How tall was Goliath?
Sam Donoghue, our Head of Children and Youth, talks about tackling tricky questions.
Last week I was out walking a child (this is the stage of lockdown we have reached, sometimes we just need to get them out the house) and he threw a question at me. It came from nowhere. Suddenly, while we wandered out of the woods towards the car, the bomb was dropped: ‘Dad, Goliath couldn’t really be that tall, could he?’. To be fair it’s a great question but a tricky one; in the back of my head I’ve got two competing worries: firstly ‘what if I get this wrong and he goes away thinking the Bible is all made up’ and secondly ‘what if I get this wrong and he goes away thinking that every line of the bible is totally one hundred percent historically accurate’. I did, however, survive and I think we had a really great chat so I thought I would share how we got out alive.
Firstly, affirm the question. Goliath was really, very tall and it’s a good question to wonder about. I also wanted to say that it’s ok to say that something in the Bible seems to not make sense and be difficult. Your kids will always have questions about faith, it is great to show them that’s ok and they can bring them to you.
Secondly, engage with it using whatever resources you have. We compared how tall he was with some world records and observed that even by those standards he was really big! We also observed that most of the super tall people google showed didn’t seem athletic but walked with sticks so we then debated if a well armed 7ft rugby player might be scarier than a 9ft warrior who couldn’t move very easily. We also wondered if Goliath had grown a little as the story was passed down in the generations before it was written down. It’s ok for a child to realise that the Bible has some frayed edges like this, and it has to be handled with care.
Finally we asked if there was a deeper truth to this story. When you ask this, you realise that the exact height of Goliath doesn’t matter. He’s still the champion warrior of the Philistines and he still gets taken down by a shepherd boy. The deep meaning seems to be in there, not in his exact height!