Q: #306. Were there really giants in the Bible?
A: The Bible is quite clear that in Old Testament times, some VERY tall people were called giants. Following are all of the verses I could find which talk about giants or very tall people: (Gen 6:4)(Num 13:28,32-33)(Deut 1:28)(Deut 3:11,13)(Deut 2:10-11,20-21)(Deut 9:2)(Josh 11:21-22)(Josh 12:4)(Josh 13:12)(Josh 15:8)(Josh 17:15)(Josh 18:16)(1 Sam 17:4-7)(2 Sam 21:16-22)(1 Chr 11:23)(1 Chr 20:4-8)(Amos 2:9).
Some groups of people were known for having giants among them:
The Nephilim (Gen 6:4)(Num 13:33)
The Amorites (Amos 2:9-10)(Gen 14:7,13)(Num 13:29)
The Anakites (Num 13:28-33)(Deut 2:10,21)(Deut 9:2)(Josh 14:12,15)(Judg 1:20)
*** Most of the Anakites were destroyed when Joshua and the Israelites fought and killed those living in the Promised Land. Only 3 cities with Anakites remained: Gaza, Gath, and Ashdod (Josh 11:21-22). Goliath was from Gath (1 Sam 17:4). Other giants (Rephaites) were also from Gath (1 Sam 21:20-22).
The Emites (Deut 2:10-11)(Gen 14:5)
The Rephaites (translated as “giants” in the KJV)(Deut 3:11)(2 Sam 21:16-22)(Deut 2:11)(Josh 12:4)(Josh 13:12)(Gen 14:5)
The Zamzummins (Deut 2:20-21)(Gen 14:5)
How tall were these giants? The Bible gives us the approximate height of two giants: Og and Goliath. It is said of Og that he had an iron bed (some say coffin) that was more than 13′ long and 6′ wide (Deut 3:11). Goliath is said to have been about 9’9″ tall, wore a coat of mail that weighed 125 lbs, and carried a spear with a tip that weighed 15 lbs (1 Sam 17:4-7).
The general consensus among scholars is that somewhere between these heights is how tall most giants in the Bible would have been. However, several extra-Biblical sources say that giants were smaller (i.e. 7′ – 9′). For example, Josephus, the Septuagint, and a document in the Dead Sea Scrolls say Goliath was only about 6’9″ tall (4 cubits and a span instead of 6 cubits and a span). Of course, these are not God-inspired documents, plus it seems unlikely that an average height person (say 5’6″ to 6′ tall) would be intimidated by, or feel like a “grasshopper” (Num 13:33) next to, a person around 7′ tall. It is also interesting to note that in (1 Sam 9:2), it is said of King Saul “from his shoulders and up he was taller than any of the people” (NIV = he was “a head taller”). He was probably about 7′ tall or so, yet he is not called a “giant.” He also seemed to be pretty intimidated by Goliath (1 Sam 17:11). If Saul and Goliath were about the same height, why would Saul be so intimidated?
If you run an online search on this topic, you will find hundreds of sites offering various proofs of giants living in the past. There are bones, skulls, and imprints of giant feet, to name a few. A good deal of these have been largely discredited, however, some may in fact be proof. I will leave that up to the experts. Busts and images have been found that point to very large people. Archaeologists claim to have found very large tools that would require a very large person to use them (i.e. a 60 lb sledgehammer and a 38 lb axe).
*** Note: I haven’t taken the time to research in depth these proofs above, and other proofs to know how conclusive the evidence is. There may be better evidence than I am aware of for the existence of giants in the past.
However, there are some who believe that giants were even taller than this. They take several of the words in the Bible used to describe giants literally rather than figuratively: i.e. “we became like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight” (Num 13:33) and “whose height was like the height of the cedars” (Amos 2:9). In fact, what prompted this study was a discussion with a loved one on whether the famous site Stonehenge could have been built by a race of giants, so big they carried the rocks themselves.
I find the possibility that giants could have been over say 15′ tall unlikely. For one, I see no solid evidence to support this. Also, there are those who say it is improbable from a physiological standpoint due to the stress on bones and organs in someone that height. On the other hand, it is interesting to note that we have found fossils from insects that were MUCH larger in the past than they are today. For example, there is a dragonfly with a 25.6″ wing span, a moth with an 11″ wing span, a centipede 3′ long, and a 3.5″ long cockroach. There is also “claimed” to be proof of larger frogs, rats, turtles, fish, snakes, crocodiles, and more. This being the case, couldn’t it at least be possible that humans were MUCH larger too? I don’t know… just something to think about.
Nearly every culture throughout history has stories of giants. Maybe, one day, we will find more proof one way or the other.