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Fausset's Bible Dictionary [1]

Two Hebrew terms.

I. Νephilim ; Hebrew "those who fall on" men; men of violence, robbers, tyrants; compare  Genesis 6:13, "the earth is filled with violence through them." Applied to antediluvians ( Genesis 6:4). Distinct from the Gibbowrim , "mighty men of old, men of renown," the offspring of the intermarriage of the "sons of God" (the Sethites,  Genesis 4:26, margin" then men began to call themselves by the name of the Lord";  Deuteronomy 14:1-2;  Psalms 73:15;  Proverbs 14:26;  Hosea 1:10;  Romans 8:14) and the "daughters of men." The Sethites, the church separated from the surrounding world lying in the wicked one, had been the salt of the earth; but when even they intermarried with the corrupted races around the salt lost its savor, there was no seasoning of the universal corruption; (compare  Exodus 34:16;  Ezra 10:3-19;  Nehemiah 13:23-28;  Deuteronomy 7:3;  1 Kings 11:1-4;) a flood alone could sweep away the festering mass, out of which one godly seed alone, Noah, was saved.

Hence our Lord dwells on the "marrying" in the list of the things lawful, but then unlawfully absorbing men wholly, as characteristic of the age just before the flood, as it shall be of the age when the Son of man shall appear ( Luke 17:27). The Hindu tradition of two races, Suras and Asuras, and the Greek legend that the demi-gods were sons of the gods and that the Titan giants sprang from the union of heaven and earth, flow from the history of Genesis 6 corrupted. Moreover Nephilim is applied to the giant in the report of the spies ( Numbers 13:33); compare on the Anakim ("longnecked") about Hebron, Debir, Ahab, and the mountains of Judah and Israel,  Deuteronomy 2:10;  Deuteronomy 2:21;  Deuteronomy 9:2. (See Anakim .)

II. Rephaim ; a people defeated by Chedorlaomer at Ashteroth Karnaim ( Genesis 14:5), occupying the N.E. of the Jordan valley (Peraea) before the Canaanites came. Og, the giant king of Bashan, was the last of them ( Deuteronomy 3:11). They once extended to the S.W., for the valley of "Rephaim" was near the valley of Hinnom and Bethlehem, S. of Jerusalem, "the valley of the giants" ( Joshua 15:8;  Joshua 18:16;  2 Samuel 5:18;  2 Samuel 5:22;  2 Samuel 23:13). Rephaim was used for "the dead," or their "ghosts" ( Job 26:5, translated "the souls of the dead tremble; (the places) under the waters, and their inhabitants (tremble)";  Psalms 88:11;  Proverbs 2:18;  Proverbs 21:16;  Isaiah 14:9;  Isaiah 26:14;  Isaiah 26:19) perhaps because scheol or hades was thought the abode of the buried giants.

Raphah "the weak," or "resolved into their first elements," expresses the state of the deceased. Whether it has any connection with the tribe Rephaim is doubtful. Possibly "tall" was the primary sense (Gesenius); then the tall national Rephaim; then giants in guilt, as in might; these being doomed to Gehenna , the term became the general one for "ghosts." Or else from ghosts being magnified by fear to more than human size. EMIM "terrors"; so-called from their terrible stature by the Moabites, who succeeded them in the region E. of Jordan ( Deuteronomy 2:10). Or rather the word equates to the Egyptian term Αmu , i.e. nomadic Shemites. Smitten by Chedorlaomer at Shaver Kiriathaim ( Genesis 14:5). (See Anakim also.)

The Zuzim of Ham were a northern tribe of Rephaim between the Arnon and Jabbok, smitten by Chedorlaomer. The Ammonites who supplanted them called them Zamzummim ( Deuteronomy 2:20;  Genesis 14:5). Connected with the Horim. LeClerc explains the name "wanderers" from Zuz "to wander." Ham may be the original of Rabbath Ammon. The ruined cities of Bashan are thought by many to evidence their possession formerly by giant races. The success of David and his heroes against Goliath and the giants of Philistia (a remnant of the old giant races) illustrates the divine principle that physical might and size are nothing worth, nay are but beaststrength, when severed from God and arrayed against the people of God. Samson was but of average height ( Judges 16:17), yet was irresistible by the Philistines so long as he was faithful to God. David was chosen above his brothers in spite of their "height of stature" ( 1 Samuel 16:7;  1 Samuel 17:36-37;  1 Samuel 17:45-47;  2 Samuel 21:15-22).

Holman Bible Dictionary [2]

Old Testament The earliest biblical reference to giants is to the nephilim born to the “daughters of men” and the “sons of God” (  Genesis 6:1-4 ). Interpreters differ on the origin of these giants. Some understand the “sons of God” to be angelic beings who intermarried with human women (see  Jude 1:6 ). Others view them as descendants of Seth who intermarried with the ungodly. Later descendants of the nephilim were called “the sons of Anak” (  Numbers 13:33 ) or Anakim (  Deuteronomy 2:11;  Deuteronomy 9:2 ). They inhabited the land of Canaan prior to Israel's conquest. Egyptian records testify to their presence as early as 2000 B.C. Similar races of giants had also inhabited Moab ( Deuteronomy 2:9-10 ) and Ammon ( Deuteronomy 2:19-20 ).

