10 July. David kills the Philistine champion, Goliath of Gath
“The Philistines gathered their armies for war. They met at Socah in Judah and camped at Ephes Dammim between Socah and Azekah. Saul and the Israelites gathered in the Valley of Elah and camped there and took their positions to fight the Philistines. The Philistines controlled one hill while the Israelites controlled another. The valley was between them.”
“The Philistines had a champion fighter from Gath named Goliath. He was about 3 metres tall. He came out of the Philistine camp with a bronze helmet on his head and a coat of bronze armour that weighed about 60 kilogrammes. He wore bronze protectors on his legs, and he had a bronze spear on his back…”
“Goliath stood and shouted to the Israelite soldiers, ‘Why have you taken positions for battle? I am a Philistine, and you are Saul’s servants! Choose a man and send him to fight me. If he can fight and kill me, we will be your servants. But if I can kill him, you will be our servants.’ … When Saul and the Israelites heard the Philistine’s words, they were very scared…”
“For 40 days the Philistine came out every morning and evening and stood before the Israelite army… David said to Saul, ‘Don’t let anyone be discouraged. I, your servant, will go and fight this Philistine! … I, your servant, have killed both a lion and a bear. This uncircumcised Philistine will be like them, because he has spoken against the armies of the living God. The LORD who saved me from a lion and a bear will save me from this Philistine.’”
“Saul said to David, ‘Go. And may the LORD be with you.’ Saul put his own clothes on David. He put a bronze helmet on his head and dressed him in armour. David put on Saul’s sword and tried to walk around, but he was not used to all the armour Saul had put on him. He said to Saul, ‘I can’t go in this, because I’m not used to it.’ Then David took it all off.”
“He took his stick in his hand and chose five smooth stones from a stream. He put them in his shepherd’s bag. With his sling in his hand, he went to meet the Philistine…”
“When Goliath looked at David and saw that he was only a boy, tanned and handsome, he looked down on David with disgust. He said, ‘Do you think that I am a dog, that you come at me with a stick?’ He used his god’s names to curse David. He said to David, ‘Come here. I’ll feed your body to the birds of the air and the wild animals!’”
“But David said to him, ‘You come to me using a sword and two spears. But I come to you in the name of the LORD All-powerful, the God of the armies of Israel! You have spoken against him. Today, the LORD will hand you over to me, and I’ll kill you and cut off your head… Then all the world will know there is a God in Israel! ...’”
“As Goliath came near to attack him, David ran quickly to meet him. He took a stone from his bag, put it into his sling, and slung it. The stone hit the Philistine and went deep into his forehead, and Goliath fell face down on the ground… Then David ran and stood beside him. He took Goliath’s sword out of its holder and killed him by cutting off his head.”
“When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they turned and ran. The men of Israel and Judah shouted and chased the Philistines all the way to the entrance of the city of Gath and to the gates of Ekron.”
(1 Samuel 17:1-52)
Of all his outstanding military successes, the most memorable victory of the Israelite King David was his one-to-one contest with Goliath, the Philistine ‘champion’ of Gath, in c.1012BC. The event is presented in popular folk history as the epitome of the defeat of the military ‘giant’ by the young and inexperienced ‘underdog’. In reality, the truth is rather different.
Contrary to popular belief (and some modern translations), the Hebrew Bible does not suggest that David was a ‘boy’. While both Saul and Goliath looked on David as young and inexperienced (see 1 Samuel 17:33 & 42), he was probably a young man in his twenties when he defeated Goliath.
Although the youngest of eight sons, he is not described as a child. Indeed, we are told that David was 'a brave man and a warrior', and a 'fine-looking man' who had killed a bear by seizing its fur and striking it dead (see 1 Samuel 16:18 & 17:35). He had already served as Saul’s trusted armour-bearer when he challenged the Philistine ‘champion’ to a single-handed combat (see 1 Samuel 16:21). Immediately after his successful confrontation with Goliath, Saul gave David a high rank in the Israelite army, commanding a thousand men (see 1 Samuel 18:4-6 & 13).
David’s chosen weapon – a sling – is often likened to a child’s toy catapult. But the sling shot was a very accurate and effective piece of military equipment in David’s day, and David was evidently well trained in its use (even if Goliath sneered that, without the heavy armour that kings wore, his adversary appeared to be ‘little more than a boy’).
In reality, David was able to strike a deadly blow before coming within range of Saul’s spear and javelin. In later times, all front rank auxiliary soldiers of the Roman army were armed with slingshots. They launched the first wave of missiles well before the next rank of soldiers was close enough to throw their spears and javelins at the enemy.
After David’s defeat of Goliath struck terror into the Philistines, the Israelites pursued their foe all the way to Gath, where the demoralised enemy regrouped behind the safety of their city walls (see 1 Samuel 17:51-52).
The photo (by Ricardo Tulio Gandelman) shows the Elah Valley near Beth Shemesh, where the confrontation between David and Goliath took place (see 3 on the map on 8 July).
You can read more about the city of Gath @ https://www.thebiblejourney.org/biblejourney2/30-israel-becomes-a-kingdom-under-saul-and-david/david-defeats-goliath-of-gath