Goliath might not have been a giant

There are certain stories and passages from the Bible that are true fan favorites: the Garden of Eden story, the Ten Commandments, and the Nativity are all stories that steal the show. Among these is the story of David and Goliath, in which a young shepherd beats a giant Philistine and forces the Philistines to retreat. This family outsider story has inspired generations of readers, filmmakers, and cultural critics. However, new archaeological research suggests that Goliath may not really have been a giant after all.

In the Bible, the setting for the iconic duel is Ela Valley, a shallow valley about 16 miles southwest of Jerusalem. According to 1 Samuel, the Israelites were camping there, facing the Philistines in a dead end. Twice a day for 40 days, Goliath, the Philistine champion, left the encampment to challenge the Israelites to send a representative to engage in individual combat. The winner would determine the outcome of the war.

The natural candidate was Saul, who was not only the biggest member of the group, but also their king. Saul was somewhat cowardly and refused to accept the challenge, and David volunteered to fight Goliath instead. Refusing to accept Saul’s reluctant armor offer, David stepped out onto the battlefield armed only with his shepherd’s staff, a slingshot, and a few stones he had taken from a stream. Proclaiming that the outcome of the battle is of God, David threw a pebble at Goliath’s forehead, and the giant fell dead to the ground. David beheaded his body and the Philistines fled. The battle is won and David is set to become Israel’s most famous king.

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