Just how tall was Goliath?
That is a question that seems to have a lot of different answers. Like any math problem, there is really one correct answer. That answer may never be known for sure this side of Eternity. However, we are taking a Biblical literalist view.
A Biblical literalist is one who takes what the Bible says as literal as possible. For example, in Genesis 1 we read that “God created . . . . And the evening and the morning were the first day.” Therefore, a day equals twenty four hours.
When we read Genesis 6, we read about a man named Noah who built an ark according to God’s directions. That ark provided protection for Noah, his family and two of each animal from the flood. That was not just a local flood or a regional one but one that covered the entire Earth.
Some people have a hard time believing that an animal could actually talk. That certainly isn’t anything that any of us experience on a daily basis. However, according to Numbers 22:28, there was a man named Balaam who had a donkey that talked.
In Luke 23:46 we read that Jesus died. He didn’t put himself into some type of coma or pass out from exhaustion. He was dead. He was totally dead. There was no life left in Him. He did however come back to life after three days.
When the Bible says in 1 Samuel 17:4 “And there went out a champion out of the camp of the Philistines, named Goliath, of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span,” he actually was that tall.
That being said, how tall was Goliath?
To answer that question we need to know something about the units of measurements mentioned. What is a cubit and what is a span?
Again not everyone agrees on the length of either.
A cubit was considered the length of a man’s arm from his elbow to the tip of his fingers. OK, whose arm are we going to use? It would be easy to see that depending on the man, the length would be different. Even at that, there were some “standards”. Generally there are two lengths that were common. There was a short cubit at 18” and a long cubit running 20”. For the making of this spear we tried to always go with the most conservative weights and measurements knowing that people are going to have a hard time believing this thing was as big as it is. The truth is, it may have been even bigger. We went with the shorter, 18” cubit.
So what is a span?
A span is the distance between the tip of the little finger and the thumb when you fully extend your hand. But your hand may not be as big as mine or mine may be a lot smaller than yours. So again, whose hand do we use?
The distance of nine inches is pretty comely accepted.
So where does that leave us? If Goliath was six cubits and a span, we have:
6 x 18” = 108” / 12” = 9’ + 9” = 9’ 9”
Now if you wanted to go with the longer cubit:
6 x 20” = 120” / 12” = 10’ + 9” = 10’ 9”
No matter how you measure Goliath, he is one big guy. His size alone made him very intimidating. Then add 125 pounds of armor and all of his weapons, and he was a force to be dealt with.
There are those who will argue that for several reasons, Goliath could not have been as tall as the Bible claims. That takes us back to whether or not we are going to believe the Bible or not. If it is not accurate in this area, what other areas might be wrong? Who is wise enough to pick and choose and decide what to believe and what not? I’m guessing if the Bible says it, we might want to believe it.
Here are some articles that may help us understand how tall some people were back in Bible times.