top of page

Goliath! You beastly devil!

What do you know about David and Goliath? I'm sure you remember the story. I remember the story! Actually, I remember that when I was a wee lad of maybe 8 years old, there was a really big kid who threatened me. What did I do? I quoted David. "You come to me with a spear and a shield, but I come to you in the name of the Lord!" ... If I remember correctly, I didn't get beat up, so it must have worked, lol.


There is actually a lot of controversy surrounding David, especially since there are so many pictures being circulated around social media - pictures of giants in graves, etc. (I have attached a picture of one of the graves I dug - no he isn't a giant.)

Let me first point out that all of those images you see of giants in graves from around the world are fake. I'm sorry if I have just destroyed a pet of yours, but they are all very much fake. We have never, to my knowledge, found a giant skeleton. Just to point out one more thing, the giants in those images are far greater than Goliath anyway ... many of the images floating around show "giants" of around 20-30 feet!

So, was Goliath not real then? I didn't say that. Goliath was real, but I would argue that some of what we might believe about Goliath is just our fantasy.

Is this the real life, or is this just fantasy?

For example, the first thing you need to get out of your head is the idea that Goliath was a "giant." Okay, yes, he was a giant, but that isn't the point. A better way to think of it wasn't that he was a giant but that he was gigantic! Goliath wasn't a monster, he was a really big boy! How big was he? That depends. Note first that the average height of a man at this time was somewhere around 5 1/2 feet (my height - rather short). Saul stood, according to 1 Sam 9:2, "head and shoulders above all the people" (so, maybe 6 feet?). David, according to some, was probably about 5'3", but I don't have a problem placing him at the 5'6" average. That said, he wasn't a little scrawny kid. David was killing fierce animals, his oldest brother was a fierce warrior, so he had it in his genes.

Okay, so how tall was Goliath? Don't kill me! Probably about 6 1/2 - 7 feet. Yes, I know you are used to reading 9'9" ("six cubits and a span"), but there is some good manuscript evidence to support the reading "four cubits and a span" (some Greek witnesses, Josephus, and a manuscript of 1 Samuel from Qumran).

Now, let me back track a bit. Even though I think Goliath was only about seven feet tall, I could be wrong. I have no problem placing him at 9 feet ... it doesn't hurt the story either way. Also, there is textual evidence from Egypt (the Egyptian letter on Papyrus Anastasi 1 states, "The(?) narrow defile is infested(?) with Shosu concealed beneath the bushes; some of them are of four cubits or of five cubits, from head(??) to foot(?)").

It's not about how tall he was

Why doesn't it hurt the story? Because his height isn't the only thing mentioned. Remember, this Goliath was a Philistine warrior. Whether he was actually a Philistine or not is somewhat debated, but at the very least he was fighting with the Philistines. His helmet was a Philistine bronze helmet, his scaled body armor sounds very much like the well-known Egyptian armor weighing over 125 pounds (I wore body armor in Iraq weighing around 80-90 lbs - and I could barely move). Actually, this kind of armor is described in the Nuzi texts as having anywhere from 700-1,000 bronze scales of different sizes. Goliath's greaves were probably Mycenaean, made of molded bronze and surrounding the entire calf. He also had scimitar (NIV: javelin), which was a curved sword used by Egyptians and Canaanites. His shield was not the type of shield we see the Philistines using two centuries earlier, but this was probably simply adopted over time. Finally, his spear was special because it had an iron tip. Everything he had was bronze, except his spear. (Iron was hard to come by, and pretty much only the Philistines had it at this time.)

This description of Goliath's weapons and armor probably just makes the modern reader think, Yup, he's a warrior, but to the ancient reader, it would have done more than that. You see, in these times, there were quite a few "champion" combats. Individual battles are know from Egypt on the Beni Hassan tomb painting (I wrote about that not too long ago) and in the Egyptian tale of Sinuhe. We find it depicted on a Canaanite vase from around this time. We also know that the Mycenaeans fought in this style (think of the Iliad, Hector against Ajax, Paris against Menelaus). There is a relief found at Tell Halaf that shows two combatants thrusting swords into each other.

What happens in these champion combats is that when one warrior wins, he typically takes a trophy from the loser (armor, sword, whatever). So, think about this with me. Here was have a gigantic man who is probably a Canaanite wearing a Philistine helmet and greaves, but carrying Egyptian armor and sword. ... This sin't just a warrior ... this is a hero! This guy has fought these types of individual "champion" combats before, and he has won! This is not David meets a giant, this is David meets Royce Gracie mixed with Bruce Lee mixed with André the Giant. ... But, God is victorious through David.

Featured Posts
Recent Posts