Who were the giants mentioned in the Old Testament? Where did they come from?
Giants in the Old Testament?
The word the Bible uses for giant is actually a mistranslation by the Greek translators of the LXX in the second and third centuries B.C., but the English translators followed the same mistranslation pattern as the Greek translators. They also rendered the Hebrew word “gibor” for giant, but the word actually means “mighty man, warrior.” There are some of the more modern translations, such as the Revised Standard Version (RSV), the North American Standard Bible (NASB), and the English Standard Version (ESV), that use the proper translation “mighty man, warrior” and not “giant.” But these men were mighty for a reason–they were huge!
Bible Verses About Giants
There are many places in the Bible where the actual word “giant” may not be used, but this doesn’t mean these men were small. Amos the prophet wrote, “Yet it was I who destroyed the Amorite before them, whose height was like the height of the cedars and who was as strong as the oaks; I destroyed his fruit above and his roots beneath” (Amos 2:9). The Amorites are a people whom the Israelites encountered when entering the Promised Land. When Moses sent out 12 spies into the Promised Land, 10 came back with a bad report, saying, “The people who dwell in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large. And besides, we saw the descendants of Anak there” (Numbers 13:28). But who were the people of Anak? The Anak were descendants of the Nephlim. It says in Genesis 6:4 that the sons of Anak were part of the Nephilim and were referred to as the sons of God, but the Nephilim and the daughters of men were part of the human race. Obviously the descendants of the Nephilim were still around hundreds of years later when Moses sent spies into Canaan and the report came back that “there we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak, who come from the Nephilim), and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them” (Numbers 13:33).
The Giants’ Descendants
The size of the sons of Nephilim must be translated from cubits to feet and inches. It says in Deuteronomy 3:11 that “only Og the king of Bashan was left of the remnant of the Rephaim. Behold, his bed was a bed of iron. Is it not in Rabbah of the Ammonites? Nine cubits was its length, and four cubits its breadth, according to the common cubit.” This means that King Og’s bed was about 13 feet long and about 6 feet wide. And even though a person’s bed is typically larger than they are, a 13-foot length bed must have been necessary for a giant of a man. These giant warriors were still around when David was king, and “there arose war with the Philistines at Gezer. Then Sibbecai the Hushathite struck down Sippai, who was one of the descendants of the giants, and the Philistines were subdued” (1 Chronicles 20:4). The Hebrew word used for giants was sometimes translated from the Hebrew word “rapha,” which simply means “large” or “giant.” So, again, these were humans and not a superrace of half angel and half man. That is not found in the Bible.
The Nephlim are somehow thought to be a race of half angels and half man by some, while others believe that angels came down from heaven, or perhaps even fallen angels, and had sex with the women on earth to create a superrace of giants. However, this isn’t what the Bible actually says. Many believe this from Genesis 6:4, where it was written, “The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown.” Again, I would remind you that the word “Nephlim” only means “giant.” And since Jesus said that angels can neither marry or be given in marriage (Matthew 22:30), these could not have been angels. Angels cannot reproduce, nor can they marry. So to believe that a group of angels came to marry women to breed a superrace of humans is not supported in Scripture. In fact, these were not angels, but “these were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown.” Therefore, they are men, not angels.
Are there still giants today? If you think about the recent history of humans, there are still giants as far as the average size of human beings today. In fact, the tallest human being we know of was an American, Robert Wadlow, who died in 1940. He was listed at 8 feet 11 inches. Then there was John Rogan, who died in 1905 and was measured at 8 feet 9 inches tall; and there was also John Carroll, who was 8 feet 7-1/2 inches tall. But these Americans were not alone. There are dozens of men who have lived since 1935 who managed to push beyond the 8-foot range. In the NBA alone, there are basketball players who are easily over 7 feet tall. Goliath of Gath was a giant Philistine warrior who was defeated by David while he was still a teenager. However, the first century historian Josephus is in agreement with the fourth century Septuagint manuscripts, which give Goliath’s height as “four cubits and a span,” which translates into roughly 6 feet 9 inches. Consider the fact that the average Jew in the day (and even today) is about 5 feet 8 inches, so to a Jew that is as close to a giant as possible.
Far too many people have speculated on these giants in the Old Testament. The truth is, they were simply large or giant human beings compared to the average person of the day. There were a few of these giant-sized men who had survived to Israel’s day, but they were dwindling in numbers after we get into the middle of ancient Israel’s history. By then they are completely gone, having disappeared from history and the pages of Scripture. Rather than get into debates about the specifics of this, why not focus on the fact that we are all insignificant compared to the awesome and mighty God. No giant is a giant to God. All are just dust. Only God is to be praised, honored, and worshipped. No human is worthy of such accolades, no matter his or her size.
May God richly bless you,
Pastor Jack Wellman
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