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Anyone who went to Sunday school as a child most likely knows the story about David and Goliath. According to 1 Samuel 17, David, an Israelite teenager, defeated the massive Philistine warrior with a smooth stone and a slingshot. After aiming at Goliath’s forehead, David beheaded Israel’s enemy when the rest of the Israelite army cringed in fear. Goliath is typically used in metaphors whenever we play a little guy in a scenario against something that seems impossible, saying that we’re David facing a giant Goliath. Still, where did Goliath come from, and where does he fit in the historical tale of Israel and of the earth? Was he really as tall as our Sunday school teachers made him out to be?

Who were the Philistines?

Israel has several enemies throughout the Old and New Testament, but the Philistines seem to dot the story more than once. Noah’s descendants have some links to the Sea Peoples, who wreaked war and havoc at the end of the Bronze Age, leading to a Dark Age for several nations in the Mediterranean and Middle East. Although several natural disasters might have lent a hand in causing such a Dark Age, due to the lack of archeological records, the Philistines might have played a significant part in causing the Dark Age.

The Bible places them in the Crete region, but they appear to move inland toward Canaan. Known for their use of iron in the post-Bronze age, the Philistines were far more advanced than their counterparts in terms of advanced weaponry, and they dominated their battles against the Israelites until David came into the picture.

How tall was Goliath?

Goliath is usually equated with a giant, as most Bible translations say he was over nine feet tall, as detailed in 1 Samuel 17:4. The Masoretic Text, the Hebrew text that the Jewish people have long accepted, says that Goliath’s height was “six cubits and one span.” Taking one cubit to be approximately 18 inches and a span to match six, this figures to be a height of nine feet, six inches. Apparently, Goliath had some Anakim blood in him. However, there’s a variation found in some ancient texts on Goliath’s height. The Septuagint, a Greek interpretation of the Old Testament, records David’s height as four cubits and one span.

Current measurements equate this to about six feet, six inches. This measurement shortens Goliath some, but he still would’ve been quite a bit taller than the average man’s height at the time, which was about five and a half feet. Other sources corroborate the shorter measurement, including one Hebrew text among the writings of the Jewish historian Josephus and the Dead Sea Scrolls. The NET Bible agrees with the shorter height, saying that Goliath was almost seven feet tall, as detailed in 1 Samuel 17:4.

Regarding the deviation between the measurements, it’s important to note a couple of things. First, the Old Testament was initially written in Hebrew, and the differentiation may be due to how the measurements were interpreted into Greek for the Septuagint. Second, a cubit’s measurement isn’t accurate since a cubit was based on the distance from someone’s elbow to their fingertip. Therefore, the length of a cubit would somewhat vary, depending on the person measuring it and the length of their arm. Regardless of Goliath’s height, we know from the Bible that Goliath was a formidable opponent. Not only was he tall, but he was also strong. His bronze armor alone weighed 125 pounds, and he carried a giant-sized spear.

There was a reason that Goliath was the Philistines’ champion. However, in the end, David, armed with a simple sling, rocks, and faith, defeated Israel’s enemy. David proved he was stronger than Goliath because he had God on his side.

The meaning of David and Goliath’s story.

Whether Goliath received his massive height via hereditary genes or supernatural powers, he still seems to tower over Israel, but why does it matter if we know about Goliath’s identity? From a historical standpoint, if we know whether Goliath and the Philistines originated, we can see why the Israelites were so threatened by them, except David. Goliath repeatedly and openly defied God and challenged one of His chosen people to fight him. When David heard this, he asked Israel’s king if he could fight the giant himself. In 1 Samuel 17:36-37, we see David remembering when God protected him before against a bear and a lion, and he trusted God to protect him now against Goliath.

An important part of this story is that Goliath was taunting the Lord of the universe, challenging God’s people to stand up to him and show that their God was more powerful than he was. Until David came into the Israelite camp, no one was willing to step out in faith and face Goliath. However, David’s faith was so robust that he was willing to believe that God would go with him and assist him in defeating Goliath. David’s faith was formed out of his experience of God’s grace and mercy in his life until that point. The Lord delivered him out of dangerous situations in the past, proving His trustworthiness and power, and David relied on God to deliver him from the Philistines.

From David and Goliath’s story, we can learn that the God we love is capable of overcoming any of the giants in our lives: depression, fear, financial issues, and doubts of faith if we know Him and His nature well enough to step out in faith. When we don’t know what the future holds, we have to trust God, but we can’t trust someone we don’t know, so knowing God through the Bible will develop our faith in Him. As Christians who have trusted Jesus as the only way to heaven, our battle with our life giants will result in victory if we hold onto faith in God and His power. The visual of David and Goliath is only one of several examples of the supernatural power of our Lord. He cares for His children and only wants the best for us. Sometimes, that involves battles and trials, but these are for our good and God’s glory.

In James 1:2-4, we read that we should deem it pure joy when we encounter battles because they test our faith and create perseverance and patience. When these trials test us, we can, in God’s power, stand up against any giant, trusting God to win the victory.

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