By Dr. Don Bierle, FaithSearch President
Wouldn’t a football coach love to have Goliath as his fullback? Any coach could easily put together a championship basketball team made up of Amorites. The Nephilim would make great security guards. Why? The Bible says that all these were giants! Is there any truth to that?
Those who don’t believe in the inspiration of Scripture are likely to consider this claim as a legend which evolved over time. For example, a recent article on giant claims in Biblical Archaeology Review suggested that any large bones that have been found likely belonged to some large animal (like an elephant) but were mistakenly identified by non-scientists as belonging to giant humans referred to in mythology (see “Encounters…” source). They suggested that the idea of giant humans roaming the earth is a “fantastic tale.”
No-one questions the existence of fossil giants in the biological world. Imagine cooking out in your backyard only to have a dragonfly come by with a two-and-a-half-foot wingspan (Meganeura). Worse yet would be a flying reptile (Quetzalcoatlus), a pterosaur with a wingspan of fifty feet (equivalent to some modern jet fighter planes). Of course, you would never want to meet Liopleurodon (likely the “Leviathon” in Job 41) an aquatic carnivore eighty-two feet long with a mouth more than three yards long and teeth twice as long as those of the Tyrannosaurus rex.
There are many more giants documented in the fossil record:
- Spiders – one-foot-long and eats birds
- Frogs (Beelzebufo) – sixteen inches high
- Rats (Josephoartigasia) – body mass of 2,200 pounds
- Beavers (Trogontherium) – seven-and-a-half-feet long
- Scorpions (Jaekelopterus) – eight feet long
- Turtles (Archelon) – sixteen feet long
The fact that scientists have discovered animals with body sizes far greater than those observed today suggests, at least in theory, the possibility that there could also have been giant humans in the past, as recorded in the Bible.
Human giants identified in the Bible
The Bible clearly teaches that giants existed in the past. It identifies giants living in and around the land of Canaan. The negative report by the spies sent by Moses to Canaan stated that “all the people whom we saw in it are men of great size” (Numbers 13:32). The Amorites were mentioned specifically and had to be large enough for the Israelites to claim they themselves looked like grasshoppers in comparison (v.33). Greater credence is given to this when God speaks through the prophet Amos “…it was I who destroyed the Amorite before them, though his height was like the height of cedars and he was strong as the oaks…” (Amos 2:9).
The most common term used to describe giants in the Bible is Rephaim. It may refer to a certain people group but more likely simply means giants. When the Israelites defeated Og, the king of Bashan, the account provides an informative detail: “For only Og king of Bashan was left of the remnant of the giants [=Rephaim]. Behold his bedstead…its length was nine cubits and its width four cubits…” (Deuteronomy 3:11). This translates to thirteen feet six inches long by six feet wide. The king may not have been as big as his bed, but the Bible clearly identifies him as a giant.
Perhaps the best known of the giants living in the land of Canaan at the time of the Exodus were the Anakim. If the term “Nephilim” only refers to giants in general (Numbers 13:33), then the Anakim, the Amorites, the Emim (Deuteronomy 2:10-11), and the Zamzummim (vv. 20-21) were all Nephilim (=giants). Both the Emim and Zamzummim were compared to the Anakim, as they were both “a people as great, numerous and tall as the Anakim” (Deuteronomy 2:10, 21; 9:2).
Joshua fought several battles with the Anakim and the Amorites, and destroyed them with their cities. After that, none of the Anakim were left in the land of Israel except some in Gaza, Gath, and Ashdod (Joshua 11:21-22). That explains why David had to deal with that renowned and mighty Philistine, Goliath, for he was from Gath (1 Samuel 17:4). Goliath’s height is listed as nine feet nine inches, and is clearly identified as a giant with giant offspring in 2 Samuel 21:15-22.
This makes clear that the biblical giants were tribes of unusual genetic lines and not the result of the rare physiological malfunction of excessive growth hormone causing gigantism (usually resulting in physical ailments and awkwardness, and not the strength of a warrior). Furthermore, modern gigantism is not hereditary, whereas the Bible often describes giants as being the offspring of other giants (1 Chronicles 20:4-8).
The accounts of giants in the Bible are held by Christians as more than just “tall” tales. Is there any extra-biblical evidence that supports giant humans on the earth?
Nearly every place around the world has legends of giants dwelling in the land. Greek and Roman mythology had their Titans and Cyclops; Norse mythology contains the Frost giants of Jötunheim; African and Asian peoples have legends of giants, as do Native Americans and Hindus. Often such widespread legends have an actual historical memory, much like the creation and the global flood.
Herodotus writes that around 564 BC, the Spartans found a skeleton seven cubits long (ten feet six inches). This is taller than Goliath! Pliny says that during the reign of Claudius, Gabbara, who was brought from Arabia, was nine feet nine inches tall. In the time of Augustus, there were two men, Pusio and Secundilla, who were measured at ten feet three inches tall.
Support for the truth of giants in Canaan comes from the ancient Egyptians who called the inhabitants of Canaan “Shasu.” A text entitled The Craft of the Scribe (c. 1250 BC) discusses the danger of a Canaanite mountain pass that was protected by “Shasu” who were up to eight feet seven inches tall.
Regarding fossils, scores of giant skeletons have been allegedly unearthed in the past couple of centuries. The vast majority of these were hoaxes. Some simply lack professional archeologist authentication. Some examples of discoveries from the United States follow:
- A skeleton that measured nine feet two inches tall was found in 1919 on Catalina Island, California. A German naturalist discovered an eight-foot skeleton in the same area.
- The Steelville, Missouri, library has a record and photograph of an eight-foot skeleton found there in 1933.
- From the 1860s to the 1880s, settlers in Minnesota digging into Indian mounds excavated human skeletons seven–eight feet tall.
- In December 1868, quarry workers at Sauk Rapids found a petrified skeleton ten feet nine-and-one-half inches tall in a grave chamber capped by a limestone slab about seven feet below the surface.
- A skeleton measuring eight feet in length was discovered by George B. Dresbach Jr. while leveling an earthwork near Dresbach, Minnesota, in the nineteenth century.
- In 1965, Kenneth White dug up a perfectly preserved skeleton under a rock ledge near Holly Creek, Kentucky, that was eight feet nine inches tall when reassembled.
While it is true that no irrefutable archaeology evidence for human giants has yet been found, to claim that they do not exist would be a “stretch”!
Sources: “Giants in the Bible,” Tim Chaffey, February 22, 2012. Featured in Answers in Depth. “Encounters with Fossil Giants,” Steven and Elisha Fine, Biblical Archaeology Review, Vol. 47, No. 3, pp. 18, 20.