How David Killed Goliath: Are You Sure?
One of the most popular biblical subjects for artists is the story of David and Goliath. In fact, many paintings (or drawings) focus in on the moment of how David killed Goliath. These renderings of this popular event either zoom in on the moment that David slings the stone in Goliath’s direction, or the moment when David stands over Goliath to remove his head. While we have to allow art to be art and recognize that not every artist is going for a literal representation of the actual story, I am often struck by how many artistic renderings get the basic facts wrong. Based on your recollection of the David and Goliath story, can you tell what is wrong with the paintings on the right?
I would argue that these paintings get at least 3 things wrong. First, they either portray Goliath carrying his own shield and omit his armor-bearer (picture 1) who is said to be carrying his shield (1 Sam. 17:41) or they show no shield and armor-bearer at all (picture 2). Second, they show Goliath falling backwards, when the biblical narrator tells us that Goliath fell face down (1 Sam. 17:49). It’s actually surprising how many pictures show Goliath falling backwards when the story clearly says he fell face down! (Check it out on google.) I’ll talk more about this in a moment. Third, and here is where I expect to lose you…the pictures show Goliath being hit in the forehead instead of where David’s stone probably hit him. At this point you’re probably doing one of three things: You are either rereading my last statement to make sure you read it correctly; scrambling for your Bible to look up the verse that says Goliath was struck in the forehead (I’ll save you the trouble, it’s 1 Sam. 17:49–in fact, it says it twice!); or simply thinking that I’m crazy because you KNOW that the Bible says he was struck in the FOREHEAD. My real interest here is not simply to be controversial or to pose as an art critic, for which I am ill qualified, but to use these artistic renderings as a way of raising the important question of how David killed Goliath. Everyone who’s heard this story thinks they know. It’s quite simple right? David’s stone hit Goliath in the forehead which knocked him unconscious. David proceeded to hurry over and finish the task by cutting off Goliath’s head with his own sword (we know the stone didn’t kill him because 1 Sam. 17:51 says David killed Goliath by cutting off his head).
Although this most popular of Bible stories is always told this way, and even reads this way in our English translations, I want to introduce you to a position advocated by several biblical scholars that diverts from the norm. My interest in doing this is not simply to put forward some wild theory by a few “eccentric” scholars, but because I think this version of how David killed Goliath more accurately reflects the original text, and has a very significant theological point to make. So, if I haven’t lost you yet, please read the following arguments and then judge for yourself how you think David killed Goliath.
A Description of Goliath and His Armor ( 1 Sam. 17:4-7)
The story of David and Goliath begins in a somewhat unusual way. The biblical narrator spends a great deal of time describing Goliath’s appearance. This is rare in biblical narrative. Just think about it. How many indepth descriptions do we have of Abraham, David, Hannah, Mary, Jesus, or Paul (to name only a few)? In spite of the fact that Goliath only appears in one chapter in 1&2 Samuel, 4 verses are dedicated to describing his appearance. One reason for this is to impress the reader with how intimidating Goliath looked. This description helps us to understand why Saul and the rest of the Israelite army responded in fear (1 Sam. 17:11). Besides Goliath’s height (9’9″ according to the Hebrew text; 6’9″ according to the Septuagint), the writer describes 3 pieces of his armor. Goliath wore a helmet of bronze, a coat of mail weighing 126 pounds (57.15 kg.), and bronze greaves on his legs. Two of the weapons he carried are also mentioned. These weapons included a bronze javelin (some would say that “scimitar” is a better translation), and a large spear with a shaft the size of a “weaver’s beam,” that included an iron tipped head weighing 15.1 pounds (6.85 kg.)!
Although Goliath’s height is impressive, as is the weight of his armor and spear tip, most people read over these verses and don’t think much more about them. However, the list of Goliath’s armor and weaponry plays a very significant part in the story that follows. In fact, 4 of the 5 items in 1 Samuel 17:5-7 are mentioned later and shown to be ineffective. For example, once Saul agreed to allow David to fight Goliath, we are told that he clothed him in his armor and gave him a bronze helmet (1 Sam. 17:38). These are the same items found in the description of Goliath’s armor (same Hebrew words). David rejected the armor and helmet because “he was not used to them” (NIV–1 Sam. 17:39). David’s rejection of Saul’s armor is significant for a number of reasons. First, it suggests that Saul, like Goliath, trusts in his weaponry and armor rather than in the Lord. Second, the brief glimpse of David in the king’s armor prefigures his royal destiny. Third, David’s rejection of Saul’s armor is evidence that his trust lies elsewhere. As far as the spear and javelin (scimitar) go, David also dismisses these items of Goliath’s arsenal as inconsequential (1 Sam. 17:45-47).
