Giants in the Bible and Its Reception

This project surveyed the uses and influences of biblical giants – Og, Goliath, the Anakim, Nephilim, Rephaim, etc – in historical and contemporary reception.


To briefly summarise the major findings of this project:

1. The David and Goliath metaphor continues to be used to describe situations in which a powerful opponent may be overcome by a less powerful but more righteous minority. It is a versatile metaphor, applied especially to Israel and Palestine, as analysed by Karey Ann SabolVacy VlaznaClay BennettAlan Woods, and Yaacov Lozowick, including the so-called David’s Sling Israeli defence system, or as a way for the Black Panthers to legitimise violence.

2. Excavations at Tel es-Safi/Gath, which the Bible presents as Goliath’s hometown have invited looks at a recent work by Avraham Faust, a discussion of Simon Schama’s representations about Jewish origins, giant bones discovered by the Greeks, the inscription which does not say “Goliath” at Gath, pig consumption as an ethnic marker in ancient Israel, Rafi Greenberg’s description of the Universe of Denial in Jerusalem archaeology, Yigal Levin’s identification of Khirbet Qeiyafa as the Israelite camp in the David and Goliath story, the ideological ramifications of the excavation at Tel es-Safi/Gath, excavations and nearby ethnic cleansings at Tel Zakariyya/Azekah, Henry Hoyle Howorth on ancient giant bones, Philip Davies rebutting Yosef Garfinkel’s claims about the end of biblical minimalism, the alleged tomb of Caleb, Cotton Mather’s discovery of a giant’s tooth, Iain Provan, V. Philips Long, and Tremper Longman as the cuttlefish of Old Testament studies, Carol and Eric Meyers on Tel es-Safi, a Time Magazine report on Tel es-Safi, and the reporting of Tel es-Safi in The Washington Post, a cartoon featuring that lovable pair of Yosef Garfinkel and Israel Finkestein, two considerations of the historical worth of the David and Goliath story by Garfinkel/Ganor and Finkelstein, a report of a giant found in Belgium in 1643, and a report on excavating Gath by Haskel Greenfield.

3. We noted literary and artistic allusions to or adaptation of the David and Goliath narrative in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, a children’s musical, a Swedish hard rock song, the miniseries The Bible, a student science fiction film, the rewritten story found in the Qur’an, a blogger with the pen-name of Goliath, a children’s claymotion tv show Davey and Goliath (and here), a proposed film based on the book Lion of War (and here), a psychoanalytic study of Caravaggio’s David and Goliath, instructions on how to recreate David’s slingshot, Giuseppe Veneziano‘s artistic parody of Caravaggio, the graphic novel by Tom Gauld (and here and here and here), an Indian film featuring Jayasurya and Anoop Menon, a comparison of Hugo Chavez to Goliath, a hit Israeli pop hit by Kaveret, an Irish film adaptation called Dáithí agus Goliath, a Yiddish Purim Play, Golias Shpil, He Thong’s erotic Goliath art, Ray Comfort, in a cartoon, in Scott Derrickson’s David and Goliath film (and here and here and here), JudaBlue’s song “Falling”, litigation against big business, on UK television show Mock the Week, in the boys’ devotion, Triple Dog Dare, in paintings by Caravaggio, Paul Cadmus, Charlie White, Matthew Stone, and David Dalla Venezia, the Captain Israel comic, in the claim by Eddie Long about his persecutors, in the claim by Eddie Long’s young male lovers about Eddie Long, a review of The Inbetweeners movie, the song “Intifada” by Ska-P, a cartoon by Carlos Latuff, Sarah Michelle Geller’s reference to the five basic stories, The Marxist Goliath Among Us, and Stand Tall!, a rock musical, a Sunday School that trained attendees to kill atheists, Observer reporter Andrew Rawnsley on the U.S., in the film Badrus, as a basis for business strategic management, a Superman comic about “Goliath-Hercules”, a depiction of the Tea Party as David taking on a two-headedblack Goliath of Obama and the lib’ral media, a children’s rap video, a big truck in northern Sweden, the children’s tv series Young Samson and Goliath (and here), a prehistoric kangaroo called Goliath, the inspiration for Tod Shepard’s murder of a cop, a proposal to rename Negro Mountain as Mount Goliath, a name for your penis, Marvel comic Black Goliath, an iPad app, a steampunk graphic, a Rastafarian reading which concluded that Jesus killed GoliathDerek Laren’s orchestral piece, “David and Goliath” and its use in Monty Python, a fictional Weekly World News report that Goliath’s skull had been found, and in Lodovico Mazzolino’s painting The Twelve-Year-Old Jesus Teaching in the Temple.

