Does the Bible teach the existence of giants? Do giants exist today?


There are indeed several references to giants in the Bible, and several words are used to describe giants.

In Job 16:14 (Authorized Version), we read about Job’s complaint against God: “He breaketh me with breach upon breach, he runneth upon me like a giant.” Here, the word for “giant” is “gibbor” and is defined as “mighty” or “a strong one.”

Another word for “giant” is “nephilim,” which can first be found in Genesis 6:4, at the time of Noah: “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 [ note: the word “became” is not in the original and was added by the translator] mighty men which were of old, men of renown.”

The Ryrie Study Bible explains that the meaning of the word “nephilim” is “to fall,” and continues: “… to fall upon others because they were men of strength.” The commentary concludes: “Evidently they were in the earth before the marriages [between the son of God and the daughters of men], and were not the offspring of those marriages who became mighty men (military men) and men of renown (of wealth or power).”

This conclusion is correct, as more fully explained in our Q&A, discussing the question whether angels had intercourse with women. We rejected this and also stated that the translation in Genesis 6:4 is not accurate in the Authorized Version. For instance, read the rendering in the New International Version: “The Nephilim were on the earth in those days–and also afterward–when the sons of God went to the daughters of humans and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown.”

All human beings, including those giants, died in the Flood, except for Noah and his family. However, “nephilim” giants are mentioned again long after the Flood, at the time of Moses. They must have been descendants of one of the three sons of Noah who were with him in the Ark.

The “nephilim” (giants) are mentioned in Numbers 13:32-33, when the spies returned from the Promised Land of Canaan and gave a bad report about it:

“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 their own sight, and so were in their sight.’”

These “giants” are also mentioned again in the books of Deuteronomy and Joshua, as well as in other books, but different Hebrew words are used, showing however, that they all describe the same kind of people.

According to Young’s Analytical Concordance, one such additional Hebrew expression is the word “raphah,” which can be found in 2 Samuel 21:18-22, at the time of King David. The word “raphah” has the meaning of “fearful one” or “giant,” inasmuch as his huge stature struck fear in the heart of men:

“Now it happened afterward that there was again a battle with the Philistines at Gob. Then Sibbechal the Hushathite killed Saph, who was one of the sons of the giant. Again there was war at Gob with the Philistines, where Elhaan the son of Jaare-Oregim the Bethlehemite killed the brother of Golitah the Gittite, the shaft of whose spear was like a weaver’s beam. Yet again there was war at Gath, where there was a man of great stature, who had six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot, twenty-four in number; and he also was born to the giant. So when he defied Israel, Jonathan the son of Shimea, David’s brother, killed him. These four were born of the giant in Gath, and fell by the hand of David and by the hands of his servants.”

When turning to the parallel passage in 1 Chronicles 20:4-8, the Hebrew word for “giant” in verses 4, 6 and 8 is “rapha,” according to Young’s Analytical Concordance, but as we can see from these two examples, the words “raphah” and “rapha” have the same identical meaning (“fearful one”; “giant”). “Rapha” is the most commonly used expression, and can be found, for instance, in Deuteronomy 2:9-11, where Moses told the people of Israel, prior to the occupation of the Promised Land:

“Then the LORD said to me, ‘Do not harass Moab, nor contend with them in battle, for I will not give you any of their land as a possession, because I have given Ar to the descendants of Lot as a possession.’ (The Enim had dwelt there in times past, a people as great and numerous and tall as the Anakim. They were also regarded as giants [Hebrew “rephaim”–plural form and related to “rapha,” according to the margin of the King James Bible], like the Anakim, but the Moabites call them Emim…).”

These gigantic people (“rephaim”) might also be mentioned in Genesis 14:5, in connection with the events surrounding Lot.

In Deuteronomy 2:19-21, Moses continues:

“‘And when you come near the people of Ammon, do not harass them or meddle with them, for I will not give you any of the land of the people of Ammon as a possession, because I have given it to the descendants of Lot as a possession.’   (That was also regarded as a land of giants; giants formerly dwelt there. But the Ammonites call them Zamzummim, a people as great and numerous and tall as the Anakim. But the LORD destroyed them before them, and they dispossessed them and dwelt in their place…).”

These gigantic people (called “Zamzummim”) might also be referred to in Genesis 14:5.