In a very insightful study entitled: “A Farewell to Arms: Goliath’s Death as Rhetoric Against Faith in Arms (Bulletin for Biblical Research 23.1 (2013) 43-55), Gregory T. K. Wong points out that since 4 of the 5 items mentioned as part of Goliath’s arms are mentioned later in the story, one would expect that the fifth item might also be mentioned. The fifth item are the greaves (leg protectors). Can we find a passage in 1 Samuel 17 that also demonstrates the ineffectiveness of the greaves? Many years ago the daugther of an American Rabbi named Ariella Deem wrote an article entitled: “… And the Stone Sank into His Forehead”: A Note on 1 SAMUEL XVII 49 (Vetus testamentum, 28 no 3 Jl 1978, p 349-351). In this article Deem argues that the Hebrew word for “greaves” in 1 Samuel 17:6 is the same as the word for “forehead” in 1 Samuel 17:49. I can confirm that, except for a feminine ending in 1 Samuel 17:6, the words do look identical. This interpretation, then, suggests that David’s stone did not hit Goliath in the forehead, but in the greave, or knee area!
While some would argue that the word (greave) in verse 6 comes from a different Hebrew root that doesn’t occur anywhere else in the Old Testament, there are a number of reasons why Deem’s argument is persuasive. First, as she points out, the story specifically states that Goliath wore a bronze helmet. We have pictures from antiquity of what Philistine helmets looked like and they cover the forehead (see the photo to the right). Some would argue that since the story says Goliath wore a bronze helmet that this would have been different from the typical Philistine headgear. Since the Philistines were a Greek people, it’s possible that Goliath’s helmet had a construction similar to that worn by ancient Greek peoples. If you google “greek helmets” as I have, you will be even more impressed with the protection offered to the wearer of one of these! Most of them, not only cover the forehead, but the nose as well. While a stone to this area might still knock a warrior unconscious, I don’t see anyway that the stone could become embedded in the forehead as v. 49 states. Second, recalling our pictures above, why is Goliath frequently shown falling backwards in artistic renditions of this story? It’s quite simple: if you got hit in the forehead with a stone travelling with great velocity, which direction would you fall? There are various estimates at the speed a stone will travel when released from a sling. Googling articles on using a sling suggested anywhere from 60 mph (97 km/h) to 100 mph (160 km.h) for the speed of a stone (click here for one example). If we take the low estimate one would still expect that being hit in the forehead by a stone at 60 mph would send a person reeling backwards. It’s difficult to believe they would fall “face down” as the biblical text states (v. 49). This observation has caused scholar J. P. Fokkelman to write, “We have all been brought up on the idea that Goliath was hit in the forehead. This, however, is unlikely. In the first place it is strange that he does not collapse, or fall backwards as a result of the impact of the projectile” (Fokkelman, Reading Biblical Narrative, p. 32). Fokkelman continues by citing his agreement with Deem’s article.
But how can a “greave” be a “forehead”? Deem argues that the ancient Israelites had no word for “greave.” She reasons that since the curved shape of a greave had a similar shape to the helmet, that the Israelites simply adopted the word used for forehead. Fokkelman argues that “This Hebrew word means ‘front’ and thus is less specific than ‘forehead'” (p. 32). The point is that the biblical author carefully chose each word to describe Goliath’s armor and weapons, in order to demonstrate the ineffectiveness of each later in the story. What was perceived to be Goliath’s greatest strengths turned out to be his greatest weaknesses. The very armor that should have protected him, made him vulnerable! This contributes to the theological theme of the story so eloquently expressed by David when he states, “Then all this assembly shall know that the Lord does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s, and He will give you into our hands” (NKJV–1 Sam. 17:47).
