In the days of Abraham, Chedor-laomer, king of Elam and lord over the kings of Babylonia, marched westward with his Babylonian allies, in order to punish his rebellious subjects in Canaan. The invading army entered Palestine from the eastern side of the Jordan. Instead of marching along the sea-coast, it took the line of the valley of the Jordan. It first attacked the plateau of Bashan, and then smote “the Rephaim in Ashteroth Karnaim, and the Zuzim in Ham, and the Emim in the plain of Kiriathaim.” Then it passed into Mount Seir, and subjugated the Horites as far as El-Paran “by the wilderness.” Thence it turned northward again through the oasis of En-mishpat or Kadesh-barnea, and after smiting the Amalekite Beduin, as well as the Amorites in Hazezon-tamar, made its way into the vale of Siddim. There the battle took place which ended in the defeat of the king of Sodom and his allies, who were carried away captive to the north. But at Hobah, “on the left hand of Damascus,” the invaders were overtaken by “Abram the Hebrew,” who dwelt with his Amorite confederates in the plain of Mamre, and the spoil they had seized was recovered from them.
The narrative gives us a picture of the geography and ethnology of Palestine as it was at the beginning of the Patriarchal Age. Before that age was over it had altered very materially; the old cities for the most part still remained, but new races had taken the place of the older ones, new kingdoms had arisen, and the earlier landmarks had been displaced. The Amalekite alone continued what he had always been, the untamable nomad of the southern desert.
Rephaim or “Giants” was a general epithet applied to the prehistoric population of the country. Og, king of Bashan in the time of the Exodus, was “of the remnant of the Rephaim” (Deut. iii. 11); but so also were the Anakim in Hebron, the Emim in Moab, and the Zamzummim in Ammon (Deut. ii. 11, 20). Doubtless they represented a tall race in comparison with the Hebrews and Arabs of the desert; and the Israelitish spies described themselves as grasshoppers by the side of them (Numb. xiii. 33). It is possible, however, that the name was really an ethnic one, which had only an accidental similarity in sound to the Hebrew word for “giants.” At all events, in the list of conquered Canaanitish towns which the Pharaoh Thothmes iii. of Egypt caused to be engraved on the walls of Karnak, the name of Astartu or Ashteroth Karnaim is followed by that of Anaurepa, in which Mr. Tomkins proposes to see On-Repha, “On of the Giant(s).” In the close neighbourhood in classical days stood Raphon or Raphana, Arpha of the Dekapolis, now called Er-Rafeh, and in Raphon it is difficult not to discern a reminiscence of the Rephaim of Genesis.