When we think of David and Goliath, we tend to picture David as a small, weak shepherd who grabbed the first weapon he could find and crossed his fingers. We imagine an inferior weapon, limited resources, and a great deal of luck — but that isn’t the real story. And if that isn’t the real story, then what lessons should we really be taking from the story of David and Goliath?
At the beginning of 1 Samuel 17, we find out that this battle is taking place in the Valley of Elah. The stones found in the Valley of Elah were not everyday rocks; they were made of barium sulfate, which means they were twice the density of normal stones.
Historically, armies had three different kinds of warriors: the cavalry, the infantry, and the artillery, which was comprised of archers and slingers. Paintings from medieval times show slingers hitting birds in mid-flight, and the Book of Judges describes slingers as being accurate within a “hair’s breadth.” They used the same sling that David had. It’s important to note that this is definitely not the child’s slingshot toy we often imagine.
We don’t tend to give David much credit when it comes to his strength. However, scripture makes David’s physical capabilities abundantly clear! When David initially tells King Saul that he wants to take on Goliath, Saul is incredulous, saying, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him, for you are but a youth, and he has been a man of war from his youth.” He doubts him because of his age and size.
In 1 Samuel 17:34-36, David responds: “When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it, and killed it. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear.” Chasing down a lion or bear would require extreme strength and courage even by someone covered in armor — and David did it with his bare hands!
Eitan Hirsch, a ballistics expert with the Israeli Defense Forces, recently completed a study where he discovered that a typical-size stone hurled by an expert slinger at a distance of 35 meters would have hit Goliath’s head at 34 or 35 meters per second. That’s equal to 76 mph! To compare, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster takes off at a speed of 57 mph.
The Sonic Boom
The History Channel conducted an experiment with Balearic Slinger Champion Luis Pons Livermore. He was asked to perform the shot and test the story’s probability. When he released the stone from the sling, there was so much power released from the sling that the snap actually broke the sound barrier. Imagine what this must have sounded like in the Valley of Elah.
Why Does This Matter?
It’s important that we reframe how we share this story. It was not the underdog versus the warrior; as soon as David took the sling out of his bag, everyone knew that the victory was in his hands! Encourage your child to understand that while people might underestimate him because of his age or size — just like David — he was made perfectly in God’s image! He has God-given talents and strengths, and he is more capable than he knows.
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