13 What really happened between David and Goliath - Fr Joshan Rodrigues

posted Jan 16, 2019, 8:03 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Jan 16, 2019, 8:03 AM ]
Malcolm Gladwell gives us a fresh insight into one of the most iconic duels in history.

The face-off between David and Goliath is one of the most legendary and widely known stories from the Bible. Even someone not enthusiastic about religion and faith is well-versed with the story. The story has passed beyond the religious sphere, and become embedded in the secular narrative. It is the story of the underdog who wins against all odds. "David and Goliath" has become a metaphor for an improbable victory, when two widely unequal entities compete with each other. But Malcolm Gladwell – the author of other best-sellers such as Outliers and The Tipping Point – tells us that we have been looking at this story the wrong way all along.

Goliath was a giant, more than nine feet tall, wearing a bronze helmet and full body armour. He carried a javelin, a spear and a sword. What's interesting is that Goliath was prepped for close range hand-to-hand combat. Hence the body armour, and all his weapons were close combat weapons. His armour and his weapons weighed a ton, reducing his mobility. He expected a fight on his terms, but David had other plans.

David had a sling and five smooth stones. Slingers were actually a type of warrior in ancient armies. In experienced hands, the sling was a devastating weapon. An experienced slinger could kill or seriously injure a target at a distance of up to two hundred yards. In the Old Testament Book of Judges, slingers are described as being accurate within a "hair's breadth." Stones released from slings could travel at a speed of 120 km/hour, more than enough to penetrate a man's skull and render him unconscious, or dead. Slingers were deadly against infantry, because a big lumbering soldier, weighed down with armour, was a sitting duck for a slinger launching projectiles from a hundred yards away. The Romans even had a special set of tongs made just to remove stones that had been embedded in some soldier's body by a sling. Goliath was an infantryman.

King Saul tries to dress David in armour and give him a sword, so that the boy has at least a fighting chance. Saul assumes that David is going to fight Goliath in the conventional way. But David has no such intention. He tells Saul that he has killed bears and lions as a shepherd in the same fashion – as a slinger. David doesn't have the large frame and strength, nor the skills of traditional warfare. But his strengths are speed, manoeuvrability, intelligence and his sling. He is going to fight to his strengths. The historian Robert Dohrenwend writes, "Goliath had as much chance against David, as any medieval soldier with a sword would have had against an opponent armed with a .45 automatic pistol."