The Rephaim

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It is written:

Isaiah 14:9-Hell from beneath is excited about you, To meet you at your coming; It stirs up the dead for you, All the chief ones of the earth; It has raised up from their thrones All the kings of the nations.

In the Old Testament, reference is sometimes made to beings known as the Rephaim. Here is every passage where this specific word is found:

Genesis 14:5-In the fourteenth year Chedorlaomer and the kings that were with him came and attacked the Rephaim in Ashteroth Karnaim, the Zuzim in Ham, the Emim in Shaveh Kiriathaim,

Genesis 15:20-the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim,

Deuteronomy 2:10-11-They were also regarded as giants (Rephaim), like the Anakim, but the Moabites call them Emim. 12  The Horites formerly dwelt in Seir, but the descendants of Esau dispossessed them and destroyed them from before them, and dwelt in their place, just as Israel did to the land of their possession which the LORD gave them.)

Deuteronomy 2:20-21-(That was also regarded as a land of giants (Rephaim); giants (Rephaim) formerly dwelt there. But the Ammonites call them Zamzummim, 21  a people as great and numerous and tall as the Anakim. But the LORD destroyed them before them, and they dispossessed them and dwelt in their place,

Deuteronomy 3:11-13-For only Og king of Bashan remained of the remnant of the giants (Rephaim). Indeed his bedstead was an iron bedstead. (Is it not in Rabbah of the people of Ammon?) Nine cubits is its length and four cubits its width, according to the standard cubit. 12  “And this land, which we possessed at that time, from Aroer, which is by the River Arnon, and half the mountains of Gilead and its cities, I gave to the Reubenites and the Gadites. 13  The rest of Gilead, and all Bashan, the kingdom of Og, I gave to half the tribe of Manasseh. (All the region of Argob, with all Bashan, was called the land of the giants (Rephaim).

Joshua 12:4-The other king was Og king of Bashan and his territory, who was of the remnant of the giants (Rephaim), who dwelt at Ashtaroth and at Edrei,

Joshua 13:12-all the kingdom of Og in Bashan, who reigned in Ashtaroth and Edrei, who remained of the remnant of the giants (Rephaim); for Moses had defeated and cast out these.

Joshua 15:8-And the border went up by the Valley of the Son of Hinnom to the southern slope of the Jebusite city (which is Jerusalem). The border went up to the top of the mountain that lies before the Valley of Hinnom westward, which is at the end of the Valley of Rephaim northward.

Joshua 17:15-So Joshua answered them, “If you are a great people, then go up to the forest country and clear a place for yourself there in the land of the Perizzites and the giants (Rephaim), since the mountains of Ephraim are too confined for you.”

Joshua 18:16-Then the border came down to the end of the mountain that lies before the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, which is in the Valley of the Rephaim on the north, descended to the Valley of Hinnom, to the side of the Jebusite city on the south, and descended to En Rogel.

2 Samuel 5:18-The Philistines also went and deployed themselves in the Valley of Rephaim.

2 Samuel 5:22-Then the Philistines went up once again and deployed themselves in the Valley of Rephaim.

2 Samuel 23:13-Then three of the thirty chief men went down at harvest time and came to David at the cave of Adullam. And the troop of Philistines encamped in the Valley of Rephaim.

1 Chronicles 11:15-Now three of the thirty chief men went down to the rock to David, into the cave of Adullam; and the army of the Philistines encamped in the Valley of Rephaim.

1 Chronicles 14:9-Then the Philistines went and made a raid on the Valley of Rephaim.

1 Chronicles 20:4-Now it happened afterward that war broke out at Gezer with the Philistines, at which time Sibbechai the Hushathite killed Sippai, who was one of the sons of the giant (Rephaim). And they were subdued.

1 Chronicles 20:6-Yet again there was war at Gath, where there was a man of great stature, with twenty-four fingers and toes, six on each hand and six on each foot; and he also was born to the giant (Rephaim).

1 Chronicles 20:8-These were born to the giant (Rephaim) in Gath, and they fell by the hand of David and by the hand of his servants.

Job 26:5-The dead (Rephaim) tremble, Those under the waters and those inhabiting them.

Psalms 88:10-Will You work wonders for the dead (Rephaim)? Shall the dead arise and praise You? Selah

Proverbs 2:18-For her house leads down to death, And her paths to the dead (Rephaim);

Proverbs 9:18-But he does not know that the dead (Rephaim) are there, That her guests are in the depths of hell.

Proverbs 21:16-A man who wanders from the way of understanding Will rest in the assembly of the dead (Rephaim).

