Goliath

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David and Goliath, a colour lithograph by Osmar Schindler (c. 1888)

Goliath (/ɡəˈləθ/ gə-LY-əth)[lower-alpha 1] is described in the biblical Book of Samuel as a Philistine giant defeated by the young David in single combat. The story signified Saul's unfitness to rule, as Saul himself should have fought for Israel.[1]

Biblical account

The Goliath narrative in 1 Samuel 17

David hoists the severed head of Goliath as illustrated by Gustave Doré (1866).

Saul and the Israelites are facing the Philistines in the Valley of Elah. Twice a day for 40 days, morning and evening, Goliath, the champion of the Philistines, comes out between the lines and challenges the Israelites to send out a champion of their own to decide the outcome in single combat, but Saul is afraid. David accepts the challenge. Saul reluctantly agrees and offers his armor, which David declines, taking only his staff, sling and five stones from a brook.

David and Goliath confront each other, Goliath with his armor and javelin, David with his staff and sling. "The Philistine cursed David by his gods", but David replies: "This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down, and I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel and that all this assembly may know that God saves not with sword and spear; for the battle is God's, and he will give you into our hand."

David hurls a stone from his sling and hits Goliath in the center of his forehead, Goliath falls on his face to the ground, David cuts off his head. The Philistines flee and are pursued by the Israelites "as far as Gath and the gates of Ekron". David puts the armor of Goliath in his own tent and takes the head to Jerusalem, and Saul sends Abner to bring the boy to him. The king asks whose son he is, and David answers, "I am the son of your servant Jesse the Bethlehemite."

Composition of the Book of Samuel and the Goliath narrative

The Books of Samuel, together with the books of Joshua, Judges and Kings, make up a unified history of Israel which biblical scholars call the Deuteronomistic History. The first edition of the history was probably written at the court of Judah's King Josiah (late 7th century BCE) and a revised second edition during the exile (6th century BCE), with further revisions in the post-exilic period. [2][3] Traces of this can be seen in certain contradictions of the Goliath story. In 1 Samuel 17:54 it says that David took Goliath's head to Jerusalem; however, Jerusalem, at that time, was still a Jebusite stronghold, and was not captured until David became king (2 Samuel 5).[4] The Goliath story is made up of base-narrative with numerous additions made probably after the exile:[5]

Original story
  • The Israelites and Philistines face each other; Goliath makes his challenge to single combat;
  • David volunteers to fight Goliath;
  • David selects five smooth stones from a creek-bed to be used in his sling;
  • David defeats Goliath, the Philistines flee the battlefield.
Additions
  • David is sent by his father to bring food to his brothers, hears the challenge, and expresses his desire to accept;
  • Details of the account of the battle;
  • Saul asks who David is, and he is introduced to the king through Abner. [6][lower-alpha 2]

Textual considerations

Goliath's height

David with the Head of Goliath, circa 1635, by Andrea Vaccaro

The oldest manuscripts, namely the Dead Sea Scrolls text of Samuel from the late 1st century BCE, the 1st-century CE historian Josephus, and the major Septuagint manuscripts, all give it as "four cubits and a span" (6 feet 9 inches or 2.06 metres), whereas the Masoretic Text has "six cubits and a span" (9 feet 9 inches or 2.97 metres).[7][8] Many scholars have suggested that the smaller number grew in the course of transmission (only a few have suggested the reverse, that an original larger number was reduced), possibly when a scribe's eye was drawn to the number six in line 17:7.[9]

Goliath and Saul

The underlying purpose of the story of Goliath is to show that Saul is not fit to be king (and that David is). Saul was chosen to lead the Israelites against their enemies, but when faced with Goliath he refuses to do so; Saul is a head taller than anyone else in all Israel (1 Samuel 9:2), which implies he was over 6 feet (1.8 m) tall and the obvious challenger for Goliath, yet David is the one who eventually defeated him. Also, Saul's armor and weaponry are apparently no worse than Goliath's (and David, of course, refuses Saul's armour in any case). "David declares that when a lion or bear came and attacked his father's sheep, he battled against it and killed it, [but Saul] has been cowering in fear instead of rising up and attacking the threat to his sheep (i.e. Israel)."[8]

