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Bible Encyclopedias

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature


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These beings of unusual height are found in the early history of all nations, sometimes of a purely human origin, but more frequently supposed to have partaken also, in some way, of the supernatural and the divine.

1. In , we have the first mention of giants—'There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.' In our judgment the bearing of this passage obviously favors the common notion of giants, and that the rather because their origin is traced to some unexplained connection with 'the sons of God,' that is, with beings of high endowments, if not of a superior nature.

2. In , we meet with a race termed Rephaim, as settled on the other side of the Jordan, in Ashteroth-Karnaim, whom Chedorlaomer defeated. Of this race was Og, king of Bashan, who alone remained, in the days of Moses (), of the remnant of the Rephaim. This race gave their name to a valley near Jerusalem.

3. The Anakim. In Numbers 13, the spies sent by Moses before his army to survey the Promised Land, report among other things—'The people be strong that dwell in the land; and, moreover, we saw the children of Anak' (). This indirect mention of the children of Anak shows that they were a well-known gigantic race. In the statement is enhanced,—'It is a land that eateth up the inhabitants; and all the people that we saw in it are men of great stature. And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak which came of the giants; and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.' However much of exaggeration fear may have given to the description, the passage seems beyond a doubt to show the writer's belief in a race of giants (). From it appears that the size of the Anakim became proverbial, and was used as a standard with which to compare others. In the time of Moses they dwelt in the environs of Hebron (). They consisted of three branches or clans—'Ahiman, Sheshai, and Talmai—the children of Anak' (). They were destroyed by Joshua (;; ).

4. From the remnant of the Anakim left in Gath of the Philistines (; ) proceeded the famous Goliath (). This giant is said to have been in height six cubits and a span. Other giants of the Philistines are mentioned in the passage before cited, , sq., namely:—1. 'Ishbi-benob, which was of the sons of the giant, the weight of whose spear weighed three hundred shekels of brass, he being girded with a new sword, thought to have slain David; but Abishai, the son of Zeruiah, succored him, and smote the Philistine and killed him.' 2. Saph, which was of the sons of the giant who was slain by Sibbechai. 3. 'A man of great stature, that had on every hand six fingers and on every foot six toes, four and twenty in number, and he also was born to the giant; and when he defied Israel, Jonathan, the son of Shimeah, the brother of David, slew him.' These four were sons of the giant in Gath, that is, probably of the Goliath of Gath whom David slew (;; ).

5. Another race is mentioned in , the Emim, who dwelt in the country of the Moabites. They are described as a people 'great and many, and tall as the Anakims, which were also accounted giants' ().

6. The Zamzummim also (), whose home was in the land of Ammon—'that also was accounted a land of giants: giants dwelt therein of old time, and the Ammonites called them Zamzummims, a people great and many, and tall as the Anakims; but the Lord destroyed them before them, and they (the Israelites) succeeded them, and dwelt in their stead.'

From this enumeration it is clear that the Scriptures tell of giants in the olden time, and of races of giants: and that, though giants are mentioned as something singular, and consequently as comparatively rare, they appear to have been, relatively to the numbers of the population, of frequent occurrence.

That the primitive races of men greatly surpassed others in stature is an opinion which finds ample support in ancient authors generally; and at an early period and under favorable circumstances, individuals and even tribes may have reached an unusual height and been of extraordinary strength. But many things concur to show that the size of the race did not differ materially from what it is at present. This is seen in the remains of human beings found in tombs; especially among the mummies of Egypt. To the same effect is the size of ancient armor, as well as architectural dimensions, and the measures of length which have been received from antiquity. Ancient writers who are free from the influence of fable, are found to give a concurrent testimony.

That great diversity as to height and size prevails in the human family, is well known. What the precise limits may be within which nature has worked in the formation of man, it would be difficult to determine. But the inhabitants of northern latitudes are well known to be below the ordinary standard, many of them scarcely exceeding four feet; while in temperate climates the height of the human race averages from four feet and a half to six feet; and instances are not wanting of persons who measured eight or nine feet.

The possibility of a race of giants cannot well be denied. There is a known tendency in the human frame to perpetuate peculiarities which have been once evolved. Why not extraordinary 'procerity' as well as any other? In fact, the propagation of stature, whether high or low, is a phenomenon which we all see presented daily before our own eyes. Tall parents give birth to tall children. The tallness is found to remain in families; and, doubtless, did not circumstances intervene to reduce the stature by intermarriage with short persons, the unusual height would be perpetuated in any given line. The inhabitants of Potsdam, descended to a great extent from the famous regiment of tall grenadiers which Frederick of Prussia took so much pains to bring together, are said to be still remarkable for exceeding the average height. The family of Scaligers appears to have been unusually tall.





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Bibliography Information
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Giants'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature".

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