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A review of Mondo Gonzales’ paper, “A Brief Survey of the Pre-flood and Post-flood Origins of the Nephilim”

Gonzales’s focus is twofold: 1. “the identity of the ‘sons of God’ and the Nephilim as found in the Bible” and 2. “the exact process of the recurrence of the Nephilim as found in Numbers 13:32-33 which is long after the flood.”

I will bypass the “‘sons of God’ (Hebrew beney ha′elohim)” issue since we both take the Angel view, which is the original, traditional, and majority view among the earliest Jews and Christian commentators alike: see my book On the Genesis 6 Affair’s Sons of God: Angels or Not?

Gonzales appeals to Robert Newman who, “notes that the Septuagint [LXX]…translates the word Nephilim with the root Greek word ‘gigas.’”[1] I will be more specific and say that such is not a translation but a rendering and that also, a more normative form found the LXX is gigantes-γίγαντες. That word means “earth-born,” as in born of Gaia, which is why Gonzales goes on to note, “This word is used in ancient Greek as a reference to superhuman offspring of the goddess Gaia which is known from Greek mythology.”

Oddly, and unfortunately, “The Greek translators used this word to translate several other Biblical Hebrew words in addition to Nephilim (Rephaim, Anakim, Gibborim).” He also rightly notes, “The Greek word itself doesn’t necessarily reference men of large stature (especially in Classical Greek), but the Bible makes it quite clear that the Nephilim were known for their large or tall size (Num 13:32-33; Deut 1:28; 2:10; 9:2; Amos 2:9; 2 Sam 21:20).”

I will be more technical and state outright that the Greek word itself does not in the least bit reference men of large stature—even if it is sometimes applied to such (with “large” being a subjective term).

Now, as for “Nephilim were known for their large or tall size” (with “tall” being a subjective term):

Deut 1:28 does not refer to nor imply anything about Nephilim at all.

Deut 2:10 does not refer to nor imply anything about Nephilim at all.

Deut 9:2 does not refer to nor imply anything about Nephilim at all.

Amos 2:9 does not refer to nor imply anything about Nephilim at all.

2 Sam 21:20 does not refer to nor imply anything about Nephilim at all.

Num 13:32-33 does contain a reference to Nephilim but is an utterly unreliable statement on many levels—as this will becomes key, we will delve into it as we progress.

So, of six citations, only one is in the least bit relevant.

Gonzales writes of, “Moses writing that there were Nephilim before and after the flood (Genesis 6:4; cf. Numbers 13:33)?” and asks, “How is this possible?”

The primary answer is that Moses never wrote any such thing: Gonzales is not quoting Gen 6:4 but is paraphrasing it and actually inserted “the flood” into a verse that never refers to it. In fact, the flood is not mentioned for the very first time until a full 13 vss. later: v. 17. As for Num 13:33—we are still working our way to it.

Gonzales continues by asking more questions, “Didn’t the flood wipe out all living and breathing creatures?”: yes.

“How did the Nephilim reappear after the flood?”: they did not.

“Are the Nephilim tribes found in Moses’ day from the same original antediluvian tribes?”: no, primarily because there were no such things as “Nephilim tribes…in Moses’ day.”

Gonzales then reviews, “five proposals”:

“1) It was a local flood and all life was not destroyed…”: I will cut to the chase and say that the scope of the flood is really inconsequential to Nephilology since they either did not survive it because it was global in scope or because they lived in the flooded region—either way, they did not survive (which is why some literally just invent ways to get them to return post-flood).

As for historical views of the scope of the flood, see my book Noah’s Flood, the Deluge, Global or Local?, Vol I: A Historical Survey of Views from BC to AD.

“2) The Nephilim did not die in the universal flood because they were good swimmers or

held on to the outside of Noah’s ark”: I must say that having written circa nine books on such issues, that anyone ever proposed they were good swimmers is a new one on me.