Elhanan and Goliath

2 Samuel 21:19 tells how Goliath the Gittite was killed by "Elhanan the son of Jaare-oregim, the Bethlehemite." Scholars believe that the original killer of Goliath was Elhanan and that the authors of the Deutoronomic history changed the text to credit the victory to the more famous character, David.[10] The fourth-century BC 1 Chronicle 20:5 explains the second Goliath by saying that Elhanan "slew Lahmi the brother of Goliath", constructing the name Lahmi from the last portion of the word "Bethlehemite" ("beit-ha’lahmi"), and the King James Bible adopted this into 2 Samuel 21:18–19, but the Hebrew text at Goliath's name makes no mention of the word "brother".[11]

Goliath and the Greeks

The armor described in 1 Samuel 17 appears typical of Greek armor of the sixth century BCE rather than of Philistines armor of the tenth century; narrative formulae such as the settlement of battle by single combat between champions has been thought characteristic of the Homeric epics (the Iliad) rather than of the ancient Near East. The designation of Goliath as a איש הביניים, "man of the in-between" (a longstanding difficulty in translating 1 Samuel 17) appears to be a borrowing from Greek "man of the metaikhmion (μεταίχμιον)", i.e. the space between two opposite army camps where champion combat would take place.[12]

A story very similar to that of David and Goliath appears in the Iliad, written circa 760–710 BCE, where the young Nestor fights and conquers the giant Ereuthalion.[13][14] Each giant wields a distinctive weapon—an iron club in Ereuthalion's case, a massive bronze spear in Goliath's; each giant, clad in armor, comes out of the enemy's massed array to challenge all the warriors in the opposing army; in each case the seasoned warriors are afraid, and the challenge is taken up by a stripling, the youngest in his family (Nestor is the twelfth son of Neleus, David the seventh or eighth son of Jesse). In each case an older and more experienced father figure (Nestor's own father, David's patron Saul) tells the boy that he is too young and inexperienced, but in each case the young hero receives divine aid and the giant is left sprawling on the ground. Nestor, fighting on foot, then takes the chariot of his enemy, while David, on foot, takes the sword of Goliath. The enemy army then flees, the victors pursue and slaughter them and return with their bodies, and the boy-hero is acclaimed by the people.[15]

Goliath's name

Tell es-Safi, the biblical Gath and traditional home of Goliath, has been the subject of extensive excavations by Israel's Bar-Ilan University. The archaeologists have established that this was one of the largest of the Philistine cities until destroyed in the ninth century BC, an event from which it never recovered. A potsherd discovered at the site, and reliably dated to the tenth to mid-ninth centuries BC, is inscribed with the two names "alwt" and "wlt". While the names are not directly connected with the biblical Goliath ("glyt"), they are etymologically related and demonstrate that the name fits with the context of late-tenth/early-ninth-century BC Philistine culture. The name "Goliath" itself is non-Semitic and has been linked with the Lydian king Alyattes, which also fits the Philistine context of the biblical Goliath story.[16] A similar name, Uliat, is also attested in Carian inscriptions.[17] Aren Maeir, director of the excavation, comments: "Here we have very nice evidence [that] the name Goliath appearing in the Bible in the context of the story of David and Goliath … is not some later literary creation."[18]

Later traditions

Jewish

Artist's rendition of Goliath's fall

According to the Babylonian Talmud (Sotah 42b) Goliath was a son of Orpah, the sister-in-law of Ruth, David's own great grandmother (Ruth → ObedJesse → David). Ruth Rabbah, a haggadic and homiletic interpretation of the Book of Ruth, makes the blood-relationship even closer, considering Orpah and Ruth to have been full sisters. Orpah was said to have made a pretense of accompanying Ruth but after forty paces left her. Thereafter she led a dissolute life. According to the Jerusalem Talmud, Goliath was born by polyspermy, and had about one hundred fathers.[19]

