Just because a notion or idea is accepted by a majority of people doesn’t necessarily mean the notion or idea should be assumed true. God blessed us with inquiring minds. When our goal in life is to please him, one of the things we should always do is question ideas and test them to see if they are in line with God’s word.
Paul and Peter were so concerned about the beliefs of people in the church that they warned the saints to watch out for fables (1 Timothy 1:4; 2 Peter 1:16), including traditionally Jewish fables (Titus 1:14), because fables can turn us from truth. And one of the many fables that Christians have bought into is the notion that the Hebrew word for giants, Nephilim, in the Old Testament is a word that means “fallen ones,” from the Hebrew root word naphal, to fall upon. Therefore, since it means “fallen ones,” it means they were the mutant offspring of “fallen” angels who mated with humans.
Wilhelm Gesenius who wrote the popular Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon and James Strong who wrote Strong’s Concordance were both believers of this fable and used their respective works to promote it. Gesenius in his Lexicon admits he got his belief about the word Nephilim from the Hebrews themselves, even though he thought the etymology of the word was “uncertain.” So seminarians and scholars who had their works on required reference lists as part of their curriculum just assumed Gesenius’ and Strong’s views must be spot on since their works are recommended and promoted by their mentors. Gesenius was an avowed rationalist and Bible critic. Strong studied Gesenius for his concordance and agreed with his colleagues Westcott and Hort that the Bible needed to be “revised.” Furthermore, Strong’s Concordance has itself been revised and sometimes has errors.
Does the English version of the Textus Receptus, aka the KJV, give the proper etymology of the word? Could it be that we find a different meaning than “fallen ones”? The KJV more often than not has it’s own built-in dictionary, which is understandable since God is not one to leave it up to humans to define him or his purposes.
One example of defining Nephilim, or giants, is found in Numbers 13 as follows:
32 And they brought up an evil report of the land which they had searched unto the children of Israel, saying, 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. 33 And there , 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.
Words in the KJV often appear in close proximity to their definitions. But we can also break the Hebrew word down by looking for similar words. For example, all Hebrew names with “Neph” or “Naph” in them in the KJV have root words pertaining to “sprouting out” or “springing up” or “shooting forth.” See, for example, the definitions of Naphtali (Genesis 30:8), Nepheg (Exodus 6:21), Nephtoah (Joshua 15:9), Nephish (1 Chronicles 5:19), and Nephusim (Ezra 2:50).
If all the Neph- or Naph- words have to do with prevailing and springing up, it could be Strong’s is wrong. No Jewish fables necessary.
Harry A. Gaylord