The Nephilim are they fallen angels?

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Recently I have had quite a few discussions on the topic of the nephilim mentioned in the Torah in Bereshit / Genesis chapter 6. Below is a short comparison of the Hebrew (Masoretic text) and Aramaic (Targum Onkelos) of the Scripture verses in question. Hope everyone enjoys the short writup.

Tanach (תנך) Hebrew Bible

ספר בראשית פרק ו פסוק א-ז 

א   וַיְהִי כִּי-הֵחֵל הָאָדָם לָרֹב עַל-פְּנֵי הָאֲדָמָה וּבָנוֹת יֻלְּדוּ לָהֶם: ב   וַיִּרְאוּ בְנֵי-הָאֱלֹהִים אֶת-בְּנוֹת הָאָדָם כִּי טֹבֹת הֵנָּה וַיִּקְחוּ לָהֶם נָשִׁים מִכֹּל אֲשֶׁר בָּחָרוּ: ג   וַיֹּאמֶר יְהֹוָה לֹא-יָדוֹן רוּחִי בָאָדָם לְעֹלָם בְּשַׁגָּם הוּא בָשָֹר וְהָיוּ יָמָיו מֵאָה וְעֶשְֹרִים שָׁנָה: ד   הַנְּפִלִים הָיוּ בָאָרֶץ בַּיָּמִים הָהֵם וְגַם אַחֲרֵי-כֵן אֲשֶׁר יָבֹאוּ בְּנֵי הָאֱלֹהִים אֶל-בְּנוֹת הָאָדָם וְיָלְדוּ לָהֶם הֵמָּה הַגִּבֹּרִים אֲשֶׁר מֵעוֹלָם אַנְשֵׁי הַשֵּׁם:   פ   [מפטיר] ה   וַיַּרְא יְהֹוָה כִּי רַבָּה רָעַת הָאָדָם בָּאָרֶץ וְכָל-יֵצֶר מַחְשְׁבֹת לִבּוֹ רַק רַע כָּל-הַיּוֹם: ו   וַיִּנָּחֶם יְהֹוָה כִּי-עָשָֹה אֶת-הָאָדָם בָּאָרֶץ וַיִּתְעַצֵּב אֶל-לִבּוֹ: ז   וַיֹּאמֶר יְהֹוָה אֶמְחֶה אֶת-הָאָדָם אֲשֶׁר-בָּרָאתִי מֵעַל פְּנֵי הָאֲדָמָה מֵאָדָם עַד-בְּהֵמָה עַד-רֶמֶשֹ וְעַד-עוֹף הַשָּׁמָיִם כִּי נִחַמְתִּי כִּי עֲשִֹיתִם:

Genesis 6:1-7

6:1 Now it came about, when men began to multiply on the face of the land, and daughters were born to them, 6:2 that the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves, whomever they chose.  6:3 Then the Lord said, ‘My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, because he also is flesh; nevertheless his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.’  6:4 The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown.  6:5 Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.  6:6 The Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.  6:7 The Lord said, ‘I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them.’ (NASB)

 Targum Onkelos (תרגום אנקלוס) Aramaic Translation

תרגום אנקלוס ספר בראשית

א  וַהֲוָה כַד שָרִיאֻו בְנֵי אֲנָשָא לְמִסגֵי עַל אַפֵי אַרעָא״אדמתא״ וֻבנָתָא אִיתִילִידָא לְהוֹן׃  ב  וַחזוֹ בְנֵי רַברְבַיָא יָת בְנָת אֲנָשָא אֲרֵי שַפִירָן אִינִין וֻנסִיבֻו לְהוֹן נְשִין מִכֹל דְאִתרְעִיאֻו״דאיתבחרו״׃  ג  וַאֲמַר יוי לָא יִתקַיַים דָרָא בִישָא הָדֵין קְדָמַי לְעָלַם בְדִיל דְאִנֻון בִסרָא וְעוֹבָדֵיהוֹן בִישִין אַרכָא יְהִיב לְהוֹן מְאָה וְעַסרִין שְנִין אִם יְתֻובֻון׃  ד  גִיבָרַיָא הְווֹ בְאַרעָא בְיוֹמַיָא הָאִינֻון וְאַף בָתַר כֵין דְעָלִין״די עלין״ בְנֵי רַברְבַיָא לְוָת בְנָת אֲנָשָא וְיָלְדָן לְהוֹן מנהון אִנֻון גִיבָרַיָא דְמֵיעָלְמָא״דמן עלמא אֲנָשִין דִשמָא״דשמן׃  ה  וַחזָא וַגְלִי קדם יוי אֲרֵי סְגִיאַת בִישַת אֲנָשָא בְאַרעָא וְכָל יִצרָא הרהור מַחשְבָת לִבֵיה לְחוֹד בִיש כֹל יוֹמָא׃  ו  וְתָב יוי בְמֵימְרֵיה אֲרֵי עֲבַד יָת אֲנָשָא אדם בְאַרעָא וַאֲמַר במימריה לְמִתבַר תֻוקפְהוֹן כִרעֻותֵיה׃  ז  וַאֲמַר יוי אִמחִי יָת אֲנָשָא דִברֵיתִי די בראתי מֵעַל אַפֵי אַרעָא מֵיאֲנָשָא עַד בְעִירָא וְעַד רִחשָא וְעַד עוֹפָא דִשמַיָא אֲרֵי תְבִית תַבִית בְמֵימְרִי אֲרֵי עֲבַדתִינֻון׃

