Category Archives: King Og

Recent Giant Scholarship

Israeli Ministry of Tourism logoWhat are biblical scholars saying about the Giants in the Old Testament / Hebrew Bible? The latest word in biblical scholarship can be found here:

Galbraith, D. (2013). “Manufacturing Judean Myth: The Spy Narrative in Numbers 13–14 as Rewritten Tradition”(Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy)

Among the findings:

(1) the Hebronite traditions (concerning the Judahite leader Caleb, the city of Hebron, and ‘the sons of Anak’ who inhabit Hebron) are not vestiges of ancient legend which have been preserved in the text, but are all secondary to the spy-rebellion tradition derived from dtr Deut. 1;

(2) gigantic stature was first attributed to the sons of Anak and Nephilim in the composition of Num. 13–14, and to the Anakim and Rephaim of Deut. 1–3 in post-deuteronomistic Hexateuchal additions which harmonised the text with the expansionary Num. 13–14;

(3) the extension of the term ‘Rephaim’ to denote entire giant peoples throughout their associated territories also originates with the Hexateuchal harmonisations in Deut. 1–3;

And a detailed interview with the author can be found on Jim West’s blog, Zwinglius Redivivus:

“Scholars You Should Know: Deane Galbraith”

I know, I know – such gratuitous self-publicity…

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Filed under Academic things, Anakim, Ancient Jewish texts, Biblical Giants, Books on Giants, Emim, Fallen angels, Goliath, Heroes / Gibborim, Horim, Ishbi-Benob, King Og, Nephilim, Numbers 13-14, Rephaim, sons of God, Zamzummim

Minimalism in History (1) – Ibn Ezra’s Twelfth-Century Minimalism based on King Og’s Bed

Earlier this year, Peter Enns published The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say about Human Origins (Brazos Press, 2012). The aim of the book is to give Christian believers different ways to accept both the scientific fact of evolution and the Christian doctrine of the inspiration of Scripture, in light especially of recent controversies. As Greg Dawes argues, the attempt to reconcile evolution and the Bible cannot be justified without radically – if not tendentiously – revising traditional Christian doctrines. Yet the existential-religious need to retain faith without abandoning the best-supported findings of mainstream science means that Enns will attract what is a potentially a very large audience for his attempt to harmonise the “magisteria” of science and faith.

In the first chapter, Enns discusses two pre-modern interpreters – one Christian and one Jewish – who recognised that the “books of Moses” could not be written entirely by Moses: Jerome and Abraham Ibn Ezra.

Back in the fourth century AD, the Church Father Jerome was troubled by the fact that Deuteronomy 34.6 narrates Moses’s death (p. 15). This is strange given the traditional attribution of the book to Moses (although Deuteronomy itself attributes only the great core of Deuteronomy to the direct speech of Moses, not the whole book). In addition, Jerome recongised that the clause in that verse, “but no one knows his burial place to this day” must have been written a while after the death of Moses. Jerome concluded that Deut. 34.6 (at least) referred to the time of Ezra, in the Persian Period of the 400s BC. This makes Jerome, the Church Father, something of a minimalist – at least by the standards of North American apologists such as Ian Provan, Philips Long, and Tremper Longman.

The Evolution of AdamThe twelfth-century Rabbi Abraham Ibn Ezra referred to a number of problems with Deuteronomy which imply it was written by an author other than Moses – and Enns sets these out on p. 16 of The Evolution of Adam. One of these concerns the reference to the giant King Og of Bashan:

According to Deuteronomy 3.11, the nine-cubit-long bed of iron of Og king of Bashan “can still be seen in Rabbah”. This sounded to Ibn Ezra like an explanation for an ancient relic. He attributed this comment to the time of David, who conquered the city (2 Sam. 12.30).

