35. David and Goliath

With God’s blessings though Saul had routed out the Philistines from the land of Canaan, they were certainly not going to sit back and resign to their defeat. They were searching for an opportunity to pick a fight with the Israelites and were also gathering forces for the purpose. Once they were done with assembling the requisite troop strength, they proceeded to attack the Israelite tribe of Judah. The Philistine forces camped atop a high hill between Socho and Azeca close to the land of Judah.

Saul got a whiff of the movement and hence deployed his forces on the hilltop opposite to where the Philistines had camped. The only thing that separated the two forces was a valley between the two hills. All of David’s brothers were a part of this Israelite army. 

This time the Philistines employed an out-of-the-box strategy. For some time, the two armies gauged one another’s strengths and then all of a sudden a humongous, giant warrior started to descend the hill slopes from the Philistines’ side. The giant was exceptionally tall; more than 8 feet and his entire body was shielded in an armour. Moreover, he was also armed with various weapons.

While Saul’s forces were still trying to figure out why he was advancing towards them, Goliath – the giant reached the foot of the hillock and staring at the Israelites in utter disdain and condescension  and challenging them saying, “May any one of your warriors come forward and fight me. Should he win, we accept to live as your slaves. But should he lose to me, you will have to do the same and live as our slaves.”

Even the sight of Goliath, be it from a distance, gave Saul’s warriors cold feet and so engaging in fight with him was totally out of the question.

So despite the fact that Goliath threw the same challenge at them twice every day, the Israelites could not muster the courage to accept it. Saul even went to the extent of offering to marry his daughter to the one who defeated Goliath and even exempt his family forever from tax payment. But in vain! No Israelite came forward to accept Goliath’s challenge. Goliath kept challenging them for forty tormenting days.

In the meantime, David visited the Israelite army camp to enquire about the well-being of all his brothers and to deliver them food supplies. And it so happened that at this very moment Goliath stepped out from his lines and shouted out his usual challenge.

David was a firm believer in God and hence not even an iota of fear gripped him. He decided to accept Goliath’s challenge. David’s brothers tried to dissuade him from doing it but in vain. David in fact put his foot down and his brothers arguments to rest. ‘How could anyone even challenge God’s army?’ he asserted.

He pleaded with Saul to let him go to fight David. But Saul was apprehensive about sending David, as yet very young, to engage in a fight with the giant that Goliath was. Trying to convince Saul, David said that it was, after all, the war of God, a mission that He had blessed in any case and so it was He who would get it executed from the Israelites. David added also that he too was but an instrument in God’s hands. In a bid to convince Saul, seek his permission and even validate his own decision, David narrated a couple of incidents that happened when he took his flocks to graze. On one occasion a bear and on the other a lion had attacked his flock for hunting lambs. David had then saved the lambs from their clutches and had in fact torn apart their jaws to kill them.

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David kills a lion

Finally Saul relented and gave permission for David to go. Saul asked David to wear his body and head armour and also carry along his sword. But David declined saying he did not need those things.

Instead of the things suggested by Saul, what David carried was just a sling and five medium-sized hard but smooth stones! Neither did he wear any type of armour nor was he armed with any other weapon. 

With his weapons – a sling and five smooth stones, David proceeded to accept Goliath’s challenge. As David stepped out from his lines and confidently walked in Goliath’s direction the soldiers on both the sides kept watching the incident in amazement. The Israelite soldiers missed a heartbeat with every step of David.

David’s confident advance had completely puzzled Goliath. But derision and contempt overwhelming him, he thought, ‘A mere young kid, not armed with any weapon like a sword or a spear, not wearing any type of armour is here to take me on and that too with just a sling! Does he take it to be some kind of a joke? What does he think of himself and of me? What exactly does he have in mind? Am I supposed to fight this kid?’ were questions that flooded Goliath’s mind as his scorn reached its peak. 

He tried to demoralize David and dampen his spirits by taunting and mocking at him. Goliath then tried to threaten him saying that he would feed David’s flesh to birds and wild beasts.

But these tactics had no effect on David, a firm believer in God. He continued his confident stride in Goliath’s direction by replying to him saying, ‘I am fighting for God in His war and He will certainly ensure my victory. You may fight with me using all your weapons like the sword and the spear. As for me, God’s name is what is adequate. And yet I will win, I will behead you and carry home your head. All your weapons are insignificant and infinitesimal in front of God and He, in any case fights with no inconsequential weapon.

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David swings the stone towards Goliath

Having lost his cool at David’s reply, Goliath began to ridicule the Israelite God. As Goliath went on with his abuse, David who till then had gradually advanced in Goliath’s direction, now suddenly ran towards him furiously readying his sling. Goliath too readily took his position with an eager intent to crush the Israelite youth. Both the armies watched on with bated breath.

As he ran towards Goliath, chanting God’s name, David mounted one of the five stones that he had carried with him on the sling. Swinging his sling with his full strength, he shot a stone in the Goliath’s direction. David’s aim was so accurate that his heavy, hard stone speedily hit Goliath on the forehead right between his eyes, i.e. on the spot that was bare and unprotected. The hit made Goliath see stars. He fell on the ground and died on the spot.

The very first stone had done it! David’s faith in God that He would grant him victory had indeed come true.

In the times that followed, various scholars drew a metaphorical meaning or essence so to say, from the story of ‘David and Goliath’. It became the story of ‘the triumph of good over evil’ or the ‘triumph of a leader of commoners with meagre resources, but appointed by God over an extremely powerful, evil enemy’. Later, the use of ‘David and Goliath’ turned into an idiom for all and signified the successful completion of a Herculean or a seemingly impossible task. (To be continued…)

– Shulamith Penkar-Nigrekar

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