II Samuel describes giants among the Philistines (below).

  • Were giants common among the Israelites' neighbors?
  • Were the Israelites generally smaller in stature than their neighbors?
  • Were there Israelite giants as well? If so, were Philistine giants bigger than the them?
  • Could the height differences be due to better nutrition? (Just curious.)

From II Samuel 21:15-22:

15 Now when the Philistines were at war again with Israel, David went down and his servants with him; and as they fought against the Philistines, David became weary. 16 Then Ishbi-benob, who was among the descendants of the giant, the weight of whose spear was three hundred shekels of bronze in weight, was girded with a new sword, and he intended to kill David. 17 But Abishai the son of Zeruiah helped him, and struck the Philistine and killed him. Then the men of David swore to him, saying, "You shall not go out again with us to battle, so that you do not extinguish the lamp of Israel." 18 Now it came about after this that there was war again with the Philistines at Gob ; then Sibbecai the Hushathite struck down Saph, who was among the descendants of the giant. 19 There was war with the Philistines again at Gob, and Elhanan the son of Jaare-oregim the Bethlehemite killed Goliath the Gittite, the shaft of whose spear was like a weaver's beam. 20 There was war at Gath again, where there was a man of great stature who had six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot, twenty-four in number ; and he also had been born to the giant. 21 When he defied Israel, Jonathan the son of Shimei, David's brother, struck him down. 22 These four were born to the giant in Gath, and they fell by the hand of David and by the hand of his servants.

  • 5
    You would get more mileage out of these questions if you would link to a site with an accepted translation, like for example mechon-mamre.org. The site you are linking to is either deliberately mistranslating or exhibiting a profoundly flawed understanding of Hebrew.
    – yoel
    Commented Sep 27, 2011 at 15:44
  • 1
    You've got three distinct questions here. Please focus on one, and quote the scriptural motivation for it directly, rather than just linking to a verse. Then, ask your other questions separately, similarly documented.
    – Isaac Moses
    Commented Sep 27, 2011 at 15:46
  • @IsaacMoses I count six questions...
    – yoel
    Commented Sep 27, 2011 at 15:47
  • @yoel The first three in the body are just suggested answers to the one in the title, I think.
    – Isaac Moses
    Commented Sep 27, 2011 at 15:48
  • 2
    @IsaacMoses either that or it's the beginning of a discarded Daft Punk song.
    – yoel
    Commented Sep 27, 2011 at 15:50

2 Answers 2


The whole point of that story was that young David, without armor, without a sword felled the big champion well-armed dangerous giant with only a slingshot and the power of G-d. Which is what this passage presage in the Middle East right now. Israel has always been outnumbered and outsized and has prevailed with the help of G-d.

  1. The 'giant' was a giant because it suffered from a birth defect of excessive insulin growth factors, acromegaly or gigantism, a hormonal imbalance. http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/925446-overview

2 Samuel also says he had 6 fingers and 6 toes, 24 digits total.

So, one might ask "why Philistines have so many birth defects?"

Can you see the false assumption? Philistines were not larger than Israelites, the giant and his family was a genetic anomaly. Not all Philistines had acromegaly.

The chapter you cite shows the gigantism was in this Gittite family, the father Goliath was slain by Elhanan the son of Jaare and his son became a champion of the Philistines, whom David slew many according to the Mechon Mamre link above, pasukim 19-22.

The generation of Israel coming in from the desert may have been smaller because they were almost exclusively vegetarian, eating maan, and they do tend to be shorter at least if limited zinc/protein/iron is available before puberty like the Persian and Egyptian dwarves. http://www.ifm.net/industry/zinc2.htm Once in the land, eating meat, they were the same size as everyone else in the region. If you actually read the accounts of the Philistines in 1 and 2 Samuel, you will see the whole POINT of the story is that a tiny group of people, outnumbered in every way, overcame the odds with the help of G-d.

Here it is:

מב וַיַּבֵּט הַפְּלִשְׁתִּי וַיִּרְאֶה אֶת-דָּוִד, וַיִּבְזֵהוּ: כִּי-הָיָה נַעַר, וְאַדְמֹנִי עִם-יְפֵה מַרְאֶה. 42 And when the Philistine looked about, and saw David, he disdained him; for he was but a youth, and ruddy, and withal of a fair countenance.

מג וַיֹּאמֶר הַפְּלִשְׁתִּי, אֶל-דָּוִד, הֲכֶלֶב אָנֹכִי, כִּי-אַתָּה בָא-אֵלַי בַּמַּקְלוֹת; וַיְקַלֵּל הַפְּלִשְׁתִּי אֶת-דָּוִד, בֵּאלֹהָיו. 43 And the Philistine said unto David: 'Am I a dog, that thou comest to me with staves?' And the Philistine cursed David by his god.

