BPotW - Showdown at the Elah Corral (1 Samuel 17)

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Mendalla

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Huge, mean-looking guy steps into the dusty valley. Smaller guy with a confident smile holds his hand over the slingshot on his belt, juggling a stone in the other.

Old bystander laughs and says gleefully, "Thar's gonna be a sling fight"

(cue Ennio Morricone score)

In the 17th chapter of 1 Samuel, the Israelites under King Saul are about to mix it up with the Philistines. The Philistine army puts forward a champion in the form of Goliath (supposedly 6 cubits + 1 span in height, but more on that later). David is in camp delivering food to his brothers, who are in the Israelite army, and volunteers to take on Goliath. Time for a showdown.


David vs. Goliath has become the classic metaphor for a weaker opponent taking down a stronger one. Of course, there is more to it than that. David has God on his side, which is more the point of the story than just the weaker foe taking out the stronger. He's also pretty handy with a sling, which is a much more powerful weapon that we sometimes give it credit for.

The article below talks about the issue of Goliath's height. "Six cubits plus one span" puts him at about 9' 9", which is far taller than any human ever known. The tallest known human was Robert Wadlow at 8' 11". And the pituitary issues that caused his extreme height meant he was probably still growing when he died at 22. However, the condition also left him quite incapable of fighting a battle (he was quite strong, though). So Goliath's height simply does not seem realistic.

The article below points out that a number of sources, including an early copy of 1 Samuel found with the Dead Sea Scrolls, give Goliath's height as 4 cubits, 1 span, not 6. That drops him to a more reasonable 6'9", barely enough to play in the NBA anymore. So was the taller height a copying error or someone trying to make David's feat seem even more impressive? We simply don't know for sure, but the "six cubits and a span" was in place by about 400CE when it appears in the Latin Vulgate Bible.


This does not, to be clear, make David's feat any less impressive or change the ultimate meaning of the story. We still have an untrained, fairly ordinary shepherd with some backing from God using only a sling to take out a trained warrior built like a pro athlete. But it does put it in the realm of plausible history, rather than fantasy story.

Goliath has, of course, become synonymous with huge, powerful beings. Goliath beetles are among the largest insects and the largest spider is the Goliath bird-eating spider of South and Central America (sadly, I did not see one in Panama, but they are apparently found there).
 
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Mendalla

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So, myth or history?

I vote "myth." The key is God's role. David, Israel's greatest king (by some accounts) is introduced by having him take down a powerful enemy champion armed only with his sling and his faith in God. Which is the more powerful weapon? I would suggest that it is the faith in God. I would read this as showing that by keeping faith with God, Israel can protect itself from even the largest, most powerful foes.

That said, the war and maybe even this battle likely represent something that did happen. And wars in the bronze age seems to have included challenges and battles between champions, which is the motif we see here with Goliath. The Greek Homeric epics, also mythologized history from the Bronze Age, have such encounters, too (e.g. the final showdown between Achilles and Hector in The Iliad). Of course, maybe that's just a storytelling convention of the era. Certainly makes for some wonderful dramatic moments both here and in Homer.

So, what are your thoughts? How does this story play out for you? Does it carry meaning for you or is it just a good story? Is it history, myth, or a bit of both? How tall was Goliath anyway? And does knowing his exact, correct height actually matter in terms of the meaning (I say not)?
 

Redbaron

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He was tall and trained. The height may have been exaggerated, but no doubt he stood out in a crowd. He might have been a fearsome offensive tackle on any NFL team.
I see the story as told as legendary. They may (or may not) have been an actual event as its basis, but the details may have been a bit embellished (to say the least) in the telling and retelling.
One of the main points of the story for me is that this scrawny little kid, with no protective gear (earlier he refused to wear Saul's armor) goes out with very low-tech weapons and ammo, and manages to bring down a well- armored, well-armed, and well-trained behemoth of a soldier. IOW, never give up; Gid may have another outcome in mind.
On paper, this fight should have never had this outcome. But, as they say, that's why they play out the game on the field, rather than in the papers.

(Just as a footnote, 2 Samuel 21:19 credits someone named Elhanan with killing Goliath.)
 
