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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

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Giattino, Giovanni Battista
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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. The scriptural history is not without its giants, and the numerous theories and disputes which have arisen in consequence render it necessary to give a brief view of some of the main opinions and curious inferences to which the mention of them leads. The English word has several representatives in the original Hebrew.

1. In Genesis 6:4, we have the first mention of giants (נְפַולַים, nephilim', according to some from the Arabic, but better from נָכִּל, to fall, q.d. causing to fall, i.e., violent; Sept. γίγαντες, Vulg. gigantes; but more discriminatingly Aquil. ἐπιπίπτοντες, Synlm. βιαῖοι ) "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." A somewhat similar intercourse is made mention of in the second verse of the same chapter, "The sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair, and they took them wives of all which they chose" (see Jour. Sac. Lit. October 1867). Wellbeloved (ad loc.) and others translate and interpret the passage so as to make it speak merely of "men of violence; men who beat down, oppressed, and plundered the weak and defenceless." Doubtless this is an agreement with the meaning of the original word (which occurs also in Numbers 13:33, in connection with the Anakim). But these giants, as in other cases, would naturally be designated by a descriptive name, and great strength is generally accompanied by violence and oppression. In our judgment, the bearing of the 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. We have here given, in all probability, the true basis of all those mythological heroes with which the history of ancient nations is found to begin, such as Hercules and others of a like stamp. It is also especially worthy of note that these are ascribed to a similar parentage, half human, half celestial. Their famous deeds have been immortalized by their deification in every profane system of religion. This appears to us a more substantial interpretation of the Greek and Roman, and even of the Indian and Scandinavian systems of mythology, than the subtle resolution of these semi-fabulous characters into symbols of the various powers of nature, after the mythical theory of the German writers. It is simply the traditions of these cases of antediluvian prowess and fame that the early poets of each nation have wrought up into the divine personages of their heroic age. We merely add that, by the "sons of God" and the "daughters of men" in the above passage, we are doubtless to understand the descendants of Seth and Cain respectively (see Gesenius, Heb. Thesaur. page 96); yet Kitto inclines to regard to former as angelic beings (Daily Illust. ad loc.). (See NEPHILIM).

2. In Genesis 14:5, we meet with a race terned Rephaim (רְפִאִים ), as settled on the other side of the Jordan, in Aslhteroth-Karnaim, whom Chedorlaomer defeated. Of this race was Og, king of Bashan, who alone remained, in the days of Moses (Deuteronomy 3:10), of the remnant of the Rephaim. A passage, which is obviously from a later hand, goes on to say, "Behold, his bedstead ( דֶשׁ, canopy; others cofin; see Michaelis, Dathe, Rosemü ller) was a coffin of iron; is it not in Rabbath of the children of Ammon? nine cubits is its length and four cubits its breadth, according to the cubit of a man," or the natural length of the cubit. (See CUBIT).

It does not appear to us to be enough to say that Og was "no doubt a man of unusual stature, but we cannot decide with accuracy what this stature was from the length of the iron couch of state or coffin in which he was placed" (Wellbeloved, ad loc.). Whatever theoray of explanation may be adopted, the writer of the passage clearly intended to speak of Og as a giant, and one of a race of giants (compare Joshua 12:4; Joshua 13:12). See OG. This race gave their name to a valley near Jerusalem, termed by the Sept. κοιλὰς τῶν τιτάνων . (See REPRIAIM).

The rephaim (A.V. "dead") of Job 26:5; Proverbs 2:8, etc., are doubtless the shades of the departed. (See DEAD).

3. The Anakim ( אֲנֶקַים or בְּנֵיאּ נָק, sons of Anak). 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" (Numbers 13:28). This indirect mention of the children of Anak shows that they were a well-known gigantic race. In the 32d and 33d verses 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 current belief in a race of giants (Deuteronomy 9:2). From Deuteronomy 2:10, it appears that the size of the Asnakim 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 (Joshua 11:22). They consisted of three branches or clans "Ahiman, Sheshai, and Talbeais the children of Anak" (Numbers 13:22). They were destroyed by Joshua (Joshua 11:21) "from the mountains, from Hebron, from Debir, from Anab, and from all the mountains of Judah, and from all the mountains of Israel: Joshua destroyed them utterly with their cities. There was none of the Anakim left isn the land of the children of Israel: only in Gaza, in Gath, and is Asimdod, there remained" (Judges 1:20; Joshua 14:12). (See ANAKIM).

From this remnant of the Anakim thus left in Gaeth of the Philistines proceeded the famous Goliath (גֹּלִיִה, 1 Samuel 17:4. This giant is said to have been in height six cubits and a span. He challenged the army of Israel, and put the soldiers in great alarm. The army of the Philistines and that of Israel were, however, on the point of engaging, when David, the youngest son of Jesse, came near, bringing, at the command of his father, a supply of provisions to his three eldest brothers, who had followed Saul to the battle; and, becoming aware of the defiance which had been again hurled at "the armies of the living God," he at once went and presented himself as a champion to the king; was offered, but refused, a coat of mail; and, arming himself solely with a sling, smote the Philistine in his forehead, so that he fell upon his face to the earth, and was decapitated by David with his own sword. A general, victory ensued. This achievement is ascribed to, the divine aim (17:46, 47). In Samuel 21:19, "Goliath the Gittite, the staff of whose spear was like, a weaver's beam" is said have been slain by Elhanan, a chief in David's army. This apparent contradiction the common version tries to get over by inseating words to make this. Goliath the brother of him whom David put to death. Some suppose that the former was a 'descendant of the latter, bearing the same, perhaps a family name. See, however, the parallel passage in 1 Chronicles 20:5. Other giants of the Philistines are mentioned in the passage before cited, 2 Samuel 21:16 sq., namely:

1. "Ishbi-benob, which was of the sos 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, who was, of the sons of the giant, and was slim by Sibbechai.

