Goliath

GOLIATH (gō-lī'ăth, Heb. golyāth). A gigantic warrior of the Philistine army, probably one of the Anakites (Num.13.33; Josh.11.22). Goliath’s size was extraordinary. If a cubit is twenty-one inches (fifty-four cm.), he was over eleven feet (three and one-half m.) in height; if about eighteen inches (forty-six cm.), he was over nine feet (almost three m.). The only mention made of Goliath is his appearance as a champion of the Philistines (1Sam.17.1-1Sam.17.58). The Philistines had ventured into Israel’s territory and had taken a firm position on the slope of a hill, with Israel camped on the opposite hill. From the Philistine camp Goliath made daily challenges to personal combat, but after forty days no one had accepted. David had been sent to his brothers with provisions. When he heard Goliath’s challenge, he inquired about its meaning. After being told, he went to face Goliath, armed only with a sling and five stones. Hit in the forehead, Goliath fell, and David cut off his head. When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled, pursued by victorious Israel. The Goliath of 2Sam.21.19 was probably the son of the giant whom David killed. He was killed by Elhanan, one of David’s men. A discrepancy has been imagined, and some have thought that it was Elhanan who killed the giant Goliath of 1Sam.17.1-1Sam.17.58.


GOLIATH gə lī’ əth (גָּלְיָ֥ת). A Gittite warrior during reign of Saul (late 11th cent.). Representing the Philistines at Ephes-dammim, he challenged the Israelites in the valley of Elah (about fifteen m. W of Bethlehem) to send an opponent. His challenge went unaccepted until David visited the battleground to bring food to his brothers. David felled the giant with a stone shot from a sling and cut off his head with Goliath’s own sword (1 Sam 17).

The height of Goliath was six cubits and a span, over nine feet (17:4). His coat of mail was 5,000 shekels, about 125 pounds; his spearhead, 600 shekels, about 15 pounds (17:5, 7). His sword was kept at Nob under priestly jurisdiction and later given to David by Ahimelech, the priest, when David fled from Saul (1 Sam 21:9; 22:10).

In 2 Samuel 21:19 the slaying of Goliath is attributed to Elhanan, but in 1 Chronicles 20:5 Elhanan slew Lahmi, brother of Goliath. The passages appear to come from one source and the critical difference may have been the miscopying of a few consonants. If 2 Samuel is correct as stands, this Goliath could have been a son of David’s opponent.

This event illustrates warfare of the time; that most of the army was ill-trained and no match for the well-trained elite who often engaged in individual combat. (Note Egyp. Sinuhe and Homerian battles.) Thus, Jonathan could fight the Philistine garrison single-handed (1 Sam 14:6-15), and Moses withstood a number of shepherds (Exod 2:16-19). These men depended on God, but their attempts were not foolhardy; rather they were acting rationally and therefore could expect God’s help.

Bibliography

E. J. Young, Introduction to the Old Testament (1963), 197, 198; Y. Yadin, The Art of Warfare in Biblical Lands (1963).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

(golyath; Goliath):

(1) The giant of Gath, and champion of the Philistine army (1Sa 17:4-23; 21:9; 22:10; 2Sa 21:19; 1Ch 20:5 ). He defied the armies of Israel, challenging anyone to meet him in single combat while the two armies faced each other at Ephesdammim. He was slain by the youthful David. Goliath was almost certainly not of Philistine blood, but belonged to one of the races of giants, or aboriginal tribes, such as the Anakim, Avvim, Rephaim, etc. The Avvim had lived at Philistia, and most probably the giant was of that race. His size was most extraordinary. If a cubit was about 21 inches, he was over 11 feet in height; if about 18 inches, he was over 9 feet in height. The enormous weight of his armor would seem to require the larger cubit. This height probably included his full length in armor, helmet and all. In either case he is the largest man known to history. His sword was wielded by David to slay him and afterward carried about in his wanderings, so it could not have been excessively heavy. The story of his encounter with David is graphic, and the boasts of the two champions were perfectly in keeping with single combats in the Orient.

(2) The Goliath of 2Sa 21:19 is another person, and quite probably a son of the first Goliath. He was slain by Elhanan, one of David’s mighty men. The person mentioned in 1Ch 20:5 is called Lachmi, but this is almost certainly due to a corruption of the text. "The brother of Goliath" is the younger Goliath and probably a son of the greater Goliath, who had four sons, giants, one of them having 24 fingers and toes. See Elhanan; Lahmi.