Question: The Bible mentions the existence of giants, especially in Old Testament times. Did they really exist and, if so, are they now extinct?
The word “giant” in reference to humans is found 20X in the Old Testament (KJV). In fact, two Hebrew words are used in Scripture of the giants who existed in early human history.
The first term for “giants” is Nephilim:
Gen. 6:4 The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went to the daughters of humans and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown (NIV).
The root of the word nephilim (“naphal”—pronounced naw-fal) means: “fall.” It is used only three times, referring to the origins of the now extinct race of giants. Genesis 6:4 explains that these giants were the offspring of “the sons of God”—fallen angels—who took on human form and impregnated human women in the Pre-Flood world, approximately 2300 B.C.
The Nephilim born from these unions were not a one-time phenomenon, but “also afterward”—meaning, generations that followed. This is confirmed almost a thousand years later by the twelve spies sent by Moses into the Promised Land (1490 B.C.):
Numb. 13:33 “We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.”
This fascinating verse gives us insight into one branch of the family tree of the Nephilim: the descendants of Anak. The Anakites dwelt in large, heavily fortified cities in the region of Hebron in Judah (Numb. 13:22, 28; Josh. 15:13; 21:11; Judg. 1:20).
Elsewhere, the Old Testament uses the word “rafah” of giants. The word simply means “giants,” and the name was carried over to another branch of this mutation in the human family tree—the Rephaites:
Dt. 2:11 Like the Anakites, they too were considered Rephaites, but the Moabites called them Emites.
These giants were of immense size:
Dt. 3:11 Og king of Bashan was the last of the Rephaites. His bed was decorated with (or, “made of”) iron and was more than nine cubits long and four cubits wide (“that is, about 14 feet long and 6 feet wide or about 4 meters long and 1.8 meters wide” —Expositor’s Bible Commentary, in loc. Notes). It is still in Rabbah of the Ammonites.
Deformities may not have been unusual:
2Sam. 21:20 In still another battle, which took place at Gath, there was a huge man with six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot—twenty-four in all. He also was descended from Rapha.
These “heroes of old, men of renown,” (Gen. 6:4) were likely the source of humanity’s fascination with supernatural superheroes and super-villains. But the giants of history were sad human deformities brought about by rebellious angels, now imprisoned for their wickedness (2Pet, 2:4; 1Pet 3:19-20). Once, giants terrorized mankind. But their judgment is certain and eternal (Rev. 20:11-15), for they and their demonic progenitors have been defeated by the crucified and risen Lamb of God:
Rev. 5:9 And they sang a new song, saying:
“You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals,
because you were slain, and with your blood
you purchased for God
persons from every tribe and language
and people and nation.