One of the most puzzling and intriguing passages in the Bible occurs in Genesis, the first book of the Old Testament, where we read that “there were giants on the earth in those days” – but disappointingly we are told very little about them. (6;4)
These giants were, we gather, the descendants of supernatural beings and hunan women: a strange concept indeed! Who were these supernatural beings? – about whom for centuries there has been much debate.  Genesis tells us that they were “the sons of God”, who seeing “the daughters of men” i.e. of mankind, “that they were fair”, lusted after them and “took to wife such of them as they chose”. The offspring of this union were the “mighty men of old” who were the great heroes and “men of renown”.  This occurred “long ago”, before the time of Moses, who reputedly lived about the period 15th-13th century BC (people it seems had much longer lives then).


     Moses is generally regarded as the author, at least by Jews, of the first five books of the Bible (the Pentateuch), of  which of course Genesis is one. Whether we accept this or regard the Pentateuch as a much later compilation, the point made in chapter 6 of Genesis is  startling: giants were on the earth before the time of the great flood, when God decided to destroy mankind and  later after the occurrence of the illicit union of the sons of God with mortals which also produced giant beings. The original word for the term translated in many Bible versions as giants, is Nephilim, whose interesting etymology we can go into later.

A Race of Giants: Human? Semi-divine?

      The Nephilim  were of course part of the human race at that time and as such no doubt contributed to the wickedness that so enraged the Maker as to bring about the flood. That they were also men of renown and heroic figures perhaps refers to that remote, golden age when man dwelt in harmony with God.  The giants produced in the later unholy unions were clearly something else – until we look closely at verse 3, where the statement is clear that people lived for ever (or at least a very long time), which would seem to indicate the early giants were still alive! But where did THEY come from?  What was their origin?

God’s Judgement

      The Lord infuriated by his perception of man’s wickedness decided that mankind   should henceforward be mortal and that the  span of life should be drastically curtailed: “People are [to be] mortal; from now on they will live no more than a hundred and twenty years”. (6; 3) The exception was Noah who “found favour in eyes of the Lord” (6; 8) and lived to be nine hundred and fifty. The great flood to destroy mankind was imminent.


     It seems there were many giant races, or tribes, dwelling in Biblical lands  at that time, judging from the frequent  Bible references to such peoples as the Anakim, Rephaim, Emim, Zanzummin and Gibborim (the latter may mean simply a  warrior or military hero). Most of these references involved  military matters: battles, conquests and defeats as the bellicose  tribal kings sought dominance over each other. In one battle we read how the armies of the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fell into bitumin pits  when fleeing from the famed Chedorlaomer, king of Elam, who a few years before had overcome the giant warrior tribes of Rephaim, Zanzummin and Emim. (Genesis: 14; 5-10)
The unfortunate Rephaim came to attention later, on the occasion of God’s covenant with Abraham when He promised  the gift of territory to the Israelites,  which among others, included the land of the Rephaim. (Genesis: 15; 18-21)

Giants in the Desert

     Numbers, the third book of the Bible, tells of the Israelites’ wandering in the desert for nearly forty years after the leaving of Mount Sinai until they reached the land that God had promised them.  On the borders of Canaan the Lord told Moses to send scouts into the country to reconnoitre. They approached Hebron, and entered into the Negeb only to discover the descendants of the giant, Anak, were in possession of the land. Fearing to go any further, the scouts decided at least to bring back some of the large and abundant fruit to show to their companions as an earnest of their endeavours which had taken many days.
“We explored the land,” they said to Moses, “and found it to be rich and fertile; here is some of its fruit.  But the people who live there are powerful; their cities are very large and strongly fortified.  Even worse, we recognised the descendants of the giants there, the Anakim. We are not able to attack them for they are much stronger than we are.” (13; 28)

