How tall were the biblical giants? Comparative height chart

Ordinary Ancient Jewish Guy versus Goliath (per the Septuagint, Dead Sea Scrolls, and Josephus), Goliath (per Symmachus, the Vulgate, and the Masoretic Text), and King Og of Bashan

Ordinary Ancient Jewish Guy versus Goliath (per the Septuagint, Dead Sea Scrolls, and Josephus), Goliath (per Symmachus, the Vulgate, and the Masoretic Text), and King Og of Bashan

Notes:

  • The height of Goliath varies between the various witnesses (manuscripts) to 1 Samuel 17.4 - between 4 1/2 and 6 1/2 cubits (even coming in at 5 1/2 cubits in one witness).
  • Deuteronomy 3.11 only offers us the length of King Og’s coffin (which, due to uncertainty in translation, could possibly alternatively refer to his bed). So, we might expect that the giant lying inside the coffin is about a cubit shorter than the 9-cubit coffin itself, or 8 cubits.
  • There was no standard measure for a cubit (the measure of a forearm) or a span (the measure of a spread hand width). So, I have estimated that 1 cubit = 45 cm, and that a span is half that.

See also: “The True Height of Goliath”

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49 Comments

Filed under 1 Samuel 17, Ancient Jewish texts, Biblical Exegesis, Deuteronomy 3, Goliath, King Og

49 responses to “How tall were the biblical giants? Comparative height chart

  1. BW16

    Who are the smallest people in the Bible?

  2. BY

    2.35m, 4.7 cubits, Ri Myung-Hun, North Korean basketballer. Why you no read you Bible? Ri Myung-Hun in the Bible!

  3. Jim

    Sweet table!
    Actually here is a list of some famous giants of Canaan I have come across in my research, including the Bible’s:
    Og – 8 cubits, 11 1/2 ft
    Goliath – 4 1/2 -6 1/2 cubits, 6 1/2 to 9 1/2 ft
    King Saul of Israel – towered head and shoulders over everyone – c. 6 1/2 ft
    Egyptian Slain by Benaiah – 5 cubits 7 1/2 ft
    Shasu of Anastasi I, – 4 to 5 cubits, 6 to 7 1/2 ft
    Giant mentioned by Alchaeus – 4 Royal Babylonian cubits 1 span, or 8 ft
    Gabbaras mentioned by Pliny, 9 feet 9 inches Roman, or 9 1/2 ft English.
    Eleazar the Jew mentioned by Josephus, 7 cubits tall – 10 1/2 ft
    Antonius of Syria mentioned by Nicephorus – 7 ft 7 in

  4. Jim

    Eleazar and Og, may represent the height of the tallest authentic giants reported from Canaan, although they could be somewhat exaggerated.

    The discovery of very large human bones in a Neolithic burial at Castelnua-Le-Lez, France in 1890 inspired at least one peer reviewed stature estimate of 3.5 meters tall — or roughly the height of Og – For what it’s worth.

    • Tyrone Slothrop

      I suspect that Eleazar’s and Og’s heights were exaggerated. Although, it is interesting nonetheless.

      I doubt that the bones of the so-called Castelnau giant were human. People have been digging up fossils and bones of mastodons, whales, and our human relatives like Gigantopithecus and Meganthropus for several thousand years, and calling them giant humans. But the original report on the finding of these bones look a bit sketchy to conclude ithe bones were human.

  5. Jim

    Well, based on my translation of the original French journal, and subsequent journals, the Castelnau bones were found in a human burial cyst. The identification of the bones as human was pretty much unanimous by the professors of anatomy, zoology, and paleontology at the University of Montpellier. In 1892 Dr. Paul Kiener prof. of pathological anatomy at Montpellier even identified pathological elements to the bones. There was some debate about height estimates, some said 3 metre, De Lapouge estimated 3.5 metre. These are probably grossly approximate estimates.
    The fact that other large human bones and skulls were reported again in 1894, makes me feel they are certainly worthy of another analysis. Of course, trying to track down old bones and reports of giant skeletons can be a real easter egg hunt.

