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