Category Archives: Anakim

The Meads of Asphodel summon the Anakim: Sons of Anak Rise!

The Meads of Asphodel

The Meads of Asphodel

“Sons of Anak Rise”
The Meads of Asphodel
Exhuming the Grave of Yeshua
Supernal Music, 2003

Slain of hebron desert titans
Sons of anak rise.
Earth born giants torn asunder
Sons of anak rise.

Ishbiben ohya achor
Beelisas arba lahmi
Sons of anak rise
Sons of anak rise.

Og of bashan great goliath
Sons of anak rise
Horim emim mighty nephilim
Sons of anak rise.

With midian steel the giants fell
All murdered by the hebrew priests
& they shall not rise nor live again
These sons of anak deceased.

Og of bashan great goliath
Sons of anak rise
Horim emim mighty nephilim
Sons of anak rise.

The Meads of Asphodel

The Meads of Asphodel

The Meads of Asphodel are a UK band which deliver that all-too-rare combination of black metal and 70s prog rock. The band was founded in 1998 by lead vocalist, Metatron.


Filed under Anakim, Emim, Goliath, Horim, King Og, Music, Nephilim

Giant Librarians of the Ancient World

Big Bad Bible GiantsI learned something I never knew about Giants from the best basic guide to Giants of the Bible. According to Big Bad Bible Giants, authored by Ed Strauss and illustrated by Anthony Carpenter (Zondersexist, 2005), the Bible tells the story of an ancient city populated by Giant librarians!

The Giant Librarians of Debir
The Giant Librarians of Debir

This is not something I’ve discovered in any biblical commentary, because Big Bad Bible Giants has the scoop. It’s all a matter of almost logical inference from three things that the Bible tells us: (1) the city of Debir was also known as Kiriath-Sepher (“The City of Scribes”); (2) Othniel defeated the inhabitants of Debir; and (3) some of the inhabitants of Palestine were Giants. Ed Strauss’s conclusion is that Othniel must have defeated a group of Giant librarians in the city of Debir:

Giant libraries
In Joshua’s day, about 600 years after Abraham, the giant Anakites had a city in south Canaan called Debir (Joshua 11:21). The giants called it Kiriath Sepher, which means “City of Scribes” or “City of Books.” The city’s other name was Kiriath Sannah, which means “City of Instruction” (Joshua 15:49). Bible scholars believe Kiriath Sepher was a major center of learning and culture for all of Canaan. It probably had a huge library full of scrolls, and was the city where giants went to learn.
Can’t you just picture a dozen heavy, hairy giants sitting around mumbling loudly as they read? You can be sure they weren’t sitting in ordinary-sized desks!
What were their books about? No idea. All the monster scrolls seem to have been torched when the Israelites conquered the city (Judges 1:11-13).
 -  Ed Strauss, Big Bad Bible Giants

Ah yes – there would be traces of these giant books and giant libraries around today, if only the Israelites hadn’t destroyed them all. Ed Strauss also offers us a picture of Othniel’s defeat of the city of Debir, the city of Giant librarians: 

We don’t know the details of this battle and how well the giants fought, whether they made their last stand at the library…
 -  Ed Strauss, Big Bad Bible Giants
Ah – the Last Stand of the Giants at the Library. Mark my words - there’s a film in that!
And as a special bonus, a great track from the era of “the Dunedin Sound”:


Filed under Anakim, Ancient Jewish texts, Children's lit, Joshua 14-15, Judges 1, Numbers 13-14

A Basic Introduction to Giants of the Bible… and Zondervan’s Sexism toward Children, and the Zondervan Gender-Prejudiced Bibles

People are always asking me, “Can you recommend a basic introduction to the Giants of the Bible?” Well, yes I can! One of the most basic introductions to biblical Giants is Big Bad Bible Giants, authored by Ed Strauss and illustrated by Anthony Carpenter (published by the Zondervan children’s subdivision, Zonderkidz).

Big Bad Bible Giants - authored by Ed Strauss, illustrations by Anthony Carpenter

Big Bad Bible Giants - authored by Ed Strauss, illustrations by Anthony Carpenter

I’m serious. If you want a basic introduction to the Giants of the Bible, let this be your guide. It covers all the Giants of the Bible, including the Nephilim, the Rephaites, the Zamzummites, the Emites, the Anakites, the Avvites, King Og of Bashan, Goliath, Lahmi, and Ishbi-Benob of Gath, Anak, Ahiman, Sheshai, Talmai, and the multidigit monster – with cartoons.

What’s more, this is a book for boys. Not for girls. Apparently, only young Christian boys should take an interest in the gory occupation of slaying Giants. But wait, you say, hasn’t the author ever heard of Buffy? Alas, even Buffy could not grow to the physical proportions of Our Lord:

Perfect for boys aged 8 to 12, the 2:52 series is based on Luke 2:52: “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” Focussing on four primary areas of growth, this guiding verse can help boys become more like Jesus mentally (smarter), physically (stronger), spiritually (deeper), and socially (cooler). From Bibles and devotionals to fiction and nonfiction, with plenty of gross and gory mixed in, there is something for every boy.

The 2:52 series also offers these other boyish (not girly) titles: Bible Heroes and Bad Guys, Bible Angels and Demons, Bible Wars and Weapons, Creepy Creatures and Bizarre Beasts from the Bible, Weird and Gross Bible Stuff, Bible Freaks and Geeks, and Seriously Sick Bible Stuff. That’s the sorts of things that boys just love, but girls do not, according to Zondervan’s 2:52 series.

And in addition to all this, for your rough-and-tumble, O-God-I-pray-every-night-that-he’s-heterosexual, scalliwag of a Christian boy, Zonderkidz publishes the 2:52 Boys Bible: The Ultimate Manual – complete with grey metallic plating on the front cover:

Finally a Bible just for boys! Discover gross and gory Bible stuff. Find out interesting and humorous Bible facts… Learn how to become more like Jesus mentally, physically, spiritually, and socially.

And just before you can say “gender stereotype”, let’s place the metal-plated 2:52 Boys Bible alongside what Zondervan offers for little girls… The Precious Princess Bible:

Zondervan Boy's Bible versus Zondervan "Precious Princess" Girl's Bible

Zondervan Boy's Bible versus Zondervan "Precious Princess" Girl's Bible

Just to top off this survey of systematic sexism at Zondervan, here’s a quote from the Zondervan Blog which proudly affirms that God does not discriminate!

“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). God does not discriminate on the basis of gender, or race, or socio-economic status. All are invited, all are included.
- Keri Wyatt Kent, 2 October 2009, Zondervan Blog.

If God does not discriminate, Zondervan seems determined to do it for Him. Whether Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female, Zondervan has a niche market just for you!

h/t: Gillian


Filed under Anakim, Biblical Giants, Books on Giants, Children's lit, Emim, Goliath, King Og, Nephilim, Rephaim

Giants were not Blondes! – Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Physiognomy

The Giant is made of stuff that is closer to the earth, raw and primitive, a mighty warrior and formidable opponent. On the other hand, as the nineteenth-century Science of Physiognomy teaches (as do some books you’ll find in the Mind-Body-Spirit section, today), the Blonde type is sensitive, cultured, perhaps even a little neurotic, but certainly at the other end of the physical spectrum from the Giant type.

Ralph Waldo Emerson: The Blonde Type

Ralph Waldo Emerson: The Blonde Type

Thus, Ralph Waldo Emerson, in his correspondence to Thomas Carlisle of 17 June 1870, by way of apology and excuse for his delay in replying to his friend, offers the following:

You are of the Anakim and know nothing of the debility and postponement of the blonde constitution.

But is this merely Emerson’s self-deprecatory excuse for his failure to write earlier, or do these words also claim some superior intellect for our neurotic litterateur? Is there embedded in this comparison between brute and blonde a subtle jibe aimed at Emerson’s influential precursor?

The “blonde constitution” was one shared, after all, by Our Lord and Saviour:

Careful investigation… seems to show two physical types among the Jews: one dark, with black hair and eyes, and the well-known hooked nose; another with very regular profile and beautiful features, but blonde, with light hair, and blue eyes… The blonde type is the one from which the traditional representations of the Saviour are made, and it is not improbably very ancient among the Jews.

