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TJ Steadman on Num 13:33—the mother of all Nephilim texts

TJ Steadman, with whom I had a debate/discussion, wrote, “By examining the Scriptures, we are able to get a good idea of the size of the Nephilim. The account in Numbers tells of immense size.” Note that the Book of Numbers record post-flood events.

In another article, I noted that TJ Steadman sometimes wants his cake, wants to eat it, and does not want to get fat.
Well, we have another such occasion in the case of the mother of all Nephilim texts—the mother of the mere two we have in the Bible: Gen 6:4 and Num 13:33 (so, they are not really even texts but verses), the latter is not commenting upon the former even though it is obviously related.

During our debate, he stated, “what I’m really saying here is not that I’m arguing that there are Nephilim after the flood” and in his book “At the end of the Flood narrative…the Nephilim have all died.”

Numbers records a mere claim of post-flood Nephilim, a claim for which the unreliable speakers were rebuked—my opening statement for the debate was focused on this point alone.

So, if and since “At the end of the Flood narrative…the Nephilim have all died” and he is “not…arguing that there are Nephilim after the flood” then, pray tell, how could we “get a good idea of the size of the Nephilim” “By examining the Scriptures” since the only reliable Nephilim verse, Gen 6:4, does not provide any sort of physical description and the unreliable one, Num 13:33 well, we will have to see, since there were no Nephilim post-flood but there also were—or, something.
Actually, TJ Steadman does, in fact, believe in two forms of post-flood Nephilim: 1) Nephilim in spirit form as demons (since he believes pseudepigraphical folklore from millennia after the Torah was written), and 2) Nephilim 2.0 in the form of Rephaim (which is utterly unbiblical for a number of reasons).

But still, the unreliable speakers recorded in Num 13:33 refer to “Nephilim” not to Rephaim (except that they also refer Anakim who are a Rephaim subgroup)—and they refer to Nephilim being alive and well, on the ground at that time, etc.
Yet, TJ Steadman also, sort of, denies (and also agrees with) this—as we shall see.

One last note before really digging in: TJ Steadman, who I really would like to see become a friend of the sort with whom I can keep sharpening iron with iron, suffers from a condition I will herein coin as Gigorexia Nervosa which is the obsessing desire to see giants everywhere (and invent them if they are nowhere to be seen)—the same condition afflicts the people I featured in my book Nephilim and Giants As Per Pop-Researchers.

TJ Steadman wrote, “It is well attested historically that the average fully grown Israelite man of those days stood not much taller than 5 feet 3 inches, or approximately 160cm. Therefore, it would be reasonable to conclude that anyone considered a giant on the basis of physical comparison would have been upwards of six feet tall as a starting point, from the point of view of the Israelites.”

Close, but the well attested historical average ranges from 5.0-5.3—and that is the average for males who tend to be taller than females on average.
In any case, it is close enough but the problem is that such stuff is so subjective: “giant” is a subjective term, “tall” is likewise, as is “average,” and I can attest to you that in modern day North America at 6 ft even (another inch with my shoes on) I have been called a giant many, many, many times.

TJ Steadman wrote:

By examining the Scriptures, we are able to get a good idea of the size of the Nephilim. The account in Numbers tells of immense size – the Israelite spies appeared to be grasshoppers by comparison, and not just from their own point of view!
Even allowing for hyperbole on the part of the spies, this is a significant difference in size. We’re not talking about a few inches.

Incidentally, the LXX renders the last two verses slightly differently to illustrate this point:

Numbers 13:33-34 (NETS) “And they brought about consternation for the land that they had spied out, to the sons of Israel, saying, “The land that we passed through to spy it out – it is a land that devours those who live upon it. All the people that we saw in it are very tall men, and we have seen the giants there, and we were before them like grasshoppers – indeed even so we were before them.”

The LXX translation is most notable here for plainly affirming the great size of the giants over and above the size of the natural human inhabitants of the land, who were also tall men. So, it reveals that where the Canaanites were taller than Israelites, the giants were taller still.

Part of the issue is when we speak in terms of, for example, “the Scriptures…The account in” so that we are thinking about a text we automatically think of as being “God’s Word,” which the Bible is, without thinking about who said it, why they said it, how it was received, etc. For example, “the Bible says” and “Moses wrote” and “God inspired” the recording of statements by Satan and while we should believe that he stated them, we should not believe the statements.