How David Killed Goliath
So how exactly did David kill Goliath? As Goliath approached wearing his heavy armor, David recognized a vulnerable place in the big man’s attire. Greaves must leave a space for the knee to bend in order for the wearer to walk. David carefully aimed his stone at the knee of Goliath. Here is the rest of what happened in Deem’s own words: “Thus the stone would hit the upper shin or knee and fall into the space which must be left to allow the knee to bend and enable the warrior to walk. It is exactly at this vulnerable space that David deliberately aims, thereby causing the stone to ‘sink’ into the greave, that is between the greave and the knee, so that the Philistine—who at the moment is awkwardly making his way towards David—will stumble forward and fall, ‘on his face'” (p. 350). While some scholars do not think that hitting Goliath in the knee would incapacitate him, I must disagree for two reasons. First, consider the weight of Goliath’s armor. Once on the ground, it would be very difficult to get back up with 126 pounds of armor weighing you down. Second, and most important, imagine a stone flying at your knee at 60 mph and embedding itself in your knee. I don’t think anyone is going anywhere if that happens! Goliath would be totally helpless, as the biblical narrative depicts him to be. This allows David the time to come over, pick up Goliath’s sword and cut his head off.
There is one more piece of evidence that further backs this interpretation. Deem’s and Wong have both written about an incident recorded in the ancient Jewish writing “The Testament of Judah.” The Testament of Judah is part of a book called “Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs,” and is among what is known as the Pseudepigraphal writings (see link for definition). In this (fictional) story, Judah the son of Jacob kills a heavily armored Canaanite king by striking him in the greave (chopping off his feet is another translation). The point, as Wong shows (“Goliath’s Death and the Testament of Judah,” Biblica, 91 no 3 2010, p 425-432), is that this story has many similarities and clearly alludes to David’s killing of Goliath. Therefore, this suggests that there was an ancient Jewish tradition that David had struck Goliath in the greave. If this is so, it is further evidence that David killed Goliath by striking him in the knee with a stone and finished the job by cutting off his head. (click here for Goliath’s Death Part 2)
Note: Unfortunately, I was unable to find a copy of Deem’s or Wong’s articles available on the internet. Anyone who has access to professional journals through a library can look these articles up.
51 thoughts on “How David Killed Goliath: Are You Sure?”
Excellent article, Randy. Tash and I both loved this one (she read it first and wanted to talk about it all). We had an interesting discussion! We were both completely ignorant of most of those details you pointed out. Funny how you can subconsciously remember details you picked up from drawings/paintings that aren’t actually in the text!
I find this “greaves” idea very compelling. A thought:
Some scholars (Dempster, Gentry) argue that the stone in Daniel 2 should be seen as Davidic and therefore messianic (the Son of Man in Dan 7 helps their case). The imposing statue that oppresses God’s people, like Goliath, is brought down with a small Davidic stone. If Goliath was indeed hit in the legs and not the head, this may increase the chance of a conceptual link between the two texts since the stone hits the feet of the statue.
I’d love to hear your thoughts. I’d also love to chat about why the LXX would have a different height for Goliath!
Great article, Professor Randy. The thought/prospect of David hitting Goliath in the “knee” vs. the “head” is not merely provocative for the purpose of further study/discussion, it also adds an irony to the story that I had never considered before: that David (quite possibly) brought down all 9′ 9″ of the hulking Goliath, not with a divinely guided stone to the head, but with one to the knee cap — which may have been level with David’s sight line.
Several years ago I had the opportunity to speak at an NBA pre-game chapel between the Washington Bullets and Cleveland Cavaliers. In those days, 7′ 7″ Manute Bol played for the Bullets. I stood next to him during pre-game warm-ups and I came up to just above his waist. (for perspective, “google” a photo of Manute Bol standing next to his teammate Mugsy Bogues) Anyway… although I never gave it much thought before this, after reading your post I have no trouble imagining young David standing “eye-to-knee cap” with Goliath.
Either way, Goliath was a “dead man” from the moment David made his declaration to King Saul, “Your servant has struck down both a lion and a bear, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God!” (1Samuel 17:36, esv)
Very true observation Jimmy, about the difference in height. Yes, the knee may have been a much easier target for David than the head! You’ll have to tell me more about your NBA experience that day. It sounds like a wonderful opportunity. God bless!
Or the irony – Every knee shall bow
Thanks Lindsay. Glad it stimulated some conversation for you both.
The stone in Daniel 2 and 7 hitting the feet, along with the messianic implications is very provocative! I had never thought of that connection. It is certainly food for thought. Thank you!
This is a really cool blog. I love the way you bring fresh insight to familiar Old Testament texts.
