A Philistine giant of Gath (I Sam. xvii. 4). The name "Goliath" is probably connected with the Assyro-Babylonian "Guzali" = "running, ravaging spirits," "destroyers" (Jastrow, "Religion of Assyria and Babylon," p. 500; Muss-Arnolt, "Concise Dictionary," s.v. "The Throne-Carriers"; Delitzsch, "Assyrisches Handwörterb." s.v.).—Biblical Data:
Goliath was the champion of the Philistines, who had encamped between Shochoh and Azekah against Saul and the men of Israel arrayed for battle in the valley of Elah. He is describedas being six cubits and a span in height, having upon his head a helmet of brass, and wearing a coat of mail weighing five thousand shekels of brass, with greaves of brass upon his legs and a target or gorget of brass between his shoulders. The staff of his spear is said to have been like a weaver's beam, the spear's head weighing six hundred shekels of iron.
Insolently challenging Israel to appoint one of their number to meet him in single combat, with the condition that the people whose champion should be killed should become the slaves of the other, Goliath strikes fear into the hearts of Saul and his men. David, sent by his father with some provisions to his brothers and to their captain in Israel's army, hears the giant's challenge, and inquires what reward there shall be for the man who dares meet the monster. Rebuked by his brother Eliah for his presumption in leaving the sheep, and taxed by him with idle curiosity, David persists in his inquiry. Saul hears of David, and sends for him. The latter relates his experiences with lions and bears, and declares that the uncircumcised Philistine shall at his hands meet a similar fate.Is Slain by David.
On being armed with Saul's armor, David finds that it impedes his gait, whereupon he discards it, takes his staff, and chooses five smooth stones out of the brook for use in his sling. He meets the giant, who, upon catching sight of his diminutive adversary, resents his coming as an insult. David declares that he comes in the name of
Goliath was of ignoble birth. His mother is said to have been Orpah (: II Sam. xxi. 16; Yalḳ. ii. 125), who, after making a pretense of accompanying Ruth, her mother-in-law, and walking with her forty paces, had left her and had led a very profligate life, so that Goliath, her son, was of uncertain paternity (Midr. Ruth i. 14, where the ketib (I Sam. xvii. 23) is read ; comp. Yalḳ. ii. 126, 601). She bore besides Goliath three other giants (Tan., Wayiggash, 8).
In defying Israel Goliath boasted of having slain the two sons of Eli, captured the holy Ark, brought it to the house of Dagon, where it stayed seven months, and of having led the van of the Philistines in every war, scattering the enemy before him like dust. Notwithstanding all these valorous deeds, he had not been found worthy to be the captain over a thousand. But what had Saul done? Why had he been made king? If he was a man and warrior, he should now come forward and meet him; but if he was a weakling, let Israel choose another champion (Targum to I Sam. xvii. 8). The name the giant bore indicated his supernatural insolence, Goliath recalling that he , stood with "uncovered [arrogant] countenance before even God" (Soṭah 42b). Goliath challenged the Israelites every morning and every evening, so as to disturb them at the hour set for reciting the Shema' (Yalḳ. ii. 126). He was permitted to repeat his defiances for forty days because of the forty paces which Orpah had accompanied Ruth (Tan., Wayiggash, 8). His accouterments weighed, according to R. Ḥanina, 60 tons; according to R. Abba bar Kahana, 120 tons (Soṭah 48b). The Biblical account is said to have described the immense proportions and strength of the giant only in order to convey the lesson that it is unlawful to sing the praises of an evil-doer (Yalḳ. l.c.).