A second class of giants who inhabited pre-Israelite Palestine was the rephaim. Their last survivor was Og, king of Bashan ( Deuteronomy 3:11 ,Deuteronomy 3:11, 3:13 ). A valley near Jerusalem ( Joshua 15:8;  Joshua 18:16 ) and part of the wooded country in the tribal territory of Ephraim ( Joshua 17:15 ) retained their name.

The Old Testament also records cases of individual giants. The well-known Goliath ( 1 Samuel 17:1 ) was a Philistine champion. A family of giants from Gath were among the Philistine enemies slain by David and his followers ( 2 Samuel 21:16-22;  1 Chronicles 20:4-8 ).

Michael Fink

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [3]

Earth-born. It is supposed by many that the first men were of a size and strength superior to those of mankind at present, since a long life is usually associated with a well-developed and vigorous frame. We know also that there were giants and families of giants, even after the average length of human life was greatly abridged. These, however, appear to have been exceptions; and if we judge from the mummies of Egypt, and from the armor and implements of the earliest antiquity, found in ancient tombs, in bogs, and in buried cities, we should conclude that mankind never exceeded, in the average, their present stature. There were, however, giants before the flood,  Genesis 6:4; fruits of the union of different families, and extraordinary in stature, power, and crime. After the flood, mention is made of a race called Rephaim,  Genesis 14:5   Joshua 17:15; kindred with whom were the Emim, early occupants of the land of Moab, and the Zamzummim in Ammon,  Deuteronomy 2:10,20 . Og was one of the last of this race,  Deuteronomy 3:11,13 . West of the Dead Sea, around Hebron and Philistia, lived the Anakim, whose aspect so terrified the Hebrew spies,  Numbers 13:33   Joshua 11:21,22 . Of this race were Goliath and his kindred,  1 Samuel 17:4   1 Chronicles 20:4-8 . See ANAKIM, Goliath , and Rephaim .

Easton's Bible Dictionary [4]

  • Heb. gibbor (  Job 16:14 ), a mighty one, i.e., a champion or hero. In its plural form (gibborim) it is rendered "mighty men" ( 2 Samuel 23:8-39;  1 Kings 1:8;  1 Chronicles 11:9-47;  29:24 .) The band of six hundred whom David gathered around him when he was a fugitive were so designated. They were divided into three divisions of two hundred each, and thirty divisions of twenty each. The captians of the thirty divisions were called "the thirty," the captains of the two hundred "the three," and the captain over the whole was called "chief among the captains" ( 2 Samuel 23:8 ). The sons born of the marriages mentioned in  Genesis 6:4 are also called by this Hebrew name.

    Copyright Statement These dictionary topics are from M.G. Easton M.A., DD Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Third Edition, published by Thomas Nelson, 1897. Public Domain.

    Bibliography Information Easton, Matthew George. Entry for 'Giants'. Easton's Bible Dictionary. 1897.

  • Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary [5]

    Giant, Giants

    The Scripture speaks of such characters in the old world,  Genesis 6:4. And in the days of the church going though the wilderness, the king of Bashan, which opposed Israel, is described as having a bedstead of iron of nine cubits long, and four wide; so that the length was fifteen feet and four inches. And yet of later times, even in our own days, Mr. O'Brien, the Irish giant so called, was said to have been nine feet high. (See  2 Samuel 21:16-22) The term for giant in Hebrew is very singular; it is Nophel: meaning, a monster.

    Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [6]

    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.

    International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [7]

    jı̄´ants The word appears in the King James Version as the translation of the Hebrew words נפילים , nephı̄lı̄m (  Genesis 6:4;  Numbers 13:33 ); רפאים , rephā'ı̄m ( Deuteronomy 2:11 ,  Deuteronomy 2:20;  Deuteronomy 3:11 ,  Deuteronomy 3:13;  Joshua 12:4 , etc.); רפא , rāphā' ( 1 Chronicles 20:4 ,  1 Chronicles 20:6 ,  1 Chronicles 20:8 ), or רפה , rāphāh ( 2 Samuel 21:16 ,  2 Samuel 21:18 ,  2 Samuel 21:20 ,  2 Samuel 21:22 ); in one instance of גּבּור , gibbōr , literally, "mighty one" ( Job 16:14 ).

    In the first two cases the Revised Version (British and American) changes "giants" into the Hebrew words "Nephilim," nephı̄lı̄m , and "Rephaim," rephā'ı̄m , respectively (see these words). The "Nephilim" of   Genesis 6:4 are not to be confounded with the "mighty men" subsequently described as the offspring of the unlawful marriages, of "the sons of God" and "the daughters of men." It is told that they overspread the earth prior to these unhallowed unions. That the word, whatever its etymology, bears the sense of men of immense stature is evident from the later passages;   Numbers 13:33 . The same is true of the "Rephaim," as shown by the instance of Og ( Deuteronomy 3:11;  Joshua 12:4 ). There is no doubt about the meaning of the word in the ease of the giants mentioned in 2 Sam 21 and  1 Chronicles 20:1-8 . See also Antediluvians .

    The Nuttall Encyclopedia [8]

    In the Greek mythology often confounded with, but distinct from, the Titans ( q. v .), being a mere earthly brood of great stature and strength, who thought by their violence to dethrone Zeus, and were with the assistance of Hercules overpowered and buried under Etna and other volcanoes, doomed to continue their impotent grumbling there.