Who Were the “Giants” in the Promised Land?

We received this question through our TWR360 audience:

I’m working my way through the Bible and I’ve come to Numbers 13:32-33. Where did these giants come from? Were they not all wiped out in the great flood?

Here’s the passage the questioner referenced, from Numbers 13:32-33-

And they gave the children of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying, “The land through which we have gone as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great stature. There we saw the giants (the descendants of Anak came from the giants); and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.”

First note that this is really only a question for those who take the Bible seriously – that is, they believe that when the Bible says something happened, it happened. So, when the Bible says there was a world-wide or global flood in the days of Noah, I believe it. Some people don’t. They think that Genesis just describes a local flood, not a global flood. But if we take the Bible seriously and believe that it tells us the truth about what happened in the past, we have at least an apparent problem here.

  • The Bible tells that there were “giants on the earth in those days” of Noah, before the flood (Genesis 6:4).
  • Genesis also tells us that, because of God’s judgment, the whole human population of the earth perished except for 8 people – Noah and his family (Genesis 7:23).
  • So, if all the “giants on the earth in those days” perished in God’s judgment with the flood, then why do they seem to re-appear in Canaan, the Promised Land, in Numbers 13:32-33?

Here’s my quick answer: these “giants” in Canaan, the Promised Land, in the days of the Exodus and Joshua were not genetically connected to the “giants” of Genesis 6. They were not the actual descendants of those people in Genesis 6.

  • I believe this because of the context of Numbers 13:32-33: this is the report of the unfaithful spies. They were not giving a scientific or genetic analysis here; thus was a report of fear and unbelief. These were scared Israelites saying, “These people are just as big and terrible and evil as the giants that walked the earth in Noah’s time!” It was true that that they said this, and it was true that the people were large – but it was not true that they were genetically connected to the “giants on the earth” in the days of Noah. They just reminded their fearful, unbelieving hearts and minds of those giants in Noah’s time.
  • I believe this because of the phrasing of the later mentions of these “giants” in Deuteronomy:

The Emim had dwelt there in times past, a people as great and numerous and tall as the Anakim. They were also regarded as giants, like the Anakim, but the Moabites call them Emim. (Deuteronomy 2:10-11)

That was also regarded as a land of giants; giants formerly dwelt there. But the Ammonites call them Zamzummim, a people as great and numerous and tall as the Anakim. (Deuteronomy 2:20—21a)

  • I believe this because it best accounts for what we read in Genesis 6, Numbers 13, Deuteronomy 2.

So, again my answer: these “giants” in Canaan, the Promised Land, in the days of the Exodus and Joshua were not genetically connected to the “giants” of Genesis 6. They were not the actual descendants of those people in Genesis 6 – but named in memory of them, and a connection really of unbelief.

A few passages describe the Anakim being driven out in the days of Joshua (Joshua (11:21-22, 14:12, 15)

As a pastor, would you baptize someone who professed Jesus as Lord and Savior but was living in open and unrepentant sin?

That is an excellent question. I hear that question and almost say that I could argue it from either side. Now I’ll tell you which side I think is stronger, but I can argue it from either side.

The first side of the argument would be this: Yes, I would baptize someone who professes Jesus as Lord and Savior but is living an open and unrepentant sin. The reason why is that there doesn’t seem to be a moral performance qualification for being baptized; we just don’t see this in the New Testament. We find people being baptized immediately upon a profession of faith. In other words, they’re not waiting to get baptized; they are being immediately baptized on their profession of faith. They’re not waiting to demonstrate a certain moral performance. That’s the argument in favor of baptism.

But I think there’s a better argument to be made for not baptizing them. The argument is inherent in your question. “Would you baptize someone who professed Jesus as Lord and Savior, but was living in open and unrepentant sin?” You must admit, there’s something wrong with a person’s profession of Jesus as Lord, if they are living in open and flagrant disobedience to Jesus. This concept can, of course be taken too far; we understand that completely. It is possible for people to associate a big moral test with the idea of baptism, something like, “If I said a bad word a month ago, I shouldn’t be baptized,” or something like that. We’re not talking about that. We’re talking about flagrant, open rebellion against God.

Here’s what we can say about that person: they are not living like Jesus is the Lord of their life. They make may make that profession with their mouth, which perhaps they have done. But they’re not living as though that is the case. That’s what we’re talking about here with this profession of faith. If somebody has a professed faith, but there is open and clear contradiction to that profession in their life, we have every reason to question their profession of faith.

Therefore, I would choose the side of saying that I would not baptize them now. I wouldn’t necessarily deal with them as if they were an unbeliever, but perhaps as a believer who is in great danger. It is possible for a believer to be in sin for a time, even stubborn sin. We know, based on passages in 1 John and elsewhere, that a genuine Christian cannot feel comfortable in habitual sin. But that’s very different from a believer being caught up in sin for a season and being tormented and miserable because of it.

