The True Height of Goliath

The major textual witnesses to 1 Samuel 17 give two different heights for Goliath. In some manuscripts of 1 Samuel 17, Goliath is 4½ cubits, which at approximately 18 inches or 45cm per cubit (as general estimates) is 6 feet 8 inches or 2.02 metres. In other textual witnesses, Goliath is 6½ cubits, that is, 9 feet 7 inches or 2.93 metres. Texts in which Goliath’s height is only 4½ cubits are also missing many of the verses found in most modern translations of 1 Samuel 17  (with the notable exception of Codex Alexandrinus) . The missing verses are 1 Samuel 17.12-31 and 55-58, and almost only appear where Goliath’s height is given as 6½ cubits.

The average height of people in this region in the late centuries B.C. was about 3½ cubits (a little over 5 foot). Therefore, 4½ cubits would represent an extremely tall person, as tall as one would ever find, whereas 6½ cubits would represent an inhumanly tall being. In 1 Samuel 17, Goliath is described as a “man” (17.4) who looks for a “man” to fight him (17.10). In context, this probably means a warrior, rather than just any male (which the semantic range of the Hebrew ‘ish sometimes includes) – but it does not represent a superhuman. By contrast, the parallel story about the defeat of Goliath by Elhanan (not David) in 2 Samuel 21.19 comes in a passage that refers to various individuals as Rephaim – a term that is likened to the superhuman Anakim or Giants in Deuteronomy 2. Therefore, it is plausible that when “6½ cubits” (9 feet 7 inches) was written, the scribes may have wished to give the impression that Goliath was a superhuman Giant.

Thom Stark - The Human Faces of God

Thom Stark – The Human Faces of God

In a recent book (The Human Faces of God: What Scripture Reveals When it Gets God Wrong (And Why Inerrancy Tries to Hide It) (Wipf & Stock, 2010)), Thom Stark makes a series of errors when he explains this textual variant:

According to the DSS and LXX, Goliath was six and a half feet tall, which at the time of David would certainly have been considered a giant stature. Human beings were generally much shorter than they are now. By the time of the Masoretes in the late first millennium C.E., almost two thousand years after the era of Goliath, six and a half feet tall was no longer so impressive. Thus the Masoretes amended the text, adding another three feet to Goliath’s stature, and that is why many Bibles today have Goliath at nine and a half feet tall. See McCarter, 1 Samuel, 286, 291.
(152, no. 1)

First, the “time of David” or “era of Goliath”, if they existed, is irrelevant. The only relevant time or era is the time of composition of these stories, and the object of inquiry is the meaning of a 9¾-foot-tall person. The story was still in development in the late Persian or early Hellenistic periods, as the textual variants between the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSSs), Septuagint (LXX), and proto-Masoretic (MT) manuscripts of 1 Samuel 17 show., as does the doublet in 2 Samuel 21.19. So, the relevant period for measuring average height is ca. 400-200 B.C.

Second, the use of “giant” to describe Goliath is misleading (see also p. 78 of Stark’s book). In a metaphorical sense, he would be considered a “giant”, i.e. an extremely tall person at 6 feet 8 inches tall. But at 9 feet 7 inches, or as a Rapha, Goliath is a “Giant” – that is, from a different race of superhumans. As biblical commentator P. Kyle McCarter – whom Stark cites – writes, Goliath is, metaphorically speaking, “a true giant in an age when a man well under six feet might be considered tall”. However, as McCarter adds, the “exaggeration” to nine feet seven inches is “fantastic” (1 Samuel, 291).

