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How tall was…

April 14, 2011

A. Saul

In first Samuel, King Saul is desribed as being head and shoulders above all the people of Israel and that there was no one like him in the kingdom. (1st Samuel 9:2) People were in general shorter in ancient times than we are today as evidenced by relics of armor found from various periods. The Giant Goliath was listed as nearly 10 feet tall, and King Saul was afraid of his stature, so clearer Saul was no where near this height.
If we assume a “tall” Israelite would be 6’0″ in height, then Saul would most likely have stood somewhere around 7’0″ per the description of “head and shoulders above all the people.” Goliath would still appear fearful to him with this obviously sizeable height disadvantage.

B. David

King David would have been of kingly stature as the annointed one of God, but the only reference we have of this the description of Saul’s height. Before David went to fight Goliath, Saul offered him his very own armor. David denied taken it as he said “he was not used to them.”(1st Samuel 17:39) It would be silly for Saul to offer Samuel his armor if they were of vastly differing sizes, obviously he would be dwarfed. Note David said he was not used to them, not that they were too big.
Based on this information as the only reference we have that sheds light on King David’s height, I think we can assume he was between 6″10 and 7’1″ tall. One may raise the point, “if there was no one like him and he was head and shoulders above all the others, how could david then be as tall as Saul?” When looking at this, we must remember that Saul was 30 when annointed king and reigned for 42 years. David was a young man when they me and was most likely not born or only a small child when Saul was crowned king.

C. Goliath

First Samuel 17:4 notes that Goliath’s height was measured at “six cubits and one span,” about nine feet, six inches. That measurement comes from one Hebrew manuscript tradition, known as the Masoretic text, a text that was fixed around 100 AD by the Jewish community in Israel. We know from the Dead Sea Scrolls that there were other editions of the Hebrew Bible. One of those was the Hebrew text from which the Septuagint, the ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament, was translated. The Septuagint at times disagrees with the Masoretic text. The Septuagint has the height of Goliath at four cubits and one span, or about six feet, six inches. The only Hebrew text of 1 Sam 17:4 found among the Dead Sea Scrolls also reads “four,” and the Jewish historian Josephus describes Goliath as, “a man of vast bulk, for he was of four cubits and a span in tallness. …more

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