Bible Trivia

Who was Ishbi-Benob?


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Who was Ishbi-Benob?

Ishbi-Benob is a rather obscure figure mentioned only once in the Bible. Appearing in 2 Samuel 21:16, he is one of the four giants who battled with King David and his warriors.

The Biblical Account

The single reference to Ishbi-Benob can be found in the Old Testament, specifically in the Second Book of Samuel, which is part of the Deuteronomistic history. The passage reads as follows:

“Then Ishbi-Benob, who was one of the sons of the giant, the weight of whose spear was three hundred shekels of brass in weight, he being girded with a new sword, thought to have slain David” (2 Samuel 21:16, KJV).

From this verse, we can gather a few tentative details about Ishbi-Benob. He was one of the sons of a giant, carried a spear weighing about 300 shekels (approximately 7.5 pounds or 3.4 kilograms), and wore a new sword. His intention was to kill David, the legendary king of Israel, but he was unsuccessful in his attempt.

The Giants in the Bible

It’s important to note that the term “giant” in the Bible has different interpretations, adding to the ambiguity surrounding Ishbi-Benob. Some scholars believe that the term refers to a race of unusually tall individuals, while others think it could be metaphorical, alluding to their great strength or authority. The term “giant” in Hebrew is “Rephaim,” which is also sometimes used to refer to the inhabitants of the ancient Canaanite region.

The most famous giant mentioned in the Bible is undoubtedly Goliath, who was defeated by David in a well-known story. Apart from Goliath and Ishbi-Benob, there are several other giants mentioned in the Bible, such as Og, the king of Bashan, and the Anakim, a race of giants living in Canaan.

The Connection to the Rephaim

The limited information about Ishbi-Benob in the Bible leaves ample room for speculation. One possibility is that he was a member of the Rephaim, a group of giants mentioned in various biblical passages. The Rephaim were known for their impressive height and strength and often served as adversaries to the Israelites.

Some scholars have suggested that the Rephaim might be related to the Nephilim, a race of beings mentioned in the Book of Genesis (Genesis 6:1-4). According to the Bible, the Nephilim were the offspring of the “sons of God” and the “daughters of men.” While this interpretation remains highly speculative, it could provide a potential connection between Ishbi-Benob and other biblical giants.

The Battle with King David and His Warriors

Returning to the verse in 2 Samuel, we know that Ishbi-Benob’s intention was to kill David. However, he was unsuccessful, as one of David’s warriors, Abishai, intervened and killed Ishbi-Benob, saving the king’s life. The passage goes on to describe three other giants who were defeated by David’s warriors, suggesting that the battle against the giants was a significant event in David’s military career.

The Significance of Ishbi-Benob

While the information about Ishbi-Benob is scarce, his mention in the Bible may hold some importance. The context of his appearance in the narrative could suggest a few possible interpretations:

  1. A Test of David’s Leadership: Ishbi-Benob’s attempt to kill David might be viewed as a test of the king’s leadership and ability to overcome powerful adversaries. With the help of his warriors, David was able to defeat Ishbi-Benob and the other giants, reinforcing the biblical theme of divine protection and guidance for the chosen leader.
  2. A Symbol of the Struggle against Evil: The battle against the giants, including Ishbi-Benob, can be seen as a metaphorical struggle against evil forces. As David and his warriors triumphed over the giants, it could represent the Israelites’ continuous battle against the forces of darkness and chaos.
  3. A Representation of the Conquest of Canaan: The presence of giants like Ishbi-Benob in the land of Canaan might symbolize the challenges faced by the Israelites as they sought to claim their promised land. The defeat of Ishbi-Benob and his brethren could be seen as a representation of the Israelites’ successful conquest of Canaan, overcoming the obstacles and enemies that stood in their way.

Archaeological and Historical Evidence

Unfortunately, there is no concrete archaeological or historical evidence that directly supports the existence of Ishbi-Benob or the other biblical giants. The story of the battle between David and the giants remains a matter of faith and interpretation.

However, it is worth noting that the ancient Near East was home to various myths and legends featuring giants and other supernatural beings. These stories could have influenced the biblical narrative, providing a cultural context for the appearance of figures like Ishbi-Benob.


In summary, Ishbi-Benob remains an enigmatic figure in the biblical narrative, with only a single verse in 2 Samuel providing limited information about his identity and intentions. While the details are scarce, several speculative interpretations suggest that Ishbi-Benob might have been a member of the Rephaim or the Nephilim, and his appearance in the story could serve as a symbol of various challenges faced by King David and the Israelites.

Ultimately, our understanding of Ishbi-Benob is limited by the lack of concrete evidence and the ambiguity of the biblical text. Nevertheless, the figure of Ishbi-Benob continues to intrigue and inspire curiosity, inviting us to explore the rich tapestry of biblical narratives and the cultural context from which they emerged.