Tag Archives: David and Goliath

How Did Tiny David Defeat Giant Goliath? Part 2

As David faces Goliath, what is his plan? How will he defeat Goliath? Malcolm Gladwell, in his book David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants, argues that David had no plans to fight Goliath in hand-to-hand combat, as this wouldn’t play to his strength. David is a projectile warrior, not an infantryman. Gladwell writes:

He runs toward Goliath, because without armor he has speed and maneuverability. He puts a rock into his sling, and whips it around and around, faster and faster at six or seven revolutions per second, aiming his projectile at Goliath’s forehead— the giant’s only point of vulnerability.

Eitan Hirsch, a ballistics expert with the Israeli Defense Forces, recently did a series of calculations showing that a typical-size stone hurled by an expert slinger at a distance of thirty-five meters would have hit Goliath’s head with a velocity of thirty-four meters per second— more than enough to penetrate his skull and render him unconscious or dead.

In terms of stopping power, that is equivalent to a fair-size modern handgun. ‘We find,’ Hirsch writes, ‘that David could have slung and hit Goliath in little more than one second— a time so brief that Goliath would not have been able to protect himself and during which he would be stationary for all practical purposes.’ . . .

Twice David mentions Goliath’s sword and spear, as if to emphasize how profoundly different his intentions are. Then he reaches into his shepherd’s bag for a stone, and at that point no one watching from the ridges on either side of the valley would have considered David’s victory improbable. David was a slinger, and slingers beat infantry, hands down. ‘Goliath had as much chance against David,’ the historian Robert Dohrenwend writes, ‘as any Bronze Age warrior with a sword would have had against an [opponent] armed with a .45 automatic pistol.’

After taking a closer look at David’s victory, we can see that it isn’t far-fetched at all. The true puzzle is why nobody else in Israel’s army realized what David realized! The text indicates that David’s faith in God and his devotion to God’s commands are what gave him his courage and his willingness to face the giant, when the rest of the army cowered in fear.

How Did Tiny David Defeat Giant Goliath? Part 1

Some critics have questioned how 5 feet tall David could have defeated 7 (or 10) feet tall Goliath. Isn’t this story a little far-fetched? A stone from a sling killing a giant of a man in a single blow? How can this be true?

The text of 1 Samuel 17 indicates that God is with David, but it does not indicate that God supernaturally intervened to perform a “slingshot miracle” to kill Goliath. Although David credits God with his victory, God’s assistance seems more providential than miraculous. God places the right man with the right heart with the right skills at the right place and the right time to do his bidding.

If there is no indication of a miracle, then we are left with the puzzle of how David was able to kill Goliath so easily. Malcolm Gladwell, in his book David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants, takes a close look at this famous battle and discovers that David’s victory was not at all a fluke, but something that could have been predicted. Gladwell explains:

Ancient armies had three kinds of warriors. The first was cavalry— armed men on horseback or in chariots. The second was infantry— foot soldiers wearing armor and carrying swords and shields. The third were projectile warriors, or what today would be called artillery: archers and, most important, slingers.

Slingers had a leather pouch attached on two sides by a long strand of rope. They would put a rock or a lead ball into the pouch, swing it around in increasingly wider and faster circles, and then release one end of the rope, hurling the rock forward. Slinging took an extraordinary amount of skill and practice. But in experienced hands, the sling was a devastating weapon.

Paintings from medieval times show slingers hitting birds in midflight. Irish slingers were said to be able to hit a coin from as far away as they could see it, and in the Old Testament Book of Judges, slingers are described as being accurate within a ‘hair’s breadth.’ An experienced slinger could kill or seriously injure a target at a distance of up to two hundred yards.  The Romans even had a special set of tongs made just to remove stones that had been embedded in some poor soldier’s body by a sling. Imagine standing in front of a Major League Baseball pitcher as he aims a baseball at your head. That’s what facing a slinger was like— only what was being thrown was not a ball of cork and leather but a solid rock.

