Fighting Giants

II Samuel 21

Alan Lewis
Elon, North Carolina
June 2022

Today, we are going to look at only eight verses.  They are found in II Samuel 21:15-22.  We want to talk about giants.  There are a lot of good giant stories.  Kids love them.  We all know the story of Jack and the Beanstalk and there are many other modern books about giants written for kids.  If you Google the topic, forty books will pop up.

The problem is that they are fairy tales.  They are bedtime stories told to children.  The truth is that giants are real.  Does that mean if you walk down the street you might encounter Godzilla or King Kong? No.

On the other hand, there have been giants in the real world. There was a man in the US who lived about eighty years ago and was to be almost nine feet tall.  His name was Robert Wadlow.  He was 8’11”.  He died in 1940.  He died about eighty years ago. He was more than a foot taller than the tallest NBA basketball player in history (which was only 7’7″).

Bible Giants

There are many giants in the Bible.  Many have no idea about these.  Goliath wasn’t the only one.  We want to look at these bible giants.  They are in the OT.  They are all bad.  There are no good giants in the Bible.  There were different names for some of them.  

1) There were giants in the days of NOAH

There were giants on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown.  (Genesis 6:4 NKJV).

The Hebrew word for “giants” there is Nephilim.  How tall were they?  We don’t know.  The Book of I Enoch says that these giants were three hundred cubits tall (I Enoch 7:2). 

That would make these giants about 450 feet tall.  As my wife pointed out, if he was that tall, he would not fit inside anything.

I Enoch is an old Jewish book.  It goes back to the second century BC but it is not inspired. The Bible doesn’t say how tall they were but there is no evidence that they were five hundred feet tall.  

2) There were giants in the days of MOSES

There was a giant in the days of Moses named Og.  He was King of Bashan, which is in Syria today. He was a Canaanite king.  He was killed along with his whole army by the Hebrews.  You can read about it in Numbers 21 and Deuteronomy 3.

He was also a giant.  He slept in a bed that was nine cubits long and four cubits wide.  Goliath was only six cubits tall (I Samuel 17:4).  Og was not nine cubits tall (fourteen feet tall) but that is how tall his bed was (Deuteronomy 3:11).  He must have been very tall.

3) There were giants in the days of JOSHUA

Before the Hebrews were sent into the Promise Land, twelve species were sent in on a top-secret mission.  They were sent to gather intelligence.  What did they find when they got there?  One thing they encountered were giants.

There we saw the giants (the descendants of Anak came from the giants); and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.” (Numbers 13:33 NKJV)

These giants were called the sons of Anak.  They were the Anakim or Anakites.  When we get to Joshua 11, this group of giants is wiped out by Joshua (Joshua 11:21-22)

4) There were giants in the days of DAVID

These giants were not called Anakim but Rephaim or Rephaites.  Now, everyone knows the story of David and Goliath in I Samuel 17.  Almost no one knows the story about David and Ishbi-Benob in II Samuel 21. 

Most Christians barely read I Samuel.  They do not take the time to read much of II Samuel.  Today, we are going to hear the rest of the story, as Paul Harvey used to say.

Giants Today

Today, we are going to look at how this applies to us today.  David fought physical giants.  We do not fight physical giants.  The church is not out battling physical giants in the world.  Paul said that our real fight is not even against people, even big strong people, but against supernatural demonic beings.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:12 NIV)

We all face giants today, but our giants are moral, spiritual, not physical.  They are supernatural and demonic.  What is a giant today?  What would a giant consist of today?  

Giants represent big problems.  They are not little problems but big problems or situations that you cannot solve and won’t go away.

Giants represent strongholds.  Strongholds were walled cities, fortresses that were impenetrable.  What is a spiritual stronghold?  There are many different kinds.

Strongholds can refer to ways of thinking.  One type of stronghold is an idea of practice that opposes God and His Word but is thoroughly entrenched in our culture and accepted by society.  There are many examples of this in society (evolution, gay marriage, unbiblical genders).

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (II Corinthians 10:3-5 NIV)

We use the word strongholds today to refer to personal addictions.  Spiritual strongholds are not just sin but bondage.  Giants are things that you can’t seem to get victory over no matter how hard you try. There are strongholds in society and in our own life.

We face a giant of addiction, a giant of alcohol, a giant of pornography, a giant of anger, a giant of fear, a giant of depression, a giant of sickness, a giant of loneliness, a giant of unforgiveness.

Four Truths About Giants

There are four things you need to know about killing giants today from this passage.

