This article was first published in the ABR Electronic Newsletter, January 2004.
With this verse in Genesis the Bible introduces to us the existence of giants. The Hebrew term Nephilim used here fundamentally means "fallen ones" rather than giants per se, though the trait of huge size seems inextricably linked to the term. Present in the days of the antediluvians -- "in those days" hearkens back to Gen. 6:1, "when men began to multiply on the face of the earth" -- at first glance the expression "and also after that" may lead one to think they reappeared after the Flood. This is by no means clear, however; the phrase may simply mean they continued to coexist with "normal" humans for an indeterminate period of time. The additional phrase that further describes them as "mighty men which were of old" implies they were no longer extant at the time Moses penned these words. The identity of the Nephilim is much debated by theologians and Bible students, with a key issue being the identification of the "sons of God" -- but that is a topic for another day! Let us press on...
Continuing through the Old Testament, one finds numerous further verses touching on the subject of giants. Other passages dealing with them include Num. 13; Deut. 1, 3, 9; Josh. 11, 12; I Sam. 17; 2 Sam. 21; and I Chr. 20. As they undertook the conquest of the Promised Land under Joshua and continued to extend their dominion over it into the time of David, the Israelites reported a number of encounters with the enormous men known as the Rephaim and Anakim. It should be noted that Numbers 13:33 reports the spies saying that "the sons of Anak are part of the Nephilim," but this is likely nothing more than their personal opinion which Moses simply reports, rather than a statement of fact. Most Bible translations include this phrase as part of the spies' quoted words, not as a separate parenthetical observation by Moses; and further, the phrase is textually suspect, being absent from the Septuagint, and scholars such as Eryl Davies (commentary on Numbers in the New Century Bible Commentary) regard it as an explanatory scribal gloss rather than part of the original text. For these reasons, it is safest to understand Numbers 13:33 as simply expressing the opinion of some that the size of the sons of Anak brought the Nephilim to mind.
Regardless of whether the Anakim were actually related to the Nephilim, it is obvious that the Israelites were dealing with giants. If our understanding is correct that a cubit was approximately 18 inches, then Goliath, at "six cubits and a span," was somewhat over 9 feet tall. Og, the King of Bashan whose bed is described in Deut. 3:11 as being about 14 feet long by 6 feet wide, was thought to be 10 to 12 feet tall. As difficult as it may be for us to imagine such huge people today -- Shaquille O'Neal is a mere stripling compared to them! -- the clear impression one receives from these reports is that they record factual information, not mere legend. If we consider for a moment that from dogs we can breed not only toy poodles but also mastiffs, we ought to keep an open mind to the size possibilities incorporated by the Creator into the genes of the earliest humans.
But the skeptic has a right to ask: If the Bible is true, where is the EVIDENCE for these huge beings? Where are the displays in the museums? Where are the archaeological reports that record the discovery of their remains? This is a fair question. If one goes to any of the major museums, you will not find any exhibits of giant human beings. Search the Smithsonian galleries, for example, and you will see not a single giant bone or footprint cast on display. The clear impression given is that evidence of giants has never been found, and, intentionally or not, this tends to cast the Biblical record in an unfavorable light.
Yet concluding such evidence does not exist at all would be quite wrong! Reputable reports, found in the pages of older newspapers and magazines and given by credible witnesses, of the discovery of such remains HAVE come to light from time to time. The problem is, there is a reigning paradigm within the enclave of professional anthropologists which spills over into our museums, and which allows no place for such "anomalous artifacts." The gatekeepers of our major museums adhere to an orthodoxy which mandates that such oddities as giant skulls be kept under wraps, reserved for the eyes of insiders only, presumably lest the unsophisticated begin to doubt the officially-sanctioned history of humanity. As Joseph R. Jochmans has written (Strange Relics from the Depths of the Earth, online: http://joe3998.tripod.com/sitebuildercontent/sitebuilderfiles/strangerelics.pdf):
It is becoming increasingly apparent that not all facts from the past find their "proper" place. Other discoveries have been made that [compellingly] contradict the accepted model. Yet these discoveries are largely ignored, since it is far easier for the majority of scientists and historians to uphold what is "established," than to try to build a new model based on the "exceptions."
