Goliath Isn’t the Only Giant in the Bible. Here’s Where They Came From.

If they haven’t read it, most people have at least heard the story of David and Goliath of Gath (“the Gittite”). The names of the hero and villain have iconic status. But how many people know anything about the giant Goliath, other than that he lost his head to a boy named David from Israel?

Second Samuel 21:15–22 and 1 Chronicles 20:4–8 tell us that there were other unusually tall warriors among the Philistines. The lists are not identical, but putting them together we read that there were four: Saph (also called Sippai), Lahmi, Ishbibenob, and an unnamed warrior. The descriptions are similar to that given to Goliath, noting “great stature” and the dimensions of their weaponry. Unlike Goliath or any of the other named warriors, the unnamed giant is said to have six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot. This malformation, known as polydactylism, is only mentioned in the description of this giant. The Bible does not mention it when it discusses other giant clans.

Wait a minute—giant clans?

There are several people groups described as giants or among whom giants lived in the Old Testament:

  1. There are the Anakim, who are descendants from the Nephilim mentioned in Genesis 6:1–4 (compare Num 13:33), and whom the people of Israel encountered under Moses, and later under Joshua (Num 13:22–33; Josh 15:13–14).
  2. At one time, before the children of Israel traveled through the Transjordan, the land to the east of the Jordan River was heavily populated with tall people known as Emim (Deut 2:10–11) and the Zamzummim, also called the Zuzim (Deut 2:20).
  3. The Amorites, another group that stood in the way of Israel claiming the Promised Land, are described as being exceptionally tall (Amos 2:9–10).
  4. Lastly, there were the Rephaim, which are mentioned nearly 20 times, most often in association with the conquest of the promised land, when Moses encountered King Og of Bashan, whose bed measured to 13 feet in length (Deut 2:11, 20–22; 3:11–13; Josh 12:4; 13:13).

Goliath was Rephaim. He and the four giant warriors listed alongside him are descended from rapha (רפה) in Gath (2 Sam 21:22; 1 Chr 20:8). If rapha is interpreted as a proper name, Rapha, then the four warriors were all brothers of Goliath. The biblical text does not actually say this. Only one of these men, Lahmi, is specifically said to be the brother of Goliath. Therefore, it is best to translate the term as “giants” or “Rephaim” as many English translations do.

Some of the Rephaim giants survived the wars of Moses and Joshua, and their descendants settled in the Philistine city of Gath. The other warriors who accompanied Goliath may not have been brothers, but they were all part of an enduring and unusual lineage that challenged Israel for their land and opposed their God.

why is the bible hard to understandDr. Michael S. Heiser is a scholar-in-residence for Faithlife, the makers of Logos Bible Software. He is the author of The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible and has taught many Mobile Ed courses, including Problems in Biblical Interpretation: Difficult Passages I.

 

This article is excerpted from Dr. Heiser’s book I Dare You Not to Bore Me with the Bible. It has been lightly edited.

Get free Bible software from Logos!

Compare translations, take notes and highlight, consult devotionals and commentaries, look up Greek and Hebrew words, and much more—all with the help of intuitive, interactive tools.

Get started now—there’s no credit card required.

Comments

  1. James Henry says:

    I have studied that the giants came from fallen angels cohabiting with daughters of men (Genesis 6:4). These are the angels that left their first estate that it speaks of in Jude. This was an attempt by Satan to corrupt the lineage of Christ. It was one of the reasons for Noah’s flood, although, we still read of them after the flood. Israel ultimately destroyed all the giants and these fallen angels who cohabited with women are now locked away.

    • Robert D Lukenbill says:

      So then, angels can mate? Jesus stated explicitly that angels are neither male nor female…so how does this work? Genuinely curious on to your conclusion. Thanks!

      • Actually, Mt 22:30 says, “For in the resurrection they [the resurrected] neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.”

        “The resurrected” would be those humans that die and rise again, many of whom were indeed married before they died; so if they (who were once married) become as the angels of God in heaven, who is to say that the angels in heaven weren’t also married before they were in heaven (i.e. back when they were guardian angels here on earth)? Also, Jesus is saying that God’s angels IN HEAVEN don’t marry. That doesn’t mean they couldn’t physically marry while on earth. There is a difference between what someone doesn’t do and what they can’t do. Some of the nuns in Catholic convents used to be married (before their husbands died, or before their marriages were annulled). So it would be true to say “The nuns of God in convents who have vowed to remain celibate neither marry, nor are they given in marriage” and also say, “BUT, some of those nuns used to be married, and some might one day break their vows and leave the convent and get married.”

