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Bible Dictionaries

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary


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נפל , Greek, γιγας , a monster, a terrible man, a chief who beats and bears down other men. Scripture speaks of giants before the flood: "Nephilim, mighty men who were of old, men of renown," Genesis 6:4 . Aquila translates nephilim, επιπιπτοντες , men who attack, who fall with impetuosity on their enemies, which renders very well the force of the term. Symmachus translates it βιαιοι , violent men, cruel, whose only rule of action is violence. Scripture sometimes calls giants Rephaim: Chedorlaomer beat the Rephaim at Ashteroth-Karnaim. The Emim, ancient inhabitants of Moab, were of a gigantic stature, that is, Rephaim. The Rephaim and the Perizzites are connected as old inhabitants of Canaan.

The Rephaim in some parts of Scripture signify spirits in the invisible world, in a state of misery. Job says that the ancient Rephaim groan under the waters; and Solomon, that the ways of a loose woman lead to the Rephaim; that he who deviates from the ways of wisdom, shall dwell in the assembly of Rephaim, that is, in hell, Proverbs 2:18; Proverbs 4:18; Proverbs 21:16 , &c; Genesis 14:5; Deuteronomy 2:11; Deuteronomy 2:20; Deuteronomy 3:11; Deuteronomy 3:13; Joshua 12:4; Joshua 13:12; Job 26:5 . The Anakim, or the sons of Anak, were the most famous giants of Palestine. They dwelt at Hebron and thereabouts. The Israelites sent to view the promised land reported, that, in comparison, they themselves were but grasshoppers, Numbers 13:33 .

2. As to the existence of giants, several writers, both ancient and modern, have thought that the giants of Scripture were men famous for violence and crime, rather than for strength or stature. But it cannot be denied, that there have been races of men of a stature much above that common at present; although their size has often been absurdly magnified. The ancients considered persons whose stature exceeded seven feet as gigantic. Living giants have certainly been seen who were somewhat taller; but the existence of those who greatly surpassed it, or were double the height, has been inferred only from remains discovered in the earth, but not from the ocular testimony of credible witnesses. Were we to admit what has been reported on the subject, there would be no bounds to the dimensions of giants; the earth would seem unsuitable for them to tread upon. History, however, acquaints us that, in the reign of Claudius, a giant named Galbara, ten feet high, was brought to Rome from the coast of Africa. An instance is cited by Goropius, an author with whom we are otherwise unacquainted, of a female of equal stature. A certain Greek sophist, Proaeresius, is said to have been nine feet in height. Julius Capitolinus affirms that Maximinian, the Roman emperor, was eight feet and a half; there was a Swede, one of the life guards of Frederick the Great, of that size. M. Le Cat speaks of a giant exhibited at Rouen, measuring eight feet and some inches; and we believe some have been seen in this country, within the last thirty years, whose stature was not inferior. In Plott's "History of Staffordshire," there is an instance of a man of seven feet and a half high, and another, in Thoresby's account of Leeds, of seven feet five inches high. Examples may be found elsewhere of several individuals seven feet in height, below which, after the opinion of the ancients, we may cease to consider men gigantic. Entire families sometimes, though rarely, occur of six feet four, or six feet six inches high. From all this we may conclude, that there may have possibly been seen some solitary instances of men who were ten feet in height; that those of eight feet are extremely uncommon, and that even six feet and a half far exceeds the height of men in Europe. We may reasonably understand that the gigantic nations of Canaan were above the average size of other people, with instances among them of several families of gigantic stature. This is all that is necessary to suppose, in order to explain the account of Moses; but the notion that men have gradually degenerated in size has no foundation. There is no evidence whatever, that the modern tribes of mankind have thus degenerated. The catacombs of ancient Egypt and Palestine; the cenotaph, if it be truly such, in the great pyramid; the tomb of Alexander the Great, are all calculated for bodies of ordinary dimensions. The truth is still more satisfactorily established from the mummies which are yet withdrawn from their receptacles in Egypt, and the caverns of the Canary Islands. In the most ancient sepulchres of Britain, those apparently anterior to the introduction of Christianity, no remains are discovered which indicate the larger stature of the inhabitants than our own. In every part of the world domestic implements and personal ornaments, many centuries old, are obtained from tombs, from bogs and mosses, or those cities overwhelmed by volcanic eruptions, which would be ill adapted to a gigantic race of ancestors.

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Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Giant'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. 1831-2.

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