Does the narrator of Numbers assert that the Anakim come from the
The Nephilim are named only in two verses in the Bible, in Genesis 6:4
and Numbers 13:33. Numbers 13:33 says that the Anakim come from the
Nephilim, but different translations render this in a variety of ways,
some making it seem like an integral part of what the spies are
saying, some making it seem like an aside, possibly by the narrator or
even a later editor.
... With the diversity of renderings these translations give I assume
the Hebrew of the verse is not the clearest. Still, based on what we
know of Hebrew grammar, narratives, and dialogue, does the Hebrew text
of this verse most likely mean that this phrase is something the
narrator is asserting, or only a report of something the spies said?
The Spies' Report
The report of the 10 spies did not conflict with the report of the two faithful spies, Caleb and Joshua. In what concerns the content of their reports, there was no difference. The report itself appears to have been all true. The "evil" part of the report was the conclusion that the spies urged upon the people--that they could not possess the land for themselves--supported by their restatement of the fact that the land was inhabited by the descendants of Anak, whom they then equated with the nephilim. Those ten lacked faith in what God could do, and showed themselves to be unbelieving. Their unbelief was the "evil" in their report.
The KJV translators rendered the three occurrences of the Hebrew word הַנְּפִלִ֞ים/han·nə·p̄i·lîm (nephilim) as "giants." But with the first occurrence of this word applying to people that existed before the Flood, it is possible that this original group of "giants" was even larger in stature and strength than the giants who descended from them. When the evil spies used this word "nephilim" to apply to the sons of Anak, it may have been like saying "mammoths" to apply to elephants--a word that, while very similar, and with a degree of truthfulness, was nonetheless used with the intent to magnify the "problem" as they chose to see it.
The Only Uses of "Nephilim"
There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that,
when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare
children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of
renown. (Genesis 6:4, KJV)
And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the
giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were
in their sight. (Numbers 13:33, KJV)
Identification of Nephilim
It is in Numbers 13:33 where the connection to giants is clearly made, because the "sons of Anak" are addressed in other passages, and they are here said to be the nephilim.
Just five verses prior we see:
Nevertheless the people be strong that dwell in the land, and the
cities are walled, and very great: and moreover we saw the children of
Anak there. (Numbers 13:28, KJV)
These children of Anak were considered to be "strong." They are also called Anakim. This would be similar to saying "Anakites." (Remember, the -im suffix to a Hebrew word is what makes a masculine-gendered word plural, so seeing "nephilim", "anakim", "cherubim", etc. tells us we are looking at a plural form. Because it is already plural, it is actually odd to add a further "s" to it, e.g. "Anakims", as is done in the KJV.)
Studying further into the descendants of Anak, variously called "sons of Anak," "Anakims", etc., we learn that there are other Hebrew words which are used synonymously for this group of people.
Giants of the Bible
- Anakims: Deuteronomy 1:28; 2:10-11, 21; 9:2; Joshua 11:21-22; 14:12,15
- Rephaim/Rephaims: Genesis 14:5; 15:20
- Zamzummims (another name for Rephaim): Deuteronomy 2:20
- Emims ("giants, as the Anakims"): Genesis 14:5; Deuteronomy 2:10-11
The word "giants" is the most common translation for the Hebrew רְפָאִים/rephaim, and this is the more common word for giants among those listed above. T
Anak had a number of sons.
And they ascended by the south, and came unto Hebron; where Ahiman,
Sheshai, and Talmai, the children of Anak, were. (Now Hebron was built
seven years before Zoan in Egypt.) (Numbers 13:22, KJV)
Compare the following verses to see how Rephaim compare with Anakim and Nephilim and Zamzummins.
And there we saw the giants [Heb. nephilim], the sons of
Anak, which come of the giants [Heb. nephilim]: and we were in
our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight. (Numbers
Which also were accounted giants [Heb. rephaim], as the
Anakims; but the Moabites called them Emims. (Deuteronomy 2:11, KJV)
(That also was accounted a land of giants [Heb. rephaim]:
giants [Heb. rephaim] dwelt therein in old time; and the Ammonites call them Zamzummims; (Deuteronomy 2:20, KJV)
On Rare Words
Relative to the original question, when a word is rare in Hebrew it is much easier to find a tangential interpretation for it which is difficult to refute. Many have done exactly this with the word nephilim. But the Bible clearly links the word with both anakim and rephaim, words that are used many times. The word "Zamzummim" occurs only once--less often, even, than the word "nephilim." But it is correlated directly with the rephaim, which is also linked to the anakim, and from there back to the nephilim.
When studied with its connection to other Hebrew names/words, the word "nephilim" is not nearly so ambiguous as some might suppose. It is clearly connected with other words that meant "giant."
The original Hebrew lacked punctuation, but as we might punctuate Numbers 13:33 today, it could be interpreted to say "And there we saw the nephilim/giants, the sons of Anak are from the nephilim/giants; and we were in our own sight like grasshoppers, as we were in their sight." This appears to be a part of the spies' report emphasizing the powerful ancestry of the Canaanites, but it cannot be ruled out that the writer of Numbers added this parenthetical information for clarity. Either way, the statement goes uncontested in the record.