Politics, PR, Propaganda And The Peltast. A Modern Look At David And Goliath.

by Daniel Russ on October 19, 2010


David And Goliath



The Bible is rich in military history, in fact many parts of it are nothing but military history. The battles between ancient Israel and other tribes in the Land of Canaan and in the Mesopotamian Valley are recorded in meticulous details. Scholars believe that the unitary monarchy of ancient Israel was a fact. It would be proof that Iron Age nations were organized into groups far more complex than tribal and familial governance.

The Philistine Army had decided to take the Valley of Elah from the Israelites. The valley is southwest of Jerusalem and the armies were arrayed against each other from opposing hilltops with this steep valley between them. For forty days, one of their champion warriors, Goliath, came fourth at the height of “six cubits and a span”, or roughly nine and a half feet tall. He is adorned with an impressive vestment of the elaborate armor. He has a brass helmet, a coat of chain mail that weighed as much as “five thousands shekels”, or roughly 125 pounds, shielding on his back, a heavy spear described as a “weaver’s mill”. From crossfaithministry.org comes this explanation: “….. the Aegean javelin had a cord wound around the shaft held by loops which gave the spear greater stability in flight. Apparently this winding cord and loop arrangement gave Goliath’s spear the appearance of a weaver’s heddle rod, characteristic of those used for hand loom weaving in Israel.”

Goliath also carried one of those ugly curved swords that the Egyptians and Canaanites found so deadly. He stood out and stated the challenge. He demanded that they send him someone to fight. If you win we will be your servants. If I win, you will submit to us.

Well remember that historically, combat commanders from Abraham to Joshua to Saul (in power at the battle) to Caesar to Jeb Stuart led battle from the front of formations. Kings were not all just descendants of royalty. They were warriors who killed with alacrity. Saul saw this nine-foot tall giant, blooded veteran, carrying armor that weighed as much as he did, and frankly he wanted no part of this. He clearly felt he could not beat this guy. This goes on for forty days and my theory is that this refusal to do battle was a psychological blow to the Israelites and especially to Saul.

Think about the battlefield. A deep steeply accessed valley separated the armies. Whoever committed first would be fatally vulnerable to the other. This was probably another reason why the Philistines were taunting the Israelites. They were trying to get the Israelites to go first.


Caananite Sickle Sword, Historians Believe This Is The Sword Goliath Carried.



The petty politics of it. So David, the youngest of Jesse’s sons, apparently he was ruddy and looked kind of young, had left the encampment to go home and tend to his flocks.

David comes back to the encampment at his father’s behest, bearing food and hears the news and takes the challenge. In fact, he sort of says where is everyone’s courage? And where is everyone’s faith? In Samuel 1 17:23 “And David spake to the men that stood by him, saying, What shall be done to the man that killeth this Philistine, and taketh away the reproach from Israel? for who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?”

Saul is not just skeptical, he is worried. He says in Samuel 17:33, ” And Saul said to David, Thou art not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him: for thou art but a youth, and he a man of war from his youth.” David says “…Thy servant kept his father’s sheep, and there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock: 35 And I went out after him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth: and when he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and smote him, and slew him.”

In other words, I can take this guy. In fact, I have faith in God that I can prevail. David uses propaganda like framing, depicting Goliath as an uncircumcised scum. So the Israelites are worried, and Saul is worried that he will lose the respect of the people if someone else prevails, but bets that this kid will not defeat Goliath. Here is what happened from 17:40 “…. he took his staff in his hand, and chose him five smooth stones out of the brook, and put them in a shepherd’s bag which he had, even in a scrip; and his sling was in his hand: and he drew near to the Philistine. 41 And the Philistine came on and drew near unto David; and the man that bare the shield went before him. 42 And when the Philistine looked about, and saw David, he disdained him: for he was but a youth, and ruddy, and of a fair countenance. 43 And the Philistine said unto David, Am I a dog, that thou comest to me with staves? And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. 44 And the Philistine said to David, Come to me, and I will give thy flesh unto the fowls of the air, and to the beasts of the field. 45 Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied. 46 This day will the LORD deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcases of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel.”


Saul And David. After Goliath, They Were Instant Rivals.



David was a great PR guy. He understood what this must have looked like. Here is a nine foot armored giant fighting a kid with a slingshot, and the kid is taunting him publicly. “48 And it came to pass, when the Philistine arose, and came and drew nigh to meet David, that David hasted, and ran toward the army to meet the Philistine. 49 And David put his hand in his bag, and took thence a stone, and slang it, and smote the Philistine in his forehead, that the stone sunk into his forehead; and he fell upon his face to the earth. 50 So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and smote the Philistine, and slew him; but there was no sword in the hand of David. ”

It wasn’t long before Saul noticed that David has now replaced him as the ersatz leader of the Hebrews. He puts it this way; The Lord has left Saul and is now with David. What a way to describe losing your mojo. Saul tries a number of ways of recovering his lost status, not the least of which were sending David to collect hundreds of Philistines foreskins (he brings them back… and you have to know that you can’t take a foreskin from a guy before you kill him. And he sends his daughter to marry David hoping she will help him (Saul) to disrupt David’s authority.

David brought psychology and politics to the battlefield. The lowly peltast bet on his ability to sling a rock 30 to 40 yards with deadly results, and became a king.


Source: The Bible


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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Luigi Succar November 4, 2010 at 12:39 am

It’s the old “curse of knowledge” dilemma isn’t it? It’s easy to assume visitors know how to comment or even that commenting is encouraged. Excellent post.

Louis August 31, 2017 at 9:07 am

This sentence is misleading and a-historical, in my opinion:
“It would be proof that Iron Age nations were organized into groups far more complex than tribal and familial governance.”
Never forget that the Romans were an Iron Age nation, the Egyptians and Babylonias, and Assyrians (all contempories, and even rivals of the Israelites and Philistines) and the Classical Greeks were a Bronze Age nation, and the Aztecs and Incans were, in some respects, a Stone Age nation.
What I think this is meant to say is that they think this it is proof of an illiterate nation, or at least a nation with no know means of written communication, having those complex social and political structures.

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