4. We also noted that a song has been composed about the Anakim by John Zorn, that the Hebrew title of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged mentions Nephilim, that there is a whole collection of poems about Og, that Darren Aronofski’s Noah film is to feature Watchers, that there is a wine-maker called Gilgal, that a poem in Theology Today is called “The Nephilim”, that the painting Walk in the Emek Refaim Street by Angela Keller (2002) features a giant, that the song “Sons of Anak, rise!” by The Mead of Asphodel summons the Anakim, that John Lemprière believed in the existence of biblical giants, that there is an Emek Rephaim Street in Jerusalem, that the Nephilim are popular again as a Top Monster, that the giant grapes of Numbers 13 are depicted oddly in a picture by Charles Foster, that the great story in Revolt of the Angels by Anatole France, that a painting of the Zamzummim was undertaken in the art project The Book of Genocide, that a book on biblical giants suggested there were giant librarians in the pre-Israelite town of Debir/Kiriath-Sepher, that there is blatant gender discrimination in a Zondervan book involving giants, that a Mountain Goats song called “Deuteronomy 2:10″ refers to the Emim and the tragedies of other extinct species, that a children’s book that commends genocide is based on Numbers 13-14, that an action video-game El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron was released, that an unusual spiritual interpretation of Num 13-14 was made by Watchman Nee, that Ludwig Blum’s may have been influenced by Num 13:32 in his paintings, that Wonder Woman makes it into the LOLcat Bible version of Gen 6:4, that Jennifer Knust connects the reference in Jude to “strange flesh” to Gen 6:1-4, that an article in an Oregon newspaper defends the existence of giants, that fallen angels appear in a Lynx advertisement, that there was a musical called Giants in the Earth. And we campaigned for the inclusion of giants in the Ark Encounter theme park (and were supported by Vorjack).

5. One of the more interesting developments in recent years is the association of biblical giants, in particular Nephilim, with aliens or “ancient astronauts”, or crytozoological theories, as in the theories of L.A. Marzulli, the hairy topless Italian man, Kragen Millsap, Stephen Quayle (and here), and Chuck Missler.

6. Related to these theories, and to recent trends in paranormal fiction (especially vampire fiction), is the development of Nephilim fiction: Swedish crime fiction, paranormal romantic fiction by D.M. Pratt and Jill Myles, erotic fiction in The Notorious Nephilim series, The Bone Season, Danielle Trussoni’s Angelology and films such as Mortal Instruments.

7. Summaries and discussions of scholarship on biblical giants included this bit from Deane Galbraith, John Day on Genesis 6:1-4, Robert Alter on Anakim, a discussion of Michael Heiser’s unlikely etymology of “Nephilim” as “giants” (here and here), Atheist Biblical Criticism on who killed Goliath, a comparison of 1 Samuel 17 to Star Wars, the etymology of the name “Goliath” as Carian, Benjamin Johnson on the David and Goliath story in both Hebrew and Greek versions, Brian Doak’s book on the Rephaim, a debate about Gen 6:1-4 and gender, Pieter W. van der Horst’s study of the gushing orgasm experienced by Noah’s mother, the possible origins of Og, Richard Beck’s defence of the Sethite interpretation of Gen 6:1-4, a summary of the Book of Giants by Jim Davila, the disembodied giants of 1 Enoch 15, on the earliest non-angelic interpretation of Gen 6:1-4, and Jim West’s justification of genocide, Dmitri Panchenko’s positing of European origins for the giants of Gen 6:1-4, Gregory Wong’s consideration of whether David’s stone hit Goliath on the forehead or leg, on the walking talking cross in the Gospel of Peter and Jesus’s gigantification (also discussed by Bart Ehrman), claims about a giant race of Watusi/Tutsi in colonial AfricaAdam and Eve as giants (and here), whether the David and Goliath narrative was derived from a gay romance between David and Saul, the age of Og at his death, Duane Smith’s discussion of an Akkadian omen with a possible parallel to Genesis 6:1-4, J. Harold Ellens’s description of the giants of Genesis 6:1-4 as ”rambunctious”, Claude Mariottini on who killed Goliath, whether there are Rephaim in Job 13:4. giants with six fingers on each hand, Brian R. Doak and John T. Noble on the Rephaim, Ralph Waldo Emerson’s physiognomy which contrasted Anakim and Blondes, a summary of Satan scholarship by Derek R. Brown, Jeffrey Zorn’s attempt to identify Goliath’s armourThe Oxford Handbook of the Reception History of the Bible on Gog and Magog, human women seducing the angels in T. Reuben and The Almighty Bible, Bruce Louden on Mesopotamian and Greek parallels to Gen 6:4, Thom Stark on apologetic interpretations of Gen 6:4, Heinrich Ewald’s theory about the gigantic stature of primitive tribes, John Reeves on biblical giants, and The Classical Tradition on giants.

