on 1-samuel 17 :4
There went out a champion - Our word champion comes from campus, the field; Campio est enim ille qui pugnat in campo, hoc est, in castris, "Champion is he, properly, who fights in the field; i.e., in camps." A man well skilled in arms, strong, brave, and patriotic.
But is this the meaning of the original איש הבנים ish habbenayim, a middle man, the man between two; that is, as here, the man who undertakes to settle the disputes between two armies or nations. So our ancient champions settled disputes between contending parties by what was termed camp fight, hence the campio or champion. The versions know not well what to make of this man. The Vulgate calls him sir spurius, "a bastard;" the Septuagint, ανηρ δυνατος, "a strong or powerful man;" the Targum, גברא מביניהון gabra mibbeyneyhon, "a man from between them;" the Arabic, rujil jibar, "a great or gigantic man;" the Syriac is the same; and Josephus terms him ανηρ παμμεγεθιστατος, "an immensely great man." The Vulgate has given him the notation of spurius or bastard, because it considered the original as expressing a son of two, i.e., a man whose parents are unknown. Among all these I consider our word champion, as explained above, the best and most appropriate to the original terms.
Whose height was six cubits and a span - The word cubit signifies the length from cubitus, the elbow, to the top of the middle finger, which is generally rated at one foot six inches. The span is the distance from the top of the middle finger to the end of the thumb, when extended as far as they can stretch on a plain; this is ordinarily nine inches. Were we sure that these were the measures, and their extent, which are intended in the original words, we could easily ascertain the height of this Philistine; it would then be nine feet nine inches, which is a tremendous height for a man.
But the versions are not all agreed in his height. The Septuagint read τεσσαρων πηχεων και σπιθαμης, four cubits and a span; and Josephus reads the same. It is necessary however to observe that the Septuagint, in the Codex Alexandrinus, read with the Hebrew text. But what was the length of the ancient cubit? This has been variously computed; eighteen inches, twenty inches and a half, and twenty-one inches. If we take the first measurement, he was nine feet nine; if the second, and read palm instead of span, with the Vulgate and others, he was ten feet seven inches and a half; if we take the last, which is the estimate of Graevius, with the span, he was eleven feet three inches; or if we go to the exactest measurement, as laid down in Bishop Cumberland's tables, where he computes the cubit at 21.888 inches, the span at 10.944 inches, and the palm at 3.684 inches, then the six cubits and the span will make exactly 11 feet 10.272 inches. If we take the palm instead of the span, then the height will be 11 feet 3.012 inches. But I still think that the nine feet nine inches is the most reasonable.
on 1-samuel 17 :4
A champion - literally, "a man between the two camps:" i. e., one who did not fight in the ranks like an ordinary soldier, but came forth into the space between the hostile camps to challenge the mightiest man of his enemies to come and fight him.
Goliath of Gath - One of the places mentioned in Joshua 11:22 as still retaining a remnant of the sons of Anak; Gaza and Ashdod being the others. The race of giants (the Rephaim, from רפא râphâ' ) is mentioned again in the account of David's Philistine wars 2 Samuel 21:15-22; 1 Chronicles 20:4-8. It appears from these passages that Goliath had a brother Lahmi. Four are named as being "born to the giant in Gath." See Deuteronomy 2:10-11, Deuteronomy 2:20-21; Deuteronomy 3:11-13.
Six cubits ... - If the cubit, the length from the elbow to the tip of the middle finger, is about 1 12 feet; and the span, the distance from the thumb to the middle or little finger, when stretched apart to the full length, be half a cubit, six cubits and a span would equal about nine feet nine inches. The bed of Og king of Bashan was nine cubits long Deuteronomy 3:11.
on 1-samuel 17 :4
17:4 Six cubits - At least, nine feet, nine inches high. And this is not strange; for besides the giants mentioned in Scripture, Herodotus, Diodorus Siculus, and Pliny, make mention of persons seven cubits high.