David and Goliath Scandal: New Evidence Suggests Goliath Was Not So Tall After All

The Biblical Goliath may not have been a giant.

New archeological evidence suggests that The Goliath slain by King David was not such a giant after all. This comes from discoveries made by the Tell es-Safi/Gath Archaeological Project.

Anyone who went to Hebrew school or a Sunday school knows the story. King David, when he was still just a boy, became the hero of the Israelites after defeating the Philistine giant Goliath. Somewhere to the southwest of Jerusalem, which was not yet conquered by the Israelites, in the Valley Of Elah a confrontation occurred between the Israelites and their greatest enemy the Philistines.

The Philistines were of Greek origin and controlled a group of city states along Israel’s lower Mediterranean coastline. They dominated the entire region and exacted taxes, through extortion, on the other peoples living in Israel at the time. In the book of Samuel I, the Israelites rallied behind a king for the first time, King Saul, who was hoped would lead them to a final victory over their enemies.


So as the story goes, when in the Valley of Elah, the Philistines challenged the Israelites to a man to man combat against their champion Goliath who was said to stand at almost 8 feet tall. Only the boy David was man enough to take up the challenge. The Philistines laughed at the boy who could not possibly defeat the giant Goliath. But David never intended to fight hand to hand and instead took out a sling shot, bringing down Goliath with a single blow from a rock right between the eyes.

To this day, thousands of years later, the David and Goliath story stands as the universal allegory for any time that a single person, company, or nation small in size is forced to come up against a much larger and more powerful foe.

“We’re not trying to make a statement on the veracity of the story,” said Jeffrey Chadwick, Jerusalem Center Professor of Archaeology and Near Eastern Studies at Brigham Young University, in a paper he presented at the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR) virtual annual meeting on Nov 19. “The issue is the metric,” he said, “where does it come from, where might it have been obtained?”

Jeffrey Chadwick, as been studying the archeological site where the ancient Philistine city of Gat once stood. Excavations at Tell es-Safi (Gath) found a wall in the northern part of the lower city which measured precisely four cubits and a span (2.38 meters or 7 foot 10 inches) in width.

His research indicates that a “cubit” in the region was equal to 1.77 feet (54 centimeters), and a span was equal to 0.72 feet (22 cm). Professor Chadwick surmises that the height attributed to Goliath was actually the length of the fortification’s wall and later on it was mistakenly attributed to Goliath.

He explained that this could “have been metaphorically describing the champion [Goliath] as being comparable to the size and strength of the Philistine capital’s city wall.”

Since this Philistine city sat in a strategic location like a sword in the belly of the Israelite heartland it would certainly have been reasonable for the people back then to have seen it and not Goliath as the true threatening giant. If so, Goliath may have been bigger and taller than the young David – he would have certainly been stronger and better trained as a fighter –but he did not reach the 8 feet of height the Bible ascribes to him

Photo: David and Goliath / Wikipedia

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