- Mr. Charles Loring Brace, Races of the Old World (1863)

Sharrona Pearl recounts an amusing yet sobering anecdote about nineteenth-century “historian and children’s writer Reverend Charles Kingsley”, who was “particularly sensitive to the physiognomic implications of literary illustrations”:

when he was acting as an advising editor to illustrator Charles Bennett on an edition of John Bunyan’s 1678 classic Pilgrim’s Progress, he insisted that Bennett adhere to physiognomic conventions in the illustrations. An 1859 letter from Kingsley to Bennett included a number of suggestions about ways for Bennett to improve his drawings by increasing the physiognomic agreement between the literary and visual drawings of their characters… “The ‘lust of the flesh,’ is hardy animal enough. I have generally seen with strong animal passion, a tendency to high cheek bone; but only in a dark woman. Yours may stand for a blonde type, but even thin [sic] I should prefer a lower forehead… Give her very full features and bust.”

- Sharrona Pearl, About Faces: Physiognomy in Nineteenth-century Britain (Harvard, 2010)

All this explains precisely, at least according to Aristotle’s third and middle explanatory category of reasoning (i.e. of analogy), the thoroughgoing, even obsessive division of the first four books of the Old Testament between the earthy, natural Jehovist and the legalistic, dispassionate Priestly source, as carried out by biblical scholars in the “extended” ninteenth century.

(N.b., while in the humanities as a whole, what is referred to as the “extended” nineteenth century is generally considered to continue into ca. the 1920s, in biblical studies the extended nineteenth century proceeds still undaunted into the twenty-first.)


Filed under Anakim, Literature

How Genocide Can Provide a Good Moral Example for Children

In Numbers 13-14, God commands the Israelites to kill all the local inhabitants of Palestine, and take the land for themselves. The inhabitants are not even presented as properly human, but as Giants.

Yet even in biblical passages such as this, where we might sensibly conclude that Yahweh’s command for genocide is morally reprehensible, children’s book writers always somehow manage to derive a nice moral from the story. For example, here’s Gwen Ellis’ Read and Share Bible: More Than 200 Best-Loved Bible Stories, on Numbers 13-14, or rather, on the non-expurgated parts thereof:

But in all fairness to Gwen Ellis and other children’s books writers, this saccharine moralism doesn’t seem all that different from what’s done in many or most “academic” biblical commentaries on Numbers 13-14 – accentuating the faith and glossing over the means by which they demonstrate that faith (killing all the native inhabitants):

“Caleb’s exhortation expresses faith in Israel’s ability to enter successfully into the land.”
- Dennis T. Olson, Numbers, 78.

“God promises a reward to the two faithful scouts who gave a good report concerning the quality of the Promised Land and challenged the people to enter it with vision and faith.”
- R. Dennis Cole, Numbers, 236.

“Only those among the spies who had been sent out and had, in contrast to the majority of their comrades, issued a summons to confident trust, are to share in the gift of the land.”
- Martin Noth, Numbers, 101.

Yeah, well, this so-called exemplary faith which you’re describing involves genocide, doesn’t it? So what’s with the saccharine moral-making about faith? You’d think, by looking at the level of critical analysis engaged in here, that the authors of academic biblical commentaries get all their ideas from reading children’s story books.


Filed under Anakim, Biblical Giants, Children's lit, Numbers 13-14

Eat the Giants before they Eat You: The Spiritual Interpretation of Numbers 13-14 by Watchman Nee

“And do not fear the people of the land. For they are our bread.”
- Num. 14.9

It is not only children’s bibles which reduce the spy narrative of Numbers 13-14 to a spiritual lesson about obedience, faith in God, or overcoming great obstacles - conveniently bypassing the literal divine command to kill all the existing inhabitants. Here’s a funny passage from Watchman Nee, China’s Billy Graham:

Nee Shu-tsu (Watchman Nee)

Nee Shu-tsu (Watchman Nee)

The inhabitants of the land were admittedly ‘men of great size’, but in Caleb’s eyes, they were food for God’s people… Our bread is not only the word of God, our meat is not only to do his will, our bread is also the Anakim – the difficulties that are in our way. Many people take the word of God as their bread and the doing of his will as their meat, but they have not eaten the Anakim. Many eat too little of the Anakim. The more we eat the Anakim, the stronger we will become. Caleb is a grand illustration of this. Because he accepted the Anakim as ‘bread’, he was still full of vitality at the age of eighty-five. His strength was the same at eighty-five as it was at forty. So many Anakim had been assimilated by him over the years that he had developed a constitution which showed no trace of age. This is also true in the spiritual realm.