By twelfth-century standards, attributing words from one of the books of Moses to the time of David must have constituted gross minimalism. Whoever were the twelfth century equivalent of the Westminster Theological Seminary must have been baying for Ibn Ezra’s blood at the time. Today, of course, things have moved on, and attributing the Pentateuch to a period as early as the eleventh or tenth century BC is no longer feasible. But we have got to that conclusion by standing on the shoulders of giants such as Jerome and Ibn Ezra.

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A New Book of Poems about King Og: Looking Out From Bashan: The Republic of Og, by Mark Reid

Mark Reid - Looking Out From Bashan: The Republic of Og

Mark Reid – Looking Out From Bashan: The Republic of Og

New from Fremantle Press in 2012 is a collection of poems which interacts with the story of King Og of Bashan (Deuteronomy 3.1-13; Numbers 21.33-35):

Looking Out From Bashan: The Republic of Og, by Mark Reid.

Cool: a whole book of poems about Og!

That’s 77 poems about Og!!

Mark Reid, Looking Out From Bashan - Contents

One of Mark Reid’s poems deals with a topic that is not in any of the giant narratives in the Bible or other early Jewish writings. The topic is the extreme foetal dystocia which a mortal “daughter of man” must suffer when giving birth to a gigantic child fathered by an angelic “son of god”. I’ve not seen this mentioned in any of the studies on the birth of giants, either – but here it is in Mark Reid’s poem, “The Mother of Og”:

Mark Reid, "The Mother of Og"

Get your collection of Og poems here.

Or get it from the Dutch, who have listed it somewhat oddly as “Erotica”. Maybe macrophilia is a big thing in the Netherlands, I don’t know.

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The Origin of the Giant King Og of Bashan

While some people make a name for themselves, in the case of Og, it may be that the name created the person.

Deuteronomy 3.11 describes King Og of Bashan as ‘the last of the remnant of the Rephaim’ and notes that he is buried in a sarcophagus nine by four cubits in size (13 1/2 by 6 feet). Deuteronomy 1.4 describes King Og as reigning in two cities, Ashteroth and Edrei. In addition, a Ugaritic text from about 1200 B.C. (KTU 1.108) states that another member of the Rephaim (or as they said in Ugaritic, a member of the Rapiˀuma) reigned at Ashteroth and Edrei (or Athtarat and Hedrey). Again, an early fifth-century B.C. tomb inscription from the Phoenician city of Byblos (Byblos 13) summons ‘the Og’ against anybody who would disturb the dead person’s remains.

Gregorio del Olmo Lete follows a fairly widespread understanding when he posits a three-stage development in the traditions about Og: 1. a ‘mythical ideological framework’ was developed at Ugarit concerning the Rephaim; 2. a ‘historical’ record was composed in the Hebrew Bible; and 3. a mythological transformation of the historical Og took place in Phoenicia.

But a couple of factors suggest, to the contrary, that the purportedly real King Og of Deut. 3 was a development from the general title ‘og’. First, the only etymology of ‘Og’ which makes sense of his association with the warriors of the Rephaim is, as Chaim Rabin suggested, something similar to the South Semitic ǵwg, meaning ‘man’ or ‘man of valour’. Thus, ‘Og’ is not a personal name but a title of a Canaanite king. It is similar to other titles of the Ugaritic and Canaanite kings which emphasise their manhood par excellence, and thus their strength and military prowess: e.g., ish, amēlu, mt (Del Olmo Lete, ‘Los nombres “divinos”‘, 257-66). Second, the Phoenician tomb inscription Byblos 13 has a definite article before ‘Og’, making its interpretation as a personal name unlikely. It is more likely that the invocation is of ‘the og’, referring to some powerful being who could deal to anybody who desecrated a grave. (Yet note that there is some debate about the transcription and translation of hʿg, originally by Jean Starcky, ‘Une inscription Phénicienne de Byblos’, 1969.) Third, Byblos 13 parallels other tomb inscriptions (KAI 13.8 [the Tabnith inscription] and KAI 14.8  [the Eshmunazzar sarcophagus]) which also summon powerful beings to deal with desecrators of graves, except that the beings are the Rephaim (rpum). The Rephaim and the og are to some extent interchangeable on these Phoenician tomb inscriptions! Therefore, ‘the og’ might be interpreted as a powerful warrior and member of the Rephaim – all qualities which fit with the biblical King Og, except that the general noun ‘og’ has become a proper name, ‘Og’.