8. We also noted a few giants in Game of Thrones, the worst giant movie of all time, Eegah!, Jack the Giant Slayer, which was originally Jack the Giant KillerPrometheus, in the song “I Like Giants“, The Hobbit film, John Coltrane’s amazing “Giant Steps“, San Francisco baseball, the Cardiff Giant hoax, the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland, the Greater Western Sydney Giants, the sexual fetish of macrophilia, the North Korean army,  giant footprints in the Weekly World News, the New York American football team, Wrath of the Titans, why Winston Churchill would have believed in giants, a spinning giant brain-teaser, artist Ty Marshall’s recreation of the Cardiff Giant, a list of amazing giant killings, the Brick TestamentAndré The Giant, the English Gog and Magog, the graphic novel I Kill Giants, metalcore band Sleeping Giant (which heals the blind and lame), “Giant Song” by Funeral Party, the French discovery of giants in Australia, Giant Food Inc., and Elizabeth Taylor’s Giant.

9. We played with the continuing fascination regarding the height of biblical giants: Goliath’s height was compared to those of Flo RidaAndré the GiantYao MingMiranda HartChewbacca, Bashar Al-Assad, and Matthew Coomber; we challenged Mr Know-It-All’s opinion on the height of Goliath; we opined that biblical conspiracy theorists, children’s books authors, government propagandists, American homeschoolers, and pre-moderns had a better idea of the height of biblical giants than most biblical scholars; we compared the respective heights of Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries to an ancient Philistine woman and Goliath; we provided a Comparative Height Chart of an ordinary Israelite man versus the biblical giants Goliath and Og and a handy cubit-to-feet converter; we examined the height of Greek heroes; we examined a medieval argument for the height of giants who survived the Flood; we summarised the height of Goliath according to the various versions and manuscripts; and we wondered where Thom Stark got his idea that anybody over 6-feet tall would have been considered a giant in the aNE.

10. We wondered why angels do not have sex with men, noted Žižek on The Sex of Angels, asked “How Do You Know When You’re Having Sex With a Fallen Angel?”, which received some comment, and examined macrophilia and how to seduce Christian women.

11. On biblical studies more generally we discussed Thomas Römer’s introduction to Old Testament scholarship, the testes on the cover of James Harding’s book, whether Philistines were circumcised in Iron Age II, Bruce Lincoln on the Persian Magi, a quote by Saul Lieberman, Tim Bulkeley’s discussion of Francesca Stavrakopoulou on the effects of the eradication of goddesses in Jewish and Christian monotheism, Keith Whitelam on Obama’s speech about Israel, Keith Whitelam’s Rhythms of Time, Bob Seidensticker on Yahweh’s defeat in battle by other gods, the Bible’s reference to Jews building a wall around Jerusalem to keep out Arabs, Eric A. Seibert on violence in the Old Testament, Francesca Stavrakopoulou on the virgin birth, James Charlesworth’s experience with a giant snake, Adrienne Mayor’s reissue of The First Fossil HuntersBruce Malina joking about the Holocaust, Peter Enns on denials of Mosaic authorship from the pre-modern period, and the portrait of Ezekiel on an Italian Giant Bible, events at SBL 2011 and ETS 2011, Jean-Fabrice Nardelli‘s responses to Robert Gagnon on homosexuality and the Bible, Bryan Bruce‘s Jesus: The Cold Case (and here), software that can purportedly do Pentateuchal source criticism, the future of Biblical Studies and what research remains to be done (here, here, here, here, and here), belief in a flat earth, Tim Bulkeley on humour in the BIble, Iain Provan’s New Zealand lecture tour, Roland Boer on idealism in biblical scholarship, a seven-part review of Maurice Casey’s Jesus of Nazareth, examining whether Jesus rose from the dead (1234567), Francesca Stavrakopoulou’s The Bible’s Buried Secrets (available here), Christopher Hitchens’s love for the King James Version, Thom Stark’s rebuttal of Matthew Flannagan on the genocide in Joshua, definitive proof that the Lead Codices were not forged, The Invention of the Biblical Scholar, by Stephen Moore and Yvonne Sherwood, Wellhausen’s recognition that we all have presuppositions, the online LSJ, John Barton on historical and literary criticism, theological interpretation as dissonance reduction, and Ken Dowden on myth and history.

