Goliath of Gath

I was reading something about a giant skeleton found in the Middle East and there was speculation that it might belong to Goliath of Gath, this is the Goliath that David slew in the bible.

According to the story in the Bible, Goliath of Gath was around 6’10”.  Today it’s rare to get men that are 6’10”, but it isn’t so rare that we refer to these men as giants… but 2,000 years ago, people were shorter.  Much shorter.  One of the strange leaps that took place in the early 1900s is that people got taller.

If you read the story of David and Goliath, Goliath exhibits symptoms of gigantism.  Goliath has to be escorted onto the battlefield.  He complains of achy joints.  Both poor eyesight and achy joints and limbs are common side effects of gigantism. It makes me feel bad for him.  Essentially the Philistines exploited someone with a disability and David the hero of the story murdered someone with a disability that didn’t have many options in life.  He was tall enough that he probably didn’t have a choice about becoming a soldier, it was either that or starve to death… good chance his eyesight was poor enough that he couldn’t have been successful as a craftsman, not to mention he would have had to have special tools made for him (hand size is exceptionally different between someone who is 5’6″ and someone who is 6’10” or taller.

I imagine Goliath did not have a happy life.  Gigantism isn’t particularly common in European populations, including Middle Eastern populations who for the sake of this post I’m just going to lump in with Europeans (they aren’t Asian, African, or European, but a mix of all three and that is just complicated beyond what I want to deal with at the moment).  Most people with gigantism tend to be clumsy; they have exceptionally large hands and feet  and along with being tall, they have weaker hearts than the general population, the joints in their bodies suffer from cartilage malformation meaning their joints aren’t cushioned as well as they need to be for their large bodies leading to joint and limp pain that is mostly untreatable, poor eyesight, and many of them have trouble with speech making them appear to be simple minded, regardless of whether they are or not.  Today we know there is a reason for all this.  However, even Andre the Giant was teased and taunted in his hometown in France as being stupid because he talked slowly (his case is an interesting read if you are interested).

Goliath would have had limited prospects in life for things everyone else takes for granted; marriage, children (some people with gigantism suffer sterility), professions, and even where he could live.  Most likely a home would have had to be custom built for him and it was probably in a poor neighborhood of Gath (think ghetto like conditions here).  And also, most of his furniture would have needed to custom built, not cheap… Being a soldier for the Philistines was probably a bit of a blessing because it would have raised his social status and given him a fairly steady income, that other wise he most likely wouldn’t have had.

I can’t help but feel a little sad for Goliath.

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