How Tall Was Goliath?

J. Daniel Hays of Ouachita Baptist University has presented a paper suggesting that Goliath may have really been 4 cubits & a span [6’9″] and not 6 cubits & a span [9’9″](1Sam.17:4-7). His conclusion is primarily based on the following:

1. The Hebrew text of 1-2 Samuel contains numerous copyists’ errors in other places, so seems to be a poorly transmitted text overall.

2. The reading “four cubits and a span” is the height of Goliath found in the oldest extant Hebrew manuscript, one of the Dead Sea Scrolls. This manuscript is at least 1,000 years earlier than any other manuscript of the passage.

3. The reading “four cubits and a span” is attested by Josephus in the 1st century AD, and by several important early Greek manuscripts, suggesting this was the original reading of the Septuagint (OT in Greek).

4. The height “four cubits and a span” fits better with the literary context, keeping the focus of the story on the contrast between David and Saul. [Saul was also very tall, but he would not fight Goliath. Saul looked at the problem from a human POV; David looked at it from God’s POV.]

A blog I read imagined that if this were true, Goliath would have been about the size of offensive tackle Flozell Adams of the Dallas Cowboys (America’s Team!!) who at 6’7″ and 345# would be pretty formidable to contend with.

While I find it interesting to link the Cowboys and theology ;), I have some reservations. 2Sam.21:16-22 (and its companion passage 1Chron.20:4-8) mention three brothers of Goliath, said to be sons of “the giant”. The word for giant is “Rapha”, they are the Rephaim. The Rephaim are mentioned in Gen.14:5-6, and King Og of Bashan (Deut.3:1-11) is said to be the last of the Rephaim in that area. His “bed” (probably his coffin) is said to be 9 cubits in length (13’6″)!

Since King Og needed a bed/coffin 13 1/2 feet long, and since that account is in Deuteronomy, NOT 1-2 Samuel, would they suggest THAT number is also a copyist’s error?

[Another thought: Before entering the Land, the 10 spies reported seeing “giants” [“nephilim”] in the land and they are stated as being descendents of Anak, i.e. of the Anakim (Numb.13:32-33) The Anakim are mentioned in Deut.2:10 as being exceptionally tall. Could they be the same race as the Rephaim?]

To view the blog see:


2 comments on “How Tall Was Goliath?

  1. Beth says:

    I vote for whatever option uses “king Og” as evidence.

  2. Beth'sMomToo says:

    Hey…there’s a boy’s name for you!

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