1) Giants are scary

Giants are big.  They are strong.  They are scary.  They look down on you and mock you.  Goliath taunted David and his brother taunted Israel as well.

there was a huge man with six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot—twenty-four in all. He also was descended from Rapha…. he TAUNTED Israel, Jonathan son of Shimeah (II Samuel 21:20-21 NIV)

Giants are not only strong and intimidating, they are ugly.  They look disgusting.  One had six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot. They were deformed, grotesque-looking creatures.

Giants are not just scary.  They are not just terrifying.  They are dangerous.  They can not only hurt us.  They can kill us.  They are deadly.

The giant David faced was deadly.  This giant was younger than David, stronger than David and had new weapons.  Ishbi-Benob had a new sword (II Samuel 21:16).  It was sharp.  He wanted to kill David.  He planned to kill David and almost succeeded.

The evil one came to steal, to kill and to destroy.  The devil walks around as a roaring lion seeking whom he may DEVOUR (I Peter 5:8).

We struggle against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  We struggle against supernatural beings, angelic beings that are much stronger than we are.  We struggle against evil demonic beings that we cannot even see.  That puts us at a disadvantage.

Kids often do not see danger.  They go into dangerous situations without realizing it.  We do the same thing as adults.  Christians often do not see the danger.  We dabble in sin.  We play with temptation.  We play with addictions.

2) Giants are persistent

When David killed Goliath, he probably thought that would be the last giant he would ever face but it wasn’t.  He faced more giants later in life.  He faced another giant in II Samuel 21.

Giants kept coming.  They never stopped.  They come in different forms at different times.  David fought giants when he was a kid and he fought them when he was an old man.

Life is full of battles.  We have struggles all of our life.  We fight battles as young Christians.  We fight battles as old Christians.  The battle may look a little different, but it is still a battle.

We never get to the point where we are invincible or untouchable.  We never get to the point where we are sinless.  We never reach perfection this side of the grave.  We never get the point where no longer fight any battles.

We see in our passage that giants keep coming.  II Samuel 21:15-22 contains four battles against the Philistines.

Once again there was A BATTLE between the Philistines and Israel (II Samuel 21:15 NIV).

In the course of time, there was ANOTHER BATTLE with the Philistines, at Gob (II Samuel 21:18 NIV).  That was the battle over the goblet.

In the course of time, there was ANOTHER BATTLE with the Philistines, at Gob (II Samuel 21:19 NIV)

In still ANOTHER BATTLE, which took place at Gath (II Samuel 21:20 NIV)

The Philistines were Israel’s greatest enemy all through I Samuel & II Samuel.  Saul fought the Philistines and David fought the Philistines.

Some of these battles took place on the border between the two countries (Gob).  One battle took place outside of Israel.  Gath was a Philistine town.

During these battles, Israel not only faced the Philistines, they faced some giants.  Each battle they faced a different giant. After facing Goliath, they now face four more Philistine giants.

Who were these four giants?  If you are reading the KJV, you would think that they were Goliath’s sons.  They were junior goliaths.

These four were born to the giant in Gath, and fell by the hand of David, and by the hand of his servants. (II Samuel 21:22 KJV)

The problem is that the word “giant” in Hebrew is most likely a proper name (Rapha) and one of these giants is called Goliath’s brother not his son.  Only one of these giants is said to be in Goliath’s direct family.

In another battle with the Philistines at Gob, Elhanan son of Jair the Bethlehemite killed the brother of Goliath the Gittite, who had a spear with a shaft like a weaver’s rod. (II Samuel 21:19 NIV)

The Hebrew says that Elhanan killed Goliath and so do some other translations.

And there was war with the Philistines again at Gob, and Elhanan the son of Jaare-oregim the Bethlehemite killed Goliath the Gittite, the shaft of whose spear was like a weaver’s beam. (NASB)

Then there was another battle with the Philistines at Gob; and Elhanan son of Jaare-oregim, the Bethlehemite, killed Goliath the Gittite, the shaft of whose spear was like a weaver’s beam. (NRSV)

There was another battle with the Philistines at Gob, and Elhanan son of Jair from Bethlehem killed Goliath from Gath, whose spear had a shaft as thick as the bar on a weaver’s loom. (GNT)

Which is right?  Is this a contradiction?  Who killed Goliath?  Was it David or Elhanan?  This is not a different Goliath.  This Goliath from Gath.  David clearly killed Goliath.  We have a whole chapter devoted to that in I Samuel.

This is a scribal error.  It is a copyist mistake.  People who copied the Hebrew Bible spent hours copying every word by hand.  Occasionally, they made a mistake and copied the wrong word.

