Category Archives: Goliath

David and Goliath is more like Luke Skywalker and the Death Star

In “Did David Bring a Gun to a Knife Fight? Literary and Historical Considerations in Interpreting David’s Victory over Goliath” (Expository Times, 30 April 2013), Benjamin J.M. Johnson considers whether the famous narrative should be interpreted as a story of faith, in which a shepherd boy uses a humble sling to defeat a great warrior, or a story of cunning, in which David’s actions are the equivalent of “taking a gun to a knife fight”.

Bringing a gun to a knife fight? Like the scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

What was Benjamin Johnson’s conclusion? The David and Goliath narrative is more like Star Wars than Raiders of the Lost Ark:

It seems we are best off seeing David’s victory over Goliath as something that was possible … but not very likely. To interpret David’s victory over Goliath as due primarily on David’s reliance on Yhwh seems a very good reading of the evidence. If we are to seek a modern analogy we should not look to Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court or Spielberg’s The Raiders of the Lost Ark. Perhaps a better modern analogy to David’s victory over Goliath is Luke Skywalker’s victory over the Death Star in George Lucas’s Star Wars. While it may be physically possible for a proton torpedo to penetrate a small thermal exhaust port on the Death Star, it is highly unlikely and the viewer knows the real secret to Luke’s success. Similarly, while it may be physically possible for David to take down the well-armored Goliath with a sling, it is highly unlikely and the reader knows the real secret to David’s success. In short, just as the force was with Luke, Yhwh was with David.

- Benjamin J.M. Johnson, “Did David Bring a Gun to a Knife Fight? Literary and Historical Considerations in Interpreting David’s Victory over Goliath“, Expository Times, 30 April 2013, p. 8.

h/t: Aren Maeir, “And if already on the topic of new studies on Goliath…“, The Tell es-Safi/Gath Excavations Official (and Unofficial) Weblog, 22 September 2013


Filed under Film, Goliath

On the Etymology of “Goliath” – A Carian Origin?

Aren Maeir (The Tell es-Safi/Gath Excavations Official (and Unofficial) Weblog) notes a new proposal for the etymology of the name “Goliath”. A 2012 paper by M. Vernet Pons relates the Hebrew “Goliath” to the Carian personal name WLJAT/WLIAT. (Caria was located in Western Anatolia, to the south of Lydia, and the Carians lived there before Greek (Ionian and Dorian) colonisation.) Pons also rejects the idea that the name “Goliath” is a cognate of the name of the Lydian king “Alyattes” (619-560 BC).

See M. Vernet Pons, “The Etymology of Goliath in the Light of Carian PN WLJAT/WLIAT: A new proposal.” Kadmos 51 (2012): 143-164.

See also Aren M. Maeir, Stefan J. Wimmer, Alexander Zuckerman, and Aaron Demsky, “A Late Iron Age I/Early Iron Age II Old Canaanite Inscription from Tell es-Safi/Gath: Palaeography, Dating, and Historical-Cultural Significance”, Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 351 (Aug 2008), 39-71 – which links the two names found at Tel es-Safi / Gath, ’lwt and wlt[ ], to the name “Goliath” and suggests Greek or Anatolian origins.

See also “The ‘not Goliath’ Inscription from Tel es-Safi/Gath: Archaeology, Bible, Politics, and the Media“, Remnant of Giants, 5 February 2013

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Filed under Archaeology, Goliath

Sheikh Mustafa Ismail recites Surah Baqarah story of Dawud vs Jalut (David vs Goliath)

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A David and Goliath Musical for Children on DVD

David and Goliath - Liken Bible SeriesYes – there’s a David and Goliath musical-film out there, available on DVD! Young children can sing along with Aryan David as he slaughters big bad black Goliath!

According to the Christian Film Database (CFDb):

You will love David and Saul’s duet, and later David’s bold song as he comes to challenge Goliath. But not all songs are serious. When David proposes that he be sent to fight Goliath, we get a real toe-tappin’ dixieland jazz number “Give me just one chance to prove he’s just a man.”

The CFDb also says:

Thurl Bailey makes a fantastic Goliath. His main musical number, “I am Goliath” is both dramatic and beautiful. You almost hate to see him go down when David fights him. But be prepared for an unexpected twist toward the end of the movie.

