Now it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born to them, that the sons of God saw the daughters of men, that they were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves of all whom they chose. And the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not strive with men forever, for he is indeed flesh; yet his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.” There were giants on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown. (Genesis 6:1-4, N.K.J.V.)
In my previous post, “Who Were the Sons of God?” I explained that the “sons of God” from Genesis 6:1-4 were fallen angels that demon possessed men on earth, married earthly women, and produced children through those women by using the reproductive seed of the men. Certainly that makes for a bizarre interpretation, but it is nevertheless the one that fits the totality of scripture (both the Old Testament and the New Testament). Now, with this post, I want to say some things about the giants that are mentioned in Genesis 6:4.
Unfortunately, even among people who understand “the sons of God” to be fallen angels, there is a tendency to believe that the “giants” of Genesis 6:4 were the offspring of those sexual unions between fallen angels are human women. In point of fact, though, that is not what Genesis 6:4 says. What it says is: “There were giants on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men.” You see, that word “when” plainly proves that the giants were already on the earth when the forbidden sexual unions took place. That means, of course, that the giants couldn’t have been the result of those unions.
To further make this case, Genesis 6:4 goes out of its way to say that there were giants on the earth afterward. That raises the question: “How could there have been giants on the earth after Genesis 6:1-4 if it takes a sexual union between a fallen angel and a human woman to produce a giant?” Remember, all the giants that were on the earth during the days of Genesis 6:1-4, not to mention all the offspring of those forbidden sexual unions, got wiped out during the flood of Noah. Still, though, giants somehow cropped back up in the human race after the flood.
The Philistine giant Goliath, for example, was nearly ten feet tall (1 Samuel 17:4), and the giant Og, who was the king of Bashan, slept on an iron bed that was over 13 feet long and 6 feet wide (Deuteronomy 3:1-13). Likewise, Deuteronomy 2:9-22; Joshua 11:21-23, 17:14-18; 2 Samuel 21:15-22; and 1 Chronicles 20:4-8 all describe the Israelites doing battle with giants. Obviously, it doesn’t take some kind of otherworldy sexual union between a fallen angel and an earthly woman to produce a giant. Actually, the Bible’s record indicates that there were a lot of giants in existence in the days of the Old Testament. For example, the Bible leaves no doubt about the following:
- The Anakim were a race of giants. (Numbers 13:33; Deuteronomy 2:10-11, 20-21)
- The Emim were a race of giants. (Deuteronomy 2:10-11)
- The Zamzummim (or Zuzim, Genesis 14:5) were a race of giants. (Deuteronomy 2:20-21)
The Hebrew word the Old Testament almost always uses for “giants” is rephaim. As evidence of this, the Anakim are referred to as rephaim (Deuteronomy 2:11) as are the Emim (Deuteronomy 2:10-11) and the Zamzummim (Deuteronomy 2:18-22). Similarly, raphah, the singular form of rephaim, is used in reference to individual giants in 2 Samuel 21:15-22 and 1 Chronicles 20:4-8. While it is possible that rephaim refers to a specific race of giants, it is more likely that the word is merely a general term for “giants” regardless of their race.
Interestingly, however, the Hebrew word that is translated as “giants” in Genesis 6:4 is not rephaim but nephilim. This particular Hebrew word is used in only one other verse in the Old Testament. That verse is Numbers 13:33, and it says the giant race known as the Anakim (“the descendants of Anak”) came from the nephilim.
That is, at least, how the majority of our English translations (the King James Version, the New King James Version, the English Standard Version, the New International Version, etc.) translate the verse. If that translation is accurate, it seems to indicate that the nephilim were the earth’s original race of giants and that all the other giant races (the Anakim, the Emim, the Zamzummim, etc.) sprang from them over the course of time. This assertion makes perfect sense considering that the events of Genesis 6:1-4 happened so early in human history.
The only potential problem with the assertion is the fact that at least one reputable translation, the New American Standard Version, translates Numbers 13:33 to say that the Anakim were part of the nephilim rather than descended from them. If that translation is the correct one, it probably means that the word nephilim is just a general term for “giants” rather than being a reference to a specific race of them.
As for the origins of giants, the Bible doesn’t tell us anything. That leads us to the logical conclusion that Adam and Eve’s d.n.a. somehow produced the giants that were on the earth when the events of Genesis 6:-1-4 took place. Additionally, that same d.n.a. (coursing through Noah and his descendants) produced the giants that were on the earth during the post-flood era. The point is, the giants described in the Bible were not aliens from another planet. Certainly they were genetic freaks, but they were no doubt fully human.
Getting back to Numbers 13:33, that verse is found within the context of the story about Moses sending 12 Israelite spies into Canaan to scout out the land. After spending 40 days in the land, the spies return to Israel’s camp and give their report. Numbers 13:32-33 says:
And they gave the children of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying, “The land through which we have gone as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great stature. There we saw the giants (the descendants of Anak came from the giants); and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight” (Numbers 13:32-33, N.K.J.V.).
