Goliath is a biblical character found in 1 Samuel 17. The Bible says he was a large man who fought as a champion for the Philistine army against God’s people, the Israelites.
How tall was Goliath in reality? Normally, we equate him with a giant, as most Bible translations state that he was over nine feet tall (1 Samuel 17:4, NIV). The Masoretic Text, the Hebrew text that has long been accepted by the Jewish people, states that Goliath’s height was “six cubits and one span.” Taking a cubit to be approximately eighteen inches and a span to equal six, this figures to a height of approximately nine feet, six inches. It seems Goliath may have had some Anakim blood in him (see Deuteronomy 9:2).
There is, however, a variation found in some ancient texts on the matter of Goliath’s height. A Greek translation of the Old Testament, the Septuagint, records Goliath’s height as four cubits and one span. Current measurements translate this to about six feet, six inches. While this would shorten Goliath some, he still would have been quite a bit taller than the average man’s height at that time—about five and a half feet. There are other sources that corroborate the shorter measurement, including one Hebrew text among the Dead Sea Scrolls and the writings of the Jewish historian Josephus. The NET Bible goes with the shorter height, saying that Goliath was “close to seven feet tall” (1 Samuel 17:4).
When it comes to the deviation between these measurements, it is important to note a couple things. First, the Old Testament was originally written in Hebrew. The difference may be due to how the measurements were translated into Greek for the Septuagint. Second, the measurement of a cubit is not precise, since a cubit was based on the distance from a person’s elbow to the tip of a finger. Thus, the length of a cubit would vary somewhat, according to the one doing the measuring and the length of his arm.
Regardless of Goliath’s precise height, we know from God’s Word that he was a formidable opponent. He was not only tall—at least a foot taller than David, and possibly several feet taller—he was also strong. His bronze armor alone weighed 125 pounds (1 Samuel 17:5), and he carried a giant-sized spear (verse 7). There was a reason that Goliath was the “champion” of the Philistines (verse 4). In the end, however, a young man named David, armed with only a simple sling, a few rocks, and faith, defeated this enemy of Israel. David proved stronger than Goliath because he had the almighty God on his side.