The Sons of Anak

     The men who had spied out the land were determined not to be pressurised into fighting these formidable peoples.  Accordingly they decided to spread false reports among their countrymen, saying it was a land that could not even support its people  but that all the inhabitants were  of great stature.  “There we saw the Nephilim, the sons of Anak, who come from the Nephilim.  We felt as small as grasshoppers and that is how we must have looked to them.” (13; 33)
Moses, in his fifth book, Deuteronomy, recalls the significant events of the forty years wandering in the wilderness, just before the people of Israel were at last to enter the  promised land of Canaan.  He scathingly refers to the reconnoitring episode when, despite God’s promise to fight for them, his countrymen were reluctant to advance against the huge inhabitants, the sons of the Anakim.
He reminded his congregation that when they went into the district of Moab the Lord had forbidden them to trouble the dwellers there because He had given the Moabites the city of Ar and He did not wish them to lose any land. The next paragraph tells us more of this city of Ar: “A mighty race of giants called the Emim used to live in Ar.  They were as tall as the Anakim, another race of giants.  Like the Anakim they were also known as Rephaim; but the Moabites called them Emim.” (2; 10-12)


     Moses continues to relate how God had spoken to him: you (addressing his followers) remember how when we approached the land of the Ammonites  the Lord told us not to trouble them or take any of the land He had given them.  “This territory,” explains Deuteronomy, “is also known as the land of the Rephaim, the name of the people who used to live there; the Ammonites called them Zamzummin.  They were as tall as the Anakim.  There were many of them and they were a mighty race.” (2; 21-22)
Then we went towards Bashan, (said Moses), where king Og and his army confronted us, but the Lord told us not to be afraid.  With his aid we defeated king Og and took all the territory of Bashan…

The Israelites alarmed

     It was not surprising that the Israelites were initially alarmed at the sight of this giant race led by king Og, “the last of the Rephaim.  His coffin, made of stone was four metres long and almost two metres wide according to standard measurements.  It can still be seen in the Ammonite city of Rabbah”. (3; 11)
Later Moses  exhorts and encourages his people, now on the threshold of the promised land. “Listen, people of Israel! Today you are about to cross the River Jordan and occupy the land belonging to nations more powerful than you.  Their cities are large, with walls that reach the sky. The people themselves are tall and strong; they are giants and you have heard it said that no-one can stand against them.  But the Lord your God will go ahead; he will defeat them as you advance.”
And as we know, all this came to pass.


     Joshua was the successor to Moses as leader of the Israelites. One day, Caleb, a trustworthy member of the scouting party sent out by Moses years before, came to Joshua  to remind him of that occasion when they  had brought warning of the giant race of Anakim occupying the land they coveted.   Joshua rewarded the faithful  Caleb with the promised governance of the city of Hebron which earlier had been “called the city of Arba. Arba had been the greatest of the Anakim”. (Joshua: 14; 15) Accordingly, Caleb drove the descendants of  Anak whose father had been Arba out of the city: three clans of them.
The division of the conquered lands among the various tribes was not without its problems however.  The “hill country”, part of Canaan, still had indigenous inhabitants who were fearsomely large.  Not surprisingly the tribe of Joseph was reluctant to face them.  But like Moses before him, Joshua reassured his people they would succeed with the help of the Lord.  “You will drive out the Canaanites, though they have huge chariots of iron and are very powerful,” declared  Joshua. (17; 18)


     The Philistines figure large in the books of Samuel since they were constantly at war with the Israelites.  They had many weapons made of iron and bronze. They were a non-Semitic people originally from Crete who mainly inhabited southern Palestine (especially Canaan) from the 12th century BC.


     After very many skirmishes, a decisive battle was in the offing.  The opposing forces camped on either side of a valley.  When the battle lines were ready a huge figure emerged from the Philistine ranks: their champion whose name was Goliath.  This man came from the city of Gath, well-known for its large and powerful inhabitants, who were probably descended from one of the giant races. Goliath  was about three metres tall and broad with it.  He wore bronze armour that weighed about fifty-seven kilogrammes and a bronze helmet. He carried a bronze javelin over his shoulder and the shaft of his spear was like a beam.  The spear’s head alone weighed about seven  kilogrammes. A soldier walked in front of him carrying his shield.  Goliath  stood and shouted at the enemy. “What are you doing there, lined up for battle? I am a Philistine; you are slaves of Saul! Choose one of your men to fight me. Here and now I challenge the Israelite army.” (1 Samuel; (17; 8-11). A formidable figure indeed whose challenge terrified the forces of Saul. Fortunately they possessed the courageous David with his marvellous sling!

