The Giant Clans of the Bible

The creation of the giant Nephilim in Genesis 6, right before the flood, is a story that surprises most people today no matter how long they’ve been a Christian. We just haven’t heard too many messages in church about the time that spiritual beings (the sons of God) had sex with human women and gave rise to a quasi-divine race of giants on the earth.

Likewise, we’re also surprised when our eyes are opened to see the giants present after the flood. This is clearly seen in Numbers 13 when Moses sends spies into the land of Canaan and they return with a report of having seen giants.

…”The land, through which we have gone to spy it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people that we saw in it are of great height. And 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 13:32-33)

What’s interesting to note here is that the Nephilim that these spies saw went by another name: the sons of Anak—known elsewhere in the Bible as the Anakim. This is important to note, because we typically have nothing in mind when we read the names of people groups in the Bible and so we don’t stop and imagine them in detail. But here we learn that whenever we see the word Nephilim or Anakim in the Bible, we should now be thinking of the descendants of the giants of Genesis 6.

Yes, the giants have now been around long enough to take on different names. In this case, a giant named Anak has gained enough attention that his giant descendants are now a people group known as the Anakim. But other names for the giants will come about as well, because different nations had different names for the Nephilim. For example, Deuteronomy 2 tells us that there are other groups of giants who are known by other nations as the Emim, the Rephaim, and the Zamzummim.

We also see the Amorites described by the prophet Amos as having the height of cedars, showing us that some of the Amorites were also known as giants. However, we know that not all the Amorites were giants because of the fuller picture the Bible paints of them. In a similar way, the Bible also seems to relate to us that a few giants were dispersed throughout the human clans of the Amalekites, Hittites, Jebusites, Canaanites, and Philistines.

And so now our list of giant clans has grown to the Nephilim, the Anakim, the Emim, the Rephaim, and the Zamzummim. We also expect to see a few of the giants living amidst the Amorites, the Amalekites, the Hittites, the Jebusites, the Canaanites, and the Philistines. They are everywhere.

It’s strange that we should miss all of this, because these giants are standing right in Israel’s way; for they inhabit the land that God promised that His people would move into. And perhaps with this in mind, we might speculate that God specifically sent Israel to this land so that they would finish the job of what the flood was partially meant to do: Get rid of the giants. In fact, a very close reading of the Bible seems to relay that if there were no giants in specific parts of the promised land, then the inhabitants could be simply driven out and not necessarily killed in war. Yes, believe it or not, it seems possible that the the holy wars of the Old Testament were set in place to eradicate the rebellious giants.

There are a few giants mentioned by name throughout the Bible. Since we’ve already noted that the “sons of Anak” were giants, that means we can connect all the Anakim by name to the giants; including Anak’s father, Arba, and Anak’s descendants, Sheshai, Ahiman and Talmai.

Deuteronomy 3 also speaks of King Og, a Rephaim that slept in a bed that was about 13 and half feet long by 2 and half feet wide. And because this passage likens Og to another king named Sihon, who was an Amorite, we are left gathering that Sihon was one of the giants within the human clan of the Amorites.

All of the giants above are found closer to the time of war over the promised land. But if you know the story, then you know that Israel didn’t finish eradicating the giants. As Joshua 11:22 states, “There was none of the Anakim left in the land of the people of Israel. Only in Gaza, in Gath, and in Ashdod did some remain.” And so it’s much later in the time of David in the land of Gath, that we meet the most well known giant of all: Goliath.

Based on various manuscripts of the Bible, Goliath was either 9 feet, 9 inches, or 6 feet, 6 inches. Scholars typically believe the 6 feet, 6 inches reading to be correct and so this is the only real measurement of a giant that we have recorded in the Bible. This may not sound like that much of a giant to us, but perhaps there were other discerning factors to recognizing a giant since Goliath was strong enough to wear a coat of armor that weight 126 pounds and wield a spear that had a tip that weighed 15 pounds alone. He was certainly a fearsome sight to behold.