Thus, “Numbers tells of immense size” or even “the Israelite spies appeared to be…” is not specific enough since TJ Steadman is really referring to ten of the twelve spies: the ten who proved themselves to be unfaithful, disloyal, self-contradictory, embellishers, who made four claims about which the rest of the Bible knows nothing, who also contradicted Caleb, Joshua, Moses, God and the whole rest of the Bible, and were rebuked for what they said.

Thus, it is not just a matter of “allowing for hyperbole.” Yet, I agree that “this is a significant difference in size. We’re not talking about a few inches” but difference of more than a few inches in real life, or in unreliable people’s mere assertions?

It is fascinating that he quotes the LXX since, did you notice it?, it lacks reference to Anakim so that based on it, it cannot be claimed that Anakim are related to Nephilim.
Note also that TJ Steadman is staking the deck, as it were, by baiting and switching the verse’s reference to “Nephilim” and opting to tell us about “giants.”

No version, not even the LXX, plainly or vaguely affirms a supposed “great size of the giants.” He just thinks this because he thinks that the Greek word(s) “gigantes” or “gigas” implies something about size (some vaguely unspecific something) which is not the case: those terms mean “earth-born.”
Thus, there is no indication that “Canaanites were taller than Israelites, the giants were taller still” but only that some Rephaim, such as the Anakim, were “tall” or “of great stature” (since there is no such word as “giant” in the Hebrew Bible—and yes, tall, great stature, and giant are all subjective terms).

TJ Steadman also wrote:

But the most significant contribution that the LXX makes to our understanding here is the removal of ambiguity about perspective. Whereas the MT versions tell us that the Israelites “were grasshoppers in [their] own sight,” the LXX simply repeats for emphasis that the spies were seen as such by the giants.

This removes the possibility of interpreting the size of the giants as an exaggeration based on fearful self-doubt. Instead, it affirms that the Israelites were viewed as physically insignificant by comparison, in the eyes and minds of the giants themselves.

“But the ten spies were lying!” This is a common objection, but it struggles to gain traction against the Biblical consensus. The phrase “evil report” sounds like a deliberate deception until we consider the original text. The word dibbah is used, which is always negative, usually meaning “unfavorable report” or “infamy.”
The text does not require dishonesty or falsehood. It just means it wasn’t good. The spies didn’t like what they saw, and they freely expressed their disappointment and hopelessness. That’s okay. It’s not a sin to be discouraged. They weren’t lying.

He is still focused on the statement rather than on the prior question which is that if it is reliable—which is 100% is not for many reasons.

So, sure, it is emphasized that Israelites and Nephilim saw the situation as such but so what? If was not true then it matters not.

By the way, if we are going to use a comparison to grasshoppers as a means whereby to determine how tall Nephilim were then we have also figured out how tall God is.
Indeed, after all, in the LXX has Isaiah 40:22 as that “It is he” God, “that comprehends the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants in it are as grasshoppers.”

As for the claim that “But the ten spies were lying!” as “a common objection” that supposedly “struggles to gain traction” especially up “against the Biblical consensus,” during our debate he repeated the “phrase ‘evil report’ sounds like…” argument but I shortcut it by denying that I think it is a deception because it is called evil or bad but because of its contents and, actually, due to the Biblical consensus which knows of no such thing, beyond that one verse, of that 1) all the inhabitants of the land were of great height, that 2) there were post-flood Nephilim, that 3) Anakim are related to them, and that 4) Nephilim were very tall.
For those four claims one must rely exclusively on one single verse—and a verse recording statements by utterly unreliable people whom God rebuked.

True, “The text does not require dishonesty or falsehood” but while it does not require dishonesty or falsehood, it at the very least implies it in many ways.
As for that “it wasn’t good” due to that “The” ten, by the way, “spies didn’t like what they saw” so that it was called evil/bad due to that “they freely expressed their disappointment and hopelessness” and they were “discouraged” well, as I noted during the debate: disappointment, hopelessness, and discouragement were expressed by the ten before we are told they presented an evil/bad report and only thereafter are we told of that report.
Thus, it was not evil/bad for those reasons (even if it was premised upon them) but due to its contents.

TJ Steadman also noted:

Genesis and Numbers both make it clear that these giants had great strength, which means that they could not have been like the occasional “giant” people we see today. Modern “giants” are usually tall and thin, or people sufferring from a condition like gigantism, which renders the individual weak, lame and short-lived.

Such people are rare, and they do not breed more of the same – it is a freak condition that occurs randomly and spontaneously. The Israelite spies reported seeing no less than five nations of giant people inhabiting the land, who were both tall and strong.

