It is often assumed that the biblical ‘Nephilim’ were all Giants. The Nephilim, however, entail much more and can be traced back to a much richer tradition found in ancient Mesopotamia about the Scions of the Gods, with the Giants only having been one group amongst them. The Giants and their companion groups (collectively referred to as the Shining Ones) were followers of a ruling dynasty of the same descent who counted among their number the greatest of Sumerian heroes. Later, the great Akkadian god-kings were also regarded as Scions of the Gods.
Some of the most well-known and intriguing beings of Hebrew tradition are the Nephilim. The Nephilim feature in the biblical Book of Genesis where they are mentioned against the backdrop of the wickedness of the people in the age before the deluge. They are also mentioned in another biblical book, the Book of Numbers , where the Israelite scouts saw them in the land of Canaan before the Israelite conquest.
Rendition of Goliath’s fall attributed to Charles Errard the Younger (18th century) ( Public Domain )
In popular understanding the Nephilim are often equated with Giants. The reason for this is that some Bible translations, following the Septuagint, have interpreted the word, Nephilim, to mean Giants. This reading has resulted in many other stories and proposed evidence of Giants all across the world to have been identified with the biblical Nephilim. But is this correct? A closer look at the Nephilim themselves is in order to be able to answer this question.
As the term Nephilim is taken from biblical tradition this can be a starting point. Once the biblical use of the term is investigated, one could proceed to try and establish the origins for this tradition, which may lead back to the ancient land of Sumer and Akkad in southern Mesopotamia. Hopefully this most ancient of traditions would cast some light on the question regarding the identity of the Nephilim and as to whether they were in fact Giants.
Nimrod a mighty hunter before the Lord, by David Scott (1832) ( Public Domain )
The Biblical Nephilim
It may come as a surprise to some to discover and realize that the Nephilim are not described as Giants in the Book of Genesis , where they are for the first time referred to. They are the scions of the Sons of God and the daughters of men and are portrayed as great heroes, as men of old who became known for their great heroic deeds, so-called “men of renown”.
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Dr Willem McLoud is an independent South African scholar whose main interests are ancient Middle Eastern studies, Kantian philosophy and philosophy of science. Willem’s main areas of study regarding the ancient Middle East are the Sumerian, Akkadian and early Egyptian civilizations, with special focus on the Uruk and Akkadian Periods in Mesopotamian history as well as the Old Kingdom Period in Egyptian history. He is the author of The Nephilim: Kings of an Epic Age: Secrets and Enigmas of the Sumerians and Akkadians
Top Image : Fall of the Titans”. Oil on canvas by Jacob Jordaens, (1638) ( Public Domain )