Many of us may have heard rumors about giants in the Bible. The first one who comes to mind is likely Goliath. But some of us may have heard the term “sons of Anak” when referencing these giants who roamed the earth in the Old Testament. Who exactly was Anak in the Bible?
Did he have something to do with the Nephilim—the demon-human hybrids that appeared before (and maybe after) the time of the flood? Why on earth should we know about the Anakim, the sons of Anak?
As always, we’ll explore these questions and other important ones. Let’s dive in!
Who Was Anak in the Bible?
Anak, according to this article, was a descendant of a man named Arba (Joshua 15:13). We don’t know much about Arba, but we know a little about Anak. He was considered a “great man,” but not by moral standards. Most likely, he was considered great for his appearance—his physical prowess.
We’re not given many explicit details about him. We know many giants descended from Anak (we get this detail from passages such as Deuteronomy 2:19-21 and Numbers 13:1-2). We know before Anak was born, “the sons of God went to the daughters of humans and had children by them” (Genesis 6:4), which gave birth to the Nephilim. Many scholars believe the “sons of God” were demons who mated with human women, giving birth to giants called the Nephilim, “men of renown.” We also know that God wiped out most of humanity through the flood, presumably killing off the original race of giants.
The Bible references other giants, such as Goliath, appearing on the scene after the flood. But what about Anak specifically? What can we tell about him?
1. He Was the Progenitor and the Name of a Race
In the Bible, we see various occurrences in which a person’s name becomes the name of a race. Jacob’s name becomes Israel, and the Israelite people forever go by this name. The same goes for Anak. This was an individual, but an entire race was created through him: the Anakim.
2. He Fathered a Race of War-like People (Deuteronomy 9:2)
Joshua 14:15 states that when the Anakim died, the people had rest from war. We can imagine that the Anakim often made war, causing trouble for the people of God (and everyone else). Numbers 1:33 says that Anak’s race was descended from the Nephilim, which may explain why they were big.
We don’t need to look at Goliath to know that a giant man (descended from demons or otherwise) would likely enjoy conflict and fighting. It’s the bigger bully on the school ground problem. If someone has a significant amount of power, they may want to play mini-god. Hence why God eventually wipes out the Anakim.
3. His People Lived in Southern Israel, Near Hebron
They inhabit the Promised Land, which the Israelites lay siege to in the Book of Joshua. The fact that God ultimately destroyed Anak’s descendants indicates that his people did not follow God. Given that the Bible describes the people who settled the land of Canaan (like the three kings who captured Lot) as generally pagan and rebellious, Anak probably wasn’t a good person.
Given that the Numbers passage describes Anak’s people as descended from the Nephilim, we may wonder how Anak connects to this race of giants spawned by demons. Perhaps after the original Nephilim died in the flood, demons got involved in human affairs again and bred more giants. Scripture isn’t clear on whether Anak was born before or after the flood. However, it’s hard to imagine how he could have descendants if he died in the flood, given that he wasn’t one of Noah’s sons (Shem, Ham, Japeth) who was in the ark. Ham’s descendants included Canaan, whose children fathered the various Canaanite tribes.
Given this information, we can assume that Anak was probably born after the flood, perhaps fathered by demons trying to breed more Nephilim with sons of Canaan. This would make Anak one of the first post-flood giants. By the time Joshua and the Israelites arrived in Canaan, some Nephilim were still around (Numbers 13:33-34), and the Anakim had become a full-fledged race. The Israelite spies stated that next to the Nephilim, they felt like grasshoppers (Numbers 13:34). Sure, they were exaggerating. Still, the point is clear: Nephilim (and presumably their descendants like the Anakim) were huge.
Since demons fathering children with humans would go against God’s holy order of creation, it would make sense that the Nephilim and Anakim had to be destroyed. This happened years later, in the Promised Land.
Who Were Anakim in the Bible?
Now that we have somewhat of an understanding of Anak, what do we know of the Anakim?
First and foremost, the word Anakim means “long-necked.” It has to do with their appearance. Deuteronomy 2:10 describes them as tall. And likely, that’s an understatement. If Goliath was a descendant of these people—and he was “six cubits and a span” (1 Samuel 17:4), somewhere six and a half feet tall and 10 feet tall—we can imagine the Anakim could boast tall statures.
They first inhabited Hebron and then made their way to Moab, Edom, and into what we know as the Promised Land. We can see from the details in the book of Joshua that they were a proud people who mocked God. Over time, the Israelites claimed the Promised Land, killing various Canaanite groups who lived there (including any Anakim).
Often, people will object to Israel’s siege on the Promised Land, the repeated wars where God explicitly told the Israelites to exterminate their opponents. But we have to understand several things.
First, the people in the Promised Land had hundreds of years to repent before Israel stepped onto the scene. They could have done what Ninevah did: repent and be spared.
Secondly, there were good people within the walls of the Promised Land. Rahab—a prostitute—hid the Israelite spies, preserving their lives. Because of this, she was rescued from destruction and ended up in the genealogy of Jesus. The same holds true for Ruth, a Moabite who became part of the nation of Israel after committing to care for her mother-in-law Naomi and marrying Boaz.
Figures like the giant Goliath, who appeared generations after the Israelites settled into the Promised Land, suggest some of the Anakim survived. Let’s uncover his heritage.
Was Goliath a Descendant of Anak?
Goliath was tall. To the point where no one—but a shepherd boy from Israel—would fight him. He seems to have many giant characteristics. So was Goliath a descendant of Anak?
1 Samuel 17:4 says that Goliath hails from the land of Gath. What do we know about the Land of Gath? Archeological digs of Gath indicate the city was huge. That is, the city was built for huge people. That alone should indicate that Goliath hailed from a tall breed of people.
So, Goliath could easily have been a descendant of Anak. This could mean some descendants of Anak lived outside the Promised Land, so they weren’t killed in Joshua’s campaigns, and they appeared later to torment Israel. If Scripture shows a common pattern with Anak’s descendants, it’s that they sought to make the lives of God’s people miserable.
We get no indications of giants roaming by the time of Jesus. We can assume that they ceased to exist. Goliath may have been one of the last of his kind. Other Old Testament passages mention David and his mighty men killing other giants, which may mean they finished off the Anakim. Or, perhaps they died out during the intertestamental period (also called the 400 years of silence).
What Can We Learn from Anak in the Bible?
We can learn many things from this man, even though not much is listed about him.
First, we know that Satan likes to twist creation. Satan’s schemes often rhyme, if not repeat. He tried to make human-demon hybrids in Genesis 6. When God wiped them out, he decided to start over with the line of Anak. In the end, the Anakim were destroyed.
Secondly, anyone who belongs to Satan will try to destroy the people of God. Even though we may not have giants roaming the earth anymore, plenty of people would like to see the people of God suffer. Jesus did tell his followers that the world would hate him.
Thirdly, God has the final say, even against a great enemy. We see in both the narrative of David and the narrative of the Promised Land that the Israelites were frightened. They were so afraid of the Anakim that they forgot the power of God. Thankfully God used the faithful few—such as Joshua and Caleb (two of the Israelite spies) and David—to show his power. Although the sons of Anak may be great, God is greater.
Photo Credit: Getty Images/fcscafeine
Hope Bolinger is an acquisitions editor at End Game Press, and the author 21+ books. More than 1400 of her works have been featured in various publications. Check out her books at hopebolinger.com for clean books in most genres, great for adults and kids.
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