- Watchman Nee, God’s Keeping Power, 6-7


Filed under Anakim, Numbers 13-14

The True Height of Goliath

The major textual witnesses to 1 Samuel 17 give two different heights for Goliath. In some manuscripts of 1 Samuel 17, Goliath is 4½ cubits, which at approximately 18 inches or 45cm per cubit (as general estimates) is 6 feet 8 inches or 2.02 metres. In other textual witnesses, Goliath is 6½ cubits, that is, 9 feet 7 inches or 2.93 metres. Texts in which Goliath’s height is only 4½ cubits are also missing many of the verses found in most modern translations of 1 Samuel 17  (with the notable exception of Codex Alexandrinus) . The missing verses are 1 Samuel 17.12-31 and 55-58, and almost only appear where Goliath’s height is given as 6½ cubits.

The average height of people in this region in the late centuries B.C. was about 3½ cubits (a little over 5 foot). Therefore, 4½ cubits would represent an extremely tall person, as tall as one would ever find, whereas 6½ cubits would represent an inhumanly tall being. In 1 Samuel 17, Goliath is described as a “man” (17.4) who looks for a “man” to fight him (17.10). In context, this probably means a warrior, rather than just any male (which the semantic range of the Hebrew ‘ish sometimes includes) - but it does not represent a superhuman. By contrast, the parallel story about the defeat of Goliath by Elhanan (not David) in 2 Samuel 21.19 comes in a passage that refers to various individuals as Rephaim – a term that is likened to the superhuman Anakim or Giants in Deuteronomy 2. Therefore, it is plausible that when “6½ cubits” (9 feet 7 inches) was written, the scribes may have wished to give the impression that Goliath was a superhuman Giant.

Thom Stark - The Human Faces of God

Thom Stark – The Human Faces of God

In a recent book (The Human Faces of God: What Scripture Reveals When it Gets God Wrong (And Why Inerrancy Tries to Hide It) (Wipf & Stock, 2010)), Thom Stark makes a series of errors when he explains this textual variant:

According to the DSS and LXX, Goliath was six and a half feet tall, which at the time of David would certainly have been considered a giant stature. Human beings were generally much shorter than they are now. By the time of the Masoretes in the late first millennium C.E., almost two thousand years after the era of Goliath, six and a half feet tall was no longer so impressive. Thus the Masoretes amended the text, adding another three feet to Goliath’s stature, and that is why many Bibles today have Goliath at nine and a half feet tall. See McCarter, 1 Samuel, 286, 291.
(152, no. 1)

First, the “time of David” or “era of Goliath”, if they existed, is irrelevant. The only relevant time or era is the time of composition of these stories, and the object of inquiry is the meaning of a 9¾-foot-tall person. The story was still in development in the late Persian or early Hellenistic periods, as the textual variants between the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSSs), Septuagint (LXX), and proto-Masoretic (MT) manuscripts of 1 Samuel 17 show., as does the doublet in 2 Samuel 21.19. So, the relevant period for measuring average height is ca. 400-200 B.C.

Second, the use of “giant” to describe Goliath is misleading (see also p. 78 of Stark’s book). In a metaphorical sense, he would be considered a “giant”, i.e. an extremely tall person at 6 feet 8 inches tall. But at 9 feet 7 inches, or as a Rapha, Goliath is a “Giant” – that is, from a different race of superhumans. As biblical commentator P. Kyle McCarter – whom Stark cites - writes, Goliath is, metaphorically speaking, “a true giant in an age when a man well under six feet might be considered tall”. However, as McCarter adds, the “exaggeration” to nine feet seven inches is “fantastic” (1 Samuel, 291).

