At church last Sunday, I taught from 1 Samuel 17, the chapter detailing the infamous battle between the young shepherd-boy-to-be-king, David, and the Philistine champion, Goliath. I’ve known the story since childhood. In fact, many who didn’t grow up attending religious services still know the basic story—that this young boy (probably an older teen in actuality) faced down this “giant” of an enemy and prevailed with no armor and only a sling in hand. Even today, we speak of facing down or overcoming “giants” when a seemingly impossible obstacle is before us.
Right: David Slays Goliath, Gustave Doré (1832–1883) from The Accordance Gallery of Bible Art.
I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of Goliath: a giant, hulking big bad in the Bible. When I was young, I assumed David’s sling was the same as my slingshot, and I played in the backyard pretending to take down my own giants. Instead, I only managed to accidentally (really, Mom!) take out a window or two.
As an adult, I’ve occasionally pondered the size of Goliath mentioned in the Bible. In 1 Sam 17:4 the Hebrew text describes Goliath’s height as “six cubits and a span” (שֵׁשׁ אַמּוֹת וָזָרֶת). If a cubit is roughly 18 inches, and a span is roughly 9 inches, that puts Goliath at well over 9 and a half feet. I’d want that guy on my basketball team—he could dunk without even jumping!
At a height of over nine and a half feet, Goliath would have undoubtedly been seen as a “Big Unfriendly Giant” (BUG), even to modern people who are taller than our biblical predecessors. I’ve been unable to find the source, but I remember reading or hearing many years ago that the average male height in biblical times was a little over 5 feet tall. If King Saul was taller from the shoulders up than anyone else (1 Sam 9:2; 10:23), he was probably somewhere over 6 feet tall, which would have been very tall for his day, but not nearly as tall as the biblical description of Goliath.
Consider though, in modern times, the verified tallest person ever recorded is Robert Wadlow (1918 - 1940) who stood an impressive 8 feet, 11 inches, still shorter than the biblical Goliath. Of course, Goliath was a giant right? Well, actually, that’s questionable. That is, the Bible never directly refers to Goliath as a giant other than giving us his height, which would definitely seem to fall into the “giant” category. Even though giants are mentioned other places (2 Sam 21:16, 18, 20, 22; 1 Chr 20:4, 6, 8), there’s no direct connection in those passages to Goliath.
Left: Robert Wadlow standing next to his father, Harold Wadlow (source: Wikipedia)
The curriculum I teach from on Sundays uses the Holman Christian Standard Bible as its basis. I happened to notice a footnote in the HCSB to Goliath’s height that read, “DSS, LXX read four cubits and a span”—(DSS: א֯רבע[ א]מות וזרת and LXX: τεσσάρων πήχεων καὶ σπιθαμῆς). I found this very interesting because the lesser four cubits and a span would be a little over 6 and a half feet tall. If there’s no claim to Goliath being a giant, but rather just a very big imposing warrior, this lesser height would make much more sense.
Add to this that both the Septuagint and the Dead Sea Scrolls predate the Masoretic Text that the Hebrew Bible is based on by roughly a millennium, and it starts to seem as if Goliath’s height might have become a bit exaggerated over the centuries. On Monday of this week, in my post on the Göttingen Septuagint, I wrote the following as a general principle for determining a correct reading:
Often when the LXX and and Dead Sea Scrolls agree together against the 10th century Masoretic Text, the older reading is seen as more original. Thus, no study of the Old Testament can be considered truly comprehensive unless the LXX is taken into consideration…
The issue of Goliath’s height is merely one example of this principle.
Last Sunday, I internally debated as to whether I should bring up the issue of the question surrounding Goliath’s height when I taught this passage to my class at church. I try not to get too technical in regard to textual issues, usually just leaving a passage as it is in its final form. However, a 6'9" Goliath seemed to make so much more sense to me! Plus, a shorter stature for Goliath doesn’t take away from the point that David defeated Goliath because his faith was in God and not in physical size or weapons (1 Sam 17:45) and as an example that the Spirit of the LORD was upon him (1 Sam 16:13).
Since the footnote in the HCSB gave me an opening, I went ahead and mentioned—in the most general terms—the difference in the readings regarding Goliath’s height. From what I could tell, the people in our class found it interesting and plausible, and no one accused me of “questioning the Bible” or being too technical.
In writing this post, I came across an article by J. Daniel Hays, “Reconsidering the Height of Goliath” [JETS 48 (2005): 701-715], that comes to the same conclusion. If you have the Theological Journal Library in your personal Accordance Library, I recommend checking it out.
Although 1 Samuel (1 Kingdoms) is not yet available, the Göttingen Septuagint is on sale through August 1 at unprecedented discount.
