(Investigator 105, 2005
Bible setting for David
versus Goliath is in the Valley of Elah,
30km west of Jerusalem, about 1,000 BC.
Philistine armies were camped on opposite hills.
Twice daily Goliath descended into the valley and called for the war to
be decided by a two-man fight, an Israelite champion versus Goliath.
a man he was:
out from the camp of the Philistines a champion named
Goliath, of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. He had a
helmet of bronze on his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail, and
the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of bronze. And he had
greaves of bronze upon his legs, and a javelin of bronze slung between
his shoulders. And the shaft of his spear was like a weaver's beam, and
his spear's head weighed 600 shekels of iron; and his shield bearer
went before him. (I Samuel 17:4-7)
The description of
and weapons is culturally accurate and fits
with the period. Goliath's spear "like a weaver's beam" may not refer
to size. The weaver's beam is a block of wood that separates the
threads when weaving and has loops of cord tied around it. Goliath's
javelin had a leather cord wrapped around it with the end looped to
Goliath's finger. This made the javelin an advanced weapon, which could
be thrown much further than ordinary javelins.
himself was no
juvenile weakling. As a shepherd he had fought off
bears and lions threatening his sheep! (1 Samuel 17:37)
in the Aegean area. They invaded and settled
coastal areas of Israel about 1200 BC. The Philistines and Israelites
were enemies for centuries. The Samson and Delilah setting, is a
century before David and Goliath. (Investigator 55)
home, Gath – now
Tell es-Safi – was one of the five main
Philistine cities. Archaeologist Aren Maeir of Bar Ilan University
commenced its excavation in 1996.
Bible on David and Goliath because:
- No humans
nor independent historical
records verify Goliath's existence;
- There is
Bible story where another
Israelite soldier, Elhanan, killed Goliath, apparently contradicting
that David killed Goliath.
was about 17.5
inches or 44.45cm. We know this from the Siloam
tunnel in Jerusalem which was 1,200 cubits long and can still be
measured today as 533 metres.
was the distance
between thumb and little finger of a man's
outstretched hand, considered as half a cubit.
height comes to
6.5 x 17.5 inches = 9 feet 6 inches or 2.89
neurologist at Beersheba University believes
Goliath suffered from acromegaly a condition caused by excessive
secretion of the growth hormone.
tallest known human was
an American, Robert Wadlow (1918 - 1940).
Wadlow had a tumour on the pituitary gland resulting in over secretion
of growth hormone. He reached 2.7 metres (Guinness 2000) and died aged
Goliath had acromegaly
he might have looked impressive but was
useless as a fighter. People with acromegaly are cumbersome, not
particularly strong, and often have arthritis. Some require a
wheelchair. They may also have "tunnel vision", a narrow field of
sight, due to the tumour pressing on the optic nerve. Such people are
hardly suitable for representative combat with the outcome of a war at
conducting a bluff? No. The weight of Goliath's
equipment suggests he was fit and strong and not a half-blind arthritic.
says, "The common shekel was often used to
weigh metal objects" and shows a variation 11.08-12.25gm.
the average weight of
a common shekel makes Goliath's coat of
mail 11.38 x 5000 = 56.9 kilos.
weight of Goliath's
iron spear-head was 11.38 x 600 = 6.83 kilos.
television documentary Footsteps
of Goliath (in Australia shown on
SBS, August 21, 2005) made the following archaeological claims:
The Bible speaks
of a tribe
called Rephaim noted for its big soldiers.
Indeed, the word "giant" is translated from rephaim and it's sometimes
ambiguous whether "rephaim" refers to the tribe or to size.
- In 1979 a
tomb discovered in Jericho
had an ossuary with the name "Goliath" inscribed. The skeletal remains
indicated a man 1.9metres tall (6 feet 3 inches). "Goliath" here was
not a personal name but a nickname.
excavation of Gath started in 1996.
Only a few skeletons of Philistines have been found, all
- In 1902
archaeologist Robert Macalister
(1850-1930) found several large skeletons almost 2 metres tall at
Gezer, 6km south of Gath and 30km west of Jerusalem. Gezer was near the
border with Israel but still in Philistine territory.
- A papyrus
Hori, an Egyptian scribe,
about 1200 BC warned travellers of giants who lived south of Megiddo.
- A seal
found at Megiddo has an engraving
of a very tall man having his head cut off with a sword.
- Inside the
Temple of Ramesses II in
Egypt is a relief of an Egyptian soldier guarding prisoners in Syria,
one of whom is huge.
