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Exegesis: 1 Enoch 15:8-12 -- Rephaim, Nephilim, Giants, and Demons

The Book of Enoch, a pseudepigraphic work, provides extra-biblical details on the era that preceded the deluge. In its expository retelling of several events, the book offers an etiology for certain or perhaps all, evil spirits. Based upon Schodde's translation of the Ethiopic documents, The Book of Enoch chapter 15 reports ancient oracles as saying,


8. And now the giants, who have been begotten from body and flesh, will be called evil spirits on earth, and their dwelling-places will be upon the earth.

9. Evil spirits proceed from their bodies; because they are created from above, their beginning and first basis being from the holy watchers, they will be evil spirits upon the earth, and will be called evil spirits.

10. But the spirits of heaven have their dwelling-places in heaven, and the spirits of the earth, who were born on the earth, have their dwelling-places on earth.

11. And the spirits of the giants, who cast themselves upon the clouds, will be destroyed and fall, and will battle and cause destruction on the earth, and do evil; they will take no kind of food, nor will they become thirsty, and they will be invisible.

12. And these spirits will not (?) rise up against the children of men and against the women, because they have proceeded from them, in the days of murder and destruction.


The giants spoken of in 1 En 15:8-12 are of the stock of beings from Gn 6:4 known as נְפִלִים nəp̄ilīm (= "Nephilim"). The LXX (Septuagint) in Gn 6:4 renders the Hebrew נְפִלִים nəp̄ilīm into Greek as γίγαντες gigantes (= "giants"). Further, the Greek witness of 1 Enoch as found in Codex Panopolitanus (Cairensis 10759) terminologically concurs with the Ethiopic Enoch when it states, "και νυν οι γιγαντες (gigantes) ..." which means "and now the giants ..." (1 En 15:8). And when referring to those Nephilim of Gn 6:4 that according to 1 En 15:9 originate from the Watchers in heaven, the LXX also employs term γίγαντες gigantes and with a definite article. This indicates that these weren't just any giants, but the giants. Thus, it follows that the γίγαντες gigantes of 1 En 15:8-12 are likely the Nephilim of Gn 6:4 or their descendants.


The peculiar claims about wicked spirits originating from antediluvian giants as advanced by 1 Enoch are very intriguing; but are they scriptural? Can they be proven by the Tanach? This idea may seem a fanciful, baseless concoction, yet there might be something to it. Let's begin by visiting Gn 6:4 which reads,


הַנְּפִלִים הָיוּ בָאָרֶץ בַּיָּמִים הָהֵם וְגַם אַחֲרֵי־כֵן אֲשֶׁר יָבֹאוּ בְּנֵי הָאֱלֹהִים אֶל־בְּנֹות הָאָדָם וְיָלְדוּ לָהֶם הֵמָּה הַגִּבֹּרִים אֲשֶׁר מֵעֹולָם אַנְשֵׁי הַשֵּׁם׃

The Nephilim had been in the earth in those days and afterwards when the sons of the divine came to the daughters of the human. And they bore to them those valiant ones which from old are the men of the reputation.


This passage plainly states that prior to the deluge, and at some later point, the Nephilim were in the earth. Apparently, they are the progeny of an interbreeding that took place between celestial beings and the daughters of Adam. Upon examining the Tanach, one will find only a single other occurrence of the noun נְפִלִים nəp̄ilīm. In Nm 13:33 this noun נְפִילִים nəp̄īlīm (in plene form), surfaces:


וְכָל־הָעָם אֲשֶׁר־רָאִינוּ בְתֹוכָהּ אַנְשֵׁי מִדֹּות׃ וְשָׁם רָאִינוּ אֶת־הַנְּפִילִים בְּנֵי עֲנָק מִן־הַנְּפִלִים וַנְּהִי בְעֵינֵינוּ כַּחֲגָבִים וְכֵן הָיִינוּ בְּעֵינֵיהֶם׃

(v.32b) "And all of the people that we saw in its midst were men of measure. (v.33) And there we saw The Nephilim, sons of ʻAnaq from The Nephilim, and we were in their eyes as grasshoppers, even so we were in their eyes."


