REPHAIM rĕf’ ĭ əm (רְפָאִימ֒, H8327; LXX see below; derived either from Heb. רָפָא֒, H8324, to heal, or from the root רפה, to sink, relax, in sense; sunken, powerless ones).
Deuteronomy 2:10, 11 says that they were great, many and tall like the Anakim. Og, king of Bashan, for example possessed a kingsize iron bed, nine cubits long and four cubits broad. Probably this statement combined with statements about the descendants of Rapha, who were giants associated with the Philistines in the time of David, caused the occasional tr. of “giants” in the LXX and Targ. Onkelos. G. E. Wright reasoned that “the Israelite tradition of giant Rephaim undoubtedly arose in part from the contemplation of megalithic structures especially in Transjordan.” In a note he added: “comparatively few of these structures have been found in Western Palestine” (“Troglodytes and Giants in Palestine,” JBL LVII , 37). But here G. E. Wright is inconsistent with his normal and preferred method of interpreting artifacts. Instead of regarding these artifacts as occasioning an Israelite aetiology they should be regarded as circumstantial evidence supporting the Biblical narrative.
The RSV correctly distinguished these three senses of rephaim by tr. it respectively “shades,” “Rephaim” and “giants.” The relationship between these three usages is obscure.
Bibliography G. E. Wright, “Troglodytes and Giants,” JBL, LVII (1938), 305-309; J. Gray, “The Rephaim,” PEQ, LXXXIV (1949), 127-139; G. R. Driver, Canaanite Myths and Legends, OT Studies, no. 3 (1956), 9, 10, 67-71, 155; W. F. Albright, Yahweh and the Gods of Canaan (1968), n. 43.
Lofty men; giants, (Gen. 14:5; 2 Sam. 21:16, 18, marg. A.V., Rapha, marg. R.V., Raphah; Deut. 3:13, R.V.; A.V., “giants”). The aborigines of Palestine, afterwards conquered and dispossessed by the Canaanite tribes, are classed under this general title. They were known to the Moabites as Emim, i.e., “fearful”, (Deut. 2:11), and to the Ammonites as Zamzummim. Some of them found refuge among the Philistines, and were still existing in the days of David. We know nothing of their origin. They were not necessarily connected with the “giants” (R.V., “Nephilim”) of Gen. 6:4. (See Giants.)