genesis for the interpreter.”1  At the risk of sounding like a broken record, sometimes “I’m not sure” is the truest answer that can be given. And I think that applies here. There is one Master of these words, and he doesn’t get a paycheck from Emergence.

What’s All the Fuss About?

Here it is, in all it’s glory:

When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose. Then the LORD said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.” The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown.

Hang on folks. We’re in for a bumpy ride! I’ll try to make it as smooth as possible, but I’m also pretty sure I’ll fail at that. In the end, I will tell you where I land and why. If you’re into brevity, go ahead and skip to end for a summary. Along the way, I hope to give a fair evaluation of the various views I have encountered over the years, including my own.

Who Are the Sons of God?

There’s no way to take a stab at the meaning of this passage without determining who is being referred to as the “sons of God.” There are essentially three options. The nice part is that once we start to tease these out, other important points of interpretation start to come to light.

The first is that these are spiritual beings. Our typical word for this is “angel,” based on Hebrew and Greek terms that both mean “messenger.” Although God rules over this world and decrees all that comes to pass, he delegates his authority to morally responsible individuals, which includes human beings (e.g., Matthew 28:16–20), but also includes spirits (e.g., 1 Kings 22:20–22) who are able to take the form of human beings (e.g., Genesis 18–19). Because these are all moral agents, endowed with a degree of freedom, some of them are evil, the foremost example of which is Satan, or as Job 1–2 knows him, “the accuser” or perhaps “the adversary.”2

Interestingly, in Job, this particular spiritual being is introduced as belonging to, or at least being associated with, an entourage called “the sons of God” (Job 1:6; 2:1), which is the only other place in the Old Testament that we find the exact Hebrew expression that is used here in Genesis 6 (benê hăʾĕlōhîm). Almost identical expressions occur in Job 38:7 (benê ʾĕlōhîm), a Dead Sea Scroll of Deuteronomy 32:8 (benê ʾêl),3  Psalms 29:1 and 89:6 (benê ʾêlîm), and the Aramaic of Daniel 3:25 (bar ʾĕlāhîn).4  All these can be plausibly understood as spiritual beings or angels, although in almost all of them, other interpretations are offered, such as stars (the heavenly host) or human rulers.

It's clear that in our passage these beings are doing something bad, so the parallel with the “sons of God” in Job is compelling. This does not mean that all the “sons of God” are wicked, but rather than the term refers to spiritual beings, some of whom do evil.

This impressive list of parallels (technically, most are near parallels) gives a strong first impression for understanding the “sons of god” as something akin to fallen angels. Once this is in place, other details of this interpretation come into focus. In contrast to the sons of God, the “daughters of man” would be human women. The sin of the sons of God would be that they transgressed the God-ordained boundaries between the “spiritual” and “natural” realms and took human wives for themselves. Proponents of this view also tend to view the Nephilim of verse 4 as the offspring of this ungodly union.5  The meaning of the passage, then, would be something of a rebuke against notion found elsewhere in the ancient Near East that there were semi-divine heroes who lived in the distant past who supposedly owed their existence to the union of gods and men.6  On this interpretation, the Bible is denigrating such myths, showing instead that such individuals, no matter how physically impressive, were nothing more than the product of debauched unnatural relationships. Notably, Michael Heiser takes this a step further by arguing that this text is included in Genesis to show that the “messianic seed” (cf. Gen 3:15) is the product of no deity but the one true God.7

This interpretation enjoys the status of being the most ancient (minus the insights gleaned from more recent studies of ancient Near Eastern myths), embraced by both early Jewish8  Christian9  sources, although it should be noted that it was abandoned by the mid-second century AD in Jewish sources and gradually through the second to fifth centuries in Christian ones. Often cited is a speculative Jewish work called 1 Enoch (not really written by Enoch), which doesn’t miss the opportunity to spend chapters giving a fanciful elaboration on this enigmatic passage. Enoch refers to the sons of God as “Watchers.”