        We know that angels can take on human or human-like form (Gen 18 & 19 and Heb 13:2 and Mark 16:5). Perhaps they do that by clothing themselves with a flesh and blood body that God made for them, or perhaps they take over a body that use to be owned by a human soul (or they forcibly enter a human fetus at conception, etc.). In that physical form, if they could eat and drink and get tired (as the angels that appeared to Abraham and Lot before the destruction of Sodom), then they could also die like men (see Psalm 82:7), or produce human offspring (Gen 6:4).

      • James Henry says:

        No. Jesus said they are not given in marriage. All angels are in the male gender (Michael, Gabriel, Lucifer, etc). There are no female angels according to scripture.

        • Jesus said the angels of God in heaven don’t marry. He didn’t say the fallen angels down here on earth cannot marry. If I said, “None of the men in that bachelors club marry” would you interpret that to mean that no men anywhere ever marry, or that the men in that club were incapable of getting married even if they left that club?

          I never said there were any female angels. You took my analogy about nuns totally wrong, James.

    • “This was an attempt by Satan to corrupt the lineage of Christ.”

      Many people say this, but actually that idea is not supported by scripture. The sons of God were individuals who sinned because they were imperfect beings who gave in to temptation, not because they were following the order of someone with an agenda. James wrote, “But every one is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust and enticed; then when lust has conceived it brings forth sin, and sin, when it is finished, brings forth death” (James 1:14,15).

      It was God that placed the sons of God here on earth to serve mankind as ministering spirits and Watchers and guardian angels (perhaps in human form), but, over time, some of these servants of the Lord became distracted and were enticed by the beauty and other qualities of human women. In fact, it may have been the women who were the initiators. They weren’t think about polluting the human genome or messianic bloodline. They just wanted to be like people, to have wives and homes and jobs and children and possessions. That was forbidden to them because that’s not what they were here for. Their sin was to pursue a human lifestyle when they were supposed to be perpetually celibate servants of God. Their sin produced the Nephilim, and it was the Nephilim (we can safely assume) that threw off the course of history and plunged the world into corruption, which is why God had to wipe out everything with a Flood and start over. The Nephilim lost their bodies at that time and became evil spirits wandering the earth in dry places, seeking rest but finding none. The disembodied sons of God were sent to Tartarus (the lower parts of Hades) were they were kept in chains of darkness until Jesus died and descended to the heart of the earth for 3 days and 3 nights to preach to the dead and break the chains of the repentant.

      • James Henry says:

        You don’t think Satan and his angels and demon spirits have an agenda? I beg to differ. These angels threw in their lot with Satan when Satan rebelled against God. God told Satan that He would crush his head by the seed of the woman, therefore, he tried to corrupt the lineage of Christ.

        • In humans we would call that racial profiling to assume that all within a specified community or ethnic group are guilty of the same criminal tendencies. Satan no doubt does have an agenda (to accuse and deceive mankind), but it is pure assumption to say that therefore all fallen divine beings have the same agenda, and that idea is not supported at all by scripture. It would be like saying every German during WWII wanted the same things Hitler wanted. Jesus said that disembodied unclean spirits seek rest (Matthew 12:43, Luke 11:24). They’ve lost their original bodies and seek out new homes in which to dwell, where they can eat and drink and breathe and experience the world around them. Certainly many do become enslaved by Satan, but there is no indication in Psalm 82 that those sons of God were acting in obedience to the devil. They were simply negligent and lazy, and showed favoritism toward the wicked (as so many modern human lawyers do). There might be as many reasons why angels fall (and don’t forget that there are numerous different kinds of angel-like beings) as there are reasons why humans fall. It is simply prejudicial and non-biblical to assert that all angels are guilty of the exact same motivations.

          • James Henry says:

            I think we can agree that Satan is a master of deception. It was through that deception that he led a revolt against God and a third of the angelic host threw in their lot with Satan and followed him. Hitler and his army did have the same agenda and that was to destroy the Jewish people. Evil is evil no matter how you look at it. The theif comes to steal, kill and destroy and Satan will use all the fallen angels and demon spirits (his army) at his disposal to accomplish that very thing. But thanks be to Jesus who defeated principalities and powers making a show of them openly nailing it to the cross.

  2. Robert Lukenbill says:

    Not to sound ignorant, but how could someone be a descendant of the Nephilim when they were destroyed in the Noahic Flood?

    • There are several teachers like Dr. Heiser that teach on how they continued after the flood. Genesis 6:4 also states the after the flood reference. Several other great bible scholars teach on YouTube on this subject. Maybe type in Giants after the flood and see who comes up. Hope this helps!

    • James Henry says:

      Genesis 6:4. There were giants in those days and after. These were a diferent group of fallen angels who cohabited with women. They are now locked away.

