A race of giants spawned by the cohabitation of Angels (see Watchers) and human women. Nephilim means “fallen,” “those who have fallen,” or “those who were cast down.” The Nephilim sometimes are called the SONS OF GOD, as are their angel parents. Helel is their chief. The Nephilim displeased God. Genesis 6:4 implies that the Nephilim were already present upon the earth when the Sons of God began their relations with mortal women: “The Nephilim were upon the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of god came into the daughters of men, and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men that were of old, the men of renown.” The corruption brought by the mingling of angels and humans caused God to regret that he had created human beings on Earth. He decided to blot out not only the human race but every living thing on Earth. He selected Noah and his family to survive this disaster, the great flood, and repopulate the world. Evidently not all the Nephilim perished, however, for a later reference in Numbers refers to the Anakim, the sons of the Nephilim: “And there 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” (13:33). The Anakim were later destroyed. 1 Enoch presents a more descriptive picture of the Nephilim as monstrous beings:
And the women became pregnant and gave birth to great giants whose heights were 300 cubits. These (giants) consumed the produce of all the people until the people detested feeding them. So the giants turned against the (people) in order to eat them. And they began to sin against birds, wild beasts, reptiles and fish. And their flesh was devoured the one by the other, and they drank blood. And then the earth brought an accusation against the oppressors. (7:3–7)
Meanwhile, the Watchers spread more corruption by teaching people secret and magical arts they are not supposed to know. From the heavens above, the angels Michael, Gabriel, and Surafal observe in horror the bloodshed and oppression upon the earth. They hear the prayers of the people begging for help. They petition God to intervene, saying that the giants have filled Earth with blood and oppression. God declares that he will punish these transgressions with complete destruction in the flood. He tells Gabriel:
Proceed against the bastards and the reprobates and the children of adultery; and destroy the children of adultery and expel the children of the Watchers from among the people and send them against one another (so that) they may be destroyed in the fight, for length of days have they not. They will beg you everything—for their fathers on behalf of themselves because they hope to live an eternal life. (They hope) that each one of them will live a period of 500 years. (10:9–11)
The Nephilim also are the subject of a Qumran text referred to as the Enochic Book of Giants (4Q532). The text tells that two Nephilim sons of SEMYAZA (leader of the Watchers), named Ahya and Ohya, have a shared dream vision in which they visit a world garden and see 200 trees being cut down by angels. They do not understand the dream and so they take it to the Nephilim council. The council appoints one of their members, Mahawai, to consult Enoch in paradise and ask him what it means. Mahawai rises up into the air like the whirlwinds and flies with the help of his hands like an eagle until he reaches Enoch. Enoch says that the 200 trees symbolize the 200 Watchers who are going to be destroyed in the coming flood. Later in the text, Mahawai transforms into a bird again to make another journey. He flies too close to the Sun and is threatened with incineration. He is saved by Enoch, whose voice descends from heaven to tell him to turn back and not die prematurely.
– The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha. Vols. 1 & 2. Edited by James H. Charlesworth. 1983. Reprint, New York: Doubleday, 1985.
– Collins, Andrew. From the Ashes of Angels: The Forbidden Legacy of a Fallen Race. London: Signet Books, 1996.
– Eisenman, Robert, and Michael Wise. The Dead Sea Scrolls Uncovered. London: Element Books, 1992.