Abraham's time the
Rephaim lived east or north-east of the Dead Sea.
(Genesis 14:5) By the time of Moses, four centuries later, most of them
had been dispossessed by the Moabites who called them "Emim" meaning
frightful ones. (Deuteronomy 2:10-11, 19-20)
conquered "Og king of
Bashan" described as the "remnant of the
Rephaim". (Deuteronmy 3:6-11) Bashan was a large area east and south
east of the Sea of Galilee. King Og, it's implied, was a huge man – his
bed was 9 cubits long. (Deuteronomy 3:8-11) The phrase "remnant of the
Rephaim" refers to a remnant north-east of the Dead Sea since other
Repahaim lived west of the River Jordan (Joshua 17:14-18) and survived
arrived, the western Rephaim became their allies.
curator for Syria/Palestine in the British
Museum, commenced the excavation of Tell es-Saidiyeh near the southern
border of ancient Bashan. Among the finds were seven unusually tall
skeletons from about 1200 BC, the tallest 1.95 metres.
Bible also speaks of
the "Anakim" who lived in Canaan. The
Israelite spies described them as, "greater and taller than we".
(Deuteronomy 1:28; Numbers 13:30-33)
was a Jewish
historian of the late 1st century who wrote a
history of the Jews. In his version of David and Goliath, Goliath is
"four cubits and a span in tallness". (Antiquities of the Jews, Book 6,
Chapter 9) That's two cubits shorter than in the Bible.
1947 the oldest known
biblical manuscripts were 10th century AD.
Then the Dead Sea Scrolls were found which were 1,000 years older. The
Scrolls are now available in English and include the story of David and
Goliath. They record Goliath's height as 4 cubits and a span, agreeing
with Josephus. In addition the Septuagint Version – the ancient Greek
translation of the Hebrew – also has 4 cubits!
that an ancient scribal error increased
Goliath's height two cubits and the error entered the manuscripts from
which our modern Bibles are translated.
height was 4.5 x 17.5 = 6 feet 7 inches, or 2
metres, and agrees with actual skeletons dug up by archaeologists.
makes Goliath only
slightly taller than King Saul of Israel:
[Saul] stood among the people, he was taller than any of
the people from his shoulders upwards. And Samuel said, "…There is none
like him among all the people." (I Samuel 10:23-24; 9:2
OTHER BIBLE GIANTS
Bible mentions other
tall fighters. In one case an Israelite, "slew
an Egyptian, a man of great stature, five cubits [7feet, 3 inches]
tall." (I Chronicles 11:23)
mentions four other
Philistines besides Goliath who were "descended from the giants
[Rephaim] in Gath." (II Samuel 21:15-22) The
Skeptics see the
the list, "Elhanan…slew Goliath the Gittite",
as contradicting the story that David killed Goliath.
spear weighed three hundred
shekels of bronze…" (21:16)
- "Saph, who
was one of
the descendants of the
the Gittite, the shaft of
whose spear was like a weaver's beam." (21:19)
- A man "of
stature, who had six fingers on
each hand, and six toes on each foot…" (21:21)
the story of David
and Goliath occurred when David first met
King Saul. The wars involving the four above giants occurred after King
Saul died. (II Samuel 21:14ff)
the details in II
Samuel 21 are repeated in I Chronicles 20.
And there it's clarified that: "Elhanan the son of
Lahmi the brother of Goliath the Gittite,
the shaft of whose spear was like a weaver's beam."
gives us now at least
two possible explanations:
Goliaths who were killed some years apart.
- The name
applied to the whole family so
that each family member was "Goliath";
- After David
Goliath, the brother took on, or
was given, Goliath's name.
prominence in 18th-century Ireland.
O'Brien was also
strong: "He picked up pigs under each arm, threw
a smith's hammer over a church steeple and dragged a hay-laden wagon
out of a flooded ford." (Parade 1971)
MacGrath (1736-1760) of Tipperary,
8 feet tall;
(1761-1783) of Cork, 8½ feet;
(1761-1806) of Kinsale, 8½
Records, apparently not recognizing claims about
O'Brien, says, "The world's tallest ‘true' (non-pathological) giant was
Angus McCaskill, who stood 2.36 m (7ft 9 in)..." (p. 152)
one of the strongest men ever. He lifted an
anchor weighing over a ton to shoulder height, and could jog carrying a
300-pound barrel of pork under each arm.
extreme height up
to about 8 feet is compatible with extreme
probable an ancient
scribe made an error when transcribing the
Book of Samuel and increased Goliath's height from 4½ to
4½ cubits, or 2 metres, tall and
in the Bible refers
not to height alone, but also to being
powerfully built. Saul, was close to Goliath's height but was not a
the topic let's
clear up two so-called "contradictions".
