On Matthew Goff’s “Subterranean Giants and Septuagint Proverbs: The ‘Earth-Born’ of LXX Proverbs”

Matthew Goff contributed a chapter titled, “Subterranean Giants and Septuagint Proverbs: The ‘Earth-Born’ of LXX Proverbs” to Karoly Daniel Dobos and Miklos Koszeghy, eds., With Wisdom as a Robe: Qumran and Other Jewish Studies In Honour of Ida Frohlich (Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2009).

Goff sought “to demonstrate that Septuagint (LXX) Proverbs, in particular Prov. 2.18, can make a modest contribution to gigantology, or the study of giants, in ancient Jewish literature” since that verse references “a house that is ‘beside Hades with the earth-born’” which the KJV has as “For her house inclineth unto death, and her paths unto the dead” with “dead” rendering rephaim which the LXX has as gigantes which, indeed, means earth-born.

Now, Goff comments, “While the word γίγαντες [gigantes] normally means ‘mortal’ in the Septuagint, in LXX Prov. 2.18 the term can plausibly be understood as a reference to giants” but this is generic since he has not told us what he means by giants.

Thus, in the LXX it is “understood as a reference to giants” only when we understand the English word giants to be rendering rephaim/dead but nothing to do with the modern usage of that vague, generic, subjective, and multi-usage word which has been taken to imply something about unusual height.

Goff continues, “The translator’s choice of the word ‘earth-born’ in LXX Prov. 2.18, I submit, reflects knowledge of Greek traditions regarding giants and titans, born of the goddess Gaia.” What Goff is doing is jumping from rephaim as dead to rephaim rendered (not even translated) as gigantes/earth-born and then to “giants and titans” as gigantes in “Greek traditions” such as mythology.

Goff further notes:

“In MT Prov. 2.18 and 9.18 the Rephaim (רְפָאִים) are, respectively, associated with the terms ‘death’ and ‘Sheol’. In the Hebrew Bible, the word רְפָאִים [rephaim] is generally understood as a reference to the ‘shades’, humans who have died and reside in Sheol.

The term can also signify early inhabitants of Canaan. Deuteronomy 3.10-11, for example, describes King Og of Bashan as the last of the Rephaim (cf. Josh. 12.4; 17.15). The Rephaim of early Canaan are colossal figures. According to Deut. 3.11, for example, King Og had an iron bed nine cubits long and four cubits wide (cf. 2.10-11; Num. 13.33).

Ugaritic has a cognate term, rpum. The word refers to inhabitants of the underworld, although not simply the human dead…the meanings of the term are debated, it often refers to ‘deified royal ancestors…The word רְפָאִים was not understood by the Septuagint translator as simply the human dead. רְפָאִים often corresponds to γίγας (‘giant’). This makes sense given the size of the Rephaim of early Canaan.”

Now he is firmly employing rephaim to the people group Rephaim and viewing them as gigantes/gigas/giants with reference to unusual height.

Yet, one key missing data point in the Bible is anything to do with that Rephaim, as physically “colossal figures” and “the size of the Rephaim” cannot be determined by the size of one of their beds—since we have no reliable physical description of Og (only a tall tale within Genesis Rabbah that dates to centuries into AD times). Archeologists have found beds of such dimensions and they are not to be slept on but are ritual objected whereon supposed gods and alleged goddesses mate.

Yet, his reference to “The Rephaim of early Canaan” as “colossal figures” stinks of the “evil report” within Numbers 13:33 but that is all it was, it was fear-mongering, scare-tactic tall tale stated by unfaithful, disloyal, contradictory, embellishing spies whom God rebuked and who made five claims about which the whole entire rest of the Bible knows nothing.

What we are told is that Anakim (a Rephaim subgroup) were “tall” (see Deuteronomy 2) but that is subjective to the average Israelite male of those days who was 5.0-5.3 ft.

Goff notes that in Isaiah 14:9 “Rephaim were ‘leaders of the earth’ and ‘kings of the nations’, rulers of a bygone era who live in the netherworld.” That verse states, “Hell [sheol] from beneath is moved for thee to meet thee at thy coming: it stirreth up the dead [rephaim] for thee, even all the chief ones of the earth; it hath raised up from their thrones all the kings of the nations” (KJV).

This is the tricky nature of reading a word and its root as if they mean the same and have the same usage. And yet, dead Rephaim are repha Rephaim.

Goff goes in various directs since he is juggling Hebrew, Greek, English and is appealing to meanings and usages.

Thus, he quotes, “LXX Prov. 21.16: ‘A man who strays from the path of righteousness will rest with the assembly of giants [rephaim]” thus, straying from the path of righteousness results in resting with the assembly of the dead.

