Goliath and the Exodus Giants: How Tall Were They?
By Clyde E. Billington
Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, Vol.50:3 (2007)
Introduction: Daniel Hays, in his article “Reconsidering the Height of Goliath” in the December 2005 issue of the Journal, argued that the giant Goliath, who was killed by David, was only 6 feet 9 inches tall and not 9 feet 9 inches. The key passage on the height of Goliath is 1 Sam 17:4–7, which reads as follows:
4. Then a champion came out from the armies of the Philistines named Goliath, from Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span.
5. He had a bronze helmet on his head, and he was clothed with scale-armor, which weighed five thousand shekels of bronze.
6. He also had bronze greaves on his legs and a bronze javelin slung between his shoulders.
7. The shaft of his spear was like a weaver’s beam, and the head of his spear weighed six hundred shekels of iron; his shield carrier also walked before him.(NASB)
The NASB quoted above, like all other English translations of the OT, is based on the Masoretic Hebrew Text of 1 Samuel 17. However, Hays in his article argues that there is a textual error, made by a sloppy or exaggerating scribe, in the height of Goliath as given in the mt. He correctly notes that one Hebrew text [4QSama] from the DSS and most versions of the LXX give Goliath’s height as 4 cubits and a span instead of 6 cubits and a span.
According to Hays, this 4-cubits reading should be adopted; this means that Goliath was only 6 feet 9 inches and not 9 feet 9 inches tall. In other words, he assumes that the lxx/dss texts are correct and that they both contradict and should be used to correct the mt on the size of Goliath. As a result, Hays argues that Goliath was a very large man at 6 feet 9 inches, but not a real giant. However, there are good biblical, archaeological, and historical reasons for rejecting these assumptions.