First, let me say that this translation disagrees with most other translations in regards to Goliath’s height. In our translation today, the number given was “close to seven feet tall”. Most others say it was six cubits and a span. So what is a cubit, and what is a span?
Before mankind had agreed on standard lengths, they often used body parts to measure distances. Today, a foot is standardized at 12 inches. Back then, a foot was however long the measurer’s foot was. A cubit was the length of a forearm. The average was about 18 inches, but it could be a little longer or a little shorter. The span was the width from the end of the thumb to the end of the little finger when the fingers are extended, or widened apart. That’s about 9 inches. So a span is about a half a cubit. So, doing the math, Goliath was 117 inches in height, or 9 feet, 9 inches.
And something that might seem a little strange about this story. At the end of the chapter, we’re told that Saul asked his general, Abner, who this boy is. At first, if you isolate the story, that seems like a reasonable question. But if we take it in the context of what we have already read in previous chapters, Saul has already met David. Remember? David was the musician who’s playing had calmed Saul when he was being tormented after God withdrew His spirit from him, and afflicted him with an evil spirit, or some sort of mental disease. And that is the key as to why Saul doesn’t recognize David here on the battlefield. He has not been mentally and/or spiritually healthy. He hasn’t been in his own mind. He has been confused. And the last thing he expects is the young shepherd boy who was a skillful and talented musician, to turn up on the battlefield with more courage than he and his entire army!
But David’s courage was not based on his own strength or skill. It was based on the assurance and knowledge that God had already delivered him from both a lion and a bear when he was tending his father’s sheep. He knew that the taunting that Goliath had been doing was directed even more at God than at the Israelite army, and that God would give David the victory, if only to show that the God of Israel is alive and real.