As Moses continues with his narrative, he points out that in regard to the kingdom of Og in Bashan, only one mighty giant survived. We read in Deuteronomy 3:11, 13:

“‘For only Og king of Bashan remained of the remnant of the giants [in that area and belonging to that people, as we read about other giants at the time of David]. Indeed his bedstead was an iron bedstead. (Is it not in Rabah of the people of Ammon?) Nine cubits is its length and four cubits its width, according to the standard cubit…  The rest of Gilead, and all Bashan, the kingdom of Gog, I gave it to the half tribe of Manasseh (All the region of Argob, with all Bashan, was called the land of the giants…).’”

Reference to Og, the king of Bashan, is made in Joshua 12:4 and 13:12 as the “remnant of the giants.”

When Joshua led the people of Israel into the Promised Land, they had to contend with giants who were still living there. The “Valley of Rephaim” (“Valley of the Giants”) is mentioned in Joshua 15:8 and 18:16. In Joshua 17:15, Joshua tells the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh: “‘If you are a great people, then go up to the forest country and clear a place for yourself there in the land of the Perizzites and the giants, since the mountains of Ephraim are too confined for you.’”

As mentioned, giants existed at the time of David.

We have all heard about the giant Goliath who was killed by young David. Goliath was from Gath, “whose height was six cubits and a span” (1 Samuel 17:4).

The Benson Commentary states:

“Goliath of Gath — For to this city the Anakims fled when Joshua rooted them out of the land of Canaan, Joshua 11:22. And here they propagated a race of giants; that is, people of great strength and stature. Whose height was six cubits and a span—At least nine feet nine inches…”

Barnes’ Notes on the Bible adds:

“Goliath of Gath – One of the places mentioned in Joshua 11:22 as still retaining a remnant of the sons of Anak; Gaza and Ashdod being the others. The race of giants (the Rephaim, from… râphâ’ ) is mentioned again in the account of David’s Philistine wars [in] 2 Samuel 21:15-22; 1 Chronicles 20:4-8… Six cubits and a span… would equal about nine feet nine inches. The bed of Og king of Bashan was nine cubits long.”

Matthew Poole’s commentary writes:

“Whose height was six cubits and a span; which is not strange, for besides the giants mentioned in Scripture, Herodotus, Diodorus Siculus, and Pliny, and others, make mention of persons seven cubits high, which is near double to an ordinary man’s height.”

Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible says:

“… the coffin of Orestea, the son of Agamemnon, is said… to be seven cubits long; and Eleazar, a Jew, who because of his size was called the giant, and was presented by Artabanus, king of the Parthians, to Tiberius Caesar, is said by Josephus… to be seven cubits high; and one Gabbara of Arabia, in the times of Claudius Caesar, measured nine feet nine inches, as Pliny… relates, and who elsewhere… speaks of a people in Ethiopia, called Syrbotae, who were eight cubits high…”

We also read that Goliath was armed with a coat of mail, and the weight of the coat was 5,000 shekels of bronze (verse 5), or “156 pounds 4 ounces,” according to the Geneva Study Bible. His iron spearhead weighed six hundred shekels (verse 7), or “between seventeen and eighteen pounds” (Barnes’ Notes on the Bible).

In addition, we read about an encounter of one of David’s mighty men with an Egyptian giant in 1 Chronicles 11:23.

In a letter by the Letter Answering Department of the Worldwide Church of God, the following was stated about giants:

“The Bible indicates that men of great size lived both before and after the Flood…. The giants who lived after the Flood were some of the offspring of Canaan, one of Ham’s sons [Ham was one of the three sons of Noah]. These descendants of Ham were living in the land of Canaan when the Israelite spies went through it… When the Israelites conquered the lands east of the Jordan, they encountered Og, King of Bashan. He was the last of the giants on that side of the river…

“Three chiefs of the giants lived in Hebron until Caleb took the city… After the conquest of Canaan by Joshua…, remnants of the giants were still living in the Philistine cities of Gaza, Gath, and Ashdod. The most famous of these was Goliath… A later encounter by David’s ‘mighty man’ with four other giants is recorded [as well]…

“These giants terrorized Israel periodically from the time of the entry into Canaan until late in the reign of King David. The Bible says nothing further about giants from that time (about 1,000 B.C.) on.”

