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REPHAITES, REPHAIM (rĕf'ā-īts, rĕf'ā-ĭm, Heb. rephā’îm, mighty). The name of a giant people, called also Rephainer (Gen.14.5; Gen.15.20 kjv), who lived in Canaan even before the time of Abraham. They are listed among Canaanites who were to be dispossessed (Gen.15.20). They were like the Anakim in Deut.2.11, Deut.2.20. Og, king of Bashan, was a descendant of the Rephaites (Josh.12.4; Josh.13.12).

REPHAIM rĕf’ ĭ əm (רְפָאִים, H8327; LXX see below; derived either from Heb. רָפָא, 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 [1938], 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.


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.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)