12. There have also been several posts on matters that have little, if anything to do with giants, including a gaffe by the President of Venezuela, Según Maduro, NT Wright singing a song called “Genesis”, alternative theories to Jacobovici’s “Jonah-fish” (1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6), and a note of Jacobovici’s forthcoming Mary Magdalene book, Harold Camping’s end-of-the-world predictions (herehere, here, here, here, here, here, here), and news that special highlighters had been invented for thin Bible paper, an ark for sale in Christchurch, theology courses taught at Hogwarts, the concept of “sound theological principles”, the crisis of Capitalism, Bibles for Haiti, God’s blog, News Corp, the fairy tale of Karl Barth and Charlotte von Kirschbaum (here, here, here, here, here, and here), how Google Books summarises Church Dogmatics, the 2011 Southern Baptist Convention, the banning of the Bible at the 2011 Southern Baptist Convention, a false prophecy by Brian Tamaki and Eddie Long, Eddie Long’s Star Trek cosplay, Alan Moore on Jerusalem, the use of the phrase “Jesus is a Cunt” in Invercargill street culture and 1980s Manchester music and biblical scholarship, Sarah Sentille’s Breaking Up With God, an altercation between Paul Ryan and a Bible-wielding protestor, Cisco’s help in torturing Falun Gong members, the bible verses on Kim Kardashian’s ring, Netanyahu‘s address to the U.S. Congress, Dominique Strauss-Kahn and the International Mother Fuckers, Experiencing Bible Science: A Lab Book for the Young at Heart by Louise Barrett Derr, Lady Gaga and Judas, publisher IVP’s confession that they are rooted, and rug-hooking.

13. We also hosted Biblical Studies Carnival no. 69. Remnant of Giants quickly became The Most Popular Old Testament/Hebrew Bible blog in the World, and the search analytics for the blog can be found here.

The notion of deserved and undeserved is a fancy. Knowing both life and death, we endeavor to impose worth and meaning upon our deeds, and thereby comfort our fear of impermanence. We choose to imagine that our lives merit continuance. But that is a fancy. A wider gaze does not regard us in that wise. The stars do not. Perhaps the Creator does not. The larger truth is merely that all things end. By that measure, our fancies cannot be distinguished from dust.

For this reason, we Giants love tales. Our iteration of past deeds and desires and discoveries provides the only form of permanence to which mortal life can aspire. That such permanence is a chimera does not lessen its power to console. Joy is in the ears that hear.

Stephen R. Donaldson, The Last Dark, p 187
(h/t Loren’s Facebook page)

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Filed under Biblical Giants

4 responses to “Giants in the Bible and Its Reception

  1. Pingback: LXXI | Biblioblog Carnival—October 2013

  2. dangjin1

    i am curious–you haven’t posted for 5 months and with no word I am wondering if you are okay?

  3. anonymous

    Surprising that you never mentioned the whole Sasquatch DNA kerfuffle on your blog — methinks it merits a mention:

    discussion..note the comment on angel DNA…….

    And the giant Homo Heidelbergensis, exceeding 7 ft….

    there were indeed giants in the earth, in those days… 400 thousand years ago,..

    have fun with all that….

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