David and Goliath

David and Goliath
by Guido Reni (1607)
Wikimedia Commons

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.

Claude Mariottini
Emeritus Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

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This entry was posted in 1 Chronicles, 2 Samuel, Archaeology, Book of 1 Chronicles, Book of 1 Samuel, David, Goliath, Translating, Translation Problems and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to David and Goliath

  1. Anonymous says:

    >Dr. Mariottini:This is very interesting topic. Currently, in mens class at the Freedom Baptist Church, We are spending weeks studying the life of David. You mention in your article that Goliath might serve as a name the Army of Navy because the Bible mentioned two different people killed Goliath. The name Goliath raises many questions. Did you do any study on the name Goliath and the person(s)Goliath? I am very interested in doing a study on Goliath. This would be good teaching notes and complete understand of the Text in 2 Samuel. ThanksDu Warren Gibson, deedubg@yahoo.com708-372-7762


  2. >Dwayne,Thank you for visiting my web page. I have not done any study on Goliath but there are several books and articles written on the subject. If I can help you, let me know.Claude Mariottini


  3. Pingback: Who Killed Goliath? – Part 3 | Claude Mariottini - Professor of Old Testament

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