- Another key character in our story is Goliath, typically referred to as a “giant.”
- It is interesting to me that the term “giant” is not actually used in Scripture of Goliath, even though his size clearly would satisfy our modern definition.
- Modern skeptics question the whole concept of giants in biblical times.
- So, as part of our background research for the story of David and Goliath, we want to look at some of what we find in the text of the Old Testament.
DOES THE OLD TESTAMENT TALK ABOUT GIANTS?
- First, a warning. When studying Scripture we need to avoid as much as possible reading modern concepts into the text when the greater context may show it was not intended by the original author. Here in particular we are referring to a modern “story book” and “fairy tale” concept about giants. We need to let the biblical text itself define what it means by a giant.
- Researching the word “giant” using Bible dictionaries, lexicons and concordances shows a complicated situation facing the translator. A number of different Hebrew words are translated as “giant” in some texts and English translations, but not in others.
- As an example, the words “giant” and “giants” appear 21 times in the KJV, but only 7 times in the ESV, 4 times in the NASB, and not at all in the NIV!
- So what is going on here? It has to do with several different Hebrew words that may mean “giant” or the name of a tribe of people.
- Nephilim – Genesis 6:4; Numbers 13:28, 32-33. This last verse indicates that when the Israelite spies saw the Nephilim, they appeared to be like grasshoppers in comparison to them; thus, the choice of regarding them as people of significantly greater size that the Israelites.
- Numbers 13:33 also links the Nephilim to the sons of Anak, or the Anakim. The Anakim are also mentioned in Deuteronomy 1:28; 2:10-11,21; 9:2; Joshua 11:21-22; 14:12, 15.
- And reading Deuteronomy 2:10-11 above concerning the Anakim, we then see another group named as being like the Anakim, the Emim. The Emim are also mentioned in Genesis 14:5, along with the Zuzim (mentioned only here) and the Rephaim!
- The Rephaim are known mostly in the Scripture for a valley bearing their name, and for a king named Og of Bashan. Og is named in Deuteronomy 3:11, 13 and Joshua 12:4; 13:12. According to Deuteronomy 3:11 his bedstead (or couch?) of iron was 13.5 feet by 6 feet in size, a fact surely intended to imply his great size.
- All these various groups above are either clearly identified or implied to have been at least notably larger than the average size people of that time.
- And to add to that group is an Egyptian in I Chronicles 11:23, “a man of great stature 5 cubits (about 7’6″) tall.” His spear is described as being like a weaver’s beam, the same term used later to describe Goliath’s spear.
- II Samuel 21:16, 18, 20 mention three other men King David and his men had to face who were descended from the Rephaim, at least two of which were of large size.
WAS GOLIATH A “GIANT?”
- I have already commented that I Samuel 17 where the story of David and Goliath is recorded does not use the word “giant” of Goliath. Yet we know the same text describe him as 6 cubits and a span in height along with descriptions of his over-sized weaponry in 17:4-7.
- What other information do we have concerning him?
- He is said to be from Gath, one of the cities earlier associated with the last of the Anakim (Joshua 11:21-22).
- In our earlier referenced I Samuel 21:16, 20, two men from Gath are described as “descendents of the giant,” which seems to point back to chapter 17 of Goliath of Gath.
- I Chronicles 20:5 mentions a Lahmi of Gath as a brother of Goliath, whose spear was also like a weaver’s beam.
- The idea of giants in early the part of the history recorded in the Bible and of Canaan is abundant and diverse, not just a casual one-time reference. From a historian’s viewpoint this greatly strengthens the belief these were real.
- The absence (so far) of much archeological evidence to support the written record is not surprising considering how long ago this was, and how little archeological evidence of any kind has been discovered so far of this period of time in Canaan.
- Some scholars have mentioned Egyptian records of this general period that also tell of much larger than normal peoples from this region. I do not have an immediate reference I can quote or document, however.
Our image is a painting by James Tissot (1902) entitled, “The Defiance of Goliath.” It is located in the Jewish Museum of New York but is not currently on display.