The ʻAnaqs (ʻănāq = "long neck") are called "men of measure" (ʼanšē middōṯ) indicating that they were of extreme size; they then are identified as being "from The Nephilim". This confluence of descriptors provides the reader with characteristics of at least some נְפִלִים nəp̄ilīm -- that is, these specific ones were "giants". For it is indicated by the partitive usage of the preposition מִן min (= "from") that all sons of ʻAnaq are Nephilim, but not all Nephilim are sons of ʻAnaq. With that said, the probable etymology of the term נְפִלִים nəp̄ilīm is that it derives from the Aramaic noun נְפִיל nəp̄īl meaning "giant". [1] This, if true, means that all Nephilim are "giants" as the LXX scribes attest in Gn 6:4. The most parsimonious explanation, given the previous adductions, is that all Nephilim were giants.


Next, the account in Dt 2:10-11 recapitulates the foregoing details of the ʻAnaqs but this time with some variance:


הָאֵמִים לְפָנִים יָשְׁבוּ בָהּ עַם גָּדֹול וְרַב וָרָם כָּעֲנָקִים׃ רְפָאִים יֵחָשְׁבוּ אַף־הֵם כָּעֲנָקִים וְהַמֹּאָבִים יִקְרְאוּ לָהֶם אֵמִים׃

The ʼEmim (Heb. = "Terrors") formerly dwelled in it, a great people, many and tall as the ʻAnaqs. Rephaʼim they were reckoned (to be), also as the ʻAnaqs, but The Moʼabites called them "ʼEmim".


The people called "terrors" (ʼEmim) are likened to the "long necks" (ʻAnaqs) which are said to be "men of measure" and "The Nephilim" in Nm 13:32-33. But here, instead of being likened to Nephilim as in Nm 13:32-33, the ʻAnaqs as well as the ʼEmims (and Zamzummim in Dt 2:20-22) are called רְפָאִים rəp̄āʼīm ("Rephaʼim"). [i] Deriving from the root רפא rpʼ meaning to be "weak" or "feeble", the name suggests that they were "terrible ones" that instilled fear and "weakened" others; the term certainly denotes "giants" (cf. 1 Chr 20:4-6, "son(s) of the רָפָא rap̄aʼ"). Like Nephilim, Rephaʼim were not only legendary for their size but also for having existed from ancient times. They seem to either descend from or be synonymous with the postdiluvial Nephilim alluded to in Gn 6:4. Since scripture tells us that the ʻAnaqs were Nephilim (Nm 13:32-33) but also Rephaʼim (Dt 2:10-11), and especially in light of their respective etymologies, the two terms seem to be synonyms. The LXX which rendered נְפִילִים nəp̄īlīm as γίγαντες gigantes (cf. Gn 6:4 & Nm 13:33) also rendered רְפָאִים rəp̄āʼīm as γίγαντες gigantes (cf. Gn 14:5 & Jo 12:4). Both groups were giants, both were considered ancient, both were associated through the ʻAnaqs, so apparently both groups were the same stock.  Because רְפָאִים rəp̄āʼīm = γίγαντες gigantes and נְפִילִים nəp̄īlīm = γίγαντες gigantes, therefore it is probable that רְפָאִים rəp̄āʼīm are (of) postdiluvial נְפִילִים nəp̄īlīm. This is the midrashic understanding that 1 Enoch advances which in turn establishes the premise for its demonological etiology.


Here's where it gets interesting: though the Rephaʼim were eventually extincted, the term resurfaces throughout the Tanach in reference to departed spirits. Isaiah 26:14 warns,


 מֵתִים בַּל־יִחְיוּ רְפָאִים בַּל־יָקֻמוּ לָכֵן פָּקַדְתָּ וַתַּשְׁמִידֵם וַתְּאַבֵּד כָּל־זֵכֶר לָמֹו׃

Dead ones will not live, Rephaʼim will not rise; on this account, you have punished and you have exterminated them. You have destroyed every remembrance of theirs.