In addition, many detect a reference to this interpretation of this event in several New Testament passages: 1 Peter 3:19–20; 2 Peter 2:4; and Jude 6–7. Without getting too into the weeds on this (as if we haven’t already), the two Petrine (i.e., Peter) passages cannot be tied to Genesis 6 beyond a reasonable doubt. Jude 6–7, on the other hand, can reasonably be taken as endorsing this interpretation: “The angels who did not stay within their own positions of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the day of judgment … just as Sodom ad Gomorrah … likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire.” It is argued that this sounds like Genesis 6 filtered through the lens of 1 Enoch.10

Lest we wed ourselves too uncritically to the angelic interpretation, we now need to note some serious problems with it. The major hurdle is that it is difficult to see how this fits into the storyline of Genesis 1–11, which is concerned exclusively with the sinfulness of humanity. How does the sin of fallen angels contribute to this? This problem is amplified when we consider that (1) the judgment of 6:3, which clearly belongs to this account, is directed against “man” and (2) this account seems to be the low point against which God decides to send the flood. To put it bluntly, why is mankind being judged (at least in part) for the sins of angels?

Other problems abound. Although angels are capable of taking on corporeal form and passing as human (Genesis 18–19; Matthew 28:1–7 and parallels), Jesus seems to deny that angels “marry nor are given in marriage” (Matthew 22:30 and parallels), which is exactly what the “sons of God” do in this passage. Moreover, the references to “the sons of God” marshaled throughout the Hebrew Scriptures are not quite as convincing as at first blush, given that the only exact matches are all isolated in one book (Job). John Walton observes that this gives “significant pause for concluding that this Old Testament lexical base is sufficient to dictate exclusive meanings. This is the weak link in the armor of the ‘angels’ view.”11

In my judgment, the angelic view is plausible, but no more plausible than the alternatives. Which alternatives, you ask? If I may …

Among Christians, beginning with Julius Africanus (AD 160–240) the view that supplanted the angelic interpretation is that the “sons of God” are descendants from the godly line of Seth, who began to intermarry with the “daughters of man,” understood as women from the ungodly line of Cain. This perspective gained traction in Augustine’s City of God and is well-known for its popularity among the Protestant reformers, namely Luther and Calvin. It has the advantage of being wedded tightly to the context (Genesis 4–5) and not seeming like a detour that is unlike anything that comes before or after it—a disadvantage that burdens the angelic view.

Linguistically, taking the “sons of God” as a designation for a godly line has some plausibility, since the Old Testament does not shy away from identifying the Israelites as children of God (Exodus 4:22; Deuteronomy 14:1; 32:5–6; Psalms 73:15; 80:15; Isaiah 43:6; Hosea 1:10; 11:1).12

But the “Sethite” view also has its problems. Notably, understanding the “daughters” as members of the ungodly line of Cain requires a shift in meaning in the word “man” between verse 1, where it refers to humanity in general, and verse 2, where, under this line of reasoning, it would refer only to those in Cain’s line. We must ask how likely it is that the author of Genesis expected his readers to detect this shift and to understand “sons of God” and “daughters of man” in this way. On the other hand, Kenneth Matthews, who embraces this view, sidesteps this problem by insisting that the daughters of man need not be understood as Cainite women, and contending that the Sethite men became corrupt simply by marrying outside their line, whether with Cainite women or not, which is often forbidden to the Israelites elsewhere in the Old Testament.13

Although I am attracted to this view, especially Matthews’ version of it, I have some hesitancy towards it, since it presupposes that we are to understand Cain’s line as wicked and Seth’s line as godly (and if not the former, at least the latter). Although there is no doubt that the focus on the seventh in each line are contrasted—Lamech in Cain’s line is wicked and Enoch in Seth’s line is righteous—does it follow that this moral evaluation should be extended to all individuals in each line? I’m not so sure.14  And why should “daughters of man”—literally “daughters of ʾādām—be understood as referring to wicked people? After all, “Adam,” for all his faults, is consistently associated with the line of Seth (Genesis 4:25–5:5).

