Who Were the Anakim and the Rephaim? #198 #Giants #Nephilim #BibleMysteries
Hello friends and happy Monday to you. Today’s topic is another Bible-mysteryesque topic, much like yesterday’s special on sea monsters and dragons. Tomorrow we should be back to more normal and spiritual topics. Our Bible readings for the day include Joshua 18 and 19, Psalms 149 and 150, Jeremiah 9 and Matthew 23. I’d usually talk about Matthew 23 here, but we’ve talked a good bit about the Pharisees and Scribes recently, so I decided to go with the more mysterious topic. That said, as I’ve mentioned before, one of my very favorite Bible depictions is the Matthew videos from the Visual Bible Group. The depiction of Matthew 23 is amazing, and you should watch it. Here’s a link:
Our topic for the day is the Rephaim and Anakim – two mysterious people groups in the Canaanite regions. What makes them mysterious, I hear you asking? Well, it’s because of passages like these:
20 This too used to be regarded as the land of the Rephaim. The Rephaim lived there previously, though the Ammonites called them Zamzummim, 21 a great and numerous people, tall as the Anakim. The Lord destroyed the Rephaim at the advance of the Ammonites, so that they drove them out and settled in their place.
10 The Emim, a great and numerous people as tall as the Anakim, had previously lived there. 11 They were also regarded as Rephaim, like the Anakim, though the Moabites called them Emim. 12 The Horites had previously lived in Seir, but the descendants of Esau drove them out, destroying them completely and settling in their place, just as Israel did in the land of its possession the Lord gave them.
“Listen, Israel: Today you are about to cross the Jordan to enter and drive out nations greater and stronger than you, with large cities fortified to the heavens. 2 The people are strong and tall, the descendants of the Anakim. You know about them and you have heard it said about them, ‘Who can stand up to the sons of Anak?’ 3 But understand that today the Lord your God will cross over ahead of you as a consuming fire; he will devastate and subdue them before you. You will drive them out and destroy them swiftly, as the Lord has told you.
So far, not much mystery here. The Anakim and the Rephaim/Emim are obviously strong, tall and fearsome, but maybe they are just like some tall people groups still around today. Do you happen to know what country boasts the tallest men in the world? It would appear that Bosnia and Herzegovina holds that title, followed very closely by the Netherlands. Both countries feature 6 feet as the average height of their men, which sounds pretty tall compared to the men of Indonesia, where the average height is 5’2 inches tall. Were the Anakim and Rephaim the Bosnians and Dutch of their day? Maybe…but there’s a few more verses to consider:
10 all the cities of the plateau, Gilead, and Bashan as far as Salecah and Edrei, cities of Og’s kingdom in Bashan. 11 (Only King Og of Bashan was left of the remnant of the Rephaim. His bed was made of iron. Isn’t it in Rabbah of the Ammonites? It is 13½ feet long and 6 feet wide by a standard measure.)
Og gets quite a few mentions in the Old Testament for an enemy king – almost two dozen, and he even appears in a Psalm:
He struck down the firstborn of Egypt,
both people and animals.
9 He sent signs and wonders against you, Egypt,
against Pharaoh and all his officials.
10 He struck down many nations
and slaughtered mighty kings:
11 Sihon king of the Amorites,
Og king of Bashan,
and all the kings of Canaan.
12 He gave their land as an inheritance,
an inheritance to his people Israel.
Og was a Rephaim remnant, and he was a mighty warrior and king. God even told Moses not to be afraid of him before the battle in which Og was defeated, so he obviously had a great reputation. Was he a giant? Well – his bed (or, the Hebrew word could indicate his casket/sarcophagus) was HUGE. 6 feet wide and 13 feet long. That is a BIG and LONG bed, right? I know, I know…just because a man has a 13 foot long bed (or casket) doesn’t automatically mean he was super tall…but it is certainly eyebrow raising. Another clue for us:
21 At that time Joshua proceeded to exterminate the Anakim from the hill country—Hebron, Debir, Anab—all the hill country of Judah and of Israel. Joshua completely destroyed them with their cities. 22 No Anakim were left in the land of the Israelites, except for some remaining in Gaza, Gath, and Ashdod.
Did you catch that in verse 22?? The only Anakim left in Israel after Joshua’s conquest went to Gaza, Ashdod, and GATH. That sound familiar? Know any big guys from GATH? How about:
3 The Philistines were standing on one hill, and the Israelites were standing on another hill with a ravine between them. 4 Then a champion named Goliath, from Gath, came out from the Philistine camp. He was nine feet, nine inches tall 5 and wore a bronze helmet and bronze scale armor that weighed one hundred twenty-five pounds. 6 There was bronze armor on his shins, and a bronze javelin was slung between his shoulders. 7 His spear shaft was like a weaver’s beam, and the iron point of his spear weighed fifteen pounds. In addition, a shield-bearer was walking in front of him.
