Giants and the Conquest of Canaan

So, this didn’t make it into the actual podcast anywhere, but I am a big fan, in general of the recently departed Dr. Michael Hieser, author of “The Unseen Realm” and other similar works. He has a system of biblical analysis which focuses heavily on the ancient ideas of the council of the gods and the supernatural background of scripture, and overall I think it is very compelling. It is one of those things that I think may well have some validity to it, but because of how radical it is, I am not adopting it in my own faith until I get a lot more study and confirmation. I don’t think it necessarily contradicts anything in my own faith, it is just in many ways an extra layer to what most Christians already believe.

But the important thing for the Oldest Stories is that part of his book and larger work imbues a heavily supernatural element to the conquest of Canaan. And to be sure, it is unquestionable that the Giants, originally the Nephilim, Rephaim, Anakim, and related groups, play a major and often puzzling role in the conquest narrative. They are originally formed in Genesis 6, when the sons of god rebel and come down to earth, birthing children with mortal women. There is, in the biblical narrative, something particularly wrong about these children, and God wants them wiped out completely. Later on, we see them in Canaan, it is what scares away 10 of the 12 spies of Moses, the clearing of the Giants east of the Jordan is a task of Abraham’s descendants before Joshua is allowed to cross the Jordan, and Dr. Heiser traces the cities which are totally destroyed, “herem” vs the cities that are merely to be emptied out, as having to do with which cities have giants in them.

It is a really interesting thesis, but not one that I have a place to work in to the show in general. We did see a Canaanite perspective on the Rephaim back in our series on Canaan, but what these giants are meant to have been is unclear. Were they physically different from regular people? If so, we have uncovered a number of skeletons and burials from ancient Canaan during the time when these giants were supposedly dominant, and none of them appear physiologically different. Were they spirit beings who vanished when slain, leaving behind no physical body? Well, the bible never says that explicitly, and while it would answer the lack of bones, we would also expect large people to build large buildings, and the construction proportions of ancient Canaan are not significantly different from other nations.

Alternatively, they may have appeared just like other men, but contained a different sort of soul, or some deep spiritual evil. This may well be the case, but leaves us with an historical story precisely unchanged from the standard historical story we look at in the conquest episodes. This is why, as much as I like Dr. Heiser’s work, I don’t have anywhere to include it in the story. It may well have theological implications, it may well have supernatural implications, but it doesn’t have historical implications, at least not in the scope of this show.

I haven’t gotten any feedback on this yet, but it is something that some of you may have been wondering about. It is certainly something I think about in my spare time.

One thought on “Giants and the Conquest of Canaan”

  1. This is one of the many Bible themes that either or and maybe not can all fit into an individual faith. Having worked with men who are not abnormally large yet who still tower over me, “giant” is a relative term. Some personalities are “big.” Some are “dominating” or “intimidating.” So actual 8′ giants, confident and well armed opponents, or supernatural mysteries, all possible.


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