They first appear in Genesis 6…
When human beings began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of humans were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose. Then the Lord said, “My Spirit will not contend with humans forever, for they are mortal; their days will be a hundred and twenty years.”
The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went to the daughters of humans and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown.
The discussion usually centres around ‘the sons of God and the daughters of men.’ Some sources say that the sons of God were fallen angels. Others say that they were lapsed followers of God who were attracted to women who were not followers of God, hence God’s frustration with their choice of wives.
It makes more sense that they were human. Jesus mentions angels in the NT and says that they don’t marry. (Matt 22:29) Also the beginning of the above section is talking specifically about the increase of human beings. The Nephilim are only mentioned briefly and are not talked about again until their descendants are mentioned in the book of Numbers, when the 12 spies went to check out the land (Another great story!). “And there we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak, who come from the Nephilim), and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.”” (Num 13:33 ESV) It’s important to note that this was after the flood, so these Nephilim were descendants of one of Noah’s sons. So… were Nephilim people of a particular stature, rather than of a particular tribe? Not sure, but they were obviously big guys! Later on we hear that Goliath, the Philistine, was another human of gargantuan proportions. So it wasn’t unheard of, or an ‘angelic’ quality to be big!
I freely admit that this a 2 minute thought on a well documented discussion about who these Nephilim were – and don’t get me started on the Rock Monsters in the Noah movie.
I believe that the more important point is the story that surrounds them. God continually calling His people back to Him, and all but Noah responded. The Ark was built and the rains came. No one, not even the ‘sons of God’ saw what was coming, or realised God’s judgement was about to fall.
The Nephilim were ‘heroes of old, men of renown’ – but they weren’t on the ark!
There’s another lifeboat coming, I intend to be on it – how about you?