How tall was your average Philistine woman compared with Goliath? As it turns out: about the same as Kim Kardashian compared with Kris Humphries!

At 5' 1" and 6' 9", Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries are about the same height as your average Philistine woman and Goliath (per the Septuagint, Dead Sea Scrolls, and Josephus)

At 5′ 1″ and 6′ 9″, Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries are about the same height as your average Philistine woman and Goliath (per the Septuagint, Dead Sea Scrolls, and Josephus)

Did you know that the heights of Kim Kardashian (5′ 1″) and fiance Kris Humphries (6′ 9″) perhaps exactly match the average heights of an ancient Philistine woman and Goliath?

1 Samuel 17 sets the story of David and Goliath sometime in what we now call the late Iron Age I or early Iron Age II (around 1000 BC), and describes Goliath’s hometown as the city of Gath, identified by some archaeologists with the site of Tel es-Safi.1 Goliath is 4-and-a-half cubits (6′ 8″) in some versions of the text (although he grows to a towering 6-and-a-half cubits (9′ 7″) in other versions). In addition, a notice in Joshua 11.22 states that, after the Israelite conquest of the land, the Anakim (described as Giants in Numbers 13) “remained only in Gaza, in Gath, and in Ashdod”. So in some biblical texts, Gath is remembered as a city in which Giants dwelt!

But how tall was Goliath in relation to the regular Philistine inhabitants of Gath?

Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries (although it could be your average Philistine woman with Goliath on a trip to the beach down at Ashkelon)

Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries (although it could be your average Philistine woman with Goliath on a trip to the beach down at Ashkelon)

A study published this month in Zeitschrift des deutschen Palästina Vereins examines the skeletal remains of at least 77 Philistines who were buried in the same period to which Goliath is assigned in 1 Samuel 17: the late Iron Age I or early Iron Age II, that is, 1200-800 BC.2 The human remains were very poorly preserved, had been tampered with by modern grave-robbers, and comprise only fragments of bones, with very few intact specimens. But the authors were able to estimate the stature of four Philistines from four surviving metacarpal bones (the bones at the base of your fingers), according to equations worked out by JH Musgrave and NK Harneja (1978).

According to the 2011 article on Tel es-Safi:

The values obtained [for adult female stature, applying the Musgrave-Harneja calculation] ranged from 151.8 to 159.3 cm and averaged 155.3 cm. This estimate is similar to that of a Philistine woman recovered at Ashkelon, 154 +/-3.5 cm (p. 40).

So, this is how tall Goliath was, compared to your average female inhabitant of Gath:

The height of Goliath versus the height of a regular ancient Philistine woman from Gath

The height of Goliath versus the height of a regular ancient Philistine woman from Gath

Given that the cubit was not an exact measure, and might vary by an inch or two either way, these heights of your average Philistine woman and Goliath may very well be the same as the respective heights of Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries:

Your average Philistine woman and Goliath? Nope - Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries again.

Your average Philistine woman and Goliath? Nope – Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries again.

Notes:
(1) The identification of Tel es-Safi with Gath cannot be easily reconciled with the biblical stories, which appear to place Gath in two separate places, one in the north in the vicinity of Tel es-Safi (west of Jerusalem), and one somewhere to the south of Judah in the Negev desert. But some of those biblical stories may well have had the site of Tel es-Safi in mind, an important site which was continuously occupied by humans from the Chalcolithic Age (4500-3500 BC) until 1948 when ethnically cleansed of its predominantly Arabic population by the Israeli Defence Forces.
(2) Faerman, M., Boaretto, E., Uziel, J., Maeir, A. M., and Smith, P, “’… In Their Lives, and in Their Death …': A Preliminary Study of an Iron Age Burial Cave at Tell es-Safi, Israel,” Zeitschrift des deutschen Palästina Vereins 127(1) (2011): 29–48.

h/t Jim West / Aren Maeir

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13 Comments

Filed under 1 Samuel 17, Biblical Exegesis, Goliath, Numbers 13-14

13 responses to “How tall was your average Philistine woman compared with Goliath? As it turns out: about the same as Kim Kardashian compared with Kris Humphries!

  1. Pingback: August 2011 Biblical Studies Carnival « Daniel O. McClellan

  2. Jim

    Yes that seems about right.
    There seems to have been a tradition of selecting tall warriors in Canaan during the Bronze and Iron ages, or so it can be assumed. Papyrus Anastasi I, an Egyptian commentary from 1250 BC tells of men 4 and 5 cubits tall who frighten local travelers along the path to Megiddo. These could be just another travelers tale, but it is also interesting that Alchaeus the Greek poet, mentions a giant slain, probably at the battle of Ashkelon circa 600 BC, who measured 4 Babylonian cubits and 1 span tall, this is incidentally about 7 feet 9 inches tall.

    • Tyrone Slothrop

      Papyrus Anastasi also mentions gigantic trees, of course, so is probably not a realistic source.

    • Dean

      There always have been people who have tried to say most of the Bible is just a myth. That is easy to say but I am no youngster and I am not senile. I remember some things and nations said to just be an aligory,but I have been around long enough to see many in fact most of things that archeology had not found or even believe many of things proven like the Hittites and many places said to be just wild story. What the Bible says (understood correctly) tells the truth. There were giants. in prehistory that stood between 12. and 14 feet tall. You don,t easily find them because of the great changes in this planet. Soon the ark of the covenant will be brought out of cave it is hidden for centuries.

  3. Jim

    There is an excellent article I recently read entitled “Giants in Ancient Warfare” by Adrienne Mayor, MHQ: Quarterly Journal of Military History 2, 2 (Winter 1999): 98-105

    It deals with ancient reports of giants, 7 to 9 feet tall encountered by the Hebrews, Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans. Kind of interesting.

    • Tyrone Slothrop

      Yeah, it’s good. I have a copy of it. Mayor wrote a book a few years after that, which is also worth a read.

  4. Gillian

    I will only say one thing: OUCH!!
    But also, from behind, her behind is as big as his. So maybe tis all ok.

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