Goliath And The Exodus Giants: How Tall Were They? -- By: Clyde E. Billington

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 50:3 (Sep 2007)
Article: Goliath And The Exodus Giants: How Tall Were They?
Author: Clyde E. Billington

Goliath And The Exodus Giants: How Tall Were They?

Clyde E. Billington

Clyde Billington is associate professor of history Northwestern College, 3003 Suelling Ave. N., St. Paul, MN 55113–1598.

I. 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.1

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.2 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.

This paper will argue that while the MT and the lxx/dss appear to be in conflict with one another, they actually are not. This paper will also argue that both the 6-cubits reading and the 4-cubits reading of 1 Sam...

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