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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible


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I. In the O.T. 1. As tr. [Note: translate or translation.] of Heb. nephîlîm . In Genesis 6:4 the Nephilim appear as a race of demi-gods, distinguished by their power and renown, but without any mention of gigantic stature. The context Itself suggests that they were the antediluvians, or among the antediluvians, destroyed by the Flood. The story of their origin is, however, common in more or less degree to many ancient races; and it is thought by some to have no original connexion with the Flood story. At any rate the name appears again in Numbers 13:33 , where they appear to be identified with the Anakim. It seems probable, therefore, that the story in Gen. is an ancient myth which arose to account for the origin of this race, and perhaps of other ancient races of a similar type.

2. As tr. [Note: translate or translation.] of Heb. rephâ’îm . This word, frequently left untranslated, esp. in RV [Note: Revised Version.] , is used of several probably different aboriginal peoples of Palestine, and probably meant ‘giants.’ The Rephaim included the Anakim, the aborigines of Philistia and the southern districts of Judah ( Deuteronomy 2:11 ); the Emim , the aborigines of the Moabite country ( Deuteronomy 2:10 ); the Zamzummim , the aborigines of the Ammonite country ( Deuteronomy 2:20 ), who are perhaps to be identified with the Zuzim of Genesis 14:5; and the old inhabitants of Bashan ( Deuteronomy 3:11 ). The statement that Og , whose gigantic bedstead (or perhaps sarcophagus; see Driver, in loco ) was still to be seen at Rabbah, was one of the Rephaim (though the last surviving member of the race in that district) is confirmed by Genesis 14:5 , where the Rephaim are the first of the peoples smitten by the four kings on their journey south. These were followed by the Zuzim and Emim. We thus have evidence of a widely-spread people or peoples called Rephaim from ancient times. In addition to the Rephaim of Bashan, the Zuzim or Zamzummim, and the Emim, on the east of Jordan, the Anakim in the southwest and south for Arba, the traditional founder of Hebron, is described as the progenitor of the Anakim ( Joshua 15:13 ) we find traces of Rephaim in the well-known valley of that name near Jerusalem ( Joshua 15:8-9 ), and apparently also in the territory of Ephraim ( Joshua 17:16 ). Taken together, this evidence seems to suggest that the name Rephaim was applied to the pre-Canaanite races of Palestine.

There is a well-known tendency among ancient peoples to regard their aborigines either as giants or as dwarfs, according as they were a taller or a shorter race than themselves. Thus the Aoakim were so tall that the Israelitish spies were in comparison as grasshoppers (Numbers 13:33 ). The ‘bedstead’ of Og cannot possibly have been less than 11ft. in length [the more probable estimate of the cubit would give 13 ft. 6 in.]; but this is not very surprising if a sarcophagus is really meant, as it was a compliment to a dead hero to give him a large tomb ( Deuteronomy 3:11 ). The Zamzummim are described as a people ‘great and tall like the Anakim’ ( Deuteronomy 2:21 ). Again, Goliath was a man of fabulous height.

The Rephaim were, no doubt, very largely annihilated by their conquerors, but partly also absorbed. We naturally find the most evident traces of them in those districts of Palestine and its borders more recently occupied by past invaders, as in the East of Jordan and Philistia. In the latter country especially, that most recently occupied before the Israelitish settlement, we seem to find traces of them in the encounter with Goliath and his kind. Whereas Og was the last of the Rephaim of Bashaa at the time of the Conquest, these seem to have continued to the time of David.

3. As tr. [Note: translate or translation.] of the sing. word râphâh or râphâ’ . This is evidently akin to the plur. rephâ’îm . In 2 Samuel 21:15-22 , part of which recurs in 1 Chronicles 20:4-8 , four mighty Philistines Ishbi-benob, Saph (Chron. ‘Sippai’), Goliath the Gittite (Chron. ‘Lahmi, the brother of Goliath,’ etc.), and a monster with 6 fingers on each hand and 6 toes on each foot are called ‘sons of the giant.’ As, however, the four are said in 2 Samuel 21:22 to have fallen by the hand of David and his servants, and not one of them is described as slain by David, the passage is evidently incomplete, and the original probably contained the story of some encounter by David, with which the story of Goliath came to be confused. This, which ascribes his death to Elhanan, is probably the earliest form of that story, and it is probable that the reading of Chronicles is a gloss intended to reconcile this passage with 1 Samuel 17:1-58 . ‘The giant’ is probably used generically, meaning that they were all ‘giants.’ The passage is probably an extract from an old account of David and his faithful companions while he was an outlaw, from which also we get the greater part of 2 Samuel 23:1-39 . Though Goliath in the well-known story is not called a giant, he was certainly the typical giant of the OT. His height, 6 cubits and a span ( 1 Samuel 17:4 ), not necessarily more than 7 ft. 4 in., but more probably 9 ft. 10 in., may well be regarded, with the enormous size and weight of his armour, as the natural exaggeration to be expected in a popular story. Even if the story is not historical in its present form, it arose out of the conflicts which David and his men were frequently having with those Philistine giants. There is no mention of the Rephaim or of a single giant after David’s time.

4. As tr. [Note: translate or translation.] of Heb. gibbôr = ‘a mighty man,’ as in Job 16:14; cf. Psalms 19:5 (Pr.-Bk. [Note: Prayer Book.] version). This is hardly a correct tr. [Note: translate or translation.] of the word.

II. In the Apocrypha. We find here some interesting allusions: (1) to the supposed destruction of the Nephîlîm by the Flood ( Wis 14:6 , Sir 16:7 , Bar 3:26-28 ); (2) to the slaughter of the ‘giant’ by David ( Sir 47:4 ).

F. H. Woods.

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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Giant'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. 1909.

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