Gladwell continues:

The historian Baruch Halpern argues that the sling was of such importance in ancient warfare that the three kinds of warriors balanced one another, like each gesture in the game of rock, paper, scissors. With their long pikes and armor, infantry could stand up to cavalry. Cavalry could, in turn, defeat projectile warriors, because the horses moved too quickly for artillery to take proper aim. And projectile warriors were deadly against infantry, because a big lumbering soldier, weighed down with armor, was a sitting duck for a slinger who was launching projectiles from a hundred yards away. . . .

Goliath is heavy infantry. He thinks that he is going to be engaged in a duel with another heavy-infantryman . . .  When he says, ‘Come to me, that I may give your flesh to the birds of the heavens and the beasts of the field,’ the key phrase is ‘come to me.’ He means come right up to me so that we can fight at close quarters. When Saul tries to dress David in armor and give him a sword, he is operating under the same assumption. He assumes David is going to fight Goliath hand to hand.

In part 2, we’ll continue with Gladwell’s analysis of this famous Bible narrative.

Commentary on 1 Samuel 17-18 (David and Goliath)

The events of chapter 17 occur several years after David is invited to stay at King Saul’s residence. It appears that at some point, Saul’s condition must have improved and David was allowed to go back and help his father with his sheep.

In verses 1-3, we learn that the Philistines have assembled an army only 15 miles west of Bethlehem. The Israelites respond by amassing an army to confront the Philistines, and they both encamp facing each other across a valley, atop two ridges.

Rather than initiating a full-on assault of Israel, the Philistines elect to send their mightiest warrior, Goliath, down to the valley to invite a champion from Israel to face him in combat to the death. The losing side would surrender to the winning side and the battle would be avoided. This form of representative combat was not unknown in the ancient near east, although the Israelites rarely, if ever, practiced it. Goliath seems to have to explain to the Israelites how it will work in verses 8-11, which implies the Philistines were familiar with the concept and had even put it to use before.

Goliath is described as being almost 10 feet tall in some ancient manuscripts, and almost 7 feet tall in other manuscripts. Regardless of which is correct, the average Israelite soldier would have been about 5 feet tall, so Goliath would have seemed like a giant at either height. Goliath is dressed in the armor and weaponry of a heavy infantryman. Robert Bergen, in 1, 2 Samuel: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture (The New American Commentary), describes Goliath:

Protecting his trunk was ‘a coat of scale armor weighing five thousand shekels’ (= 126 pounds). Completing his body armor were ‘bronze greaves’ (v. 6) or knee and shin protectors. A covering of this weight and composition would have drastically reduced Goliath’s ability to respond with quickness and agility in close combat and suggests that he did not expect a skirmish involving hand-to-hand combat.

Goliath’s weaponry was as overwhelming in appearance as his height and armor. He had ‘a bronze scimitar’ (Hb. kîdôn; NIV, ‘javelin’), a curved sword, ‘slung on his back.’ In addition, he had a spear whose ‘shaft was like a weaver’s rod.’ This description may relate to the size and weight of the spear’s shaft or, more probably, to the fact that it had a loop of cord attached to it. At the head of Goliath’s spear was a massive ‘iron point’ that weighed ‘six hundred shekels’ (= 15.1 lbs.). Iron was the preferred metal for implements of warfare because it was strong, nonmalleable, and could retain a sharp edge much better than bronze. A weapon of this massive weight, while intimidating in appearance, would have been quite awkward to use; it was apparently designed mainly to intimidate.

For forty days, the Israelites, led by King Saul, do not send a representative forward because they are scared and intimidated by Goliath. Meanwhile, young David, who is under the age of 20 and unable to serve in the military, is bringing supplies to his three brothers and their unit since Jesse’s home is only 15 miles away. When David arrives at the front lines with his supplies, he asks his brothers what is happening. They explain to him the situation and he is greatly upset that Goliath has been allowed to insult the God of Israel.