I looked up the Hebrew word “metsakh” and its uses in the Bible and found the following ten references:
Exodus 28:38 — about where to place the golden plate the high priest wears on his turban
1Samuel 17:49 — referring to Goliath being hit by David with a stone
2Chronicles 26:19, 20 (2 times) — about when King Uzziah entered the temple and leprosy broke out on his “forehead”
Isaiah 48:4 — God said Israel’s neck is an iron sinew and his “forehead” brass
Jeremiah 3:3 — God says Judah has the “forehead” of a whore and refuses to be ashamed
Ezekiel 3:7-9 (3 times) — God says He is sending Ezekiel to Israel, who has a “forehead” harder than flint and He made Ezekiel’s “forehead” just as hard
Ezekiel 9:4 — God tells the angel to mark on the “foreheads” all the people who groan over the evil in Jerusalem
After going over these verses, trying to see if “knee” would fit, I’m leaning toward “forehead” as the better translation. I guess if Goliath really did wear 126 pounds of armor, and of course, his own body weight would have been a lot more than that, it would take a lot more than a 60 mph projectile to reverse his momentum as he lumbered forward to attack. If his helmet fit poorly, or if David aimed for his eyes, being so much shorter, the stone would have angled up under the helmet to embed itself in the forehead under the edge. It could still stun him and make him fall over — forward.
Keep up the awesome work, Randy!
Thanks so much for your comments and research Suzanne. I appreciate your opinion and your diligence in checking out other occurences of the Hebrew word.
Not convinced; much less not convinced enough to say that the forehead interpretation is wrong (as your third point regarding common depictions does).
First, the LXX translators used two different terms for greaves and forehead. While the LXX was translated many years after the events that took place, it lends more credence for Jewish understanding of the story than the psuedepigraphal Testament of Judah.
Second, your analysis of Goliath falling back is wrong. From the text, Goliath and David were both advancing toward the battle line (v 48). Despite what Hollywood would have us believe, someone struck down by a projectile (e.g. a bullet, or in this case the stone from the sling) will generally fall in the direction of their momentum, not be blown backwards by it.
Third, the helmet covering the forehead doesn’t take away credence from the idea that the stone struck the forehead, but rather lends more credence ( I believe) to the stone sinking (being embedded) into his forehead. it seems to me, a stone from a sling would much more likely embed in a brass helmet without dealing a lethal blow (as you point out the lethal blow was David cutting off his head) than a direct impact with the forehead. Of course a lot of this is speculation without ay of the ballistics info.
Fourth, from a typological perspective, while the stone from Daniel is likely in view (the smooth stone David picked up) it makes much more sense that David (a type of Christ) would crush the head of Goliath (a satan/antichrist type), referencing Gen 3:15.
Thanks for your comments Al. I appreciate the info on the LXX, I hadn’t checked that out. I still think there’s something to be said for the Hebrew word in 17:6 either being the same word, or closely resembling the word of v. 49. If you find Wong’s article it’s worth a read, in terms of demonstrating how the later context shows the weakness of each piece mentioned in vv. 5-7. Whatever the actual facts are we will probably never know for sure, but it’s interesting to talk about the meaning of the text and to have good discussion back and forth. Ultimately, no theology is affected. God bless.
I enjoyed this article, and it was an interesting thought that David hit Goliath in the knee instead of the forehead.
That may be true – I do know some words get mistranslated and then accepted as time goes forward; there is one thing I do know, thought- while David picked up the 5 stones, and slung one at Goliath, the power of God was behind that stone and it went exactly where God wanted it to go.
My own opinion (and I understand what that is worth) was that because soldiers sometimes stood at an angle towards the battlefield (strongest arm to the rear to throw a spear or thrust a sword), his left temple would have been towards David. As another commenter said, if the helmet didn’t fit exactly right, or because of the angle, it could have hit Goliath in the temple- that’s also a pretty good place to hit someone if you want to knock them down.
Then, of course, David finished him off by cutting off his head.
Thanks for the article – I always love to be challenged in what I believe to be true- if I can’t have faith in God when my opinions and theology get questioned, I’m not much of a Christian.
Thanks for your thoughts Beth. God bless!
Just a note:
Where are you seeing that Goliath was killed by having his head cut off?,.. Different translations seem to say that he was killed,.. THEN had his head cut off.
Am I missing something here?
“Therefore David ran, and stood upon the Philistine, and took his sword, and drew it out of the sheath thereof, and slew him, and cut off his head therewith. And when the Philistines saw their champion was dead, they fled.”