    Meganthropus, or even Heidelbergensis could indeed account for the discovery of giant human like bones. There is still a debate as to how tall Meganthropus was, I have seen some estimates in old science papers go from 6 1/2 to 8 feet. Heidelbergensis has generally been put at 6 ft to 6 1/2 feet, and some bones from South Africa according to prof Lee Berger indicate some men may have routinely exceeded 7 feet.

    • Tyrone Slothrop

      That’s interesting, Jim. To be clear, did they identify the bones as homo sapiens, or as hominid?

      • Jim

        Based on what I could read, the three fragments were what was identified by most anatomosts as a tibia shaft roughly 11 inches long, a humerus 10 inches, and femur mid-section about 5 inches long, 2″ wide, although the humerus was thought to be a femur by one anatomist, they all felt these were human according to the article in La Nature 1890 vol 18. The age of the find was of polished stone and Bronze, so de Lapouge believed Neolithic to before Bronze age. Out of forty skulls at Castelnau, one frontal portion of skull de Lapouge found and examined, was very large — exceeding the Polynesians in dimensions (Lapouge was a Racialist) and he believed could only have come from a man exceeding 2 meters tall if proportioned. This skull represented the same gene type found common to the dolmen people of Lozere. Modern Cro-magnon man.

      • Tyrone Slothrop

        Thanks for these, Jim. I’m planning on taking a closer look at these reports at some stage.

  6. Jim

    It is noteworthy, that the Castelnau bones were found towards the very lowest strata of the burial mound, so it may have been quite a bit older than the rest of the bronze age remains in that cyst. He beieved the bones probably represented one individual, as they were found in that cyst together.

  7. Jim

    But a lot of these giant reports have truth to them but can get exaggerated a foot or so . A reputed ancient 9 foot giant was reported found in Georgia, south of Russia in 2008 at Borjomi turned out to be that of a very tall man, about 7 feet or so. Big, but Not ape-shit Big. So who knows.

    • just listen

      we were compared to giants in the bible and it states we were mere grass hoppers in there eyes meaning they were probaly 100 if not more feet. remember if real these giants were of supernatural origin and all perished in the flood. so science may not tell us every thing.

      • Deane

        Like grasshoppers – but is this meant literally? Two points say no. First, the description comes in an “evil report” given by the bad spies (other than Caleb and Joshua), who are trying to dissuade the Israelites from entering the promised land. Second, Isaiah 40.22 describes the inhabitants of the earth as grasshoppers in comparison to God’s vantage point from heaven – but on any literal scale, we would be much smaller, wouldn’t we? So the simile “like grasshoppers” is both an exaggeration and intended figuratively to contrast the heights of the Israelites and Anakim.

      • Mom

        I believe that the Bible said that there were giants in those days but didn’t specify giant What. Might have been giant animals?

      • Deane

        No – however these “giants” were imagined, they were not imagined to be animals.

        The term “Giant” in the phrase “There were giants in the earth in those days” (Genesis 6:4; KJV) translates the Hebrew term “Nephilim”. These Nephilim are then identified as the offspring of human women and a group called “sons of the gods” or “sons of God”. So they are at least part human, or if the “sons of God” are human they would be 100% human. Genesis 6:4 goes on to identify the Nephilim with “mighty men”/”heroes” (gibborim) from ancient times, and with “famous warriors”. So we’re not dealing with animals – but with humans. They are possibly semi-divine humans, but they are at least human.

        Yet in Genesis 6:1-4, despite a fairly detailed description, there is no indication that they are giants at all. Their description as giants only appears in Num 13-14.

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  9. Adrian E.

    Using someone’s bed or sarcophagus as yardstick for his real size seems to me unwise — rulers are megalomanics by nature. ;) There are no giants burried in the pyramids either.

    It probably is covered on the site somewhere, but I watched a doc that aired that recent archaeological research showed that the description of the weapon of Goliath was not refering to its weight/size but to its design, i.e. it refers to a specific kind of spear with loops/straps that allowed it to be thrown much better. Ancient equivalent of an uzi. Sorry, did not get to write down a reference.

