David vs. Goliath Movie in the pipeline

David and Goliath
David and Goliath

According to The Hollywood Reporter, film production company Relativity Media are planning to bring the epic battle between David and Goliath to the big screen. The director will be Scott Derrickson (The Exorcism of Emily Rose, The Day the Earth Stood Still).

Relativity and the producers plan on taking the script, written by John D. Payne and Patrick McKay, and give it a modern vibe that harkens to the spirit of films such as 300 and The Bourne Identity.

The Hollywood Reporter

The producers are Wyck Godfrey and Marty Bowen of Temple Hill, who, as Matt Page (Bible Films Blog) notes, previously collaborated on 2006’s The Nativity Story.

Deadline.com summarises the plot of the proposed film:

When the fierce warrior Goliath is sent to track down the foretold king of the Israelites, the young shepherd David gets thrust into an epic chase and adventure fighting for his own life, and his loved ones, in a battle between the young man and the giant.

Deadline.com

There are a few details in this brief synopsis which suggest some creative reworking of the biblical story narrated in 1 Samuel 17. The idea that it was ‘foretold’ that David would be king has some basis in the preceding 1 Samuel 16.1-13. That passage narrates that, while still a young boy, and while Saul still reigned as king, the prophet Samuel anointed David as king under the direction of the Israelite god, Yahweh. However, there is no indication that Goliath knows about this in 1 Samuel 17, nor that he particularly cares about it. In fact, 1 Sam. 17.42 implies that Goliath first knew about David only when David marched out to confront him in their duel. 

Yet will the Hollywood version achieve a better build-up of tension than the original, and heighten David’s climactic decapitation of Goliath? Will the movie have to smooth out the inconsistencies of 1 Sam. 17? After all, viewers might get confused if the scenes alternate between David being an established member of King Saul’s court (e.g. 1 Sam. 16.21-22; 17.32-40) and David as a young, unknown shepherd boy (e.g. 1 Sam. 17.1-31, 55-58). Will the movie, as the synopsis suggests, invent a ‘pre-history’ of opposition between Goliath and David – a sort of Hollywood Midrash?

People often talk about an adaptation being ‘faithful’ to the original biblical story. But if the ‘original’ biblical story is itself merely a moment in a stream of creative invention, would it not be more ‘faithful’ to be as creative as possible with the film? Perhaps the necessary twist today in a retelling of the David and Goliath story should follow Charles Reznikoff’s lead, in his poem, I do not believe that David killed Goliath (1941). That is, Goliath should kill David, quashing the fantasy that the little guy can defeat the seemingly all-powerful system – a fantasy which in fact sustains that very system. However, enough fantasizing… this is a Hollywood production after all.

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13 thoughts on “David vs. Goliath Movie in the pipeline

  1. I took my power in my hand
    And went against the world;
    ‘T was not so much as David had,
    But I was twice as bold.

    I aimed my pebble, but myself
    Was all the one that fell.
    Was it Goliath was too large,
    Or only I too small?

    (Emily Dickinson)

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  2. Isn’t it more likely, since 2 Sam 21:19 records that Elhannan son of Jaare-orodim slew Goliath, that David did not, but that an effective royal publicity machine later attributed the feat to him?

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    • If one story is dependent on the tradition represented by the other, then I think the rule of development that “deeds of obscure heroes tend to attach themselves to famous heroes …” (as McCarter puts it) provides the most probable solution. So yes, it’s more likely.

      Alternatively, Elhanan son of Jaare-Oregim has a very similar role to Elhanan son of Dodo of Bethlehem, and “Dodo” being a variant of David, this might originally have been a story about a hero named, alternatively, David or Elhanan – later developed into two stories. It’s then a question of whether this is more likely than the first scenario. Whaddarya reckon?

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    • Actually, if you read it… the passage you’re referring to says it was Goliath’s brother. Just helping ya get your facts straight before you confuse someone other than yourself. ;-)

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      • Tox26 – No, that is incorrect – Tim Bulkeley is correct: 2 Sam 21:19 records that Elhannan son of Jaare-orodim slew Goliath.

        You may be confused by the harmonisations that are often made between 2 Sam 21.19 and 1 Sam 17, which try to make Goliath of Gath in 2 Sam 21.19 into Goliath’s brother. This harmonisation of the two passages was first attempted in 1 Chronicles 20.5. It is still attempted today by various apologists, most recently in the NIV 2011 translation, which inserts “the brother of” into the text of 2 Sam 21.19, noting in a footnote that it is not in the Hebrew text.

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  3. Stories, and not just fish, grow in the telling. Good stories “need” a famous hero. Who has heard of Elhanan? Besides the theological point of the story seems to be David did not and could not do this himself, YHWH achieved the deed. That point is better made if the merely human protagonist is the great warrior David, more so that if he is one of David’s merry men.

    So, the logic of narrative and the demands of the preacher line up. If anyone killed a giant called Goliath, Elhanan is the most likely candidate. As for the David = Dodo, and somehow he and his and his son’s names got mixed up… Ockham’s razor seems to me to cut that out ;)

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    • I wouldn’t say that we can discount the other explanation by simple parsimony. The problem is that there are not a lot of simple explanations which can account for these passages with David’s merry men in them, in the first place. There is a hell of a lot of confusion about names and numbers of David’s merry men in 2 Sam and 1 Chron. A simple and economic explanation is probably, therefore, bound to be the wrong one. Given all these name confusions in 2 Sam and 1 Chron, there are good grounds to say that, also in this tradition about Elhanan/Dodo, we’ve got a bit of a general mess and corruption.

      However, for the purpose of writing 1 Sam 17, I agree that the theological point is better made if attributed to David rather than Elhanan, and so would hypothetically provide one reason why the authors would not have used another tradition about who killed Goliath. So, if “Elhanan” isn’t just a variant of “David”, the author of 1 Sam 17 deliberately changed the name to make a grand theological point about Yahweh (and David, as anointed of Yahweh). But there’s considerable doubt, from the confused nature of 2 Sam and 1 Chron, as to whether there really was any such deliberate change.

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  4. And I’m sorry, but even a casual reading of 1 Samuel 16 and 17 doesn’t paint David as someone familiar and then suddenly unknown. Just wanted to throw in my 2 cents. Full marks for mentioning a quasi-Biblically based film, but the whole ‘how can you stay true to something that’s not true in the first place’ kinda spoils the coverage. And while I realize that the author’s intention is probably not so much to ‘cover’ it and that since this is the author’s blog and he can say whatever he darn well pleases about whatever he darn well chooses… I’d simply say that a little extra research could do wonders for a stale, retread of misinformed opinion and wishful thinking.

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    • Tox26 – Yes, a “casual reading” would probably miss the contradictions in the text. But, I like to think that this blog provides for its readers something that is a little more carefully considered.

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