Which leads us to the third view …

The sons of God are human rulers.15  Under this interpretation, which was the direction taken in Judaism after the abandonment of the angelic view,16  the sin is a bit more difficult to identify. Some have suggested polygamy, general promiscuity, or using the “right of the first night” (we’ve all seen Braveheart, or more recently The Office), but none of these is clearly spelled out in the text. In fact, the expression “to take a wife” (v. 2) is commonly used to denote normal marriage. However, the text doesn’t just say that they took wives; it says that they took “any they chose.” This additional phrase seems to connote exploitation.

Like the Sethite view, the human rulers interpretation fits well with the context. Walton, who adopts a form of this view, summarizes the “progression of offenses” in Genesis 1–11 this way: “individuals (Adam and Eve) --> family (Cain) --> society leaders (sons of God) -->  everyone (Flood).17  It is also well-known that the concept of divine sonship is applied to kings in the Old Testament (2 Samuel 7:14; Psalms 2:7; 82:6). Of course, these texts are unique in that they speak of the Davidic rulers, but they do show that the concept is not entirely foreign to the ancient Israelite mindset. The idea, then, would be that the Davidic king is the true “son of God,” whereas those mentioned in Genesis 6:1–4 are only so-called “sons of God.” In other words, they claimed this title for themselves, or perhaps their fans understood them as such.

Many examples can be cited from the ancient world that kings—including those who were believed to have reigned before the great flood—were legitimated by claiming descent from the gods (note: this is different from saying that they were themselves divine). This also makes good sense of verse 4’s closing comment: “These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown.”

It is also worth noting that in the Sumerian King List, which is a chronicle of the rulers of various Sumerian cities stretching back beyond recorded memory, the eight kings who are said to have lived before the flood are ascribed unbelievably long reigns (28,000 years, 36,000 years, 43,200 years, etc.). This shortens after the flood, but stretching into the first dynasties of Kish and Uruk rulers are still given reigns of hundreds of years.18  Is there some connection here with Genesis, where the “antedeluvians” of Genesis 5 have notoriously long lives? And when it comes to Genesis 6, is this the Bible’s way of speaking of these prehistoric so-called “hero-kings,” stripping them of their mythical characteristics, and placing their legacies within the context of the violent and unjust world that God judged with the flood?

Perhaps a good place to pump the breaks on this survey is with the wise summary given by Victor Hamilton: “Suffice it to say, it is impossible to be dogmatic about the identification of the ‘sons of God’ here. The best one can do is to consider the options. While it may not be comforting to the reader, perhaps it is best to say that the evidence is ambiguous and therefore defies clear-cut identifications and solutions.”19

His Days Shall Be 120 Years?

As the judgment for the transgression of verse 2, God declares, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.” There are a variety of different ways to render the word that the English Standard Version translates “abide.” Since a perusal of the many proposals involves suggestions from other ancient languages, and since a firm decision on this does not seem to be required in order to make sense of this verse, I’m going to skip that one. Let’s look instead at the two options for what God means by limiting man’s “days” to 120 years.

The first option is that God is placing a limit on man’s lifespan. Given the extremely long lives of the individuals named in the line of Seth in chapter 5, this makes some sense. On the other hand, there are a good number of examples of people after this point in Genesis living far beyond 120 years. Noah: 950 years. Shem: 600 years. Arpachshad: 438 years. Shelah: 433 years. Eber: 464 years. Peleg: 239 years. Reu: 239 years. Serug: 230 years. Nahor: 148 years. Terah: 205 years. Yes, I did just type that out! Even though there definitely seems to be a gradual chilling out of the super-long lives, this makes it difficult to understand the 120 years of Genesis 6:3 as a shortening of the human lifespan.

The second option, therefore, is more plausible: There will be 120 years before the flood. Given that the sons of God incident is not anchored to any other chronological point in the text, this interpretation is the winner, in my opinion.

