Was Goliath really nine feet tall?

May 30th, 2009 by prof.kovaciny Leave a reply »

The Bible says he was six cubits high. A cubit is the distance from your elbow to your fingertips, a foot and a half. But was Goliath six of YOUR cubits high, or was he six UKRAINIAN cubits high?

I’m five seven and these days I see young (NOT old) Ukrainian women my height or a handful of inches taller. My wife is five two and vividly remembers the day we went to church at the famous Pochaiv monastery. It was a five or six hour service (we only stayed three and a half, standing the whole time). She vividly remembers that, standing behind dozens of old women, she could see over all their heads. This is something that had never happened to her before. That’s because all those women had been born in the 1920′s in the Soviet Union.

In 1932, Joseph Stalin was dictator of the Soviet Union. Ukrainians didn’t want to be part of the USSR, so Stalin, perhaps to save bullets and increase the terror, assembled the Red Army to close the border and confiscate the harvest. People still tell of Russian soldiers coming into their kitchens, smashing jars, trampling food, and destroying whatever they couldn’t carry off. There are other stories, many of them, that belong in a horror film. Stalin openly admitted to Churchill (it’s in “The Hinge of Fate”) to murdering five million Ukrainians, though it was closer to ten. Children who lived through it never grew to a normal height. When we arrived here in 1992, many old women (the men had almost all died in the war) walked at a permanent right-angle stoop from osteoporosis and scoliosis. Some looked like witches with protruding chins, missing teeth, and such twisted spines they would have fallen on their faces without walking sticks. It came from that terrible winter of man-made starvation.

Goliath was six cubits tall. Six Israelite cubits, which were like the old Ukrainian cubit–15 inches, not 18. Their cubit was short because they were short, and they were short because the Philistines had been stealing everything that wasn’t red hot, nailed down, or moving fast. It was to end the taxing, the looting, and the raiding that these hungry and desperate men rebelled against Philistia. Remember that David’s father sent food for his sons–the army couldn’t feed the soldiers enough.

Except for Saul, a six-footer who stood “head and shoulders above the rest,” the soldiers were all half-starved shorties, probably under five feet! So their cubit was also short. Six-cubit Goliath was not a nine-foot acromegalic giant doomed to bad health and an early death. He was a seven-foot-six superman who towered almost a yard over their heads. His spear was like a weaver’s beam with a point weighing 600 shekels–however much that was. Because measurements like the cubit varied depending on whether people were starving or not, some weights and measures in Bible dictionaries will have to be revised. And because I know about things like this, the footnotes in our Bible will not make Goliath an almost-impossible nine feet tall, but more like an overmuscled NBA center.

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1 comment

  1. Jay says:

    Well according to the dead sea scrolls, which are the earliest manuscripts of the bible ever recovered by archeologists, the verses contained in Samuel claimed that Goliah was 6 ft 6 inches tall. Hey, thats still pretty damn big. Than again, the bible also says that Saul was 7 foot and afraid of Goliath. Its a shame when people mess with scriptures and try to exaggerate stories. It makes one wonder if the bible is as correct as we claim it to be. Luckily, according the dead sea scrolls, much of the bible, at least the most important parts are still intact and true to the original source. Its a leap of faith and philosophical life style, rather than just looking up the facts. Their will always be debates, which is why Paul says too much knowledge may sometimes be a bad thing.

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