How tall indeed?

How tall indeed?

Many people have asked me this question so I wanted to address it. How tall was Goliath? If you read 1 Samuel 17:4, many translations say he was six cubits and a span, or nine-feet-nine-inches tall. This height is unimaginable for us, but especially for an Iron Age I man such as Goliath. The average height for the everyday Iron Age I man was roughly five feet tall. Some have suggested that Goliath might have suffered from gigantism or acromegaly, but how effective would he have been as a warrior? He would have been tall, but would he have been quick and agile?

There are some other things to consider, like the text of our story. Where does our translation come from? How old are the texts?

The Masoretic text, which dates to the tenth-century AD, is used for many modern translations. However, that date is nearly two thousand years after the battle between David and Goliath. So, are there any earlier texts of 1 Samuel 17?

Yes, there are.

Dating to around 50 BC, the Dead Sea Scrolls list Goliath’s height as four cubits and a span. That’s roughly six-foot-nine-inches tall, three feet shorter than the six cubit height.

In Jesus’ day, the Septuagint (LXX) was the Greek standard for the Bible. The LXX gives Goliath’s height as six-foot-nine-inches tall.

Likewise, Josephus (a Jewish historian of the first century) gives Goliath’s height at six feet, nine inches.

The third-century Lucian Recension, the fourth-century Codex Vaticanus, and the fifth-century Codex Alexandrinus all give a height for Goliath at six feet, nine inches.

Given that the nine-feet, nine-inch height is unlikely for an Iron Age man, much less any man, coupled with the testimony of the earliest Old Testament documents, I believe that one can easily (and truthfully!) believe that Goliath’s height was six-feet, nine inches. This height puts Goliath in the company of NFL and NBA athletes and still makes him quite a formidable – and believable – adversary.

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