Merriam Webster’s definition of a giant is “a legendary creature usually thought of as being an extremely large or powerful person.” The person in the Bible that is most often associated with being a giant is Goliath, the Philistine David slew with a sling and a stone (1 Samuel 17:50). Goliath was actually never described as a giant. It says about him in 1 Samuel 17:4, “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.” A cubit equals 18 inches, so Goliath was over nine and a half feet tall, but that didn’t qualify him to be a giant.
When the Israelites first went in to spy out the Promised Land, it was reported back to Moses, “And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which came of the giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight” (Numbers 13:33). The word that is translated giants in the phrase, we saw the giants, n‘phîl (nef – eel´) is derived from the word nâphal (naw – fal´) which means to fall (5307). N‘phil is properly translated as a feller (5303), meaning someone that causes another to fall.
The word translated giants in the phrase, which came from giants, gibbôr (ghib – bore´) means powerful and is usually used to describe a valiant man or warrior (1368). What the Israelite spies saw in the Promised Land were bullies or tyrants that had killed all their enemies, squashing them like grasshoppers under their feet. Joshua and Caleb, two of the men in the group of spies that went out, believed that God was more powerful than the giants, but because all the people were frightened by the report, the Israelites spent 40 years wandering in the wilderness.
There is only one giant specifically mentioned in the Bible. He is described as living in Gath and having four sons (2 Samuel 21:22). After David’s army destroyed the children of Ammon, there were a series of wars with the Philistines. During the final conflict, it says in 1 Chronicles 20:6-8:
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. But when he defied Israel, Jonathon the son of Shimea David’s brother slew him. These were born unto the giant in Gath; and they fell by the hand of David, and by the hand of his servants.
The word translated giants in this passage, râphâh (raw – faw´) is derived from a primary root word that is properly translated as “to mend (by stitching)” and is figuratively meant to cure. “Rapah means to heal, a restoring to normal, an act which God typically performs” (7495). At the point in Israel’s history and David’s life, when the sons of the giant in Gath were killed, a healing occurred that could be thought of as a healing of the land. The violence and killing that had been going on for centuries was finally over and peace came to the land.