One of the more controversial verses in the Bible is Genesis 6:4. It says, “The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came into the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown.” The big issue surrounds the “Nephilim.” The Greek translation calls them “Giants,” as does the Latin Vulgate. Some English translations use the term “giants” as well, but most transliterate the Hebrew into English; thus, the word “Nephilim” is what we see in many English translations. It’s reasonable to refer to them as giants because when Moses sent the spies into Canaan to check out the land, ten of the spies reported seeing giants. Numbers 13:33 seems to suggest they were very large people. It says, “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.” One Commentary doesn’t think the term refers to the size, however. It says, “The term in Hebrew implies not so much the idea of great stature as of reckless ferocity, impious and daring characters, who spread devastation and carnage far and wide.”[1]

Other early writings seem to include both ideas: large and ferocious warriors. In the Apocryphal book, The Wisdom of Solomon 14:6, we read, “Why, in the beginning, when the proud giants were perishing, the hope of the world took refuge on a raft and, steered by your hand, preserved the seed of a new generation for the ages to come.” And Baruch 3:26-28 says, “In it were born the giants, famous from the beginning, immensely tall, expert in war; God’s choice did not fall on these, he did not show them the way of knowledge; they perished for lack of wisdom, perished by their own folly.” Both passages deal with the giants perishing in the flood because of their evil nature. But Genesis 6:4 mentions that these creatures were on the earth in the days before the flood and “also afterward.”

The biggest problem with this is that we’d have to assume that fallen angels continued to cohabit with human women even after the flood since the Nephilim of Genesis six were all destroyed in the flood. There is enough biblical evidence of demonic activity in the New Testament to infer that this is a real possibility. As Courson observes, we also see legends of these creatures in many ancient cultures. He writes, “Some of these demons, evidently, had sexual relations with human women, resulting in nephalim—giants, legendary men, men of renown. That is why every culture contains stories of giants similar to those found in Greek mythology and Roman folklore.”[2] Don’t forget about Goliath, a descendant of the Anakim who was extremely large in size. Most think in our measurements, Goliath was over 9 feet tall. I guess that would qualify as a giant. Further, the description of Goliath given in the Bible presents him as a ferocious warrior wanting to stand toe to toe with anyone. It seems to me both size and warlike nature are involved, along with his hatred of the people of God.

[1] Jamieson, Robert, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown. 1997. Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible. Vol. 1. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

[2] Courson, Jon. 2005. Jon Courson’s Application Commentary: Volume One: Genesis–Job. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.