Part Nine: The Size of the Nephilim

The spies’ report determined the next forty years for the Israelites. Their lack of trust in what God could do denied them the opportunity to see the hand of God work in their lifetime. However, we must not discount the facts of their report. They first of all mention that the people of the land were stronger than they were. It is a land that devours its inhabitants and “all the people that we saw in it are of great height“. There were not just a few tall people there – but all of the people were enormous. In fact these people were so tall and large that the Israelites likened themselves to grasshoppers compared to these Nephilim “and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight” (Numbers 13:33).

Having first described the people of the land, they then mention them by name “the descendants of Anak came from the giants [Nephilim],” (Numbers 13:33). Notice that Joshua and Caleb do not deny the report. They simply have the faith that God will do what he said. The Nephilim are the reason why the children of Israel did not possess the land right after leaving Egypt. The presence of the Nephilim disheartened the spies who consequently gave a bad report. God, though very upset at the people’s lack of trust, nevertheless agreed with the description of the people of the land being of a great height and also agreed with the comparison of the Israelites appearing like grasshoppers. Though years later, in Amos 2:9 God says:

Yet it was I who destroyed the Amorite before them, Whose height was like the height of the cedars, And he was as strong as the oaks; Yet I destroyed his fruit above And his roots beneath, (Amos 2:9).

God’s endorsement is significant; He states the height of the Amorites was like the cedars and God also likens the tail of the mighty Behemoth [i] to a cedar in Job 40. “Look now at the behemoth, which I made along with you; He eats grass like an ox. See now, his strength is in his hips, and his power is in his stomach muscles. He moves his tail like a cedar,” (Job 40:15-18). God is clearly not saying that his tail was merely stiff for any tree might be used to communicate that message. However, the cedar is a tree that was renown in the ancient world and the cedars of Lebanon were famous for their immense height. According to one source cedar trees can grow anywhere from 40-85 feet tall [ii] and the cedar of Lebanon being among the tallest. In my book The First Six Days, I discuss size of the tail of the mighty behemoth because God there likens it to a cedar of Lebanon. “God states what his bones are like […] the picture is given that the bones of this creature were of immense strength implying that the creature itself was extremely big to need such strong bones.” [iii]

The description fits the Sauropod class of dinosaurs extremely well and the dinosaur with the longest tail is thought to be the Diplodocus. One source suggests that the tail [iv] may have been up to 46 feet long! God’s description of the behemoth is not an exaggeration but consistent with what we currently understand about dinosaurs. It could be that the cedars that Job was associated with measured more in the 40-60 foot range. Thus, just to be as conservative as possible – if we assume the minimum height of the cedar that God had in mind was only 40 feet then we have a likely maximum height for the Amorites. How can we calculate the minimum height of these giants (at that time)?

Size of a Cubit in Moses’ Day

Moses describes the size of the bed of King Og of Bashan, who, as we saw, was one of the Nephilim.

For only Og king of Bashan remained of the remnant of the Rephaim [NKJV Giants]; behold, his bedstead was a bedstead of iron; is it not in Rabbah of the children of Ammon? nine cubits was the length thereof, and four cubits the breadth of it, after the cubit of a man, (Deuteronomy 3:11 JPS).

Moses clearly says that this man’s bed was nine cubits but just how big is a cubit? According to the Oxford Dictionary a cubit was:

1. The part of the arm from the elbow downward; the forearm.

2. An ancient measure of length derived from the forearm; varying at different times and places, but usually 18 to 22 inches. The Roman cubit was 17.4 inches; the Egyptian 20.64 inches.

Tim Lovett, an expert on ancient shipbuilding, reviewed the references for cubits from around the world in order to get a firm understanding of how long the cubit was that Noah used in the Ark. [v] He notes that the shortest was the Greek Short Cubit of 14 inches (356 millimeters) and among the longest were the Persian (Royal) cubit of 25.2 inches (640 millimeters) and the Arabic (Hashimi) of 25.56 inches (649 millimeters). The cubit varied over the centuries by as much as nearly one foot! However, we can be quite confident of the measure that was being referred to concerning King Og. Clearly, the Greek, Persian and Arabic Empires were not around in Moses’ day, so that immediately eliminates their running in this race; the only empire that fits is Egypt.