The “held on to the outside of Noah’s ark” option is a style paraphrase mixed with confusion with a touch of anachronism. Gonzales is here referring to Midrash Bereshith Rabbah which 1. is, by definition, not a commentary nor history but sermonizing homilies from millennia after the Torah was written, and 2. tells a tall tale about King Og of Bashan who 2a. actually lived millennia post-flood and 2b. was a Repha, not a Nephil.

“3) The Nephilim went underground to come out later after the yearlong flood was over” about which Gonzales comments, “This cannot be proven wrong, but there is no textual evidence for this. It is pure conjecture.”

Some actually argue this point by strictly appealing to modern English versions, such as the King James Version (KJV) which has 6:4 as, “There were giants in the earth” as if it is implying inside of. Well, let such people make their English based arguments if that is what they have to offer since, after all, it has v. 17 as, “every thing that is in the earth shall die” so that gets them nowhere.

“4) The Nephilim genetics were passed on through one of the wives of Noah’s sons” which is a new literally invented theory with zero evidence of any sort to back it.

“5) The angelic sons of God left their domain and abode by coming down to mate with

women before the flood and received a severe punishment of chains and darkness (2 Peter 2:4;

Jude 6)…another separate group of sons of God (angelic beings) came down some time after the flood and once again took human women and produced more Nephilim” which is as unevidenced as point 4.

That they swam, held on to the ark, went underground, or were also produced post-flood all, or so it seems, imply that God failed. He seems to have meant to be rid of Nephilim but could not get the job done, missed loopholes, etc.

In short, the following texts affirm that only Noah, his wife, their sons, and their son’s wives—plus some animals—survived the flood: Genesis 7:7, 23; Hebrews 11:7; 1 Peter 3:20; and 2 Peter 2:5. Moreover, there is zero reliable indication of any return of Nephilim post-flood in any way, shape, or form.

Gonzales points out the problems with four views and notes, “One of the goals of this article is to show that the Biblical text conclusively and explicitly demonstrates that number 5 is the correct viewpoint.” Yet, there is only a one-time sin of Angels in the Bible and if Gen 6 is not recording it then, pray tell, what is, where is it? There are no others.

Gonzales references, “Nephilim (and various other tribal names)” which is when he begins backing away from specific terminology and (consciously or not) waters things down (pun intended, within the context of the flood) so as to assert that non-Nephilim were actually Nephilim.

He goes on to say they, “are the enemies that Moses and Joshua encounter” for which there is zero reliable evidence.

Gonzales gets back to that, “the text says it was ‘in those days and afterward’ (6:4)” which he now quoted and you will notice that the flood is not referenced: he seems to infer that it does by reading all the way to Num 13, actually believing v. 33, turning that one single verse into a hermeneutic, and then looping back in order to re-read (misread) Gen 6:4—which is what caused him to initially insert the flood into it in the first place.

Gonzales asserts, “many of the Nephilim survived,” after denying that they survived, “and spread throughout the land. When Moses returns after the wilderness wandering, he and the younger generation encounter the descendants of the original Nephilim” but how could they be “the descendants of the original Nephilim” if no Nephilim survived the flood in any way, shape, or form but that post-flood Nephilim, on Gonzales’s view, were birthed anew by a post-flood sin of Angels?

These are just inconsistencies in Gonzales’ paper.

Since I quoted the KJV before, I will do so again for Num 13:33, “And there we saw the giants [Nephilim], the sons of Anak, which come of the giants [Nephilim]: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.”

Gonzales comments, “the text does not say that the sons of Anak were from the original Nephilim. It simply says that they were connected to the Nephilim (Num 13:33- Hebrew preposition min is connected to the word Nephilim here and has a wide range of use).”

We will come to find that such is irrelevant.

Gonzales writes, “When Moses and the Israelites first approached the Promised Land, it was filled with Nephilim who were large and intimidating (Num 13:32-33). He taught the Israelites the true history of the stories they heard concerning the mingling of angelic beings and mankind producing hybrid offspring (Nephilim). In Genesis 6:2-4 he is reminding them that this intermingling happened before the flood and also afterward.”

