The Terror of Goliath

The King James version of the bible describes Goliath as: There went out a champion out of the camp of the Philistines, named Goliath, of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. In the common usage of cubit, this would have been about nine feet four inches. (A cubit is the distance from the elbow to the finger tip: For a six foot male, about 18 inches. My personal cubit is 20.5 inches which would make Goliath ten feet ten inches! About 12 feet if my brother's cubit [22+ inches] were used! Even much taller if the cubit was based on professional basketball players.)

Simply stated, the Philistines were engaging in psychological warfare: Goliath was a terror weapon, his size was much more important than his fighting ability. The Philistines would have done everything possible to increase his apparent height, such as high platform boots and an enormous crested helmet. The Israelites also would use the maximum height to enhance the feat of David. David was probably less than five feet tall at this time; a cubit based on him would be less than 15 inches resulting in a height for Goliath of possibly seven feet eight inches - with boots and helmet. In the New American Bible, the translation is: A champion named Goliath of Gath came out from the Philistine camp; he was six and a half feet tall. The editors do not indicate how this height was determined. My personal estimate is that Goliath (nude) could have been any height between six feet four inches and six feet ten inches. Even this would have been an astonishing height in the Near East before 1000 BCE.

What was Goliath's native land? Gath only indicated the army he was fighting for, not necessarily his natal land. Only two regions commonly produced people with a height over six feet at that time; Nubia and Scandinavia. Quite possibly, Goliath was from one of these. Nubians were well known in the Middle East at that time, if Goliath was Nubian he would probably have been identified as such. A Scandinavian would have been a very exotic novelty. Picture Goliath as a blond Scandinavian with long braids, long drooping moustache, a tall horned helmet, weighting over 300 pounds, and appearing to be over eight feet tall - Truly a daunting sight to the Israelites. I suspect this is a realistic portrayal of Goliath.

Did David actually kill Goliath? In the New American Bible and most other translations, in Samuel, "Elhanan, son of Jair, killed Goliath of Gath"; while in Chronicles, "Elhanan killed Lahmi the brother of Goliath". Chronicles was written (250-300 BCE) well after the return from Babylon as a replacement for Joshua through Kings. The King James version, and many Protestant versions, insert "brother of Goliath" into Samuel.

Could the editor/author of Chronicles have assigned the killing of Goliath to enhance the glory of David although Samuel assigned it to Elahanan? The King James version obviously "corrected" Samuel to agree with Chronicles. Or could there have been two Goliaths? Speculations are unlimited. Personally I think that the story of David killing Goliath is pure fiction derived from Elhanan killing Goliath.



© Copyright 2015-2016 D E Pauley