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Meaning and etymology of the name Goliath

Goliath Goliath

The name Goliath occurs twice in the Bible. The famous Goliath is the impious Philistine giant from Gath, who defies Israel during a war between the Philistines and Israel. Young David kills him famously with a slingshot stone (1 Samuel 17:50).

According to 2 Samuel 21:15-22, Goliath had four gargantuan sons: (1) Ishbi-benob, who was killed by Abishai (v16-17); (2) Saph, who was killed by Sibbecai (v18); (3) Goliath the Second, who was killed by Elhanan (v19), who also killed Lahmi the brother of Goliath the First (1 Chronicles 20:5); (4) and an unnamed giant who was killed by David's nephew Jonathan (v20).

The name Goliath comes from the verb gala (gala), meaning to uncover, remove or to go into exile. These meanings diverge so much that HAW Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament suggests that there may be two separate roots at work in this verb.

The verb gala denotes an uncovering of sensory organs such as the ear (1 Samuel 9:15) or eye (Numbers 24:4), indicating a propensity to hear or see. It may indicate the revealing of someone; a human person (1 Samuel 20:2) or God (2 Samuel 7:27), a secret (Amos 3:7) or a message (Esther 3:14). It may indicate indecent exposure (Exodus 20:26) or even the intent to immoral acts (Deuteronomy 22:30).

The secondary meaning of this verb (which may may a different verb altogether) denotes a removing (Ezekiel 12:3, Isaiah 24:11, Job 20:28) or going into exile (Amos 1:5, Jeremiah 13:19, Ezekiel 39:28).

One derivative of this root stems from the meaning of revealing something, namely gillayon (gillayon), meaning table or tablet (Isaiah 8:1). Two derivatives deal with captivity: gola (gola), meaning captivity or captive/ exile (Jeremiah 28:6); galut (gallut), also meaning captives and always covering a group of exiles (Isaiah 20:4).

For a meaning of the name Goliath, NOBS Study Bible Name List and Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names go with the first meaning of the verb and read Exile; BDB Theological Dictionary goes with the second meaning and reads Conspicuous, but prints a question mark to indicate dubiosity.

BDB's doubt aside, here at Abarim we feel that the context of the character of Goliath veers more towards the meaning of Conspicuous than to Exile.

Additional note: in 1 Samuel 21:9 occurs a word play: the sword of Goliath is wrapped in a garment (see the name Lot).



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