Third, Stark makes a serious error when he claims that the amendment from 4½ cubits to 6½ cubits was made in “the time of the Masoretes in the late first millennium C.E., almost two thousand years after the era of Goliath”, that it was made because average human height had increased by then and “six and a half feet tall was no longer so impressive” (sic), that it was only at this time that “the Masoretes amended the text”, and that this is the reason “why many Bibles today have Goliath at nine and a half feet tall”. Stark is right that the first extant Masoretic manuscripts, which are dated to the late first millennium C.E., read “6½ cubits” for Goliath’s height in 1 Samuel 17.4. But he is quite wrong to claim that the Masoretes were the first to make Goliath’s height 6½ cubits in that verse. In fact, there are textual witnesses from some 800 years earlier, much closer to the witnesses which have “4½ cubits”. Here is a summary of the major variants:

Textual witnesses Provenance Language Approx date Short or long Height
4QSama (DSS) Jewish Hebrew 50 B.C. short 4 1/2 cubits
Josephus, Antiquities 6.171 Jewish Greek A.D. 80 short (used as a source) 4 1/2 cubits
Symmachus (in Origen’s 4th column) Jewish Greek A.D. 200 long 6 1/2 cubits
Vaticanus (LXX) Christian Greek A.D. 300-400 short 4 1/2 cubits
Alexandrinus (LXX) Christian Greek A.D. 400-500 long 4 1/2 cubits
Vulgate Christian Latin A.D. 400 long 6 1/2 cubits
Codex Aleppo Jewish Hebrew A.D. 935 long 6 1/2 cubits
Codex Leningrad Jewish Hebrew A.D. 1010 long 6 1/2 cubits

So the reading of “6½ cubits” goes back at least to Symmachus’s Greek translaton in A.D. 200. Furthermore, as proto-MT texts are widely evident at Qumran (some 35% of biblical texts), the “6½ cubit” reading (associated with the proto-MT Greek manuscript and Vulgate) may well have originated in 400-200 B.C. Stark’s book regularly relies on the date of extant manuscripts as arguments for the priority of readings, whereas this is only one, and not the major, factor in determining “original” readings in textual criticism.

So – what’s the “true” height of Goliath? Well, that depends on which story you like best.


Filed under 1 Samuel 17, 2 Samuel 21, 23, Anakim, Deuteronomy 2, Goliath, Rephaim

Fertility Cults and Giants

Michael Blume’s research into the high fertility of the religious recently went viral in the media. News reports were soon breeding like rabbits: Scientific American, Live Science, The Telegraph, The Richard Dawkins Foundation, The Guardian, Sifi News, [and even New Zealand's TV3 News]. Soon enough, like those stupidly reductive nineteenth-century theories of religion, we were soon treated to the media’s grand theories about ‘the essence of religion’, talk about ‘religious genes’, and the conclusion that all ‘religiosity’ had apparently originated in the primeval paleolithic orgy of ‘fertility religion’. And nothing sells newspapers like sex.

Die Antwoord's Evil Boy - Probably wll be interpreted as a 'fertility cult' in 100 years or so

Die Antwoord’s Evil Boy – Probably wll be interpreted as a ‘fertility cult’ in 100 years or so

But this is just speculative nonsense with the thin facade of scientificity. Or, nonsense on stilts. And good rebuttals are available from Epiphenom and Genealogy of Religion.

In biblical studies, there are some scholars who likewise assume a similar evolutionary social development from an imagined (or fantasized?) down-and-dirty ‘fertility cult’ in ‘Canaan’, to the high ethical monotheism of  ‘Biblical Israel’. But in The Handbook of Ugaritic Studies, Nick Wyatt rightly counters that the term ‘fertility cult’ is merely ‘a reductionistic put-down for ideological purposes’ (540). Wyatt also comments:

it is a fact that the interest some scholars have shown in Ugarit, and in particular in its religious life, appears to have been for purposes of comparison of an invidious kind with biblical religion, where a theological agenda appears to have predetermined the outcome (529)

Fertility cults crop up anywhere!Which brings me to my favourite example of a grand 19th-century theory of the development of religiosity. It involves, curiously enough, Giants.