Isaiah 14:9-Hell from beneath is excited about you, To meet you at your coming; It stirs up the dead (Rephaim) for you, All the chief ones of the earth; It has raised up from their thrones All the kings of the nations.

Isaiah 17:5-It shall be as when the harvester gathers the grain, And reaps the heads with his arm; It shall be as he who gathers heads of grain In the Valley of Rephaim.

Isaiah 26:14-They are dead (Rephaim), they will not live; They are deceased, they will not rise. Therefore You have punished and destroyed them, And made all their memory to perish.

Isaiah 26:19-Your dead shall live; Together with my dead body they shall arise. Awake and sing, you who dwell in dust; For your dew is like the dew of herbs, And the earth shall cast out the dead (Rephaim).

Who are these beings?

The Bible, along with extra-biblical evidence, connects these beings to the Nephilim, the offspring of angels and humans killed during the Flood (Genesis 6:1-4).

Let’s study.

First, the texts especially in Deuteronomy and Joshua show the connection between the Rephaim and the giants of Genesis 6:1-4. Michael Heiser reminds us of the Bible’s connection between the Rephaim and the Nephilim.

“The English Standard Version renders rĕpāʾîm as “giants,” “shades” (meaning “spirits of the dead”), or “the dead,” depending on context (see, e.g., 1 Chr 20: 4; Isa 26: 14; and Job 26: 5, respectively). This variation in translation highlights the main interpretive difficulty surrounding the term: were the Rephaim humans (whether living or dead), quasi-divine beings, or disembodied spirits? Biblical usage ranges across all of these possibilities while extrabiblical sources like the Ugaritic tablets do not present the Rephaim as giants. The Ugaritic rpʾum are clearly divine residents of the underworld. The term rpʾum occurs in parallel to ʾilnym (“ underworld gods”) and ʾilm (“ gods”), and other tablets place the rpʾum in the underworld. 16 The English translation of rĕpāʾîm as “shades” captures the “otherworldly, shadowy nature of the living-dead residents of the underworld.” 17 For the purposes of the present study, the point to be made is that the biblical Rephaim are supernatural residents of the underworld, a place in the spiritual plane of reality dissociated with the presence of God. 18 To remain in that place was to be separated from life with God. That idea is evident in passages like Proverbs 21: 16: “One who wanders from the way of good sense [i.e., one who is a fool, defined in Scripture as a wicked person or unbeliever] will rest in the assembly of the dead [rĕpāʾîm].” The fool misled by the wicked woman Folly into keeping company with her in her home “does not know that the dead [rĕpāʾîm] are there, that her guests are in the depths of Sheol” (Prov 9: 18). It is noteworthy that, unlike the material from Ugarit, the Old Testament at times uses the term rĕpāʾîm for the giant clans of the days of Moses and Joshua. Og, king of Bashan, was said to be the last vestige of the Rephaim (Deut 3: 11, 13; Josh 12: 4; 13: 12). The Rephaim are linked to the Anakim in Deuteronomy 2: 10–11: “The Emim formerly lived there, a people great and many, and tall as the Anakim. Like the Anakim, they are also counted as Rephaim.” According to Numbers 13: 33, the Anakim were “from the Nephilim.” As we will see in chapters 5 and 6, biblical writers saw the origin of the Nephilim as extending from the rebellion of divine “sons of God” (Gen 6: 1–4) before the flood. This became the basis for the Jewish theology of the origin of demons in the Second Temple era. 19 Consequently there is a dark, sinister element to the Israelite conception of the Rephaim as inhabitants of the underworld.” (Michael S. Heiser, Demons: What the Bible Really Says About the Powers of Darkness, 10-12 (Kindle Edition); Bellingham, WA; Lexham Press)

Second, recall that according to the well-known book of First Enoch (a book referenced more than 100 times in the Bible), the two hundred fallen angels (“sons of God” Genesis 6:1-4) made their covenant to have half angelic and half human offspring on Mount Hermon.

1 Enoch 6:1-6-“When the sons of men[ 17] had multiplied, in those days, beautiful and comely daughters were born to them. 2/ And the watchers, the sons of heaven, saw them and desired them.[ 18] And they said to one another, “Come, let us choose for ourselves wives from the daughters of men,[ 19] and let us beget children for ourselves.” 3 And Shemihazah, their chief, said to them, “I fear that you will not want to do this deed, and I alone shall be guilty of a great sin.” 4 And they all answered him and said, “Let us all swear an oath, and let us all bind one another with a curse, that none of us turn back from this counsel until we fulfill it and do this deed.” 5 Then they all swore together and bound one another with a curse. 6/ And they were, all of them, two hundred, who descended in the days of Jared onto the peak of Mount Hermon. And they called the mountain “Hermon” because they swore and bound one another with a curse on it.” (George W.E. Nickelsburg, James C. VanderKam, 1 Enoch: The Hermeneia Translation, 23-24 (Kindle Edition); Minneapolis, MN; Augsburg Fortress)

Mount Hermon (located in Bashan) was considered the “gates of Hell” in the time of Jesus (cf. Matthew 16:13-19). With that in mind, consider the interesting connection between Mount Hermon and the fallen angels and their descendants, the Rephaim.

