Goliath in the Bible is the most well-known giant in history. He was a champion out of the camp of the Philistines, and he fought as an armored charioteer. Let us know more about this fallen giant, who was delivered by God Almighty to David, a young shepherd boy, who later became the King of Israel.
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A Brief History of David and Goliath in the Bible (1 Samuel 17)
The Philistines gathered their forces for war against the nation of Israel. Goliath was a great Philistine warrior who challenged the Israelite soldiers to single combat. He asked them to choose a man to fight him. If the person wins the duel and kills him, the Philistines would become Israel’s subjects; but, if Goliath defeats the man and kills him, the Israelites will become Philistine’s subjects and serve them. However, no one dared to fight with him as they were afraid of him because of his enormous size and reputation.
When David came to the Israelite camp, he was not able to take the parade of insults that the Philistine was spewing out. He volunteered to respond, and armed with a sling and five smooth stones, he decided to face the giant. He defeated Goliath with a slingshot and a smooth stone. When the Philistines saw their champion beheaded by David, they lost all heart and took flight. God delivered Israel from their arch enemy on that day.
Who is Goliath? | Quick Fact Sheet
Meaning of Goliath
Gath was a border town between Israel and Philistia in 1200 BC (It was the nearest of the Philistine city-states to the west of Judah). The Philistines were supposedly settlers from Greece who lived in the coastal plains. This explains the etymology of the name Goliath, which is of non-Semitic origin. It may be related to the Greek name Alyattes (ÉAluãtthw), the name given by Herodotus to the Lydian king who ruled between 619–560 BC.
Moreover, early inscriptions found in Gath by archaeologists have names similar to Goliath written on them. So, the name Goliath in the Bible is not Semitic, but rather Indo-European and consistent with Philistine origins in Greece. In Biblical Hebrew, the name Goliath comes from the verb גלה (gala), meaning to uncover, remove or go into exile.
In modern usage, the term “Goliath” refers to a very large, influential, and powerful person or thing who/that is supposedly strong and unbeatable, however, actually vulnerable.
How Tall Was Goliath?
Goliath was unusually tall. According to the Scriptures (1 Samuel 17:4) and the Masoretic Text, written in Hebrew, Goliath was six cubits and a span—roughly nine feet, six inches.
A cubit is an ancient unit of length that varied depending on the area or culture in which it was used. It was based on the distance from the end of the elbow to the tip of the middle finger and was primarily used by the Sumerians, Egyptians, and Israelites. These lengths typically ranged between 45 and 52.5 cm (17.71 and 20.67 in). There was more than one standard length for the cubit in Ancient Israel.
What Did Goliath Wear? Goliath Armor and Arms
Goliath donned a wide range of military equipment. He wore a bronze-scaled coat of mail or armor made of brass plates having the appearance of scales of a fish weighing in at 5,000 shekels (approximately 57 kg or 125 lbs). The coat of mail covered him down to the waist. His greaves, a type of leg armor used to protect the shin, also made of bronze, were commonly worn by Aegean cultures.
The shaft (rod) of Goliath’s spear was like that of a weaver’s beam, which was around two inches thick. The weight of the spearhead was around 600 hundred shekels (about 6.8 kg or 15 lbs). The spear that Goliath carried would have been 10-14 feet long, as the spears were often taller than their owners. His bronze helmet was similar to what the Assyrians wore during those days. He also held a spectacular sword, which David used to decapitate him.
According to scholars, all these pieces of arms and armor together may have weighed more than 700 pounds.
Was Goliath a Nephilim?
Some scholars believe that Goliath the Gittite (an inhabitant of Gath) belonged to a race of people known as the Nephilim (Genesis 6:1-4). One common explanation of Genesis 6 is that the Nephilim are the descendants of the sons of God (fallen angels) and the daughters of men. The Nephilim were men of renown and supposedly grew to enormous heights and had extraordinary abilities.
The Nephilim are also mentioned in the Book of Enoch, which is an ancient Hebrew apocalyptic religious text, ascribed by tradition to Enoch, the great-grandfather of Noah. However, we need to read the book with extreme caution as it was not included in the Old Testament canon.
However, other experts argue that since the Nephilim were destroyed in the great flood during Noah’s time (only Noah’s family survived), Goliath was a Rephaite (or Rephaim), a race of giants, who were present after the Great Flood. Goliath is believed to be the son of Rapha or Rapha-he, who is likely to be descended from the Rephaites.
The Rephaites are mentioned nearly twenty times in the Scriptures (Deuteronomy 2:11 and 20-22, Deuteronomy 3:11–13; Joshua 12:4). Moses encountered King Og of Bashan, one of the last of the Rephaites, whose iron bedstead measured 13 1 /2 feet long and 6 feet wide (Deuteronomy 3:11). Another race of giants mentioned in the Bible is the Anakites or Anakim (Deuteronomy 2:10). Some academics speculate that the Philistines came from the Anakim. Gath was an ancient stronghold of the Anakim, and this makes Goliath champion status even more outstanding.
There are also other giants mentioned in II Samuel 21:15–22 and 1 Chronicles 20:4–8 who were related to Goliath in the Bible. These were Ishbi-Benob (whose bronze spearhead weighed three hundred shekels or 3.42 kg or 7.5 lbs), Saph, Lahmi (brother of Goliath who had a spear with a shaft like a weaver’s rod), and an unnamed warrior (a huge man with six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot—twenty-four in all). Some scientists suspect that Goliath has an identifiable family tree suggestive of autosomal dominant inheritance causing familial acromegaly or gigantism.
Whether Goliath received his giant height through supernatural means, or hereditary genes, or genetic hyperthyroidism (an increase in growth rate resulting in tall stature), he was a colossal figure in Biblical times.
Key Takeaways from the Life of Goliath in the Bible
The story of Goliath in the Bible attests to God’s mighty power and great strength over His enemies, even in the face of overwhelming odds. The story of Goliath in the Bible teaches us that even if we are currently battling big enemies and giant problems that are threatening our peace and livelihood, our Almighty Creator will protect and deliver us from all the challenges of this life.
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