1 Samuel 17:51 KJV
NIV (nearly inspired version)
“David ran and stood over him. He took hold of the Philistine’s sword and drew it from the sheath. After he killed him, he cut off his head with the sword. When the Philistines saw that their hero was dead, they turned and ran.”
1 Samuel 17:51 NIV
“Then Dawiḏ ran and stood over the Philistine, and took his sword and drew it out of its sheath and killed him, and cut off his head with it. And when the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled.”
I Samuel 17:51 ISR98
Thanks for reading the article and thanks for your thoughtful question. I will attempt to answer your question by approaching it in several ways.
1. Hebrew narrative frequently summarizes an event and then proceeds to add further details. This is what I believe is happening here. The writer wants to make the important point that “David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone” (v.50). In this context he mentions that David killed Goliath and that there was no sword in his hand. However, v. 51 seems to provide greater detail by noting that (although David had no sword) he drew Goliath’s sword out of its sheath and killed him with it. In the English translations you quote, notice that the KJV and the ISR98 can both be interpreted this way. Only the NIV reads “after he had killed him, he cut off his head,” which is probably the translator’s attempt to harmonize v. 51 with v. 50.
An example of Hebrew narrative giving a summary and then providing more details can be found in 2 Samuel 2:17-32. Notice that 2:17 provides the summary and this is followed up by a longer account of a certain portion of the battle. Hebrew narrative is also famous for giving certain facts, but later on revealing that there is “more to the story.” So, for example, in 2 Samuel 9 David is looking for a surviving descendant of the house of Saul and Mephibosheth is brought to his attention. It seems like this is the only survivor of Saul’s house, but later on we read that he had other sons and grandsons who were delivered over to the Gibeonites for judgment (2 Sam. 21:5-9). Another example is when Saul is commanded to destroy all the Amalekites (1 Sam. 15). It looks like he kills them all except King Agag, who is later killed by Samuel (1 Sam. 15:33). This would seem to do away with all Amalekites, but in 1 Samuel 27:8 and 1 Samuel 30, we learn there are many more! The writer does this to surprise the reader. In this case we learn that Saul’s disobedience was even greater than we realized.
2. Scholar J.P. Fokkelman points out that vv. 50-51 contain a chiastic structure. A chiasm is a “mirror image” and repeats what is previously said, usually confirming, contrasting, or adding to in the second half of the chiasm. Here is the chiasm of these verses according to Fokkelman:
A David bested the Philistine with sling and stone
B He struck the Philistine down and killed him
C but David had no sword
X David ran to the Philistine and stood over him
C’ He grasped his sword and drew it from its scabbard
B’ He dispatched him and cut off his head
A’ The Philistines saw that their hero was dead and ran.
What the chiasm helps to make clear is that B and B’ are parallels with B’ adding additional information about how David finished off Goliath. Fokkelman notes that the same Hebrew word is used in v. 50 and 51 to describe David’s killing of Goliath. In the chiasm, this word is found in B and B’ further demonstrating the parallel.
3. One final observation. This comes from Ronald Youngblood’s commentary on 1&2 Samuel in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary (revised edition, p. 185).
Youngblood states, “The Hebrew of vv. 50-51 is ambiguous (probably unintentionally) concerning whether David killed Goliath with a sling stone or with Goliath’s own sword. Boogaart’s analysis…seems best: Verse 50 is the narrator’s personal comment, stating that David ‘killed’ Goliath (eventually) and anticipating ‘the death of Goliath which is not recorded until verse 51.’ That is, David did not kill Goliath with an Israelite sword (v. 50); irony of ironies, he did it with Goliath’s own sword…Baldwin, 128, summarizes: ‘The stone had stunned the giant, and now the sword must kill him.'”
It is for these reasons that I believe the stone only incapacitated Goliath and David finished off the job with Goliath’s own sword. Whether Goliath was hit in the knee (as I argue) or the forehead, he wasn’t dead until David used his own sword against him. I hope this is helpful, for at least understanding my reading of the text.
I think what you’re saying is how it reads in Genesis about Adam & Eve. Chapter 1 tells of their creation & then in Chapter 2, it goes into more detail about how they were created. It got more personal in Chapter 2. Is that what you’re trying to say?
Yes Tammy, that’s what I’m saying. Thanks for all your comments.
Here is the problem.
Goliath was killed twice. At two different times. Once with a stone. Once with a sword.
