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The young Hebrew David hoists the head of the Philistine Goliath.
For other uses, see Goliath (disambiguation).
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In the Abrahamic religions, Goliath (גָּלְיָת "Passage; revolution", Standard Hebrew Golyat, Tiberian Hebrew Golyāṯ) was a Philistine warrior that lived in the 11th century BCE. He hailed from Gath, one of five ancient city states in Philistia.

According to the First Book of Samuel in the Hebrew Bible, the Philistine army marched into Judah to make war on the Israelites, but instead of immediately engaging in battle, went into camp in the Valley of Elah. The Israelites under King Saul made camp nearby. Goliath, who is described as a "champion" in the Biblical text, positioned himself between the two armies and challenged the Israelites to send out a warrior to challenge him. If that man won, the Philistines would become the subjects of Saul's army. If Goliath won, the converse would occur. For forty days, in both the morning and evening, Goliath issued his challenge. However, no man came forward to accept it.

Among the Israelites were four sons of the Bethlehemite Jesse, the youngest of whom was named David. When delivering roasted grain and bread to his brothers on the battlefield, David heard Goliath's haughty challenge and burned with anger. The youth came before Saul and offered to fight the giant, who stood taller than six cubits (three meters, or 9 ½ feet). Though initially skeptical of David's capacity to defeat Goliath, Saul was persuaded to allow the match after the young Bethlehemite detailed his previous victorious encounters with a bear and a lion. David rejected the king's offer of armor and a sword and went out to fight Goliath with a staff and five smooth stones he had taken from a nearby stream.

Goliath mocked the young Hebrew for coming against him with "sticks," cursed him by the names of the Philistine gods, then closed in to attack. However, David drew a stone from his bag and used his sling to send it flying into the giant's head. When Goliath fell unconscious to the ground, David drew the Philistine's sword from his scabbard and beheaded him. When the Philistines saw their champion was dead, they retreated from the field, and the Israelite army pursued them out of Judah.

David may not have killed Goliath. Elhanan the son of Jaare-oregim the Bethlehemite is given credit for killing Goliath in 2 Sam 21:19, though the KJV states that Elhanan killed the brother of Goliath. Other troublesome passages suggest the killing of Goliath was added to David's legend.

However, The parallel account at 1 Chron 20:5b reads that "Elhanan the son of Jair slew Lahmi the brother of Goliath." The word "Jair" here is "Jaare-oregim" at 2 Sam 21:19b; "oregim" is Hebrew for "weavers," which also appears at the end of both verses. Also, "Lahmi" (Hebrew "´eth-lach·mi´," where "´eth" simply means that Lahmi is the object of the verb "slew") in the former becomes "behth hal·lach·mi´" (“Bethlehemite”) in the latter. Hence many scholars view 2 Sam 21:19b to be the result of two scribal errors, with 1 Chron 20:5b as the correct account.

Saul's introduction to David before the battle of Goliath is the second time Saul met David (after 1 Sam 16:18), yet Saul does not remember David despite David having served in Saul's court. David brought Goliath's head to Jerusalem (1 Sam 17:54), though Jerusalem belonged to the Jebusites at the time.

Some intriguing medical hypotheses have been made concerning Goliath's size and general health. Given his grossly abnormal height (believed to be 9ft 6 1/2 in), some have suggested that he suffered from acromegaly due to a growth hormone-secreting pituitary adenoma. Given the pituitary's position adjacent to the optic chiasm, pituitary masses also tend to impinge on the decussating fibers delivering images from both peripheral visual fields. This causes bitemporal hemianopsia--essentially a form of tunnel vision. Some have suggested that this kind of situation may have allowed David to sneak up on Goliath and deliver a fatal sling shot to the Philistine.

Goliath is also mentioned in the Qur'an under the Arabic name جالوت Ǧālūt (see Similarities between the Bible and the Qur'an).


  • Kirsch, Jonathan (2000) King David: the real life of the man who ruled Israel. Ballantine. ISBN 0-345-43275-4.

de:Goliath (Bibel) fr:Goliath ja:ゴリアテ nl:Goliath fi:Goljat


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