Third, Stark makes a serious error when he claims that the amendment from 4½ cubits to 6½ cubits was made in “the time of the Masoretes in the late first millennium C.E., almost two thousand years after the era of Goliath”, that it was made because average human height had increased by then and “six and a half feet tall was no longer so impressive” (sic), that it was only at this time that “the Masoretes amended the text”, and that this is the reason “why many Bibles today have Goliath at nine and a half feet tall”. Stark is right that the first extant Masoretic manuscripts, which are dated to the late first millennium C.E., read “6½ cubits” for Goliath’s height in 1 Samuel 17.4. But he is quite wrong to claim that the Masoretes were the first to make Goliath’s height 6½ cubits in that verse. In fact, there are textual witnesses from some 800 years earlier, much closer to the witnesses which have “4½ cubits”. Here is a summary of the major variants:

Textual witnesses Provenance Language Approx date Short or long Height
4QSama (DSS) Jewish Hebrew 50 B.C. short 4 1/2 cubits
Josephus, Antiquities 6.171 Jewish Greek A.D. 80 short (used as a source) 4 1/2 cubits
Symmachus (in Origen’s 4th column) Jewish Greek A.D. 200 long 6 1/2 cubits
Vaticanus (LXX) Christian Greek A.D. 300-400 short 4 1/2 cubits
Alexandrinus (LXX) Christian Greek A.D. 400-500 long 4 1/2 cubits
Vulgate Christian Latin A.D. 400 long 6 1/2 cubits
Codex Aleppo Jewish Hebrew A.D. 935 long 6 1/2 cubits
Codex Leningrad Jewish Hebrew A.D. 1010 long 6 1/2 cubits

So the reading of “6½ cubits” goes back at least to Symmachus’s Greek translaton in A.D. 200. Furthermore, as proto-MT texts are widely evident at Qumran (some 35% of biblical texts), the “6½ cubit” reading (associated with the proto-MT Greek manuscript and Vulgate) may well have originated in 400-200 B.C. Stark’s book regularly relies on the date of extant manuscripts as arguments for the priority of readings, whereas this is only one, and not the major, factor in determining “original” readings in textual criticism.

So – what’s the “true” height of Goliath? Well, that depends on which story you like best.

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40 Comments

Filed under 1 Samuel 17, 2 Samuel 21, 23, Anakim, Deuteronomy 2, Goliath, Rephaim

40 responses to “The True Height of Goliath

  1. Thom Stark

    Tyrone,

    Thanks for the engagement. A few words in response.

    First, I would point out that the quote you pulled from my book was from a footnote, one which had no bearing on the argument made in the body of the chapter. Not that that excuses my lack of clarity, but the reality is that I threw that footnote in as an afterthought.

    Second, I do not concede that I made a “series” of errors. I’ll concede partially to one, the third of the three you identify. The first two are hardly “errors.” If Goliath existed, and his height was recorded and handed down through the annals, then that is relevant. I agree that the average height at time of composition is relevant, but if the height is rooted in any kind of historical tradition, then that is relevant too. I have no stake in any position here either way.

    Third, you say that my use of “giant” to describe Goliath is “misleading,” and this is the second in the “series of errors” you say I make. I fully concur with everything McCarter says, and there is no conflict between what he says and what I’ve said. Yes, they were believed to have been giants by virtue of supernatural origins. I make no bones about this and if the reader has already read my discussion on p. 78, they will understand that when I use the term “giant” I am referring to traditions which explain the existence of tall people by reference to a supernatural lineage.

    Fourth, in reference to your third point, I concede that it was not the Masoretes who came up with the 6 ½ cubits reading. As you point out, the earliest example of that reading is from Symmachus, in the late second century CE. But note that my wording does not identify the Masoretes as the originators of the taller reading; I just state that they amended the text to conform to it for the reason I posited. I’ll admit to a lack of clarity here, but not to a “serious error.”

    You suggest that it is “possible” there was a Hebrew text as early as the second century BCE which had the taller reading. Of course it’s possible, but no such text is extant. The fact remains that the earliest Hebrew text with the taller reading dates to the tenth century CE. So it stands to reason that the Hebrew text was amended. It is likely that the Greek texts may have had an influence on the scribes here. The more fantastic reading would have been more attractive for obvious reasons, and one of them is the reason I suggested as a plausible explanation—4 ½ cubits didn’t seem fantastic enough, though at earlier periods it would have.

    Of course, I’m happy to concede that the “average height” of a human in a given period had less to do with the variant than I’ve posited. I just think it’s a plausible explanation. Not going to hang my hat on it.