Moses had just come out of Egypt and Stephen in Acts 7:22 tells us that Moses was “learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians.” Since we have no record of God instituting a new form of measurement, we can safely conclude that any measurements given would then be in the one that all of the people of Israel would have been familiar with. In fact, considering that they were slaves forced to make bricks and to build store houses, measurements would have been very important for them. The most natural and in fact only measurement that they could have known was the Egyptian. Thus when Moses says that Og’s bed measured nine cubits long we are obligated to calculate using the Egyptian standard of that day.

Tim Lovett notes that the original Royal Egyptian [vi] cubit had a range of 20.62 inches (523.75 millimeters) to 20.65 inches (525 millimeters) while the average was 20.63/4 (524.00 millimeters). This is corroborated by two places in the Scriptures which make reference to this older and longer cubit. King Solomon used the older measure where we read in 2 Chronicles 3:3: “The length was sixty cubits (by cubits according to the former measure).” In Ezekiel’s vision of the future temple the measurement that will be employed will be apparently the older and hence longer measure. “These are the measurements of the altar in cubits (the cubit is one cubit and a handbreadth)”, (Ezekiel 43:13).

Figure 4 – Egyptian Royal Cubit
Egyptian Royal Cubit

Therefore we can confidently conclude that the cubit Moses was referring to was in fact the Egyptian Royal cubit which was 20.63 inches. [vii]

Multiplying 20.63 inches, (524.00 millimeters) by nine (cubits) we arrive at 185.67 inches (4716 millimeters) for the total length of his bed. Converted into our measurements, it was almost fifteen feet six inches (15.47 feet 4.716 meters) long and its width six feet ten inches (6.87 feet, 2.094 meters)! This is one massive bed! Moses also mentions that the bed was made of iron which would preclude the idea that a small man with a big ego slept on it otherwise there would be no need to mention the fact that the bed was physically strong (of iron) in order to support someone of such enormous proportions. Thus we can assume that Og must have been slightly shorter than the bed that he slept on and therefore make him roughly 15 feet (4.55 meters) tall!

However, it is plausible that by “bed” Moses in fact meant his final bed – that is his sarcophagus (coffin). This would make sense from the fact that: a) there is no unique word for sarcophagus in Hebrew other than bed and b) this “bed” was apparently on display “Is it not in Rabbah of the people of Ammon?” (Deuteronomy 3:11). It would seem strange to just have the bed of their former king lying around apparently on display. However, being able to visit the sarcophagus of their fallen king is very plausible. If that is the case, then it would suggest that the “bed” was not for nightly sleeping but was made just big enough for his body to be placed in. Thus, those dimensions more aptly describe the true size of this Rephaim king who measured nearly fifteen feet five inches tall and had a shoulder width of almost six feet ten inches.

Just How Tall Was That?

To get an idea of just how massive a person of this size was, consider the following chart. Note that the man on the left is six feet, the approximate height for most western men. Next to him stands Goliath measuring about 10’ 4”tall, the twelve foot man then doubles today’s man and finally King Og, who measured some fifteen feet tall dwarfed today’s average man!

We must point out that the giants that inhabited the land were not just tall men like basketball players of today. Nor were the ancient Israelites significantly shorter than today and thus upon seeing men over six or seven feet they thought them to be giants as some liberal theologians would suggest! King Og was at least 2.5 times taller than a man measuring six feet tall. These measurements are conceivable if indeed fallen angels took women and procreated the Nephilim according to Genesis 6. However, these measurements are illogical in light of the sons of Seth and daughters of man theory because a godly person and a non-godly person will not have children 15 feet tall! However, demons and humans would presumably produce such enormous children.

How Heavy Was King Og?