1Sa 17:50 And so, without a sword, David defeated and killed Goliath with a sling and a stone!
1Sa 17:51 He ran to him, stood over him, took Goliath’s sword out of its sheath, and cut off his head and killed him. When the Philistines saw that their hero was dead, they ran away.
This is undoubtedly a questionable passage. We have to delve into the Hebrew to understand the shades of meaning. We can do this over and over with questionable passages, hoping to arrive at a reasonable answer.
What happens when we have unquestionable passages? Are we willing to delve into the Hebrew (or Greek) for these passages to understand what they really mean?
Of course not.
So, do we (normal Christians) really understand what the Bible means? Probably not.
I recently read that in the admonition against Jews eating pigs (pork), the Hebrew really said that they should not eat LIKE pigs , with a reference to their prayer life.
Hi Jeff thanks for your comment. Regarding the text saying Goliath was killed twice, another commenter asked this question and I went into detail to provide an answer. I would suggest reading my comment if you haven’t.
I would agree with you that looking at the original Hebrew or Greek can be extremely helpful and if we don’t know the languages ourselves, it is wise to check out commentaries by experts who do know the languages. However, I would encourage you to be less pessimistic regarding understanding the Bible when you state, “So, do we (normal Christians) really understand what the Bible means? Probably not.” English translations do a good job of communicating the truths of Scripture, yet there are times when knowing the Hebrew and Greek can correct a false impression we have or deepen our understanding of a given passage.
As far as the “like pigs” interpretation, I am unfamiliar with this. However, it is clear, not only in Scripture that pork is an unclean food, but archaeology confirms over and over again that ancient Israelites did not consume pork. In sites that are known to be ancient Israelite, archaeologists find various kinds of animal bones, but consistently they report that no pig bones are among the remains.
Thanks again for your comments and for reading this article. God bless!
NKJV So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone, and struck the Philistine and KILLED HIM. But there was no sword in the hand of David. Therefore David ran and stood over the Philistine, took his sword and drew it out of its sheath and KILLED HIM, and cut off his head with it.
I have an issue with overkill. I believe he wasn’t dead until removing the head. That’s a personal opinion though & I know those don’t mean squat.
I really like it how David thought outside the square. Saul and Abner and all the Israelite soldiers only thought of fighting Goliath in hand to hand combat. Even Goliath himself thought David was going to fight him in hand to hand combat because it says that Goliath said to David “Do you think that I am a dog that you come at me with a stick?”
Because David was a shepherd and not a soldier, he had a different experience of dealing with enemies. His enemies were lions and bears stealing the sheep from his fold. David must have used the same method. He knocked them unconscious with stone from a sling and then went to get the sheep out of their mouth but if they woke up he grabbed them by the hair and fatally struck them with his staff. He had done that often enough to give him that amazing confidence that he had because he didn’t have a shred of doubt that he would kill Goliath.
If David struck Goliath on the leg, even assuming a broken bone, the Phillistine is by no means out of the fight. It stretches credibility that an elite warrior of any era would lay there meekly with a damaged leg while his opponent takes his weapon and kills him with it. I would suggest the text strongly suggests and common sense would require that Goliath was either unconscious or completely incapacitated when he hit the ground. No leg shot accomplishes this.
Thanks for your thoughts. It may well be that Goliath was struck in the forehead. This article merely seeks to suggest another possibility based on the Hebrew. I would have to disagree however that a shot to the leg would not incapacitate a warrior. The text says the stone was buried into whatever body part was struck. If you’ve ever seen a football player being carted off the field with a knee injury, you know how devastating such an injury can be. Add to that the fact that Goliath was wearing 120 lbs of armor. His chances of being able to get off the ground would be impossible in my estimation.
is it possible Goliath got struck in his testicles? i could see that knocking him down more effectively than a head shot.
We’d like to think of that as a possibility Shane. It would serve him right! However, the Hebrew word is the word for “forehead” but it is written like the word for greaves and thus is a wordplay perhaps suggesting Goliath got hit in the knee. The Hebrew word for “testicles” is a completely different word. Sometimes Hebrew uses the word “feet” as a euphemism to refer to the male genitals, but once again, that is not the word here.
