I have been told that the Bible mentions several mythological creatures. These include giants, unicorns, satyrs, cockatrices and dragons. But are they mythological? Or is the assumption that they are only due to a prejudice born from a disbelief that the Bible is an accurate record of not only history but also of science? Let’s examine one of the claims that giants are a myth. (Others will be examined in future articles).
When people hear the word giant they are immediately drawn to the likes of “Jack and the beanstalk” (see Fig. 1) and other such fairy stories. But real life giants do exist today.
There are records of true giants in modern times. In 1981 the Guinness Book of World Records recognized Angus MacAskill as the largest true giant to have ever lived, the strongest man who ever lived and the man with the largest chest measurements of any non-obese man.
In adulthood, MacAskill stood 239 cm (7 ft 10 in) tall and weighed an astonishing 263 kg (580 lbs). His shoulders measured 112 cm (44 in) wide, the palm of his hand was nearly 30 cm (1 ft) wide and his shoes measured 48 cm (19 in) in length.1
MacAskill was able to lift a 1.27 tonne (2800 lb) ship’s anchor to chest height. Was known to carry barrels weighing over 136 kg (300 lbs) under each arm, was able to singlehandedly set a 12-metre (40-foot) mast into a schooner deck and was also known to lift a full-grown horse over a 1.2-metre (4-foot) fence.1
Then there was Chang Woo Gow who was born in Fuzhou, China in 1845 and, before appearing in front of the Prince and Princess of Wales, by request in 1864, the nearly eight-foot giant (7 foot 9 inches, 236 cm) was best known for delighting the emperor of China as part of his royal court.2
Mongolian Öndör Gongor had a height somewhere between seven-foot-nine to eight feet tall (based on oddly conflicting accounts). Stated in an interview with his daughter, Gongor’s parents grew fed up with their son’s excessive eating, sending him to Ikh Khüree, now modern-day Ulan Bator. Gongor soon found work at a young age in the service of the Bogd Khan, Mongolia’s then-spiritual leader.3
Maybe you’ve seen a picture of Robert Wadlow in either Guinness World Records or as a wax statue portrayal at any Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Maintaining the honor of world’s tallest man in history, the eight-foot-eleven (272 cm) Wadlow was a hometown hero in his native Illinois (USA) and a travelling celebrity. Sadly, his size came as a result of hyperplasia of the pituitary gland, prompting uncontrollable growth beyond Wadlow’s physical limits—necessitating the need for leg braces. These same supports led to his death at age 22. A defective pair created a blister that escalated into a lethal infection.4 He was nearly 9 foot tall, keep that in mind in the following.
Giants in the Bible
There were giants before and after the global Flood when Noah and family survived on the Ark. The English King James Bible translates the Hebrew word “Nephilim” in Genesis 6:4 as “giant”.5 For an in-depth discussion of this see ref. 5. However we know all humans were killed in that global flood, except the 8 souls aboard the Ark. So if the cause of giantism was genetic, as seems to be the case, and giants lived after the Flood, then either, the gene must have been carried by one or more of the survivors as a recessive gene, or, a mutational defect occurred after the Flood in their offspring, again producing giants.
Though there is dispute over the translation of the Hebrew word “Nephilim” (Genesis 6:4 KJV) as “giant”, giants are explicitly described in the post-Flood world (Numbers 13:33; Deuteronomy 2:11,20,21; Deuteronomy 3:11,13; 1 Samuel 17:4; 2 Samuel 21:15-22).
1 Samuel 17:4-7 And there went out a champion out of the camp of the Philistines, named Goliath, of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. 5 And he had an helmet of brass upon his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail; and the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of brass [57 – 88 kg, 125 – 194 lbs]. 6 And he had greaves [shin-piece of armour] of brass upon his legs, and a target of brass [a plate of brass covering the chest] between his shoulders. 7 And the staff of his spear was like a weaver’s beam; and his spear’s head weighed six hundred shekels of iron [8 – 10 kg, 17 – 23 lbs]: and one bearing a shield went before him.
Goliath of Gath here is described as a man whose height is “six cubits and a span,” which, based on a cubit equalling 44 cm (or 18 in), is a little less than 3 metres (or nearly 10 feet). Read the following, noting the bold texts.
2 Samuel 21: 16-22 And Ishbibenob, which was of the sons of the giant, the weight of whose spear weighed three hundred shekels of brass in weight, he being girded with a new sword, thought to have slain David. 17 But Abishai the son of Zeruiah succoured him, and smote the Philistine, and killed him. Then the men of David sware unto him, saying, Thou shalt go no more out with us to battle, that thou quench not the light of Israel. 18 And it came to pass after this, that there was again a battle with the Philistines at Gob: then Sibbechai the Hushathite slew Saph, which was of the sons of the giant. 19 And there was again a battle in Gob with the Philistines, where Elhanan the son of Jaareoregim, a Bethlehemite, slew the brother of Goliath the Gittite, the staff of whose spear was like a weaver’s beam. 20 And there was yet a battle in Gath, where was a man of great stature, that had on every hand six fingers, and on every foot six toes, four and twenty in number; and he also was born to the giant. 21 And when he defied Israel, Jonathan the son of Shimea the brother of David slew him. 22 These four were born to the giant in Gath, and fell by the hand of David, and by the hand of his servants.