    So while you are correct that I may have left the impression that the Masoretes were the first to change the text, the absence of the taller reading in any extant Hebrew ms. prior to the Masoretic period indicates that it was altered late, in the Hebrew manuscripts. There is no evidence to suggest otherwise.

    I could have been clearer in the footnote, but it was a footnote that was irrelevant to the argument in the body, so I felt that a full break-down of the data was unnecessary. I do, however, appreciate your bringing the fuller picture to light.

    All the best,
    T

    • Tyrone Slothrop

      Thanks for your reply, Thom. It sounds as though your book has stimulated a good deal of discussion in various quarters – well done.

  2. Thom Stark

    Thanks very much, Tyrone. And again, I appreciate your engagement. This is a good criticism.

  3. Tyrone Slothrop

    I’ll just note that while there may be no manuscript evidence to suggest that the 6-and-a-half-cubit reading existed before the extant Masoretic texts, we can’t justly conclude “there is no evidence” to suggest that it existed earlier. In fact, there is evidence, and it points to a date many centuries before the Masoretes.The Vulgate is still evidence (c.a. A.D. 400) of the reading, and good evidence in textual criticism. And that was of course dependent on the earlier, Hebrew proto-MT. Then there is Symmachus, evident in Origen, via later recensions. So the “evidence” closes the gap to a couple of centuries.

    Moreover, textual criticism does not greatly depend on the relative dating of available manuscripts, but much more so on putting forward reasons, general and particular, for the most likely direction of dependence. In this case, I suspect that the more likely development was an exaggeration from 4.5 to 6.5, one of the reasons being that this ties in with the most likely textual development from the short to the long version of 1 Sam 16-18, another reason because of the tendency towards corruption or loose translation technique in proto-MT 1 Sam, etc. The manuscript evidence itself is not a major consideration either way.

  4. Thom Stark

    I don’t disagree with you, and my statement didn’t hinge on a tenth century date for the taller reading.

    I also agree that exaggeration is a suitable explanation, and all that’s necessary. I offered an alternative to that because for some reason I like to give conservatives (remember my audience) a way into accepting critical conclusions. Thus, to say that Goliath got taller as humans did is disarming; it’s like saying that his height got “recontextualized” rather than distorted. In short, I was trying to be nice. I did that in a few places as a sort of reprieve from the rest of my argument.

    Jerome utilized the Hexapla as well, so it is more likely in my mind that its presence in the Vulgate is owed to Symmachus’s translation, not to the proto-MT Hebrew. But I really don’t have a stake in it.

    • Tyrone Slothrop

      Oh yes, I was just clarifying things. And I’m sure we’re substantially in agreement versus the conservative audience you are addressing. In an earlier post, ‘Don’t Mention the Copulating Angels!’, I completely agreed with the way you dismissed the apologetic alternatives which are offered to get around the meaning of beney ha’elohim in Gen. 6.4. I particularly liked your reference to “the image of all the kings of the earth going out en masse with the aim of taking wives – something like a foxhunt”!

      I’m not sure about the ancient context for recontextualization. I’m aware of height plasticity studies that show widespread growth spurts in A.D. 900-1300 and 1900-present, due to richer diets. But I think height was fairly constant in the Near East, Europe and northern Africa in antiquity through to late antiquity. I’m not sure on this, and it may be that the studies haven’t been done. However, there is no general trend in recorded history of humans getting bigger over time – height plasticity is strictly dependent on diet.

  5. Thom Stark

    Right. Since it wasn’t the focus of my chapter I didn’t do the detailed research, but a professor of mine who is an ANE archaeologist told us that the average height of humans in the ANE from that period was in the four-foot region. “How do we know?” he quips. “Because we have their bones!”

