For Three Millenniums, Most Goliath/David Sermons Got It Wrong
I hesitate to author this discussion, fearing the wrath of all who have described the David – Goliath encounter for the past three millenniums. But, the more I consider what I’m about to share, the more I think it is the correct interpretation, though it, for many, might be deemed a minor blasphemy. No, it doesn’t blaspheme the Lord, but it does destruct most preacher’s sermons dealing with the topic. So, why share it? (BTW, I’m a zealous champion of the Bible being inerrant.)
What I’m about to explain is not about how the Bible might err. It’s about what I think really happened, i.e., the facts behind the published account. For example, there are those “Rocky” movies. Everyone of them is sort of a David and Goliath contest in some form or fashion.
And, of course, the battered, bruised, and bloodied, Rocky, despite the mismatch, always, like David, wins the bout. While Rocky and David are alike, being heroes and winners who persevere despite the odds, really the contests aren’t alike. On the field of the Philistines, David, actually, would always have won, not so much because of his faith and courage but because of his preparation and skill. If there’s a lesson to be learned from this non-traditional interpretation, it’s that failure will never be an option if there is a well-crafted backup plan leading to success.
I was the Apollo 13 “failure” engineer. My job was to have just the kind of “thought-out-backup-plan” that not only would slay the likes of a Goliath but be sure to do it every time. However, I’ll only say, that when that calamity surfaced in route to the Moon, there had to be a rescue vehicle with everything needed to overcome any adversity.
So, what’s this got to do with that giant Philistine? Now, as a NASA engineer, dealing with a formidable enemy, I’m going to do what is called a “feasibility study.” We did it all the time in planning the Moon landing. It’s simply considering all the options to achieving the goal. Each must be evaluated through analysis or test. Lastly, the most feasible approach is chosen. David, in NASA-like fashion, did the same. He honed his slinging skill on, perhaps, discarded flasks of water, until his accuracy could fell a threatening bear or a lion, protecting his sheep. Certainly, a lion or bear was a more formidable adversary than an “uncircumcised” Philistine. David, said as much. And to assure success, like NASA designers, he had a back-up plan - four more projectiles if the first missed its target. So based on my interpretation, I’ve drafted the following explanation of what I think really happened that day, long ago.
Victim of Unfairness
I really don’t think David needed to be so close to his opponent.
First of all, this is not going to be a spiritual commentary. It will pass muster with any of the American-Atheistic-Agnostic- ACLU-Church-and-State-Separatists and any other group wary of spiritualizing the story for secular consumption. I’m actually stating Goliath’s side of the story, sympathizing with him, showing him as the victim, set-up by unfair circumstances. Yet, those Israelites and Philistines on that biblical battlefield were ignorant of the cruel unfairness wrought upon that one-story-tall giant. Perhaps, it is the greatest injustice ever perpetrated on a warrior.
Actually, it was akin to a duel of gentlemen defending their honor with one duelist unarmed. Furthermore, the gentleman shepherd had not one but five lethal weapons. Should the first shot be errant, four more would surely kill the foe. My point is: David’s victory results less from faith than clever proactive preparation. The event serves as a lesson for all who face Goliaths in relationships, business, health, or any of life’s challenges.
Slinging is best done underhanded.
David’s firearm was a sling which is defined as “a projectile weapon typically used to throw a blunt projectile such as a stone.” At once, one thinks of a child slinging a small stone at a target. Accuracy and “blunt force trauma” are discounted by such a harmless device.
However, a modest web search quickly dispels such an assessment. It is stated that a sling can toss a projective as much as 1500 feet, but most remarkable is its velocity. That pebble mass travels at a bullet-like 200 miles per hour with a stopping power exceeding that of a .45 caliber handgun. Fine, indeed, but the crude device seems altogether impossible to aim with any degree of accuracy. Again, it is found that the sling can be quite accurate even used by a novice. Here is the testimony of an amateur slinger:
(My first attempt at using one in practice amazed me when I hit the target I was using. old milk jugs filled with water, at about 100 feet away. The jugs filled up with water, have more resistance than any game you'd be hunting, and let me tell you the sling doesn't just hit and bounce off, it often bust the jugs to ruins in one blow, and has even penetrated right through them. Just imagine what it could do to a skull or rib cage.)
Based on these facts, the Goliath/David contest takes an altogether different tact. It‘s a contest of planning, practice, and preparation. While David’s five stones are often cited as reserved for Goliath and his four brothers, might not those extra four be back-up ammunition should the first slung stone have missed? I’d rather be a live “slinger” with back-up throws than a horse-shoe-heaver counting on a “dead-ringer” on the first throw. Somehow, I think David was proactive enough to want to be a ‘live-slinger” rather than a “dead-ringer”.
Goliath might have been a giant of a man, but he was mouse-like in understanding what an unfair battle he faced. Besides that small stone, David had another advantage, Goliath’s “pea-sized” brain.
(Other considerations: The above painting is an artist’s interpretation. Likely, Goliath had no shield to deflect slung stones. Certainly, Goliath would not have failed to protect his head with the shield, unless he was wholly near-sighted. Eyeglasses were invented centuries later.
Other thoughts are: a shield-bearing Goliath might have been surprised by an approaching David slinging the fatal stone from a considerable distance. Or, perhaps, David concealed his sling in his loin cloth, discharging the projectile, like a fast-drawing Texas cowboy, before Goliath could raise his massive shield in defense. The underhanded release would lend itself to the quick-draw scenario with a trajectory slipping under the shield more readily striking Goliath’s head. Additionally, David’s refusal to wear Saul’s armor is likely because David wanted his slinging-arm unrestricted.)
The shield shown above would certainly be cumbersome. An overconfident Goliath likely would not have thought it needed. Too bad for you Goliath!
YouTube videos depict various slinging techniques. Here is a link to one of them:
This site below demonstrates how to make a rock sling:
And below is irrefutable proof of Goliath being a victim of unfairness, an actual demonstration by a “rock-slinger” felling a life-sized Goliath target. Indeed, felling Goliath was no more challenging for David, than a air rifle wielding boy shooting a can off a fence, from 30 feet away. But then, B-B guns hadn’t yet been invented, the sling was a boy’s weapon of choice.