Who are David and Goliath?

wiseGEEK Writer

David and Goliath refers to the biblical story of the fight between the young David, not yet king, and Goliath, a Philistine warrior known for his gigantic proportions and feats on the battlefield. The story appears in the Hebrew Bible, the Old Testament used by Christians and the Qu’ran. Though many people read the story as a strict account of actual events, others see the story of David and Goliath as metaphor for the grace of God allowing a weak opponent to defeat a stronger one.

The story of David and Goliath appears in the Hebrew Bible.
The story of David and Goliath appears in the Hebrew Bible.

In these accounts, Goliath was champion of the Philistines, and issued challenges to the Israelites to defeat him in single combat. The Israelites did not respond to the challenge, but defeating Goliath offered the opportunity to end the battle and gain military advantage. Finally David, quite young at the time, asked King Saul for the opportunity to face Goliath, and rejected Saul’s offer of armor or weapons.

Leonardo da Vinci's statue depicting David.
Leonardo da Vinci's statue depicting David.

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When David and Goliath met, Goliath mocked David exceedingly, and made fun of his choice of weapons, a stick and several stones. David, with faith in the lord, used his stick and stones to make a slingshot. With a properly aimed shot, David knocked Goliath unconscious and then used Goliath’s own sword to decapitate him.

The story of David and Goliath appears in the Qu'ran.
The story of David and Goliath appears in the Qu'ran.

David’s triumph would be a part of a collection of stories that would boast of David’s strength and his rightful claim of kingship. David’s unswerving faith and obeisance to God is often explained as the reason for his triumph. The precision needed to hit Goliath in such a way that would render him unconscious is through divine intervention.

Though many may view the story of David and Goliath as metaphor, it may not necessarily be untrue. Accounts of this story occur in the Dead Sea Scrolls, in Hebrew. Further, in 2005, archaeologists found a fragment of ceramic pottery upon which is written “Gath of the Philistines,” and has two names similar to the name Goliath. Goliath is often thought to have come from Gath, one of the primary cities opposed to the Israelites and under Philistine control. Further, the find is dated to the approximate time period estimated for the battle, in the 1000s BCE.

The Dead Sea Scrolls also identify Goliath as being about seven feet (2.13 m) tall, not an impossible height for a human, though it would be rare. Scientists have speculated that Goliath may have suffered from giantism, where a tumor on the pituitary gland causes human growth hormone to continue to be released, promoting excessive growth. Biblical accounts put Goliath at over 9 feet (2.74 m) tall, but most suggest this is exaggeration.

In the modern sense, David and Goliath are frequently used as a metaphor to suggest the triumph of “the little guy” over a large organization or big business. Erin Brokovich and Ed Masry’s suit against Pacific Gas and Electric (PG & E) on behalf of the town of Hinkley, California is considered a David and Goliath story, where a small town lawyer was able to win a decisive victory and damages for a group of people made ill by PG&E’s use of hexavalent chromium, a dangerous toxin.

The Dead Sea Scrolls portray Goliath as being seven feet tall.
The Dead Sea Scrolls portray Goliath as being seven feet tall.

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Discussion Comments


what are the differences between the two?


what are the spiritual goliaths facing us today and how do we confront them today as christians?

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