  6. ObserverTheRealOne

    I have some questions – and some remarks.
    Q1: The average height of a person during the period during which the Bible was committed to writing (c. 400BC). “… we have their bones…” Male or female bones? If female, the whole measuring thing gets problematic. Women are considerably shorter than men on average; their forearms proportionally so. I assume the statement means ‘males’? Okay then, the males of the Bible writing period were around 5 foot tall. That suggests a cubit of 17 or more likely 16 inches. If 4 and half standard ‘Bible writing era’ cubits was Goliath’s measure, he comes out at a pretty paltry height; something under 7 feet tall. If 6 and a half standard ‘Bible-writing era’ cubits is used; he still doesn’t come out all that impressive – still under 9 feet.
    All this Bible-writing-era-measure-of-a man business is just so much obfuscating scholarship. The ancient Hebrew writers of the Bible had a pretty firm idea in their mind what a ‘standard’ cubit was, and what a ‘royal’ cubit was. For Biblical writings, they would’ve used the Royal cubit – around 26 inches. And that makes for a pretty tall Goliath – whether they use the 4 and a half or 6 and a half.
    Which Biblical text is authoritative, anyway – the Masoretic or the Septuagint? To suggest that the Bible writers decided “Ooh… I’m not happy with an itsy bitsy Goliath. Let’s LIE and change the record from 4 and a half to 6 and a half.”
    To accuse the Bible writers of that… why not just say the whole book from end to end is fabrication?! I’m sure many ‘scholars’ would just love to say that, anyway and be done with it.
    Why don’t we just take it that there might be honest scribal errors and that the authoritative text derives from manuscripts which we no longer have – but the translators DID! In short, the ‘big’ measure for Goliath is the authentic measure.
    The guy was not just a big man. He was a giant. As in… not wholly human.
    The “b’nai elohim” (sons of the gods) references in the Bible make it clear as crystal that there was some kind of inter species breeding going on in ancient times. No… the “good people Seth and bad people Cain’ argument has been ditched long ago. Don’t waste your breath on that one. The ancient Hebrews DID believe that there were strange inbreedings of human women with non-human beings – breedings which gave rise to a hybrid species of people who were enormous! A second irruption of this inbreeding occured after the Deluge and gave rise to a lesser, but no-less impressively large, species of humanoids – most of which lived in the Levantine region.
    Goliath was among the last of this pedigree. The Book makes it quite clear Goliath was NOT fully human.
    Trying to “down size” Goliath is just another attempt at trying to discredit the Book.

    • Paul D.

      crazy person whistle

      • Tyrone Slothrop

        Yet not in the same league as Verville Pierre.

      • ObserverTheRealone

        Roll of the eyes at the typical “I just don’t want to even begin to consider something I can’t understand”.

        Is that the kind of ‘scholarship’ you’re doing here, huh?

        How about we just end our debate with a grea big “Fuck you!” from me to you? I’ll spend my energies elsewhere, trying to establish the truth. You… well, you can just enjoy your smug little “crazy person whistle”

        Prick!

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  9. Old and possibly dead thread, but I have a question that I hope someone can answer: How did the increase in height come about? The obvious answer is that a scribe at some point thought a taller Goliath was a good idea, but there’s another possibility, that he was simply confused about the text he was copying. In other words, what was he copying? Presumably it was Hebrew – so how do you write 4 cubits in Hebrew, and could it have een mistaken to a 6?