Other giant warriors

     This however was only one battle in the on-going wars with the Philistines who from all accounts certainly had a strain of giantism in their genes. Several years later, the Philistines produced another giant warrior, Ishbiben, who led his forces aginst those of David.  This giant rushed into the fray, carrying a bronze spear that weighed about three and a half kilogrammes and brandishing a freshly-minted sword, with every intention of killing David.  Luckily, one of David’s colleagues taking advantage of the blind fury of Ishbiben, managed to strike him a blow from the rear, killing the giant.
Other battles ensued in which giant warriors figured.  The Old Testament speaks of a conflict at Gobb during which giants were killed.  Another Goliath arose, this time a Gittite (i.e. not from Gath) who bore a spear  about three inches in diameter.  He also, with God’s help, was killed on the battlefield as was his giant brother, Lahmi.
One battle was fought in the heartland of the biblical giants: the city of Gath.  A monstrous giant was then the Philistine champion who loved nothing better than to fight. He had six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot. He defied the Israelites and taunted them. Eventually he also was killed by Jonathan –  with the Lord  on his side; Jonathan was the son of David’s brother. (Sam. 2)
These dead warriors were without doubt descendants of the giants of Canaan.

     The books of the Chronicles mainly retell the events already recorded in previous books, such as those of Samuel and Kings.
In 11; 22-25, we read of Benai, one of David’s bodyguard, who slew with a club a huge man from Egypt, over two  and a half metres tall and who was armed with a gigantic spear.  No doubt these giants were indeed powerful but their fatal flaw was lack of agility on the field of battle!

Sincere belief

     Looking back, the great prophet Isaiah reflects on the past enemies of Israel who fell, despite their vast size, in
battle. He imagines he is speaking to the Lord.

     “Now they are dead and will not live again;
their ghosts will not rise,
for you have punished them and destroyed them.
No-one remembers them any more.” (26; 14)

     The book known as the Wisdom of Solomon is one of the many Apocryphal books of the Bible; that is to say it is not generally accepted by all Christian and Jewish faiths as “canonical” – a book whose contents and authority are  universally agreed.  Most Bibles do not contain the Apocryphal writings.  Nevertheless, some religions do accept the Apocrypha as genuine sacred tracts.  Some of these books are now seen to be very revealing.  With changing times often comes a changing viewpoint.  Whatever may be our perspective on these “uncanonical” books we cannot ignore them in the light of modern scholarship.
Chapter 14 of the Wisdom of Solomon clearly relates to Noah’s Ark and to the giants extant at the time.  The piece was probably written about AD 40 in Greek by an author unknown,   an orthodox Jew,  and in honour of Solomon.  He addresses the Lord:

“For even in the beginning, when arrogant giants were perishing,
the hope of the world took refuge on a raft
and guided by your hand left to the world
the seed of a new generation.” (14; 6)

     Reading the above in combination with the foregoing material, it is not possible to doubt the sincere belief in ancient giants held by the writers of the Old Testament, and whenever they spoke, the same belief held by the illustrious figures of the biblical age  themselves.

A Gift from God?

     It is hinted in the Old Testament books that giant stature can be in certain cases a gift from God.  (There is a school of thought that holds Adam and Noah were giant beings – but more of this later.)
Another Apocryphal book, known as Ecclesiasticus or the The Wisdom of Sirach, certainly suggests the hypothesis.

“Thus,” Sirach writes, “in the beloved city He gave me a resting place; in Jerusalem was my domain.”
Thus blessed by the Lord, Sirach “grew tall like a cedar in Lebanon….I grew tall like a palm tree in Engedi…” (24; 13-140

     The “Sirach” mentioned here is understood to be actually the son of  Sirach, whose true name was Joshua who wrote about 200 BC.
Baruch, an Israelite scribe, wrote his book largely for the edification of the peoples of Babylon about the same time as Sirach/Joshua was writing. Again, the sincerity of the writer and his book cannot be doubted; we read it with an impression of its deep religious fervour. The passage chosen from the work illumines our theme.