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JayneWonders

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For me, an important part is not to dismiss the talents of those which are garnered through daily life of a shepherd, the protecting of the lambs, the killing of bears and lions.

Fighting a goliath toe-to-toe with weaponry such as armor would have been quite difficult. Using other means which David was equipped with and trained for through his life, proved to be successful.

Myth or legend? I am going to guess there is some element of truth in the story, but like minstrels, the story shifted and became more of a legend
 

Lastpointe

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I always loved this story. Triumph of good over evil. Of just over unjust. Defeating bullies. Brains over Braun . Winning through your wits and skills. Skill over strength. Just so many good things in it

and I wonder at how this event shaped Davids life. Would he have been the same person to become king if it hadn’t happened
 

BetteTheRed

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Ever read Malcolm Gladwell's "David and Goliath"? A quote from the preface, "No one in ancient times would have doubted David's tactical advantage once it was known he was an expert in slinging."

This was essentially an immovable infantry, no matter how tall, against an agile sharpshooter.
 

BetteTheRed

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To me, all of David's story seems to be "clever over stupid". Anyone else notice verses 28ff, where his oldest brother seems most miffed at him because David has put himself forward? Does this remind you of the Joseph story?
 

Luce NDs

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To me, all of David's story seems to be "clever over stupid". Anyone else notice verses 28ff, where his oldest brother seems most miffed at him because David has put himself forward? Does this remind you of the Joseph story?

The story goes on with name change to protect the innocent and unknown beneath those of brute power ... even the power eventually asks: "et tu bruti?" And so it goes ... CS Lewis saw it ... many flaring types can't for the glare they cause ... the gaze the unmistakable! AD nauseum? That was the one struck ... stoned?
 

unsafe

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From OP -----
-So, what are your thoughts?Does it carry meaning for you or is it just a good story? Is it history, myth, or a bit of both? How tall was Goliath anyway? And does knowing his exact, correct height actually matter in terms of the meaning (I say not)?

My View ------
This passage carries Great spiritual meaning and it is for me God's Truth ---so I see this as history not as just a story or myth -------As far as the height goes ---the passage gives the height and for me that is the height ----does the height matter to the passage meaning---- I say yes -----God mentions the height here for a reason --If the height didn't matter to the meaning of the passage God would have left it out -----

My thoughts on this -----

First ----God had raised David to be King -----David was a man after God's own heart even though David sinned God knew David's heart and that He would be Faithful to obey and trust Him always ----

Second ----David already had great trust in God to protect him as if you read here below you see David defeated a lion and a bear who took a sheep ------and NOTE --- here again is an example where you are left to your own devices to figure out the timing on the lion and the bear ----one incident or 2 separate incidents the scripture here does not say ----so for God the important thing is to know here is ---that David defeated other beast before he went up against Goliath ------

Posting here

1 Samuel 17:34-36 (KJV)​

34 And David said unto Saul, Thy servant kept his father's sheep, and there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock:

35 And I went out after him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth: and when he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and smote him, and slew him.

36 Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear: and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them, seeing he hath defied the armies of the living God.


I say -----So David had the Blessings of God upon him ------God gave David the power --confidence--- knowledge ---wisdom and might needed to defeat his Goliath's-----and we know this cause fear encased all others to even think of going against this beast -------

Spiritual Meaning for me ------

So David in Spiritual terms represents all people who are filled with Faith and who are passionate about defending God's name ------Goliath was blaspheming God and taunting Him --and David was moved by his faith to defend his God and His Name -that was being mocked ------

Goliath in Spiritual terms represents all the enemies of Mountains in our lives that can come against God's Children to destroy their faith and confidence in what God can do in our lives ---there is an enemy loose and his job is to kill --steal and destroy God's children ------by attacking their Faith and instilling fear instead so they doubt God's ability to protect them in times of trouble -----

With God at the Helm in our lives Size does not matter ------Wisdom and knowledge --Trust and Faith in being obedient to God Matters ---God is the only one who can give us the tools we need to defeat the Goliath's in our lives and obtain Victory -----

Saul offered his armour to David ---but David said he couldn't wear it -----David had the powerful armour of God upon Him when he faced the beast and victory was the result ------

