Everything You Need to Know about Goliath

Goliath

Goliath, the infamous giant and “champion of the Philistines,” first appears in the Bible in 1 Samuel 17:4—but he also shows up in other Old Testament books, and ancient Jewish writings not included in the Bible.

In this video, adapted from an article in the free Lexham Bible Dictionary, you’ll find everything you need to know about Goliath:


Related post: When Giants Walked the Earth

Where did Goliath come from?

Goliath was a descendant of the Nephilim—the offspring of the “sons of God” and their human wives. The Israelites failed to wipe out the Anakites—a subset of the Nephilim—in their conquest of the Promised Land, and so the Anakites survived in Gath and its surrounding cities, eventually becoming what we know as the Philistines.

Goliath was a Philistine warrior from Gath—a powerful symbol of Israel’s previous failures.

Related post: Old Testament Violence, Israel’s Holy War, and the Genocide of Giants

How tall was Goliath?

Goliath was either about 9’6”, or 6’6”, or 6’0”, depending on where you get your information. The Masoretic Text, written in Hebrew, tells us he was six cubits and a span—roughly nine feet, six inches. The Septuagint, the ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament says Goliath’s height was four cubits and a span—about six feet, six inches tall. The Hebrew text found in the Dead Sea Scrolls tells us that Goliath was four cubits tall—which is about six feet.

So which is it?

It’s entirely possible that the Septuagint and the Dead Sea Scrolls, which are older manuscripts, preserve something closer to Goliath’s actual height, and that the Masoretic Text reflects a later exaggeration.

Related post: Clash of the Manuscripts: Goliath and the Hebrew Text of the Old Testament

But no matter which manuscript is “right,” there’s one thing they all agree on here: Goliath was significantly taller than the average Hebrew male—estimated to be about 5’6”.

Interestingly, Saul was “a head taller than anyone else” (1 Samuel 9:2 NIV), and probably by human standards, far better suited to fight Goliath than David.

What did Goliath wear?

Goliath donned a smörgåsbord of military equipment—his greaves (a type of leg armor) were commonly worn by Aegean cultures, his helmet was like that of the Assyrians, his scale armor was akin to Egyptian armor, his sword was likely similar to an Eastern scimitar.

Rethinking David and Goliath
For a scholarly study of David and Goliath, check out Rethinking David and Goliath.

Imagine putting a 30 pound weight on top of your head. That’s about would be like to wear Goliath’s helmet—which was basically a bronze bucket.

Now add to that a T-shirt that weighs about 150 pounds—a bronze-scaled coat of mail weighing in at 5,000 shekels. That’s like walking with a person strapped to your chest.

Throw on the ancient warrior equivalent of soccer shin guards (greaves), also made of bronze. Good luck running in those.

If that doesn’t have you laying on the ground beneath the weight yet, it’s time to add some weapons.

Now picture yourself carrying a massive walking stick made of bronze with a giant, pointy iron tip—a spear weighing around 30 pounds total.

Goliath also carried a magnificent sword (which David used to decapitate him). David kept this sword and took it later when he fled from Saul, saying, “There is none like it.”

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Comments

    • M Burke says

      Exactly. The frightened, superstitious Israelites thought the large inhabitiants of the land were Anakim, but they were not.

    • Jason says

      If you believe that the sons of God refers to human beings then it is impossible. But if it refers to spiritual beings then it very well could have happened again.

  1. says

    That’s a great question, Brian. For me, the bottom line is that the Bible first discusses Nephilim before the flood (Genesis 6:4) and then tells us about their descendants after the flood (Numbers 13:33). They were there before, and their descendants were there after.