1 Samuel 17:3-7
Goliath was a giant man. There is some discussion as to how tall he was exactly, because the Bible gives his measurements in cubits, not feet – and we aren’t 100 percent sure what a cubit actually was during King David’s day, because it was a measurement based on the length from a man’s elbow to the tip of his middle finger – a measurement that is quite different if you are an average Indonesian, or an average Dutchman. A cubit for me is 19 inches, maybe 19.25. Incidentally measuring a cubit on yourself after midnight when everybody has gone to bed is not very easy. It’s hard to get at your elbows!
Further complicating matters is that the LXX/Septuagint/Greek Old Testament and the Dead Sea Scrolls list Goliath’s height as 6 feet, 6 inches. Still a large man – especially for the time – but not necessarily what we would call a literal giant. That said, one other measurement there impresses me: That spear-head weight, which scholars seem a little more sure of. 15 pounds is almost the weight of TWO gallons of milk. Imagine wielding a spear with two gallons of milk strapped to the end of it….super heavy for most mortal men! Goliath wasn’t the only giant man in Gath either, according to 1 Chronicles:
4 After this, a war broke out with the Philistines at Gezer. At that time Sibbecai the Hushathite killed Sippai, a descendant of the Rephaim, and the Philistines were subdued.5 Once again there was a battle with the Philistines, and Elhanan son of Jair killed Lahmi the brother of Goliath of Gath. The shaft of his spear was like a weaver’s beam.6 There was still another battle at Gath where there was a man of extraordinary stature with six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot—twenty-four in all. He, too, was descended from the giant. 7 When he taunted Israel, Jonathan son of David’s brother Shimei killed him. 8 These were the descendants of the giant in Gath killed by David and his soldiers
1 Chronicles 20:1-8
As well as Ishbi-Benob, a descendent of Goliath who almost killed King David
15 The Philistines again waged war against Israel. David went down with his soldiers, and they fought the Philistines, but David became exhausted. 16 Then Ishbi-benob, one of the descendants of the giant, whose bronze spear weighed about eight pounds and who wore new armor, intended to kill David. 17 But Abishai son of Zeruiah came to his aid, struck the Philistine, and killed him. Then David’s men swore to him, “You must never again go out with us to battle. You must not extinguish the lamp of Israel.”
2nd Samuel 31:15-17
vs 16 tells us that Ishbi-Benob was one of the sons/descendents of ‘the giant.’ curious word there, right? The Hebrews word that the translators of the CSB rendered giant is “רָפָא râphâʼ, raw-faw’; or רָפָה râphâh,” which is the singular of Rephaim. (Rephaim means more than one Rapha) And there’s your connection. Goliath of Gath – the most famous giant in history, was considered as one of the Rephaim. Interestingly, a case could also be made that he was an Anakim as well, given Joshua 11:22 “No Anakim were left in the land of the Israelites, except for some remaining in Gaza, Gath, and Ashdod.”
So – we can be reasonably sure that Goliath was either a Rephaim or an Anakim or both. It is possible that he was a descendent of Anak, as Joshua 11:22 might imply, and that he was also called a ‘rapha,’ because that was the Hebrew word for ‘giant.’ Which brings us to one of my very favorite verses in the King James Bible – Genesis 6:4
4 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.
Giants on the earth in those days -what an amazing verse! Most modern translations, however, don’t render that Hebrew word as giants, but actually just transliterate the word as Nephilim. Why would they do that? Because we have NO idea what a Nephilim is! Perhaps they are the offspring of the sons of God and the daughters of men mentioned in that same verse, but that is not 100 percent certain. However – we do know that Goliath was likely a direct descendent of the Nephilim from Numbers 13:
“The land we passed through to explore is one that devours its inhabitants, and all the people we saw in it are men of great size. 33 We even saw the Nephilim there—the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim! To ourselves we seemed like grasshoppers, and we must have seemed the same to them.”
And that brings us to our conclusion: Who were the Rephaim and Anakim? It is impossible to be sure, but it seems fairly certain that they were very large (maybe giants), impressively strong, descendents of the Nephilim, and – as such – possibly offshoots of the union between the sons of God and the daughters of men. Want more info on the Nephilim? Be sure and check out episode 6 – Who were the Nephilim and Episode 33 – Who Were the Sons of God?