We are almost to the point of tackling how and why asserting (and such is all it is) that it “was filled with Nephilim” and even that they “were large” is unevidenced.

Note that we went from wrongly paraphrasing Gen 6:4, to then rightly quoting it, but now went back to wrongly paraphrasing it.

Gonzales notes, “As they were spying out the land and observed these Nephilim offspring, they were looking at proof that what occurred before the flood had occurred again.”

He goes on to refer to the “generation who had already been introduced to the Nephilim as they spied out the land” which was the case but begs the question: introduced how, by whom, within what context, with introduced meaning what, etc.?

Gonzales’s view is that the Israelites were first introduced to Nephilim in the land and were then told about how they, “existed before the flood which they also would have known about through the various cultural and religious histories.”

Gonzales breaks down Gen 6:4 which he, “translated the Hebrew and block diagrammed the verse

into English” the portion of which I will focus on being:

“1) The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, (Main clause with main verb ‘were’)

2) and also, afterward, (Complex preposition creates adverbial subordinate clause)

3) when (Relative particle introducing subordinate clause)

4) the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, (subordinate clause)

5) and they bore children to them. (subordinate clause)”

Because he accepts Num 13:33 as being accurate and employs it as a hermeneutic, he misses the fact that Gen 6:4 tells us exactly to what days, and so after which days, it is referring:

“Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also, afterward” when? Well, “when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them.”

Now, as per v. 1, those days were “when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them” (KJV).” When that was seems unknown, but it could have been as early as when Adam and Eve’s offspring began having offspring.

Yet, in any case, “those days” is when it first began and “afterward” is after it first began but all pre-flood: they did so and continued to do so but only until the flood brought the whole affair to a full and final end (which seems to alert us as to when the sinful Angels were incarcerated).

And if one really wants to assert multiple incursions of sinful Angels, they can feel free to do so, biblically, as long as they place them in pre-flood days.

This was understanding Gen 6:4 within its own context and not (historically) traversing centuries to then loop back and applying a much later statement to a former one in an artificial manner: the text of Gen 6 spoke for itself.

Yet, Gonzales tells us, “Most scholars recognize…a reference to the days before the flood and to the days after the flood.” Well, “Most” sounds impressive yet, 51% is most but also awfully close to half and “scholars” is not exactly a citation.

He then claims, “Moses and the spies see the post flood Nephilim in the Promised Land” but there is zero indication of any such thing.

Gonzales has an odd way of taking one step forward and two steps back so that he seems to focus on Gen 6 only to jump to Num 13 and seems to focus on Num 13 only to jump back to Gen 6.

Thus, for emphasis, I will offer a few quotes of that which he next writes:

“Nephilim were on the earth before and after (the flood)…it occurred both before and afterwards…Nephilim were existing on the earth in both time periods…Nephilim were on the earth both before and after the flood…them existing on the earth in ‘those days and afterward’…Nephilim were existing on the earth both before and after the flood…Nephilim (offspring of sons of God and human women), who were on the earth before and after the flood…Nephilim (and Rephaim, et al.) tribes came to exist on the earth before and after the flood…They attempted to thwart God’s salvation historical plan by corrupting mankind before and after the flood…again after the flood and filled the land with Nephilim hybrid offspring…Nephilim/Rephaim tribes both before and after the flood…Nephilim/Rephaim/Anakim tribes still remained…”

I think we get the picture.

Now, another oft repeated picture, “The spies and the conquest generation were observing the Nephilim in the Promised Land” of which there is zero indication (even if one accepts Num 13:33 as accurate) and likewise with, “Nephilim were in the land…the spies who saw” is far too generic, as we shall see. Moreover, “large Nephilim tribes in the land…”

Now, let us dig into what Gonzales noted between all of these statements.

Gonzales never actually interacts with the narrative of Num 13, which seems to be how/why he merely picks up one single verse, v. 33, runs with it, and (mis) applies it.

Succinctly stated:

12 spies are sent into the land.