  10. real

    These are the remnant of the sons of the gods you idiots !!! why can´t you people believe something that is written in many ancient books, yesss this happened in acient times and is recorded in the history of this planet and by many wise men from the past, the flood did exist and ended with the civilization of the giants !!! ohhhh yeah , because the had a whole civilization of their own but they became wicked, but who were they really, who were the real original giants or the sons of the god, or of the gods as is captured by many old cultures and religions over the world like for example the sumerian tablets where is well explained how these gods created man …the sumerians called them the ANUNNAKI and the story is engraved in clay tablets of how these gods came from heaven or best depicted, from another planet and created man as an image of their own, sounds familiar ??? yeah genesis in the bible .. the tablets even describe the flood sent from the gods to humanity and the story of ziuzudra or the sumerian noah !!! I mean the story of the planet and humanity is very very old and is not clear to us now like it was before, and after the flood normal men had to start all over again , there were some giants still , some here some there spread over the world even the americas ,, yeahh there are many accounts about giants in indian folklore, mayas , aztecs, etc, even the tribes from the u.s. have legends, miths and recounted stories about them of how huge and strong they were. They have found tangible proofs in recent times like the extremely large bones found in a cave in lovelock nevada, skeletons from 7 to 9 feet tall and jaws 5 times the normal size of a modern human. This is no b-shit, is fact, it did happen whether you people like it or not, the story of this planet is complex shit and all the story you people know is not even a wink of an aye of what really has happen in this old world, all you know now is just from 5000 years back to date of history , that my friends ain´t shit compared to the age of humanity or the age of this planet.. the story of man is far far older than what you may even think of and it has been wiped out from us since the fall of man or when our god or the gods almost destroyed the entire humanity because of our own mistakes or actually the mistakes of the giants .. But the real mistery here that has been in my mind for many years remains, and is, who ware these beings and where they came from , were the beings from another planet ? who send them and why ? how could they interbreed with human women, did they had similarity with our dna or maybe they were our creators, why their offspring became wicked if they had it all … only god knows what really happened and some enlightened people do know too and feel it deep in their souls .. . People now are hard to believe because they only believe what they see, and well the traditional historians don´t know shit about pre-history , they only have clues and questions, but if you look close to the tales and history not only from one culture or two , but from many arround the globe you will find that they all tell about strange beings like giants or gods decending from the skies in the past or even the global tale of the flood expressed in many cultures arround the planet… greetings to all you people and specially to OBSERVER THE REAL ONE ,. yeahh buddy you´re damn right you have the spark, it did occured some strange interbreeding in the past that story doesn´t recognize because if they do, they´ll have to change everything and it just bothers what is stablished, who knows may be when our destruction comes close as it happened in the past, then the truth will rise again….don´t pay atention to ingorance …the world is full of it ..

    • Jim

      To: Real.
      Interesting theories you present here.
      As a hobby, I study giant lore, compile news clips of giant skeletons from 1800 – to present, and historical giants like the Patagonians and Goliath.

      Sometimes it is hard to separate fact from fantasy in these old accounts. I take the middle road when it comes to Goliath. His size seems to be expressed in the bulk of his weaponry, 125 lbs of bronze armor, 15 lb spear, bronze helmet, shin guards, shield, javelin, and sword. The guy must have been carrying over 175 lbs all together. Most ancient suits of scale armor rarely exceeded 50 or 70 lbs. — yet he carried double this. If a normal coat of armor on a Canaanite charioteer was say, 60 lbs, Goliath’s armor would need to be about 45% wider and 45% taller to equal a mass double the weight of a 60 lb coat — or 125 lbs. That means he was likely 45% taller and 45% wider, (give or take a few percent) than the average bronze coated warrior elite. 1.45 x 1.45 = 2.1 x surface area. Let’s be conservative and say the average Canaanite Elite was 5 feet 6 inches (ANE archaeologists have found that height of Iron age and Late Bronze man was at best 2 or 3 inches shorter than modern 5 ft 8 Syrian men– They were NOT 4 feet tall, and generally some inches over 5 feet). This makes Goliath exactly 8 feet tall — precisely between the 4 1/2 and 6 1/2 cubit range. If the size of the cubit used was the long or royal cubit of 20 to 22 inches, ( 24 fingers), as historian Josephus used, then this also makes Goliath about 8 feet tall. Regardless of whether he was 6 feet 8 or 9 feet 8, I figure he was somewhere beetween these values, and certainly a giant next to a 5 feet 6 inch man. Even King Saul, a man well over 6 feet high, did not dare to fight Goliath as the story suggests.

      The Egyptians also have tales of Canaanites who were 4 to 5 cubits tall, at Papyrus Anastasi, that would be roughly 6 1/2 to 8 1/2 feet. One ore more copper spear tips 26 inches long and about 5 lbs weight were found near Kfar Monash Israel, dated to 2600 BC– this is a spear about the size of Goliath’s, and 6 times heavier than normal. There are other later accounts of Near Eastern giants mentioned by Alchaeus, Pliny, and Josephus, some as tall as 9 and 10 feet. As recently as last month a Kurdish news agency reported that the bones of four men, “about 3 meters” in height were uncovered from 6,500 year old graves south of Kirkuk, in Iraq — as quoted from a Mr. Mohammed Ali of the Garmiyan Archaeological Dept.