A weakness of Del Olmo Lete’s proposed tradition-historical development is that it provides a progression from myth to history to myth. More parsimonious and having the support of the factors listed above is a progression from a mythical early king and member of the Rephaim who is long dead but continues to exercise some power in the netherworld (including gravesites) to a ‘historicised’ or ‘euhemerised’ character believed to have the name ‘Og’ rather than the title of ‘og’, who is made a king in Ashteroth and Edrei and a member of the Rephaim.

The likelihood, therefore, is that Og’s name preceded his invention, in the Bible, as a person.

Updates:

1. Note the interesting comment in the comments section below by Chaim HaQoton: “the notion that Og was a title for the Bashanite King is already found in Medieval Rabbinic literature, see Daat Zeqanim [דעת זקנים] to Genesis 24:39″.

2. Jim Davila (Paleojudaica) comments on this proposal for the origin of Og, on his blog, that “something like that sounds plausible to me”.

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New (2011) Edition of Adrienne Mayor’s The First Fossil Hunters

Adrienne Mayor - The First Fossil HuntersIn The First Fossil Hunters, Adrienne Mayor discusses dozens of examples in which ancient Greek and Roman writers and artists interpreted fossils as evidence of the existence of ancient giants.

Many ancient Greeks and Romans reassembled the fossilised bones of mammoths, mastodons, and whales in human form, “creating” ancient, dead, giant humans. (As Stewart  Guthrie notes in Faces in the Clouds, humans are forever projecting human forms onto other things.) Mayor suggests that myths about the Giants, Cyclops, Griffins, etc, may have originated in the discovery of these enormous bones and the attempt to make sense of them as beings from the past or faraway places.

Her book is full of fascinating facts about giants and other creatures, and has now been reissued in a revised version. You can read the introduction to the 2011 edition here, which provides a good overview of the content of the book.

While we should be wary of treating naturalistic explanations as the sole explanation for the origin of giant traditions, the fact that ancient Greeks and Romans identified some fossils as giants and monsters is well supported in Mayor’s book. It is safe to say that the ancient discovery of fossils is, at least, a contributing or supporting reason for the ancient belief in such fantastic creatures.

Mayor’s account may also shed light on the narratives about giants of the Bible – such as the story of the large sarcophagus attributed to King Og of Bashan.

h/t: Michael Heiser

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Filed under Books on Giants, Cryptozoology, King Og

The age of King Og at the time of his death

Tanzanian correspondent “chamshama” wrote in to Remnant of Giants with a query:

I want to know the age of King Og At the time of his death.

And I’m sure that many of our readers do too, chamshama!

In Deut. 3.1-11 there is an account of a battle in which Israel, under the leadership of Moses, takes on the people of Bashan, who are led by King Og, “the last of the remnant of the Rephaim”.

Og, riding gaily on the unicorn behind the Ark

Og, riding gaily on the unicorn behind the Ark – in Jewish Fairy Tales and Legends by Aunt Naomi (Gertrude Landa)