I know in boxing, especially with heavyweights, a quick sharp head blow can knock a person completely unconscious, and that person can still fall forward on to his face. It has to do with placement of the blow and body weight. I believe the narrative, in that Goliath was struck in the front of the head, with a stone, and fell forward. I’m not sure how a knee blow can incapacitate a vicious warrior like Goliath. Seems unprecedented given his staus. How would David remove his sword with him still conscious? If there was a struggle it seems like the narrative would indicate so. But it doesn’t. In fact David cutting off Goliath’s head appears almost an afterthought. It is very consistent with him having already been unconscious.
Some good observations Paul. In regards to a knee incapacitating a person, rather than repeat my response here please see my response to a similar comment in this section. Thanks for reading and responding!
Very interesting and thought provoking.
I do find it very believable that Goliath would have been totally incapacitated by a 60 to 100 mph stone embedded in his knee, plus well over 100 lb of body armor. And even more so if he was suffering from acromegaly and it was impacting his agility.
Thank you Bob!
Good point on the knee, being an ex-street fighter when I was younger the best way to take out a huge man is to break his knee sideways, its very effective from ex logger w lotsa past experience fighting… So makes sense (THANK God I’m a pastor now & no more physical fighting!!! 😀➕➕➕👍)
Praise the Lord for how He changes us! Thanks for your comment Jpete. God bless!
Appreciate your research on this topic. In reality, it is not easy to aim with a slingshot. I believe it was God’s hand that directed the stone towards his forehead. Also, as impossible as it sounds, if a smooth round stone, travelling at 60mph, can penetrate a man’s skull, it was very well do it through a helmet too. That I believe is the supernatural strength of the God of the armies of Israel. I love your argument but I felt the greatness of God was left out in this whole discussion. You sound logically very right. I’m sorry I’m not insulting you. If u can read 1 Samuel 5: 1-5, you will see that the statue of dragon fell face down before the ark of the covenant. That is what will happen to anyone who defies the God of Israel. Praise Jesus!
Thanks for your comments Merl.
Likely the patella would shatter. Happened to my mom. She said it hurts worse than childbirth. I like this theory.
Sorry to hear that about your mom. Thanks for your comment!
Thanks for the insights, Randy.
I can imagine how much damage a carefully aimed sling stone traveling at 100mph would inflict to a knee (never mind one that is guided by the Lord!). Who knows, maybe the stone might have ruptured a ligament or two? I haven’t torn any knee ligaments myself, but I’ve heard that a rupture of the anterior cruciate ligament produces excruciating pain, rendering the victim completely incapacitated as he writhes in agony.
The LXX actually translates this quite lose and adds through the helmet to Goliath being struck in the frontal. I believe this translation early on lead others to translate this forehead as the LXX was so influential in almost all translations of the OT then and now. So that may explain why no one ever translated this as frontal or greave until modern times. The big issue is a defective spelling of the word Frontal and if you look closer at the grammatical issues you will see the problems. David drops Goliath on his face to prostrate him before YHWH. Look at the parallels with the Dagon statue falling before the Ark and loosing its head. This story is a great lesson in Context. The height of Goliath, the nature of the Battle as a Champion Ordeal, etc.. There is a lot here to talk about.
Thanks for your insights into the LXX rendering. Yes, as you mention, there is lots of interesting material here to discuss. I am planning an upcoming article on a recent interpretation of the ostracon found at Khirbet Qeiyafa that suggests it references David’s defeat of Goliath. Yet another potentially intriguing piece of information related to this fascinating story!
I think your note is nothing short of blasphemous. I think the translators of the Bible can discern the difference between the forehead and the shin of a person. To assume that you somehow think you’ve found some interpretive discrepancy leading you to convince others that David was aiming at the leg and not the forehead of Goliath is to commit the sin of subtracting from and adding to or twisting God’s word, sins which Christ very specifically spoke against in Revelation. By putting this garbage on the net, you have now led dozens if not more astray, again, committing another sin Christ spoke against in the Book of Matthew when he rebuked the Pharisees.
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.”
“I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.”
As a Christian and a person who takes upon himself the yoke of instructor, you have a responsibility to God and to the world to teach properly, to not interject your own theories and opinions as truth, to lead people to the light of Christ who embodies Truth itself, and to not lead the masses astray with said theories and opinions. If there is a modern-day Goliath to be defeated, it is that of false teaching and apostate teachers who would attempt to cast doubt on the inerrancy of the Word of God and therefore on God Himself. Reading the comments of those who responded to your drivel, I am saddened and angered by what has happened. You have led many astray, or at least planted the seeds of doubt in many weaker-minded Christians as to the Truth of Scripture, and at the end of days this is a sin for which God must and will hold you accountable.