    Scholars don’t unanimously agree as to how descendants of the Nephilim survived, nor do they completely agree on what the Bible means by the “sons of God” in Genesis 6:4. If you’re interested in this, I’d highly encourage you to check out Dr. Michael S. Heiser’s work, particularly his book The Unseen Realm (although it doesn’t explicitly answer your question, it provides a scholarly framework for understanding what’s going on here): http://bit.ly/TheUnseenRealm

    Here are just a handful of explanations you may find floating around:

    1. Genesis 6:4 suggests the sons of God produced offspring with human women before the flood, and it’s possible they did so again after (although extrabiblical texts seem to indicate otherwise).
    2. Some ancient texts suggests that Og, the Nephilim king, slipped aboard the ark.
    3. Noah, or someone in his family continued the Nephilim bloodline.
    4. The flood was not global.

    There are other explanations, and each obviously carries its own weaknesses, but what scholars will agree on is that they were there before the flood, and their descendants were there in some form sometime after the flood (though some would argue that form was simply fear/superstitution on the part of the Israelites).

  2. says

    Ryan Nelson Genesis 4:26 And to Seth, to him also there was born a son; and he called his name Enos: then began men to call upon the name of the LORD Romans 10:13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved Luke 3:38 Which was the son of Enos, which was the son of Seth, which was the son of Adam, which was the son of God. Malachi 3:6 For I am the LORD, I change not; Therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.
    Genesis 6:2 That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose. 1 John 2:16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. Romans 8:14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
    Genesis 6:4 There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.
    Job 2:1 Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them to present himself before the LORD Think: Think: To call the son/sons of God (fallen angels} satan then also would be a son of God // fallen angel????????????

  3. says

    Larry Proffitt I'm not sure I follow what you’re saying here. Are you asking a question? Are you saying that the sons of God cannot be divine beings because then Satan (which in ancient Hebrew is not actually a proper name) wouldn't have been mentioned separately in that verse?

  4. Peter Venable says

    I’m disappointed you didn’t discuss 2 Sam 21:19 and 1 Chron 20:5 which say Goliath was killed by Elhanan rather than David. What do you make of that?

  5. says

    Ryan Nelson : Not asking any questions. I'm saying the sons of God are descendants of Seth/ Enos. Genesis 4:26, refer to Romans 10:13, and keep referring back to previous message that today people are calling sons of God "fallen angels". Angels, according to Jesus, cannot reproduce and they do not marry. Also read : 1 John 2:16 Every person is faced with this same issue of lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and pride of life. Eve,David, Jesus, and all human beings. Although, Jesus, was the only person to be able to resist because He was perfect..

  6. says

    Read Genesis 6:4 carefully. There were giants on the earth in those days, AND ALSO AFTERWARD, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown

  7. says

    That's a popular perspective, and you're certainly not alone in holding that view. I'd encourage you to check out The Unseen Realm by Michael S. Heiser. Here's only a small piece of his concerns about the Sethite view: “. . . nothing in Genesis 6:1–4 or anywhere else in the Bible identifies people who come from Seth's lineage with the descriptive phrase "sons of God.” That connection is purely an assumption through which the story is filtered by those who hold the Sethite view. . . . A close reading of Genesis 6:1–4 makes it clear that a contrast is being created between two classes of individuals, one human and the other divine. When speaking of how humanity was multiplying on earth (v. 1), only daughters are mentioned (“daughters were born to them”). The point is not literally that every birth in the history of the earth after Cain and Abel resulted in a girl. Rather, the writer is setting up a contrast of two groups. The first group is human and female (the “daughters of humankind”). Verse 2 introduces the other group for the contrast: the sons of God. That group is not human, but divine.” One of his greatest issues with the Sethite view though is it’s implications for the Nephilim. Are they the quasi-divine figures other texts suggest they are, or are they simply humans who all happen to be really big? You’ve raised a great concern, Larry, but this isn’t something scholars all agree on. The Unseen Realm obviously advocates for the divine perspective, but it makes a very compelling case for it. I’d encourage you to check it out, even if you still feel like you disagree after: http://bit.ly/TheUnseenRealm

  8. says

    I had trouble following the narration of the video. The speaker doesn't pause between sentences, making people like me, who need to process the last thought, unable to because the next sentence has already begun. A long pause isn't needed, but at least a breath between sentences would have helped. I had to quit at the last 1/3.

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