The Untold Story of David and Goliath
And why today's generation of Jews is more Goliath than David, which could be bad news for the Jewish People.
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Ancient Israel had a mountain range called the Shephelah, which linked the ancient and obviously significant cities of that region — namely Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and Hebron.
There was also a coastal plain, parallel to the Mediterranean Sea, where Tel Aviv is now. And the Shephelah connected the mountain range with the coastal plain, including a series of valleys and ridges that ran east to west, such as the Valley of Elah, which had a strategic function, because it was the means by which you accessed the aforementioned ancient cities.
The Philistines, among the Kingdom of Israel’s fiercest enemies at the time, were living along coastal plain and wanted to occupy the Valley of Elah, so they could split the Kingdom of Israel in half. King Saul, the Israelite leader, obviously caught wind of this and brought his army down from the mountains to confront the Philistines in the Valley of Elah.
Eventually, the Israelites and Philistines became deadlocked because neither could attack the other; in order to do so, you needed to either go down or up the valley, which would completely expose you. So, finally, to break the deadlock, the Philistines sent their mightiest warrior, Goliath.
Insolently challenging the Israelites to appoint one of their number to meet him in single combat — a tradition in ancient warfare to settle disputes without incurring massive bloodshed — the condition was that the people whose champion is killed will become the other’s slaves.
Goliath was some 210 centimeters tall (6 feet 9 inches) and was decked out in bronze armor and a brass helmet, holding a sword in one hand and a spear in the other. The staff of his spear is said to have been like a weaver’s beam, the spear’s head weighing 600 shekels of iron.
According to the Jerusalem Talmud, Goliath was born by polyspermy and had about a hundred fathers.2 The Talmud stresses that his taunts before the Israelites included the boast that it was he who had captured the Ark of the Covenant and brought it to the temple of Dagon, and his challenges to combat were made at morning and evening in order to disturb the Israelites in their prayers.
Who the heck would want to fight him one-on-one? Hence why none of the Israelites volunteered, except a young shepherd boy, who King Saul couldn’t possibly take seriously.
Ultimately, the boy convinced King Saul to let him proceed, and King Saul tried to give him ample armor, but the boy declined and instead brought with him five ordinary stones. The boy then walked down to meet Goliath, face-to-face. As Goliath sees the boy walking down to ward him, he also doesn’t take the boy seriously and starts taunting him from afar, yelling:
“Come to me so I can feed your flesh to the birds of the heavens and the beasts of the field!”
The boy then appeared before Goliath, a few meters or yards away from him, took out his slingshot, and flung one of the stones at Goliath, hitting him squarely in the forehead. Immediately, Goliath fell to the ground, although it was unclear if he died on the spot, or if the boy simply knocked him out unconscious.
Then, the boy took Goliath’s sword and cut off his head, causing a knee-jerk reaction by the Philistines who, clearly shocked by the events, fled in the opposite direction. The boy is, of course, David, hence the phrase “David versus Goliath” — denoting an underdog situation, a contest wherein a weaker opponent faces a substantially stronger one.
Scholars today believe that Goliath’s original listed killer was Elhanan, son of Jair, and that the Deuteronomic history’s authors changed the original text to credit David, a more famous character, with the victory.
But the story gets even better: