On the Bed of King Og the Giant
I’m often asked why I spend time looking for the truth behind fringe historians’ claims. The short answer is that I have the time and the familiarity with their claims to do so, but the larger answers is that so much of our economy is based on purposely hiding information for personal gain. A good example of that was the shock I received this morning when the bill for my new boiler showed up. When I signed the paperwork for it, I opted for a financing plan that the company assured me was “financing” through a major national bank, with fixed monthly payments for what I was made to understand would be two years. If I had known what was apparently buried ten pages into the “financing” agreement I would never have signed it. The “financing” agreement was actually a credit card they took out in my name, with a 28% interest rate, generating more than $2,000 in interest over the life of the “financing,” which was actually four years, paying only the minimum. By omitting key information—that this wasn’t a financing loan from a major bank but rather a credit card with a picture of a hammer on it, I was, in theory, out an extra $2,000 on top of the original cost of the boiler.
I especially liked the part where the heating company pretended in front of me that they were negotiating the financing terms with their bank when they were actually filling out a credit card application. I could have done that!
It’s my own fault, of course, for not reading the ten pages of legalese—not that I had much choice, since I didn’t actually get to keep a copy.
So what does this have to do with fringe history? The same lessons apply, to an extent. Fringe historians present a selective and often false version of history and then blame the audience for believing the pitch and not doing extensive outside research to evaluate their claims. Graham Hancock was perhaps the most honest about this when he wrote that he considered himself akin to a lawyer and fringe claims his client: “So it is certainly true, as many of my critics have pointed out, that I am selective with the evidence I present. Of course I’m selective! It isn’t my job to show my client in a bad light!”
And if you aren’t looking for the rest of the evidence, then you’re the sucker—as fringe historians laugh all the way the bank. On the plus side, at least fringe history books don’t charge interest.
So that was my moment of anger this morning.
But in terms of this week’s discussion on giants, I’d like to direct your attention to Mike Heiser’s blog, where Heiser has a fascinating addendum to the question of Og, the Biblical giant from Deuteronomy. According to the Biblical text (Deut. 3:11), Og was possessed of a singularly large bed, which gigantologists use to suggest that Og was nearly as tall as his sleeping place: “His bed was decorated with iron and was more than nine cubits long and four cubits wide.” For centuries, gigantologists have argued that Og must have been nearly thirteen feet tall—the Bible scholar Adam Clarke famously argued as much in his influential 1831 Biblical commentary. But as Heiser points out, the measurements of Og’s bed are identical to those of the ritual bed of Marduk and his consort Zarpanitu at Babylon, where the Babylonian king enacted an annual ritual marriage in the god’s stead. The measurements are given in the so-called Esagil Tablet, 229 BCE copy of earlier texts, in line 34: “The bed: 9 cubits the length, 4 cubits the breadth” (trans. A. R. George). Therefore, the Biblical writers appear to have been likening Og to the Babylonian god, or at least were implying that Og participated in a similar religious ritual. The point is that the size of the bed implies nothing about Og’s height any more than it does the size of the kings of Babylon who used Marduk’s bed.
I’ll leave you to read the rest of the analysis on Heiser’s Paleobabble.
