Wednesday, February 10, 2016

How Tall Were the Giants in the Bible?


(Photo from The Seattle Times story found HERE)

It is interesting how from time to time certain subjects pop up with unusual frequency. Over the past couple weeks I have talked to multiple people who were curious about the height of the giants in the Bible.

There is a great deal of information circulating on the internet about these giants along with various theories connecting them to demons, aliens, and various types of governmental and/or scientific conspiracies. I am not going to take the time to deal with all of that, but given all the misinformation I did think it might be helpful to answer the basic question about their height.

Internet references vary widely in their claims but many of them are in the 20 to 30 foot range, and several have heights up to 450 feet tall! Since the Bible is often used to provide support for the idea that these giants existed, I would like to look at what the Bible actually says about the height of the ancient giants.

The Bible does record that giants existed in the ancient world and mentions them in several places. Most of these references do not provide exact height dimensions but describe people of great size and power. A typical example is the report of the spies who were sent to scout the land in Numbers 13 who said,

“…all the people that we saw in it are of great height. And there we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak, who come from the Nephilim), and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.”  (Numbers 13:32-33 ESV)

or the record in Amos chapter 2 where the Lord says…

“Yet it was I who destroyed the Amorite before them, whose height was like the height of the cedars and who was as strong as the oaks..." (Amos 2:9 ESV)

While clearly references to very large and powerful people, it is not necessary for us to assume that these are literal proportions. It is far more likely that this is figurative language. The point is that they were very large and not that they were actually as tall as trees or could squash normal men under their feet. We can be confident that this is figurative language because there are a few places in the Bible where we are given size dimensions for those who are called giants. Although still remarkably large, they are nowhere as large as some of the internet sources claim.

For example, in 1 Chronicles 11:23 we learn that one of David’s mighty men struck down an Egyptian who was a "man of great stature" who was 7 foot 6 inches tall. The Bible does not refer to this man specifically as a giant, however, he is given special attention as a result of his uncommon height. If there were 450 foot tall men around, I am not sure 7’6” would have been that impressive.

Of course, the most famous giant is Goliath of Gath (2 Samuel 15:21-22). In 1 Samuel 17:4-7 we are told exactly how tall he is. Most translations follow the Hebrew Masoretic text for this verse which reads, "And there came out from the camp of the Philistines a champion named Goliath of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span." That is 9 feet, 9 inches tall.

Interestingly, even this height is challenged because there are variant readings of this verse. Many of the oldest versions say Goliath was 4 cubits and a span (6’9”), which is why some English versions, such as the NET, record his height as "close to 7 feet tall".[1] Some argue that the size and weight of Goliath’s armor indicate the 9’ number is more likely. In any case, Goliath is between 7 and 10 feet tall. This is a big man, but nowhere near 20 or 30, let alone 450 feet!

Perhaps even more remarkable than Goliath, however, is the giant named Og who was king of Bashan and likely the tallest man mentioned in the Bible. The Book of Deuteronomy records the following:

"For only Og the king of Bashan was left of the remnant of the Rephaim. Behold, his bed was a bed of iron. Is it not in Rabbah of the Ammonites? Nine cubits was its length, and four cubits its breadth, according to the common cubit." (Deuteronomy 3:11 ESV)

The Rephaim were considered giants and although the Bible does not give us Og’s specific height, his bed is 13 feet 6 inches long and 6 feet wide. If we assume that the king had a bed that fit him comfortably, it seems reasonable that he was likely between 10 and 12 feet tall.

Again, this is extreme size but nothing close to 20, 30, or 450 feet. Based on the various references given in the Bible it appears the giants of the ancient world were generally between 7 ½ and 10 feet tall. Nowhere in the Bible are there any people who are said to be anywhere close to 20 feet tall.

Where do people get these extreme figures? The exaggerated figures result partially from a blending of biblical texts with ancient mythological texts. Most ancient cultures had stories about giants. Pagan mythological references, as well as non-biblical Jewish literature such as the Book of Enoch and the Book of Jasher are frequently referenced.[2]

In an effort to boost the credibility of these books it is sometimes pointed out that although they are not biblical books, the Books of Jasher and Enoch are referenced in the Bible. We need to keep a couple things in mind regarding this. First, the Books of Jasher we now have (there are as many as 5) are not the same Book of Jasher the Bible references (Josh. 10:13, 2 Sam. 1:18). They are much later texts that have been given the ancient name. Second, simply because the Bible references a book does not mean that everything in that book or by that writer is true, good, or even helpful.