“For example, Dagan, chief god of the lands along the Euphrates River in Syria, was called bēl pagrê, which has been variously translated as “lord of corpse offerings, lord of corpses (a netherworld god), lord of funerary offerings, and lord of human sacrifices.”[ 144] Kumarbi was one of the “primeval gods” of the Hurrians, deities who’d once ruled the world but who, like the Titans of Greek myth, had been banished to the netherworld by the storm-god.[ 145] Texts from the Amorite kingdom of Ugarit point to Mount Hermon as the abode of El, and the connections between that mountain and the netherworld are well documented, as we’ve already noted. Amorites in western Mesopotamia and the Levant believed El and his consort Asherah held court on Mount Hermon along with their seventy sons. Hermon is the northernmost point in Israel today, the border between the Jewish state, Lebanon, and Syria. Below its southeastern slopes was Bashan, the kingdom of Og, called the last of the remnant of the Rephaim.[ 146] Veneration of the Rephaim was a key element of Canaanite religion, whose depiction in Ugaritic texts is consistent with their portrayal in the Bible as the spirits of mighty kings of old. Careful reading of certain passages of the Bible, especially Isaiah 14: 9–21, Ezekiel 32: 27, and Ezekiel 39: 11 shows that the prophets surely knew of the Rephaim. Their condemnation of those spirits and the veneration thereof is clear. As mentioned earlier, a god named Rapiu, the singular form of “Rephaim,” was believed to rule at Ashtaroth and Edrei, the same two cities named in the Bible as the seats of Og’s kingdom. Ugaritic religious texts also connect Ashtaroth to the god Molech, further supporting the identity of Bashan as an evil place. This also gives new meaning to the phrase “bulls of Bashan” in Psalm 22: 12, a prophecy of the Messiah suffering on the cross. Dr. Robert D. Miller II correctly observes that the term is “not about famous cattle but about cultic practice.” In his 2014 paper, Miller used archaeology and climatology to show that Bashan, contrary to what you may have heard, was a lousy place to raise cattle three thousand years ago, concluding that “Bulls of Bashan refers not to the bovine but to the divine.”[ 147] So, those bulls were not cattle but the spirits of the Rephaim and their masters, the fallen angels who masqueraded as gods. It’s not a coincidence that bull imagery is connected to them in the Bible: The Canaanite creator-god was called Bull El; the root word behind the name Kronos likely means “horned one”;[ 148] and the name Titan, derived from the tribe named Ditanu or Tidanu, probably originates with the Amorite ditanum, meaning “bison” or “aurochs.”[ 149] Then, on the southwest side of Hermon, we find Banias, better known as the Grotto of Pan. This is the cave from which the waters of the Jordan emerged in ancient times. Pagans venerated the site for centuries, and ancient historians wrote that sacrifices were tossed into the waters of the cave where they were accepted by the god therein if the offerings sank. Not to belabor the point, but the bottom line is that Hermon, El’s mount of assembly, towered over the entrance to the underworld.” (Derek P. Gilbert, Bad Moon Rising: Islam, Armageddon, and the Most Diabolical Double-Cross in History, 128-131 (Kindle Edition); Crane, MO; Defender Publishing)

Linguistically, “Rephaim” was simply another name for the Nephilim. They were killed in the Flood and their spirits became the demons that we as Christians face in spiritual warfare. Indeed, this was the primary meaning of the word “demon” in the first century setting of Jesus and His culture.

1 Enoch 15:8-12-My judgment for the giants is that since they are born from flesh they will be called evil spirits and will remain on the earth. 9 Because they were created from above, from the holy Watchers, at death their spirits will come forth from their bodies and dwell on the earth. They will be called evil spirits. 10 The heavenly spirits will dwell in heaven, but the terrestrial spirits who were born on earth will dwell on earth. 11The evil spirits of the giants will be like clouds. They will afflict, corrupt, tempt, battle, work destruction on the earth, and do evil; they will not eat nor drink, but be invisible. 12 They will rise up against the children of men and against the women, because they have proceeded from them.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen.

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