Instead, I thought I’d finish with a discussion on giants from Peter the Venerable, a medieval Cluniac monk best known as the first serious scholar of Islamic texts in the West. Peter didn’t like Islam, but he also found the Jews to be obdurate in their refusal to become Christian, and he dealt with the issue of giants in trying to explain why the Jews’ views on giants were ridiculous, particularly the claim in the Targum Jonathan that Og was, by Peter’s calculation, 690 cubits high! Here’s the Targum Jonathan text commenting on Numbers 21:33-35:
Og having observed that the camp of the Israelites extended six miles, he went and tore up a mountain six miles in its base, and put it on his head, and carried it towards the camp, that he might throw it on the Israelites and destroy them; but the word of the Lord prepared a worm, which bored a hole in the mountain over his head, so that it fell down upon his shoulders: at the same time his teeth growing out in all directions, stuck into the mountain, so that he could not cast it off his head. Moses, (who was himself ten cubits high), seeing Og thus entangled, took an axe ten cubits long, and having leaped ten cubits in height, struck Og on the ankle bone, so that he fell and was slain. (trans. Adam Clarke)
And here is Peter’s response:
I propose only one thing against your insanity, which ought not to be the subject of debate any longer but which ought instead to be laughed at, since it is so clear that it does not lie hidden from blind men. […] Since [Moses] said that the bed of this giant was nine cubits long and four cubits wide, certainly he showed that he had to have been somewhat less than the bed in terms of height and width. […] Was he, then, longer and wider than his own bed? I believe that here the Jewish argument is put to rest. (Against the Inveterate Obduracy of the Jews 5, trans. Irven M. Resnick)
Peter goes on to refute the idea that Moses was a giant, for why would he be impressed by a bed smaller than he himself? The long and short of it, though, is that claims for superhuman giants have been subject to fanciful exaggeration for as long as they have been made, and the closer one looks at the original claims the less there is to see.
10/28/2014 04:06:59 am
"The text, copied from an earlier document, describes the temple of the god Marduk in Babylon as reconstructed by the kings of the Babylonian dynasty of Nabopolassar (625-605 BC) and Nebuchadrezzar II (605-562 BC)."
10/28/2014 04:20:07 am
Interesting take in your introduction on hidden information to drive the economy --- as much as the information revolution has disrupted industries like music, publishing, etc. perhaps the largest disruption will be the conflict between open-source models and the secrecy embedded in the industrial economy. We are seeing this on the periphery with peer to peer tech continuing to penetrate like Uber, etc.
10/28/2014 04:48:16 am
Actually, "protection of wealth" is pretty much the opposite of "massive inefficiencies". I mean, once we remember that "wealth" doesn't mean "evil 1%ers"...
10/29/2014 04:05:48 am
I'm not following you. Could you explain in more detail? It's the difference between open source structures versus private business, capital, etc. Not too difficult to get.
10/29/2014 04:34:35 am
"It's the difference between..."
10/29/2014 04:30:45 am
EP, after re-reading, I think I understand your point. I was speaking to larger disruptive trends ala Alvin Tofler's 1st, 2nd, 3rd wave paradigm(s); for example, how wikileaks and others have impacted state institutional secrecy; how open source models, in coding, business practice, and government, have an impact on exposing inefficiencies, corruption, and fraud (Jason's “small print” bait and switch situation might be reduced substantially in the future with more transparent and open credit and banking laws which allow for more oversight and regulatory rigor), and finally, how these trends in actionable information being available for users, and peer to peer sharing and networking disrupt many foundational aspects of the old economy, currency, bitcoin, copyright, etc. with coarse, bait-and-switch sales misrepresentations potentially being one of the practices that will be attenuated by these larger trends. But yeah, I was conflating a bit. --- with a point, however, albeit one often made.
10/29/2014 04:44:07 am
Just because a point is often made...
10/29/2014 05:23:33 am
Yeah, no joke. (Come on! http://tinyurl.com/qjta5 )
10/29/2014 05:30:05 am
If you're going to hide behind tinyurl, might as well go for goatse...
10/29/2014 05:32:35 am
It's subtlety and nuance my dear Watson. Subtlety!
10/29/2014 05:38:51 am
For more on Byron DeLear being subtle, refer to the rest of this conversation.
10/29/2014 05:50:06 am
Hah! I like you EP, always playing to the audience.
10/29/2014 05:55:03 am
So how do open-source models "have an impact on exposing inefficiencies, corruption, and fraud"?
10/29/2014 12:12:02 pm
Oh, come on EP, you're just baiting me; really? You're too intelligent for me to waste my time explaining exactly what you know I meant ;) Oh well, here’s a data dump... picketh away.
