The Anakim – Deuteronomy 9.1-3

Among the inhabitants of Canaan before the invasion of the Israelites were the descendants of Anak, or Anakim. Little is known about these people except that they were “great and tall.” In fact, whenever the Old Testament mentions them, it usually comments on their stature.

Just how big were they? The spies sent into Canaan from Kadesh Barnea reported that they saw “giants” (Hebrew, nephilim), and the text explains that the Anakim were descended from the “giants” (Numbers 13.33). The spies claimed to have felt like grasshoppers in front of them, but this is probably not a literal comparison. Otherwise, the Anakim would have been nearly 200 feet tall!

More likely, the Anakim were an extremely large and tall people, not unlike the Philistine champion Goliath who was six cubits and a span, or about nine feet and nine inches tall (1 Samuel 17.4). A person of this size would be an imposing human being, of whom the proverb would be justified, “Who can stand before the descendants of Anak?” For the Israelites, the Anakim became the benchmark for evaluating the size of other peoples (Deuteronomy 1.10, 20).

The Anakim were settled in the hill country of southern Canaan. The city of Kirjath Arba, later known as Hebron (Genesis 23.19), may have been their principal city. Most of them were killed or driven out during the early campaigns of Joshua (Joshua 11.21-22), and Caleb finished the job when he was allotted Hebron (Deuteronomy 11-12; Judges 1.20).