In the book of Deuteronomy, the Rephaim are identified as exceedingly tall, that is, as Giants. Deuteronomy 1.28 relates that there were Giants who were resident in the Cisjordan, called Anakim, who lived there before the Israelite conquest, and who were discovered by the Israelite spies sent by Moses to scout out the land. Deuteronomy 2.11 considers the Anakim to be Rephaim. In addition, Deuteronomy holds that Israel’s neighbouring countries were also inhabited by races of Rephaim before settled by their human inhabitants. So, Deut. 2.11-12 and 20-21 describe Giant residents living in Moab and Ammon – called “Emim” and “Zamzummim” – who also lived there before the Moabites and Ammonites respectively, and who are also referred to as Rephaim. The description of the Anakim in Deut. 1.28 seems to reflect the parallel account in Numbers 13.28b, 33. Yet Num. 13.33 adds the additional information that these Anakim were “from the Nephilim”. This description links to Genesis 6.1-4, the only other place in the Old Testament where the Nephilim are mentioned, and which describes the descent of these mysterious divine creatures, Nephilim or “sons of god(s)”, to earth, where they interbred with the “daughters of men”, producing “mighty men” of ancient times.

It is not clear whether Deuteronomy considers each and every one of these Rephaim, Anakim, Emim, Zamzummim, mighty men (gibborim), etc to be the Giant offspring of the heavenly Nephilim. The passages in Deuteronomy which mention the Rephaim are too brief to offer us any certainty on the matter. However, that does seem to be a plausible explanation, given the way Deuteronomy tends to associate all the Giant races together and appears to be aware of the spy narrative in Numbers 13. That is, in the view of Deuteronomy, it appears that all of these Giant races seem to have been created by an extraordinary mating between Nephilim and human women.

So how old was King Og at his death? There are a few options.

As the story in Gen. 6.1-4 occurs immediately before the Great Flood, some have suggested that King Og – who is described as one of the Rephaim – must have been born from this encounter between Nephilim and human women. Therefore, King Og would have lived from before the flood, until the conquest of the Transjordan under Moses. Using the famous biblical chronology by Bishop Ussher (just because it’s famous, not because it is all that accurate or even at all legitimate these days) the Flood may be assigned to 2349 BC and the Conquest in 1451 BC. Therefore, if King Og had been born before the flood, he was at least 898 years old!

However, Genesis 6.4 notes that those randy Nephilim were on the earth not only in the days of Noah, but “also afterward”. So it is alternatively possible that King Og was born to a postdeluvian divine-human sexual encounter. In which case, King Og could have been born any time between the end of the Flood and the Conquest, which would make him no more than 897 years old, and possibly much younger.

A third possibility is that King Og was considered the offspring not directly of Nephilim, but of other Rephaim. Passages such as Num. 13.28 and Josh. 15.13-14 describe lineages of Anakim (who Deuteronomy consider to be Rephaim), which suggests that they were thought of as having families of their own following the initial sexual intercourse between Nephilim and human women. If this is the case, Deut. 3.11a might indicate that King Og was the last of a genealogy of rulers which ultimately claim a divine father who mated with a human mother: “only King Og of Bashan was left of the remnant of the Rephaim”. Or does it merely mean that King Og was the last of his kind? Again, this is not entirely clear.

So, how old was King Og at his death? The Old Testament does not say. Yet there is a persistent interpretive tradition, visible in later rabbinic accounts, which dates King Og to antedeluvian times, in an attempt to harmonize the biblical accounts of pre-flood Giants in Gen. 6.1-4 with the reports of Giants still alive at the time of the Israelite Conquest.  On Bishop Ussher’s chronology, this would make King Og at least 898 years old at the time of his death. Yet, the harmonization is not entirely necessary, if King Og was the last in a long line of Rephaim not destroyed by the Flood, or the product of a postdeluvian sexual encounter between Nephilim and mortal women. In this case, the author of Deut. 3.11 may have understood King Og as no older than the age of mortal men.

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Filed under Ancient Jewish texts, Deuteronomy 3, Emim, Genesis 6.1-4, Joshua 14-15, King Og, Nephilim, Numbers 13-14, Rephaim, Zamzummim

Paradise Lust – The Search for the Garden of Eden and the Giant Adam

Paradise Lust: Searching for the Garden of EdenThere is a review in the current “Sunday Book Review” in The New York Times of Brook Wilensky-­Lanford’s first book, Paradise Lust: Searching for the Garden of Eden (Grove Press, 2011).