In Geschichte des Volkes Israel (1864), Heinrich Ewald outlines a theory which explains the ‘backward’, ‘close to nature’ status of the native inhabitants of Palestine, versus the scientific-minded, ‘enlightened’(!) and sophisticated religiosity of the Israelites under their (historically real!) leader, Moses. He also provides a justification for this division, however… just in case you were thinking it wasn’t a rigorously scientific theory. Ewald justifies his theory by comparing the gigantic height of the local inhabitants with the short stature of the Israelites! (Num. 13 describes these imaginary people as gigantic, making the Israelites appear as small insects in their sight.)

Here’s his wissenschaftliche reasoning, in all its glory:

…some primitive tribes which remain closer to the state of nature more frequently possess gigantic bodies, compared with other more advanced and articulate people, who appear to have lost in the body what they have won in the mind, and so the Hebrews already in Moses’ time must have possessed the same thin/short bodily form which is also possessed by the very hardy and skilled Arab.


H/t: Craig


Filed under Anakim, Biblical Giants

Steve Quayle on the Coming Chaos of the End Times, Urban Survivalism, and Giants

Genetic Armageddon, by Steve Quayle

Genetic Armageddon, by Steve Quayle

Steve Quayle is one of an increasing number of U.S. evangelical Christians convinced that the End Times are at ‘breaking point’. As indisputable evidence that the end is indeed nigh, he adduces any number of recent and imminent catastrophes – such as economic collapse, the changing of the poles, the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, poor people receiving social welfare (which, since the 1980s means, especially, black single mothers), the creation of massive underground survival bunkers in China, television mind control, screaming Muslims, the appearance in 2012 of a second sun in the sky, videogames, the government buying up all the tampons in New York and creating a tampon shortage, genetic research, and the presidency of Barack Obama.

He is also an avid gigantologist. For Quayle, the biblical Giants and their parents, the fallen angels - the Anakim, Rephaim, Nephilim, etc – never completely disappeared. Instead, they corrupted the human gene-pool. And they’re coming back. In fact, the transhumanism movement and gene research represent part of a vast global conspiracy to bring Giants back to the earth. You may even have heard of these celestial and gigantic beings already; for the so-called aliens from outer space are really Nephilim. Quayle’s research into Giants, angels, and all manner of alleged suppressed ancient secrets and purported modern conspiracies is available on his website,, and in books such as Genesis 6 Giants: Master Builders of Prehistoric and Ancient Civilizations; Aliens & Fallen Angels Offspring of the Gods the Sexual Corruption of the Human Race; Genetic ArmageddonAliens and Fallen Angels: The Sexual Corruption of the Human Race; and (with Duncan Long) LongWalkers: The Return of the Nephilim.

Quayle is hardly a lone voice in the wilderness these days, but just one proponent of the theory that connects biblical fallen angels and Giants with modern sightings of aliens and UFOs. Other notable proponents, some of whom appear to have influenced Quayle, include the late Zecharia Sitchen‘Dr’ Chuck Missler (PhD from the unaccredited Louisiana Baptist University), ‘Dr’ Lynn A. Marzulli (honorary doctorate from the unaccredited Pacific International University, awarded for his fictional trilogy), and Dr Michael S. Heiser (who did receive a PhD from a real university, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, so should really know better). 

You can listen to the enthusiastic Steve Quayle in a 4-hour talk radio slot on 21 January 2011, on John Stokes’ The Edge radio show:

The context - conspiratorial world orders, modern technology, alien invasions - might at first seem to be fairly foreign to the original Greek or biblical or Enochic traditions about Giants. But their function as markers of the boundary between chaos and order, and between the human and the inhuman, is a constant throughout their reception history, and is being played out once more here – providing a useful tool to suppress the economic reality of late capitalism.


Filed under Anakim, Conspiracy theorists, Fallen angels, Genesis 6.1-4, Nephilim, Rephaim

Eerdman’s Dictionary of Early Judaism on Giants

Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism

Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism

I just spotted on the shelf of ‘recent arrivals’ the enormous – even gigantic - door-stop of a book, The Eerdman’s Dictionary of Early Judaism (John J. Collins and Daniel C. Harlow, eds, 2010). Applying what is widely known as The Rephaim Rule (that you can judge a book on ancient Judaism by what it says about Giants), I turned to the entry on ‘Giants’ written by John C. Reeves.

