The Bible, like many ancient works of literature, speaks of giants. Genesis describes the Nephilim (meaning “those who make others fall down”), and the books of the Pentateuch mention races of giants: the Rephaim and the Anakim. These are not giants of the willowy, slender type—these men were all known as warriors of great strength and skill. Og, the king of Bashan was one of the Rephaim. His height is not recorded, but he was buried in a sarcophagus that measured over 13 feet. Goliath of Gath, whom David slew, was nine and a half feet tall. Ishbi-benob, Saph, and Lahmi were other giants from the time of David’s rule.
Are such accounts clear evidence of exaggeration or the influence of legends on Bible writers? Not necessarily. Although no conclusive evidence has been found for the existence of a giant race in Palestine, there are reasons not to dismiss the idea out of hand.
First of all, acromegalic gigantism has produced men of extraordinary size throughout recorded history. In our modern times these have included:
Robert Wadlow (1918-1940), 8 feet 11 inches
John Rogan (1865-1905), 8 feet 9 inches
Edouard Beaupre (1881-1904), 8 feet 3 inches
Vaino Myllyrinne (1909-1963), 8 feet 2 inches
Don Koehler (1925-1981), 8 feet 2 inches
Sultan Kosen (1982-present), 8 feet 1 inch
Patrick Cotter O’Brien (1750-1806), 8 feet 1 inch
Gabriel Esevao Monjane (1944-1990), 8 feet ¾ inch
Julius Koch (1872-1902), 8 feet
Some of these names may be familiar. I grew up reading about Robert Wadlow in the Guinness Book of World Records. My memory of him was as a fragile-looking giant who required two canes to walk. Others on this list are similar—John Rogan could not walk, and Sultan Kosen also requires the help of two canes.
But not all giants are weakened by their condition—at least not in their youth. Edouard Beaupre weighed over 400 pounds and worked as a professional strongman and wrestler. He would regularly entertain crowds by lifting a 900 pound horse on his shoulders. Vaino Myllyrinne was a soldier in the Finnish defense forces and later a professional wrestler and boxer. Patrick Cotter O’Brien weighed over 460 pounds. In 1826 he grabbed a heckler by the collar, held him at arm’s length and shook him.
In the span of a mere 260 years there have been twelve people with a verified height of more than eight feet. From a purely statistical point of view, that suggests around 140 such people have lived in the past 3000 years—even if we do not allow for the possibility of a genetic anomaly that would increase the height of a given race.
Modern Sudanese may average 6 feet 4 inches; modern Scandinavians are nearly 6 feet 2 inches. Surely it is possible that at some time there existed a race whose average height was close to 7 feet. If so, a case of gigantism in that race could certainly result in an incredibly tall person.
Of course, there is a wealth of anecdotal evidence of the remains of people of much greater stature being found all over the world. Most of this evidence has been ignored by science or has been destroyed before it could be properly analyzed. It should, though, at least allow us to consider the possibility that a race of giants did at one time live somewhere on the earth.
It is interesting that the Bible’s most famous giant, Goliath of Gath, is not described as being twenty feet tall (or as living atop a beanstalk). His nine-and-a-half foot height is certainly extraordinary, but not beyond the realm of physical or medical possibility.
As I said, there is no conclusive archaeological evidence of such a race. But huge stone constructions in Palestine are traditionally attributed to the Rephaim giants. In the Iraqi National Museum in Baghdad before the looting, there was a display of three battleaxes that had been found in southern Palestine. I have included a photograph of them below. The heads of these axes weigh more than thirty pounds each. Most archaeologists believe them to be ceremonial weapons—but they draw this conclusion purely based on their size. The axe heads themselves are entirely functional. (The handles are re-creations for display purposes). Below them are photographs of Andre Roussimoff (7'4" and 500 lbs.) and Eduoard Beaupre.
The possibility must be entertained that these were once weapons in the hands of one of the most feared races of warriors ever to walk to the earth: the giants of Palestine.