      Stories like these are not unknown to news papers from the past hundred years. Tracking them down and finding the bones is a real chore however. I did locate some interesting hand prints from a controversial ancient site called “Glozel” in France. Some of these hand impressions were 9 to 14 inches long, imprinted in soft clay. Some of the skull and limb bones from Glozel were very “robust” even double the normal width. Hands that big likely indicate men 7 to 8, maybe 9 feet. Probably the best scientific data I have so far seen, was the 1890-1892 science paper on the giant Neolithic bones from Castelnau, France and the adjacent news reports from Montpellier. I do suspect the height estimate was a bit liberal, however the femoral mid shaft section at 16 cm circumference, is twice the normal width for a modern man. So Prof. Lapouge’s 11 feet (3.5 m) stature estimate is probably not way off the mark.

      As concerns the Lovelock cave giants, that story has been wildly exaggerated, retold, and mythologized. Truth is, a six foot six inch red haired mummy was pulled from the cave in November 1912–indicating a man about 7 feet tall, but the female mummies were described as shriveled and only as tall as “Japanese women” as recorded by James Hart and David Pugh, the first men to give a written account of their guano claims in the cave. It is true that large bones and skulls have been reported in that region of Nevada. Some of the fiber woven sandals taken from Lovelock cave were 13 to 16 inches long. I have a grainy black and white photo of one that was said to be 15 inches in length and 7 inches across the toes– That would be a man’s size 18 or 20 sandal, easily fit for someone 6’9 to 7 foot, maybe even 7 ft 6 inches tall. My brother is 6’3 and wears a size 13 shoe, and 12 sandal. So these Lovelock red haired men may have been as tall as NBA centers, like Shaq or Yao Ming sized. The Average height of Paiute men were 5 to 5 1/2 feet, so 6 1/2 to 7 1/2 foot men would stand about waist and shoulders over them, or 50% taller. One guy in Virginia city had a display of some 7 foot skeletons in his museum, the Mark Twain museum or Memories which is now the Mark twin bookstore. I don’t know if they were real mummies or dime museum fakes, but the owner Mr. Joe Curtis claims they were taken down in the early 1990’s because of the new NAGPRA laws signed by Pres. Clinton. They were studied but could not be identified as Amerindian he says. Still has one, reputedly 7’4″ in his basement over at 111 South C Street, Virginia City. Another museum in Winnemucca, the Humboldt museum has a couple of large skulls and jaws, but they aren’t “5 times normal size.” They’re about 20% maybe a third larger than normal, so perhaps 7 foot tall people. The largest claim of a giant in Nevada was reported in Jan 16, 1904 by the Record Herald, in Winnemucca, Nevada which mentions enormous human bones found 12 feet in a gravel pit. The metacarpal bones were 4 1/2 inches long, and an ulna was about 18 inches long, according to a “Dr. Samuels” the man may have been nearly 11 feet high…. So stories of giants up to about 9 to 12 feet do exist in Nevada, I don’t think these can all be explained away as Ground Sloth either. Unless ground sloth wear size 22 moccasins.

      As for the Annunauki, star gods mating with earth women producing giants. That’s pretty far out my friend.. But Having seen 3 UFO’s in my life, with my own objective eye-balls… I conclude, what the hell…Nearly anything is possible ;)

    • dan

      you my friend are right we have no idea whether or not those giants where from another planet. In fact the bible or other writings do not deny the exisence of other life forms in other planets. But then again the mayas thought that the spanish where gods yet they.were not. So its all up for debate the important thing is that we’re discussing this and opening our minds and learning

      • Deane

        Well, the value of having an open mind must be balanced against other factors. As the literary theorist Northrop Frye once said, “I am not dismissing such explanations: one should doubtless keep an open mind about them, though an open mind, to be sure, should be open at both ends, like the food pipe, and have a capacity for excretion as well as intake.” While remaining open-minded myself, I suspect that the ancient alien theory is much closer to my lower orifice.

  11. jc@hendo6.com

    2 Samuel 21:19 clearly states that Elhanan kills the brother of Goliath… not Goliath.
    19 In another battle with the Philistines at Gob, Elhanan son of Jair[c] the Bethlehemite killed the brother of[d] Goliath the Gittite, who had a spear with a shaft like a weaver’s rod.