Ahhh, the Nephilim

Verse 4 adds to this already challenging passage, “The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterwards, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them.” This raises two questions: Who were the Nephilim? And how did they survive the flood?

As was mentioned earlier, commentators who take the sons of God to be spiritual beings who had relations with human women tend to infer that the Nephilim are the offspring of this ungodly union.20  But this is nowhere actually stated in verse 4. In fact, this appears to be a rather tortured way to understand the wording. We have seen plenty of descendants thus far in Genesis, but nowhere do we have such a bizarre way of putting it. To illustrate, think about how odd it would be if chapter 5 read, “Seth was on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when Adam went in to Eve and she bore children to him.” It seems much more natural to take this reference to the Nephilim as an additional fact being added to this brief story that in some way furthers the dire situation already described.

The only other place in the Old Testament where we encounter the Nephilim is Numbers 13:33. This is the account of the twelve Israelites who were sent into the land of Canaan by Moses to spy out the land. When they returned, they gave an account that greatly discouraged their fellow Israelites, with the only dissenting voices being Joshua and Caleb. The verse in question is part of this negative report: “The land, through which we have gone to spy it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people that we saw in it are of great height. And we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak, who come from the Nephilim), and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them” (vv. 32–33). It should be noted that the Bible often describes the Anakim (the “sons of Anak”) as being exceedingly tall (Deuteronomy 2:10, 21; 9:2).21  Some have speculated that this may have accounted for Goliath’s massive size, given that Joshua 11:22 records some Anakim that remained in his home city of Gath.22

There is no doubt that the obscure Nephilim, Anakim, and Rephaim are linked in the Bible and are all described as physically imposing. To these, we might add the Zuzim of Genesis 14:5, and the Emim, an apparently Moabite designation for the Rephaim (Deuteronomy 2:10–11). But the exact nature of the link is never spelled out. Is it biological descent (as is often assumed, but never proven), or is it perhaps some other common characteristic, such as their skill, size, or even just their “violent reputation”?23

What is clear is that all the elements for fanciful speculation are here: They are always mentioned in passing references, some of which contain eye-catching details that are never clearly explained. In both ancient and modern times, this has attracted interpreters who have exploited the lack of evidence as fertile ground for theories that are nowhere stated clearly in the text of Scripture. In my judgment, theological theories that depend solely on ambiguous passages for their support should be elevated only to the status of possible (at best), and those who advance them have a responsibility to make this clear. Perhaps this is a healthy word of caution for everyone who treads the ground of Genesis 6:1–4.

This description of Numbers 13:33 undoubtedly lies behind the common conception that the Nephilim are giants, which is reflected as early as the Greek translation of the term in both Genesis 6 and Numbers 13: gigantes.24  Two observations are in order.

First, although some descriptions of these allusive groups describe them as large, there are no direct descriptions of how large they were. Even today, particular ethnic groups have physical stature that differ on average from others (ever heard of the Icelandic strongmen, or of Ryan Franey?). The only thing approaching specifics is the enormous size of Goliath (1 Samuel 17:4), but nowhere is he directly associated with any of these groups, aside from the note that hundreds of years earlier there were Anakim left in Gath (Joshua 11:22). The other is the dimensions of the bed belonging to Og king of Bashan (nine cubits by four cubits = approximately 13.5’ x 6’), who is said to be “of the remnant of the Rephaim” (Deuteronomy 3:11). No doubt, he was a big dude. But it seems unwise to infer the size of the person based on the size of their bed. After all, should we assume that a single woman sleeping by herself on a queen size bed is six feet wide? (No judgment here.) The point is that even if we grant “giant” as an appropriate descriptor for these biblical groups, that doesn’t tell us much, especially given our lack of data for the average height of an ancient Israelite, the obvious point of reference.