They return and note fruit.

They note a good land flowing with milk and honey.

They note “strong” peoples living in large and well-fortified cities.

They list these peoples as Anakim, Amalekites, Hittites, Jebusites, Amorites, and Canaanites.

They even pinpoint where each lived: Hebron (mentioned in v. 22), “the land of the south…the mountains…by the sea, and by the coast of Jordan.”

Caleb, with whom Joshua sides, discerns trepidation—perhaps due to itinerate tend dwellers facing the prospect of facing six groups of strong well-fortified peoples—and so encourages the Israelites: after all, God had commanded them to take the land, would be with them, etc.

The 10 discourage the Israelites noting, in part, that the various peoples are “stronger” than they. Thus, at this point they, at the very least, show themselves to be unfaithful and disloyal.

Moses then specifies that then, after the discouragement, the 10 went on to present an “evil report” which is quoted in vss. 32-33. Thus, those verses merely record what the 10 asserted—and they asserted five things about which the whole entire rest of the Bible knows nothing at all.

Here is what they said:

“The land, through which we have gone to search it, is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof; and all the people that we saw in it are men of a great stature. And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight” (KJV).

These are the five unbacked assertions:

  1. “The land, through which we have gone to search it, is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof”: this flatly contradicts the original report, which was accepted as is, that had it as a good land flowing with milk and honey—something that is reiterated many, many times in the Torah.
  2. “all the people that we saw in it are men of a great stature”: this embellishes the original report which had the peoples as strong and even their discouragement, which had them as stronger. Of those six people groups, the only contextually relevant physical description we have is that Anakim were “tall” (see a few references in Deut 2) which is subjective to the average Israelite male who in those days was 5.0-5.3 ft.
  3. “there we saw the” Nephilim: this is the one and only post-flood reference to Nephilim and it is coming from an “evil report” by unfaithful, disloyal, contradictory, embellishers whom God rebuked.
  4. “the sons of Anak, which come of the” Nephilim: the KJV’s phraseology seems a bit odd at this point but it is generally understood that they were asserting Anakim were related to Nephilim. It is generally thought that this is actually a gloss in the Masoretic since the LXX utterly lacks this assertion.

There is zero (other) indication that Anakim were related to Nephilim and certainly not a word about how any such thing would even be possible. Now, even if—beyond all reliable data—one insists on believing 10 utterly unreliable man, one could only go as far as asserting Anakim were related to Nephilim. Now, Anakim were a Rephaim subgroup so one cannot even assert that all Rephaim were related to them but only one of their subgroups.

  1. “we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight”: since Gen 6 does not physically describe Nephilim then the “evil report” is the one and only biblical physical description we have and it is utterly unreliable logically, theo-logically, ethically, textually, etc.

Moreover, commonsensically, we are supposed to believe that having witnessed the most awe inspiring beings on the planet, the spies decide to first report fruit, then the land, then its peoples, then its cities and only eventually an oh, by the way style: we saw the most awe inspiring beings on the planet.

The original report noted whom the saw: not one single word about Nephilim nor relation to them was ever stated of any of them.

The original report noted where such personages lived: the 10 were vaguely generic, they seem to be unable to pinpoint where Nephilim lived since they were just making up a “Don’t go in the woods!” type of scare-tactic, fear-mongering tall tale.

Moreover, when Moses relates this event in Deut 1, he notes the presence of Anakim in the land but utterly ignores any reference to Nephilim: he seems to be too concerned about the realities on the ground rather than the 10’s folkloric myth-making.

In short (pun intended), from the patriarchs to Moses, many people were told which people groups to expect to find living around the land and within it: not one single word about Nephilim nor relation to them was ever stated to any of them.

Gonzales asserted, “Moses wrote that God promised Abraham he would receive the land of promise (Gen 12:1-18) and so the fallen angelic sons of God sought to frustrate this plan by taking human women as wives again after the flood and filled the land with Nephilim hybrid offspring” yet, while the former part of the statement is biblical, the latter is not even hinted at anywhere in any way.