    • Tyrone Slothrop

      No, that is not correct. Your mistranslated English version of 2 Samuel 21.19 might well state that Elhanan kills “the brother of” Goliath. The Hebrew text of 2 Samuel 21.19, by contrast, simply states that Elhanan killed Goliath. The King James Version indicates that “the brother of” is not in the original text by placing the phrase in italics. Some translations, such as the KJV, sometimes attempt to harmonise the Bible rather than translate it.

      • Hal

        You are forgeting 1 Chronicles 20:5. This is a correct translation and is why those words were added to the verse in 2 Samuel.

      • Tyrone Slothrop

        No, I am not “forgetting” 1 Chron. 20.5. Chronicles comes later than Samuel and – as Isaac Kalimi shows – has strong harmonising tendencies which account for its change of Goliath to Goliath’s “brother”.

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  13. Caribbeancop

    If goliath wasn’t nine feet David wouldn’t need a sling

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  17. Kevin

    Hi,
    I have always thought of Goliath to be over 9ft with a huge sword.
    Today I was reading 1 Samuel 21 and in verse 9 I was reminded that David inherited Goliaths sword.
    The thought came to me then was “how could that be possible?” why would a short man take a giant sword as his weapon of defense. Don’t forget that it was an iron sword so it would weigh a ton. Yes he may have a powerful sword, but he would be slowed down by the weight and in all sword fights we know that speed is a key element of defense.
    It made me think of who Goliath really was, was he a freak of nature or simply a mighty warrior a champion of warriors? And this is how I found this discussion.
    If from the Greek area, Goliath would have probably been fit and strong like the Greeks were and if he were nearly 7ft tall he would have been a giant of a man in comparison to the Isrealite people, but being tall and strong is not enough to be a champion he would have probably been an incredible fighter killing man Isrealites on the battle field.

    If David were ready to arm himself with Goliaths sword then we will have to conclude that David was physically able to pick it up and if the sword was that of a giant we would not imagin a Shepard boy to be able to wield its length or it’s weight.

    At the end of the day does it matter if Goliath were 6 1/2 cubits or 4 1/4 cubits? What matters is that David killed the Philistine champion while Saul and his army were afraid and he inherited a famous sword.

  18. Don’t know what to make of two accounts…..I believe he was a giant

  19. edy

    Hi All

    Lets not forget some key points in this story, first key point is that Saul (the first king of Israel) stood, himself, head and shoulders above all Israel which in my opinion puts him at 7 feet (just my opinion). King Saul was a warrior of note and a King who was under pressure to perform at the valley of Elah, Saul took one look at Goliath and was too afraid to fight which makes one think ‘how tall/big was Goliath that Saul would not fight him’. Second key point is that David took Goliath’s sword but the assumption is that David always used it after that. Third key point is that, as someone mentioned already, there are three men (that we know of) that walk the planet today who are all over 8ft tall, fair enough. Never the less these men are 1 in about 2 million, right? But, the Bible does not talk only about individuals that were of incredible height but it speaks of Og, king of the giants and the Anakites that lived in the promised land. What I am trying to say is that the Bible mentions nations and tribes and people, whole races of gigantic men. This should be enough to convince one about a race of giants as opposed to just freakishly tall individuals who miraculously reached a height of 8ft.

