I got a little distracted looking into the Raphaim, or the sons of Anak, regionally known as Horites, Emim, Zamzummim, and Avvim. The sons of Anak are the Nephilim, the mysterious sons of children of God and daughters of man, and Raphaim seems to be another name for them.
It’s very interesting, especially looking at the historical record of how surrounding cultures spoke of the same people, and I think the Nephilim, and subsequently the giants of the land of Canaan, are something we tend to avoid because they’re just weird. (Though we really seem to enjoy debating how tall Goliath actually was…) However, I think the focus on these extra large and scary people in these chapters serves a point.
The Faithlife Study Bible suggests that Moses is making a point with this discourse. He’s shaming the Israelites for their lack of faith. “You parents and grandparents were so afraid of these people that we all ended up spending forty years in the desert waiting for them to die off, but here’s a complete list of people who, either with God’s help or without managed to defeat them just fine!”
I think Moses was a little bitter through here. Think about it. He admits to begging God to let him go into the Promised Land just to see it. He admits that God basically gives a reply that any tired parent can empathize with: “ENOUGH! You want to see it?! Go stand on that mountain and look! But you aren’t going in!” He blames Israel for his punishment not once but twice in his account. (He’ll admit his own fault later, but he’s not there just yet.)
Moses takes Israel on a tour of land they don’t get to have. “Here’s Seir. You can’t stay here. It’s Esau’s. Here’s Ar. You can’t stay here. It’s Moab; God promised it to Lot. He gave it to them FROM THE BIG PEOPLE THAT SCARED YOU! And oh yeah, that bit over there, yeah, that used to belong to the big scary people, too. And over there? Yeah, ORDINARY PEOPLE TOOK IT FROM THE GIANTS ALL BY THEMSELVES! And, just in case you’re worried about your chances, God’s already helped you clear the giants out of the land he’s giving Reuben, Gad, and half of Manasseh. All this, and I don’t get to go to Canaan because your fathers were too scared!”
I kind of feel bad for him. I get why he’s so angry. Israel never made it easy for him, and he never asked for the job in the first place. How many times do we get so fed up and tired with all the drama we have to wade through just to get our jobs done that we’re ready to throw a similar fit? That we break down and rant and rave a little? Even if only in private to a sympathetic ear?
I think it’s okay to be tired. I think it’s okay to be angry. I think it’s okay to vent to trusted, supportive friends and family. I think we need to be on guard against getting carried away and taking credit for something God has done, like Moses did, and I think we need to be on guard against blaming others for the mistakes we made while we were angry with them.
We can get angry at others when they do something wrong, but that doesn’t mean we can blame them for our reactions to them. We are still responsible for our own responses, and there is a line. Call them out, hold them accountable, but don’t overstep your own authority, over-inflate your own importance, or blame them for more than they’ve actually done. (And, you know, if repentance is sincere and restoration is really the goal, maybe ‘calling them out and holding them accountable’ should be done with an emphasis on love and compassion first and only resort to anything like public recrimination when necessary to protect others.)