(1 Sam. 17:31ff) Is this story of David and Goliath a Sunday school myth?

CLAIM: The account of David slaying Goliath is often pictured as a Sunday school myth. Is this the case?

RESPONSE: There are many features of this account that have the ring of historical accuracy:

First, these type of duals between national champions were popular at the time. Archaeologist and historian James Hoffmeier writes, “This type of duel between two champions who represent their respective nations or tribes finds a parallel in the Egyptian story of Sinuhe, who during the early second millennium BC was challenged by the champion of another tribe. The two dueled. The challenger threw javelins at Sinuhe which fell harmlessly short. So Sinuhe struck him down with an arrow to the neck and then finished him off with his own axe… In the story of the Trojan War set in western Anatolia, Paris killed Achilles. In recent years, a Hittite text from central Anatolia was discovered that contains a David and Goliath-like story.”[1]

Second, David picked an appropriate weapon of choice. David’s “sling” (v.40) was not a slingshot that Bart Simpson would use, hurling pebbles at a giant. Instead, the sling was a formidable weapon. The “smooth stones” were the size of baseballs and experts could hurl them at 100 to 150 mph! Hoffmeier writes, “The sling was not just a child’s toy but a serious and lethal weapon… slingers are shown standing alongside archers in a battle scene… These scenes demonstrate that the sling was a long distance weapon that took its place alongside the bow and arrow, although it did not have the same range. The stones used by slingers were not little pebbles, but varied in size from that of a golf ball to a tennis ball… and when flung by an adept slinger they could fly at 100-150 mph.”[2]

Third, David refused armor (v.39). He must have discarded his armor in favor of speed and agility. Armor wouldn’t have helped him anyway if Goliath had struck him with his massive swing. During the fight, Goliath tried to lure David close (1 Sam. 17:44, 48), but David was smart enough to stay far away, placing his agility and speed in his favor.

Fourth, Goliath’s name has been found. Hoffmeier writes, “In recent excavations at Tell es-Safi, the excavators discovered part of a clay bowl with what is believed to be the name Goliath etched on the inside.”[3]

[1] Hoffmeier, James Karl. The Archaeology of the Bible. Oxford: Lion, 2008. 84.

[2] Hoffmeier, James Karl. The Archaeology of the Bible. Oxford: Lion, 2008. 84-85.

[3] Hoffmeier, James Karl. The Archaeology of the Bible. Oxford: Lion, 2008. 85.