Like many games, films, and books the Diablo series has taken inspiration from real-world mythology, from Lilith and Anu to the Nephalem and the naming of armor sets. I decided to look at what has inspired the creators of the game. I am looking at the Nephalem today, and the important role they play in Diablo 3. **Note** In the game the word Nephalem is spelt differently from the real-world spelling of Nephilim.
Nephalem in the Game
In Diablo 3 the Nephalem is the main protagonist of the story and the events that unfold during the game. At the time of the game, the power the Nephalem has is unusual, but this wasn’t always the case. Long ago during the creation of the world of Sanctuary the first Nephalem came into being. When a group of renegade angels and demons decided to leave their respective sides during war, an inevitable ‘coupling’ happened and the Nephalem were the result of these unions. The Nephalem were stronger than both their Angel and Demon parents. The first generation would one day be called The Ancients, these Nephalem went out in the world to learn everything they could about Sanctuary. The cultures that grew often saw them as gods/deities.
Eventually the parents of the Nephalem started to fear the strength and power of their offspring because it could draw the attention of the High Heavens and the Burning Hells, and they wanted Sanctuary to remain out of their view. One Angel named Inarius decided to alter the energy of the Worldstone – the stone from which Sanctuary was formed – so the power of the Nephalem would wane over generations. Over the many years the Nephalem grew weaker, and their lifespans became shorter, eventually forgetting their origins, which in the time of the Diablo series, they were simply humans.
Even though the power once held by the ancient Nephalem was all but lost, there were some who were able to manifest the power within their blood. Those who were able to manifest powers were far stronger, more powerful, and bigger in stature than average humans; and the protagonist of the Diablo 3 game is the most powerful to be born in many generations, rivaling the great hero Uldyssian who previously saved Sanctuary.
Nephilim in Mythology
The Nephilim feature in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, they are the offspring of fallen angels and human women. The Nephilim are only mentioned in the Torah twice; one in Genesis before the great flood of Noah’s Ark – it’s believed that the great flood destroyed the Nephilim but having divine/angelic blood they weren’t easy to destroy. The other mention of Nephilim comes in Numbers, where a fearsome giant was found to be living in Canaan. There is a lot of ambiguity about the creation and existence of Nephilim. There is a quote from Genesis 3:4 “the sons of god, joined with the daughters of mankind, who bore them children – they were ancient warriors, the men of renown”. From this quote, it is describing a being that is half-mortal and half-divine like the demigods of ancient Greece, and maybe even giants like Goliath.
My Thoughts & Conclusion
While the Nephalem of Diablo 3 were originally born from the coupling of renegade angels and demons, but in Abrahamic mythology they are the offspring of fallen angels and mortal women – angels are involved in their creation in both. Regardless of their source, the Nephalem/Nephilim were portrayed as being extremely powerful beings that were feared and hunted, often being killed. Inarius changed the Worldstone to weaken the Nephalem of Diablo, but not outright destroy them, whereas the bible implies that the great flood was sent by God to destroy the Nephilim, wiping out any evidence of their existence.