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How Tall Was Goliath? Fun With Cubits

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Just how long is a cubit? It depends on whom you ask. Noah’s cubit was somewhat longer than the Egyptian, Greek and Roman cubit. For Noah, the cubit was the measurement from his elbow to the tip of his middle (longest) finger. This inexact measurement likely caused great problems throughout the world, particularly in Africa, where a cubit could range anywhere from less than 12 inches (for pygmy cultures) to more than 36 inches (for the Watusi).

Most sources agree that a cubit in the Bible was equal to 21.8 inches, an Egyptian cubit was equal to 20.6 inches, a Greek cubit was equal to 18.3 inches, and a Roman cubit was equal to 17.5 inches.

To complicate things, there is another type of cubit. A “short” cubit is the length of the forearm, not including any part of the hand. Scholars believe that this unit was occasionally used in the Bible as well, as in the case of the height of Goliath. Said to be “six cubits and a span” tall, David’s target would have been nearly 11 feet tall using a regular cubit, but a more likely height of 6’ 9” using the “short” cubit. Because humans were shorter during ancient times, a man of that height could have been considered a giant, despite the fact that he would have had difficulty dunking on Patrick Ewing.

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  • Vince

    It sounds plausible, but I think the Bible really indicates a height of over 9ft. simply because the weight of his armor is said to be roughly 125 pounds. Add to that a 15 pound helmet, a 37 pound spear, and a shield of Zeus knows how much, we’re talking several hundred pounds of equipment.
    By contrast, the full plate of medieval knights averaged around 50 lbs, the biggest swords no more than about 12 (most around 5lbs.), and shields weighing less than 15lbs, and a Halberd of around 9lbs.
    Now does it really sound credible for even a man of 6′ 9″ to be wielding several hundred pounds of equipment and being able to fight?
    (That was an honest question by the way. If you think yes, please give reasons why.)
    Thanks for your time.

  • Joey

    Medically, a man over 7’6″, in modern times or any time would be suffering from giantism (whatever the word is), and is weaker, by far, than a man of a more normal functional height like 6′ to 6’6″. I’m 5’8″ myself and am built to handle heavier weights as far as pushing/carrying around, than men much taller than myself. Although if he were a true giant, like a different race or almost a different species, then I guess a 10’+ height could explain the heavy weights of those weapons. I figure I couldn’t throw a 37 pound spear far enough to kill anything other than my own foot.

  • Jon

    20 cubits in another place “king of Og”

  • triangle whip

    Goliath was 6 cubits 6×18 inches and a span 1×6 inches that makes him 9.5 feet. How do I know. Most regular sized men have forearms 18″ of very close from elbow to finger tip. 1 CUBIT! And #6 symbolizes MAN. 18/3 =6! The span is when you spread your hand flat and measure thumb to little fingertip, you will get 6 inches. there again we have 6!. 1 cubit =18″. 1 span= 6″.. The Bible don’t just throw numbers at random. They have meaning..

  • triangle whip

    Furthermore biblical measuring rules are laid out from bodyparts like our units like foot from a king who had a 12″ foot , 1 inch nose, and a 36″ hand to center chest..

  • banana breath

    People did not used to be shorter. that’s an evolutionary myth. There are a lot of myths created about the past particularly with humans just to leave the impression we are “evolving” to be taller and smarter. Usually this is how it works: Man who supports evolutoin finds skeleton of short height – therefore all men must have been short. When discoveries don’t support this paradigm, it’s either forgotten, or forced/shoehorned to fit.

    • Christopher Rose

      Do you have a source for this or is it just an opinion?

      Are you trying to suggest that evolution doesn’t happen?

      • banana breath

        Darwinian evolution is an uproven belief system, nothing more. Adaptation happens, genetic degeneration happens while a dog is still a dog, and a fruit fly is still a fruit fly. Genetics don’t add to themselves any more than a computer program can. It truly is a ridiculous notion. Human genetics is only tanking – and at break neck speed. Look up the book “genetic entropy”. Then check out some vids on Wazooloo’s youtube profile.

  • bliffle

    Obviously evolution is wrong. After all, it’s only a theory and not a fact. I locked a dog and her pups in my car and in a few hours they were all dead. If evolution were a fact instead of a theory they would all be alive today. If I survive the beating my brother promises when he gets back it will be because of Gods will not some flukey theory that depends on chance!

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