10/29/2014 12:57:14 pm
Translation: Utopian socialism (vintage c. 1823), minus intellectual rigor and pedigree.
10/29/2014 02:03:45 pm
I knew I would regret looking into Robert Steele. I'll just say that anyone who actually takes anything this man says seriously is very likely not worth taking seriously himself.
10/29/2014 02:32:00 pm
Robert Steele also made false accusations about Google's ties with the CIA. And just last month, he was on the Alex Jones show engaging in some ebola fear-mongering.
10/29/2014 05:44:50 pm
Better to have you go after Robert Steele, than moi! I just pointed you in the right direction; I'll expect no royalty check, this one's a freebee.
10/29/2014 07:05:21 pm
I "went after you" implicitly. Or do I have to spell out the implications of you confidently appealing to the likes of Robert Steele?
10/29/2014 07:38:45 pm
¬¬¬ Nice retort. Thanks. What I'm trying to say is that in our recent exchange I find it hard to converse with you because your tone is, in my opinion, excessively negative and hyper-critical. It sometimes seems like you have a need to be 'right-fighter' beyond the normal sharing of ideas in the spirit of a collegiate discussion to the point of it being a turn-off. EP, you seem to sometimes relish in excessive argumentation. Others have expressed as much here. But, please keep fighting for what you know to be right and keep expressing yourself as you see fit. The repartee, for the most part, is more good than bad. I do appreciate the multi-disciplinary perspectives of those who read Jason's blog, including yours. I know having gone through the peer review process in my American history book to be published in 2015, there are good things that come from the rigors associated with having one's ideas and theories questioned.
10/29/2014 08:37:41 pm
Some "others" have also accused me of cyber-bullying. Perhaps you would like to follow their example? Alternatively, you can keep doing what you're doing - deflecting constructive comments you don't like with discussions of my character and unconvincing attempts to exhibit magnanimity.
10/29/2014 09:03:37 am
10/28/2014 05:39:29 am
10/28/2014 04:47:46 pm
10/28/2014 11:09:02 am
You have been a victim of fraud. Check with state attorney general and see if they can help you. Also Better Business Bureau.
10/28/2014 01:56:42 pm
I appreciate the concern, but after checking around, using credit cards as "financing" appears to be standard for the industry. Both of the largest heating companies in my city use credit cards as their "financing" and have apparently been doing so for years.
10/28/2014 12:16:35 pm
Jason, on occasion I may come across as devoid of any human feelings, but I just wanted to express my sympathy for your continuing boiler difficulties. And yes, I'm not a legal expert, but I agree with the others that this sounds so outrageous that it couldn't possibly be legal.
10/28/2014 12:42:33 pm
"Jason, on occasion I may come across as devoid of any human feelings "
10/28/2014 01:49:43 pm
"Dad"? Is that some obscure reference I don't get? Are you coming on to me? Are you a member of a suicide sex cult? You are, aren't you?!
Not the Comte de Saint Germain
10/28/2014 02:39:44 pm
Is there some joke here I'm not getting?
10/28/2014 02:55:25 pm
Yes, a short harmless exchange with EP some weeks ago.
10/28/2014 03:13:27 pm
Yeah, I'm with NtCdSG. I don't get it. It was weird. You're weird :P
10/28/2014 03:18:05 pm
Nevermind, I get it now.
10/29/2014 04:17:52 am
Michale's credibility with me was severely hurt by the fact that he actually argues Giants is an accurate Translation of Nephilim. The etymology of the word is clearly that it means Fallen Ones.
10/29/2014 04:35:27 am
"Michale's credibility with me was severely hurt"
10/29/2014 08:08:03 am
Leave a Reply.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
Enter your email below to subscribe to my newsletter for updates on my latest projects, blog posts, and activities, and subscribe to Culture & Curiosities, my Substack newsletter.
Terms & Conditions
Please read all applicable terms and conditions before posting a comment on this blog. Posting a comment constitutes your agreement to abide by the terms and conditions linked herein.