With so many modern scientific advances, the discovery of fossil evidence from early ages and, of course, the advance of Darwin’s theory of evolution, surely no one would be so mad as to look for an actual Eden. Brook Wilensky-­Lanford’s first book, “Paradise Lust,” suggests just the opposite. It seems there have always been — and continue to be — little armies of Eden chasers who take this quest very seriously, carrying their search to the most unlikely places. Wilensky-Lanford carries the reader along on some of these journeys, from the North Pole to rural Ohio, evoking the lives and characters of a collection of eccentrics that includes a professional archaeologist and a preacher, as well as a Chinese businessman and a British irrigation engineer.

- Andrea Wulf, “Which Way to the Garden of Eden?”, The New York Times, 5 August 2011

And some of these searchers for the lost Garden of Eden believed that Adam was a Giant:

William Fairfield Warren, the first president of Boston University, published a book in the late 19th century in which he argued that Eden was located at the North Pole — or, at least, that it had been there before the Flood…. Eden, he added, was populated with people “of giant stature” and its landscape dotted with enormous trees closely related to the California redwoods.

- Andrea Wulf, “Which Way to the Garden of Eden?”, The New York Times, 5 August 2011

Many Jewish and Christian commentators considered that Adam and the antediluvians, not to mention even later figures of Jewish legend such as Moses, possessed giant stature. For example, the medieval Targum Pseudo-Jonathan on Num. 21.35-36 notes that, when Moses attacked the Giant King Og of Bashan, not only was Og a Giant, but Moses himself was 10 cubits tall (4.5 metres or 14-and-3/4 feet tall).

Nb. Brook Wilensky-­Lanford’s Paradise Lust: Searching for the Garden of Eden should not be confused with Paradise Lust: An Erotic Travelogue (Virgin Books, 2007),  by Kit McCann (author of Thai Honey, Nexus, 2006): “The moment a Thai lady smiles at you, you know there is a heaven and that it is here in Thailand”.

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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.

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

How tall were the biblical giants? Comparative height chart

Ordinary Ancient Jewish Guy versus Goliath (per the Septuagint, Dead Sea Scrolls, and Josephus), Goliath (per Symmachus, the Vulgate, and the Masoretic Text), and King Og of Bashan

Ordinary Ancient Jewish Guy versus Goliath (per the Septuagint, Dead Sea Scrolls, and Josephus), Goliath (per Symmachus, the Vulgate, and the Masoretic Text), and King Og of Bashan

Notes:

  • The height of Goliath varies between the various witnesses (manuscripts) to 1 Samuel 17.4 – between 4 1/2 and 6 1/2 cubits (even coming in at 5 1/2 cubits in one witness).
  • Deuteronomy 3.11 only offers us the length of King Og’s coffin (which, due to uncertainty in translation, could possibly alternatively refer to his bed). So, we might expect that the giant lying inside the coffin is about a cubit shorter than the 9-cubit coffin itself, or 8 cubits.
  • There was no standard measure for a cubit (the measure of a forearm) or a span (the measure of a spread hand width). So, I have estimated that 1 cubit = 45 cm, and that a span is half that.

See also: “The True Height of Goliath”

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Filed under 1 Samuel 17, Ancient Jewish texts, Biblical Exegesis, Deuteronomy 3, Goliath, King Og

Take a Stroll down Emek Refaim Street, Jerusalem

עמק רפאים (Emek Refaim) Street

עמק רפאים (Emek Refaim) Street

Jerusalem is truly a most wondrous city to visit, and Ben Yehuda is no longer the “place to be”. Try Emek Refaim Street for a wide selection of restaurants from “Aroma” coffee bar to some more up market fancy establishments. Best deal for Summer 2008 – “Rivele” – breakfast for 24 shekels and excellent value 2 course lunch with drink for only 59 shekels.
– “Jerusalem Travel Tips”

The annual street fair on Emek Refaim Street

The annual street fair on Emek Refaim Street

“Ghosts,” or the shades who inhabit the underworld, is one of the two meanings of the Hebrew word refa’im in the Bible. One finds this in various places, such as the 14th chapter of Isaiah, in which the prophet, describing the impending fall of Babylon, declares to its king whom he imagines being killed, “The underworld is moved for thee to meet thee at thy coming; it stirreth up the refa’im for thee….” In other ancient Semitic languages like Canaanite and Ugaritic, rifa’im denotes underworld dwellers too.

But the biblical refa’im also refers to a living people that dwelt in Palestine prior to the Israelite conquest. Deuteronomy 2:21, for example, describes the country of the Ammonites, the area around the present-day Jordanian capital of Amman, as having once been “the land of the Refa’im; Refa’im dwelt therein in olden times; and the Ammonites called them Zamzumim; a people great, and many, and tall as giants; but the Lord destroyed them before them [the Ammonites], and they succeeded them and dwelt in their stead.” The very next chapter of Deuteronomy, on the other hand, places “the land of the Refa’im” further north, in the Bashan or Golan Heights, the home of the kingdom of the legendary giant Og.

The Refa’im, it would thus appear, were a mythical race of giants related to such other legendary creatures as the Emim or “Frightening Ones,” also referred to in Deuteronomy 2 as unusually tall, and the Nefilim or “Fallen Ones,” mentioned in the Book of Genesis as the offspring of heavenly beings and earthly women, and in the Book of Numbers as the titans seen by the 12 spies sent to scout out the Holy Land. “We were as grasshoppers [compared to them],” the returning spies tell the Children of Israel, who become quickly demoralized at the thought of having to fight such creatures.

The biblical emek refa’im, therefore, can be understood as either “the valley of the ghosts” or “the valley of the giants.” Jewish tradition has always chosen the second of these two options in the belief that it was the legendary living and not the legendary dead that gave the place its name. The second-century C.E. Aramaic Targum of Onkelos translates the words as meshar gibaraya, “the Plain of the Mighty,” and although Jerome’s fourth-century Latin Vulgate stuck to the noncommittal vallis Raphaim, our English King James Version, following the Jewish commentators, has “the valley of the giants.”

- “Ghostly”, The Jewish Daily Forward, 26 March 2004

I started where all good American bourgeois visiting Israel start–Emek Refaim Street (translation: the Valley of Ghosts or Giants). Its Biblical associations are with early beliefs that Jebusite ghosts may have begun their journey to the underworld in the valley at the head of Emek Refaim; other sources suggest that prior to the conquest of the land in Deuteronomy, the enemies were seen as “giants” and here, classical Jewish sources generally translate it. I mused briefly on this tension while walking–the giants of Zionism and the ghosts of Zionism; and the relationship, inescapable, between a conquered and conquered people. To be sure, street names here have more than once changed their names depending upon who was ruling in the land.
– Andy Bachman, A Higher World, blog 23 July 2011

Emek Refaim Street

Emek Refaim Street

Israel has been as thoroughly conquered by McDonald’s as the rest of the populated world, but Israelis can at least pride themselves on forcing a corporation known for requiring strict conformity and uniformity in the production of hamburgers to bend significantly to suit the desires of the local population. Israel, in fact, is the only country in which McDonald’s has altered its famous logo – due to pressure from the Israeli rabbinate, kosher McDonald’s now feature blue, rather than red, signs and the name of the restaurant in Hebrew rather than English.

But the not kosher McDonald’s outlets, which offer forbidden mixtures of meat and dairy and employ Jewish workers on Shabbat engendered no small amount of controversy and sparked massive protests by Jerusalem’s Orthodox Jewish community.

A Non-Kosher McDonalds on Emek Refaim Street

A Non-Kosher McDonalds on Emek Refaim Street

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Filed under Ancient Jewish texts, Emim, King Og, Nephilim, Rephaim, Zamzummim