The Anakim and the Nephilim
After the people of Israel left Egypt, they came to the borders of Canaan, the land that Yahweh their God had promised to them. Before they entered the land, Moses sent 12 spies to investigate the land and its people (Num. 13). In a later passage Moses seems to place responsibility for the spies being sent on the people of Israel (Deut. 1:22). With the exception of Joshua and Caleb, the spies brought back a pessimistic report of their survey of Canaan. To 10 of the spies, the fortified walls of the Canaanite cities were an overwhelming obstacle for their conquest of the land (13:28). The spies also were terrified by the size of the inhabitants of Canaan. “They said, ‘The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them” (Num. 13:32-33 NIV). In their exaggeration of the situation, the spies spoke to the assembly of the leaders of Israel of the terrible predicament awaiting the people of Israel. The spies added that, in addition of being people of gigantic stature, the Anakim were the Nephilim, the dreadful people who lived on earth in the days before the flood.
Ur and Haran: Abraham’s Background
The migration of the patriarchs from their place of origin into the land of Canaan is emphasized several times in the Old Testament as an integral ingredient of biblical history. In fact, the early life of Abraham is characterized by his migrations from Mesopotamia to Canaan, to Egypt, and back to Canaan. This emphasis is consistent with the biblical view that the patriarchs came from outside of Canaan. Joshua, in retelling the mighty acts of the God of Israel to the new generation of Israelites, reminded them of this important fact in the history of the young nation: “Long ago your forefathers, including Terah the father of Abraham and Nahor, lived beyond the River” (Josh. 24:2 NIV). The river mentioned by Joshua was the Euphrates.
The Geographical Challenges of the Sinai
SINAI IS THE NAME of the mountain where God appeared to Moses while he was shepherding the flock of Jethro, his father-in-law. It is also the place where the Israelites stopped to worship God three months after they left the oppression in Egypt. At the foot of Mount Sinai, God established His covenant with Israel. The covenant made Israel God’s special people, a people set apart for the Lord’s service in the world.