We know this is a scribal error from the parallel passage.  There is a parallel passage to II Samuel 21:19. I Chronicles 20:5 says, “And there was again war with the Philistines, and Elhanan the son of Jair struck down Lahmi the brother of Goliath the Gittite, the shaft of whose spear was like a weaver’s beam.”

Elhanan did NOT kill Goliath.  He killed the brother of Goliath and even gives us his name, Lahmi.  That is why many translators of II Samuel 21:19 say that Elhanan killed “the brother of Goliath” (so NIV, NLT, KJV, NKJV).

There is another scribal error in II Samuel 21:8. The Hebrew (MT) says that the five sons of Michal were killed whom she brought up for Adriel the son of Barzillai (so KJV).

Two other Hebrew texts and the LXX says it was the five sons of Merab the daughter of Saul, whom she bore to Adriel the son of Barzillai (so ESV).  Merab married Adriel.  We know that from I Samuel 18:19.

Clearly, it was not Michal.  She married a different husband.  She married Paltiel (II Samuel 3:14-16), and we are specifically told in Scripture that she was childless (II Samuel 6:23).  That is also another clear scribal error in the same chapter.

3) You may need help in battling giants

Sometimes we need help in defeating giants.  David killed Goliath but he could not kill the giant in II Samuel 21.  He did not need any help from the soldiers to help defeat Goliath, but he did need some help to defeat Ishbi-Benob.  He could not defeat him on his own.

David was an old man on the battlefield.  He did not have the strength that he used to have.  He did not have the energy or the endurance.  He was tired.  He was worn out.  He was exhausted.

Once again there was a battle between the Philistines and Israel. David went down with his men to fight against the Philistines, and he became exhausted. (II Samuel 21:15 NIV)

There are some things we did when we were younger that we can’t do when we are older.  I have trouble teaching SS as often as I used to after I had my heart attack, working full-time.  Davis needed help when he got older.  He needed help from his nephew Abishai.  He was younger.  He was stronger.  He killed the giant for David.

Then he gave him an order.  He gave the king an order to stay off the battlefield.  David was too old to fight any more.  It was too dangerous.  It was not safe.  This was David’s last battle.

The good news is that you don’t have to be young to do spiritual warfare.  It doesn’t require physical strength and a gym membership.  On the other hand, if we are trapped in a sin or an addiction, we may need to get help from other believers who have struggled with the same thing.

4) Anyone can be a giant killer

You don’t have to be a David to be a giant killer. II Samuel 21 mentioned, not one, not two but four giant killers besides David.

Two of them were related to David.  Two of them were his nephews.  One giant killer was named Jonathon.  He was was the son of David’s brother Shimeah (II Samuel 21:21).

Another giant killed was Abishai.  Abishai was the son of David’s sister Zeruiah (I Chronicles 2:16).  He was also Joab’s brother.  Let’s look at the four giant killers in this section.

The first giant killer was Abishai.  He killed Ishbi-Benob and saved David’s life in the process.

And Ishbi-Benob, one of the descendants of Rapha, whose bronze spearhead weighed three hundred shekels and who was armed with a new sword, said he would kill David. 17 But Abishai son of Zeruiah came to David’s rescue; he struck the Philistine down and killed him. Then David’s men swore to him, saying, “Never again will you go out with us to battle, so that the lamp of Israel will not be extinguished.” (II Samuel 21:16-17 NIV)

The second giant killer was Sibbekai.  He killed the giant Saph, which sounds like a tree.

In the course of time, there was another battle with the Philistines, at Gob. At that time Sibbekai the Hushathite killed Saph, one of the descendants of Rapha. (II Samuel 21:18 NIV)

The third giant killer was Elhanan. He killed the brother of Goliath.  

In another battle with the Philistines at Gob, Elhanan son of Jair the Bethlehemite killed the brother of Goliath the Gittite, who had a spear with a shaft like a weaver’s rod. (II Samuel 21:19 NIV)

The fourth giant killer was Jonathon. He killed an unnamed giant.  He is described as “a huge man with six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot”

 In still another battle, which took place at Gath, there was a huge man with six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot—twenty-four in all. He also was descended from Rapha. 21 When he taunted Israel, Jonathan son of Shimeah, David’s brother, killed him. (II Samuel 21:20-21 NIV)

The only one we have heard about before was Abishai.  The other three we have never even heard of.  They were not famous, but they killed giants. The other two we have never even heard of.  They were not famous but they killed giants.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *