Were the nephilim in Genesis 6 “giants”?
B. Hodge, Biblical Authority Ministries, May 12, 2020
There is no reason why the nephilim pre-Flood have to be giants. There is nothing in the context to indicate that the nephilim were giants in Genesis 6.
They were men of renown (making a name for themselves) and mighty men. But David had mighty men (e.g., 1 Kings 1:8) and they were not giants; and the people at Babel were making a name for themselves (Genesis 11:4) and we have no context to indicate they were giants. We are all descendants of those at Babel by the way, so if they were giants, then genetically, most of us should be as well.
The giants in Numbers 13:33 were giants and the context goes out of the way to make that clear. But just because one group of nephilim who lived post-Flood were giants doesn’t mean all the nephilim were giants prior to the Flood. The Anakim (descendants of Anak) were among the descendants of Canaanite tribes, which was noted as the land of giants (Deuteronomy 2:20; 3:13 and Joshua 17:15).
This is why the Anakim were on the list to be taken out by Joshua and Caleb (e.g., Joshua 15:14, Judges 1:20). They were living at Hebron (formerly Kiriath Arba, named for the father of Anak (Arba per Joshua 14:13). Kiriath Arba or Hebron was a Canaanite village near Mamre which both are linked closely with the Tomb of Abraham (cave of Machpelah), that was purchased from an Hittite (Canaanite).
Several descendants of Canaan had giant stature like the Emim and Zamzummim. So this makes sense that Arba’s and Anak’s descendants could easily be giants, being they have the genetics for it and were living in the land denoted as the land of giants.
Others could have giant size too – consider that Goliath and his kin were Philistines, who were descendants of Ham through the Casluhites of Egypt (Mizraim). In fact, we have records of various giants that lived in many parts of the world post-Flood. If you put Ray Comfort (5'5") next to many NBA players (average height about 6’8"), they would be seen as giants too!
Keep in mind too that the word nephilim in Hebrew for Numbers 13 and Genesis 6 are actually spelled slightly different in Hebrew too. So equating these two groups as the same isn’t wise.
The reason for much of the confusion regarding the Genesis 6 nephilim as giants goes back to a translation of the Bible done about 1200 years after Moses penned these words. The LXX Greek translators about 200 BC decided to translate nephilim in Genesis 6 as giants (γιγαντες) since the nephilim in Numbers 13 were clearly giants. But this is a part-to-whole fallacy. And this error has transferred forward in some translations (e.g., Latin Vulgate, KJV, NKJV) since that time.
The Hebrew word we transliterate as nephilim in Genesis 6 is derived from the word naphal, which means to fall. It simply means those who fall into sin or fall from God’s grace. So the fallen children of the sons of God (godly men of the time) no longer seek after God but evil. This makes sense of the immediate context as to why evil permeated so bad leading up the judgment of Flood.
I hope this helps, God bless,