Skip to content

Skip to table of contents

Valley of Elah

David Versus Goliath​—Did It Really Happen?

David Versus Goliath​—Did It Really Happen?

Some people wonder if the account about David and Goliath is true history or just myth. Did such a doubt cross your mind as you read the preceding article? If so, please consider the following three questions.

1 | Could a man really be some nine and a half feet (2.9 m) tall?

The Bible says that Goliath’s “height was six cubits and a span.” (1 Samuel 17:4) The cubit in question was 17.5 inches (44.5 cm) long; the span, 8.75 inches (22.2 cm). That adds up to about nine feet six inches (2.9 m). Some insist that Goliath could not have been that tall, but consider: In modern times, the tallest man documented was over 8 feet 11 inches (2.7 m) tall. Is it really impossible that Goliath was six inches (15 cm) or so taller? He was of the tribe of the Rephaim, men who were known for their unusual size. An Egyptian document from the 13th century B.C.E. mentions that some fearsome warriors in the region of Canaan were over eight feet (2.4 m) in height. So Goliath’s height, while unusual, is hardly impossible.

2 | Was David a real person?

There was a time when scholars tried to relegate King David to the realm of myth, but that has become harder to do. Archaeologists have found an ancient inscription that mentions “the house of David.” Furthermore, Jesus Christ spoke of David as a real person. (Matthew 12:3; 22:43-45) Jesus’ identity as the Messiah is supported by two detailed genealogies showing that he descended from King David. (Matthew 1:6-16; Luke 3:23-31) Clearly, David was a real man.

3 | Did the events described in the account unfold in a real place?

The Bible says that the battle occurred in the Valley of Elah. But it gets still more specific, noting that the Philistines camped on a hillside somewhere between two towns, Socoh and Azekah. The Israelites were stationed across the valley on the opposite hillside. Were these real places?

Note what a recent visitor to the area says: “Our guide​—who was not a religious man—​took us to the Valley of Elah. We ascended a path that took us to the brow of a hill. As we looked over the valley, he had us read 1 Samuel 17:1-3. Then he pointed across the valley, saying: ‘There, to your left, lie the ruins of Socoh.’ Turning, he said, ‘Over there, to your right, are the ruins of Azekah. The Philistines camped between those towns, somewhere on the hillsides facing you. So we may be standing where the Israelites camped.’ I thought of Saul and David standing right where I was. Then we descended, and on the valley floor, we crossed a streambed, mostly dry, that was full of stones. I could not help but picture David stooping here to pick up five smooth stones, one of which killed Goliath.” That visitor, like many others, was deeply impressed with the authentic details in the Bible record.

There is no real basis for doubting the truthfulness of this historical account. It involves real people and real places. More important, it is part of God’s inspired Word, so it comes from the God of truth, the One who “cannot lie.”​—Titus 1:2; 2 Timothy 3:16.