Let’s just consider the implications of a person that tall. Let’s assume that he would be equivalent to a man of 200 pounds – someone who is in shape, but not trying to be a professional athlete and is approximately 6 feet tall. We know that king Og of Bashan was 2.5 times taller – but how much heavier would he be? Galileo in the early 1600s considered the issue in relation to animals, but the principle is true for people as well. The Indian Institute of Astrophysics notes Galileo’s theorization concerning the relation of size to strength (of bone [m1] ) and structure:

Consider two animals of different sizes that are geometrically similar. If the larger is twice as long as the smaller animal, it is also twice as wide and twice as high. The larger creature outweighs its smaller counterpart eight times. (Indian Institute of Astrophysics 2006)

The above formula is 2 x 2 x 2 = 8. Therefore to calculate King Og’s weight we need the cube of 2.5 which is 15.625. That is to say that King Og of Bashan would have weighed 15.625 times more than a six foot man today and thus he would weigh (15.625 x 200 =) 3125 pounds (1420 kilograms). Considering that King Og was a warrior, we can presume that he could at least lift the equivalent of his own body weight (a 200 hundred pound man can potentially lift 400-500 pounds or 2 times his own body weight). Thus, even if he could only lift his own body weight, he still would have been able to lift two war horses (1500 pounds each) at once with its rider and throw it! In modern terms he could lift a midsize car!

A Land That Devours Its Inhabitants

The Israelites also said that it is a “land that devours its inhabitants”. It would be easy to suggest that they were simply exaggerating or using hyperbole. However, when we consider how much King Og must have eaten, we begin to see that they were giving an accurate description of what the giants were like! If we use the more conservative weight calculation then he would have needed to consume at least 22,657 calories per day just to stay alive as per the Basal Metabolic Rate [viii] which calculates, based on a person’s height and weight, how many calories they need to live if they are not doing any significant work per day. Let’s put that into perspective to see how he and the other giants his size were devouring the inhabitants, which were presumably animals and hopefully not humans.

First of all today’s average American eats about 4000 calories per day [m2]. In 1909 the average American was eating about 3500 calories per day – about 500 less than today [ix] (although the recommended daily calorie intake is only two thousand). King Og therefore was eating the amount equivalent to about six or seven modern Americans. However, how much was the average person in his day eating? While they didn’t leave us detailed records, based on their stature 5’6” to 5’7” and the type of food they had plus the fact that none of today’s sugars and processed foods were available, we can estimate that their calorie intake was about 1600 calories [x] per day. That means that King Og needed, just to stay alive, the same as approximately nine normal sized persons. However, if we convert his needs into pizzas he would need 12 – 12 inch pizzas (1840 calories each). If we convert that to cheeseburgers then he would need 63 cheeseburgers [xi] daily and converted into lamb he would consume an entire lamb about every two or three days [xii] just to just to maintain his daily basic needs. [m3] Just imagine if he were having a party or getting ready to go to war! Of course, all of these calculations are only for his Basil Metabolic Rate which is the minimum needed to stay alive each day.  His actual consumption was quite possibly double and that is assuming that he was not an overeater. Given the fact that he was a giant, he may have just kept eating and eating! He might have had the equivalent of over 30 pizzas or 150 cheeseburgers per day!

Generally the strongest people get first pick on their food preferences, it would be easy to see how just to feed one giant could easily require numerous animals, plants, fruits, plus water and wine. Therefore, the spies were not exaggerating when they said that it was a land that devours its inhabitants. The Nephilim were certainly eating continually and many animals must have been given to satisfy their nearly insatiable appetites. Therefore we can empathize with the Israelites and the fear they had of the inhabitants of the land who “devoured its inhabitants!” Nevertheless, how sad that they did not (and often we do not) take God at His Word when He exhorted them with these mighty words:

Therefore understand today that the LORD your God is He who goes over before you as a consuming fire. He will destroy them and bring them [the gigantic inhabitants] down before you; so you shall drive them out and destroy them quickly, as the LORD has said to you, (Deuteronomy 9:3).

Approximately 500 years later David would face the giant Goliath, who was also descended from the Rephaim (I Chronicles 20:5, 6). Goliath, measured a mere six cubits (20.6”x6 cubits = 10.3 feet [10’ 4”]). That means that Goliath was 1.72 times taller than a man of six feet. Again, using our cube formula for calculating weight, we need to find the cube of 1.72 which is 5.088 and multiplying that times our 200 lb. man Goliath would weigh 1068 lbs. Thus King Og weighed about 3100 lbs. and Goliath, who was one third shorter than Og, weighed approximately 1000 – they were two enormous people which simply underscores the reason the Israelites feared them. The biblical evidence is conclusive that the Nephilim were in fact men of extraordinary stature and that they descended from human mothers and fallen angel fathers.

Extra-Biblical Confirmation

Numbers 13 of Targum Jonathan states that the giants were masters of evil:

The country through which we have passed to explore it is a land that killeth its inhabitants with diseases; and all the people who are in it are giants, masters of evil ways. And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, of the race of the giants; (Targum Jonathan, Numbers 13, emphasis mine).

The Targum makes reference to the giants of the land as being of the same stock as those that perished in the flood, which again, would prove that they believed them to be Nephilim.

The Emthanaia dwelt in it of old, a people great and many, and mighty as the giants. The giants who dwelt in the plain of Geyonbere were also reputed as the giants who perished in the Flood; but the Moabites called them Emethanee, (Targum Jonathan, Deuteronomy 2, emphasis mine).

Lastly we see in Targum Jonathan how the ancient Jews believed and understood Moses’ saying that the Lord your God is “He who goes over before you as a consuming fire. He will destroy them and bring them down before you.” They understood it as a reference to His Shechinah which is also known as the Word. Notice that the giants were indeed bigger and mightier than the Israelites. In fact they were so great, God said that He personally would take care of them.

Hear, Israel: you are this day (about) to pass Jordan to enter in and possess (the country of) nations greater and stronger than you, and cities many, and fortified to the height of heaven. A people (are they) strong and tall as the giants whom you know, and of whom you have heard (say), Who can stand before the sons of the giants? Know, therefore, today that the Lord your God, whose glorious Shekinah goeth before you, whose Word is a consuming fire, will destroy them and drive them out before you; so shall you drive them out, and destroy them quickly, as the Lord your God hath said to you. (Targum Jonathan Deuteronomy 9, emphasis mine).

Josephus and Baruch

We next turn to Josephus who described the giants as being extremely large and whose bones were still available even in his day.

For which reason they removed their camp to Hebron; and when they had taken it, they slew all the inhabitants. There were till then left the race of giants, who had bodies so large, and countenances so entirely different from other men, that they were surprising to the sight, and terrible to the hearing. The bones of these men are still shown to this very day, unlike to any credible relations of other men, (emphasis mine). [xiii]

Very much like Josephus, the writer of the book of Baruch mentions their fame and great height. “There were the giants famous from the beginning, that were of so great stature, and so expert in war.” (Baruch, Chapter 3:26).

Book of Jubilees

The book of Jubilees, from the Dead Sea Scrolls, also records the fact of the giants’ great height and even gives specific measurements. “But before they used to call the land of Gilead the land of the Rephaim; for it was the land of the Rephaim, and the Rephaim were born (there), giants whose height was ten, nine, eight down to seven cubits.” (emphasis mine). [xiv]

Tertullian

We last turn to the church father, Tertullian, who wrote that the giants’ bodies were still around in his day. He believed that their remains would contain the needed DNA (germs was the term of his day) to bring them to life again.

There are the carcasses of the giants of old time; it will be obvious enough that they are not absolutely decayed, for their bony frames are still extant. […] the lasting germs of that body which is to sprout into life again in the resurrection, (emphasis mine). [xv]

Biblical and Extra-Biblical Conclusions

Thus we can conclude that Nephilim and all of the other names that are in Scripture for them were not merely the offspring of a human father with a human mother. There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that the Nephilim came about as a result of the “good” sons of Seth turning “bad” and then connecting with the bad daughters of Cain. The ancient world believed until the time of Augustine about the Nephilim. Every ante-Nicene interpreter (Jewish and Christian) understood the sons of God to be angels who had sexual relations with women. The offspring of those relationships were the Nephilim. If there were demonic-human (Nephilim) hybrids in the days of Noah and afterwards then what will there be at the time of Jesus’ return?