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Abishai, Giant Killer
Abraham and the Giants
|Abishai, Giant Killer
Abishai, the brother of Joab, struck down the giant Ishbi-benob as he was about to deliver the death blow to a fallen King David in one of Israel's wars with the Philistines. (See David vs Goliath)
Abraham and the Giants
Biblical and historical records, along with credible archaeological evidence, show that when Abraham pulled up his tent stakes at Ur of the Chaldeans and moved his family and flocks to Canaan, many giants already occupied Transjordan. The scriptures also say that when this first Hebrew patriarch later established his headquarters at Hebron, he lived for some years among the Anakim giants who founded that city.
Although the Anakim in later times became the most numerous--and the most feared--of Canaan's giants, the Avvim and Hurrians (or Horites, as they are called in Genesis) apparently were the first tall people to occupy that land. Archaeological experts admit to having no direct proof of this. But, according to H. R. Hall, "recent excavations of the Palestine Exploration Fund at Gezer and various other researches have shewn that Palestine was originally inhabited by a stone-age population that lived in caves, and was probably related to the troglodytic people of the desert between the Nile and the Red Sea, who are mentioned by Strabo.1 We may identify them with the preCanaanite Horites or Avvim of Biblical tradition. They developed into or were succeeded by the Anakim or Rephaim, the 'Giants' of tradition, who built the megalithic monuments, the dolmens and menhirs, of Moab and eastern Palestine.2 To them may be due the earliest stone walls of the Canaanite cities."3
Elmer W. K. Mould also affirms that the earliest race to occupy Canaan was non-Semitic and of gigantic stature. The "authentic names of aboriginal settlers," he declares, "are really preserved in the legendary Anakim, Avvim, Rephaim, Emim, and Zamzummim, which are referred to several times. These legendary peoples pre-ceded the Amorites in Palestine, but afterward, through a blur of tradition, they came to be mistakenly regarded as Amorite subdivisions. So far as can be learned from the records, the Emim ('dreadful ones') lived in the area of Moab; the Zamzummim ('murmurers' or 'stammerers,' i.e., speakers of a barbarous tongue), or Uzim,4 in the area of Ammon, east of Jordan. There were Horites in the Mount Seir region before the Edomites displaced them. In southern and southwestern Palestine were the Anakim, centering around Hebron, and the Avvim, near Gaza. 'Rephaim' ('giants') was perhaps a collective name for all these aborigines.... Such names as 'Nephilim,' 'Rephaim,' and 'Anakim,' whatever they may mean, point to the existence in Palestine of tall men who were non-Semitic. East of the Jordan, in Bashan, Og, king of Bashan, and his people constituted a remnant of the Rephaim. Somewhere in central Canaan, west of Jordan, there was a land of the Rephaim. Near Jerusalem there was a Valley of the Rephaim."5
Such then were some of the enormous inhabitants who lived in and about Canaan at the time Abraham and his nephew Lot moved their families, servants, and flocks to Canaan. These aborigine half-breeds apparently gave Abraham no trouble--or at least none is recorded. But the giants of Transjordan and Mount Seir later figured in a war the Hebrew patriarch became involved in.
In Canaan both Abraham and Lot prospered. Eventually their herds and flocks increased to such numbers that "the land could not sustain them while dwelling together."6 Competition for pastureland and disputes over water rights sometimes led to strife between the herdsmen of both men. Determined to stave off any chance of trouble developing between themselves, Abraham one day suggested to Lot that they separate. "Is not the whole land before you?" He asked his nephew. "If you take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if you take the right hand, then I will go to the left."7
This fateful day the two men stood on the highest ridge between Bethel and Ai. As Abraham waited, Lot pondered which way to go. Looking northward and southward, he could see the gently sloping hills and vales with patches of wheat and barley waving in the refreshing mountain breeze. Also within his sight were the famous vineyards and groves of olives, pomegranates, figs, apricots, and almonds. But turning eastward he saw "the whole plain of the Jordan was well watered, like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, toward Zoar." Following the course of the Jordan River through a valley green with a perennial verdure, his gaze finally came to rest on the Salt Sea, shimmering now under the sun's bright light. At the sea's southern end, Sodom and Gomorrah beckoned. These largest of the five rich cities of the plains basked now, as they did the year round, in a delightful climate that produced a lush tropical vegetation on the surrounding land. All things considered, it seemed to Lot that the Jordan valley, with its tropical luxuriance, offered him the best opportunity. Plus, it also afforded him an easy accessibility to city life.
After separating from Lot, Abraham drove his flocks south and established his headquarters under the oak of Mamre, about twenty miles below Bethlehem. At this time many Anakim giants and some Hittites of normal size lived in that area. Practically next door to Abraham's camp stood Kiriath Arba, later called Hebron. This place the Anakim had named after their famous forefather, Arba.8 At the time of the Exodus so many giants occupied Kiriath Arba that a Hebrew army of over six hundred thousand men rebelled against Moses rather than go up and attack it. But when Abraham lived there Kiriath Arba probably was no more than a large rural community.
After he left Abraham on the mountain, Lot at first only pitched his tent near Sodom. Moses tells us, however, that he soon afterward moved his family inside that depraved city. He thus willingly established his home among a people apparently defiled to some extent by Nephilim blood (see Origin of the Giants--Biblical Account). This we learn from Jude, who mentions that the people of Sodom and Gomorrah "indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh."9 Merrill F. linger also interprets this passage to mean that cohabitation between "beings of a different nature" probably took place.10 And exactly that happened. For no creatures of a strange flesh ever lived on this earth except the evolved Nephilim and their mongrel Gibborim offspring. Both Ecclesiasticus (16:8-9) and the Book of Jubilees (20:5), incidentally, confirm that giants lived in Sodom and Gomorrah. And according to G. Ch. Aalders, Birsha, king of Gomorrah, probably was a giant. "On the basis of the Arabic language," he says, "the name . . . Birsha, king of Gomorrah," can be interpreted "as 'large man'."11 Also in Abraham's day so many giants occupied nearby Bashan that it became widely known as "the land of Rephaim."12 The Rephaim giants exerted control over Gilead, too, and all the land of Edom fell under their sway.
Now Moses, in his chronicles, relates that two years before Abraham left Haran for Canaan,13 King Chedorlaomer invaded the Valley of Siddim, attacked Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim, and Bela and brought them under his rule. With these victories, Chedorlaomer not only gained access to the cities' highly prized resources of bitumen, copper, and salt, but he also established control over the caravan routes from Arabia into Canaan and Egypt and the surrounding countries. Little else is known about this first campaign, except that Amraphel king of Shinnar, Arioch king of Ellasar, and Tidal king of Goiim accompanied Chedorlaomer and helped him conquer the five cities.
For twelve years following their overthrow, the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah and the three small neighboring cities served Chedorlaomer and paid him an annual tribute. Later events suggest, however, that soon after their surrender the vassals resolved to throw off Chedorlaomer's yoke and began making long-range plans to regain their independence. They not only shored up their defenses and strengthened their military capabilities, but they also apparently made a league with several communities of giants in the Jordan Valley and with the immense Horim people in Edom and the Negev.
Emboldened by their preparations, and no doubt, too, by the great distance that separated them from Chedorlaomer and his army,14 the kings of the five city-states grew more and more defiant of Elam's rule. Finally, in their thirteenth year, they rebelled.
Though commentators agree that the vassals' refusal to send any more shipments of asphalt, copper, or salt played some part in Chedorlaomer's subsequent action, some think two far greater considerations motivated him. First of all, they explain, as "a conqueror, aiming at extensive empire," Elam's mighty sovereign obviously could not allow the rebellion of such petty kings to succeed--because of the bad example it would set for the other provinces under his lordship. Secondly, he also would have been reluctant to relinquish control over the lucrative trade route that meandered from the Euphrates, via Damascus, through the Jordan Valley, down to the Red Sea and Egypt.
"The importance of keeping open the valley of the Jordan," comments Marcus Dods, "is obvious to every one who has interest enough in the subject to look at a map. That valley was the main route for trading caravans and for military expeditions between the Euphrates and Egypt. Whoever held that valley might prove a most formidable annoyance and indeed an absolute interruption to commercial or political relations between Egypt and Elam, or the Eastern powers.... A rebellion therefore of these chiefs occupying the vale of Siddim was sufficiently important to bring the king of Elam from his distant capital."15
So, in the fourteenth year, Chedorlaomer and the three kings allied with him gathered their armies and set out for the plain of the Jordan--a distance of nearly one thousand miles in a straight line. But, because of Arabia's intervening desert terrain, the armies with Chedorlaomer could not cross in a straight line. They most likely took the customary route, fording the lower Tigris and then following the east bank of the Euphrates all the way into Northern Assyria. At Carchemish they would have crossed over the river, then turned south toward the Jordan Valley and the rebellious city-states.
Somehow, perhaps from spies, Chedorlaomer learned of the military alliance that the five cities had made with the giants who occupied Bashan, Gilead, and Edom. He thus chose not to strike the first blow at Sodom, Gomorrah, Adman, Zeboiim, or Bela, but moved instead to cut off help from their Rephaim neighbors. This decision may not have been so daring a move as we may think. In those days giants in great numbers walked the earth (see Giants Who Became Gods; Gomarian Giants). So Chedorlaomer no doubt had recruited some of these oversized warriors into his own ranks. Interestingly, Arioch, one of the Babylonian kings that accompanied Chedorlaomer on this campaign, was himself a giant, his name being derived from arik, which means "tall among the giants."16