Regarding both Genesis and Numbers making it clear that these Nephilim, by the way, had great strength: Gen 6:4 notes that Nephilim became “mighty men which were of old, men of renown” which tells us nothing about strength—and certainly nothing about height. As far as Num 13:33, he is commonsensically inferring that with great height comes great strength.

Note the claim that “The Israelite spies” only ten of them “reported seeing no less than five nations of giant people inhabiting the land, who were both tall and strong” but this is part of the embellishment.
The contextually relevant portions of the Num 13 narrative consists of the original accepted as is report, the interaction between Caleb (with whom Joshua sided) and the other ten spies), and the evil/bad report.
The original/as is report notes that the peoples are “strong.” During the interaction, the ten then reaffirm that they are “strong.” Yet, within their evil/bad report they suddenly claim that they are all “of great stature.”
Thus, TJ Steadman is just mashing everything together into a sentence that is meant to buttress his point—spiked by the term “giant.”

He also writes:

Amos 2:9 is noteworthy because Yahweh Himself speaks of the Amorites and says that they were as tall as cedar trees and strong as oaks. Cedars are often used as a metaphor for gods. Even allowing for hyperbole, it is clear as in the situation in Numbers 13, that these men were enormous and strong:

Amos 2:9 “Yet destroyed I the Amorite before them, whose height was like the height of the cedars, and he was strong as the oaks; yet I destroyed his fruit from above, and his roots from beneath.”

I have been over this text way too many times so here are the bare bones: the term “enormous” is subjective but yes, the point is that they were big (another subjective term) and strong just like when Moses later relates the Num 13 events and in Deut 1:28 were he has it that “our brethren have discouraged our heart, saying, The people is greater and taller than we; the cities are great and walled up to heaven.”

Now, whether he is speaking of the first, second, or third heavens: those are some very, very, tall, tall, enormous walls. Rather, this is the stuff of which ANE hyperbole is made—just as is the description of the Tower of Babel “let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven” (Gen 11:4).

TJ Steadman then mentions the most well-known “giant”:

Goliath of Gath is arguably the best-known giant and stood roughly nine feet nine inches or 2.97 meters high according to the Masoretic Text.
Lesser-known giants include Goliath’s brothers Ishbibenob, Saph (also called Sippai) and Lahmi, together with an unnamed giant who is recorded as having six fingers on each hand, and six toes on each foot. These five were sons of a giant father…

Note that the massive size of their weapons (a three-hundred-shekel spearhead equates to 3.4 kilograms or 7.5 pounds) implies that there must have been enormous strength required to use them. Goliath’s spearhead weighed twice as much. How effectively could any modern man use a spear with a head weighing 15 pounds?

The father of these five brothers is referred to as “the giant” in many versions; in others, he is called “Rapha.” Some believe it is a proper name, others say it is a tribal name or line of descent, but most commonly it is believed to be simply a descriptor of his giant size.

It is commonly said that the Nephilim had six digits on each hand and foot, but that seems not to be the case, given that in this passage only one of the brothers was considered worthy of note as such. In fact, the point can be made that this particular giant was so unusual that his name was not even recorded.

TJ Steaman is well aware that the Masoretic Text is in the minority since the LXX, Dead Sea Scrolls, Flavius Josephus, and other manuscripts have him as being just shy of 7 ft.
Good point about “six fingers on each hand, and six toes on each foot” since many claim that such is a “Nephilim trait” yet, it is only stated about one single person and he was not a Nephil but was a Repha. TJ Steadman is one of the few (sort of) post-flood Nephilim believers who gets this.

“How effectively could any modern man use a spear with a head weighing 15 pounds?” I know not but I do not know that an average 5.0-5.3 used it just fine, thank you very much. The only other specific reference to height in the Bible is “an Egyptian, a man of great stature, five cubits high” who, just like Goliath had “a spear like a weaver’s beam.” Note that Benaiah “plucked the spear out of the Egyptian’s hand, and slew him with his own spear” (1 Chronicles 11:23). Thus, valiant and yet, regular guy Benaiah used wielded it successfully in hand-to-hand combat.
As for the weaponry: Goliath had help since he had “one bearing a shield went before him” which implies an armor bearer who assisted with the equipment. Also, you can watch strong-man or power-lifting competitions wherein guys who are right about 6 ft lift 1,000 lbs.

As to “the giant” “is called ‘Rapha’” well, he is not just “called” that, he was a Repha with “the giant” being a problematic rendering, a pseudo-translation—Repha (Or, Rapha) is 100% a “tribal name or line of descent” and never a “descriptor of his giant size.”

