Charam/Cherem & Rapha in the Bible


My amateur own delving into Michael Heiser’s proposal that the commands by God to totally destroy (cherem, devote to destruction as an offering to God) are focused on the giant clans.

ADDITIONAL INFO: Dr Heiser claims that each instance is linked to the ‘hill country’.

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Strong’s 2763 charam (noun) and 2764 cherem (verb) – here are the passages where God commands it against the inhabitants of the Promised Land. I am excluding other situations such as the much later command to Saul to wipe out the Amalekites, although they may also be related to the giant clans (Num 13:28-29).

Numbers 21:1-3, king of Arad. He attacks Israel first and takes captives. NB: Israel makes the proposal of cherem to God in this case.

Deut 2:34, Sihon the Amorite. Amos 2:9 states that Amorites are tall & strong like cedars & oaks, implying large size. Earlier in the chapter it’s stated that the Israelites are passing thru territory that was formerly held by Emim who are as tall as Anakim, and both are counted as Rephaim (v10-11); as well as Zamzummim who are also Rephaim, also as tall as Anakim (v20-21). So this entire area was ‘giant turf’. [See end of post for notes on Rephaim and giants.] NB: Rephaim (same word as in Deut 2), Emim (same word) and Hazzuzim (doesn’t seem to be same root as Zamzimmim) also appear in the Genesis 14:5 battle.

Deut 3:6, Og of Bashan. v11 states he is the last of the Rephaim and has a huge bed (NB:the measurements are the exact same as the cultic ritual bed of Mesopotamian chief deity Marduk, which means that the bed’s ridiculous oversize shouldn’t be taken as Og’s literal size). v13 states that all that area of Bashan is called the land of Rephaim – Bashan was held by the locals to be where the entrance to the underworld is, indeed it’s the area of Caesaerea Phillipi with its pagan-idol cliff, Gates of Hades underground river cavern and Mount Hermon (Strong’s 2768, same root word as charam).

Deut 7:2, the ‘Seven -ites’. This is the passage usually cited as the command to ‘genocide all the locals in the Promised Land’. Of these seven tribes, Numbers 13 has the spies report back on four tribes by name living there, with Num 13:32-33 stating that all the people in the land are tall and the Sons of Anak, descendants of the Nephilim are there. Heiser proposes that this indicates that the command to cherem in Deut 7:2 implies it is the Anakim found in these areas which makes them subject to cleansing.

Deut 13:15, actually a punishment for religiously treacherous Israelite cities.

Deut 20:16-18, the six tribes (missing the unmentioned Girgashites). With the reasoning so they won’t teach the abominable practices of their gods.

Joshua 2:10, both Sihon and Og are specified to be Amorites.

Joshua 6:17,18,21 all the city of Jericho.

Joshua 8:26, Joshua 10:1 all the inhabitants of Ai.

Joshua 10, all the inhabitants of Makkedah, Libnah, Lachish, maybe Gezer, Eglon, Hebron, Debir and ‘the whole land, the hill country and the Negeb and the lowland and the slopes’ from Kadesh-barnea as far as Gaza, Goshen as far as Gibeon. v5&16 notes that the five kings of the Amorites led the attack on Israel and hid in the cave at Makkedah when they lost. The chapter doesn’t mention cherem-ing Jerusalem and Jarmuth whose kings were part of the five.
Joshua 11, v3 has a list of countries that includes the six -ites (again, missing the Girgashites) all teaming up against Israel. v11-12 states that they all get cherem. v21-22 states that Joshua kills all the Anakim in the hill country across all the lands, with some left in Gaza, Gath and Ashdod (Philistine territories). That last bit will be cleaned up by David (who kills Goliath in 1 Sam 17) and his men (who kill the descendants of the Gath ‘giants’ in 2 Sam 21:15-22 parallel 1 Chron 20:4-8, but see bottom section on Rephaim below for clarification). Heiser’s proposal is that this closing summary v21-23 (And the land had rest from war) indicates God’s purpose of cherem across the land – wiping out the giant clans, which Joshua fulfilled. Joshua did not actually manage to actually conquer the entire territory promised to Abraham (ref Joshua 23, Judges 1) which seems to go against Joshua 11:23 – unless there’s something else being indicated.

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CONCLUSION:

It seems quite conceivable that the implicit purpose behind the cherem commands are to ensure that all remnants of the giants are wiped out – any possible descendants, and all across the Promised Land, sorry about the collateral damage to non-giants living around them. However the available Bible-only data feels insufficient to conclusively prove this thesis.

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ON REPHAIM:

Strong’s 7496 rapha (noun) and 7497 Rapha (proper name) – these words seem almost identical, with the former (only 8 occurrences total) referring to dead spirits and the latter mainly linked to giants. I can see why Jewish readers of the Biblical text could speculate that dead giants become the unclean spirits that haunt the earth.

2 Sam 21:15-22 (parallel 1 Chron 20:4-8) actually states ‘descendant of Rephaim’ each time, not ‘descendant of giants’ – but since the other details in these passages indicate great size, it stands to reason that Rephaim are understood to have great size. See also Deut 2 & 3 where Rephaim are alluded to be tall.

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