Genesis 6:1-7

6:1 Now it came about, when men began to multiply on the face of the land, and daughters were born to them, 6:2 that the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves, whomever they chose.  6:3 Then the Lord said, ‘My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, because he also is flesh; nevertheless his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.’  6:4 Heroes (strongmen) were in the land in those days and also those the sons of the master had sexual relations with the daughters of men and took possession of them, they being heroes (strong men) who were eternally famous.  6:5 Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.  6:6 The Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.  6:7 The Lord said, ‘I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them.’ (NASB)

 

Shown above are the scriptures from both the Masoretic Text and the Targum Onkelos on Genesis 6:1—7.  I tried to show these in parallel on one page as best I could.  I show the NASB translation for both the Hebrew and Aramaic, however for the Aramaic text I give the literal translation for the first part of the NASB verse.  This should provide some insight into the meaning behind the text in question, the “Nephilim” were on the earth in those days.

ספר בראשית פרק ו פסוק א-ז 

ד   הַנְּפִלִים הָיוּ בָאָרֶץ בַּיָּמִים הָהֵם וְגַם אַחֲרֵי-כֵן אֲשֶׁר יָבֹאוּ בְּנֵי הָאֱלֹהִים אֶל-בְּנוֹת הָאָדָם וְיָלְדוּ לָהֶם הֵמָּה הַגִּבֹּרִים אֲשֶׁר מֵעוֹלָם אַנְשֵׁי הַשֵּׁם:

Genesis 6:4

6:4 The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown. 

תרגום אנקלוס ספר בראשית

ד  גִיבָרַיָא הְווֹ בְאַרעָא בְיוֹמַיָא הָאִינֻון וְאַף בָתַר כֵין דְעָלִין״די עלין״ בְנֵי רַברְבַיָא לְוָת בְנָת אֲנָשָא וְיָלְדָן לְהוֹן מנהון אִנֻון גִיבָרַיָא דְמֵיעָלְמָא״דמן עלמא אֲנָשִין דִשמָא״דשמן׃

Genesis 6:4

6:4 Heroes (strongmen) were in the land in those days and also those the sons of the master had sexual relations with the daughters of men and took possession of them, they being heroes (strong men) who were eternally famous.  (Literal)

Here in the Aramaic translation, when comparing to the Hebrew text, it is interesting that the word הַנְּפִלִים (Nephilim) is replaced with the word גִיבָרַיָא (Gibarayah) which is very close to the Hebrew word הַגִּבֹּרִים (Gibborim) meaning “mighty man” or “strong man.”  Note that there is a close proximity of the Semitic languages Hebrew and Aramaic.  Take for example the word for “between” is בין in both Hebrew and Aramaic languages.  Based on this simple analysis of the Aramaic and Hebrew texts shown above, the early rabbinic interpretation of the Nephilim is is a name that is given to an ordinary man who had the extraordinary ability for making war.  If we consider the context of these verses and the reason God destroyed the earth with a global flood, the reason was given because of the great wickedness of mankind that was throughout all of the earth (ה   וַיַּרְא יְהֹוָה כִּי רַבָּה רָעַת הָאָדָם בָּאָרֶץ וְכָל-יֵצֶר מַחְשְׁבֹת לִבּוֹ רַק רַע כָּל-הַיּוֹם:, 6:5 Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. (NASB))  This verse appears to give the reason for the wickedness of men in those days.  We know from history that when an army would make its way through to conquer a nation, the men of war would have the women of the nation, they would rape and pillage, etc.  Today in the Sudan, the Muslim armies rape, mutilate, and kill the women, of the land.  The wickedness of man in those days, in the days of Noah was so great, these mighty men of war would just take whatever woman they wanted, have their way with them, and possibly even destroy the women afterwards.  These verses probably do not do justice to the extent of wickedness that was occurring in those days.  Nevertheless, back to the point of these scriptures, the Nephilim is a title that is given to mighty men of war and that is all.  God was greatly grieved over the wickedness of that generation.

 

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the early rabbinic interpretation of the Nephilim is a
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Duane D. Miller received his Ph.D., M.S., and B.S. Degree in Chemical Engineering from The University of Akron Ohio. He is currently a Chemical Engineering Researcher. Duane’s research expertise has focused upon functional materials development for the control, conversion, and release of process gases in Energy production technologies. His R&D interests include computational chemistry, developing novel technologies for converting biomass to fuels and studying their fundamental interactions during the chemical conversion process. His past experience includes sorbent development for pre- and post-combustion CO2 and SO2 capture, selective absorption of H2S from methane streams, O2 capture for oxy-fuel combustion, photocatalytic reduction of alcohols, NOx reduction catalysis, the development of oxygen carriers to combust fossil fuels (CH4 and coal) for the chemical looping combustion processes, and the extraction of rare earth elements using patent pending sorbents. His research expertise has focused on operando-characterization using Infrared, Raman, and UV-Vis spectroscopy to observe the nature of the catalytic active sites and reaction intermediates under realistic reaction conditions, allowing direct correlation of molecular/electronic structures with catalyst performance during Gas-Solid / Liquid-Solid Adsorption and Photocatalytic Processes with real time online analysis of reaction products using ICP-MS and mass spectrometry. His current work involves a multi-disciplinary approach to developing, understanding, and improving the catalytic gasification of coal and methane, high temperature chemical looping combustion, and the catalytic decomposition and gasification of biomass and coal using novel microwave reactor.​ He has been studying the Hebrew Scriptures and the Torah for 20+ years and sharing what he has learned. The studies developed for MATSATI.COM are freely to be used by everyone, to God be the Glory!