Due to his outspoken anger, David is invited to see King Saul, and he offers to fight Goliath himself. Saul counters that David is only a boy, but David explains that since God has been with him, he has been able to kill a lion and a bear who attacked his sheep. Saul relents and allows David to fight Goliath, hoping that God is still with David.

Rather than fight with Saul’s armor and sword, David decides to only bring his shepherd staff and a sling to the battle with Goliath. As David descends into the valley and approaches Goliath, Goliath mocks him and curses David in the name of David’s gods. Here is David’s response:

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. This day the LORD will hand you over to me, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. Today I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves; for the battle is the LORD’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.

For David, this is not just a military engagement, but a solemn religious duty. Leviticus 24:16 commands the death penalty for anyone who blasphemes God. Goliath had repeatedly blasphemed against God for 40 days, and did it yet again when David came to face him. This demonstrates one way is which David is a man after God’s heart, because he takes the words of the Torah (the Law) so seriously. In David’s mind, God Himself would help David carry out the commands of the Law.

In verses 48-51, we witness one of the quickest battles in the history of combat. As Goliath lumbers toward David, David runs toward Goliath, places a stone in his sling and whips it at Goliath’s head. The stone hits his forehead, breaking Goliath’s skull, and he drops dead. David takes Goliath’s own sword and decapitates him, making it clear to the Philistines that Goliath is dead.

Instead of honoring the deal they had made with Israel, the Philistine army turned and fled. The Israelites followed after them, chasing them back to their fortresses at Gath and Ekron. The Israelites then came back and plundered the camp that was abandoned by the Philistine army.

What happened to David after this great victory? Saul invited him to his home permanently, whereupon David and Saul’s oldest son, Jonathan became best friends. In fact, Jonathan symbolically cedes his right to the throne of Israel by giving David his robe, tunic, sword, bow, and belt.

Saul gives David a high rank in the army and whenever David goes out to fight, he is successful against his enemies. In fact, he is so successful that the women of Israel would chant, “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.”

Saul becomes extremely jealous of David and in one episode at Saul’s house, Saul enters an ecstatic state and twice throws a spear at David with the intent to kill him. Both times he misses, however. From then on, Saul is constantly plotting how to ruin David. He sends him on numerous military campaigns, hoping he will die in battle, but David is always successful and is never harmed. For the next 10 chapters of 1 Samuel, Saul would plot to kill David and David would always escape.

The contrast between David, a man indwelt by the Spirit of God, and Saul, a man rejected by God, is illustrated over and over during the remainder of 1 Samuel. David wins battle after battle and Saul descends into madness as each day goes by.

Where Is Suicide the Most Common?

Post Author: Bill Pratt 

Most people get this wrong, really wrong. Malcolm Gladwell, in his latest book called David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants, shares a bit of knowledge that is well worth pondering. Speaking of human feelings of sadness, happiness, and deprivation, Gladwell writes the following:

Our sense of how deprived we are is relative. This is one of those observations that is both obvious and (upon exploration) deeply profound, and it explains all kinds of otherwise puzzling observations.

Which do you think, for example, has a higher suicide rate: countries whose citizens declare themselves to be very happy, such as Switzerland, Denmark, Iceland, the Netherlands, and Canada? or countries like Greece, Italy, Portugal, and Spain, whose citizens describe themselves as not very happy at all?

Answer: the so-called happy countries. . . . If you are depressed in a place where most people are pretty unhappy, you compare yourself to those around you and you don’t feel all that bad. But can you imagine how difficult it must be to be depressed in a country where everyone else has a big smile on their face?

We compare ourselves to the people who immediately surround us. Our feelings of sadness and happiness are relative to our locale.

This is why we should believe people who are desperately poor compared to modern, western standards, but who claim to be happy. They aren’t lying; they really are happy. Likewise, we should believe people who are fabulously wealthy, but who say they are miserable. They aren’t lying; they really are miserable.

This observation proves that there is no magical standard of living or standard of material wealth that guarantees happiness. Once a person has basic food and shelter, his feelings of happiness are more dominated by the people around him than the absolute value of his biweekly paycheck.