Height
So as far as height goes -----as I said above it holds weight in the passage as the armour that is mentioned for Goliath and if you research the armour mentioned it's weight may give you substance to believe the 6 cubits and a span --

And ----
also if you research the height you find out that the height was apparently derived by using the Mosoretic text ----

read all here---I am just posting this part ---

The 9 foot plus reading became standard via the Masoretic Text –

The Masoretic text that resulted from their work shows that every word and every letter was checked with care. In Hebrew or Aramaic, they called attention to strange spellings and unusual grammar and noted discrepancies in various texts. Since texts traditionally omitted vowels in writing, the Masoretes introduced vowel signs to guarantee correct pronunciation.

The Masoretic work enjoyed an absolute monopoly for 600 years, and experts have been astonished at the fidelity of the earliest printed version (late 15th century) to the earliest surviving codices (late 9th century). The Masoretic text is universally accepted as the authentic Hebrew Bible.


And lastly about this footnote ------(Just as a footnote, 2 Samuel 21:19 credits someone named Elhanan with killing Goliath.)

2 Samuel 21:19 -----clearly says -----that Elhanan killed Goliath's Brother ------not Goliath

19 In another battle with the Philistines at Gob, Elhanan son of Jair the Bethlehemite killed the brother of Goliath the Gittite, who had a spear with a shaft like a weaver’s rod.
 

Luce NDs

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Can one imagine they know the entirety of an eternal widespread mystery?

What errs above ... does fall upon us po' lesser folk ... thus we learn bits ... missals from above on reverse and reciprocal psyche!

The organ of knowing and intellect is said not to exist by blinded believers in gaslighting ... the bright flash gets to eM!

As humble ... this information on nemesis befalls us ... unfalsifiable? Perhaps ... in the eternal stretches ... there is great potential for the alternate!

Imagine children being tossed out of the portals of heaven under a dark powers command to: "go and teach my children!"

Imagine the stories of lion that could be beat into children ... thus it rests there in the depth of the myth ... complex? Considerably so ... yet many are against complexity being a bother or worry the chosen top dogs ...

Humble took off ...
 

Waterfall

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Lots to read out there. There's a possibility that David and Goliath were related as mentioned in the Aggadah:


As far as this being myth or reality, archeology assures us along with the religious texts that David at least definitely existed.

 
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Mendalla

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Lots to read out there. There's a possibility that David and Goliath were related as mentioned in the Aggadah:

As far as this being myth or reality, archeology assures us along with the religious texts that David at least definitely existed.

(FIXED) Think you got the wrong link in there. If you want me to edit in the right one, send it in a conversation. Or you can post it in a reply to your own post.

David & Goliath as relatives sounds interesting, though.

I have no doubt that Saul and David are historical figures. So was Agamemnon of Mycenae who supposedly led the Greek attack on Troy. But mythologizing historical figures happens all the time. Think of Washington and the cherry tree story. So the question of whether David is historical and the question of whether a particular story about him is historical are almost two separate problems. I am the same re. his (alleged) descendant Jesus. I am fairly certain he existed, but that does not automatically make all the stories in the Gospels historical events. Indeed, there are many that smack of "deification" by later tradition or the authors.
 
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BetteTheRed

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The link that Waterfall posted had some fascinating information, among it that, although it would appear from this text that David was a simple shepherd, "the previous chapter had already placed him in Saul’s court (I Sam. 16:21–3) as the king’s armor bearer".

I also read an analysis that suggested that if Goliath were in fact, excess of 9' tall, he'd be suffering from giantism (in excess of anything in recorded history, humanity having 'topped out', historically, at 8'8"), one of whose side effects is a weakened skull structure. Although I'm not sure why, on the KISS principle, if we're expecting a true respected warrior, and not a weak-skulled, frail boned, diseased "giant", and there were STONE TABLETS suggesting both 4 cubits (almost 7') and 6 cubits (in excess of 9'), we wouldn't pick the most logical.
 

Mendalla

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in excess of anything in recorded history, humanity having 'topped out', historically, at 8'8"
8' 11" per my opening post but, yeah, gigantism does not great warriors make. Robert Wadlow had leg braces, IIRC.

