Nephilim: Lesson 1

Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Lesson 1
Today we are going to explore the “sons of G-d” and the Nephilim. We read of their mysterious identity in Genesis 6:1-4. Unfortunately, this scripture is often severely misunderstood by many modern theologians to mean the Godly line of Seth. Other “scholars” refer to “the sons of G-d” as the kingly line. As we shall learn, both opinions are incorrect.
If we but read the entire passage in Genesis 6:1-4 we are told that these “sons of G-d) saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose. Then YHVH 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 G-d 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.”
This passage begs the question of when and from where did these “sons of G-d” appear? Again there continues a great debate on this issue. If you saw the movie “Noah,” you observed an evil being hanging onto the side of the ark as it was tossed about in the flood as he made his way inside. The Talmud (Zevachim 113b) suggests that Og who was one of the Nephilim actually clung onto Noah’s ark. Others maintain that the flood was not universal, and Nephilim continued to live in the unaffected areas.
It is my hope that after reading or listening to this teaching presented over the next few weeks that you will become confident in the knowledge that the Nephilim were and are fallen angels, and that the “sons of G-d” are the fallen angels who will remain in existence until G-d exterminates all evil described in Scripture in the persons of Ham and his progeny, Amalek, Ishmael, Esav (Edom), Hamann, and their progeny.
The concept of fallen angels who would manifest as Nephilim developed in Noah’s ark and lived through the flood. During the second Temple period Jews rejected the writings of Enoch on this subject possibly to prevent fellow Jews from worshiping angels. Looking at the Hebrew narrative in Genesis 6:1-4 we can begin to unravel part of the confusion concerning the “sons of G-d” and the Nephilim. Translating “when the phrase “sons of G-d” would come to the daughters of men,” we find the “sons of G-d” is written as “benei elokim.” According to the explanation for this translation on the term does not mean “sons of G-d.” Although the term elokim generally refers to G-d when used in Scripture, in essence elokim is in essence, an expression of authority. Also, the term benei has several meanings including children, sons, and people who are free.
The term “Nephilim” appears to be a derivation of the word naphal, meaning “fall, or cast down.” Now if the Nephilim are the same as benei elokim, why are there two different names used for them? To answer this question first from a rabbinic Jewish perspective, I am going to present three possible explanations according to citing the Midrash with other commentaries:
1. Angels taking a risk: According to the Midrash, when the generation of the flood went astray, G-d repented having created man. Then two angels, Shamchazai and Azael came before G-d and said, “Did we not warn You before You created man, saying, ‘What is man, that you should be mindful of him?’ G-d replied: “Then what shall become of the world?’ “We will suffice instead,” they replied. G-d answered, ‘I know that would you live on that world; the evil inclination would rule you just as much as it controls man, but you would be even worse.’ But the angels persisted, saying: “let us descend to the world of men, and we will show You how we will sanctify your name.” And G-d said: Go down and dwell among them.”
“Sure enough, as soon as the angels descended, their evil inclination overpowered them. When they saw the “beautiful “daughters of man, “they became corrupted and sinned with them. They and their descendants are the Nephilim, the giants and mighty ones referred to later on in the narrative.”
This Midrash is often mistaken to present support for “fallen angels.” If this story is read carefully, we can see that this is not the case. G-d sent them down already aware of and expecting that they would sin after all.
As mentioned previously in this lesson, in Judaism fallen angels do not exist and there is no heavenly conflict. The belief is in only one Creator in charge of everything, with no opposing forces. Even “Satan” is merely the name of and angel whose divinely assigned task is to tempt people to sin.
Although this Midrash description of Nephilim and benei elokim as giants and angels seems to be the most popular explanation, it is not necessarily the most literal.
2. Corrupt Authorities This explanation is based more on a literal translation of benei elokim. Many [exact number not identified in this explanation] explain that the term simply refers to princes, noblemen, or judges who were corrupt, abusing power, raping at will, and forcing any women who got married to first have sex with them. According to this explanation, all these sins eventually led to the great flood.
There are differences of opinion as to whether the nephilim are simply the benei elokim after they had “fallen,” or if the term refers to the descendants of the benei elokim.
3. Fallen Humans: Some take a different position, explaining the benei elokim
as people who started out at a spiritually high level. They are called nephilim later because they and/or their descendants fell spiritually, became corrupted, and eventually brought the wrath of G-d upon themselves by robbing, raping, and murdering without a second thought.
So we end up with several reasons for the term nephilim:
They fell from great spiritual heights.
They caused the world to fall.
They caused the hearts of the people to fall from fear of their great stature.
They fell from heaven- although they “consented.”
A YHVH/Yahshua’s talmidim (disciples), who subscribe to the validity and reliability of the Tanakh and the B’rit Chadashah, we can identify some of the inconsistencies with the rabbinic Jewish position concerning the fallen angels and the nephilim. To begin, scripture supports the belief that the nephilim are fallen angels. This statement is made in the present because according to G-d’s Torah, the fallen angels have manifested themselves as attractive males who have and will continue to mate with the daughters of man. But before we explore where these fallen angels are, how they will continue to affect the spiritual state of man, and when G-d will eradicate them forever, let’s discuss how they “survived” the flood.
To reiterate, the term Nephilim is derived from the Hebrew root word naphal which contains in its definition as one who is “cast down so we can make the connection that the nephilim are indeed fallen angels. Now understanding that the fallen angels are the nephilim resulting from the corruption of woman’s seed through sex with the fallen angels, we can move ahead and discuss the issue of possibly when the fallen angels fell. I will offer several explanations for your prayerful consideration which will be continued in the next lesson.
Rabbi Tamah Davis-Hart