Second—I mentioned this in passing earlier but it bears repeating—it is not at all clear that the members within these groups, or the groups themselves, are to be classified by biological descent. The notion that there is some kind of supernatural ungodly lineage passed on among these groups is a theory lacking direct evidence, based on what the Bible does not say rather than what it does.25  In fact, if the term “Nephilim” is a descriptor of physical, moral, or some other characteristic not involving biological descent, this would solve the problem of why they are the only group mentioned in Scripture other than Noah’s family to survive the flood (again, Numbers 13:33). The answer would be that they didn’t survive it (indeed, we are told that “all flesh” was wiped out), but that other individuals who were also Nephilim lived in Canaan in Joshua’s day.


Looking back on all this, hopefully it will be evident why Genesis 6:1–4 is sometimes skipped or skimmed over by preachers. It isn’t always that they have weak theology or are somehow too chicken to feed their flocks with difficult texts. After all, the flood is what comes next! The issue is that this passage is a nest of interpretive conundrums that impact the meaning in wildly divergent directions. Add to this a vocal community of Bible teachers who are very certain about things on which certainty alludes us, and there’s no wonder why a preacher would say a few sentences and then point those with further interest to books, blogs, podcasts, or videos.

No one can say that they know for certain what this text means. If they claim otherwise, they are simply kidding themselves. With this in mind, I cautiously offer the following as a summary of my views:

The passage as a whole is a critique of the well-attested ancient Near Eastern belief in kings from the prehistoric, often mythic, past who derived their legitimacy by claiming descent from the gods. Rather than reminiscent of a golden age, the Bible exhibits them as representative of the moral decline of humanity. Their legacy is that they forced women—“any they chose”—to be their wives, probably accumulating impressive harems along the way. (Are there echoes of this in the stories of Pharaoh and Abimelek’s interactions with Abraham and Isaac?) To them were born even more kings after the likeness of their fathers, whom humanity foolishly regards as “mighty men of old, the men of renown.” Their time was also characterized by the presence of savage men of war (the Nephilim), who were of the same kind that intimidated the Israelites into not trusting the Lord to give them the land of Canaan.

What’s your interpretation?

Kenneth A. Matthews, Genesis 1–11:26 (NAC 1A; NAC; Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1996), 320.

That is the meaning of his name. In Hebrew, it is haśśāṭān: ha = “the,” śāṭān = “accuser.” In the Old Testament, this being also appears in 1 Chronicles 21:1 and Zechariah 3:1–2.

The fragment is known as 4QDeutq. The Masoretic text of this verse has “sons of Israel” (benê yiśrāʾēl). But the Septuagint provides strong support for the DSS reading, rendering the expression with “angels of God” (Gk. angelōn theoū).

Christian interpreters commonly see in this “one like a son of the gods” a reference to the preincarnate Christ.

See Michael S. Heiser, The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2015), 92–109; Nahum M. Sarna, Genesis (JPSTC; Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1989), 45–46; Gordon J. Wenham, Genesis 1–15 (WBC 1; Waco: Word, 1987), 142–43, although he seems less than enthusiastic about this connection, simply punting to it as the supposed view of “most modern commentators.”

The famous mythical hero Gilgamesh would be an example, as would the mythical apkallus who were said to have lived before the flood.

Heiser, 109.

Jubilees 5:1; Philo, On the Giants II.6; Genesis Apocryphon (1 QapGen 2:1; CD  2:17–19).

Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, and Origen.

For a competent defense of this reading, see Peter H. Davids, The Letters of 2 Peter and Jude (PNTC; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006), 48–51; also Gene L. Green, Jude & 2 Peter (BECNT; Grand Rapids: Baker, 2008), 66–70.

John H. Walton, Genesis (NIVAC; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001), 292.

Matthews, 330.

Matthews, 331–32. Another interesting innovation on this view is Lyle Eslinger’s, who sees the sons of God as Cainite men and the daughters of man as Sethite women. However, this requires him to say that the title, “sons of God,” referring to ungodly Cainites, is used ironically, and so has failed to convince most interpreters. Lyle M. Eslinger, “A Contextual Identification of the bene haʾelohim and benoth haʾadam in Gen 6:1–4,” JSOT 13 (1979): 65–73.

