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Ashteroth Karnaim's Giants
Joshua lists Ashdod, one of the five Philistine cities on Canaan's southwest coast, as a place where the Anakim survived following Israel's campaign against the giants. The giant population here must have been especially large, for the Egyptian Execration Texts often refer to Ashdod as a "city of the giants." (See Beth-Paleth's Giants; Oath's Giants; Gaza's Giants)
Ashteroth Karnaim's Giants
Located about six miles northwest of Edrei, Ashteroth Karnaim served as the Rephaim's chief city in Bashan. These giants worshipped Astarte, the goddess of the crested moon. They came under attack by Chedorlaomer in the nineteenth century B.C., and though Moses described them as "great and many and tall," they were nonetheless greatly decimated. (See Abraham and the Giants)
Experts believe the Avvim and Hurrians were the first giants to occupy Canaan. According to Moses, the Avvim lived on the plains around Gaza, but they were almost annihilated by the Caphtorim who came in ships from Caphtor. Those who escaped the Caphtorim afterward founded a city in the territory that later fell by lot to the tribe of Benjamin. To perpetuate their name, they called it Avvim. (See Israel's Wars with the Giants)
Bashan's Giants (See Argob's Sixty Cities of the Giants; also see Abraham and the Giants; Sihon's and Og's Overthrow)
Beit Jibrim means the "House of the Gibborim," i.e., of "the Giants." The town, which still exists even to this day, commands the entrance to the Valley of Zephathah on the road from Jerusalem to Gaza. Because of its enormous caverns, it has been called "one of the most amazing cave-cities in the world." Some of the caves measure up to four hundred feet long, while their ceilings reach to heights of eighty feet. (See Argob's Sixty Cities of the Giants; Giants, Valley of the; Israel's Wars with the Giants; Rephaim, Land of the)
Although the Hebrews were successful in their campaign to rid the promised land of all the giants, Joshua writes that some Anakim still survived in Gaza, Gath, and Ashdod. He apparently meant to say that they occupied a sizable territory around these chief cities of the Philistines. For when Sir Flinders Petrie, a British archaeologist, dug up Beth-Paleth some eighteen miles south of Gaza, he found artifacts indicating that it, too, had been inhabited by giants.28 (See Ashdod's Giants; Gath's Giants; Gaza's Giants)
Gomorrah's King Birsha, against whom Elam's King Chedorlaomer made war, apparently was a giant. "On the basis of the Arabic language," declares G. Ch. Aalders, "the name. . . Birsha, king of Gomorrah," can be interpreted "as 'large man'."29 (See Abraham and the Giants)
Even while they served Pharaoh, all Israel knew about the giant people who occupied Canaan. In patriarchal times these huge Nephilim half-breeds grew so numerous and became so famous for their feats of strength and daring that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob no doubt told their children stories about them. In turn, these accounts were repeated, probably with some embellishments, to all later generations of Hebrews. So, even while they toiled at making bricks in Egypt, tales about the terrible giants became a part of Hebrew lore.
When the Hebrews fled Egypt some four centuries after Abraham's time, these monstrous creatures still occupied Canaan, as did many Canaanites of about the Hebrews' own size. From the outset, therefore, these former slaves realized that they could never possess the promised land unless they killed or expelled them. As they sat in the warming glow of their campfires, they must have discussed this problem. Unfortunately, these conversations only reinforced their dread of the giants. So after their first year in the Sinai, when Moses ordered that all the men twenty years old and older be numbered for war, their apprehension about fighting the giants surely increased. And their fears, in whatever measure, must have mounted even higher when the great Hebrew prophet, led by the cloud,30 set out across the Desert of Paran toward Canaan's southern border.
This trek across that fearful desert of hot sand took a couple of months. But suddenly, out of the barren and desolate expanse of burning desert-waste, the weary Israelites came upon Kadesh Barnea,31 an oasis created by the brief course of a stream arising at the foot of a limestone cliff. Located in the southeastern corner of the Negeb, Kadesh Barnea was a well-known stopping place for the ancient donkey caravans en route between Egypt and Canaan. It also watered flocks and herds from the high and dry grazing grounds, both near and far. Here Moses ordered a halt, and for some distance around this elongated stretch of verdure and great beauty the Israelites pitched their tents.
