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There appear to be differing accounts about how tall Goliath was.

The 1st century historian Josephus, and both The Dead Sea Scrolls texts and 4th century Septuagint texts of Samuel report Goliath as being "four cubits and a span" (6 feet 9 inches or 2.06 metres). This differs somewhat (3 feet, to be precise) from the the Masoretic Text of Samuel, which claims his height as "six cubits and a span" (9 feet 9 inches or 2.97 metres).

Are there any sources in the Talmud or Midrash that provide a conclusive height?

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  • The Masoretic text is definitive in Talmudic and Midrashic literature. The Dead Sea Scrolls belonged to a breakaway cult to which Josephus also belonged to a time.
    – N.T.
    Aug 14 '20 at 9:48
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In Shmuel 1 17:4 it writes:

וַיֵּצֵ֤א אִֽישׁ־הַבֵּנַ֙יִם֙ מִמַּחֲנ֣וֹת פְּלִשְׁתִּ֔ים גָּלְיָ֥ת שְׁמ֖וֹ מִגַּ֑ת גָּבְה֕וֹ שֵׁ֥שׁ אַמּ֖וֹת וָזָֽרֶת׃

A champion of the Philistine forces stepped forward; his name was Goliath of Gath, and he was six cubits and a span tall. (sefaria translation)

The Midrash Aggadah Devarim 3:11 qualifies אִֽישׁ־הַבֵּנַ֙יִם֙ in a more literal sense, i.e. that Goliath was in between a giant and an ordinary man, as a giant is over nine cubits tall. Thus, he was two cubits and a span taller than an ordinary man, and two cubits and a span shorter than a giant.

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Midrash Tehillim 18:32 (cited in Rashi, I Shmuel 17:49) says that Goliath fell forward after David struck him with a stone (rather than, as might have been expected, backwards)

כדי שלא יצטער דוד וילך ויחתוך את ראשו. נשתכר י"ב אמה וזרתיים

so that David wouldn't have to go to so much trouble to cut off his head. He gained twelve cubits and two spans

- i.e., as Rashi explains, double Goliath's height. So this shows that the author of this Midrash had the value given in the MT, otherwise he would have spoken of "eight cubits and two spans."

(Other early Midrashim - Vayikra Rabbah 10:7 and Shir Hashirim Rabbah 4:4 - mention this point too, although they give the figure that David thereby gained as "six cubits and one span" - i.e., Goliath's height without doubling it. Etz Yosef in both places says that it means the same thing, though, that David didn't have to walk the length of Goliath's body.)

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