We do have copies of the Book of Enoch referenced in the Bible (Jude 1:14). Enoch is a Jewish religious book written during the time between the Old and New Testaments but although well known to both Jews and Christians it is not part of either the Jewish or Christian Scriptures. Intertestamental books like Enoch are important and helpful because they provide insight into the language and culture at the time the New Testament was written, but they are not inspired and therefore not reliable as foundations for doctrine and teaching. In fact, much of what they contain fall into the category of myths and fables that we are warned to avoid (1 Tim. 4:7).

In any case, the 7th chapter of the Book of Enoch specifically references the height of the giants. The translation I have says, “And they became pregnant, and they bare great giants, whose height was three thousand ells: Who consumed all the acquisitions of men. And when men could no longer sustain them, the giants turned against them and devoured mankind.”[3]  An ancient ell is roughly a cubit or 18 inches. Therefore, the text actually says that these giants were 4,500 feet tall. Many supporters of the extreme figures argue this is a textual error and the verse should read 300 ells, or 450 feet.

Just to put this in perspective, the Statue of Liberty is 151 feet tall. Even if you include the base, she is only 305 feet tall. To give you an idea of the size we are talking about, if the faces on Mount Rushmore had bodies, they would be 465 feet tall.

Compared with these numbers, the 20 and 30 foot references coming from ancient mythological literature do not seem quite as incredible. The bottom line, however, is that none of these extreme figures, including 20 and 30 feet, come from the Bible. The giants whose heights are recorded in the Bible are between 7 and 10 feet tall and one had a bed that was a little over 13 feet long.




[1] Examples listing Goliath as around 7 feet include the Septuagint and the Dead Sea Scrolls text of Samuel. The ancient Jewish writer Josephus also follows this reading.

[2] Often there are also various problematic archaeological and journalistic references as well.

[3] R. H. Charles and W. O. E. Oesterley, The Book of Enoch (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1917), Enoch 7:2–4.

15 comments:

  1. The average person in King David's time was around 5' 7". King Saul is said to be a head taller than others of the kingdom. I would guess a head would add maybe 10" making Saul around 6' 5". If Goliath was 4 cubits and a span or 6' 9" as some say, he was only 4" taller than King Saul. I do not think that difference would make the Bible consider Goliath a giant and the 7'6" guy simply as a man of great height and not as a giant.

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  2. The bible is literal angels are tall enough to stand on the four corners of the earth. I guess unimaginable heights would strike disbelief and denial and even fear in the hearts of men who use their own judgement instead of the Wisdom of God the Creator. Aliens are demons and fallen angels, and they tremble at the name Jesus.

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    1. The article is not talking about Angels.

      Also, we might point out the following:

      1) Several of the angels in scripture apparently had normal stature as they were mistaken for men.

      2) Figurative language is often employed in the Bible and that does not make it any less literal.

      3) Unless you think the earth is a cube then "4 corners" seems to be figurative in which case perhaps that is a clue as to the nature of the passage, including the physical size of the angel in question.

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    2. No they tremble at the name of YahuSha laugh at the name Jesus. Jesus in Latin is earth pig; Greek Iesous; Hebrew hay horse. Since he is neither Greek nor Latin lets stick to YahuSha mean Yahuah is salvation thats hat name they tremble at. www.fossilizedcustoms.com

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  3. I disagree that the description of the size of these giants was wholly figurative language, because of the words 'nephilim,' and 'giants.' These words provide destictive separation between large people and nephilim - I believe this is deliberate. If the writers were talking about a large person, why wouldnt they just say a very large person? Instead they deliberately say 'giants' 'nephilim' and 'decendandts of anak' or 'descendants of nephilim' the writers are trying to make the distinction that these are a separate race and abnormal beings.

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    1. Typing with my phone = typos

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    2. Thanks Anonymous,

      Just to clarify, I did not argue that the language was "wholly figurative". I do think that 9 or 10 feet is legitimately giant and not figurative.

      The designation nephilim, sons of Anak, etc. may very well be similar to similar designations used for other branches of the families of the earth. I am aware of the long tradition of understanding these as a separate race. I think most recently Dr. Heiser has argued strongly for this position. That could very well be the case as well.