Thinking about a stone going 60-100mph at a knee. I think its probably seriously broken at that point. Then man is already heavy and with armor even heavier . that knee would have caved like would snaping.
This is a very interesting and thought provoking article. I don’t know if we can ever find out for sure on this side of heaven what really happened, but that’s an interesting theory. The only problem I have with it is your description of his armor weighing him down.
Hollywood and such media has given the modern age a very inaccurate view of armor and how it functioned. Ancient and medieval armor was much easier to move around in than people think. The weight doesn’t have much to do with it as the distribution of that weight does. A soldier from the 16th century, when armor was at its peak and heaviest, could fall off a horse fully armored and spring to his feet in the next step ready to fight. Armor in ancient times that was lighter and less cumbersome would allow even more agility. Modern soldiers in the U.S. military carry more weight on their backs in a ruck sack than a complete set of armor weighed from the 16th century.
The fact is that armor was created to help and protect the wearer in any way possible and not to hinder or to slow them down. A slow warrior is a dead warrior. If there was any defect in a piece of armors ability to protect, it was quickly remidied. Soldiers had to have maneuverability and speed when fighting, and they could not afford to let anything slow them down. They were quick on the battlefield and quick to get up when they fell down.
In response to how heavy the armor weighed, remember that Goliath weighed much more. Another thing is that the weight isn’t even that much. For simply “chain” maille it is on the heavy side. However, modern soldiers regularly carry 200+ pounds on their backs through the toughest terrain.
Thanks for your input Bryan. I appreciate it! The only thing I would add is that if the stone was buried in his knee, he wouldn’t be getting up quickly anyway and the weight of the armor, however much it might have been, wouldn’t have helped.
I came to the same conclusion for a paper I did for Herb Wolf at Wheaton Grad School in 1985. However, he did not agree, though he like the paper enough to give a an “A” on the paper. Interesting.
Thanks for the comment Howard. We must be close in age. I finished graduate school at ACU in 1985. 🙂
i find your article to be sound. inspite of the helmet nose piece, i think david was aiming for goliaths eyes as any impact to that area would cause temporary blindness, which buys enuff time to move in and finish the assault with a hand weapon. the stone sunk into goliaths eye and socket
Sooo many opinions hehe. My own is that Goliath, arrogant, over confident and bored, got up, not even bothering with a helmet. David seen this, and at speed, grasped the opportunity and the rest is history😁
The description of Goliath’s armor would lead one to believe that this was the way he was attired each time he went out to challenge Israel. There’s nothing in the text about him forgetting any piece of equipment. Thanks for your comment.
When mentioning the nose piece on this helmet (correct me if I’m wrong) you seem to think that it would have been impossible for the stone to have penetrated this thin slice of brass metal, which I would argue that if David’s puny arm were the only thing at work in the hurling of the rock, this might stand true. However, David’s limited strength was not the only force at work here. The Lord was not only strengthening David, but guiding the stone to its target. If Goliath had been standing behind 3-inch steel plate… an omnipotent God could have penetrated that plate with a feather and killed Goliath.
As I understand it (based on scholarly research- not my own…) the stone penetrated at the exact spot between his eyes, where we find the nasal bone. If the stone struck with enough force it most likely would have driven both the stone and the nasal bone into the brain, doing additional damage, and in this case killing him instantly. I believe that the men who recorded the battle between the Israelites and the Philistines weren’t inventing a story to wow the reader, but telling the events as they actually happened. If they say that that the stone penetrated his thick skull and he fell on the face dead, I believe them. I don’t need to look for logical reasons why it happened some other way, I have faith in the Lord omnipotent and that’s enough (though I’m open to logic and science because I believe God is the ultimate scientist— how else could He be the Creator of all things if He didn’t understand how natural laws work?).
Thank you so much for taking the time to respond and share your thoughts. I would suggest that the inspired authors of Scripture never share history for history’s sake. The stories they tell fit the overall theology that God wanted to communicate. The Bible is a beautifully written book containing different layers and communicated with great art and skill. If nothing else, this approach allows us to see another possible way God may have used David to dispense with Goliath, and in the process we spend more time examining the story and seeing the artistic beauty of the narrative, along with the truth it conveys. In the end, if the stone sank into Goliath’s forehead as the traditional rendering suggests, I have no problem with that. We’ll find out one day. 🙂