Aborigines. —Biblical Data:

Word derived from the Greek γίγας (in LXX.), denoting a man of extraordinary stature; in the English versions the rendering for three Hebrew words: (1) "Nefilim" (see Fall of Angels), Gen. vi. 4a, an extinct (mythological, only semihuman) race, inhabitants of the earth before the Flood, the progeny of the Bene Elohim and the daughters of men. In Num. xiii. 33 this name is used of the pre-Israelitish population of Palestine. Gen. vi. 4b calls them the (2) "Gibborim" = mighty men. In the singular in Job xvi. 14 this word is translated "giant" (but R. V. margin, "mighty man"). (3) "Refa'im" (A. V. "Rephaim"), a collective appellation for the pre-Canaanite population settled both east and west of the Jordan and described as of immense height (Deut. iii. 11; II Sam. xxi. 16-21); the singular occurs as "rafah" (with the definite article, "the giant"; II Sam. xxi. 16, 18, 20, 22) or "rafa'" (I Chron. xx. 4, 6, 8). In the account of the war of the four kings (Gen. xiv.) the Rephaim are mentioned among the defeated (verse 5), along with the Zuzim (= Zamzummim), the Emim, and the Horim, peoples cited in Deut. ii. 10, 11, 12, 20, 21 asautochthons of Palestine; with the exception of the last-mentioned, they were said to be "powerful and numerous and tall," and considered to be Rephaim like the Anakim, the context showing that the Horim as well as the Avim (Deut. ii. 23), even if not explicitly described as such, were also deemed to have belonged to these prehistoric Palestinian tribes. In Gen. xiv. the Rephaim are enumerated along with the Kenites, the Hittites, etc., as being in the land in Abraham's time. Before the conquest, OG, the King of Bashan, is mentioned as the only survivor of the Rephaim (Deut. iii. 11) east of the Jordan, while the Anakim were located west of the river (Num. xiii. 22; Josh. xiv. 12-15, xv. 13; Judges i. 20), as well as among the Philistines (Josh. xi. 21, 22). Even near Carmel (Josh. xvii. 15) they were settled, and the name "valley of Rephaim" (Josh. xv. 8, xviii. 16) indicates their early presence near Jerusalem (comp. "Avim," a Benjamite city, Josh. xviii. 23). Under David these giants are connected with Gath (I Chron. xx. 6-8). Goliath (I Sam. xvii.), Ishbi-benob, Saph (= "Sippai"; I Chron. xx. 4), Goliath the Gittite ("Lahmi, the brother of Goliath the Gittite"; I Chron. xx. 5), and a man of great stature with 24 fingers and toes (II Sam. xxi. 16, 22; I Chron. xx. 4-8), are mentioned as born to "the giant." This giant may have been the Goliath that was slain by David, or the phrase may mean that these men were of the breed of the giants living at Gath.

Not a Distinct Race. —Critical View:

The Hebrew term for "giants" is "refa'im," a grammatical plural. Non-Israelitish clans are designated as "the Gazzite," "the Ashdodite," "the Gittite," "the Hittite," "the Perizite," etc. (Josh. xiii. 3; Gen. xv. 20), i.e., by the race-names in the singular with the definite article prefixed, the names "Caphtorim" and "Pelishtim" constituting the exceptions. From this it would appear that "rephaim" and the singular "ha-rafa'" are appellatives ("the giants," "the giant"), and that in the opinion of the writers the giants did not constitute a distinct, non-Israelitish race or nationality, but were a breed of men of great stature found among various peoples. Thus Og belonged to Bashan (Josh. ii. 10); the Anakim were politically Amorites at the time of the conquest, while they were presumably Hittites under Abraham. David's giants were Philistines and Gittites. If the Horites were Rephaim, they are the exception, inasmuch as they maintained their identity as a distinct people. This view, however, is not generally accepted. It is contended that the Rephaim constituted the earliest population of Palestine, later subjugated and absorbed by the Canaanites, Philistines, and Hebrews. In the case of the Emim and the Zamzummim it is expressly stated (Deut. ii. 10, 11, 20, 21) that they were replaced by the Moabites and Ammonites, while the Avim were annihilated by the Philistines (Deut. ii. 23). The Amorites (among the Canaanites; Gen. x. 16) seem to have absorbed a large portion of the aboriginal population. In Amos ii. 9 their description recalls that of these autochthons, whose racial affinity, however, is not clear. It has been suggested that they may have been the first invaders of Hamitic origin, to which the later immigrants, viz., the Amorites and Canaanites, also belonged (Riehm, "Wörterbuch," ii. 1302b; but see Patten, "Early History of Syria," pp. 36, 37). Whatever basis of fact may underlie the tradition of the existence of this prehistoric population, it is certainly overlaid with mythical elements. This gives weight to the theory that these Biblical references are of the same historical value as the many non-Hebrew accounts of giants (see Bohlen, "Genesis," p. 82; Winer, "B. R." ii. s.v. "Riesen") preceding the men of ordinary stature, or living among them. Granted that the names "Rephaim," "Emim," "Zamzummim" are Hebrew folk-etymological adaptations of non-Hebrew words (Patten, l.c.), this very fact would prove that in the consciousness of the Hebrew writers the historical authenticity of these aboriginal races had been entirely crowded out by mythological and legendary conceits, though there is no occasion for holding with Eduard Meyer ("Zeit. für Alttesta-mentliche Wissenschaft," i. 139) that the existence of the Anakim and the Rephaim as a people is a free development of the popular tradition that individual giants had their home in Palestine.