For many, Goliath is an odd story about an unusually tall man who came out of nowhere. But the Bible has been setting us up to see him in the light of the Nephilim. He is a descendant of the giants, still present on the earth well after the flood.

And believe it or not, even he is not the last of the giants. In the time of David, Israel went on to fight more giants in the land of the Philistines. A giant named Ishbi-benob, with a spear that weighed about half the amount of Goliath’s, set out to kill David during a war. However, one of David’s soldiers killed him first. In other wars the Israelites struck down a giant named Saph/ Sippai and Goliath’s brother, Lahmi. And finally, a 12-fingered, 12-toed giant was also struck down in one of these wars.


This is an excerpt from my book, Fantasy IRL: Glimpses of a Hidden World.

14 comments

  1. It is a best practice to utterly ignore the vague, generic, subjective and un-biblical English term “giants” since it is used to pseudo-translate both the strictly pre-flood hybrid Nephilim and the strictly post-flood human Repahim–some end up correlating things that the Hebrew text never does by chasing that English term around the Bible. For example, there is no such thing as “Giant Clans” but “Clans of Repahim.”

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    1. I’d suggest reading “The Unseen Realm” by Bible scholar Dr. Michael Heiser if you’re interested in an incredibly dense study that would say otherwise. And I’m not saying the Bible uses the phrase, “Giant Clans”—I’m using that expression to explain the lines I’m tracing in a way any audience could track with.

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      1. Appreciate the tip about Heiser: while I will not take the time to read novels I have read his peer reviewed academic articles, etc. But just because he is very knowledgeable in this area, qualified in it and also a cool guys does not mean that he is infallible. For example, on his website he stated that Genesis 6:4 says that there were Nephiilm on the Earth before and after the flood and I had to point out to him that such is simply not the case.
        Pre-flood Nephilim, post-flood Rephaim and no relation between them period. Also, I do agree with him that no one in the Bible is taller than say roughly 8 ft. at most. I wonder if you would be willing to review a brand new book I just published precisely on this issue (I have not even announced it yet).

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      2. The idea of the Nephilim before and after the flood comes not just from Genesis 6:4, but Numbers 13:33 as well. I imagine you have a way of settling that so I won’t turn this into a debate, but rather just gather we’re on different pages of interpretation. Good luck with your book though!

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  2. I am curious, you state that the giants found in later portions of the Bible are descendants of the Giants in Gen 6, but according to Gen 7:21-23 every living thing on the face of the earth died, only the life on the ark survived. If this is the case, Where do the descendants come from?

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    1. Great question. Here are a few thoughts to consider, though they’ll get weirder and weirder as I propose them:

      1. Perhaps the flood was local instead of global and some were able to escape its effects. There does seem to be some over-embellishment in the flood story for the sake of making theological points and perhaps the world in its entirety wasn’t actually flooded. You can go deeper into this conversation with Bible Scholar John Walton in his book, “The Lost World of the Flood: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07B5RDXT9/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1j

      Or you can watch me and my friends discuss the same topic deeper in our JXN Cloud episode on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fxukF2B4KmY

      2. If the angels could commit the sin of raising up giants through human women, perhaps they were able to do it again. I think that’s a long shot, but it seems like even Paul left space for that possibility when he more or less told women to make sure angels knew they were already taken when they gathered together for worship (1 Corinthians 11:10).

      3. Since the giants were created in Genesis 6 by angels and humans procreating together, maybe they had some kind of strange features that allowed them to survive the conditions. I doubt this, but because they’re not exactly human, I’ll throw the idea out there.

      4. If you were a giant and your angel-parents saw that God was telling Noah to build a boat, you would assume that you need to do something to protect yourselves too, because apparently a flood is coming. Given how long it took to build that boat, who knows if they built their own boats or tried to get out of the area (if the flood was more local) or what they might have done.