    “O Israel, how great is the house of God,
how vast the territory He possesses!
It is great and has no bounds;
it is high and immeasurable.
The giants were born there, famous of old
great in stature, expert in war.
God did not choose them,
or give them the way to knowledge;
so they perished because they had no wisdom;
they perished through their folly.”


     Of all the races of giants mentioned in the Old Testament, it is the Anakim who are most often referred to.  Anak is derived from the Hebrew meaning “long-necked” or as some interpretations have it, “swan-necked”.  Swans have wings.  This interpretation opens up fascinating speculations which  we shall discuss later.
There  are no fewer than thirteen references to this race alone in the Testament. We can read of the descent of the Anakim in Numbers, 13:22 and Joshua, 15:13; we are told of the sons of Anak in Numbers 13:33; of the sons of the Anakim in Deut. 1:28; of the children of the Anakim in Deut. 9:2; of their division into three tribes, Joshua, 15:14; they inhabited the mountains of Judah, Joshua, 11:21; Hebron was their chief city, Joshua, 14:15 and 21:11; they were of gigantic strength and stature, Deut. 2: 10, 11, 21; the Israelites were  terrified of them, Numbers, 14:1 and 13:33; Hebron a possession of the Anakim given to Caleb, Joshua, 14: 6-14; the Anakim driven from Hebron by Caleb, Joshua, 15: 13,14; and driven from Debir by Othniel, Joshua, 15: 15-17 and Judges, 1: 12, 13; the Anakim almost annihilated, Joshua, 11: 21, 22. Certain Egyptian texts mention a tribe of Anak living in Palestine  about 2000 BC.


     Despite the above, we first read of the giants who lived before the flood, the “mighty men…men of renown” (Gen. 6:4), who were known as Nephilim. This Hebrew word is of dubious etymology, possibly deriving from the original Hebrew, Nephel, which seemed to denote a monster, a fearsome man who beats and bears down on other men.  A giant being could of course do this. It could also be interpreted as a fallen man, (the fallen Angels?) or men who fell (to earth) – interpretations of much significance which we shall later explore. Raymond Fowler in his book THE WATCHERS endorses the view that tall celestial beings fell from the sky (compare the theories of such as van Daniken in CHARIOTS OF THE GODS). Fowler speaks of the resulting half-breed progeny and their descendants who were eventually killed off.  He says that some scholars speculate that this tradition of giants born from the union of gods and humans formed the basis for the demigods of Greek mythology.  We shall discuss this topic in Part 2 of this book.


     John Gray in his NEAR EASTERN MYTHOLOGY advances the viewpoint that the conception of the Rephaim as supermen may reflect the Canaanite tradition of defunct kings as dispensers of fertility and other blessings.  The Genesis tradition may  reflect also the myth of the birth of minor gods from the union of human women and “the s/Sons of God”, who might themselves have been fallen angels. “The sons of God”: a strange, mysterious expression!  There have been many attempts at explaining this.  Some commentators believe that the expression refers to the “godly line” of Seth (a worthy son of Adam), and  the expression “daughters of men” to women from the line of Cain.  It is instructive to note other explanations of these strange expressions.  “The sons of God” could be translated “the sons of the gods” – a radical interpretation indeed, but one which warrants further examination (later).
The Apocryphal book of Enoch (important for our purposes) has a very relevant  passage on this theme.

“They took wives (or lovers) for themselves…and they began to cohabit with them and to defile themselves with them; and they taught them sorcery and spells and showed them the cutting of roots and trees. The women  became pregnant by them and bore large progeny: giants.” (1 Enoch: 7; 1-4)

Jewish tradition says that their (the supernatural beings)  seduction from the paths of righteousness was at least partly their own fault since they had taught the women the art of cosmetics and allure and had thereby begun the movement to degeneracy and sexual abandon.  (A theme of John Allegro in his book, THE SACRED MUSHROOM AND THE CROSS.)


     It would be opportune at this juncture to look at the translation  of Genesis 6;4 (as in the King James version) mentioned in the opening  paragraph:

“There were giants on 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  unto them; the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.”

Compare this with other, probably  MORE ACCURATE translations, where the last sentence reads: “They were the mighty ones of eternity, the people of the SHEM” (the manuscript  word).   The original, basic meaning of Shem (in the Hebrew) is – a rocket! A rocket ship.