Connected with the "Shades."

"Rephaim," "Emim," "Zamzummim," and "Nefilim" are in Hebrew etymologically connected with the various designations for the spirits of the departed, the "shades" (Schwally, "Das Leben nach dem Tode," p. 64; "Zeitschrift für Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft," xviii. 127 et seq.). The difficulty involved in this terminology, by which words denoting the limp weakness of the dead are applied to men of notorious strength, is removed if it be borne in mind that the Hebrew Bible probably contains only fragments of popular stories (Gunkel, "Genesis," p. 54) more fully given in later books. The tradition in Enoch and the Book of Jubilees supplies the explanation why the giants were designated as "Rephaim." According to the Book of Jubilees (ch. vii.), these Nafidim (Nefilim) slew one another, and thus the curse pronounced against the shedders of blood fell upon them. "Into Sheol will they go and into the place of condemnation will they descend" (Jubilees, vii. 29; comp. Enoch ciii. 7, 8). These giants were thus known as the typical dwellers in Sheol, i.e., the Rephaim. Because they were without progeny or because they killed their own issue (Jubilees, vii. 22; comp. Enoch, lxxxvi. 4, lxxxviii. 2), they were called "Nefilim," from the root , ("childless") (comp. Midrash Leḳaḥ Ṭob to Gen. vi. 4). The fact that the black basalt bed or sarcophagus of Og was shown at Rabbah, the chief city of the Ammonites (Deut. iii. 11), confirms rather than confutes the legendary nature of the giant stories. As the last of "the dead," i.e., the Rephaim, Og naturally was supposed to have had a sarcophagus. Among the many sarcophagi found in that region and identified as the tombs of various historic personages (Driver, Commentary to Deut. iii. 11), this one—if it was not merely a large black basalt block in which popular imagination detected a likeness to a couch ("'eres") fit for a giant—was, on account of its size, naturally associated with the giant king of the story. Such associations of curious natural formations or historic relics are verycommon in popular tradition (e.g., the pillar of salt and Lot's wife).

Their Names. —Post-Biblical Data:

