Truth in the Text Part VI – Did Giants Really Exist?
If asked to give the name of a Biblical giant, most of us could pull Goliath from our memories, even if never raised in Sunday School singing about David and his five little stones. What about Og? He was a giant. So was Saph. These giants are not so well known. Either are Lahmi and Ishbi-Benob. But these guys were as real as Goliath, and perhaps even taller.
Were did they come from? Where did they go? If the Nephilim died out in the Flood of Noah (see part V), where did these giants come from?
I suppose the first question we need to discuss is “Did giants really exist?” The answer is yes. We know they did because God’s Word tells us they did, like the facts surrounding creation and the birth of Jesus and the promises in Paul’s letters. They weren’t the thirty foot monsters of bad movie fame, but there were people groups of greater height and strength than normal.
Let’s look at a few references:
The Amorites. These descendants of Noah’s grandson Canaan are mentioned eighty times in the Bible. They are described with “height was like the height of cedars” and “strong as the oaks.”(Amos 2:9-10). The Amorites were one of the peoples in the land of Canaan, the Promised Land, that the spies saw and gave us that wonderful line: “The inhabitants were so big, we felt like grasshoppers in comparison.” (paraphrased Num. 13:32-33)
The Israelites eventually defeat the king of the Amorites and his buddy, Og, King of Bashan. King Og is called a ‘giant’ and we are told he had a bed 13.5 feet long and 6 feet wide. (Deut 3:11)
The Anakim. The Anakim are said to be part of the Nephilim in Numbers 13. We looked at the pre-flood nephilim in part V. The term here may be a general term for ‘giants’ or may refer to a particular group. In any case, the Anakim were regarded as ‘giants’. Joshua and the Israelite army “utterly destroyed” the Anakim until they were left only in a few cities. One of these places was Gath. (Josh11:21-22)
Our friend Goliath came fromGath. He was 9’9” tall (I Samuel 17). He fought with the Philistine army, as did his relatives Ishbi-Benob, Saph, Lahmi, and a guy with twelve fingers and toes. These four guys are called ‘giants’ in 2 Samuel 21:15-22.
The Zuzim (Zamzummin). [The land of Ammon] was regarded as a land of giants…the Ammonites called them Zamzummin…but the Lord destroyed them. (Deut.2:20-21)
The Emin. The Emin, a people as great and numerous and tall as the Anakim. They were regarded as giants, like the Anakim (Deut. 210-11).
QUESTION 1: Who were these guys?
ANSWER: Probably descendants of Noah’s son Ham, living in the land of Canaan. They may all have been taller than the Israelites, or perhaps not. Some were exceptionally tall, 9-13 feet, and were the heroes and warriors we read about.
QUESTION 2: Where did the giants come from?
ANSWER: I wonder if God didn’t do a little genetic tweek at the time he gave the people of earth a whole slew of new languages. We all have the same DNA codes, just in slightly different combinations leading to our individual differences. Populations with differing heights are like those with differing skin color. There are plenty of logical references on how these came to be, yet I see the Creator’s direct and intentional involvement.
WHY would God do that?
What’s more impressive: A high school basketball team out-scoring a college team or Tiny Tots Daycare defeating the NBA All-star team? I think God wanted the victories by the Israelites to be impressive beyond the normal military actions. Everyone would then see that the Israelites were different, that they had a real God. A powerful God. A God Who fought their battles in an incredible way. I think He intended for the land of the giants to exist in order to bring Himself glory through His people many years later.
QUESTION 3: Where did they go?
ANSWER: They were defeated, destroyed, as God’s chosen ones take over the Promised Land. In Joshua 13 we read about the land God gave the Israelites. It included the land of King Og, ‘one of the last survivors of the Rephaim [Hebrew for giants], because Moses defeated them and took the land.
QUESTION 4: What about Gigantism?
ANSWER: Sultan Kösen stands 8’3” and is alive and well inTurkey. Robert Wadlow from Alton, Illinois(1918-1940) was 8’11. His height was the result of a pituitary gland disorder. In fact, the abnormally tall folks we see today are the result of specific genetic alterations that aren’t hereditary. It seems unlikely the warrior giants of the Bible were the result of gigantism, which can be extremely painful and debilitating.
So, that’s my thoughts on the matter. I believe in an awesome God with unending power and creativity. The giants of old were part of the plan, His plan, to draw the nations unto Himself.