3. "A man ofgreat 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 Gallath of Gath whom David slew (1 Kings 20:8; 2 Samuel 20:22; 1 Samuel 17:43. See each of these names in their alphabetical order.

4. Another race is mentioned in Deuteronomy 2:10, the Emim (אֵימִים, 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" (Genesis 14:5). See Emim.

5. The Zamzummim also (זִמְזֶמִּים ) (Deuteronomy 21:2.), 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." (See ZAMZUMMIM).

6. The only other passage where the term "giant" occurs (except as a rendering of γίγας in Judith 16:6; Wiisd. 14:7; Sirach 16:7; Sirach 47:4; Bar. iii, 26, 1 Maccabees 3:3) is Job 16:14, where the original is גִּכּוֹד, elsewhere."a migqty man," i.e., champion or hero. (See GIBBORIM).

All nations have had a dim fancy that the aborigines who preceded them, the earliest men generally, were of immense stature. Berosus says that the ten antediluvian kings of Chaldaea were giants, and we find in all monkish historians a similar statement about the earliest possessors of Britain (comp. Homer, Od. 10:119; Augustine, De Civ. Dei. 15:9; Pliny, 7:16; Varro, ap. Aul. Gellius, 3:10; Jerome on Matthew 27). The great size decreased gradually after the Deluge (2 Esdras 5:52-55). That we are dwarfs compared to our ancestors was a common belief among the Latin and Greek poets (Il. 5:302 sq.; Lucret. 2:1151; Virg. AEn. 12:900; Juv. 15:69). On the origin of the mistaken supposition there are curious passages in Natalis Comes (Mytholog. 6:21) and Macrobius (Saturn, 1:20). (See NIMROD). At an early period and under favorable circumstances, individuals, and even tribes, may have reached an unusual height and been of extraordinary strength. This was in great part, no doubt, owing to the simpler mode of life and smore hardy habits that prevailed in early times. 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. "Homer, when speaking of a fine man, gives him four cubits in height and one in breadth; Vitruvius fixes the usual standard of a man at six Roman feet; Aristotle's admeasurement of beds was six feet" (Millingen's Curiosities of Medical Experience, page 14).

No one has yet proved by experience the possibility of giant races materially exceeding in size the average height of man. Theme is no great variation in the ordinary standard. The most stunted tribes of Esquimaux are at least four feet high, and the tallest races of America (e.g. the Guayaquilistis and peopled of Paraguay) do not exceed six feet and a half. It was long thought that the Patagonians were men of enormous stature, and the assertions of the old voyagers on the point were positive. For instance, Pigafetta (Voyage round the World, Pinkerton, 11:314) mentions an individual Patagonian so tall that they "hardly reached to his waist." Similar exaggerations are found in the Voyages of Byron,Wallace, Carteret, Cook, and Forster, but it is now a matter of certainty, from the recent visits to Patagonia (by Winter, captain Snow; etc.), that there is nothing at all extraordinary in their size. The general belief (until very recent times) in the existence of fabulously enormous men arose from fancied giant graves (see De la Valle's Travels in Persia, 2:89), and, above all, from the discovery of huge bones, which were taken for those of men, in days when comparative anatomy was unknown. Even the ancient Jews were thus misled (Josephus, Ant. 5:2, 3). Augustine appeals triumphantly to this argument, and mentions a molar tooth which he had seen at Utica a hundred times larger than ordinary teeth (De Civ. Dei. 15:9). No doubt it once belonged to an elephant. Vives, in his commentary on the place, mentions a tooth as big as a fist which was shown at St. Christopher's. In fast, this source of delusion has only very recently been dispelled (Martin's West. Islands, in Pinkerton, 2:691).

Most bones which have been exhibited have turned out to belong to whales or elephants, as was the case with the vertebra of a supposed giant examined by Sir Hans Sloane in Oxfordshire. On the other hand, isolated instances of monstrosity are sufficiently attested to prove that beings like Goliath and his kinsmen may have existed. Columella (R.R. 3:8, § 2) mentions Navius Pollio as one, and Pliny says that in the time of Claudius Caesar there was an Arab named Gabbaras nearlyten feet high, and that even he was not so tall as Pusio and Secundilla in the reign of Autgustus, whose bodies were preserved (7:16). Josephus tells us that, among other hostages, Artabanus sent to Tiberius a certain Eleazar, a Jew, surnamed "the Giant," seven cubits in height (Ant. 18:4, 5). Porus, the Indian king, was five cubits in height: (Arrian, Exp. Al. 5:19). Nor are well- autheticated instances wanting in, modern times Delrio says he saw in 1572 a man from Piedmont whose height exceeded nine feet (Not. ad Senec. (Ed. page 39). O'Brien, whose skeleton is preserved in the Museum of the College of Surgeons, must have been eight feet high, but his unnatural height made him weakly. On the other hand, the blacksmith Parsons, in Charles II's reign, was sevemn feet two inches high, and also remarkable for his strength (Fuller's Worthies, Staffordshire). The tallest person of whom we have a trustworthy record did not, according to Haller, exceed nine feet. Schreber, who has collected the description. of the principal modern giants, found few above seven feet and a half, although he mentions as Swedish peasant of eight feet Swedish measure; and one of the guards of the Duke of Brunswick as eight feet six inches Dutch. Such well- known instances as those of Daniel Lambert and others in modern museums probably come full up to any of the Measures of the Biblical giants. See art. Giant in the Encyclopaedia Maetsopolitana; Whiston,. "On the old Giants," Auth. Records, 2:872-938; Prichard, Researches into the Physical History, of Mankind, 1:3058 (1836).

Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Giant'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​tce/​g/giant.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.
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