People of Renown?

     The usual translation of the Hebrew phrase is “people who have a name” thus giving us “people of renown”.   A revolutionary theory of evolution may be explored  based on this fact.  The high priest of this line of argument is the writer Zechariah Sitchin; we shall review his interesting  theories  in Part 3.
But the immediate connotation of Nephilim to translators is (or was), “giants”, especially when the Hebrew of the biblical books was translated into Greek (called the Septuagint version after the seventy scholars who reputedly worked on the translation). In the Greek translation Nephilim became gigas, the Greek word for giants. The Septuagint also sometimes translates the Hebrew word gibbor which occurs several times in the original as giant, though it MAY  signify no more than a strong man or warrior. In the book of Numbers the Nephilim are described as the giant original inhabitants of Canaan but it is never made clear how they survived the flood to become the original Canaanites. It may be that their ambiguous name refers to the fact of their destruction (i.e. fallen ones) in the Flood – or by the Israelite conquest.

      As we have seen, the Bible gives various names to these giant races: sometimes also Emim, or Rephaim, secondary only to the word Anakim.  We learn in Genesis for example that the Rephaim are ancient inhabitants of Canaan (Gen. 15;20). The word “giants” as opposed to “giant”  in association  with the race name,  occurs in a dozen places in the Old Testament; most of these we have already met, but the remaining two in Joshua: “then get thee up to the land of the giants” (17;15) and “Benjamin came to the valley of the giants” (18;16) are worthy of note.
The word “Rephaim” is probably derived from the Hebrew verb meaning “to heal” which opens up interesting speculations about this race. As used in the Bible, the term may refer to the ancestral giants who not only in life had great status,  but also after death  as semi-divine beings, exercised a type of healing power upon the living. Most probably the Rephaim were among other things, members of a military class wealthy enough to provide themselves with the necessities of war.  In Isaiah, the Rephaim of the underworld are alluded to as those “who were leaders of the earth” and those “who were kings of the nations”.(14; 9)
“Emim” is derived from the Hebrew noun meaning “terrors”, which would fit well our understanding in the Bible of them as another fierce and powerful giant tribe living in Canaan in ancient times.


     The charge of “mythical” is frequently made against many events in the Bible, particularly in the Old Testament.  We need to be wary of this judgement. In fact, very little in the Bible is myth in the sense there is absolutely no truth in it.  The meaning of myth and interpretation of the word we can leave to a later chapter.  In the main, biblical narratives focus on human actors living on earth in historical time. Such items as Eden, Noah, Babel, may indeed be myth.  The creation and flood stories however undoubtedly are derived from a very long line of similar stories, which are not myth but legend, from the Near East: especially Babylon, and Egypt and Mesopotamia.
Indeed, traditions are persistent among Middle Eastern peoples of an ancient race of giant men and women and the Bible does identify several unusually large individuals of which the most famous, as we know, is Goliath.

    In the Bible, as Denis Saurat states very pertinently in his ATLANTIS AND THE GIANTS,  there is no “mythology”, only statements of fact. The point he is making is that in the Bible the references to giants are not NECESSARY to make the text credible; omission would not impair the theological implications.  Any references are very short anyway, and no special sigfnificance is attached to them. “In short,” he says, “once we rid ourselves of our instinctive prejudice against the notion of giants ever having existed, these passages would seem simply  to tell the unvarnished truth.” (p 76) The Bible, he maintains, puts giants in their proper place; nothing more. They are not gods; simply giants.

Theories of Gigantism
Hoerbiger and Sitchin

     Throughout certain periods of history gigantism has been a fact; we are aware of this.  Theories have been advanced to account for this of which the cosmic ice theory of the Germanwriter, Hoerbiger, is the most revolutionary – and the most illuminating!  (We shall consider his views in some detail in subsequent chapters.)  Briefly, Hoerbiger states that about a thousand or more years BC there were giants who were the descendants of older races going back about three hundred thousand years. These giant races were degenerate and comparatively few at the time of the biblical narratives. The Hebrews when they invaded Palestine found opposing soldiers often of approximately their own size, but led by giant kings armed with unknown weapons.  These giants, says Hoerbiger, probably possessed knowledge which they kept secret from the masses.