Wikipedia explains, for the uninitiated: “Thurl Lee Bailey (born April 7, 1961 in Washington, D.C.) is an American retired professional basketball player whose NBA career spanned from 1983 to 1999 with the Utah Jazz and the Minnesota Timberwolves.”

The David and Goliath musical is from the Liken Bible Series, which provides other “Musical Adventures in Faith” featuring Daniel, Esther, Jonah, and baby Jesus.

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Filed under Film, Goliath, Music, Plays Performances Musicals

Swedish Hard Rockers Graveyard’s “Goliath” and Capitalist Freedom

Here’s the music video for “Goliath” (2012) by Graveyard. Is thish song not more Lenin than Lenin even, in its distinction between “formal” and “actual” freedom? And is thish not precisely because of its 70s retro feel?

The wolves are at your door
Dressed like sheep.
Trying hard to hide the blood
To hide the blood from the crowd.
They are trying to sell slavery as a dream to chase.
Driven by fears, consumer words
No way to see their hoax.
They are listening, they are watching,
They wanna know what we do.
They are faking our freedom,
Hoping we believe it’s true.

The world is full of snakes,
Whispering in your ear.
A stream of seducing words from a cloven tongue.
They are trying to sell slavery as a dream to chase
Driven by fears, consumer words,
No way to see their hoax.
Fences at the border,
Dividing the world in two.
Have-nots feed the have-lots,
Obeying the market rules.

The rats are spreading ṗlague,
No stopping the disease.
Their rotten dirty bite, infecting the whole world.
They are trying to sell slavery as a dream to chase.
Driven by fears, consumer words,
No way to see their hoax.

- Graveyard, “Goliath”

“Freedom yes, but for WHOM? To do WHAT?”

- Vladimir Lenin

This is what Lenin’s obsessive tirades against “formal” freedom are about, therein resides their “rational kernel” which is worth saving today: when he emphasizes that there is no “pure” democracy, that we should always ask who does a freedom under consideration serve, which is its role in the class struggle, his point is precisely to maintain the possibility of the TRUE radical choice. This is what the distinction between “formal” and “actual” freedom ultimately amounts to: “formal” freedom is the freedom of choice WITHIN the coordinates of the existing power relations, while “actual” freedom designates the site of an intervention which undermines these very coordinates. In short, Lenin’s point is not to limit freedom of choice, but to maintain the fundamental Choice — when Lenin asks about the role of a freedom within the class struggle, what he is asking is precisely: “Does this freedom contribute to or constrain the fundamental revolutionary Choice?”
- Slavoj Žižek

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Filed under Goliath, Music

Why Schama’s History of the Jews is not History: On Jewish Origins in Episode 1

British historian Simon Schama is currently presenting a series called The Story of the Jews, on BBC2. In episode 1, Schama begins with the stories told in the Bible. He notes that, while there is no archaeological evidence for the Exodus or desert wandering that would make them count as historical reality, the first ‘solid evidence’ of Jewish identity can be found near the Valley of Elah:

To find some of the first solid archaeological evidence for the Jewish story, you have to fast-forward a couple of centuries from the traditional date for the Moses epic, and come here, to the Valley of Elah, in present-day Israel. According to the Bible, this is where a giant, called Goliath, was brought low by a shepherd boy called David, armed only with a slingshot.

Schama then goes on to make the claim that Yosef Garfinkel, excavator at Khirbet Qeiyafa, has established that the Elah Fortress (ca 1000 BCE) belonged to the people of the Judean highlands, “not to the pig-eating Philistines of the coastal plain”. The reason is that no pig-bones can be found in the highland fortress at Elah – and the proscription against eating pork is, of course, a distinctive ethnic marker of later Jews.

The big problem with this claim is that the lack of pigs is a feature of highland areas in general – not just of the Judean highlands. Pigs need a lot of watering, which in the Iron Age necessitated a location near the coast. This is the case both within so-called Jewish territory, and for any Philistines who did not live on the coast, such as the Philistines of the northern Negev. On this issue, see the 1997 article by Brian Hesse and Paula Wapnish, “Can Pig Remains Be Used for Ethnic Diagnosis in the Ancient Near East?” and Aharon Sasson’s book, Animal Husbandry in Ancient Israel: A Zooarchaeological Perspective on Livestock Exploitation, Herd Management and Economic Strategies, Equinox, 2011. As previously noted on this blog, the same point is noted by the archaeologist at Tel es-Safi (identified with biblical Gath, hometown of the legendary Goliath), Aren Maeir:

… extremely high pig frequencies (c. 20 per cent or more) are found in [Philistine] sites in the Israeli coastal plain (Ashkelon, Tel Miqne-Ekron)…. At Tel es-Safi/Gath, located on the interface between the coastal plain and the hill country, pigs comprise 13 per cent of the Iron I fauna …, while Tel Batash, located in a similar setting, has yielded only 8 per cent pigs; at southern Philistine sites, the Nahal Patish temple … and the small village of Qubur el-Walaydah in the northern Negev …. pigs represent less than 1 per cent of the faunal assemblage, a similar low frequency to that observed in coeval Israelite sites…. Thus, it is very feasible that ecological, economic or functional factors, or a mixture of them, rather than ethnicity, were responsible for the relatively high frequencies of pigs in some Philistine sites and their dearth in others – Philistine and Israelite settlements alike

- Aren M. Maeir, Louise A. Hitchcock, and Liora Kolska Horwitz, “On the Constitution and Transformation of Philistine Identity”Oxford Journal of Archaeology 32 no. 1 (2013): 5–6 (emphasis added).

In the BBC documentary, Schama also lets Yosef Garfinkel repeat his claim that the story of a battle between the Philistine Goliath and the Judean David preserves a kernel of historical truth: that the Elah fortress was a site of conflict between coastal Philistines and highland Judeans. However, the story of David and Goliath in 1 Samuel 17, as Israel Finkelstein points out, bears many more marks of much later ideological concerns:

The story of David and Goliath is a complex one. There could have been an ancient memory on conflicts between Judah and Philistine Gath in this region and the story of the slaying of Goliath by a hero named David or Elhanan (2 Sam. 21:19) may be related to this ancient tradition. But the text in 1 Samuel 17 is Deuteronomistic in its language, and it seems to depict Homeric influence. It is clear therefore that the story could not have been put in writing before the late 7th century BCE. More than anything else the story portrays the theological goals of the authors and the historical reality of the time of the authors – centuries after the high days of Khirbet Qeiyafa.

- Israel Finkelstein, “A Great United Monarchy? Archaeological and Historical Perspectives.” Pages 3-28 in R.G. Kratz and H. Spieckermann, eds., One God – One Cult – One Nation: Archaeological and Biblical Perspectives (Berlin, 2010), pp. 18-19.

So in The Story of the Jews, Schama recycles some less-than-critical arguments that the beginnings of Jewish identity can be demonstrated 3000 years ago, a time associated with the legendary King David. In truth, the origin of a distinctive Jewish identity is not clear before the Persian period (sixth-fourth centuries BCE), in the province of Yehud. More than that, Schama’s assumption seems to be that the biblical dating of the exodus and conquest – 1000 years earlier than the Persian Period – is essentially correct:

You don’t have to accept the Bible as literal truth to believe that 3,500 years ago something extraordinary and fateful in world history did happen, over there, on the other side of the Jordan Valley.

The biblical stories of such early origins for ‘Israel’ and ‘Israelites’ (not yet Judea and Jews) are founding myths dating from the Persian period. While they are still important for Jewish self-identity today, they are not historical events; they constitute a part of Jewish cultural memory but they do not belong to reality. The Story of the Jews tells a good story, but it is not, in this regard, good history.

See also: Mark Goodacre, “Simon Schama’s Misreading of Paul“, NT Blog, 10 September 2013


Filed under Biblical Giants, Goliath, History, Myth, Television

Recent Giant Scholarship

Israeli Ministry of Tourism logoWhat are biblical scholars saying about the Giants in the Old Testament / Hebrew Bible? The latest word in biblical scholarship can be found here:

Galbraith, D. (2013). “Manufacturing Judean Myth: The Spy Narrative in Numbers 13–14 as Rewritten Tradition”(Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy)

Among the findings:

(1) the Hebronite traditions (concerning the Judahite leader Caleb, the city of Hebron, and ‘the sons of Anak’ who inhabit Hebron) are not vestiges of ancient legend which have been preserved in the text, but are all secondary to the spy-rebellion tradition derived from dtr Deut. 1;

(2) gigantic stature was first attributed to the sons of Anak and Nephilim in the composition of Num. 13–14, and to the Anakim and Rephaim of Deut. 1–3 in post-deuteronomistic Hexateuchal additions which harmonised the text with the expansionary Num. 13–14;