So, we recognize there could be two possible answers to this question. Personally, my answer would be, No, I would not baptize such a person, even though I understand the case for the other side. I think there is greater biblical evidence for saying No, they should not be baptized until their profession is more in line with their actual life.

Did Jesus clear the temple courts before or after His triumphal entry?

There were two separate clearings of the Temple: one at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, described in John 2:13-22, and another towards the end of Jesus’ ministry, after the Triumphal Entry, recorded in Matthew 21:12-16.

Now, there are some people, who are recognized by some as Bible scholars, who don’t seem to take the Bible as seriously as I think it should be taken. They would say that there was only one cleansing of the Temple, and that John either got it wrong or he’s just making it up and placing it wherever he wants to in his narrative. It doesn’t seem strange or unusual to me at all to have two clearings of the Temple, separated by some three or four years, depending on whether there were three or four Passovers during the ministry of Jesus.

I have no problem saying that there were two cleansing of the Temple. The first was at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, as recorded in the Gospel of John. The second was following the Triumphal Entry, which was one of the first things Jesus did as He came as a King into Jerusalem, as described in the Synoptic Gospels.

Should Christians celebrate Halloween?

I think we dealt with this question a couple of weeks ago. I want to be clear that there are believers, whom I respect, who have different attitudes about this. I’m going to give you my perspective, and you can take it for what it’s worth.

Here’s my perspective. First, it’s true that the origins and ancient or old associations with Halloween were evil, ranging into the occult, associated with the demonic. I don’t think there are any doubts about the ancient origins of it, or that it continues to be celebrated by certain pagans, Satanists, and occultists, because of those ancient associations. I don’t have any problem acknowledging that.

But secondly, I want to acknowledge what Halloween is today. For most people today, Halloween is about dressing up and getting candy. Little kids dress up in costumes and go to door to door or to a party to get candy. It is almost completely removed from the associations it had in centuries past.

So, I really believe that this is a matter of Christian conscience. I believe it’s up to a father and a mother in a home to decide whether they are going to participate in it, as they pray and seek the Lord and get informed about it. If they believe that it is not something they should acknowledge as a family, God bless them in that; I support you 100%. You should act according to your Christian conscience. However, if a family says, “Look, our kids love dressing up in costumes and getting candy; who doesn’t love that? It has no evil associations in our home or in our kids’ thinking. We don’t have any problem with it.” If they prayed about it and sought the Lord about it, I would honor their conscience in it as well.

I believe it’s up to individual Christian conscience whether Christians can have any kind of recognition of Halloween, or a Fall Festival, or a harvest festival, or a dress-up time, or whatever you want to call it. We should respect our brothers and sisters if they come to a different conclusion than we do. It’s okay for us to explain why we’ve come to our conclusion. But we should understand that, in the end, this is something about which God needs to deal with the individual believer. Should Christians celebrate Halloween? I think it’s between them and the Lord and what it would mean for their own family.

Was Halloween a Christian holiday?

No, except from the association that its name means the eve of All Saints Day. Now. All Saints Day is recognized in the Roman Catholic Church on November 1. That was the designated day to recognize saints who were not included in the other days of the year, and to honor all saints collectively. It was thought to be a holy day because it recognized all the saints the night before. In some Christian circles, it was also held to be something significant. But that is only a small part of the association. I don’t think you could say that it genuinely began as a Christian holiday, although I don’t doubt that in medieval days, some people may have regarded the night before All Saints Day to be something sacred. That’s where we get the name Halloween. It’s Hallows’ Eve, hallowed meaning holy or saint-like: All Saints Day Eve. It’s the evening before All Saints Day.

How tall were the giants?

Let me give you a definite answer on that: we don’t know. Now, we are given the height of one giant recorded in the Scriptures. Goliath’s height was recorded as being something like eight or nine feet tall he was a huge man. But we don’t know if he was unusually large for a giant. Maybe he was a small giant; maybe it was a medium sized giant. We don’t know where Goliath was on the giant scale, so to speak. When giants are mentioned in the books of Genesis, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, it gives us no information about their size. The only mention of a specific size is given in reference to one specific giant, the man Goliath.

How do we know that Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible?

There are a few indications in Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy that Moses wrote those books. Genesis and Exodus are given more by rabbinic attribution, and by the New Testament passages where those books are quoted. Jesus says, “Have you not read in Moses?”

If you want to look up those references, just do a word search for the name Moses in the New Testament. You’ll find several places where Moses is attributed as being the author of the first five books of the Bible, or at least some of them.

