Bible Answer

What is the difference between Nephilim and giants?

Given the reports of the spies and other old Testament stories of giants, did the Nephilim survive the flood?

Ancestrally, giants are simply a speciation of those descended from Noah. Genetically they differ in the same sense that a poodle is different from a great dane, yet both descend from a common canine ancestor. [Read “Kinds” of animals on the Ark for more] Proof of speciation in man can be found in the existence of Neanderthals and other “prehistoric” man. Such beings were physiologically different (enlarged brows, smaller in stature), except clearly belonging to the human “kind” as can be seen in their ability to draw, make tools and procreate with the Homo Sapien (us) branch. 

Nephilim on the other hand, were a distinctly different being. We read in Genesis 6 of “sons of God”, fallen angels (demons), mating with women of the earth.

Gen. 6:2 that the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves, whomever they chose. 
Gen. 6:3 Then the LORD said, “My Spirit shall not  strive with man forever, because he also is flesh; nevertheless his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.” 
Gen. 6:4 The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown.

The original Hebrew (Nephilim) can be understood to mean “fallen ones”. Confusion surrounding giants arise when the Septuagint translates this word into the Greek becoming gigantes or “giant”. However as these offspring where clearly different from regular mankind, it is best to leave the word as a proper noun.

The next potential confusion comes in v4 when we interpret the word “afterward” to mean Nephilim were in the world both before and after the flood. So we need to look at the syntax of this sentence in the original Hebrew in order to clarify the meaning. In the Septuagint we can clearly see the “after” is connected to the second half of the sentence, to show what happened after these offspring were created:

Gen. 6:4 Now the giants were upon the earth in those days; and after that when the sons of God were wont to go in to the daughters of men, they bore children to them, those were the giants of old, the men of renown. 

The bible is clear that only Noah and his family survived the flood. In fact, one significant purpose of the flood was to destroy the Nephilim and their descendants so that their very DNA wouldn’t corrupt the bloodline to Christ and the rest of the human race making them unredeemable. [Read Explain the Seed Promise for more]

So how do we explain other instances of Nephilim or giants we see in the rest of scripture?

In Numbers 13 the spies give an account of what they saw in the promised land:

Numbers 13:32  So they brought to the people of Israel a bad report of the land that they had spied out, saying, “The land, through which we have gone to spy it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people that we saw in it are of great height. 
Numbers 13:33 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.”

Joshua and the other spies would have grown up with stories of the flood and the Nephilim, passed down since Noah. Upon entering the promised land and seeing these larger people (like a poodle seeing a great dane for the first time), it is understandable they referred to them by a familiar concept - Nephilim. Remember also that the spies are intentionally giving a bad report to discourage entering the land. So they may likely have also used the word Nephilim to exaggerate their report. Therefore, if they were not the offspring of fallen angels as we have already established, then who were the “sons of Anak”?

The Anakites were a tribe of people that lived near Hebron, and remained after Joshua’s conquest of the land. We read in Deuteronomy 2:

Deut. 2:10 (The Emim formerly lived there, a people great and many, and tall as the Anakim. 
Deut. 2:11 Like the Anakim they are also counted as Rephaim, but the Moabites call them Emim. 
Deut. 2:20 (It is also counted as a land of Rephaim. Rephaim formerly lived there—but the Ammonites call them Zamzummim
Deut. 2:21 a people great and many, and tall as the Anakim; but the Lord destroyed them before the Ammonites, and they dispossessed them and settled in their place,

This word Rephaim comes from the Hebrew raphah which means “giant” (singular). So these people are giant in stature and in Genesis 14:5-7 we read that the Rephaim lived on both sides of the Jordan River.

In the next chapter of Deuteronomy we find measurements of Og, last of this giant race.

Deut. 3:11 (For only Og the king of Bashan was left of the remnant of the Rephaim. Behold, his bed was a bed of iron. Is it not in Rabbah of the Ammonites? Nine cubits was its length, and four cubits its breadth, according to the common cubit.)

King Og had an iron-trimmed stone coffin that measured 13.5ft by 6ft. That is about double the height of the average American male today.

Furthermore, let us not forget perhaps the most famous giant in the Bible - Goliath. David’s challenger came from the land of Gath, who we learn from Joshua 11 were descendants of the Anakim (a race of giants):

Josh. 11:21 And 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 devoted them to destruction with their cities. 
Josh. 11:22 There was none of the Anakim left in the land of the people of Israel. Only in Gaza, in Gath, and in Ashdod did some remain.

Back in 1 Samuel, we read:

1Sam. 17:4 And there came out from the camp of the Philistines a champion named Goliath of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. 
1Sam. 17:5 He had a helmet of bronze on his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail, and the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of bronze. 
1Sam. 17:6 And he had bronze armor on his legs, and a javelin of bronze slung between his shoulders. 
1Sam 17:7 The shaft of his spear was like a weaver's beam, and his spear's head weighed six hundred shekels of iron. And his shield-bearer went before him.

Goliath’s height works out to 9.75ft, with a coat of armor that weighed about 125lb. 

Later in 2 Samuel 21 there are accounts of David’s war with the Philistines, including such giants (raphah) as Ishbi-benob, Saph and an unusual man described as:

2Sam. 21:20  And there was again war at Gath, where there was a man of great stature, who had six fingers on each hand, and six toes on each foot, twenty-four in number, and he also was descended from the giants.

Scientifically we already know that the human race has had many subspecies (Neanderthal etc). All human, but significantly different from each other. The evidence presented here from Scripture supports the very notion that the different “kinds” of human both existed and interacted in times past. They were simply descendants of Noah just like we are today, not Nephilim.