If those spies were speaking literally when they said that all the people they saw in Canaan were men of great stature, it means that there were other races of giants besides the previously mentioned Anakim, Emim, and Zamzummim (Zuzim). I say that because in Numbers 13:29 those spies report seeing the Amalekites in the south, the Hittites, Jebusites, and Amorites in the mountains, and the Canaanites by the Jordan river and the Mediterranean Sea. Perhaps, then, those races were giants as well or at least races that included giants. We do know that God Himself said the Amorites had height like the height of the cedars and were as strong as the oaks (Amos 2:9). Furthermore, Og (the giant who slept on that massive iron bed) was the king of Bashan, an Amorite city, and he is described as being the only giant left from the remnant of the giants (Deuteronomy 3:11).
The size of Og’s bed gets us into another question: “Just how big were the giants in the Bible?” That bed’s size is given in cubits, and it was 9 cubits long and 4 cubits wide. If we go with the generally accepted measurement of 18 inches per cubit, the bed was 13.5 feet long and 6 feet wide. That puts Og’s size pretty much on par with Goliath’s whose size is given as “six cubits and a span” (1 Samuel 17:4). Since a span was half a cubit, Goliath was 9’9 tall.
By way of possible contrast, 1 Chronicles 11:23 says that Benaiah, who was one of King David’s greatest soldiers, killed an Egyptian man who was five cubits (7’5 feet) tall. Is it significant that the Bible does not call that Egyptian a “giant” but instead describes him as “a man of great height” (N.K.J.V.)? Actually, the word “great” is even added in by the translators. What the original Hebrew says is that the Egyptian was a man of height. A parallel passage, 2 Samuel 23:21, only calls him “a spectacular man” (N.K.J.V.).
While most people know the story of how David killed Goliath, that story is far from the only one in which a giant is defeated. In Genesis 14:1-12, we find the Bible’s first account of human warfare as an alliance of four kings from the area of the Euphrates river march their armies west into Canaan and are met by five kings from the lower Jordan valley’s region of the Dead Sea. But before that epic battle, the allied armies of those four kings attack and defeat: the Rephaim in Ashteroth Karnaim, the Zuzim in Ham, the Emim in Shaveth Kiriatham, the Horites in the mountain of Seir, the Amorites in Hazezon of Tamar, and the Amalekites (Genesis 14:5-7). As I have already explained, we know for sure that the Rephaim, the Zuzim, and the Emim were races of giants, and the Amorites at the very least included giants. Still, though, those allied armies didn’t have any trouble defeating those races.
Likewise, the armies of Israel were able to bring all of those giant races and others under their heels. For example, Joshua 11:21-23 says that Joshua’s army cut off the Anakim from all the mountains of Israel and utterly destroyed them from their cities. The remnant of Anakim that managed to survive were forced to take refuge in three Philistine cities: Gaza, Gath, and Ashdod. That explains how the city of Gath, which was Goliath’s hometown (1 Samuel 17:4), came to be home to giants.
Four more Philistine giants are spoken of in 2 Samuel 21:15-22 and its parallel passage 1 Chronicles 20:4-8, but they are all killed by David’s soldiers. As 2 Samuel 21:22 puts it: “These four were born to the giant in Gath, and fell by the hand of David and by the hand of his servants” (N.K.J.V.). The Hebrew word translated as “giant” in that verse is rapha, the singular form of rephaim, and the unnamed giant in question was the father of Goliath. We know he was Goliath’s father because 1 Chronicles 20:5 calls one of the slain giants “the brother of Goliath.” Therefore, since all four of the giants were the sons of the same unnamed giant, they all must have been Goliath’s brothers (presumably, Goliath being the oldest). This probably explains why David took five smooth stones rather than one out to face Goliath (1 Samuel 17:40). He must have heard that Goliath had four giant brothers who were also part of the Philistine army.
In closing, let me say that Israel’s multiple victories over multiple giants should give us, as Christians, confidence that God will help us defeat the giants that we face in our lives. Obviously, those giants won’t look like the Rephaim, the Anakim, the Emim, etc., but the challenge they will present to us will be every bit as daunting as the challenge faced by the Israelites. Like the Israelites, many times we will even feel as small as grasshoppers, but what we should always keep in mind is that any giant can be defeated if God decides that it must happen. That, after all, was the great secret that allowed the Israelites to slay all those giants. It was God’s decreed will for the Israelites to conquer that entire land of Canaan, and all those giants were standing in the way of that happening.
So, maybe you have some giant in your life right now, some problem, some impediment, or some circumstance that is just terrorizing you and trying to block you from claiming blessings that God wants you to have. If that describes you, then my advice to you is simple: Ask God to help you defeat that giant and then do all your fighting at His bidding and in His way. The truth is that giants really can be either toppled or put to flight, but it doesn’t happen without God doing His part and you doing your part. Just as it took courage for David to walk out into that valley and face Goliath, it will take courage for you to do battle with your giant. If, however, you are fighting not only in God’s will but also for it, then you can surely win the showdown. How do I know that? I know it because God’s people have been winning showdowns with giants for a long, long time.