The story of David and Goliath is well known. Children and adults are fascinated by the story of the young man David who defeated the famous giant Goliath by striking him down with a stone from his sling. The story of David and Goliath has been memorialized in books, songs, and movies.
According to the biblical record, Goliath was a giant from the Philistine city of Gath. In the confrontation between the armies of the Israelites and the Philistines, Goliath, “morning and evening for forty days” defied the forces of King Saul. Although no one dared to face the giant, Goliath was eventually killed by a shepherd boy named David who used his sling to bring down the Philistine.
The story of David’s defeat of Goliath has been called a legend. In their A History of Ancient Israel and Judah (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1986), J. Maxwell Miller and John H. Hayes wrote: “Folk themes, such as the lad killing the giant with a sling stone (1 Sam. 17) . . . remind us that we are dealing with largely legendary materials” (p. 153).
This view, however, is about to change if Aren Maeir’s discovery proves to be conclusive. Aren Maeir, head of the archaeology department at Bar-Ilan University near Tel Aviv is director of the dig of the mound widely believed to be the site of the ancient city of Gath, which, according to the Bible, was the place where Goliath lived.
During the excavation at the site, Maeir found a shard (a broken piece of pottery) containing an inscription in early Semitic style spelling with the name of Goliath. According to Maeir, this is “the first archaeological evidence suggesting the biblical story of David slaying the Philistine giant actually took place.” “This is a groundbreaking find. Here we have very nice evidence the name Goliath appearing in the Bible in the context of the story of David and Goliath is not some later literary creation.”
Many people today doubt the historicity of the biblical narratives. People believe that many of the biblical characters are legendary because there is no evidence that they existed. With the help of the work of archaeologists, we are discovering what we knew all along to be true: that the biblical stories are based on actual historical events.
NOTE: For other studies on David and Goliath, read my post Studies on David and Goliath.
Emeritus Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary
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