🔼The name Goliath: Summary
- Exposer, Exile
- From the verb גלה (gala), to uncover, expose or remove.
🔼The name Goliath in the Bible
There are two men named Goliath 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:
🔼Etymology of the name Goliath
The name Goliath comes from the verb גלה (gala), meaning to uncover, remove or to go into exile:
The verb גלה (gala) means to expose, uncover, remove or to go into exile. Noun גליון (gillayon) means table or tablet. Noun גולה (gola) means captivity or captive one. Noun גלות (gallut) refers to captives as a group.
For a meaning of the name Goliath, NOBSE 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 Publications we feel that the context of the character of Goliath veers more towards the meaning of Conspicuous than to Exile. But it is striking that where in our age the name Goliath brings to mind gigantism and formidability, in the Bible it reflects exposure and exile. The form גלית is used as regular word in Ruth 3:4 ('you uncover'), 1 Chronicles 17:25 ('you have revealed'), Isaiah 57:8 ('you have uncovered'), and Ezekiel 12:3 ('you remove'). And this suggests that Goliath's name reflects the giant's propensity to expose Israel's weakness and his intention to remove them from the land. And this removal may be a removal of their culture and wisdom tradition, rather than the physical Israelites.
The name Goliath does not mean Giant. It means Exposer, and Israel's occupation with the male foreskin and the mammalian reproductive cycle — with God as the rightful husband of his bridal humanity, see our article on כבד, kabad — certainly stimulates an association of Goliath with a sexual antagonist. The Creator is Israel's true husband, but every now and then, a not-godly culture imposes its lustful will upon Israel. Goliath's decapitation clearly parallels the same quest for Philistine circumcision that dominated Israel's attitude from the time of the judges until the early kingdom years (Judges 14:3, 15:18, 1 Samuel 14:6, 17:26, 18:25-27). By implication, the name Goliath means Philistine National Schlong or even Rapist.
Additional note: in 1 Samuel 21:9 occurs a word play: the sword of Goliath is wrapped in a garment (see the name Lot).