He notes, “γίγαντες in the Septuagint denote mortals” at times, such as that “In the Wisdom of Solomon [a.k.a. Book of Wisdom, mid-first c. BC] the term signifies Adam…Solomon describes himself as ‘a descendant of the first­formed child of earth’ (Wis. 7.1)…LXX Ps 48.3 (MT 49.3) uses the word to refer to all people…LXX Jer. 39.20 (MT 32.20) similarly asserts that all those in Israel and elsewhere in the world…recognize the power of God’s miracles in Egypt.”

Thus, “‘earth-born’ can be interpreted as a reference to the human dead” as we have seen.

Yet, he keep going back to, for example, that an “examination of the word in a Greek context suggests the, term in LXX Prov. 2.18 can be plausibly understood as a reference to giants…It is possible, however, that the term refers to giants in LXX Prov. 2.18” but we must constantly ask such authors what they mean by giants at any given time.

Recall that he had already referenced this verse “For her house inclineth unto death, and her paths unto the dead” but the context clearly does not allow for this to mean anything to do with “reference to giants” as in unusually tall people.

Yet, Goff notes:

“In Greek mythology the word γίγαντες evokes the titans and the giants. The titans are born of the goddess Gaia (earth). They comprise six sons of Gaia and Uranus (heaven) and their sisters and wives.

Zeus banishes them to Tartarus, the lowest region of Hades [the Abyss], where they are bound (Hesiod, Theog. 690-750).

The giants are separate offspring, formed from the drops of blood that spilled when Cronus castrated Uranus with a sickle (Theog. 183-87). They too are children of Gaia, Uranus being her first child (Theog. 126). The giants are described as ‘earth-born.’”

Yet, just because in Greek mythology “titans and the giants” are referred to as gigantes does not mean that such is what Rephaim were unusually tall.

A very important issue is that for unknown reasons, the LXX translators rendered Rephaim as gigantes but they also rendered Nephilim as gigantes. So, does this imply that Nephilim were also unusually tall? No, because the LXX translators rendered gibborim as gigantes but that is merely a descriptive term meaning might/mighty.

This denotes why it is a terrible idea to render more than one word with just one word—especially when those words are so very different and mean very different things.

Goff seems to have titled his chapter, “Subterranean Giants and Septuagint Proverbs: The ‘Earth-Born’ of LXX Proverbs” due to that “After the giants were destroyed in battle, at least some of them carried on a form of existence underground.”

As a side note, Zeus banished them to a location called  Tartarus but that is also a person’s/a being’s name, “Typhon, a gargantuan monster produced by Gaia and Tartarus…Typhon is much larger than the giants.”

Their “form of existence underground” was such that “rumblings of some volcanoes were attributed to subterranean giants.”

Goff ties this together, at least seemingly, with that “The location of the ‘earth-born’ of Proverbs 2 in Hades is compatible with that of the titans and the giants….Proverbs 30.16 (LXX 24.51) mentions Tartarus, the lowest level of the nether­world in Greek mythology.”

That verse reads thusly in the KJV, “The grave; and the barren womb [tartarus]; the earth that is not filled with water; and the fire that saith not, It is enough.”

Goff adds, “Josephus, when discussing the wicked deeds of the gigantic offspring of the Watchers, observes that their deeds ‘resemble the audacious exploits told by the Greeks of the giants’ (Ant. 1.73.).”

One issue is whether Josephus, writing in AD days, had any special insight—which it appears that he did not.

Yet, one reason for similarities may be that what was once commonly known and shared history came to eventually be called myth and legend after the Tower of Babel event before which humanity lived in relative proximity and after which we dispersed throughout the Earth and took such knowledge with us.

Goff notes, “The early Christian Testament of Solomon also recounts the spirits of the giants, depicting them as meddlesome and sources of mayhem on earth…Solomon summons one of the spirits who states: ‘I am a lecherous spirit of a giant man who died in a massacre in the age of giants I set myself near dead men in the tombs and at midnight I assume the form of the dead’ (T. Sol. 17.1-2; cf. 5.3).”

It may be “early Christian” but that means 1-3 c. AD in this case.

Goff thinks, “the term ‘earth-born’ in LXX Proverbs 2 can be understood as a reference to mortals or the human dead, there is enough evidence to posit that this term reflects knowledge of Greek giant traditions.”

Goff notes that in Jubilees 10 “spirits of the giants are identified as demons suggest that they are sent to the underworld.” But in this case, he is referring to Nephilim as giants which is another example of the problem with authors who use words in various ways and without telling us how they are changing their usage from one statement to the next. Incidentally, 1 Enoch/Ethiopic Enoch also claims that demons are dead Nephilim but those are just assertions from millennia after the Torah was written since they are both pseudepigraphic texts. For my biblical theory about who/what demons are, see my article Demons Ex Machina: What Are Demons?

Since this has been a rough review, see my relevant books for more details.

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