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.