(Go·liʹath) [possibly, conspicuous].
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 (9 feet 5.75 inches [c. 2.9 meters]). His copper coat of mail weighed 5,000 shekels (c. 126 pounds [c. 57 kilograms]) and the copper blade of his spear weighed 600 shekels (c. 15 pounds [c. 6.8 kilograms]). (1 Sam. 17:4, 5, 7) Goliath was one of the Rephaim; he may have been a mercenary soldier with the Philistine army.—1 Chron. 20:5, 8; see REPHAIM.
Not long after David’s anointing by Samuel, and after Jehovah’s spirit had left King Saul (1 Sam. 16:13, 14), the Philistines collected for war against Israel in Ephesdammim. 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 servants of the other. Morning and evening, for forty days, the army of Israel, in great fear, was subjected to these taunts. No Israelite soldier had the courage to accept the challenge.—1 Sam. 17:1-11, 16.
In taunting the armies of the living God Jehovah, Goliath sealed his own doom. The young shepherd David, upon whom was God’s spirit, 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.” Then David slung a stone from his sling and it sank into Goliath’s forehead, striking him to the earth. David followed this up by standing on 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.—1 Sam. 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.” (1 Sam. 17:54) Undoubtedly David left the camp for his home at Bethlehem, traveling there by way of Jerusalem, where he left Goliath’s head, and then taking the weapons to his own dwelling place. While it is true that the stronghold of Zion was not captured until later by David (2 Sam. 5:7), the city of Jerusalem itself had long been inhabited by Israelites, along with Jebusites. (Josh. 15:63; Judg. 1:8) Later on, David evidently turned Goliath’s sword over to the sanctuary, as indicated by the fact that he got it from Ahimelech the priest at the time he was fleeing from Saul.—1 Sam. 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 Dr. A. Cohen, 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·lahh·miʹ],” while the Chronicles account alone contains the name “Lahmi [ʼeth Lahh·miʹ],” has been suggested by the majority of commentators to be the result of a copyist’s error. For further information see JAARE-OREGIM; LAHMI.