We also need to realize that there were very tall people and warriors in the Bible, who were of Israelite stock, such as King Saul (1 Samuel 9:2; 10:20-23). They would not have been descendants of the Canaanite ”giants” of the Bible, as described above, but could be considered “giants” in their own “right”—even though they did not reach the height of the Canaanite “giants” of the Bible.

Even though nobody is specifically identified in the Bible as a “giant” after the days of David, does this mean that all giants became extinct? It is of course known that there are very tall people alive in these times (as there are little people in existence today as well), but these KNOWN tall people do not seem to reach the height of the giants of the Bible, and even apart from their height, there seems to be another fundamental distinction between many (but not all) of the modern tall people and the giants of the Bible. As one website puts it:

“So were all of these giants just people who developed gigantism? Although gigantism may account for some of the ancient giants, this proposed solution falls short of explaining many of the biblical accounts.

“Modern gigantism is often caused by abnormalities that lead to excessive production of growth hormone. It is highly unlikely that Goliath, the nephilim, Anakim, or most of the other Old Testament giants suffered from such a condition since they were often described as warriors or ‘mighty men,’ while modern ‘giants’ are usually awkward, uncoordinated, and endure several physical ailments. There have been some rare cases where the person could accurately be described as a ‘mighty man.’

“Furthermore, modern gigantism is not hereditary, whereas the Bible often describes giants as being the offspring of other giants (e.g., Deuteronomy 9:2; 1 Chronicles 20:6). So the groups known as giants were not simply made up of individuals with the modern form of gigantism.”

We might also think of historical tall powerful men since the birth of Christ. For instance, it is said that Charles the Great—Charlemagne—was a very tall man, and he was of course a mighty warrior. But again, his height did not seem to remotely reach the height of the Canaanite giants of the Bible. (In any event, this does not mean that he should be considered to be a descendant of the ancient Canaanite giants of the Bible). On the other hand, modern “giants” –very tall people – with physical ailments could of course be the end result of decades, if not centuries, of degeneration.

We need to note that the Bible does not say that ancient powerful giants—the “heroes of old,” as mentioned in Old Testament times—were totally extinct and that they all died out. We do read that they were “dispossessed’ from areas which they once inhabited, and that they appeared in subsequent times in other areas. Therefore, can we rule out that “giants,” as described in the Bible, could exist today?

Speculation abounds regarding encounters with tall hairy creatures around the world, which are referred to as Bigfoot, Sasquatch, the Russian “Abominable” Snowman or Yeti. Many consider these stories as mere fabrications and fairy tales, while others believe that not all of the many independent reports over many centuries (some of them highly reliable) could be simply made up.

Some who believe in the accuracy of at least some of the eye-witness accounts conclude that they might be “demonic illusions”—but even though some “encounters” might very well be of demonic origin, this could not explain all witness accounts and findings (including unexplained huge footprints, hair samples etc.). Others see in them huge ape-like animals, which could be a distinct possibility. Still others view them as missing links between pre-historic men-like creatures and modern men—a totally wrong idea, as humans did not evolve, and therefore, such missing links did not and do not exist.

Still others view them as fully human—modern representatives of homo sapiens, albeit perhaps in a wild, savage and degenerated state. This is also a distinct possibility. Hunters who had alleged close encounters with Sasquatch reported that they were determined to shoot and kill “the beast,” but refrained from doing so, when they looked into its eyes which were perceived to be “distinctly” human.

One might ask how “hairy” creatures could qualify as humans. Even though the Bible does not specifically say that the ancient GIANTS were hairy, it does include a few examples of “hairy” men. For instance, we read that Esau, when he was born, was “like a hairy garment all over” (Genesis 25:25).

The Pulpit Commentary remarks that literally, it says, “‘all of him as a cloak of hair’… the fur cloak, or hair mantle, forming one notion…  the child’s body [was] covered with an unusual quantity of red hair…”

Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible adds: “his body was all over full of hair, which stood as thick as a garment made of hair…”

Esau’s condition did not change when he grew up. In fact, it increased. He is referred to as a “hairy man” (Genesis 27:11). Gill’s states that Esau “was covered all over with hair; as with a hairy garment; so he was born, and so he continued, and no doubt his hair increased.” This condition was so severe that his blind father, Isaac, was tricked in believing that Jacob was Esau, when “skins of the kids of the goats” were placed on Jacob’s hands and on the smooth part of his neck, so that Isaac did not recognize Jacob  (Genesis 27:16, 23).

The Hebrew words quoted above and used for hairy or hair are also applied to “rough” garments (Zechariah 13:4, Authorized Version) or a “rough” goat (Daniel 8:21).

We also read that Elijah was a “hairy man,” or the “owner of hair” (2 Kings 1:8).  Many interpret this to mean that he was wearing a long beard and long hair [even though nothing is mentioned that he ever took a Nazirite vow (compare Numbers 6:1-21) or that he was a Nazirite from birth, such as Samuel, compare 1 Samuel 1:11]. Others claim that he was wearing a hairy cloak or mantle of sheep or goat skin or of camel’s hair (1 Kings 19:13), comparing it with the mantle of camel’s hair which John the Baptist wore (Matthew 3:4).

However, these conclusions are not compelling. The Nelson Study Bible states: “Although hairy may refer to Elijah’s garments, the usual translation ‘hairy man’ is supported by the ancient versions.” It is possible that Elijah had a similar appearance as Esau. In any event, the Bible knows of the existence of human beings who were covered all over with hair, as with a hairy garment.

In addition, cases are known of people with the so-called “werewolf syndrome” or “hypertrichosis,” who might even pass on their condition to the next generation. One website describes this condition as follows:

“Hypertrichosis is a rare genetic condition that results in extreme hairiness… There is some speculation that Esau, son of Isaac and twin brother of Jacob, may have had hypertrichosis. He was described in the Old Testament as born covered in red hair, and was referred to as a hairy man by his brother as an adult.”

Life Science reported on June 6, 2011, that “Scientists have discovered a genetic mutation responsible for a disorder that causes people to sprout thick hair on their faces and bodies. Hypertrichosis, sometimes called ‘werewolf syndrome,’ is a very rare condition, with fewer than 100 cases documented worldwide. But researchers knew the disorder runs in families, and in 1995 they traced the approximate location of the mutation to a section of the X chromosome (one of the two sex chromosomes) in a Mexican family affected by hypertrichosis.”

As mentioned, the Bible does not describe ancient giants as “hairy” people, but it does indicate a genetic mutation or disorder in the case of at least one giant (apart from their height, the precise cause for which is still open to debate). Remember that one particular giant was described as having twelve fingers and twelve toes (compare again 2 Samuel 21:20 and 1 Chronicles 20:6).

Similar “abnormities” have been reported elsewhere. The condition is commonly referred to as “polydactyly”; that is, a person has extra fingers and/or extra toes.

Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible states that “Pliny speaks of one M. Curiatius, a patrician, who had two daughters that had six fingers on an hand, and were called ‘Sedigitae’, six-fingered; and of Volcatius, a famous poet, called ‘Sedigitus’, or six-fingered, for the same reason; and elsewhere, from other writers he makes mention of a people that had eight toes each foot; so Ctesias speaks of a people in the mountains of India, which have eight fingers on each hand, and eight toes [on] each foot, both men and women.”

The Benson Commentary adds that “Tavernier, in his relation of the grand seignior’s seraglio… says, that the eldest son of the emperor of Java, who reigned in the year 1648, when he was in that island, had six fingers on each hand, and as many toes on each foot, all of equal length.”

Based on all of the foregoing evidence, we cannot exclude the possibility that giants exist today. Some of them could even be hairy people. They could be, but would not have to be, descendants of ancient Canaanite giants as described in the Bible. If they were, this would mean that not all of those ancient giants were totally extinct, but that some might have survived and procreated over the centuries and millennia, and that remnants with a hairy genetic disorder —perhaps known as Bigfoot or Yeti— might still live today in remote wilderness areas and in secluded high mountain terrains.

It is interesting to consider that many sightings of Bigfoot or Sasquatch have been reported in North America (California, Washington, Oregon, Montana, Idaho) and Canada (British Columbia), and that these reports include ancient “legends” told by American Indians. Although many American Indians descended from Tiras, a son of Japheth (one of the three sons of Noah), some historians feel that “Native American” tribes might also be, to an extent, descendants of ancient Canaanites who migrated to North America.

In light of the biblical and historical evidence of very tall people as well as hairy people with genetic disorders, including hypertrichosis, which seems to run in families and for which there is still no known cure, it is not totally unreasonable to assume that mighty and powerful human “giants” known as Bigfoot, Sasquatch or Yeti might exist today in fairly inaccessible terrains in different parts of the world.

Lead Writer: Norbert Link

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