Did you see those pictures of giants? Kudos to Photoshop!
That’s right. Evidently Goliath of Gath had relatives all over the world. You can see their nearly perfectly preserved skeletons showing up in Southern France, Africa, Peru, Saudi Arabia, and even Clearwater, Minnesota! If our emails can be trusted, Greece is the latest in a long line of discoveries revealing exactly where these giants called home.
There is only one problem; they are part of a huge hoax. It is not because Bible believers are more susceptible to these types of frauds than the average person; however, there is a real desire among those who have placed their confidence in the risen Savior to validate their faith. Every so often pictures surface that are supposed to validate the Bible, i.e. the Chinese expedition that discovered Noah’s Ark and had the pictures to prove it (Rowitt, 2010).
What about real cases of gigantism?
With such hoaxes being so widely circulated, how can someone discern what is false and what is real? First, we must establish that there are real cases of what medical experts refer to as Gigantism. Endocrine experts and physicians Robert J. Ferry Jr. and Melanie Shim (2010) define Gigantism as follows:
Gigantism refers to abnormally high linear growth due to excessive action of insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I) while the epiphyseal growth plates are open during childhood. Acromegaly is the same disorder of IGF-I excess when it occurs after the growth plate cartilage fuses in adulthood. Gigantism is a nonspecific term that refers to any standing height more than 2 standard deviations above the mean for the person's sex, age, and Tanner stage (i.e. height Z score >+2).
There are some examples of this disorder the most remarkable example being Robert Wadlow who stood 8 feet 11 inches tall at the time of his death in his mid-20s. More recently, known best for his wrestling career and occasional movie roles, was Andre Roussimoff, better known as Andre the Giant. He was 6 feet 3 inches tall at age 12 years and reached a height of 7 feet 4 inches by adulthood and died of a heart attack at 43.
These cases of Gigantism and Acromegaly are diseases that, as we can see from our examples, have a decidedly adverse effect upon the mortality rates of individuals with these related disorders.
Sometime people are just very, very big!
One of the reasons for the confusion over those doctored photos of giants that have been circulating every so often in cyberspace is the existence of real giants. There are numerous documented examples of truly large people worldwide. Not only does the Bible record the existence of a family of unusually large humans (II Sam. 21:19-22). Evidently, they were related to the infamous Philistine champion, Goliath (I Sam. 17:4) who was reported to be over nine feet tall, however there is some debate concerning the translation of his height according to I Sam. 17:4. The traditional view would calculate to over nine feet tall. Judging by the weight of his armor, e.g. approx. 125 lbs, and not including his helmet and greaves, Goliath was a giant compared to the average man of his day, e.g. 5’3”. The tip of his spear (approx.15 lbs.), by even conservative estimates, Goliath was a huge man. There is evidence that there may have been a medieval (7th to 10th century CE) scribal transcription error changing the number of cubits from six to four. There is some supporting evidence for this, i.e. the Greek Septuagint (3rd century BC), the Dead Sea Scrolls (2nd century BCE), and even Josephus (CE 1st century) all read four cubits and a span in regards to Goliath's height, which would make him approx. 7 feet tall.
There is no evidence that he suffered from Gigantism or Acromegaly, however, it is recorded that he and his family were descended from a common relative, Rapha, and that Goliath’s brother suffered a congenital birth defect known as hexadactyly, e.g. six fingers and toes, (II Sam. 21:19-22). This would actually be much worse for the Israelites. Those who suffer from Gigantism and Acromegaly have a variety of debilitating conditions that would prevent them from being a formidable enemy on the battle field. A large, but completely healthy adversary that could hurl as spear, the size of a weaver’s beam with a 15 pound tip, would be a monster of a man. Remember, even King Saul, who is described as being a tall man was I Sam. 9:2 (approx. 6’2”) is paralyzed with fear at the sight of Goliath.
So, how tall is really, really tall?
Judging from some of the actual discoveries around the world, there are some examples of very tall people. There are at least 10 people who are documented to have been (and still are such as 8’5” Leonid Stadnyk) between 8 and 9 feet tall. Zeng Jinlian was the tallest women. She was 8’1 ¾”. In times past, we have evidence of other large people ranging in height from 8’3” to 9’3 ½” (Wikipedia, 2010).
There are numerous examples of cultures that are unusually tall or short such as the Pygmies whose adult males are less than 5 feet tall and the Watusis whose adult males are more than 7 feet tall. Sometimes this is the result of a tribal preference for height that caused them to pair up the tallest members of the tribe for that particular characteristic. The Spanish explorers were shocked at the height of the Timucua Indians of St. Augustine, FL who averaged four inches or more inches taller than their Spanish counterparts, e.g. average heights of approx. 6 feet. Just a cursory look at any NBA team (average height 6’7”) and you will understand that human beings can be very tall and extremely agile.
What, if any, are the lessons to be learned from this example? Whenever I want to understand what is true and what is not, I look to the Word of God. The prayer of the Messiah on behalf of His disciples was, “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth,” John 17:7. There is only one foundation upon which believers should stand. The Psalmist prophesied that the spiritual leadership of Israel would reject their own Messiah; The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone. This was the LORD’s doing; It is marvelous in our eyes, Psalm 118:21-23.
When you get those “ear-tickling” emails, or when you hear something that sounds exciting, take a deep spiritual breath and prayerfully check the matter out. Some of these hoaxes are circulated by evil, godless people who know that believers tend to be naïve. Only the Bible is the trustworthy revelation of Creator to a sick and dying world. This world is still in darkness, a world that is desperate need of the Savior’s grace and truth.
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God…
You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are of the world. Therefore they speak as of the world, and the world hears them. We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error…
In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another, I John 4:1-11.