      I did not take a position on that either way. In either case, it is clear that these giants are not 40 feet tall, much less 400 feet tall. Whatever their anthropology, the biblical evidence leads us to the conclusion that they were somewhere in the neighborhood of 9-10 feet at the most.

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    3. My friend and I have studied the Book of Enoch much here lately and both of us are fairly well versed in the Holy Bible. To begin with, the Book of Enoch was ACTUALLY IN the Biblical canon until @ Constantine. That being said, the Anon person is correct that there are two completely distinctive words used for the giant that is Goliath and then the Nephilim. Whether you chose to read and accept Enoch or not, the passage in Amos as well as the OP quote of the spies in Canaan both CLEARLY state that the giants were huge. I am 6' 0" and even if I saw a person 12' tall I would not think myself a "grasshopper" to him. How, if I saw someone 100' or more...oh yeah, I'm a grasshopper. And regarding angels...I think we as humans have to small of minds...exactly how BIG is heaven? How big is God? I have no hard time at all thinking that angels "normal sizes" are thousands of feet tall. Just because they manifest themselves on our level absolutely does not mean that their normal size isn't colossal. To say that they are all our size goes right along with the typical human conceitedness. God created the universe. I have no problem thinking He or His angels are of incredible size!

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  4. Tom, thanks for interacting.

    To be consistent we should acknowledge that the book of Enoch actually says that these giants were 4,500 feet tall. The 450 is built on an assumption of textual corruption. Perhaps more copies have been recently found but no version I know of actually says they were hundreds of feet... but thousands.

    Second, and more importantly every reference in the Bible to actual sizes is 14 feet or less. We can discuss the relative size of grasshoppers as an argument but in every case where an actual size is given it is nowhere near hundreds of feet.

    Finally, it is not true that Enoch was ever undisputed (homologoumena). It was never part of the Jewish canon and although some early Christians accepted it, others did not. In the end, it failed to meet the criteria of acceptance to be recognized as canonical.

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  5. The book of Enoch was in Jewish literature and recent studies have concluded that it's literature was present inside the temple during Christ ministries. The book of Enoch was also present in the collection of the dead sea scrolls. So if the book of Enoch was quoted in the new testament, and referenced an estimated 130 plus times in the new testament directly or indirectly (more than any other old testament book combined), then why isn't it in our modern day bibles, and who eliminated it?

    It's easy to find out. We know that the book of Enoch through historical research was first eliminated from Jewish reading in the year 80 A.D. by none other than the sanhedrin. The very group responsible for fast tracking the CRUXIFICTION of Jesus christ. Their motivation for eliminating the book of Enoch was simple. The book was the most descriptive book of old testament time that prophesied of the coming of the messiah. The sanhedrin did not accept Jesus as messiah, therefore they eliminated the book that had the most proof of his coming into the world.

    Christianity maintained the book of Enoch in its readings until the establishment of the Catholic church, where it was eventually eliminated for A couple suspected reasons. #1 it debunks the possibility of a modern day pagan calendar, with a Sunday sabbath, both crucial staples of the Catholic faith. And also, the book of Enoch confirms that tithing was strictly commanded by crop payment from farmers to the Levite priest who were not allowed to have paying jobs. God never commanded money as form of tithing, which is a necessity to keep the Catholic religion alive, through collection of money from their members. Yet Enoch makes it clear, tithing is only commanded to go to Levite priest. Catholics needed to surpass this law because they were not Levite. By eliminating the book of Enoch, their man made religion, with man made laws were able to successfully manipulate it's congregation to pay monetary tithing to non Levite priest.

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  6. I can't believe so many Christians still think the book of Enoch can't be trusted, not only that but the bible supports the book of Enoch as true and trust worthy. Note to all you so called Christians the bible and the book of Enoch 100% prove that the earth is not a globe and is flat, the book of Enoch explains how God created the earth the heavens and what happened to the fallen angels, it also explains what happened to the first generation giants you know the 450 foot tall ones, also look into mud fossils the bodies of the giants are literally right in your faces yet you do not see. If you need more information go to my YouTube channel R truth and go through my playlist called truth.

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  7. Here is my channel go to the truth playlist https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC7PidfYRvtCEPfxaoAfIX2A or go to http://www.philipstallings.com/2015/06/the-biblical-flat-earth-teaching-from.html?m=1 or http://deanodle.org/articles/article/41/gods-flat-earth-the-firmament-of-his-power God bless you guys

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  8. So... Nice discussion.

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  9. So much division between you

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