It is not unlike the end of the movie "Raiders of the Lost Ark." Having recovered the Ark of the Covenant from the clutches of the Nazis, Indy finds himself compelled in the end to leave it in the hands of the authorities, who promise to "take care of it." And what is the outcome? We find the Ark packed up in a nondescript crate and spirited away to disappear into the bowels of an endless warehouse, conveniently taking along with it all of the uncomfortable questions it might raise. Many feel that this is exactly what has happened to most of the giant artifacts dug up by past generations, and why newer discoveries receive no notice.
Contrary to the impression given by the museums, however, we HAVE discovered evidence that "there were giants in the earth." Space precludes listing more than a few mentioned in Jochmans' article:
- Eureka, NV, 1877: "...the prospector was surprised to find a human leg bone and knee cap sticking out of solid rock....When the surrounding stone was carefully chipped away, the specimen was found to be composed of a leg bone broken off four inches above the knee, the knee cap and joint, the lower leg bones, and the complete bones of the foot. Several medical doctors examined the remains, and were convinced that anatomically they had indeed once belonged to a human being, and a very modern-looking one. But an intriguing aspect of the bones was their size: from knee to heel they measured 39 inches. Their owner in life had thus stood over 12 feet tall" (Jochmans, p. 4).
- Carson City, NV, 1882: "...several human tracks were found. The tracks were in six series, each with alternate right and left tracks. The stride was from two and a half to over three feet, and the individual prints were from 18 to 20 inches in length - that of a giant. The straddle - the distance between the left and right prints - was 18 to 19 inches" (Jochmans, p. 5).
- Carrizo Valley, OK, 1970's: "The shoe prints...reveal their wearers to have been above normal size with the imprints averaging 20 inches long and 8 inches across the ball of the foot [suggesting a height of roughly 12 feet] (Jochmans, p 7).
I recently received a copy of an e-mail about a living missionary who, prior to becoming a Christian, was an anthropologist. It includes the following fascinating information, which I have not yet been able to verify firsthand, but has the ring of truth about it. (Not having been able to confirm the details, I am leaving out the missionary's name.)
... She was privy to things that they don't let the public readily see. They display anomalies for study. They don't prohibit people from seeing them, but they do keep it real quiet and pretty much among themselves. ...The thing I remember most out of the dozens of examples she gave, was that she professed to have seen and held in her hands, a DOZEN human skulls that were TWICE the size of a normal human skull. That would make a 12' tall man, who might weigh over 1000 pounds.
She testified that when she was being witnessed to by the person who eventually led her to Christ, she was encouraged to read the Bible. She finally started to do just that, and opened a Bible to the beginning and started reading. She didn't get six chapters into the book when she came across Gen 6:4 -- "There were giants in the earth in those days ..."
She said a chill went down her spine, because she knew she had handled evidence that this verse was true. She knew that this was exactly the kind of thing the Bible is mocked for, except in this case, she knew the Bible was right. This gave her confidence that she could trust the Bible and doubt the skeptics, instead of the other way around. Shortly afterward she got saved, and the rest is history.
I think it would be an enormous help in setting the record straight if archaeological work could be done at Biblical sites mentioned in Scripture as being the home of giants. If remains of some of the Anakim or Rephaim were freshly unearthed by professionals who are not married to the reigning paradigm, this could go a long way toward getting the other skeletons out of the closet! Possible locations for such work include the sites mentioned in the Biblical passages alluded to earlier - Hebron, Debir, Gaza, Gath, Ashdod, Ashtaroth and Edrei, among others. Unfortunately, the continuing unrest in most of these areas makes formal research infeasible right now. But one way or another, hopefully the day will soon come when the wraps will be removed from this hidden facet of human history, and our museums will pull out of mothballs the "anomalous" remains that have long been kept hidden.
In summary, there are giants in the earth... and some have been excavated, but not put on display for the public to see. I, for one, want to see them with my own eyes, for they are part of the ancient history of this world which the Bible so faithfully records, as it does all the matters of our fact-based faith in the Living God.