We do know that there are certain passages that tell us how God spoke to Moses, and he wrote it down. I think that’s in the book of Numbers, maybe in Leviticus as well. We do have some definite passages like that. But I think the best evidence we have are the New Testament references to those five books. The New Testament speaks of them, confirming the rabbinic opinion of its day that those were actually books written by the Prophet Moses.

If there is no connection between the giants of Genesis 6:4 and the giants mentioned in Numbers and Deuteronomy, then why does Genesis 6:4 speak of “the offspring of the giants and also afterward”?

Genesis 6:4 – There were giants on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown.

That’s a great question. I think the best answer is to say that Moses, the author of Genesis, is simply making the connection to the large men who were referred to as giants. Now, if these giants survived the flood, and carried on their genetic line afterward, that would sure seem to be a contradiction of Genesis 7:23, which is very emphatic that all human life, and human-connected life, perished.

Genesis 7:23 – So He destroyed all living things which were on the face of the ground: both man and cattle, creeping thing and bird of the air. They were destroyed from the earth. Only Noah and those who were with him in the ark remained alive.

In Genesis 6:4, when it says “And also afterward,” it’s talking about the people who were associated with those giants, not people who were genetically connected to those giants. Again, I understand that may seem to be an inadequate answer, but to me that is the best answer.

If God is sovereign and knows everything, why do we need to pray?

For some wonderful reason, God has chosen to intertwine His sovereign will with the real choices of men and women, including their choices to pray, or not to pray.

There are some passages of Scripture where God says, “I’m going to wipe out the people of Israel, Moses,” and Moses prays, and God relents. I think what God wants us to believe from that interaction is that the prayer of Moses mattered. Moses made a real choice to pray. How that decision intertwined with the eternal and sovereign will of God is beyond our comprehension. But I defy anybody to read that passage in the book of Exodus and to say that the prayer of Moses didn’t matter, or that God was going to relent all along, whether Moses prayed or not. I don’t think that’s how it works.

We can say a similar thing about many places in Scripture. There are places in the Scriptures where God certainly gives us the impression that life and death, Heaven and Hell, victory or defeat, all rest upon the prayers of God’s people. Now, it doesn’t rest directly upon the people, of course, but it does rest on God’s response to their prayer. So, I think this is a very important point to bring up. Our prayers matter, although we can’t say how they intertwine with the sovereign will of God. But God has revealed to us in the Scriptures that our prayers matter, one way or another.

When the Angel of the LORD (Jesus) appeared before men in the Old Testament, did He look similar to the way He looked as a Man during His earthly ministry?

What you’re getting at here is the idea that, on most occasions in the Old Testament where it describes the Angel of the LORD appearing to somebody, it was an appearance of Jesus. This was before His incarnation, before He was miraculously conceived in Mary’s womb by a miracle of the Holy Spirit and born in the village of Bethlehem. Jesus appeared as the Angel of the LORD several times before that in the Old Testament. There’s a lot we could say about that.

Yes, I believe that He did look the same way at both times, but that’s pure conjecture. Let’s be very honest: the Bible doesn’t tell us, does it? So, we can only guess about this. To me, it would seem fitting if Jesus had the same appearance as the Angel of the LORD in the Old Testament as He had as a man when He walked the earth during His earthly ministry. There’s no biblical reason for that supposition. It’s just my opinion. But I would say yes, He did look the same.

What is your belief about the blasphemy of the Spirit? What is the “sin unto death” in 1 John 5?

1 John 5:16-17 – If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death. There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that. All unrighteousness is sin, and there is sin not leading to death.

The context here is praying for a brother. When John speaks of a sin leading to death, I don’t believe he’s speaking about a sin leading to spiritual death; that would be the result of the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. I understand the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit to be the sin wherein someone has a settled, steady, permanent rejection of who the Holy Spirit says Jesus is and what He came to do.

One of the main functions of the Holy Spirit is to testify to us about who Jesus is, and what He came to do. If someone continually denies the Spirit’s witness about Jesus, they could very well be guilty of the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, and they will not inherit eternal life. The death they will experience is spiritual death and for all eternity.

I don’t believe that the sin leading to death spoken of by the apostle John in 1 John 5 refers to spiritual death. I think it refers to the physical death of the believer. This is a difficult concept. But we have an example of it in 1 Corinthians 11, where Paul says that among the Christians in Corinth, because of their disgraceful conduct at the Lord’s Supper, some of them had died. Apparently, it is possible for a believer to sin to the point where God believes it’s just best to bring them home to heaven. I’m just speculating here, but maybe it is because they have in some way compromised their testimony so significantly that they should just come on home to God.

It would be very presumptuous for us to think that every case of an untimely death of a believer happens because of this. We need to be very cautious about saying that. But I think it’s at least possible for it to happen. The blasphemy the Holy Spirit is the settled, persistent, final rejection of the Holy Spirit’s testimony concerning who Jesus is and what He came to do for us.

Was the Apostle Paul’s vow in Acts 21 an example of him being “all things to all men, that (he) may save some”?

The book of Acts records that Paul took a few vows. Earlier in the book of Acts, we have evidence that he took the vow of a Nazirite. Here seems to be a different kind of dedication or vow. This was a vow taken at the temple by some Christian believers from a Jewish background. They understood that many of the temple rituals were done away with by the person and work of Jesus Christ, most notably anything having to do with the atonement of sin. There could be no more animal sacrifice for atonement or forgiveness or cleansing of sin. That was completely fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

However, when we understand the sacrificial system, not every sacrifice was made with blood or for the purpose of atoning for sins. There were sacrifices made for dedication unto God, something like the vow of a Nazirite. Apparently, the first Christians did not see an inconsistency between the Christian life and those types of vows or sacrifices fulfilled at the temple.

In Acts 21, is Paul participating in such a vow with these other believers from a Jewish background? I think Paul could take this or leave this vow, but he wanted to encourage and bless these believers, so he chose to participate. I believe you could categorize that as being all things to all men, in order to save some.

Is having a conversation with God considered praying?

Yes. Now, it could be “bad praying,” if I could say that, if our conversation with God forgets that it’s God to whom we’re speaking. Now, I’m not saying that we must only speak with God in a formal way. No, our conversation with God does not always have to be formal, but it must always be respectful and honoring to God.

You can have a casual, respectful, God-honoring conversation with the Lord. That would absolutely be considered prayer, and not only prayer, but I would even call it good prayer. Now, some of our prayers aren’t good for several reasons. One of the reasons could be that we are just not honoring to God, or not respectful to Him. Because God is God, and we are not, we should always be respectful to the Lord when we speak to Him.

How do God’s promises work? Does He ever break His promises to us?

How do God’s promises work? Does He ever break His promises to us? For example, His promise to answer prayer or to protect us from evil?

First, I would say no, God never breaks a promise that He makes. Breaking a promise would be sinful, and God doesn’t sin. It’s impossible for God to sin. It’s impossible for him to lie, the Bible says specifically. In some regard, a broken promise is a lie, and the Bible clearly says, It is impossible for God to lie. So no, God can’t break His promises.

But it is possible to err concerning God’s promises, if we assume that every promise of God is for every person, in every circumstance. That’s just not true. You can find promises in the Bible about God’s protection over the believer. Yet, nevertheless, there have been many genuine believers in the true and right Go who have been martyred for their faith. It would be natural for someone to look at that say, “Well, I guess God broke His promise. God promised to protect this person, but they died for their faith. So obviously, God didn’t protect them. He broke His promise.”

To that I would say, “No, no. God’s promises of protection are not universal. But rather, God will take such a promise, make it alive by His Spirit to an individual’s life, and say, right here, right now, this promise is for you.”

Now, I can point to a broader sense in which that promise of protection is true, even for the martyred believer. When a believer is martyred, they’re certainly safe, protected, and nothing can harm them or hurt them in Heaven. They’ve passed from temporary protection to eternal protection.

In a sense, Heaven is the ultimate fulfillment of every promise that God makes to His people. But even on this earth, God fulfills His promises, as they are specifically applied to an individual in their particular situation.

We can’t just read through the Bible and assume that every promise is for us. But even the promises which are for believers in general may have application to a specific situation, into which we may or may not fit. In general, that’s how the promises of God work.

Who is greater in eyes of God: Jews or Gentiles?

The answer to that question is: Yes. That’s the only way I can answer it. The Jewish people are great in the eyes of God. The Gentiles are great in the eyes of God. God has a heart for the entire world, including Jews and Gentiles. God does not prefer one over the other, although we would say God has chosen the Jewish people for a very specific role in His unfolding plan of the ages. It’s a role for which He chose no other people or nation. But it doesn’t make them greater in the eyes of God.

Let’s be honest, the specific role that the Jewish people have had in the unfolding plan of God, and their status as a chosen nation, has sometimes been a great blessing to them, and has sometimes been a tremendous burden to them. They have been chosen by God, and it doesn’t make them greater in the eyes of God in any way.

Both groups are valued and precious by God. Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world. Yes, He’s the Savior of Israel, but He’s the Savior of the world. God wants the redeeming work that comes to us through Jesus, who He is and what He did for us, to be extended to everyone who will believe upon Him. You can be among those who believe upon Him today, and receive that great work of Jesus Christ on your behalf.