1 Chronicles 20:4-7 And it came to pass after this, that there arose war at Gezer with the Philistines; at which time Sibbechai the Hushathite slew Sippai, that was of the children of the giant: and they were subdued. 5 And there was war again with the Philistines; and Elhanan the son of Jair slew Lahmi the brother of Goliath the Gittite, whose spear staff was like a weaver’s beam. 6 And yet again there was war at Gath, where was a man of great stature, whose fingers and toes were four and twenty, six on each hand, and six on each foot: and he also was the son of the giant. 7 But when he defied Israel, Jonathan the son of Shimea David’s brother slew him. 8 These were born unto the giant in Gath; and they fell by the hand of David, and by the hand of his servants.
A straightforward reading of these verses suggests that at least one of Goliath’s brothers (Lahmi) and three sons (Ishbibenob, Saph and a 6-fingered/6-toed man) were also of giant stature. One of the giants had 6 fingers on each hand and 6 toes on each foot, which suggests a certain type of genetic defect. It is then not surprising that there were a few giants at the time of the Canaanite conquest. No more so than today.
On rare occasions such giants still are observed today, probably also resulting from a genetic defect. See Fig. 6. There is a line of medical research to suggest that the giants in the Bible were the result of such hereditary genetic defect.6 It could even be that the same mutation was passed to offspring within tribal groups such as the Emims, the Anakims and the Zamzummims as reported in Deuteronomy chapter 2.
Deuteronomy 2:9-11 And the LORD said to me, Distress not the Moabites, neither contend with them in battle: for I will not give thee of their land for a possession; because I have given Ar to the children of Lot for a possession. 10 The Emims dwelt therein in times past, a people great, and many, and tall, as the Anakims; 11 Which also were accounted giants, as the Anakims; but the Moabites call them Emims.
Deuteronomy 2:18-21 You are to pass over through Ar, the coast of Moab, this day: 19 And when you come near over against the children of Ammon, distress them not, nor meddle with them: for I will not give you of the land of the children of Ammon any possession; because I have given it to the children of Lot for a possession. 20 (That also was accounted a land of giants: giants dwelt therein in old time; and the Ammonites call them Zamzummims; 21 A people great, and many, and tall, as the Anakims; but the LORD destroyed them before them; and they succeeded them, and dwelt in their stead:
Also we read of the kingdom of Og in Bashan where it was reported that the king’s bed was 9 cubits long.
Deuteronomy 3:10,11 All the cities of the plain, and all Gilead, and all Bashan, to Salchah and Edrei, cities of the kingdom of Og in Bashan. 11 For only Og king of Bashan remained of the remnant of giants; behold, his bedstead was a bedstead of iron; is it not in Rabbath of the children of Ammon? nine cubits was the length thereof, and four cubits the breadth of it, after the cubit of a man.
Based on the estimate of a cubit (44 cm or 18 in) that means he had a 4 m (13½ ft) long bed. Since it was made of iron this is also an indication that the man was indeed a giant.
Despite all the nonsense of claimed enormous giant fossils found as any Google search will quickly show up there is strong historical evidence from recent history of people who could easily be classed as giants. So much so there really is little reason to doubt the accounts found written in the Bible. Most of those accounts occur around the Israelite conquest of the land of Canaan, where they battled against heathen tribes for the land which God gave to Abraham.
The giants most likely were the product of mutational defects producing abnormal size in some individuals. Because of this, the gene was passed to the children as seen in the case of Goliath of Gath. Note though that Goliath’s brother Lahmi was also of giant stature, so in such a case the gene must have come from a previous generation.
Giants are real, not mythological, unless you are talking about Jack-and-the-beanstalk sized giants of heights in excess of 20 m (66 ft). In such cases their bones would need to made from titanium steel and their hearts would need to be distributed in several parts of their bodies or use some different type of pumping system.
There exists a physical limitation to the load bearing of human or animal bones. This is noted by a comparison between elephants and dogs, for example. The larger the mass the thicker the bones. As the size of an animal increases its weight increases faster than the load bearing of its bones. Hence the height limitations of large animals. For this same reason Robert Wadlow needed leg braces since his malfunctioning pituitary gland prompted uncontrolled growth.
So don’t let the mention of giants in the Bible affect your faith in the historical accuracy of the Bible. They are not mythological.
- J.T. Pednaud, Angus MacAskill, The Cape Breton Giant, thehumanmarvels.com, accessed July 2, 2016.
- J.T. Pednaud, Chang – The Chinese Giant, thehumanmarvels.com, accessed July 2, 2016.
- S. Ramano, 7 Famous REAL Giants from History – Öndör Gongor, September 16, 2014, accessed July 2, 2016.
- S. Ramano, 7 Famous REAL Giants from History – Robert Wadlow , September 16, 2014, accessed July 2, 2016.
- J.G. Hartnett, The Nephilim problem?, July 12, 2014.
- D.E. Donnelly and P.J. Morrison, Hereditary Gigantism-the biblical giant Goliath and his brothers, Ulster Medical Journal, 83(2): 86–88, 2014.