Two Hebrew terms.
I. Nephilim; Hebrew "those who fall on" men; men of violence, robbers, tyrants; compare Genesis 6:13, "the earth is filled with violence through them." Applied to antediluvians (Genesis 6:4). Distinct from the gibbowrim, "mighty men of old, men of renown," the offspring of the intermarriage of the "sons of God" (the Sethites, Genesis 4:26, margin" then men began to call themselves by the name of the Lord"; Deuteronomy 14:1-2; Psalm 73:15; Proverbs 14:26; Hosea 1:10; Romans 8:14) and the "daughters of men." The Sethites, the church separated from the surrounding world lying in the wicked one, had been the salt of the earth; but when even they intermarried with the corrupted races around the salt lost its savor, there was no seasoning of the universal corruption; (compare Exodus 34:16; Ezra 10:3-19; Nehemiah 13:23-28; Deuteronomy 7:3; 1 Kings 11:1-4;) a flood alone could sweep away the festering mass, out of which one godly seed alone, Noah, was saved.
Hence our Lord dwells on the "marrying" in the list of the things lawful, but then unlawfully absorbing men wholly, as characteristic of the age just before the flood, as it shall be of the age when the Son of man shall appear (Luke 17:27). The Hindu tradition of two races, Suras and Asuras, and the Greek legend that the demi-gods were sons of the gods and that the Titan giants sprang from the union of heaven and earth, flow from the history of Genesis 6 corrupted. Moreover nephilim is applied to the giant in the report of the spies (Numbers 13:33); compare on the Anakim ("longnecked") about Hebron, Debir, Ahab, and the mountains of Judah and Israel, Deuteronomy 2:10; Deuteronomy 2:21; Deuteronomy 9:2. (See ANAKIM.)
II. Rephaim; a people defeated by Chedorlaomer at Ashteroth Karnaim (Genesis 14:5), occupying the N.E. of the Jordan valley (Peraea) before the Canaanites came. Og, the giant king of Bashan, was the last of them (Deuteronomy 3:11). They once extended to the S.W., for the valley of "Rephaim" was near the valley of Hinnom and Bethlehem, S. of Jerusalem, "the valley of the giants" (Joshua 15:8; Joshua 18:16; 2 Samuel 5:18; 2 Samuel 5:22; 2 Samuel 23:13). Rephaim was used for "the dead," or their "ghosts" (Job 26:5, translated "the souls of the dead tremble; (the places) under the waters, and their inhabitants (tremble)"; Psalm 88:11; Proverbs 2:18; Proverbs 21:16; Isaiah 14:9; Isaiah 26:14; Isaiah 26:19) perhaps because scheol or hades was thought the abode of the buried giants.
Raphah "the weak," or "resolved into their first elements," expresses the state of the deceased. Whether it has any connection with the tribe Rephaim is doubtful. Possibly "tall" was the primary sense (Gesenius); then the tall national Rephaim; then giants in guilt, as in might; these being doomed to gehenna, the term became the general one for "ghosts." Or else from ghosts being magnified by fear to more than human size. EMIM "terrors"; so-called from their terrible stature by the Moabites, who succeeded them in the region E. of Jordan (Deuteronomy 2:10). Or rather the word equates to the Egyptian term Amu, i.e. nomadic Shemites. Smitten by Chedorlaomer at Shaver Kiriathaim (Genesis 14:5). (See ANAKIM also.)
The ZUZIM of Ham were a northern tribe of Rephaim between the Arnon and Jabbok, smitten by Chedorlaomer. The Ammonites who supplanted them called them Zamzummim (Deuteronomy 2:20; Genesis 14:5). Connected with the Horim. LeClerc explains the name "wanderers" from zuz "to wander." Ham may be the original of Rabbath Ammon. The ruined cities of Bashan are thought by many to evidence their possession formerly by giant races. The success of David and his heroes against Goliath and the giants of Philistia (a remnant of the old giant races) illustrates the divine principle that physical might and size are nothing worth, nay are but beaststrength, when severed from God and arrayed against the people of God. Samson was but of average height (Judges 16:17), yet was irresistible by the Philistines so long as he was faithful to God. David was chosen above his brothers in spite of their "height of stature" (1 Samuel 16:7; 1 Samuel 17:36-37; 1 Samuel 17:45-47; 2 Samuel 21:15-22).