Author of the Month

The Nephilim: Their Origins and Evolution (cont.)
By Petros Koutoupis

In all his statues and stone carvings, Ba‛al Haddad was constantly depicted as a giant holding a smiting position; while everything else surrounding him was shorter in height. Even in front of the leader of the Ugaritic pantheon El, the mighty Ba‛al Haddad towered over him. In a similar fashion, we have the same traits presented in other ancient artifacts around the world. To list a few, we have the Narmer Palette and the Victory Stela of Naram-Sin, in which both kings are deified to such a degree where we see Narmer [21] towering over his servants and enemies holding a smiting position, and in Naram-Sin's stela, not only is Naram-Sin [22] superior in height compared to the rest of the individuals depicted on the stela, but he has also been known to deify himself by writing his name with the proto-Akkadian sign of il, standing for god; as is seen in his victory stela. Even in simple cylinder seal impressions we see the same motifs, where the gods are taller in stature than mankind. In the figure, the gods are represented with the horned cap while the humans are bearing most of the workload and are smaller in height.

Impression of cylinder seal
Figure 1 - Impression of cylinder seal showing the building of a structure with both man and gods depicted in the scene, ca. 2246-2160 BCE. BLMJ Seal 377

With a deeper investigation of the main Pentateuchal literature to the post-Exilic writings followed by the mythology of the surrounding regions, we now know how originally the children of the sons of God were spoken of as heroes and mighty warriors, as opposed to the demonized giants we find later on. These same heroes were given features of gigantism, which symbolized strength or warrior/ ruler type status and semi- to full divinity. It is now important to understand how this change took place.


At what point in history did the Judahite Hebrew scribe adopt the Aramaic term nāphîl? The answer is, during the Neo-Assyrian Period, under the Neo-Assyrian Empire. While Akkadian was still in use under the Neo-Assyrian regime for political purposes, the language of the people was an Aramaic one. It is possible that after the fall of Samaria, the conquest of most of Judah at the hands of Neo-Assyria, and Hezekiah's surrender to Sennacherib resulting in him merely serving as a vassal to the Assyrian king created an opportunity for this Aramaic tongue which had been spreading as the official language of the empire to reach to Israelite/ Judahite territories. The Aramaic language, extremely similar to the many other variations of Semitic languages, was easily adopted, and extended from Mesopotamia to as far west as Egypt until the Hellenistic Period.

The fact that these nephilîm were still on the earth many generations after the Flood of Noah seems to prove that they played no part in the corruption of mankind. These themes would have been adopted at a later date, more specifically the Post-Exilic period. The Book of Jasher confirms this. Literary evidence clearly points the evolution of the sons of God [23] and the nephilîm to the time of the Persian Empire. In Zoroastrianism we have the similar ahuras and daêvas. Ahura is the Avestan word for God/gods and angels while daêvas was later corrupted to mean demons or anything having to do with evil. The original meaning for daêva comes from the root div, which means 'to shine'; leading daêvas to translate originally as 'the shining one(s)'. Oddly enough, what has taken a negative tone in Indo-Iranian culture is just the opposite in the neighboring Indian culture, which was a term used regularly to denote any deity. Scholars believe that the reason for such a word play may come from the opposing beliefs of the two cultures. While one side promoted monotheism, the other polytheistic side went against everything the first stood for. Anything or anyone not recognizing the supreme Ahura Mazda as the one and only good deity must be evil, and that is probably why a general and most commonly used term for God/ gods in one culture meant something evil in the other. That may be a reason as to why we find Hindu deities such as Indra labeled as a daêva. It was the worship of the daêvas that brought suffering and distress to mankind, creating the classical situation for a prophet to arise and offer salvation through consolation and hope for the people; this role was taken by Zarathushtra. During the post-Exilic period, when Zoroastrianism was at its highest influence, it is extremely possible that the Jews of the time adopted such themes. Starting to take a more dualistic approach in their own religion [24] , it can easily be seen that anything going against the supreme YHWH was evil, including those very sons of God that came onto the daughters of men, bringing forth their "evil" offspring, the nephilîm . Coincidently enough, the angels spoken of in the post-Exilic literature are described as pure and bright as Heaven; they are said to be formed of fire, and encompassed by light [25] . Could the scribe have seen this and taken the once heroic warrior demi-gods and demonized them? Mankind couldn't have been at fault, the scribes would have thought; evil forces must have been introduced to influence humans to commit evil things. The reader must also understand that before the Post-Exilic period and the introduction of Zoroastrianism into the Levant, Hebrew lore never incorporated any evil entity. You had the corruption and introduction of Sātān and his role to God, Belial, and Mastema; all evil spirits opposing the great YHWH, a role never assigned beforehand.

Now the question is, aside from the famed mighty warriors looked upon to such a high degree, as seen in Genesis 6:4, were there any surrounding and now lost mythological stories concerning these nephilîm ? Were they instead divine kings who ruled mankind at its earliest stages of civilization, as is seen in the Sumerian King List, the Epic of Gilgameš and in more historical stories?

If you have any comments or questions regarding this article please direct them to Or just visit

PreviousPage 1Page 2Page 3Page 4Page 5Page 6
  1. Narmer (c. 3100 BCE) is a Pre-Dynastic king of Egypt, where under his leadership the unification of both Upper and Lower Egypt took place. His capital was found at Hierakonpolis (Nekhen) and the artifact was found in the 'Main Deposit' of the same site. [back to text]
  2. Naram-Sin (c. 2250 BCE) was a king and the grandson of Sargon of Agade, king and creator of the Akkadian Dynasty and empire. Expansions of the empire were made under his reign, and he was given the title of King of the 4 Quarters/Corners, which meant 'king of the (known) world.' [back to text]
  3. In An Adopted Legacy I also cover a detailed analysis on the role of the sons of God. [back to text]
  4. The Jewish religion was starting to adopt more of a dualistic theme; paralleling that of the Zoroastrians. Now, if there was good, then there always was evil. Zoroastrianism was the first to introduce an evil entity always opposing the good; the supreme deity was the Ahura Mazda, while the opposing force was the Angra Mainyu, which literally translated to 'evil spirit'. [back to text]
  5. cf. Ps. 104:4 [back to text]

Site design by Amazing Internet Ltd, maintenance by Synchronicity. G+. Site privacy policy. Contact us.

Dedicated Servers and Cloud Servers by Gigenet. Invert Colour Scheme / Default