The Old Testament is filled with some strange occurrences. Sure, it has its plagues and its floods, but did you know Moses lived to be 120 years old? Of course, that’s nothing when you consider that Methuselah lived to be 969 years old. And who could forget that classic from Kings 2:23-25, when God sent two bears to kill forty-two children for mocking a man for being bald. Another odd occurrence in the bible was the appearance of giants known as Nephilim.
“The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went in to the daughters of humans, who bore children to them. These were the heroes that were of old, warriors of renown” Genesis 6:1-4
“We saw the Nephilim; and to ourselves we seemed like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.” Numbers 12:32-33
So, who were the Nephilim? In the bible, they are the sons of God and the daughters of men…however that works. Loosely translated the word means “giants”, although some believe the word comes from the Hebrew word for “fallen”. Their presence in the bible has been interpreted many different ways. Some claim them to be the offspring of angels, while others claim them to actually be fallen angels. Most Sunday school students remember the story of “David and Goliath”, the young boy who slew the giant armed only with a slingshot. Goliath, the most famous of Biblical giants, was actually a descendant of the Nephilim, a Philistine warrior who stood nearly ten feet tall.
So were the Nephilim real?
The first discovery of what may have been actual proof of the Nephilim’s existence happened in 1705. Massachusetts Puritan Cotton Mather strongly believed that bones found near Albany, New York actually belonged to giants who died in Noah’s flood. Paleontologists later debunked this claim when it was proven that the bones actually belonged to a mastodon. For centuries, fossilized remains of large animals such as elephants, giant sloths, and bison have been mistaken for giants. But for some, that still doesn’t dispel their supposed existence.
In 1928, Peruvian archaeologist Julio Tello discovered an enormous intricately designed graveyard containing some of the largest skulls ever found. Some of the skulls were believed to be over 3,000 years old. A recent DNA test found that the DNA contained in these skulls had mutations unknown to human, primate, or animal. Had Tello found a Nephilim tomb? Many are still unsure, and scientists have yet to prove otherwise.
The myth of the Nephilim has been kept alive for centuries by new discoveries every few decades or so. Although many have been debunked, there are still those that leave the question of Nephilim existence still open. Around the early 2000’s, an odd discovery was made in Greece. The skeleton of a fifteen-foot humanoid was believed to have been discovered near the northern border near Bulgaria. More recent findings have also cropped up in Saudi Arabia, Rome, England, and Wisconsin.
It’s hard to say whether the Bible’s mention of giants is intended to be taken literally or as just some kind of metaphor. Although the evidence is still inconclusive, there are many who believe that giants did at one time walk among us. Some will look at examples in everyday life such as larger than life people like Robert Pershing Wadlow, the Guinness record holder for world’s tallest man (10’ 9”). There are certainly signs that point in both directions. For now, we’re still waiting for definitive proof.