Overall, the article provides a fine summary of biblical and other early Jewish texts, and their reception in Talmudic and even Islamic sources. There are brief discussions of Anakim, Rephaim, and King Og in Deuteronomy, Targums, and Islamic sources. No mention of the two Goliaths, though.

But is the following correct?

The Hebrew word usually translated ‘giants’ is gibborim, which usually means ‘strong ones.’ It is glossed in Gen. 6:4 as ‘the famous heroes of antiquity’ (‘ašer me’olam ‘anše haššem).

Well, gibborim certainly appears in Gen. 6.4, but it is translated as ‘mighty men’ in the 400-year-old King James Version (cf. ‘heroes’ in NRSV and the NIV). The word which is rendered as ‘giants’ in Gen. 6.4, rather, is nephilim. Moreover, the only place that the KJV renders gibborim as ‘giants’ apart from the related Num. 13.33 is the odd Job 16.14. By contrast, the KJV renders rapha/rephaim as ‘giant’/’giants’ 17 times (Deut. 2.11, 20 (x2); 3.11, 13; Josh. 12.4; 13.12; 15.8; 17.15; 18.16; 2 Sam. 21.16, 18, 20, 22; 1 Chron. 20.4, 6, 8) and Nephilim as ‘giants’ two times (Gen. 6.4; Num. 13.33) and the NRSV only employs  ‘giant’ or ‘giants’ to render rapha / rephaim. The LXX typically renders both nephilim and gibborim as “giants” in Gen. 6.4, but it is not a usual translation for gibborim in other passages. Moreover, it is not entirely clear (due to the ugly structures of each of Gen. 6.4 and Num. 13.33, which are possibly due to the presence of later redaction or glosses) whether the terms nephilim and gibborim refer to one and the same group of beings, or if they refer instead to fathers and sons. Therefore, I’d say instead: “The term ‘giants’ is usually a translation of the Hebrew word rephaim…”.

Reeves also explains that the understanding of the Anakim from Num. 13.33 as Giants has three grounds. The first two are relatively uncontroversial, being the context of the verse and the way the terms are rendered in the Greek and other versions. But his third ground made me raise an eyebrow:

That these [Nephilim of Num. 13.33] were deemed giants emerges from…the testimony of Qur’an 5.20-26 wherein v. [sic] 22 explicitly terms the promised land’s inhabitants ‘giants’ (jabbarin).

The problem with this reasoning is twofold. First, in what sense can we determine that the Nephilim ‘were deemed’ Giants in the late Persian or early Hellenistic period based on the Qur’an’s paraphrase of Exodus and Numbers in the sixth century AD (i.e. about a millennium later)? Now, what the Qur’an does with this tradition is interesting in its own right, but as an uncritical paraphrase of the meaning of  the biblical text it is of very little value for determining its original meaning. Second, like its ancient Hebrew cognate gibborim, the Arabic jabbarin can mean both ‘giants’ and ‘mighty ones’, and much besides. So does jabbarin refer to the strength of the human inhabitants (Canaanites, Amorites, etc) or to the ‘giants’ (Anakim, Nephilim)? Both groups are mentioned in Num. 13! So to which does jabbarin refer? The employment of jabbarin in Surah 5.22 doesn’t necessarly refer to Giants at all.

Lastly, Reeves provides a fine summary of the typical ideological connotations of the Giant:

The label ‘giants’ is typically applied in proto-ethnographic literature to those persons or peoples who are biologically, chronologically, and/or spatially distant from contemporary cultural norms. Giants are thus freaks and monsters who do not fit within the accepted parameters which govern society. There can even be some question as to whether they should be categorized as human. 

A good summary overall, but a couple of points about which to scratch your head just a little. As for The Eerdman’s Dictionary of Ancient Judaism as a whole, it’s a whopper. It covers the whole period of Second Temple Judaism (538 BC – AD 70), and includes compehensive overview essays on subjects ranging from Jewish History, the Dead Sea scrolls, and early biblical interpretation, before the main feature: a thousand pages of dictionary entries.


Filed under Anakim, Books on Reception History, Genesis 6.1-4, King Og, Literature, Nephilim, Numbers 13-14, Qur'an, Rephaim