We first learned of the Nephilim in Genesis 6:4, where they are described as “mighty” and “men of renown.” We found out in Numbers 13 that they had survived the flood – at least in the line of Anak. In that chapter, we learned that the Nephilim were giants: “we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them” (Num. 13:33).

In Deuteronomy, the picture gets a little more complicated. We’re told of the Emim, who once lived in the lands of the Moabites. These people were “great and many, and tall as the Anakim” (Deut. 2:10).

We’re also told that: “like the Anakim they are also known as Rephaim” (Deut. 2:11). So that’s pretty interesting – the Anakim are apparently both Nephilim and Rephaim, or perhaps the two mean the same thing?

So who are the Rephaim? I looked for clues in Genesis, where they are mentioned twice. Neither time was there any indication that they were giants, or special in any other way.

  1. In Gen. 14:5, they are listed among the groups subdued by Chedorlaomer.
  2. In Gen. 15:18-21, God tells Abram/Abraham that he is promised the lands currently belonging to several groups, including the Rephaim.

In Deuteronomy 2, we find out that they were also known as Anakim and Emim (v.10-11), and Zamzummim (v.20). The Zamzummim group was, too, “a people great and many, and tall as the Anakim” (v.21). But like the Emim, they have since been displaced.

The last note we get on the Rephaim (so far) is that Og, king of Bashan, who is defeated in Deuteronomy 3, was “left of the remnant of the Rephaim” (v.11). Once again, we see the connection between the Rephaim and giants, because we’re told that Og’s bedstead was freakishly large (and any disbelievers could still see it in Rabbah).