We are told of many battles and even of hand-to-hand combat: not one single word about Nephilim nor relation to them was ever stated about any of these.

Moreover, the 10 contradict Moses, Caleb, Joshua, God, and the rest of the whole entire Bible since all of these affirm, for example, the presence of Anakim in the land but never say a single word about Nephilim therein nor of anyone related to them.

Now, with that in mind, let us continue with Gonzales’s paper.

Now we can dissect, “The spies and the conquest generation were observing the Nephilim in the Promised Land”: it was not “The” 12 “spies” but only the 10 unreliable ones, they merely asserted “observing the Nephilim,” and “the conquest generation” saw no such thing anyhow rather, the 10 merely asserted that they saw them, the Israelites saw no such thing.

Thus, there is zero indication that, “Moses was providing them with how the Nephilim were in the land even though the flood had destroyed the pre-flood Nephilim” especially since there is no how even in the “evil report,” there is only an assertion that there they were—somewhere abouts.

Gonzales refers to, “descriptions of the Nephilim in Moses’ day” yet, 1. there are not (plural) “descriptions” and 2. the one and only one we have is utterly unreliable.

He notes, “They were large in stature and extremely intimidating to the spies who saw them” yet, 1. we can only conclude “They were large in stature” based on their word exclusively, 2. “extremely intimidating” were the six actual people groups on the ground, and 3. we can only conclude they “saw them” based on their word exclusively.

Gonzales asserts, “Moses writes concerning the Nephilim and the various tribes that are often used synonymously” which is yet to be established—and which is utterly unbiblical.

He tells us, “The main Nephilim tribe is connected specifically with the Anakim and the Rephaim (cf. Deut 2:11; Num 13:32-33)” yet, Deut states no such thing whatsoever, ever, and as we saw, even if one actually applies Num 13:33 they cannot get “Anakim and the Rephaim.”

He notes, “the first mention of the Nephilim and related tribes occurs in Genesis 6:4” but no such thing as, “related tribes” are referenced in 6:4.

He writes, “Moses reintroduces the Rephaim tribes in Genesis 14:5” but how could he re-introduce them when he never introduced them prior to that, especially not pre-flood?

Yet, Gonzales asserts, “Moses has already explained how the Nephilim (and Rephaim, et al.) tribes came to exist on the earth before and after the flood” yet, 1. Gonzales was merely asserting there was such a thing as “Nephilim (and Rephaim, et al.) tribes,” 2. Moses never explained how the Rephaim tribes came to exist, 3. Moses never even hinted at Nephilim tribes after the flood, and 4. Moses never even hinted at Rephaim tribes before the flood.

Gonzales wrote, “Moses informs the Israelites of his day that the Rephaim were back in the land” but no, it was not that they were “back”: back from where and/or when?

Gonzales tends to write sentences that mix biblically verifiable data with un-biblical unverifiable tall tales and then just includes a citation at the end as if the cited text(s) cover his entire statement.

For example, “Moses writes that God explains to Abraham that even though the land is full of the various tribes, his descendants would still inherit the land after four generations (Gen

15:13-21)” which is accurate.

He goes on to write, “God was going to judge and remove all these tribes from the land, but their iniquity was not yet complete (15:16)” which is accurate.

Yet, he goes on, directly, to write, “What we know from the rest of the Pentateuch is that God had planned to use His new nation of Israel to be the instrument of eradicating not only the wicked human tribes, but also the evil supernatural hybrids from the land” which is utterly unbiblical (at least he did not even attempt a citation for this one).

He mostly rightly writes, “The nation Israel chose fear instead of faith after the spies returned and reported seeing the large Nephilim tribes in the land (Num 13:32-33)” about which I say mostly rightly since such is what they chose and it was based on that “the,” 10 (actually), “spies returned and” falsely “reported seeing the large Nephilim.”

