R: Rephaim

Ian Hutchesson mc2499 at mclink.it
Wed Dec 18 22:47:44 EST 2002

>I just wonder if anybody could help me out with some insight on the
>"rephaim". Are we to think of them as "giants" (as in LXX), as "the
>ones", "the shades" or the "departed spirits"? Are there any clues to
>from the study of the Hebrew language, or is the word totally out there
>the mist? What would you say is the best translation of the word?

The Rephaim are known from Ugaritic literature, where 
the term indicates (divinated) deceased ancestors. In 
one text it is parallel with 'ilnym "divinities" and 
in the same verses 'ilm "gods" is parallel with mtm 
"the dead".

Isa 14:9 is a good example of rephaim = the dead.

It's interesting that they are included as early 
inhabitants of Canaan (Gen 15:20, Jos 17:15) and 
Dt 2:20 talks of the land of Rephaim. This may be a 
demythologising movement in the literature. Old 
(autochthonous) giants were possibly more likely 
than revered dead in religious thought of the time.

I'd suggest that the term rp'ym changed its 
significance from the time of Ugarit to that of 
Isaiah and then to Gen 15:20 etc.

Trevor wrote:
>The form seems to have something to do with healing, but it's 
>unclear how that helps.

I think this may only be appearance. 

2 Chr 16:12 uses rope'im (physicians) where one might 
expect repa'im -- as Mark Smith (Early History of God, 
p130) indicates, there's nothing wrong with using 
doctors, but consulting the dead is another matter.


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