Since leaving Egypt, the twelve wandering tribes, by the round-about route they followed, had walked over four hundred miles. Now, at last, less than fifty miles separated them from the good land the Lord God had long ago deeded to them. All they needed now to do, Moses told them, was to cross over the Negeb and wrest it from the fierce, warlike inhabitants. But gazing north across the parched badlands to the cool mountain strongholds of the giants, they wavered. Moses, not unaware of their doubts and fears and wild imaginations, urged all the men numbered for war not to be afraid nor discouraged, but to go up at once and claim their inheritance. Some tribal leaders, however, suggested: "Let us send men ahead to spy out the land for us and bring back a report about the route we are to take and the towns we will come to."32
Such use of spies being a common practice in the ancient Near East, Moses consented to their request. For this dangerous mission, each tribe chose one of its chief men. The twelve selected included Joshua of Ephraim and Caleb of Judah. Besides determining the best route for attack, Moses instructed the scouts to find out the number and character of the inhabitants, the strength of their towns and fortresses, and something about the fertility of the land.
In his journal, Moses noted that the spies set out across the hot southern steppe at the ripening of the first grapes. This almost certainly establishes early August as the time, for it was usually then to the first clusters were gathered in Canaan. The second ripening W grapes occurred in September, and the third followed in October. According to ancient rabbinical tradition, Moses had the spies pose as traders while they made their way through the northern settlements in the Negeb.33 This dry land, being suited only for pasturage, Comprised the poorest part of Palestine. Nevertheless it was inhabited by enough Amalekites and Canaanites to people twenty-nine cities, besides villages. Moses instructed the men to begin, as traders ordinarily do, by showing their ordinary wares first. Then, as they worked their way north, to offer their more valuable things.34 In such banner, the spies traversed all Canaan. In fact, as Moses was later to report, some walked all the way to Hamath, a city situated on the Orontes River about one hundred and twenty miles north of Damascus. We should not think that all twelve traveled together, lest they be suspected. They probably went in pairs, or threes, or fours, and rendezvoused at certain places along the way.
The country the spies saw perhaps may be best visualized as Comprising three parallel strips of land running north and south. The first, called the Maritime Plain, extends inward from the Mediterranean coast to a distance of from four to fifteen miles. This fertile strip includes the famous Plain of Sharon and the Lowlands of the Philistines. Behind this flat country rises the hills. These, in turn, give way to the mountains that form the backbone of the Holy Land. In eastern Palestine, the mountains and hills fall precipitously down to the fertile Jordan River Valley and the bitter waters of the Salt Sea. East of the Jordan lie the highlands of Gilead, Ammon, and Moab--lands then ruled by Rephaim giants.
At this time many Rephaim and some Horim, Avvim, and Anakim giants occupied the hill country of northern Canaan, while the Anakim completely dominated the south. The spies must therefore have seen these frightening fellows every place they went. But in their later report to Moses they mentioned only the Anakim giants--apparently because they struck more terror in them than all the rest. For ferociousness and daring, the Anakim set the standard. Against them, in fact, all the other giants were measured. Moses himself confirmed their superiority when he wrote in his book this famous proverbial saying: "Who can stand before the sons of Anak?"35
The names of places that Moses recorded suggest the route the spies took followed "along the course of the Jordan in their advance, and their return was by the western border, through the territories of the Sidonians and Philistines."36 Thus it appears that, leaving the Maritime Plain, they entered the southern foothills and began a three-thousand-foot climb toward Kiriath Arba (later called Hebron), which the giants had built on the Judaean ridge's highest elevation.
Close by Kiriath Arba lay the cave of Machpelah where the revered Abraham, his wife Sarah, and some other Hebrew patriarchs were buried. So the twelve no doubt looked forward to this part of their journey. But some of them also experienced little alarms. They now trod deep in Anakim country. Every step brought them closer to this chief city and ancestral home of the giants. Here lived the feared giants Sheshai, Ahiman, and Talmai. They ruled the three tribes of the Anak, who were called by their names.37 From Sheshai's name we get some idea of their height. For Sheshai, declares Bochart, "refers to his stature, which measured six cubits," i.e., nine feet.38 The Anakim also occupied nearby Debir and Anab,39 and many others could be found living throughout the hill country of Judah. A significant number of these part-animal, part-man creatures had also established communities in Gaza, Gath, and Ashdod on the Mediterranean coast.40
In the plural, Anakim means "people of the necklace" or "neck-piece," and so it is explained by the ancient rabbis. The name comes from anaq, the Hebrew word for "necklace."41 Moses, in Numbers 13:33, affirms that they descended from the Nephilim. Their uncommon height was, of course, enough to arouse in people of normal size some uneasiness. But the Anakim were also a fierce, half-wild people, given to deeds of great daring. Consequently, they loved war and regarded it as a normal way of life. So ingrained was their inclination to fight that when no common enemy could be found against whom they could exercise their natural belligerency, they fought among themselves.42 Such a hostile attitude, combined with their extraordinary stature, caused shivers in most people who came in contact with them.