The accouterments of Saul fitted David; but the latter, seeing Saul's displeasure, doffed them (Midrash Tan., Emor, ed. Buber, p. 43a; comp. a similar tradition among the Arabs in Ṭabari and Mas'udi). When David went forth to battle, however, God placed greaves upon his limbs (Yalḳ. l.c.). Why did Goliath fall on his face? In order that David should not be put to the trouble of going far when rushing upon him to behead him. According to R. Huna, Goliath had the picture of Dagon engraved upon his heart, which also came to shame through the giant's death (Cant. R. to iv. 4). Goliath is mentioned as the typical case where strength leads to downfall (Ex. R. xxxi.). He died like a dog (ib.). The sword of David (probably Goliath's) had miraculous powers (Midrash Golyat, Jellinek, "B. H." iv. 140-141). In order to guard the slayer of Goliath against becoming overbearing, God exposed him to the revenge of his slain adversary's brother and mother (see Giants; Sanh. 95a; Jellinek, "B. H." iv. 140 et seq.). The Targum to II Sam. xxi. 19 makes David, not Elhanan, the slayer of Goliath; Rashi identifies Elhanan with David.—Critical View:
The two accounts of Goliath's death prove that many old traditions concerning valorous deeds performed in the wars against the Philistines were current among the people, the names of the heroes being variously given. Popular imagination attributed gigantic stature to the champions of the enemy; speaking not of one giant only, but of four (II Sam. xxi. 15 et seq.), and associating with David other men, "his servants," who after one of these encounters (with Ishbibenob; see Giants), in which David had run great dangers, swear to prevent him from again taking part in such expeditions.
The endeavor to harmonize the variant accounts is apparent in the version of I Chron. xx. 5, where Elhanan is credited with the slaying of Lahmi, the brother of Goliath. This Lahmi clearly owes hisexistence to the epithet by which Elhanan is distinguished in II Sam. xxi. 19, namely, the "Beth-lehemite" (). The confusion in the text is plain in the repetition of "oregim" after the name of Elhanan's father, Jaare (Jair), from the end of the verse "the staff of whose spear was like a weaver's beam."Literary Treatment.
The brief sketch in II Sam. xxi. is the more trust-worthy. The men of David—freebooters—manifest no fear in their movements against the enemies. The story of David's duel exhibits great literary skill, and the purpose is plainly to exalt David. The giant and the mere lad—the one in heavy, formidable equipment, the other with the simple outfit of a shepherd; the insolence of the Philistine; the faith and fortitude of David; the cowardice of Israel; the distrust of David's own brothers; the helplessness of Saul; the blind animal passion of the champion; the shrewd, calm strategy of the shepherd—all these are contrasted effects worked out with consummate art. But they point to the fact that in this version reflection and tendency had the dominating part. From the point of view of literary effectiveness, few portions of Old Testament literature equal this.
Underlying this tradition concerning Goliath and other giants is the undoubted fact that many huge weapons of bronze (brass) and iron were found by the invading shepherd tribes of Israel. Many of these were stored away at old shrines, perhaps because they were votive gifts of former generations (I Sam. xvii. 54). The sword incident in the version of I Sam. xvii. reflects, according to Cheyne, the religious temper of late Psalms (Ps. xx. 7 [A. V. 8], xliv. 5 ). The battle-cry in Gideon's army (Judges vii. 20) may be remembered as significant in this connection. The later religious construction of the David-Goliath incident (see Ecclus. [Sirach] xlvii. 2-11) is indeed woven into the account in I Sam. xvii., just as the valorous deed of David furnished the basis for the late superscriptions of psalms within and without the Hebrew canon (Ps. cxliv. [cxliii.]) and of one in the Greek psalter, ἔζωϑεν τοῦ ἀριϑμοῦ: "when David fought against Γολιαδ" (Goliad[th]).
The text of the Septuagint differs materially from the Hebrew: verses 12-31, 41, 48b, and 50 are missing. These omitted, a coherent and consistent narrative is presented, recounting how David, a mere recruit, becomes suddenly a renowned warrior. Some critics have assumed that these omissions were made intentionally (so Wellhausen, "Die Composition des Hexateuchs," etc., 3d ed., p. 249; Kuenen, "Historisch-Kritische Einleitung in die Bücher des Alten Testaments," i., part 2, p. 61; Budde, "Richter und Samuel," p. 210). Others (W. R. Smith and Cornill) believe that the Hebrew verses not found in the Septuagint represent a second David-Goliath tradition.