The question I’ve asked is not centered on the identity of the benei ha’Elohim but on the text itself and whether the text has sufficient grammatical support to identify the subject with respect to “in those days בימים ההם and also afterwards וגם אחרי כן”. I am ok with the answer being it’s too ambiguous, or there is insufficient supporting documentation in the Tanakh to make a conclusive interpretation. But by no means is it a duplicate question.

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

It was then, and later too, that the Nephilim appeared on earth when the divine beings cohabited with the daughters of men, who bore them offspring. They were the heroes of old, the men of renown.

Two-part question from the same verse, as it’s possibly related.

  1. Based on the Hebrew grammar, WHO were in those days and then afterward: the giants or the sons of G-d or another variant?

  2. Are the Nephilim being equated to the Gibborim in this verse? That is if indeed it’s the giants that were before and afterward?

  • Welcome to MiYodeya Efrayim and thanks for this first question. Since MY is different from other sites you might be used to, see here for a guide which might help understand the site. Great to have you learn with us!
    – mbloch
    Sep 10, 2019 at 3:11
  • @mbloch I wish to comply, if I am not in compliance please bring it to my attention and afford me a short grace period to adjust. Also thank you for the link, the commentaries on this passage are at a minimum interesting. Sep 10, 2019 at 3:56
  • See the Ramban in particular - he has much to say on your question.
    – mbloch
    Sep 10, 2019 at 4:00
  • @AlBerko care to elaborate? Sep 10, 2019 at 13:31
  • 1
    OK I understand now. I retracted, but the answer is unfit then.
    – Al Berko
    Sep 10, 2019 at 16:46

2 Answers 2


Grammatically, it's a somewhat challenging passuk. However, the challenging part centers around the phrase אֲשֶׁר יָבֹאוּ, a third of the way through. The beginning is pretty straightforward: "The Nephilim were in the land (or 'on the Earth') in those days and also afterwards..." The grammar here isn't ambiguous. "And also afterwards" can only refer back to the Nephilim. You could end the passuk at that point and have a perfectly sound grammatical sentence.

Also, if you look at the cantillation marks, which are grammatical markers, the main division in the sentence occurs after "bore them." If "and also afterwards" referred to the B'nei Elohim, the division would naturally have occured at that point, but it doesn't.

In terms of narrative, "afterwards" is necessary to foreshadow the post-diluvian existence of Nephilim as reported by the spies at Numbers 13:33 (see Ibn Ezra) and/or the "Anakim" in Joshua 14:15 (see Radak). There is no further discussion of B'nei Elohim which would necessitate an "afterwards," as their only other cameo appearance is in the Book of Job.

As for the second part of your question, it does seem that the Nephilim are being linked to the Giborim (the "Mighty Ones"), since it says "these are" (הֵמָּה), a grammatical tool of referring back to the main subject of a sentence, in this case the Nephilim. This makes sense, since the passuk is best understood as describing how the Nephilim came into existence -- through a union of the B'nei Elohim and the daughters of men -- and then explaining to an audience that had heard of both "Giborim" and "Nephilim" that they are one and the same.

The Torah does this in other places -- for example, in connection with the spies, Numbers 13:3 states, וַיִּשְׁלַ֨ח אֹתָ֥ם מֹשֶׁ֛ה מִמִּדְבַּ֥ר פָּארָ֖ן ... אֲנָשִׁ֔ים רָאשֵׁ֥י בְנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל הֵֽמָּה, "And Moses sent them from the Wilderness of Paran ... heads of the Children of Israel they were (הֵמָּה)." The use of הֵמָּה refers back to the previous passuk, a longer stretch than referring to the Nephilim in the beginning of the same passuk here. Similarly, in Numbers 8:16, הֵמָּה refers to the Levites discussed in the previous passuk.

Part of the issue is that the translation you're relying upon is a poor translation, that drastically changes the order of the words and the sentence structure from Hebrew to English. Despite its idiosyncrasies, I prefer the Everett Fox translation (available on Sefaria), which almost always retains the original grammatical structure and often the precise word order. It is not the most "beautiful" translation, but in my opinion it is a great learning tool.


Ibn Ezra offers four possible explanations. He explains Genesis 6, that (1) the b’nei haElohim are the children of nobles, (2) they were people of lofty character, (3) they were exalted descendants of Seth who married the inferior woman descended of Cain, or (4) they chose proper wives based on their knowledge of astrological planetary motion (ibn Ezra, like most contemporaries of his day relied on the efficacy of astrology).

The sage, ibn Ezra then rejects that they were the “sons of G-d,” because that would imply that they were either angles or giants. He opts for the more likely approach that they were men high of stature (the common definition of giants in the Bible).

  • If that be the case @Jonathan I’d be curious to see how he reads psalm 82 and 89. Aside from that I was interested if possible, on the grammatical breakdown rather the interpretation who the characters are believed to be. Who they are, is irrelevant to me in this question, I am more interested to find out who were “then and later too” based on the grammar. And also based on the grammar are the Nephilim being equated to the Gibborim. This passage must make sense and not read as a shopping list, unless it is a shopping list. Sep 10, 2019 at 12:32
  • @EfrayimbenhaYosef The common approach to ibn Ezra is that he does not read a literal interpretation to the Bible. No, I think the grammar indicates that they are not similar to Gibborim.
    – Jonathan
    Sep 10, 2019 at 13:21

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