A: Consider when warfare was accomplished by hand-to-hand combat. Facing greatly taller and stronger warriors would seem, to smaller soldiers, like infantrymen attacking a bunch of tanks. Several references are made in the Bible about groups of “giants” who were enemies of Israel. What does the Scripture mean when it talks about giants, and is the concept of human giants so fanciful that it gives reason to doubt the Bible’s credibility?
After Israel’s deliverance from Egypt and just before they were to enter their promised land, a portion of the territory was reportedly inhabited by “men of a great stature. And there we [Israeli spies] saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight” (Numbers 13:32-33). Though not detailing how big these men were, they must have looked so formidable that the spies desired to avoid battle entirely. The exaggerated figurative language calling the Israelites “grasshoppers” had its intended effect of discouraging almost everyone from entering the battle. Later, though, the Israelis defeated these giant people in battle.
So how big were these biblical giants?
Goliath of Gath is possibly the most famous giant in history. The “story” of David and Goliath is commonly used to illustrate lopsided battles. As popularly told, a boy armed only with a shepherd’s sling bravely accepts the challenge of the well-equipped superhuman warrior, defeats this giant with a single stone, and becomes king of Israel. A fictional flavor seems to permeate the typical rendition. No wonder many skeptics think this story about a giant is another example of the Bible’s many exaggerated tall tales—no more believable to some than Jack and the beanstalk.
David’s fight with Goliath is recorded in 1 Samuel 17. This event is treated as real history—not a mythical story. In fact, the account fits perfectly with other biblical history. Remarkably, David is never depicted as a little shepherd boy. Prior to his meeting with Goliath, David is described as “a mighty valiant man, and a man of war, and prudent in matters…and the Lord is with him” (1 Samuel 16:18).
Goliath’s large stature also makes sense—he was likely a “son of Anak,” a clan of very large people known as Anakims. When Israel defeated them, “none of the Anakim were left in the land of the children of Israel; they remained only in Gaza, in Gath, and in Ashdod” (Joshua 11:22). Goliath’s height is given as six “cubits” and a “span.” A cubit generally refers to a length of about 18 inches, and a span is half a cubit. This places Goliath and presumably his relatives in the range of around nine to ten feet tall. Goliath was possibly a larger giant, since he was a champion warrior.
The Bible’s description of Goliath’s height is in line with the everyday understanding of most people regarding giants. When someone today refers to a massive six-foot-six-inch, 350-pound football player as a “giant,” they mean a person significantly larger than average—not Hollywood’s depiction of four-story-tall monsters. Nevertheless, the biblical record of giants over nine feet tall indicates they were obviously taller than even today’s largest athletes.
What explains these giants? Some suggest these people had a disease of imbalanced growth hormone. But it is extraordinarily unlikely that a multigenerational clan of people would all have this condition. Others believe the children born to the sons of God and daughters of men referenced in Genesis 6:4 were the giants—with demonic influence conferring great physical stature. But there is no biblical claim of demonic activity in these verses as is the case in other specific passages. Normal humans may average a height of only four feet tall, while others average over six feet tall, and there are genuine records of non-diseased humans with heights of eight to nine feet tall. Considering the wide range of human heights today (which encompassed a bit larger range 3,500 years ago), it is a very reasonable and straightforward explanation that these biblical giants were so large simply because of normal human variability.
* Dr. Randy Guliuzza is the Institute for Creation Research’s National Representative.
Cite this article: Guliuzza, R. 2013. Did Giants Ever Exist? Acts & Facts. 42 (6): 20.