(3) the extension of the term ‘Rephaim’ to denote entire giant peoples throughout their associated territories also originates with the Hexateuchal harmonisations in Deut. 1–3;

And a detailed interview with the author can be found on Jim West’s blog, Zwinglius Redivivus:

“Scholars You Should Know: Deane Galbraith”

I know, I know – such gratuitous self-publicity…


Filed under Academic things, Anakim, Ancient Jewish texts, Biblical Giants, Books on Giants, Emim, Fallen angels, Goliath, Heroes / Gibborim, Horim, Ishbi-Benob, King Og, Nephilim, Numbers 13-14, Rephaim, sons of God, Zamzummim

Goliath is Blogging: He’s been Resurrected by the Witch of Endor!

Yes, Goliath – once felled by a cheap shot from David – has his own blog, called GAW News:

A blog by Goliath … yeah, the Giant who got his head cut off. He was actually re-animated by the Witch of Endor and presently lives in Jeffersonville Indiana with his three concubines and some chickens. 

Who knew?

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Mr. Know-It-All on the Height of Goliath

The 12 June 2013 edition of the syndicated column by Gary Clothier, “Ask Mr. Know-It-All”, included the following question and answer:

gary-clothierQuestion: How tall was Goliath, the giant that David slew with a sling shot? — B.K., Portland, Maine

Answer: The Philistine giant was big. According to the Bible (I Samuel 17:4), he was six cubits and a span. A cubit is determined by the distance from the elbow to the end of the middle finger, which would be anywhere between 17 to 22 inches. The distance of a span is the length between the thumb and the little finger when extended, or about 9 inches. So Goliath stood anywhere from 9 feet, 3 inches to 11 feet, 9 inches. Some modern interpretations suggest Goliath was just more than 6 feet, which was still considered “giant” in those days.

Gary Clothier is basically right in providing the equivalent of “six cubits and a span” in feet and inches. Yet the usual estimate of an ordinary cubit (not a royal cubit, which was larger) is on the lower end of the range he gives above.

However, it is misleading to suggest that it is only “some modern interpretations” which make Goliath a little more than six feet tall, in comparison to “the Bible” which measures Goliath as 9 to 11 feet tall. In fact, the Septuagint version of the Bible  - which likely reflects an older version in 1 Samuel 17 – puts Goliath’s height at just over 6 feet. It is the later Masoretic Text of 1 Samuel 17 which exaggerates Goliath’s height to over 9-feet tall. This is not a matter of modern interpretation versus the Bible. This is a matter of an earlier ‘Bible’ versus a later ‘Bible’.

How tall were the biblical giants? Comparative height chart

A discussion of the Septuagint and Masoretic Text versions of 1 Samuel 17

The height of your average Philistine compared to Goliath

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Filed under 1 Samuel 17, Goliath, Newspapers

The Philistine Penis Still Uncircumcised in Iron Age II: Itzick Shai

circumcised-jew-uncircumcised-philistineItzick Shai has made available his 2011 article, האם התקיים מנהג המילה בפלשת בתקופת הברזל ["Was Circumcision practiced in Philistia in the Iron Age II?"] (Eretz-Israel 30: 413-18), on

In it, Shai responds to Avraham Faust’s contention, in Israel’s Ethnogenesis (2006: 147-48), that Philistine non-circumcision was confined to Iron Age I. Faust notes David’s description of Goliath as an “uncircumcised Philistine” in 1 Sam 17:26, 36, in which the term “uncircumcised” is intended as an insult. Faust claims that this type of  insult is only seen in texts referring to Iron Age I.

But Shai discusses two biblical texts which suggest that Faust’s conclusion is incorrect, and also discusses the finding of erect penis pottery at Philistine Ashkelon and Gath which appear to reflect uncircumcised penises. Shai points out the absence, in Jeremiah 9:24-25, of the Philistines from the list of circumcised peoples in that passage. Also, in Ezekiel 32:29-32, the Philistines are not among the nations who are punished by being made to lie down in the netherworld with “the uncircumcised”.

For these, and other reasons, Shai concludes that Philistine non-circumcision continued to be a distinct ethnic marker (or more to the point, a lack of a mark) well into Iron Age II.

So David’s insult of “uncircumcised Philistine” could well be nothing more than a literary embellishment in the composition of 1 Samuel 17. That is, it probably does not imply any historical memory of Goliath’s turtleneck.

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