Samuel 16:18-23 we
read that Saul sent for David who became his
musician and armour-bearer. In the next chapter where David kills
Goliath Saul does not know David (17:55-58) and even asks, "Whose son
are you, young man?"
not a contradiction
but is the common literary device of
summing up a lengthy period of time briefly before giving details about
an important event within that period. Chapter 16 tells that Saul sent
for David and that David entered his service. Chapter 17 then gives
more details about the day the two men met, the day David killed
chronologically then Chapter 17 fits into 16:21 – "And
David came to Saul [here add Chapter 17] and entered his service".
is that David brought Goliath's head to
Jerusalem (1 Samuel 17:54) though Jerusalem still belonged to the
Jebusites at the time.
answer is that the
writer kept information about Goliath in close
proximity. To report about Goliath's head chronologically would have
meant mentioning that point as an isolated, out of context, statement
many chapters later.
that Goliath's home city, Gath, experienced
a "fiery destruction". Findings included remains of collapsed houses
and hundreds of pottery vessels. The probable siege trench, discovered
by aerial photography, was dated in 2001 to the Iron Age. It's 3km
long, 8 metres wide and 5 metres deep.
fits with the Bible,
which says that Syrians took Gath in the time
of King Jehoash of Judah (II Kings 12:17-18) who ruled around 850 BC.
from history after the 6th century BC
fulfilling the prophecy:
"The day is coming to destroy all the Philistines." (Jeremiah 47:4)
Abegg, M G; Flint P W;
Ulrich; E C 2002 The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible,
Douglas, J D 1982 New Bible
Dictionary, Second Edition, Inter-Varsity
Footsteps of Goliath [TV
program] 2004, Tom Hoste (producer) and Mike
Warmels (writer & director)
Guinness World Records
2000, Millennium Edition, p. 152
Parade 1971 Rival Giants of
Ireland, October, pp 26-27
Septuagint Greek &
English Old Testament n.d., Samuel Bagster &
Sons, Great Britain, p. 379
Vermes, G 2004 The Complete
Dead Sea Scrolls In English, Revised
GOLIATH'S NAME FOUND
(Investigator 106, 2006
found evidence for Goliath's existence on a
small ceramic shard on which names similar to his appear.
probably part of a bowl, was found 2-metres below
ground at a decade-old dig in Tell es-Safi in southern Israel.
in the Bible "Gath
of the Philistines", Tell es-Safi is one of
the largest tells (mounds covering ancient ruins) in Israel.
Testament (I Samuel
17) describes a heavily-armed Philistine
giant named Goliath, about 1000 BC, who challenged the Israelite army
to send a man to fight him. David, a shepherd who later became Israel's
king, accepted and killed the giant with a sling and stone.
theologians reject the story as myth invented to
glorify David's dynasty. They commonly cite the 19th-century
"documentary hypothesis" according to which much of the Old Testament
was fabricated by Jewish writers in the 6th or 5th century BC and is
inscription, dated to about 900 BC, is the oldest
Philistine inscription yet found in Israel. It's written in archaic
"Proto-Canaanite" letters and contains two non-Semitic names "Alwt" and
"Wlt" which are either Philistine renderings of "Goliath" or very
excavation director and head of the archaeology
department of Bar-Ilan University near Tel Aviv, said: "It can be
suggested that in 10th - 9th century Philistine Gath, names quite
similar, and possibly identical, to Goliath were in use."
inscription may not
refer to the biblical giant since it's dated
about 100 years after he lived and because other Philistine men may
have been named "Goliath". But it shows that non-Semitic names similar
to "Goliath" were in use at the time the Bible says Goliath existed.
Mykytiuk, a Purdue
University Bible Scholar, said: "This
inscription supports the Bible, not with a direct identification of
Goliath, but in its historical and linguistic background." (Lorenzi, R
2005, Discovery News)
adds to the evidence
given in Investigator 105 that Goliath was a
real person and not a literary myth fabricated 500 years later.
62 people named in
the Old Testament and over 300 geographical
locations have independent archaeological verification. (Investigator
50 & 61)