The Rephaʼim here are paralleled with dead ones as they are elsewhere through the Tanach. [ii] This meaning of "departed spirits" is shared by other Semitic languages such as NeoPunic {ראפאם} and Ugaritic {rpʼum}. [2] In fact Og, his territory, and the Repha’im are spoken of in the Ugaritic texts (dated to the 14th and 13th centuries BCE), and not in a merely passing manner. In such the rpʼum (= “Repha’im”) are paralleled with ilnym (= “divine ones”), the Canaanite version of “hell” is Bashan (Og’s territory), and some have argued that a certain rpu mlklm (= “healing eternal king”) is Milku who is actually Og. [3] These archaic texts therefore bolster the underpinnings of 1 Enoch’s etiology for wicked spirits. For these were “royal ones” in the earliest of times – that is, the men of old that were of “the reputation” (cf. Gn 6:4).


In spite of the aforementioned, the reader should abstain from applying all occurrences of Repha’im in the Tanach to dead giants. The absolute sense of the term is yet to be settled upon. But in passages like Is 14:9 the stich is possibly referring to the deceased giants who are paralleled with the chief ones of the earth when it addresses a pompous king:


שְׁאֹול מִתַּחַת רָגְזָה לְךָ לִקְרַאת בֹּואֶךָ עֹורֵר לְךָ רְפָאִים כָּל־עַתּוּדֵי אָרֶץ הֵקִים מִכִּסְאֹותָם כֹּל מַלְכֵי גֹויִם׃

Sheol from beneath is quaking for you to meet you at your arriving. It incites the Rephaʼim for you, all of the powers of the earth. It raises up from their thrones, all of the kings of the nations.


Further, the LXX and Syriac both render  רְפָאִים rəp̄āʼīm as "giants" in Is 14:9. While a connection between the Nephilim of Genesis 6:4 and dead Repha’im may not be provable beyond a shadow of a doubt, 1 Enoch has demonstrated its exegetical potency. A case can be made for 1 Enoch's advanced demonology whether one attributes its contents to a divine origin or merely men. If we proved anything this time around, it was that 1 Enoch deserves serious study and consideration. Thanks for reading



[i] ʻAnaqs, ʼEmims, and Zamzummim (alt. Zuzim cf. Gn 14:15) are all Rephaʼim that may simply be one clan bearing multiple designations that vary by region. Or, alternatively, they may be different sects of Rephaʼim as it is used in a general manner referring to giants.


[ii] Refer to the following: Gn 14:5; Dt 2:11, 20; 3:13; Jo 15:8; 18:16; 2 Sm 5:18, 22; 23:13; 1 Chr 11:15; 14:9; Ps 88:11; Prv 2:18; 9:18; 21:16; Is 14:9; 17:5; 26:14, 19





[1] Michael Heiser, “The Meaning of the Word Nephilim: Fact vs. Fantasy,” page 5 [cited 24 March 2012]. Online:


[2] Dietrich-L.-S. Texte 1, tablets 120-122, esp. 122


[3] Van Der Toorn (1991:57-58)


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Comment by Erik Adoniqam on March 30, 2012 at 12:16pm
Thanks Solomon. Yeah I've pondered that as well as the possibility of the Qal mp passive participle Naphulim. However, the only thing I think that seems go against such an understanding is that none of these inflections provide the typical mater lectionis that po'el and pa'ul (active and passive Qal participles) verbal forms exhibit. That is, there is usually a waw-ו infixed into the root. Now given that the term does only occur three times there is not a whole lot to go off of. This is I'll grant.

1 Enoch and the DSS, I'll premise, may be incorrect in their tradition. With that said, these works seem to lack any strata of distinction between the two spellings of Nephilim as well. Everyone familiar with the Qumran sect's scribal works knows that they weren't afraid to slap a waw or yod or even aleph (all matres lectionis) into a word inorder to vocalize it correctly. Their writings are seriously loaded with these. They never, that I know of, vocalize the word by writing it as נופלים or נפולים though they consistently write נפילים instead of the defective spelling when lecturing in their sectarian writ. Perhaps they were too far remove from the text's authorship to have a tradition surrounding it though(?).

- Shalom
Comment by Erik Adoniqam on March 30, 2012 at 12:52pm
Yeah, good point. The Aramaic version of Enoch seems to amalgamate the two sometimes but at others (possibly) distinguish them which is why I stated in the beginning that the giants are either the Nephilim or their descendants. They are certainly of the same stock.

Your observation is a noteworthy one.


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