Goliath May Have Been Bigger Than We Thought

Quote

Facebook

Goliath1

In King David’s story there are five passages that contain giants in the narrative. The most famous one is 1 Samuel 17 that tells the story of Goliath. In fact, that story is so famous, it seems that some Christians think he’s the only giant in the Bible! Others say he wasn’t much of a giant at all. That’s because there are textual problems with the sources we have for the English text of the Old Testament.

In 1 Samuel 17:4, Goliath is described as being “6 cubits and a span.” Scholarly consensus describes the “cubit” as being approximately 18 inches, measured by the distance between an average man’s elbow and forefinger. A “span” is about half of that length, which is about the distance of an outstretched hand, or 9 inches. So by these standards, Goliath’s “6 cubits and a span” was about 9 feet, 9 inches tall.

But there is a problem with that measurement. The 6 1/2 cubit dimension is taken from the Hebrew Masoretic Texts (MT), which are not always the most reliable in their transmission history. Some scholars point out that the Septuagint (LXX), the Dead Sea Scrolls, and Josephus after them describe Goliath at only “4 cubits and a span,” which would make him more like 6 feet, 9 inches tall. According to archeological estimates of discovered remains in Canaan, the average Jew was about 5 feet, 6 inches tall.[1] This shorter version of Goliath would still be a tall man compared to the average ancient Jew, but not at all the supernatural monstrosity of 9 feet, 9 inches tall.

But scholar Clyde Billington has pointed out that the DSS and Josephus may have taken their cue from the LXX, which was translated in Egypt. Egypt’s royal cubit was consistently at 20.65 inches.[2] It is entirely reasonable that the LXX translators would adjust the Biblical numbers to coincide with their own definitions of measurement. Using the Egyptian cubit would make Goliath’s height from the LXX come out to just over 9 feet tall – the same height as in the MT 7 feet 9 inches, not as tall as the MT, but a giant nonetheless. (Update: 7/8/15 thanks to Andy Doerksen).

A further complication arises when one considers the fact that Moses had been raised and educated as royalty in Egypt. So he and the Exodus Israelites no doubt used the Egyptian royal cubit in their measurements. The question then is whether or not the original Hebrew text translated that cubit measurement to the smaller Mesopotamian/Levantine common cubit.

There is an indication in other Biblical texts of the awareness of this cubit difference. The writer of the Chronicles (written much later in Israel’s history during the exile) makes this distinction when describing the dimensions of Solomon’s temple. He writes, “the length, in cubits of the old standard, was sixty cubits, and the breadth twenty cubits” (2 Chron. 3:3). Ezekiel describing the measurements of the temple in his vision also makes this distinction of cubit difference as well when he writes, “the altar by cubits (the cubit being a cubit and a handbreadth)” (Ezek. 43:13). He later calls this a “long cubit” (Ezek. 41:8). So these parentheticals written by authors around the time of the exile indicate that during that time, there was still an awareness of the older longer Egyptian royal cubit as if they had been still using it up until that date.[3]

If we apply this longer cubit measurement to Goliath’s 6 cubits and a span, we get a height of about 10 1/2 feet tall![4] And the Egyptian warrior that was killed by Benaiah (1 Chron. 11:23) 8 feet 6 inches tall. Remember Og of Bashan, whose bed was 9 cubits long? (Deut. 3:11). That might make his bed approximately 15 1/2 feet long and Og about 13 to 14 feet tall (The longer cubit however is most likely not being used in reference to Og’s height since the text says it is measuring “according to the common cubit” as opposed to the royal cubit).

Whichever way one measures a cubit, Goliath was a giant.

You can read my novel about Goliath and the five other giant Rephaim assassins who sought to kill King David. I kid you not. It’s in the Bible. Check it out below.

david_banner_786

 PRE-ORDER THE NEW NOVEL DAVID ASCENDANT

The War of the Seed continues with the Philistines vs. the Messiah King of Israel.

Click here to pre-order your Kindle version of David Ascendant
Click here for the book trailer, author interview, artwork.

This is available for Kindle purchases only. Paperbacks and audio are not available for pre-orders.


 

[1] G. Ernest Wright, “Troglodytes and Giants in Palestine,” Journal of Biblical Literature 57:3 (Sept 1938): 305-309.
[2] Clyde E. Billington, “Goliath and The Exodus Giants: How Tall Were They?” JETS, 50/3 (September 2007) 489-508.
[3] Conservative scholars claim that Moses wrote the Pentateuch during the time of the Exodus, so that would most likely mean that the older longer cubit was used in those texts. Critical scholars claim that Moses did not write the Pentateuch, but that it was mostly written and/or compiled during the time of the Exile which would mean they most likely used the newer shorter cubit in the Pentateuch, but then made some reference to that older cubit in Chronicles and Ezekiel to remind their readers of the changeover. However, this does not change the fact that the longer cubit was still being used long past the time of the exile.
[4] If this is the case, then the Septuagint translators misunderstood the cubit of the Hebrew text as being the smaller cubit, when in fact it was the larger Egyptian cubit. They would then be translating the number incorrectly downward.

How To Make it in Hollywood

Facebook

I had a great interview on the new and way cool podcast The Doorpost Podcast Project by Duane Barnhart:

http://bit.ly/1vlnbXE

The Doorpost Podcast Project is a weekly entertainment business podcast, hosted by Duane Barnhart, interviewing some of today’s most successful and inspiring Entertainment Entrepreneurs. It was Milton Berle who said, “If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.” We help our audience learn to build doors of opportunity. Each episode shines a spotlight on our featured guest as they share their journey of successes and failures, hard work and big breaks, lessons learned and the steps taken to turn those lessons into accomplishments.

The Way Back

Facebook

An epic road movie. Based on a true story that was probably plagiarized by author Slavomir Rawicz as his own experience. A handful of Polish prisoners in the Russian Gulag in Siberia during WWII, escape their prison in the freezing tundra and travel 4000 miles to freedom in India, going through the Gobi Desert AND over the freezing Himilayas.

This survival story was most amazing to me in that it is probably the first Hollywood movie about the Russian Gulags. There are dozens and dozens of movies and television stories about the German concentration camps in WWII, but what most of the public does not know is that the Soviet Communist Gulag system makes the Nazi camps look like children’s play pens. Problem is, they didn’t get the exposure they should have. It reveals how uneducated many people are about the truly evil empire of Soviet Russia and the atrocities that dwarfed the Nazi machine by 3x. Stalin starved over 20 million of his own people. 20 million of his own people. And that is not counting the other 30 million killed in the entire Stalin era for a grand total near 50 MILLION PEOPLE – savagely and brutally killed, many of them tortured as “political dissidents” because they were not Communist party members. Yet, this is the FIRST movie about the Soviet Gulags? All I can say is Peter Weir is a heroic filmmaker to bring out this essence of Communism in an era that seems to deny it was even a threat.

Knowing

Facebook

This is a story of a widowed astronomy professor played by Nicolas Cage, who has a young son that receives upon a cryptic pattern of numbers from a grade school “time capsule” written by a young school girl fifty years earlier. Cage stumbles upon the key to the numbers as a prophecy of important disasters around the world and their death tolls for the next fifty years up until this very year, when it indicates everyone will die in the last catasrophe. He soon realizes that it is a prophecy of the end of the world that will occur from a freak solar super flare that will burn up all life on earth.

The story is Cage’s spiritual journey from one of unbelief to belief in a purposeful meaning to life. I am careful not to add “God” in the equation, because even though the movie uses Christian concepts and imagery, I believe a convincing argument can be made that the movie is ultimately a humanistic demythologizing of the Faith similar to what Stargate and Planet of the Apes did.

The story begins with Cage unable to get over his wife’s recent death. He masks his own unbelief when he tells his son that he never said there was no heaven, “but if you want to believe there is a heaven and mom is there, that’s fine.” Of course Cage’s statements about the size of the universe and how “we are all alone” indicates his real belief and we soon see him in class addressing the classic question of randomness versus determinism in the universe. He brings up the galaxy and the anthropic principle of how life is so finely tuned to the precision of the universe that some people say this indicates a purposeful design. When he concludes with the other view he indicates that it may all be chance, “the result of a complex yet inevitable string of complex biological mutations. There is no grand meaning, there is no purpose.” It’s clear, the death of his wife has brought him to this conclusion and when a student asks him what he thinks, he says, “I think shit just happens,” indicating his despair.

We also learn that Cage is estranged from his pastor father because of his father’s religious beliefs. Cage tells his sister not to pray for him. Meanwhile, Cage’s son, Caleb is being stalked by strange men in trenchcoats, as if they are waiting for just the right time. When Cage figures out the prophecy is about the solar super flare, he calls his religious pastor father and talks about the gift of prophecy and that the end is near. Cage brings his son to a safe place, only to discover the trenchcoat beings are angels, with what appears to be wings who shed their human disguise, and come from an object that resembles the spinning wheels of Ezekiel’s visions in the Bible (This Ezekiel passage is clearly referenced in the film). We hear the kid explain that he and others are “chosen” to be taken away to start a new world. “Only the chosen can go. Those who heard the call.” Obvious New Testament language. We then see Caleb and other children from around the earth “raptured” off the earth as the solar super flare burns up all life in an apocalyptic “judgment” scenario reminiscent of Revelation.

Cage explains that he now believes and knows that he will be in heaven with mom and Caleb someday. He drives out to his parent’s home, makes his reconciliation with them. Dad says, “This isn’t the end, son.” Cage replies, “I know,” and he is now spiritually reunited as they burn up in a ball of fire. We then see Caleb and another little girl arrive on a pristine new planet like an adolescent Adam and Eve and run over to a huge tree that is an obvious metaphor of the tree of life in the Garden of Eden spoken about in the Book of Revelation at the end of the world. At least this is what one interpretation of the Bible says it means. Anyway, the Christian imagery is blatant throughout the film, making this an outright Christian metaphor.

But is it a Christian worldview? Or is it a humanistic demythologizing of Christianity? I think that there is enough indication for one to argue that the “angels” were actually aliens in physical starships just as Stargate argued, making religion a superstitious interpretation of scientific facts. This of course is a very common cliché in movies ever since the book “Chariots of the Gods” in the 1970s that posited that the angelic manifestations in the Bible were actually “ancient astronauts” in flying saucers that were misinterpreted by ignorant religious people as spiritual beings. The fact that the “angels” in Knowing are in very physical spaceships seems to indicate this secularizing demythologizing. But of course, one may argue that it is simply the same “wheels within wheels” that Ezekiel saw in his heavenly vision (and pointed out in the movie), making it ultimately biblical. I think there is just enough ambiguity for either interpretation.

In the DVD special features a documentary about apocalypticism in history addresses it as an element of all religions and an anthropological phenomenon of coding society’s fear. An anthropologist claims that the nuclear age created the “Rapture theory” in the Bible and birthed the UFO craze out of our social fears. They try to show commonalities in all religions regarding the deity and destructive identity of the sun and then explain the scientific possibility of solar super flares. They end on the “alien mythology” of aliens bringing us out of our self destruction to give us another chance, so the documentary at least is more a demythologizing than a scientific support for religious belief.

The Director, Alex Proyas seems to deny the imagery used in the film as being exclusively Christian. He explains on the director’s commentary that to him, the Christian mythology in the film is a part of our cultural imagery, but are more symbolic shorthand for a “bigger story” of humanity coming to peace with its mortality and finding hope beyond it. Anthropologized faith. Proyas addresses the presence of physical spaceships in the film as aliens and that the Ezekiel vision would be exactly how an ancient religious person would interpret an alien. Proyas, claims he is definitely showing the religious impulse as an interpretation of scientific reality, yet was deliberately making it ambiguous so that anyone could bring their own interpretation to the imagery. When the interviewer exclaims that the religious interpretation (over the alien science one) is the central image of the story, Proyas balks and says that that is what the interviewer brought to the film, rather than the film exhibiting.

For Proyas, the meaning lies in Cage’s son surviving him as the hope of how we survive our mortality. Humanistic demythology. Proyas wanted the movie to be relative in its meaning to the viewer. He explicitly says he deliberately wanted the imagery to be ambiguous so that they could be interpreted as either angels or aliens. Angels or Aliens? You decide.

The Great Raid

Facebook

Partially recommended. This is the true story of the greatest rescue of American POWs in history. An elite force of newbie Texas Rangers were sent in to rescue about 500 POWs in a Philippine POW camp held by the Japanese. These were men who survived the Bataan death march and were wasting away from starvation and beatings by the Japanese. Colonel Mucci and his men rescued all the POWs, with but one POW death and a couple of fatalities in the squad. A truly miraculous story. For that and for the fact that the story shows SOME of the atrocities committed by the Imperial Japanese soldiers and police against the Americans, this movie should be seen. The problem is that because of the Nuremburg trials and the obsessive focus on Nazi war crimes, the Japanese war crimes were all but overshadowed and ignored by the public and the resultant consciousness of history in this country. So see it. But unfortunately, it is not a very good movie in storytelling and filmmaking terms. It reeks of television writing and the characters are not nearly as engaging as they should be. With terrible choices for leads like Benjamin Bratt and James Franco, it just cries out for good acting. And the Japanese are cardboard villains, and apart from the atrocities, you just don’t feel for these guys. They are flat characters and there are too many of them. The only good story is the doomed love story between a Major in the camp, played by Joseph Fiennes and an American woman in the Filipino underground, played by Connie Neilson. They are the only ones who have an interesting and dramatic past and connection in that she was married to his commanding officer who was killed and now they live to be together with each other. This is also the story that they brilliantly play as the tragic element in the otherwise victorious story. Not everything was happy results in this realistic story of human pathos and the triumph of the spirit. But I must admit, I am a bit biased in my observations for a couple reasons. One, this is the movie that I discovered Miramax was developing when my movie, To End All Wars came out. Turns out they tried to buy the distribution of our movie, and it is clear now, that they wanted to shelf our movie so they would be the first out with their POW movie. Thank God the producers didn’t go with them. The Great Raid lacked the epic transcendence and memorable characters, scenes and lines that a good epic should have. But also, I was rewriting the miniseries for this same exact story for Disney Touchstone when the Weinsteins discovered the production and literally strong-armed our production into the trash can because of their power (We were both under Disney distribution). Ours was based on the Hampton Sides bestselling novel and it was clearly superior. I was hired to bring in a stronger Japanese element like I did in TEAW. I was also rewriting other elements of it. And it was going to include a bit of the Bataan death march, which is a story that needs to be told as well as some amazing other historically true stuff. Oh well, water under the bridge. But all that said, still see the movie because these men died for your freedom. We owe it to them to know their story, regardless of the fact that oafish trolls may have ruined the movie.