The Bible mentions multiple people who were taller than the normal person. These individuals are often referred to as giants because of their height. One of the most notable giants in Scripture is Goliath, a Philistine whom David fought. Most translations of the Bible record that Goliath was nearly 10 feet tall.
Some people, especially those who have a naturalistic worldview, are uncomfortable with the idea of giants or very tall people. To them, giants are mere myths and fantasies.
However, the Bible describes numerous people, including Goliath, who were large in height, such as Og and Anak (Deuteronomy 3:11; Numbers 13:33).
The height of Goliath is significant in Scripture because he was known as the champion of the Philistines who incited fear among the Israelites.
When David confronted the giant, the human understanding of fighting would have placed the odds in Goliath’s favor. The tallness of Goliath showed that David could not have defeated his enemy through his own strength but only by God’s power.
Cubits and the Height of Goliath
In 1 Samuel 17:4, the Bible describes Goliath’s title as the Philistine champion and his height: “a champion named Goliath, who was from Gath, came out of the Philistine camp. His height was six cubits and a span.”
Many translations, like the NIV, base the number of cubits on the accepted Hebrew text known as the Masoretic Text, which says his height was six cubits and a span. According to an NIV footnote, this would equal about nine feet, nine inches.
Other translations give a different measurement. The Brenton Septuagint Translation, based on the Greek translation of the Old Testament (known as the Septuagint or LXX), reads, “his height was four cubits and a span.” This would make Goliath nearly seven feet tall.
The differences in the manuscripts could be answered based on the varying cubit measurement used during biblical times. The length of a cubit changed over time.
Also, there are various measurements for a cubit since it was based on the length of a person’s arm, “from the elbow to the tip of the longest finger” (Easton’s Bible Dictionary).
Hence, there are many different ranges that people use for the measurement of a cubit. Today, many people accept 18 inches as the established cubit.
However, there are other measurements offered, such as 20 or 21 inches, as noted in Easton’s Bible Dictionary. At the higher end of these measurements, Goliath would be even taller, close to 11 feet tall.
Scholars and commentators have made compelling cases for the Masoretic Text and the Septuagint’s rendering of Goliath’s height. When considering the other details in Scripture, we find that Goliath’s armor weighed 5,000 shekels which equals about 125 pounds (1 Samuel 17:5).
This points to a large size. Whether Goliath was close to 7, 10, or 11 feet tall, he was taller than the average person in Israel.
Because of his size, many biblical scholars suggest that he may have been related to the Anakim or Anakites, who were a great and tall group of people (Deuteronomy 9:2).
When the Israelite spies saw the Anakim in the Promised Land, they felt like grasshoppers compared to the large people (Numbers 13:33).
Goliath could have been related to the Anakim, but he was definitely not the first (or the last) giant enemy of the Israelites (see Deuteronomy 3:1-11; 2 Samuel 21:15-22).
Goliath: The Undefeated Warrior
Scripture includes specific details about Goliath’s height and size to show us that he was an imposing enemy. His bronze armor was heavy, and his “spear shaft was like a weaver’s rod, and its iron point weighed six hundred shekels,” or about 15 pounds (1 Samuel 17:7).
In addition to his impressive armor, Goliath had apparently been “a warrior from his youth” (1 Samuel 17:33).
The Philistines were a well-known enemy of Israel (see Judges 3:31; 1 Samuel 7:1-14). In 1 Samuel 13 and 14, the Bible describes how Saul and Jonathan fought against the Philistines. Throughout Saul’s reign, “there was bitter war with the Philistines” (1 Samuel 14:52).
While the fighting armies were camped in the Valley of Elah, Goliath boastfully challenged the Israelite armies, calling for a man to fight him in one-on-one combat (1 Samuel 17:2-4, 8-10).
Although Saul was the king and was taller than the other Israelites, he did not volunteer to fight Goliath (1 Samuel 9:2). Saul and the other Israelites were terrified of this imposing giant (1 Samuel 17:11).
Goliath gave his challenge multiple times, defying the armies of Israel. Instead of responding, the Israelites ran from him in fear (1 Samuel 17:23-24). None of the soldiers or warriors would face the giant because they viewed Goliath as a fearsome enemy that could not be defeated.
David’s Faith: The Battle is the Lord’s
David, a shepherd boy and the youngest in his family visited his brothers where they were stationed to fight the Philistines.
He was shocked that no one had volunteered to fight Goliath, who was defying the armies of God (1 Samuel 17:20-26). Unlike the rest of the Israelites, David looked at the situation as an affront to God (1 Samuel 17:26).
David volunteered to fight Goliath not because of pride but because of his strong faith. While tending his father’s flock of sheep, David had previously encountered a lion and a bear that threatened the sheep (1 Samuel 17:34-35).
During those times, he trusted in the Lord for rescue. As David told Saul, “The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine” (1 Samuel 17:37).
Goliath’s impressive strength and size were no comparison to the power of the Lord. David chose to see the situation through eyes of faith, knowing that “the battle is the Lord’s” (1 Samuel 17:47; Psalm 33:16-18).
Israel would see deliverance from their giant enemy through a saving act from God, not through their own might or power. The Lord used David, a shepherd boy with steadfast faith, to defeat Goliath.
Therefore, the tall height of Goliath is significant because the Israelites were faced with an enemy they could not defeat on their own. They needed to trust God to bring deliverance.
Although the other Israelites perceived the situation as hopeless and terrifying, David trusted the Lord and knew that the God of Israel would defeat their enemy.
The Lord gave David victory with a sling and a stone, not through superhuman strength or impressive hand-to-hand combat (1 Samuel 17:50). All glory belongs to God for the defeat of the giant.
Why Does This Matter?
Some people scoff at the idea of an abnormally tall man, especially since numerous versions of Scripture place Goliath at nearly 10 feet in height.
However, the Bible is clear that Goliath was a warrior of great strength and size, regardless of his exact height. The details about his height and the weight of his armor show us that he was a fearsome warrior that could not be easily defeated.
Goliath’s tall stature is significant because it highlights David’s steadfast trust in the Lord. Only by God could anyone defeat the giant. Goliath towered above the Israelites and boasted of his strength, but nothing and no one is more powerful than the true, almighty God.
For further reading:
How Old Was David When He Killed Goliath?
What Is the Bible Story of David and Goliath?
Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/Михаил Руденко
Sophia Bricker is a freelance writer who enjoys researching and writing articles on biblical and theological topics. In addition to contributing articles about biblical questions as a contract writer, she has also written for Unlocked devotional. She holds a BA in Ministry, a MA in Ministry, and is currently pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing to develop her writing craft. As someone who is passionate about the Bible and faith in Jesus, her mission is to help others learn about Christ and glorify Him in her writing. When she isn’t busy studying or writing, Sophia enjoys spending time with family, reading, drawing, and gardening.