מד וַיֹּאמֶר הַפְּלִשְׁתִּי, אֶל-דָּוִד: לְכָה אֵלַי--וְאֶתְּנָה אֶת-בְּשָׂרְךָ, לְעוֹף הַשָּׁמַיִם וּלְבֶהֱמַת הַשָּׂדֶה. {ס} 44 And the Philistine said to David: 'Come to me, and I will give thy flesh unto the fowls of the air, and to the beasts of the field.'

מה וַיֹּאמֶר דָּוִד, אֶל-הַפְּלִשְׁתִּי, אַתָּה בָּא אֵלַי, בְּחֶרֶב וּבַחֲנִית וּבְכִידוֹן; וְאָנֹכִי בָא-אֵלֶיךָ, בְּשֵׁם יְהוָה צְבָאוֹת, אֱלֹהֵי מַעַרְכוֹת יִשְׂרָאֵל, אֲשֶׁר חֵרַפְתָּ. 45 Then said David to the Philistine: 'Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a javelin; but I come to thee in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast taunted.

מו הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה יְסַגֶּרְךָ יְהוָה בְּיָדִי וְהִכִּיתִךָ, וַהֲסִרֹתִי אֶת-רֹאשְׁךָ מֵעָלֶיךָ, וְנָתַתִּי פֶּגֶר מַחֲנֵה פְלִשְׁתִּים הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה, לְעוֹף הַשָּׁמַיִם וּלְחַיַּת הָאָרֶץ; וְיֵדְעוּ, כָּל-הָאָרֶץ, כִּי יֵשׁ אֱלֹהִים, לְיִשְׂרָאֵל. 46 This day will the LORD deliver thee into my hand; and I will smite thee, and take thy head from off thee; and I will give the carcasses of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel;

מז וְיֵדְעוּ כָּל-הַקָּהָל הַזֶּה, כִּי-לֹא בְּחֶרֶב וּבַחֲנִית יְהוֹשִׁיעַ יְהוָה: כִּי לַיהוָה הַמִּלְחָמָה, וְנָתַן אֶתְכֶם בְּיָדֵנוּ. {ס} 47 and that all this assembly may know that the LORD saveth not with sword and spear; for the battle is the LORD'S, and He will give you into our hand.' {S}

מח וְהָיָה כִּי-קָם הַפְּלִשְׁתִּי, וַיֵּלֶךְ וַיִּקְרַב לִקְרַאת דָּוִד; וַיְמַהֵר דָּוִד, וַיָּרָץ הַמַּעֲרָכָה לִקְרַאת הַפְּלִשְׁתִּי. 48 And it came to pass, when the Philistine arose, and came and drew nigh to meet David, that David hastened, and ran toward the army to meet the Philistine.

מט וַיִּשְׁלַח דָּוִד אֶת-יָדוֹ אֶל-הַכֶּלִי, וַיִּקַּח מִשָּׁם אֶבֶן וַיְקַלַּע, וַיַּךְ אֶת-הַפְּלִשְׁתִּי, אֶל-מִצְחוֹ; וַתִּטְבַּע הָאֶבֶן בְּמִצְחוֹ, וַיִּפֹּל עַל-פָּנָיו אָרְצָה. 49 And David put his hand in his bag, and took thence a stone, and slung it, and smote the Philistine in his forehead; and the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell upon his face to the earth.

נ וַיֶּחֱזַק דָּוִד מִן-הַפְּלִשְׁתִּי בַּקֶּלַע וּבָאֶבֶן, וַיַּךְ אֶת-הַפְּלִשְׁתִּי וַיְמִתֵהוּ; וְחֶרֶב, אֵין בְּיַד-דָּוִד. 50 So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and smote the Philistine, and slew him; but there was no sword in the hand of David.

Source: http://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt08a17.htm

  • How big is Goliath anyway? I guess he should have challenged David in arm wrestling instead.
    – user4951
    Commented Nov 25, 2011 at 3:12
  • I suppose someone with gun can also kill a giant at long distance. Range weapon rocks.
    – user4951
    Commented Jun 16, 2013 at 9:26

Samson was held captive by the Philistines and used to breed giants. The grinding he did was not of grain, but he was used to breed an army with super strength. That's why there are references of giants not long after Samson's death in both the books of Samuel.

  • 3
    Awesome theory. I must admit that Samson must have been very happy. Any sources?
    – user4951
    Commented Sep 5, 2013 at 3:54
  • 1
    @JimThio Rashi alludes to a midrash from Sotah 10a which is the basis for this idea.
    – magicker72
    Commented Jan 27, 2015 at 23:14

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .