DID GOLIATH SUFFER FROM A BRAIN TUMOR? IS THAT WHY HE LOST THE BATTLE?
by Shawn Brasseaux
Why did Goliath the Giant lose to little David? Was Goliath feeble in some way?
Years ago, I watched a documentary in which Bible “scholars” and other so-called “authorities” were attempting to rationalize the miraculous stories of Scripture. They offered various explanations to try and “tone-down” its supernatural events. We have to remember that they likely do not have the indwelling Holy Spirit to teach them. If (by rare chance) are saved in Christ, they are thinking about Scripture like lost people. Regardless, they are approaching the Bible from strictly a literary, historical, theological, medical, et cetera, standpoint. There is no spiritual aspect for them. First Corinthians 2:13-14: “ Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.  But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”
In their minds, they disallow any and every possibility for the miraculous, seeing as to how such outward manifestations are absent today. That is to say, since visible supernatural events are not currently here with us, they reason that they never occurred at all. Therefore, they say, we should not look at the Bible from a supernatural standpoint either. They will rule out Almighty God and look for some other reason for the outcome of events. For example, in that documentary, they were saying that Goliath suffered from an overactive pituitary gland. This sickness, they claimed, ultimately caused him to lose when fighting young David. Was Goliath really such a formidable opponent as Bible believers assume? Or, did he, as Bible skeptics claim, have a physical condition that rendered him weak in battle? We evaluate both sides of the argument!
BIBLE FACTS (PART I)
Let us notice these facts from God’s Holy Word:
- Goliath is undoubtedly an extremely large, tall man. According to 1 Samuel 17:4, he has a height of “six cubits and a span.” The short “cubit” is 18 inches (46 centimeters); the long one is 22 inches (56 centimeters). The “span” is the maximum distance between the tips of the outstretched thumb and little finger—about nine inches (23 centimeters). So, simple arithmetic yields: 6 cubits x 1.5 feet = 9 feet. Adding the span brings Goliath’s height up to 9 feet 9 inches (or 2.9 meters) at the very minimum. If we use the long cubit—(6 cubits x 1.83 feet = 11 feet)—it would be a maximum height of 11 feet 9 inches (or 3.6 meters). We will use the conservative value: Goliath is a tad shy of 10 feet (3 meters) tall. Wow!
- First Samuel 17:5 says that Goliath wears a coat of mail that weighs “five thousand shekels of brass.” One estimate is 166 pounds (75.3 kilograms)! Friend, imagine wearing that coat of metal mesh!
- The staff of Goliath’s spear resembles a “weaver’s beam”—evidently, a large, long block-like handle. The spear’s head alone “weighed six hundred shekels of iron” (1 Samuel 17:7)—approximately 15 pounds (6.8 kilograms). Imagine carrying a staff with a blade of that weight!
- Goliath is a man skilled in war from a child, whereas David is but a boy, probably still a teenager. First Samuel 17:33 says: “And Saul said to David, Thou art not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him: for thou art but a youth, and he a man of war from his youth.” And, verse 42: “And when the Philistine looked about, and saw David, he disdained him: for he was but a youth, and ruddy, and of a fair countenance.”
- When they face off, Goliath is carrying a sword and a spear, while David is taking a sling and a small pouch containing five smooth river stones. First Samuel chapter 17 relays the following: “ And he took his staff in his hand, and chose him five smooth stones out of the brook, and put them in a shepherd’s bag which he had, even in a scrip; and his sling was in his hand: and he drew near to the Philistine….  Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied….  And all this assembly shall know that the LORD saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the LORD’S, and he will give you into our hands….  And David put his hand in his bag, and took thence a stone, and slang it, and smote the Philistine in his forehead, that the stone sunk into his forehead; and he fell upon his face to the earth.  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.”
FACTS AND CRITICS
Picture in your mind a shepherd boy, probably a teenager, taking a sling and a bag of stones, to fight a man literally more than double his height and size, a man who has many years of training in war. The shepherd boy kills the giant with one shot!
The Bible critic dismisses the above scenario as ridiculous. There is no way that puny David could have defeated powerful, skilled Goliath… unless, (they speculate) there was something physically wrong with Goliath. Enter the skepticism, the questioning of God’s Word (Genesis 3:1). One way to try and get around the miraculous nature of the passage is to say that Goliath suffered a debilitating physical illness. Maybe a brain tumor had caused him to lose his balance, so he fumbled with his weapons. Perhaps, because of that pituitary tumor, he was partially blind and unable to see where David was and fight him. This is what I heard in that documentary. (If you really think about the critic’s claims however, that position proves itself very embarrassing to defend. We will expose it as folly not long from now.)
Notice the following medical science information I retrieved from ClevelandClinic.org:
“The pituitary gland is a tiny pea-sized endocrine gland located in a bony cavity in the base of the brain. Endocrine glands secrete hormonal substances into the body’s bloodstream. The pituitary gland plays a major role in regulating a wide range of biological functions. It secretes hormones involved in: Metabolism, Growth, Blood pressure, and Sexual maturation and function….
“When the pituitary gland is overactive, it secretes excessive amounts of some hormones, usually due to the presence of a benign (noncancerous) tumor. Overactivity of the pituitary gland is called hyperpituitarism.
“Several disorders related to an overactive pituitary gland can occur. These include:….
“Acromegaly: This disorder is caused by secretion of excessive amounts of growth hormone (GH) in adults. Acromegaly can cause: Hands and feet to grow; Change in facial structure — jaw and brow may stick out and the nose, tongue, and lips may get bigger; Skin becoming thick, coarse, and oily; Irregular periods in women and erectile dysfunction in men; Increased risk for high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attack, and certain types of cancer.
“In children and adolescents, excessive levels of growth hormone can result in a condition called gigantism. Children with this condition may have unusually long arms and legs and may grow to heights of 7 to 8 feet [2.1 to 2.4 meters] or more.”
I mention the above data just so you know where the Bible critic is probably coming from in reference to Goliath. There is a strict medical explanation to which they can hold. Now, let me say this so you not misunderstand me. Goliath did suffer from some type of medical condition (more on this later). However, we cannot identify it because the Bible does not give us enough information to make an absolute diagnosis. It could have been acromegaly or gigantism, for lack of a better word; however, it may have been something medical science has not discovered in modern times. Whatever afflicted him though, it was certainly not debilitating as the skeptics claim. Back to the Bible!
BIBLE FACTS (PART II)
The language of the Bible record indicates that Goliath was a fully capable soldier, physically fit, with complete awareness of his opponent:
- On three occasions, Goliath was titled the “champion” of the Philistines (1 Samuel 17:4,23,51). It is quite laughable that the Philistines would have permitted him to go out and represent them in battle—fumbling, stumbling, and blind. Their entire nation was at risk, and they would let him defend them? Surely, the Philistines assumed that Goliath was healthy and terrible enough to battle their enemies the Jews.
- As we mentioned earlier, Goliath wore a coat of mail that weighed “five thousand shekels of brass” (1 Samuel 17:5). Recall that one estimate has this at 166 pounds (75.3 kilograms)! His spear’s head alone “weighed six hundred shekels of iron” (1 Samuel 17:7)—recall it was about 15 pounds (6.8 kilograms). Goliath was not frail or feeble; he could not have put on and carried such equipment if he was unstable or clumsy. Again, he was a tough challenger!
- When Goliath offered to fight Israel’s representative, there was great fear and worry among the Jews. First Samuel 17:11 reveals this to us: “When Saul and all Israel heard those words of the Philistine, they were dismayed, and greatly afraid.” Why should they worry about a fumbling, bumbling giant? Evidently, Goliath was not the “cripple” that the critics would have us believe!
- We know that Goliath was a healthy soldier because the Bible says that he “drew near morning and evening, and presented himself forty days” (1 Samuel 17:16). For a “sick, incapacitated man,” he had great stamina—for nearly six weeks, day and night, he challenged Israel to find one of their own who could defeat him! This is hardly the language of a lumbering individual.
- King Saul of Israel was a very tall man, for “from his shoulders and upward he was higher than any of the people” (1 Samuel 9:2; 1 Samuel 10:23). Saul urged young David to borrow his own armor, affording David some protection against Goliath. Of course, Saul’s armor was much too large for smaller David to wear (1 Samuel 17:38-39). Why would Saul want David to enter the battle with armor, if Goliath was such a clumsy, limited antagonist? Evidently, Saul assumed that Goliath was equipped to kill David with one small stroke of his hand!
- The Bible record is very clear that Goliath did not suffer from visual impairment. First Samuel chapter 17: “ And when the Philistine looked about, and saw David, he disdained him: for he was but a youth, and ruddy, and of a fair countenance.  And the Philistine said unto David, Am I a dog, that thou comest to me with staves? And the Philistine cursed David by his gods.” Goliath, actively looking, saw where David was on the field, he discerned that David lacked proper weapons, and he even noticed David was a handsome, healthy, young man. Goliath was as “blind” as you and I are, friends!
- Aware of his own limitations, would Goliath have engaged in a fight with David? Goliath would have surely declined—unless, of course, he was not debilitated at all and quite confident (100% positive) that he would beat David (and Israel) with very little effort! Goliath did not have mobility, agility, or stability problems. If anything, David was the one who appeared physically disadvantaged—mostly unarmed (just a sling and a pebble), unprotected (no armor), untrained (a young man), et cetera. No wonder Goliath teased David!
Goliath did have some medical (or genetic) problem that caused his huge stature—it was hereditary (2 Samuel 21:15-22). However, he was well enough to fight. He could see details on the battlefield—the opponent, the face and weapons of the opponent, and so on. He could wear and carry such heavy military equipment. From a naturalistic standpoint, David really did not have a chance of winning. If Goliath was the epitome of military might, how did David win? David himself said it best, and we reply,
“ Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied.  This day will the LORD deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcases 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.  And all this assembly shall know that the LORD saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the LORD’S, and he will give you into our hands.”
“and HE will give you into our hands”
“ 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.  And David put his hand in his bag, and took thence a stone, and slang it, and smote the Philistine in his forehead, that the stone sunk into his forehead; and he fell upon his face to the earth.  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.  Therefore David ran, and stood upon the Philistine, and took his sword, and drew it out of the sheath thereof, and slew him, and cut off his head therewith. And when the Philistines saw their champion was dead, they fled.”
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