    • Because there were more Nephilim than just the pre-flood Nephilim. There were also post-flood Nephilim, when other sons of God (divine beings) did what the previous sons of God had done. In Rev 2:20-23 we may see an example of more Nephilim being produced, the sons of Jezebel. It was Jesus slaves (doulous) that were being seduced by her in the first century. Perhaps these slaves were ministering spirits (angels) in human form, sleeping with this human woman. That is why Jesus says He will kill them (the children) with death (vs 23). The Law of Moses states that children are not to be killed for the sins of their parents (Deut 24:16), so why are these children in Rev the exception? Perhaps because they are the offspring of unlawful and unnatural unions.

  3. See Genesis 6:4

  4. See Genesis 6:4 & Numbers 13:33 as to your first post

    As to your second post.

    In Matthew 22:29-33 Jesus didn’t explicitly state that angles are neither male nor female.

    The Sadducees were trying to force Jesus to deny the future Resurrection of the dead… so they constructed a hypothetical of a man with multiple wives due to their multiple deaths, and then asked Jesus which wife is his at the Resurrection, hoping to stump Jesus.

    Jesus starts and says, “You are in error (mistaken) because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. At the resurrection people will (future tense) neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.”

    Because of this, it is alleged that angles cannot have sexual intercourse with humans.

    But this is not al all what Jesus is concluding. Here are three reasons why:

    #1… Jesus is not talking about sexual intercourse, but the religious law of marriage connections between husband and wife.

    #2… Jesus is not talking about what angels cannot do, but what they do not do. Angles in heaven who obey God do not marry. This has no implication on what a fallen angel is capable of physically doing when coming to earth.

    #3… Jesus is talking about angels in heaven, their natural dwelling, not angels on earth who were cast down from their natural heavenly dwelling, to engage in unnatural sexual relationships with human flesh (see 2 Peter 2 and Jude).

    The angels in heaven that Jesus is talking about are not the angelic sons of God who were cast out, came to earth, and violated God’s separation of those dominions by having sexual relations with human women.

    Hope this helps.

  5. Richard says:

    You might want to look at “The Book Of Enoch” which gives quite a lengthy account of many things that happened ….the book was very well known to the early church but later was almost entirely wiped out supposedly by church fathers pos. around 300-400 AD The Ethiopian Church had copies that were a part of their collection of biblical books and western church people discovered and translated these …..copies of the book can be found online and You-Tube ( i am not sure whether all the material online is authentic though) you may know of these already and may choose the believe or disbelieve …that is up to you …i am just passing on what i know …thank you

    • “That book [1 Enoch] informed the thinking of Peter and Jude; it was part of their intellectual worldview. The inspired New Testament writers were perfectly comfortable referencing content found in 1 Enoch and other Jewish books to articulate their theology.” (The Unseen Realm pgs 98 & 99)

      “None of this means 1 Enoch should be considered inspired. It shouldn’t and wasn’t. A handful of leaders in the early church gave it that status, and those that did eventually abandoned the idea.” (The Unseen Realm footnote #15, pg 99)

  6. Interesting piece. Definitely inviting me to do more study on this topic.
    Thanks!

  7. VaulDogWarrior says:

    I find it hard to believe that a grown man, intelligent and we’ll educated take these accounts literally. Especially as there seems to be contradictions with the interpretation he gave. Like the Bible mentions the Nephilim before the flood. They being one major reason for the flood. The only way there could have been Nephilim descendents is if they some how survived the flood. Impossible if you take the Bible literally and the flood was global. So you either have to conclude that the flood was local or the Nephilim were part demonic and the descendents were of the spiritual kind… Ridiculous either way.

    • Tom Ragsdale says:

      No contradiction. The sons of God that left their jobs as guardian angels in the days before the Flood were not the only divine beings to do that. OTHER angels did the same thing after the Flood, after the nations were divided at Babel. There are lots of angelic beings (cherubim, seraphim, divine council members, messenger angels, and various beasts and spirits).

      In Rev 2:20-23 we read of Jesus’ slaves committing fornication with a false prophetess, and she gave birth to children that Jesus will kill. Does God punish the children for the sins of their parents? That is wrong according to the Law of Moses (Dt 24:16) and Eze 18:20. But perhaps in this case (Jezebel’s children) it isn’t wrong because we once again see the birth of offspring from cursed unions between humans and angels in human form. Jesus’ slaves in Thyatira are His angelic servants, and after they join with the human woman Jezebel and she produces hybrid children, Jesus searches the hearts and kidneys (both organs that process blood) to identify them, and then He destroys them. So this is not just something that happened in the days of Noah.