The Talmud stresses Goliath's ungodliness: his taunts before the Israelites included the boast that it was he who had captured the Ark of the Covenant and brought it to the temple of Dagon, and his challenges to combat were made at morning and evening in order to disturb the Israelites in their prayers. His armor weighed 60 tons, according to rabbi Hanina; 120, according to rabbi Abba bar Kahana; and his sword, which became the sword of David, had marvelous powers. On his death it was found that his heart carried the image of Dagon, who thereby also came to a shameful downfall.[20]

In Pseudo-Philo, believed to have been composed between 135 BC and 70 AD, David picks up seven stones and writes on them his father's name, his own name, and the name of God, one name per stone; then, speaking to Goliath, he says "Hear this word before you die: were not the two woman from whom you and I were born, sisters? And your mother was Orpah and my mother Ruth ..." After David strikes Goliath with the stone he runs to Goliath before he dies and Goliath says "Hurry and kill me and rejoice." and David replies "Before you die, open your eyes and see your slayer." Goliath sees an angel and tells David that it is not he who has killed him but the angel. Pseudo-Philo then goes on to say that the angel of the Lord changes David's appearance so that no one recognizes him, and thus Saul asks who he is.[21]

Notes

  1. Hebrew: גָּלְיָתGolyāṯ; Arabic: جُلياتǦulyāt (Christian term) or جَالُوت Ǧālūt (Quranic term).
  2. Compare texts of short and long versions of 1 Samuel 17.

References

Citations

  1. Nelson 2000, p. 519.
  2. Campbell & O'Brien 2000, p. 2 and fn6.
  3. Person 2010, p. 10–11.
  4. "1 Samuel 17, notes", RNAB
  5. Campbell & O'Brien 2000, p. 259-269 fn58.
  6. Johnson 2015, p. 10-11.
  7. Ehrlich, C. S. (1992). "Goliath (Person)". In D. N. Freedman (ed.), The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary (Vol. 2, p. 1073). New York: Doubleday
  8. 8.0 8.1 Hays, J. Daniel (December 2005). "Reconsidering the Height of Goliath" (PDF). Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society. 48 (4): 701–2.
  9. Driesbach 2016, p. 73.
  10. Halpern 2003, p. 8.
  11. Halpern 2003, pp. 7–10.
  12. Azzan Yadin (2004). "Goliath's Armor and the Israelite Collective Memory" (PDF). Vetus Testamentum. LIV (3): 373–95.
    – See also Israel Finkelstein. "The Philistines in the Bible: A Late Monarchic Perspective". Journal for the Study of the Old Testament. 27 (131): 67.
    – For a brief online overview, see Christopher Heard (28 April 2006). "Yadin on "David and Goliath" in VT 54 (2004)". Higgaion. Archived from the original on 13 October 2007.CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  13. Israel Finkelstein; Neil Asher Silberman (3 April 2007). David and Solomon: In Search of the Bible's Sacred Kings and the Roots of the Western Tradition. Simon and Schuster. pp. 198–. ISBN 978-0-7432-4363-6.
  14. Homer, Iliad Book 7 ll.132–160.
  15. West 1997, pp. 370, 376.
  16. Tell es-Safi/Gath weblog and Bar-Ilan University; For the editio princeps and an in-depth discussion of the inscription, see now: Maeir, A.M., Wimmer, S.J., Zukerman, A., and Demsky, A. (2008 (in press)). "An Iron Age I/IIA Archaic Alphabetic Inscription from Tell es-Safi/Gath: Paleography, Dating, and Historical-Cultural Significance". Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research.
  17. Vernet Pons, M. (2012). "The etymology of Goliath in the light of Carian Wljat/Wliat: a new proposal". Kadmos, 51, 143–164.
  18. "Tall tale of a Philistine: researchers unearth a Goliath cereal bowl". The Sydney Morning Herald. Reuters. 15 November 2005.
  19. Jerusalem Talmud Yebamoth, 24b.
  20. For a brief overview of Talmudic traditions on Goliath, see Jewish Encyclopedia, "Goliath".
  21. Charlesworth, James H. 1983. The Old Testament pseudepigrapha vol 2. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday. ISBN 0-385-18813-7 p. 374.

Bibliography

External links