The giant from the city of Gath, champion of the Philistine army, who was killed by David. Goliath towered to the extraordinary height of six cubits and a span (2.9 m; 9.5 ft). His copper coat of mail weighed 5,000 shekels (57 kg; 126 lb) and the iron blade of his spear weighed 600 shekels (6.8 kg; 15 lb). (1Sa 17:4, 5, 7) Goliath was one of the Rephaim; he may have been a mercenary soldier with the Philistine army.—1Ch 20:5, 8; see REPHAIM.
Not long after David’s anointing by Samuel, and after Jehovah’s spirit had left King Saul (1Sa 16:13, 14), the Philistines collected for war against Israel at Socoh and then encamped in Ephes-dammim. As the battle lines of the Philistines and Saul’s army faced each other across the valley, the gigantic warrior Goliath emerged from the Philistine camp and loudly challenged Israel to supply a man to fight him in single combat, the outcome to determine which army should become the servant of the other. Morning and evening, for 40 days, the army of Israel, in great fear, was subjected to these taunts. No Israelite soldier had the courage to accept the challenge.—1Sa 17:1-11, 16.
In taunting the armies of the living God Jehovah, Goliath sealed his own doom. The young shepherd David, with God’s spirit upon him, met Goliath’s challenge. Goliath, preceded by his armor-bearer carrying a large shield, advanced, calling down evil upon David by his gods. To this David replied: “You are coming to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I am coming to you with the name of Jehovah of armies, the God of the battle lines of Israel, whom you have taunted.” (PICTURE, Vol. 1, p. 745) David slung a stone from his sling; it sank into Goliath’s forehead, and he fell to the earth. David followed this up by standing over Goliath and cutting off his head with the giant’s own sword. This was promptly followed by a signal rout and slaughter of the Philistines.—1Sa 17:26, 41-53.
“Then David took the head of the Philistine and brought it to Jerusalem, and his weapons he put in his tent.” (1Sa 17:54) While it is true that the stronghold of Zion was not captured until later by David (2Sa 5:7), the city of Jerusalem itself had long been inhabited by Israelites, along with Jebusites. (Jos 15:63; Jg 1:8) Later on, David evidently turned Goliath’s sword over to the sanctuary. This is indicated by the fact that Ahimelech the priest gave it to David when David was fleeing from Saul.—1Sa 21:8, 9.
A passage that has caused some difficulty is found at 2 Samuel 21:19, where it is stated: “Elhanan the son of Jaare-oregim the Bethlehemite got to strike down Goliath the Gittite, the shaft of whose spear was like the beam of loom workers.” The parallel account at 1 Chronicles 20:5 reads: “Elhanan the son of Jair got to strike down Lahmi the brother of Goliath the Gittite, the shaft of whose spear was like the beam of loom workers.”
Several suggestions have been made for an explanation of the problem. The Targum preserves a tradition that Elhanan is to be identified with David. The Soncino Books of the Bible, edited by A. Cohen (London, 1951, 1952), comment that there is no difficulty in the assumption that there were two Goliaths, commenting also that Goliath may have been a descriptive title like “Pharaoh,” “Rabshakeh,” “Sultan.” The fact that one text refers to “Jaare-oregim,” whereas the other reads “Jair,” and also that only the account in Second Samuel contains the term “Bethlehemite [Heb., behth hal·lach·miʹ],” while the Chronicles account alone contains the name “Lahmi [ʼeth-Lach·miʹ],” has been suggested by the majority of commentators to be the result of a copyist’s error.—See JAARE-OREGIM; LAHMI.