    The tallest man who has ever lived, at least as proven (film footage), was
    Robert Pershing Wadlow, 2.70 m. In 2009 the tallest living man was Sultan Kosen, 2.50 m, feet size 36.5 cm. So Goliath’s 4.5 cubits is perfectly realistic. Rumanian basketball player Georghe Muresan is 2.31 m, so the common idea that Goliath would have been a cripple with such a size is not valid; see this modern David and Goliath shot:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Muresan.jpg

    • Deane

      Rationalizing legends, Adrian – now that’s the fool’s task, all the way to from Euhemeros to Velikovsky to Provan, Long, and Longman. I like to think it is better to work out the probable meaning of biblical texts, than to waste effort on inventive “what if?” scenarios.

      • Jim

        That’s right, a fool would suggest tall people could have existed in Biblical times who were as tall as modern NBA players. Because, we all know that there is no variation within human stature and all ancient men were 1.65 meters and 65 kilograms.

        4.5 cubits, which is between 6 ft 7 and 7 feet tall, is an outlandish height, since no one could have been this tall in ancient times, it’s more important to “work out” the probable meaning of the text, by denying what the text actually says.

        LoL. Wasting efforts by suggesting 7 feet tall men actually may have existed in ancient Palestine which could have inspired legends of giant warriors is simply too “far out” for modern academia to digest…The ramifications of “real giants” would shatter the anthropological world!

        ……I’ve gotta go now, the Lakers are on.

      • Deane

        Um… it’s not the argument that there were men who were 6 feet 7 – that’s fine by itself. In fact, the story of Goliath could quite well have derived from the story of a person about that height.

        The problem Adrian’s approach is that he attempts to euhemerise everything about Giants – so he argues also that Og’s 13-foot sarcophagous (which is ascribed to the last of the Rephaim – elsewhere identified as giants) might have contained a “realistically” tall individual, and that the reference to the weight of Goliath’s spear might not have been referring to the weight at all. This shows a pattern of euhemerisation in interpreting biblical texts, rather than any attempt to establish the best interpretation. And that is a fool’s game.

    • Jim

      The ancients of the Mediterranean pretty much admit that occasional giants were seen in their lands, some as groups, others solo freaks.
      There is a small list of several such notable giants which historians mentioned, no doubt heights have probably been exaggerated somewhat, but the picture is clear that variation of human height was as common in the past as it is today. In fact, without modern medicine, persons afflicted with pituitary gigantism and other height related disorders could conceivably have been more prevalent, since no treatment was available, assuming they lived long enough to reach their full height. Life before the industrial period was often savage and short, if you hit your 40th birthday you were in good shape.

  10. Adrian E.

    Diane, better take your own advice of “work out the probable meaning
    of biblical texts” rather than go projecting your fancies in it in the name of
    “anti-euhemerisation”:

    1) Obviously, the text says Og was a gaint in stature and reputation,
    and I think the context implies the ‘bed’ was a public monument aimed
    at impressing the Hebrew tourist. What it does nót say is “go do the
    math”. That’s a fool’s game, especially as we do not know exactly what
    the obejct was, and as we would not do so in any known case. E.g. the
    sarcophagus of Cheops (not even public) was 260 cm, and according
    to your logic (subtract a cubit) that would imply he was some 50 cm taller
    than your average Egyptian… Nope! So it is the naive math I objected
    against, not to the fact he was a ‘giant’ (he is called part of the Rephaim
    after all), as long as that term is not colored by our own prejudices
    of what ‘giants’ ought to be.
    2) To understand a text one needs the linguistical and cultural background
    of the author, and researching that is not “inventive” – projecting modern
    ideas however is. Warfare is among that background, and the doc masterly
    showed the spear type (I forgot whether it was a Philistine speciality, don’t think
    so, but it was an innovation at the time), from archaeological data, and
    it showed very well why a weaver’s beam with its loops was chosen for the
    comparisson, of all possible analogies, and the ancient reader would probably
    have chuckled at the apt comparisson. Whereas you want to go out and
    measure weaver’s beams (not likely standardized in weight and size to begin
    with) and do some projecting in the name of all modern Disney Giants…. ;)

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  12. Horseface

    Is Giant Gonzalez in the Bibible?

  13. This is great, this proved that the Bible is correct in everyway!

  14. Paula Osbourne

    It is interesting to get to the back ground if what you read in the bible. I am reading Josua at the moment . You can get to understand why Zrahab was pleading for herself and families life, knowing the God of the Isralites is coming to visit the land, knowing that their God gave them the strength two kill a 12 foot king Og what a mighty Gid we serve.