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      1. When it comes to Nephilim related issues, whether the flood was global or local is not relevant since regardless, they did not survive it (nor did they return).
        No, Angels could not do it again since the only ones that fell were incarcerated (Jude and 2 Peter 2).
        We are told multiple times that 8 people and some animals survive so I am unsure why we need to argue against such clear teachings just to–for some odd reason–demand that Nephilim survived or returned.
        In short, we are often told about the people who lived in the land of Canaan without reference to Nephilim.
        We are told of people who lived around the land without reference to Nephilim.
        We are told of battles without reference to Nephilim.
        We are even told of hand-to-hand combat without reference to Nephilim.
        The one and only post-flood reference we have to Nephilim comes from unfaithful, disloyal, contradictory, embellishing spies who presented an “evil report” wherein they made five claims about which the whole entire rest of the Bible knows nothing and whom God rebuked (just to point out a few of the problems with that one single verse): why would anyone believe them?

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      2. Based on your other comments, I know you’re already committed to this view, so I’m not going to push back too much. This “bad report” view doesn’t carry much coherence for me in light of all the giant connections in the Bible, post-flood. Even if we came to agree that the “bad report” was actually a false one, it doesn’t stop giant clans from popping up all over the place, as I’ve mentioned in this post.

        Should you be interested, Bible scholar Michael Heiser has covered your argument in a rather lengthy post. https://drmsh.com/want-christmas-another-flawed-nephilim-rebuttal/

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      3. Sorry but butting in but when you think of “the highest mountain” do not think of what you see on Earth today since such mountains are the result of continental drift, tectonic plates moving and colliding, etc. which would have happened as a result of the flood–the fountains of the deep breaking up the Earth into continents, etc.
        Pre-flood the Earth’s surface would have been smoother and the highest mountain we more like a hill.

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  3. I think 2. makes the most sense to me. I have read Walton’s book on The lost world of Genesis 1, but not his flood material. I’ve read Heiser’s stuff, 3 and 4 are hard for me to affirm because the language states everything died…only Noah was left. And I think the local flood theory, takes into account a much smaller population, that would have also been localized? meaning it was a local flood but it still was able to destroy all flesh.

    My sticking point is not that there were giants later in the Bible, but somehow that they were descendants of the Gen 6 line, at least on the human side (which is where my mind went first.) Maybe from the spirit side it’s possible, although we don’t have much if any information about how or if spirits can reproduce. With each other I mean.

    This is a rabbit hole I have not gone all the way down yet, I need to do a lot more reading and thinking, but it’s always a good time to try to connect the dots, and then fill in some conjecture for fun.

    Thanks for your thoughts

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    1. It’s certainly a puzzle. A localized flood could have totally wiped out a local population, you’re right. But I wouldn’t understand how a localized flood (or even a globalized flood) could scientifically rise to the top of the highest mountain. I can’t put that past God, of course, but that statement feels more theologically-pointed than actual.

      In my opinion, a massive flood did happen, but there seems to be some possible over-embellishment trying to get us to understand the theology of starting over with a new attempt at eden and mission in a cleansed/baptized world.

      So could some clever giants who deduced a flood was coming have possibly escaped? Unlikely, but it remains one possibility to consider when following the thread of giants both pre and post flood and tends to be the theory I’m most open to.

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      1. Note that I have referred to the specific Hebrew word “Nephilim” but you are referring to the vague, generic, multi-usage, and undefined English word “giant” which makes me wonder if you are aware when your English Bible is rendering “Nephilim” versus rendering “Rephaim.”
        If you believe that all of the various peoples in Canaan were of great stature, that the land devours its inhabitants, that there were post-flood Nephilim, that they were very tall, and that Anakim were related to them then you are forced to base all of those view upon one single verse that is within an evil report stated by men whom God rebuked (and those are just some of the problems with their assertions).
        Now, when you speak of “all the giant connections in the Bible, post-flood” please understand that it has nothing to do with Nephilim, that is about Rephaim and their clans.
        Should you be interested, I wrote a rebuttal to Heiser article: https://www.academia.edu/44935973/Rebuttal_to_Dr_Michael_Heiser_s_All_I_Want_for_Christmas_is_Another_Flawed_Nephilim_Rebuttal_

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