The giants of the Bible are not monsters; they are rather the children of evil than perpetrators of evil. In the later literature they appear as bereft of reason (Bar. iii. 26-28); of an insolent spirit, rebelling against God (Wisdom of Solomon xiv. 6; III Macc. ii. 4; Ecclus. [Sirach] xvi. 7). The Hebrew text has ("the princes of olden days"), which may be a reference to the chief angels enumerated in Enoch (see Fall of Angels); and these are described as ("that guided the world"). But the final ם in the fragments as reproduced by Schechter looks like a possible ש followed by the line for abbreviations, which would give the reading [], meaning "who ruined the world" (by their violence, ; comp. Enoch vii. 3, 4). These giants are descended from the fallen angels; three thousand ells is their height; and they comprise three classes: the original giants, who begot the Nefilim, to whom in turn were born the Eliud (Book of Enoch, vii. 2; and the Greek Syncellus [Charles, "Book of Enoch," p. 65]). In the Book of Jubilees the last-mentioned are called "Elyo" (vii. 22). These three classes correspond to the three names employed in Gen. vi. 4 = "Nephilim," "Gibborim," and "Anshe ha-Shem" (i.e., "Anakim"; "Elyo" is certainly a misreading for the abbreviation ). In the Book of Jubilees these three are described as being unlike (vii. 22), which Charles and Littmann (in Kautzsch, "Pseud-epigraphen") read as signifying "they fought with one another." It is more likely that this contains a reminiscence of the midrashic conceit according to which Adam before the Fall was of gigantic stature (Ḥag. 12a), but in consequence of his sin was reduced to ordinary human proportions, and in addition lost the "demut" (likeness) to God (Midrash ha-Gadol to Gen. vi. 4, ed. Schechter). These giants, though molded like Adam before the Fall, "were not like" God; while they were exempt from the forfeiture of original stature, they, like man, had lost the demut (comp. Enoch, xv.). The Rabbis hold that these giants had seven names: (1) "Emim," because whoever saw one of them was seized with terror. (2) "Rephaim," because their sight made people "soft" (fearful) like wax. (3) "Gibborim," because their brains alone measured 18 ells. (4) "Zamzummim," because they inspired fear and were fierce warriors. (5) "Anakim," because they wore huge necklaces in great numbers (see also Anakim). (6) "Avim," because they destroyed the world and were themselves destroyed. According to another authority, this name was due to their knowledge of the soil, which was as subtle as that of the serpent ("'iwya," the Galilean for "serpent"). (7) "Nefilim," because they caused the world to fall and fell themselves (Ber. R. xxvii.). The description "Anshe ha-Shem" (Men of the Name) is interpreted as "men of destruction" (ib.). The cabalistic commentators (Recanate, among others) allege that they were called "Men of the Name" because they imparted to men the mysteries of the Divine Name and the names of demons, to conjure therewith. For doing this some of their kind had their noses pierced and were suspended from the dark mountains so that never again could they see the sun (see Grünbaum, "Sprach-und Sagenkunde," p. 72, Berlin, 1901). The Anakim were the sons of the Nefilim (Pirḳe R. El. xxii.), and the giants Og and Sihon were the sons of Ahiah ("Ḥiya" in the Midrash Abkir), the son of Shemḥazai, the fallen angel (Niddah 61a). Some of these giants had feet 18 ells in length (Deut. R. i.), and the same length is given for the thigh-bone (Buber, "Tanḥuma," Debarim, addition 7). Numerous rows of teeth are also ascribed to them (Ḥul. 60a). They were very voracious, eating as many as a thousand oxen, horses, and camels each day (Midrash Abkir). Relying upon their great size, and upon the power of their enormous feet to stop the rising waters, they ridiculed Noah's warning (see Flood in Rabbinical Literature). According to other versions that were inspired by a desire to attenuate the expression sons of Elohim" (see Fall of Angels), the giants were the progeny of the union of the Sethites and the Cainite women ("Das Christliche Adamsbuch," p. 140, note 70; Ephraem Syrus, "Opera," ii. 477; Lagarde, "Materialien," p. 65; Eutychius, i. 26; Ibn Ezra to Gen. vi. 2). The "Shalshelet ha-Ḳabbalah" (ed. Venice, p. 92b) reports that Seth had commanded his descendants to keep aloof from the daughters of Cain. Seven generations obeyed his injunction, but they then cohabited with the accursed breed, and the result was the birth of the Anakim, the perpetrators of all kinds of evil. These giants led a most shameful life, thus causing God to send the Flood. This is also the view taken by Arabic authors. Ṭabari (i. 127 et seq.) records that Adam had enjoined the Sethites to avoid the Cainite women, but that the latter seduced them by bewitching music and by their personal charms heightened by cosmetics (see also Baiḍawi to sura xxiii. 33); they were also accustomed to adorn themselves with pearl necklaces (from the rabbinical interpretation of the name "Anakim," "'anaḳ" meaning neck). The same story is told of the generation of Sethite-Cainite giants by Ibn al-Athir (i. 41) and Ya'ḳubi (p. 7; comp. "Die Schatzhoehle," ed. Bezold, ii. 18).

Og, King of Bashan.

Of all the giants only Og escaped destruction in the Flood. Noah made a place for him near the lattice door of the ark, through which (Pirḳe R. El. xxiii.), because Og had sworn to serve Noah and his descendants for all time, he handed him his food every day. The Talmud (Niddah 61a) sees a reference to this in the word "ha-paliṭ." (Gen. xiv. 13), "the escaped" fugitive being identified with Og (comp. Pseudo-Jonathan to Gen. xiv. 13; Deut. iii. 11; see Eliezer). Arabic writers (Ṭabari, i. 193; and Ibn al-Athir, i. 51) quote this escape of Og as a "Jewish" story ("according as the people of the Torah fancy"). According to Mohammedan tradition, Og was a son of Noah's sister, and survived his uncle 1,500 years, being killed by Moses (see Bemidbar Rabbah to Num. xxi. 34; Tan., Ḥuḳḳat, ed. Buber, 55; Pseudo-Jonathan to Num. xxi. 34). The story of his death runs as follows: When Og saw the camp of the Israelites, six parasangs in area, fearing lest his fate be a repetition of Sihon's he proposed to kill them all at once. He broke off a mountain and lifted itabove his head to throw it upon the Israelites. But God sent a worm which bored a hole into the mountain so that it fell upon Og's neck, his teeth becoming imbedded in it. Moses, taking a mace ten ells long, beat the ankles of Og until he died (comp. "Sefer ha-Yashar," and Ber. 54b, where ants perforate the mountain). The Arabic historians relate similar stories (Ṭabari, i. 50 [Zotenberg transl. i. 391]; Ibn al-Athir, i. 137). Og's height is given by Ḳazwini (i. 449) as 23,330 ells; he lived 3,600 years. The waters of the Flood reached only to about the middle of his body. In Parḥon's "Maḥberet," s.v. , as in Ḳazwini (l.c.), it is a bird, , that splits the mountain.

Ishbi-benob (II Sam. xxi. 16) is another giant-hero of a Talmudical legend. Into his hand God delivered David on account of the destruction of the priest-city Nob and other misdeeds, Satan masquerading as a deer leading David in pursuit to the land of the Philistines, that Ishbi-benob, the brother of Goliath, might discover him and do him harm. The giant bound David and laid him on the ground under an olive-tree and an oil-press. But by a miracle the earth softened under him and thus saved him from being crushed. All this happened on Sabbath eve. Abishai, the son of Zeruiah, when making his toilet detected blood in the vessel (according to others, it was a dove in distress that he beheld), which circumstance apprised him of David's danger. Looking for the king in his house and then in the bet ha-midrash, and not finding him, he inquired whether it was lawful to mount a royal horse (on Sabbath) when the king was in peril of his life. Receiving permission, he mounted the steed and was carried to the place with miraculous velocity (the earth jumping so that the intervening space vanished), killing the giant's mother on the way. Upon Abishai's approach, Ishbi-benob, taking hold of David, hurled him high into the air, and placed his sword in position so that the king in his fall would be cut to pieces. But Abishai pronounced "the Name," which kept David suspended in mid-air. Descending then in safety, David apprised Abishai of all that had happened. Both ran away, which induced the giant to pursue them; but on reaching the place where Orpah, the giant's mother, had been killed, they turned and despatched the giant (Sanh. 95a; Shoḥer Ṭob to Ps. xviii. 37; Gen. R. lix.; see Goliath). The Pelishtim (in Gen. x. 14) were identified with the giants, while the Caphtorim were said to be dwarfs (Gen. R. xxxvii.). Men of giantlike stature were warned not to marry women of like proportions, lest a "mast" (very tall being) be born unto them (Bek. 45b). Gigantic stature is considered a blemish rendering a priest unfit for service (Sifra to Lev. xxi. 21; Pseudo-Jonathan to Lev. xxi. 20).

E. G. H.—In Arabic Literature:

The Hebrew "nefilim bene 'Anaḳ" (Num. xiii. 33) are called "jabbarun" in the Koran (sura v. 25), and "jababirah" in other works, both words being the plural of "jabbar" (giant). In the Koran (l.c.) giants are mentioned in connection with the twelve spies sent by Moses to explore the land of Canaan. According to Mas'udi, the giants were of the Amalekite race. The Arabian writers speak particularly of 'Uj (Og) ibn 'Unḳ (Og with the Neck), for the reason that when he went out to fight Moses he tore out a mountain and put it on his head with the intention of throwing it upon the Israelites and crushing them; but God sent a bird that bored a hole in the mountain, which thereupon fell on Og's neck. According to Moslem legends, in the eyes of the giants the twelve spies appeared as small as ants (comp. "grasshoppers," Num. l.c.).

The Arabs call Jericho "the city of giants," but their traditions do not agree as to which leader of the Jews fought against the giants. According to Ibn 'Abbas, Moses died in the wilderness, and the land of the giants was conquered by Joshua; but Mohammed ibn Isḥaḳ writes that Moses himself fought the giants at Jericho. Those who survived were led by a certain Ifriḳish ibn Ḳais to Africa, and, having killed the king of that country, settled there. The Berbers are their descendants.

  • Ṭabari, Chronique, French transl. by Zotenberg, i. 51;
  • Mas'udi, ed. B. de Meynard, i. 19;
  • Ibn al-Athir, Al-Ta'rikh al-Kamil, i. 72, 73, Cairo, 1894;
  • Hughes, Dictionary of Islam, s.v.
E. G. H. M. Sel.