So Walton, 292–93.

Meredith G. Kline, “Divine Kingship and Sons of God in Genesis 6:1–4,” WTJ 24 (1962): 187–204; David J. A. Clines, “The Significance of the ‘Sons of God’ Episode (Gen 6:1–4) in the Context of the ‘Primeval History’ (Gen 1–11),” JSOT 13 (1979): 33–46.

Targum Onkelos, Targum Pseudo-Jonathan, Targum Neofiti, and Symmachus.

Walton, 293.

J. J. Finkelstein, “The Antediluvian Kings: A University of California Tablet,” JCS 17 (1963): 46. The earlier suggestion that the Sumerian List(s) give ten generations before the flood as a parallel to Genesis 5 is now rejected. See Robert R. Wilson, “The Old Testament Genealogies in Recent Research,” in I Studied Inscriptions from Before the Flood: Ancient Near Eastern, Literary, and Linguistic Approaches to Genesis 1–11 (ed. Richard S. Hess and David Toshio Tsumura; SBTS 4; Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2004), 209–210.

Victor P. Hamilton, The Book of Genesis Chapters 1–17 (NICOT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990), 265.

Although it is possible to hold the angelic view while denying this conclusion about the Nephilim.

In addition, Og king of Bashan, “of the remnant of the Rephaim,” is said to have slept on a nine-cubit bed (Deut 3:11). Deuteronomy 2:11 tells us that the Anakim “are counted as Rephaim.”

Heiser, 228–29.

Suggested by Matthews, 337.

An intriguing, yet flawed, line of evidence for taking the Nephilim to mean “giants” is given by Michael Heiser in his wildly popular book, Unseen Realm (106–107). Heiser goes beyond saying that the Nephilim are giants and argues that the term actually means “giants.” He does this by correctly noting a subtle difference in the spelling of the term in Genesis 6:4 and in one of the two times the word is written in Numbers 13:33 (note that the word occurs twice in this verse, but see note 24 below). To simplify, I will give the consonants. Once in Genesis and once in Numbers it is written nplym. However, the first occurrence of the word in Numbers 13:33 is written npylym—notice the extra y between the p and the l (the Hebrew letter yôd). He then points out that, while this spelling (supposedly) makes no sense in Hebrew, “the Jewish scribes,” in order to choose “a good word to villainize the giant offspring … adopted an Aramaic noun: naphiyla—which [surprise!] means ‘giant.’”

Has Heiser solved the riddle? In my opinion, no. Aramaic is a language with a long history, and the Hebrews would have been introduced to it during the phase called Imperial Aramaic, via the Babylonians. The term to which Heiser refers has no occurrences before the Qumran community used it in the Dead Sea Scrolls, where it almost certainly came to mean this because ofo the angelic interpretation of Genesis 6, which, we have already noted, is the most ancient understanding of this passage among the Jewish people. The Dead Sea Scrolls were produced hundreds of years after the writing of Genesis and Deuteronomy.

Further, Heiser, in my opinion, fails to appreciate the fact that Hebrew has other words that are formed in the same way that we see in the variant spelling npylym in Numbers 13:22, so there is no real need to appeal to Aramaic. An example of this is the plural of the substantival adjective meaning “small” or “young”: ṣʿyrym (notice the first y; the vocalized form is ṣeʿîrîm, and is found in Job 30:1). This nominal pattern is given in Joshua Blau, Phonology and Morphology of Biblical Hebrew (LSAWS 2; Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2010) §

A literal translation of Joshua 13:33 is, “And there we saw the Nephilim, sons of Anak from the Nephilim.” This is strange wording and atypical for describing biological descent. Even more problematic, the Greek translation of the Old Testament (the Septuagint) does not contain the parenthetical remark, “sons of Anak from the Nephilim,” which is often a sign of a later Hebrew scribal addition, also known as a gloss.




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