     No-body possessed more secret knowledge than the giants first mentioned in the Bible: the Nephilim, who we remember “were the mighty ones of eternity; the people of the shem”.  The ancient writers of the Old Testament, we can assert, found it necessary to “acknowledge the presence upon earth in early times of such divine beings.” (Zechariah Sitchin, THE TWELFTH PLANET, p 159) We recall the basic meaning of “Nephilim” : loosely translated it means those who were cast down upon earth. As Sitchin says, “the literal and original meaning of the verses cannot be escaped.  the sons of the gods who came to earth from the heavens were the Nephilim”. (p 160) The place where they came from was the “Twelfth Planet.” (see chapter 18 later)
The Deluge was to say the least a traumatic event in mankind’s history; according to some theorists it was no less so for the “descended” giant/gods.  If we adduce that the Nephilim came to earth for compelling reasons of their own and initiated man into advanced knowledge (but at the same time making use of man as labourers for them) their knowledge of the coming flood caused even them some consternation.  So much so that they resolved to return to their home on the twelfth planet. One of man’s regressions followed.


     Regression or degeneracy is one of the themes of a very interesting essay by J.C. Knight in his criticism upon Genesis (V1; 1-5) seen in the October, 1867, issue of the Journal of Sacred Literature.  The puzzling Bible verses are intelligently examined, but of course all his observations are not able to be discussed here.  We can however pick out his most relevant points (for our purposes).
One of Knight’s first comments is that as there were Nephilim before and after the flood this is clear proof that they were not a race but a class –  (as the whole human race perished).  The violence upon the earth is due largely to their outrages and oppressions. These words “mighty men”   imply nothing as to moral character, Knight remarks. But when used in this connection, when told that men had had the high designation of being sons of God and of being men of renown and then they indulged in polygamous intercourse, taking to themselves wives of ALL whom they chose and became men of might, it does seem “as if the words were intended to denote deterioration of character”. (p7 of the Williams and Norgate reprinting of Knight’s article)   We have compelling reasons for so thinking when it is added that their becoming so indicated such deterioration – “and God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth”. (Gen. 6; 5)

Sons of God

     Of course a great stumbling block is the meaning of the phrase “sons of God”. As we have seen the phrase could be translated “Sons” and/or “of god” or “of the G/god/s” – we cannot be sure; but these people  were the parents of the Gibborim (giants) produced in the unholy alliances.  E.J. Wood, in his book, GIANTOLOGY AND DWARFIANA, draws our attention to the  book of Enoch (about which more later) where certain angels were sent by God to guard the earth but they were seduced from their allegiance by the beauty of the terrestial women by whom they had giant progeny.
After the Flood: the first monstrous beings are the Rephaim, we are told. (Gen. 14;5)  In Deuteronomy, we find references to the Anakim (2; 10,11) “a people great, and many and tall” and that the land of Ammon was “a land of giants…the Ammonites call Zamzummim” (2; 20,21) Eventually, according to the Bible, these giants were dispersed, leaving king Og as the last of the giants, smitten by Moses and the Lord.  However there are many later references in the Bible to giant beings: as Wood points out Saul must have been a gigantic man, for we are told in Samuel that “from his shoulders and upwards he was higher than any of his people” (9; 2); in Judith an Apocryphal book)  giants are mentioned (16; 7); in Baruch (3;26) already mentioned, there are references to giant beings.
The giants thus defeated in the east (of Palestine) seem to have moved to the west where with the Philistines they continued to fight the Hebrews. The race of Anakim were as we related earlier, routed  by Joshua and after their chief city was given to Caleb, the Anakim faded from the biblical scene.


     That the giants mentioned in the Old Testament were certainly  real to the early writers, and a genuine threat to the biblical peoples there can be no doubt especially if credence in biblical accounts  is to be maintained; indeed what purpose is served by untruths in the Scriptures?  Of course there are many questions still to be asked concerning the origin, history and the very concept of giants.  In the next chapter we shall try to answer some of these questions.

© A.B. Finlay Ph.D