Perhaps more interesting is why the increase in height happened. Giants were part of a lot of cultures, including Greek. Assuming the increase did happen somewhere between the time of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Vulgate, that would have been an influence. So maybe an attempt to make Goliath into more of a classical giant than just a big man? Which then makes David a literary ancestor of Jack the Giant-Killer?

Come of think, one wonders if David was an influence on that fairytale. Similar features. Young guy uses wits to defeat a bigger enemy.
 
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BetteTheRed

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And he was thought to be a beautiful man, as well. Young and ruddy says the text. And apparently, not only attractive to females, like the one he murdered for. Saul wasn't keen on his son Jonathan's fondness for David, either, as we could discover later.
 

GeoFee

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David facing Goliath presents me with an interesting metaphor. Goliath is dressed in armor produced by an advanced technology. The Philistines were an industrialized people. As such they challenged the agrarian cultures they confronted. We notice that Saul has a suit of armor which he offers David. David refuses this advanced technology and is determined to stand before Goliath and resist the domination of that technology. He makes use of primitive means to bring down Goliath.
 

revjohn

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Old bystander laughs and says gleefully, "Thar's gonna be a sling fight"
As much as I appreciate the wordplay I don't think so.

I think the minute David steps out there is sniggering among the Philistine ranks and groans among the Israelites. "Who brings a sling to a sword-fight" is uttered contemptuously by the Philistines and lamentably by the Israelites.

David doesn't step forward as a beloved Champion. To the eyes of most, he is a chump, a dead man walking. The only question is whether Goliath will end the fight mercifully fast or if he will cruelly torture the kid before finally gutting him.
(cue Ennio Morricone score)
Still appropriate
The article below talks about the issue of Goliath's height. "Six cubits plus one span" puts him at about 9' 9", which is far taller than any human ever known. The tallest known human was Robert Wadlow at 8' 11". And the pituitary issues that caused his extreme height meant he was probably still growing when he died at 22. However, the condition also left him quite incapable of fighting a battle (he was quite strong, though). So Goliath's height simply does not seem realistic.
As realistic as the reports given by the Israelite spies scouting out the promised land before the conquest. "They made us look like ants in our own eyes."

The point of the reference is not to give a historical/factual account of Goliath's height. The point is to acknowledge that Goliath dwarfed David. In every way imaginable to those observing. Arguments about "by how much?" are missing the point. The narrative gives great pains to talk about Goliath's armour and its weight noting the coat of mail weighing in at 57 kg and the spearhead weighing in at 6.8 kg. By comparison, a middle-ages suit of battle armour averages between 20 and 25 kg and a medieval spearhead averages 0.8 kg

Preposterous numbers?

Possibly. I mean is there some warfare commission that weighs in combatants and inspects armour before the clash begins? Not likely.

The whole point being David is seriously outclassed.

Before most combat sports begin it is a custom to bring out the chart of comparables to see how the fighters match up.

Doing so with these two would demonstrate that the field is seriously tipped in Goliath's favour by all conventional standards of combat.
This does not, to be clear, make David's feat any less impressive or change the ultimate meaning of the story. We still have an untrained, fairly ordinary shepherd with some backing from God using only a sling to take out a trained warrior built like a pro athlete. But it does put it in the realm of plausible history, rather than fantasy story.
I think that the narrative plays with the reader and invites them to enter into the battlefield mindset of the day.

If Goliath was your champion you'd be laughing and gloating. Counting the spoils that you aren't even going to have to break a sweat to collect.

If David was your champion you'd be counting the cost of everything this battle is going to cost you. There goes the house, the spouse, the kids, the farm. If I'm lucky they'll kill me here and now before they take everything away.

Because we know how the narrative ends we don't allow ourselves to get pulled down into that pit and we don't spend much time reflecting on the "sure" things we imagine to exist in life.

Seriously, how terrified must the Israelite Army be to watch this stupid punk walk out so that Goliath can spread his bowels all over the floor of the valley? Stakes are huge, how frightened do you have to be as King to watch some green-ass wet behind the ears punk walkout to lose your kingdom for you?