TJ Steadman then wrote:

Some argue that perhaps all people of ancient times were bigger than modern man. If that were the case, the writers of the Old Testament would have thought nothing of the size of the men described and would not have bothered to make any contrast with other men as though they were any different.
It is obvious that where the Scripture describes giants it does not speak of them as ordinary men. The giants were real, and they were spectacular.

Were they 450-foot monsters like the book of 1 Enoch would have us believe? Even the 36-foot giants imagined in Internet conspiracy theory videos are too much for any realistic and well-grounded Bible believer. Most Bible versions quote Goliath’s height at six cubits and a span.

I do not know who “Some” are but I see no reliable evidence for that “all people of ancient times were bigger than modern man.”
Yet, I also do not see that “the writers of the Old Testament” make much of a contrast: again, they call some people “tall” or “of great stature” and neither of the merely to specific heights mentioned in the whole Bible—which one would imagine were specifically specified due to being so unusual—even make it to 8 ft (which is just like modern day pro basketball players since none of them quite make it to 8 ft).

Analyzing the sentence, “It is obvious that where the Scripture describes giants it does not speak of them as ordinary men. The giants were real, and they were spectacular” we must biblically read it as that “It is obvious that where the Scripture describes giants” meaning what Nephilim or Rephaim or gibborim or a reference to height (inches taller, feet taller, entire body lengths taller) or that Nephilim or Rephaim or gibborim were taller than average (by however much) which would be an utterly generic claim “it” most certainly “does…speak of them as ordinary men” since Rephaim are 100% human, gibborim merely means might/mighty, and we have no reliable physical description of Nephilim.
Thus, that “The giants were real, and they were spectacular” is generic enough to be a meaningless statement.

1 Enoch aka Ethiopic Enoch actually states “three thousand ells is their height” (7:2) and while it is thought that an ell ranges from 27-45 inches this rage results in then being 81,000-135,000 ft. or 15.3-25.6 mi. (yes, miles) tall (see my book In Consideration of the Book(s) of Enoch). As for the “Internet conspiracy theory videos,” how do I just know he is referring to Rob Skiba and those who parrot him?

To the statement I just commented upon, he attached this footnote:

It is commonly assumed that in units of length, the traditional cubit of 18 inches or 45cm would have been in used during the time of the Kings; however some argue the Greek LXX most likely employs the royal Egyptian cubit because it was translated as a means of preserving the Scripture in the common language of its time for an Egyptian audience, which it is argued would necessitate an attempt at approximate unit conversion.

The LXX takes similar liberties elsewhere, updating place names for the benefit of its contemporary readership, so the idea of units of measure also being updated is not implausible. The royal Egyptian cubit equals roughly 52.4cm or 20.62 inches, and the span is half a cubit, 26.2cm or 10.31 inches. The unit is based on the measurement of a typical forearm, from elbow to fingertip.

This would make the typical Israelite cubit (based on the average male Israelite stature of 5’3″) more like 16″ or 40cm, and the span 8″ or 20cm. The date of the events does not necessarily indicate any certainty of the measure in use because of the fact that the date of authorship (and any later redaction or editing) may have influenced the measurement actually preserved in the record.

It certainly is likely that the LXX is using longer cubits which, of course, means that we should be less impressed by its sizes—but what sizes, the size of the only two people’s heights specified therein? The LXX still has Goliath at just shy of 7 ft—which yes, would be quite tall compared to 5.0-5.3 ft.

TJ Steadman wrote:

But that was not the last that Israel would see of the Amalekites. As the Israelites approached the Promised Land, they sent spies ahead of them; this was not a good move because they had not been directed to do so by Yahweh.

And in that same vein, the failures of Israel began to multiply. The spies brought a mostly fearful and faithless report back on account of the understandably genuine concerns that there were giants in the land equipped.

Actually, Num 13 begins with “And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Send thou men, that they may search the land of Canaan, which I give unto the children of Israel.”

Overall, this was an issue of that “The” ten” spies brought a mostly fearful and faithless” evil/bad “report back on account of the understandably genuine concerns that” as the original/as is report had it, “the people be strong that dwell in the land, and the cities are walled” which led to a fear-mongering scare-tact tall tale of the “Don’t go in the woods” sort when thy took it up a notch seeing themselves being up against the wall.

Lastly, beyond any and all of this, during out debate TJ Steadman argued that it was a redactor who, millennia later during the Babylonian exile, inserted the Aramaic term naphiyla into Num 13:33—even though there is no textual evidence of that—so that we know not what the ten spies actually stated which ends up discrediting his entire case—beyond all of the other reasons I noted for discrediting it.

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