Gonzales then also merely asserts, “As they journeyed, they systematically destroyed any of the Nephilim (Amorite) tribes that they encountered (Num 21:21-26).” Now, let us put to the test what I just noted since Num 21:21-26 must refer to “Nephilim (Amorite) tribes,” right? Well, here is what the text reads:

“And Israel sent messengers unto Sihon king of the Amorites, saying, Let me pass through thy land: we will not turn into the fields, or into the vineyards; we will not drink of the waters of the well: but we will go along by the king’s high way, until we be past thy borders.

And Sihon would not suffer Israel to pass through his border: but Sihon gathered all his people together, and went out against Israel into the wilderness: and he came to Jahaz, and fought against Israel.

And Israel smote him with the edge of the sword, and possessed his land from Arnon unto Jabbok, even unto the children of Ammon: for the border of the children of Ammon was strong.

And Israel took all these cities: and Israel dwelt in all the cities of the Amorites, in Heshbon, and in all the villages thereof.

For Heshbon was the city of Sihon the king of the Amorites, who had fought against the former king of Moab, and taken all his land out of his hand, even unto Arnon.”

Did you notice a reference to Nephilim, or to Nephilim tribes, or to Amorite being an a.k.a. for Nephilim, or any such thing?

Gonzales writes, “they encountered the giant king Og who was of large stature (Deut 3:1-11)” yet, neither the cited text nor any other in the entire Bible provides us a physical description of him nor even calls him any such a thing as “tall.”

Gonzales’ summary includes, “the Pentateuch is consistent throughout as it details the origin of the pre- and post-flood occurrences of the Nephilim and the related tribes.”

Yes, “the Pentateuch is consistent” in one single verse, Gen 6:4, “as it details the origin of the pre-…flood occurrences of the Nephilim,” period.

No, “the Pentateuch” never even hints at “the origin of the pre- and post-flood occurrences of the Nephilim and the related tribes.”

He also writes, “in the book of Joshua. One of the goals and standards of success in the conquest of the land is specifically tied to the extermination of the offspring of the fallen angelic sons of God known as the Nephilim/Rephaim tribes both before and after the flood (Joshua 11:21-23; 14:12, 15; 17:15)” yet, that entire book does not even hint at any such thing whatsoever.

He bases the all-encompassing assertion, “specifically…extermination of…Nephilim/Rephaim tribes both before and after the flood” based on what he quotes for support, which is, “Then Joshua came at that time and cut off the Anakim from the hill country, from Hebron, from Debir, from Anab and from all the hill country of Judah and from all the hill country of Israel. Joshua utterly destroyed them with their cities. 22 There were no Anakim left in the land of the sons of Israel; only in Gaza, in Gath, and in Ashdod some remained” (Josh 11:21-22).”

Thus, he asserted an unbiblical compound “Nephilim/Rephaim” in general when the text only refers to Anakim, in particular.

Next, he writes of, “Nephilim/Rephaim/Anakim tribes” which “reappear in the text of Scripture centuries later in the time of David. Goliath was from Gath”: Goliath was a Gathite by the city whence he hailed, a Philistine by the regions in which he lived, one of the Anakim by the subgroup/clan to which he pertained, and a Repha by the tribe yet, he was not a Nephil nor was he of any relation to them, of course.

Gonzales specifies, “The Bible gives the final summary that David and his servants eliminated the rest of Nephilim/Anakim tribes (1 Samuel 17:4, 7; 2 Samuel 21:16-22; 1 Chronicles 20:4-8)” but the Bible does no such thing anywhere.

Overall, if one reads Gonzales’s paper without sufficient background, I am empathetic to how it may be convincing as it is engaging, interesting, and exciting.

Yet, as we have seen, in its portions relating to Nephilim, it hardly contains any accurate statements.

I pray this be taken as iron sharpening iron—which tends to lead to someone getting cut—so as to come to an accurate Bible-based Nephilology.


Footnote [1]: Newman, Robert C. “The Ancient Exegesis of Genesis 6:2, 4” Grace Theological Journal 5 (1984), 13-37.

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