The original question was:  Was Goliath an acromegalic giant, and therefore probably shortsighted, so he couldn’t see David’s stone coming anyway?

Answer by Diane Eager

Acromegaly and Vision

Many human giants in today’s world have a rare disease called Acromegaly which is caused by over production of growth hormone.  The most common cause (95%) of this problem is a tumour of the pituitary gland.  If the tumour occurs early in life when cartilage growth plates in bones are still active, the result is massive growth in stature until the growth plates close.  If the growth hormone continues after the growth plates close some bones, including the jaw and other bones in the face, will continue to thicken.  Acromegalic giants can grow to over eight feet if untreated.

The pituitary gland lies close to where the two optic nerves meet at the base of the brain, which means a pituaitry tumour can press on the optic nerves and damage this part of the optic pathway.  This results in loss of vision from the sides of the visual fields, so acromegalic giants can have a defect sometimes called “tunnel vision”.  Anyone suffering from this would certainly have trouble dodging any stones thrown at them.  However, we need to ask whether there is any evidence Goliath had acromegaly.

Goliath

We first meet Goliath in the famous encounter with David, describe in I Samuel 17, where David knocked Goliath out with a well aimed stone that hit him in the forehead and “sank into his forehead”, i.e. it had enough force to fracture his skull.  David then killed Goliath with Goliath’s own sword.

Goliath is referred to as Goliath from Gath (I Samuel 17:4).  There are other references to the men of Gath in the narrative that follows describing the wars between the Israelites and the Philistines.  In I Chronicles 20:4-8, we read:

“And after this there arose war with the Philistines at Gezer. Then Sibbecai the Hushathite struck down Sippai, who was one of the descendants of the giants, and the Philistines were subdued. And there was again war with the Philistines, and Elhanan the son of Jair struck down Lahmi the brother of Goliath the Gittite, the shaft of whose spear was like a weaver’s beam. And there was again war at Gath, where there was a man of great stature, who had six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot, twenty-four in number, and he also was descended from the giants. And when he taunted Israel, Jonathan the son of Shimea, David’s brother, struck him down. These were descended from the giants in Gath, and they fell by the hand of David and by the hand of his servants.” I Chronicles 20:4-8

Note the reference to descendants of the giants, indicating these men of Gath were a known clan of people of great stature.  This indicates their large size had a genetic (inherited) basis.  Acromegaly is mostly a sporadically occurring disease and doesn’t produce whole clans of acromeglic giants who can join the army.  There is a rare mutation that results in a predisposition to pituitary tumours, but that just makes people more likely to have the disease compared with the general population, rather than consistently passing it on through generations.

Furthermore, the huge men of Gath seem to have been great warriors, who fought with heavy armour and weapons.  Note King Saul’s warning to David:  “You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a young man, and he has been a warrior from his youth.”  People with acromegalic gigantism may be large in size, but they are not really fit.  Their large growth caused by excess hormones is not healthy growth.  The excessively long limb bones of Acromegliacs mean that just walking and running subject their bones and joints large twisting and sideways forces, and the strain on the joints from these and their large body weight leads to arthritis early in adult life.  Excess growth hormone also makes their internal organs grow and malfunction.  If left untreated people with acromegaly die prematurely.  So a life in the military as a front line warrior is definitely out!

David and Goliath

It is important to read the whole story to really understand what happened.  David, a shepherd, was clearly skilled with using stones as weapons to defend himself and his flock of sheep from wild animals.  Furthermore, we must remember that ultimately God was in control.  David testified to Saul: “The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” (1 Samuel 17:37)  David also challenged Goliath: “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. (1 Samuel 17:45)

Therefore, rather than looking for excuses to dismiss this victory of God’s people over their enemies as being due to a weakness in Goliath, we should be giving God the glory as David did, and then expecting the same victory over all the giants which oppose us.

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About The Contributor

Diane Eager