Edward M. Cook’s Dictionary of Qumran Aramaic is an extremely specialized lexicon. As Cook states in the introduction, this reference work “is in a sense a fragment of a dictionary, since Qumran Aramaic is only a fragment of a language” (p. ix). You can find more information about this resource in the Accordance web store, but I thought I might offer a few tips for using this resource after exploring it myself a bit.
- This probably goes without saying but make certain that the Qumran Non-biblical Manuscripts are also a part of your Accordance Library as Cook’s Dictionary is designed to provide lexical information for the text in that manuscript collection
- The manuscript hyperlinks are designed to open in the Qumran Non-biblical Manuscripts, but if this does not happen when you click on a hyperlinked manuscript reference, you might need to change this in the settings for the dictionary. Do this by making certain the dictionary is the active pane and pressing Control-T (Windows) or Command-T (Mac) to open the Set Tool Display settings. Under Hypertext, change your Text setting to the Qumran Non-biblical Manuscripts, and make certain you choose “Use as Default,” so you don’t have to set it again. Now when you click on the manuscript hyperlinks, the correct text will open to the reference selected.
- Unless you’re spending almost all of your time in the Qumran Non-biblical Manuscripts module, you probably don’t want to change your default Hebrew lexicon to the Dictionary of Qumran Aramaic. However, you can still achieve the same result by using the Amplify feature instead. Simply double-click the Aramaic word in your text to select it (you should now see it highlighted), and then click on the amplify icon next to the Dictionary in the Accordance Library window or select it from the Amplify menu.
Click the image above to see a larger view of Cook's Dictionary of Qumran Aramaic.
Again, although this resource is extremely specialized, if you’re working with the Qumran Non-biblical Manuscripts a lot, you will find this lexicon much more helpful than the more general offerings.
Dictionary of Qumran Aramaic (Cook)
James Charlesworth is the Director of the Dead Sea Scrolls Project at Princeton Theological Seminary. He's also an avid Accordance user and was happy to sit down and talk with us.
Dr. Charlesworth has worked for 13 years primarily with the Pseudepigrapha, extrabiblical Jewish and Christian writings which were falsely attributed to notable figures from the Bible.
He lit up with enthusiasm as he described the search functionality within the Accordance Pseudepigrapha and how it makes his life easier — even teaching him a few things he "did not know."
Watch the full interview here:
In my last post, I discussed the Hebrew workspace I use in my Hebrew Syntax class, and how you can use Accordance to enhance your Hebrew experience. In this post we'll continue working through the tabs in that workspace.
The second tab (from the left) is used to display the results of word searches. Since I'm addicted to right-clicking (old habits die hard), I use that method to do word searches within the text I'm working on. You can also use the drop down menu, or resource palette to accomplish the same task.
By clicking on the details of the search, I can quickly view the distribution of hits across the Bible. In my prefs (cmd ,), I've set it to display the Table everytime I access the details of a search. In the Table you can see that this word occurs primarily in the Psalms. In the Hits Graph, I can triple-click on the part of the graph representing the hits in the Psalms and my search results will drop down down to those hits.
The next tab, labeled 'TC', is setup to display some text-critical resources available in Accordance.
One thing I've done to save from having to re-enter the verse reference I'm working in is Tied the contents of this tab to my main BHS tab.
One could probably write an entire article on what is going on in this verse, but I'll restrict my discussion here to a brief description of the resources displayed, and in the following post I will describe how to interpret some of the data that can be mined from this workspace.
At the SBL Annual Meeting in 2007 we unveiled the Dead Sea Scrolls Biblical Manuscripts modules (see announcement here, and article on the importance of these texts here). This represents the first (and still only available) morphologically-tagged edition of the Biblical finds from Qumran. In addition, we also have the English translation, and Notes (DSSB-E).
In this tab I have the DSSB-C (a collated module of all the fragments in canonical order) displayed in parallel with the BHS text, and the LXX. Below that I have the Notes for the DSS English translation, the BHS apparatus (see the previous post for a description), and the Revised CATSS MT-LXX Parallel Database. Just like I've done with the BHS Apparatus, I have set the DSSB-E Notes module to display all Scripture refs in the DSSB-E text. By hovering over any link in the Notes, it will display the verse in the Instant Details box.
In this workspace tab you can clearly see the wealth of information that is readily accessible in Accordance. In the case of the Dead Sea Scrolls Biblical manuscripts, and the Revised MT-LXX Parallel Database, these resources are not available anywhere else. In my next post I will explain in more detail the textual features and variants of this passage using the compare text feature, and the other resources.