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Rephaim

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The Oxford Companion to the Bible What is This? Provides authoritative interpretive entries on Biblical people, places, beliefs, events, and secular influences.

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    Rephaim

    In several biblical texts (e.g., Isa. 26.14; Prov. 2.18) dead “shades” (NRSV) who inhabit the underworld; in other texts a race of fearsome giants who once lived in parts of Palestine and Transjordan (e.g., Deut. 2.20; 3.11, 13; Josh. 12.4; 13.12). Scholars have in the past considered these two meanings distinct, but texts from Ugarit suggest they may be related. At Ugarit Rephaim most often refers to members of the aristocracy (military, political, or religious) who, as a result of their status while alive, attain some sort of superhuman, even semidivine, standing in the underworld. The probable etymology of Rephaim, from the verb meaning “to heal,” also suggests that these dead Rephaim were thought to have power to help the living. The term Rephaim in the Bible likewise may refer to those among the deceased (e.g., the ancestral giants) who demonstrated extraordinary prowess during life and continue to exercise some sort of power after death. Notable in this regard is Isaiah 14.9, where the Rephaim of the underworld are described as those “who were leaders of the earth” and those “who were kings of the nations.”

    See also Nephilim

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    Susan Ackerman

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