Anyway, everybody is expecting the fight to go like this. David depletes his stash of stones bouncing them off Goliath's armour or missing entirely (even though Goliath is arguably the side of a barn big. Once he is spent of ammo Goliath trundles over and does David in with his spear.

Nobody expects Goliath to stand behind a shield so big somebody else is holding and nobody expects him not to duck once the rocks start flying.

That would require some colossal hubris to not duck. Did David hurl when Goliath was distracted by laughter or something else?

Anyway.

First blood goes to David.

The giant apparently has a glass forehead and drops like so many shekels or bronze.

Marquis of Queensbury rules not yet written means that David runs over and adds insult to injury by hauling out Goliath's own sword and beheading the giant with it. Philistines decide it is time to get out of Dodge and the Israelites suddenly have the courage to give chase.

Let us also not ignore some context.

By now David has been tapped to replace Saul who has lost God's favour (like as recently as Chapter 16) and it is made known by the narrative that Saul's days as King are numbered. Likely why he is happier to loan out his armour to some other than to put it on and go into battle with it himself.

If there is a moral here it is Pride going before fall grade stuff. Also, David is going to be unconventional. Indeed the lowest points of David's reign will be when he starts acting more like Saul and less himself.

And the attention given to Saul shows that God is justified in having soured on Saul and is very astute in Anointing another King before Saul finally comes to an inglorious end.
 

unsafe

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Goliath it says was 6 cubits ------and as I said I believe that this is the right height as the number 6 in the Scriptures has meaning -and God would have known that His Chosen race would have been very familiar with the meaning of this number in the scriptures ------So to use 6 cubits for Goliath the Jewish people would have understood the Spiritual meaning behind the number here -----

God created man on the 6th day of the creation of His planet ------the number 7 is perfection ----so 6 is one below 7 ----meaning that God's created man was not perfect ------

This is the meaning of the number 6 in Hebrew -----see all here ---


Six

vav Shesh [f.], sheeshah [m.] Connection, image, man, beast, flesh, work, sacrifice, intimacy, knowledge, sacrificial love (da’at – knowledge), number of man and beast, antichrist, idol, Adam, relationship, and judgment. Six often refers to the works of man, but ideally represents sacrificial love and intimate knowledge with the Creator (Da’at). When the latter is forsaken, only idolatry and flesh remain. One is ALWAYS either projecting the image of God or the image of the beast (flesh) to the world, which is represented by the number six.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

So it would make perfect sense to me that Goliath would be 6 cubits and a span ----as he would have represented the image of the beast in God's Kingdom ------being the mocker of God in this Chapter ----

Also we see that David picked up 5 smooth stones -----so what does this number represent in Hebrew as God mentions this number -----so spiritually it has to mean something -----

You see Folks the Scriptures are not just a bunch of stories or myths --God has a Spiritual message to convey in every page of His inspired book ------it is nice to just read the scripture but it takes on a whole new meaning when you put on the Spiritual lens and see the meaning behind the just the written words -----

the link for viewing this number 5 is same one given above ------for 6

Five

Chamesh [f.], chameeshah [m.] Power, strength, alertness (wake-up!), Torah, grace, service, gospel, fruitfulness, going forth, fast movement, anointed, prayers, and protection. The holy anointing oil had five ingredients: four spices mixed with olive oil. (Ex. 30:23-25.) The holy incense also had five ingredients: four spices mixed with salt. (Ex. 30:34-35) We are empowered by the Word (Torah) and the Spirit. All is given by God’s mercy and grace. There are five Books of Torah (Moses/Law), five-fold ministry, David’s 5 smooth stones defeat Goliath, fruit from trees is fit to eat in the fifth year.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
This is also interesting reading this is from a medical perspective regarding Goliath and his brothers ----you can read here if interested ---

Hereditary Gigantism-the biblical giant Goliath and his brothers​

 

Luce NDs

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Literally the larger story was blown because of missing the detailing!

After s'x the perfect # ... TaeS 'even ... the period of rest! Relaxation syncope ... has to do with feinting and passing out ... can be stimulated by pressure on the carotid artery! Thus George Floyd fades from the mind of those that didn't wish to face what was done ...

Yet the abstract shades persist ...
 
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