  15. Lynda Freeman

    Is this image of David and Goliath size comparison available to use?

  16. Frederic Holland

    Where does the tall African tribe fit into history? (Zulus or Watusi i’m not sure) Could they be some of the descendants that the article describes?

  17. Mutali

    Goliath only 202 cm ?
    I remember 25 years ago, local people found a 6 Metres Male Skeleton in Indonesian Island of Borneo and I saw the Pictures of the Giant Skeleton in Borneo 20 years later in a German Magazine.

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  22. raul

    opinions are like asholes, everyone has one. however i give mine, not literally, goliath was on todays measures 3,50 to 4 metres, and og must have been over 5 metres tall, just because we din’t get to measure them ourselves does not mean they were not that size, angels and daughters of men produced hibrids, that is a certainty, they being different is perfectly reasonable, the babel tower stoped construction when its high was around 5200 cubits, or about more than two thousand four hundred metres tall, compared to the tallest building 800 and something just put in perspective that there had to be some big fellows building that sort of project, just do more reading leaving the sceptical view on one side and is perfectly probable.

    • Charlie Sommers

      Why would someone working on a project of massive proportions necessarily have to be tall? The short little Chinese built the great wall didn’t they?

  23. @ Jim there was a second influx.

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  25. Rick

    Men had a life span of hundreds of years during those days so it’s hardly unimaginable that giants prevailed upon the earth. In Genesis 6:4 (KJV), these people were referred to as “mighty men” so they obviously stood apart from the rest. In the case of Goliath of Gath, Samuel 1:17-4 describes him as a “champion”. In Samuel 1:17-11, it is stated: “When Saul and all of Israel heard these words of the Phillistine,……”. In a literal sense at least, one can surmise that his voice probably resonated some considerable distance. In Samuel 1:17-24, all of the Israelites cowered at the spectacle of Goliath so he was clearly a warrior that no one in the camp of Israel had any realistic chance of defeating. In Samuel 1:17-51, the Philistines fled after Goliath was slain so they undoubtedly hid behind their champion. I could go on to describe Goliath’s remarkable armor and weaponry, but I suspect that the man was every bit of 6 cubits and a span as Samuel 1:17-4 described.

  26. Rick-agreed. Many folk are unprepared to regard the Bible as accurate; makes them uncomfortable and or they just plain disbelieve it! Samson’s God given strength meant he would’ve made today’s Powerlifters look like babies in comparison! Bet folk will come up with many theories about Samson’s strength: all denying the fact, God used his body to perform superhuman acts of strength…..

  27. David

    All this talk of giants… Here’s my question for this panel of experts. If only Noah and his family survived the flood, how did the lineage of the nephilim/ananaki survive to the time of Og and Goliath?
    I mean right!

    • Deane

      The rabbis gave quite a few answers to this – all different and inconsistent, of course. One of the answers was that Og himself clung to the side of the ark for the duration of the Flood.

    • Rick

      I suspect that the flood which Noah and kin encountered was regional, but it was undoubtedly massive. From Noah’s perspective (based on what he could possibly observe), the whole world was indeed engulfed in a flood. Bear in mind here that the Earth was regarded as flat back then, and most of the world was still unexplored,

      • David

        Interesting thought but I disagree with a few of your points.
        It would seem that in the pre-flood days with 900 year lifespans, people were probably significantly more advanced that we may think today. After all, they were building the Tower of Babel that was thousands of cubits high. Taller than any building today. Noah built a ship that housed potentially thousands of animals, three decks high! The sons of God were interfering with humanity and providing knowledge. Bottom line, I’m not sure they were so unaware of the world.
        As for the regional flood, this isn’t really consistent with the biblical account, nor the archaeological record. We see evidence of a tremendous flood everywhere. Also the “flat world” theory is really more of a dark ages thing.
        But, perhaps the nephilim did flee to the highest mountain tops. Being sons of god, perhaps they had forewarning. Perhaps that is the source of legends where the gods have their homes in mountains… i.e. mount Olympus?

  28. James

    I am a giant!

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