    • Edy,

      Good point. I think the 6 1/2 feet tall Goliath is a bit short for the story to make any sense, if as the Book of Samuel says, Saul was shoulders above his men. That makes Saul himslef 6 ft 6 to 7 feet tall, which would have been eye to eye with Goliath… So unless Goliath was really roided out with muscles, I think Goliath had to have been about seven feet at the minimum, and 8 1/2 to 9 feet maximum, and I think 7- 1/2 to 8 feet tall seems about right if we take into account his weapons as listed in MT sources, (125 lb bronze coat of armor, shield, 15 lb spear, greaves, helmet, sword = probably 180+ lbs!) So Goliath had 2 to 3 times the weight of arms any man of antiquity would dare to carry in battle! — I think the heaviest Mycenaean, Scythian, and Hoplite armor was on the order of 50 to 75 lbs, not including spear — 180 lbs is a joke for a man of 6 ft to carry efficiently with mobility in single combat. The volume of armor is more suitable for a man somewhere around 7 1/2 to 8 1/2 ft –IF scaled up proportionally by the volume.
      So…If the Royal cubit of Egypt, or Babylon is used, which was 20.65 inches, 4.5 cubit Goliath becomes about 7 feet 9 inches tall, which in my opinion fits the data better, and actually accords with the size of the Shasu Canaanite bullies recorded in Egyptian tales in 13th century BC Papyrus Anastasi I, “the craft of the scribe” but also matches the Egyptian or Judaean/ Philistine giant slain by the Babylonian mercenary, “Antimenidas” the brother of the Lesbian poet Alchaeas circa 600 B.C. who was lacking but a palm of Five “royal” cubits stature, or 4 cubits 1 span (7 ft 9 in), exactly the height of Goliath in the oldest Samuel texts!

      And of course, the 5 cubit tall Egyptian slain by Benaiah Bar Jehoiada, if he was 5 short cubits = 7 feet 6 inches, but Royal cubits, make him 8 ft 6 inches. 4 1/2 to 5 cubits seems to be the favored height of giant warriors in Palestine in the bronze to iron age from Biblical and non Biblical sources.

      The Biblical tribes or titles like Nephilim, Rephaim, etc. seem to be more Pejorative, subjective, and reflective generic terms for ancient kings and warriors in general, who claimed a semi divine birthright (whether by force, or some strange ancestry from gods), shades of the Bronze age Mesopotamian and Canaanite aristocracy. We now know that anyone who was a King from Ugarit or Bashan who died, was later venerated in praise and joined the ranks of the Rapiuma “the long dead” the “kings of eternity”, in the underworld when they died. The Rapiuma of earth, were the aristocracy of Canaanite elites, but based on the Ugaritic texts, they were not necessarily physically giants — but powerful kings and rulers. Ultimately ancient people tended to chose “giant” men to rule over them like Saul, or fight their battles like Goliath, so most giants tended to be called Rephaim, Nephilim, Emim, Zuzim, ANakim, yadda yadda, based on the region and locality they heralded from — yet not all Rephaim were physically giants. Probably most were not. Because the term Rephaim later became a generic term for “the dead” in general, not just dead heroes, kings, or giant warriors.

      Goliath and his brothers, or cousins from Gath were called sons of the Rapha, and the Philstines also pitched camp in the valley of Rephaim when they fight David near Jerusalem. The Rapiuma hero and death cult seems to have been strong in Canaan up until 1000 – 900 BC at least, though in ethnic origin, these Philistines may have been from the Anak tribe, as the Book of Joshua claims that the Israelites pushed the remaining Anak into Gaza, Gath, and Ashdod.

      It does seem reasonable to assume families with large stature existed in Palestine, possibly warrior elites not unlike something you would see among the Ancient Adena, or Watusi in Africa. Polydactyly, or six fingers is can sometimes occur in several dissorders when there are high levels of inbreeding in a population, or as a dominant trait among some ethnic groups. This may have been the case with the brother of Goliath. Rock art in the SW depicst many cases of six fingers, six toes, and a number of studies in the area have shown that there has been a high incidence of six fingers among many SW Indian tribes. It may have been seen as a sign of divinity or the supernatural, just as giantism was possibly seen as such. At least one ancient coffin lid from Gaza in the 14th century BC shows a anthrpoid representation of six fingers, so polydactyly seems to have occurred in the region of Philistia/Gaza where the Anakim/ Goliath allegedly resided.

      But that doesn’t make a race of giants, but familiy groups, maybe tribal leaders.

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  26. I don’t know why average height matters at all, we have what we have here in the US (I believe it’s 5′ 10″) and yet nearly every professional basketball player is over 7′ tall, and many are pushing 8′ tall. There’s plenty of pictures from the bad old days last century (or before last) with very tall men over 8′ tall, so why is the idea of a 9′ tall man so incredible?

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