The sons of Anak are first mentioned in . The Israelite leader Moses sends twelve spies representing the twelve tribes of Israel to scout out the land of Canaan, and give a full report to the congregation. The spies enter from the Negev desert and journey northward through the Judaean hills until they arrive at the brook of Eshcol near Hebron, where reside Sheshai, Ahiman, and Talmai, the sons of Anak. After the scouts have explored the entire land, they bring back samples of the fruit of the land; most notably a gigantic cluster of grapes which requires two men to carry it on a pole between them. The scouts then report to Moses and the congregation, that "the land indeed is a land flowing with milk and honey," but ten of the twelve spies discourage the Israelites from even attempting to possess the land, for they reported that the men were taller and stronger than the Israelites, and moreover the sons of Anak dwell in the land, and that they felt like grasshoppers in their presence.
The Anakites are later mentioned briefly in the books of Deuteronomy, Joshua, and Judges. In Joshua, Caleb, one of the twelve spies sent by Moses into Canaan, later drove out the descendants of Anak — his three sons — from Hebron, also called Kirjath Arba.
Anak could be related to the Sumerian god Enki. Robert Graves, considering the relationship between the Anakites and Philistia identifies the Anakim with Anax, the giant ruler of the Anactorians in Greek mythology.