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Consider 1 Sam. 17, 48-51---

And when the Philistine arose and was coming, and drew nigh to meet David, David made haste, and ran to the fight to meet the Philistine. And he put his hand into his scrip, and took a stone, and cast it with the sling, and fetching it about struck the Philistine in the forehead: and the stone was fixed in his forehead, and he fell on his face upon the earth. And David prevailed over the Philistine, with a sling and a stone, and he struck, and slew the Philistine. And as David had no sword in his hand, He ran, and stood over the Philistine, and took his sword, and drew it out of the sheath, and slew him, and cut off his head. And the Philistines seeing that their champion was dead, fled away.

Perhaps, in an overly simplistic sense, I view the confrontation between David and Goliath as a mortal contest between good (behind whom, is God) and evil (behind whom, God is not). When one puts all their trust in the Lord, the Lord Himself will slay their enemies---and the plans of the wicked will be thwarted by means that make use of their evil weapons against themselves.

Again, the above not my treatise, but in a current writing project, I would like to make use of this portion of Scripture and applying it, if possible, to a particular problem of good and evil in the present world.

Hence, I ask if any one can supply good and particular insight into the significance of the forehead (pride?), David's smooth stones, and his sling?

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    Only one stone was used ; there remain four left (north, south, east and west) to deal with every other enemy that may arise. Up-voted +1.
    – Nigel J
    Apr 18, 2023 at 13:28
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    @NigelJ Ah! yes, one stone was all it took. I didn't think about the unused ones. Thank you.
    – I. Chekhov
    Apr 18, 2023 at 13:30
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    And five is the number of pilgrimage (see Benjamin and portions). Warriors on pilgrimage, just passing through.
    – Nigel J
    Apr 18, 2023 at 13:31
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    And the stones were smooth, through water action. The activity of the Spirit, fashioning a weapon to strike at the thoughts of the ungodly.
    – Nigel J
    Apr 18, 2023 at 13:33
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    Also are you aware that a "sling" is a piece of fabric which is used to spin and release stones, not an elastic "slingshot" as modern North Americans would call it (and which other English-speakers call a catapult). A sling is not made of elastic material. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sling_(weapon) Apr 18, 2023 at 15:21

7 Answers 7

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Interpreting the Significance of the Stones, Sling, and Forehead in David's Slaying of the Philistine

In the book of Psalm, King David claimed he was the "son of thy handmaid", was he referring to her biological mother or Her spiritual Mother? The Catholic Church teaches that Mary is the Mother of all creatures in the order of grace.-CCC969

“This motherhood of Mary in the order of grace continues uninterruptedly from the consent which she loyally gave at the Annunciation and which she sustained without wavering beneath the cross, until the eternal fulfillment of all the elect. Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this saving office but by her manifold intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation. .. Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix.”1

And in Western and Eastern Catholic Church traditions, Mary is known as Warrior Queen.

Today, we honor the Blessed Virgin Mary, and to my initial surprise, this militant, powerful language has, since the first centuries of Christianity, been used in relation to her as well. More prominent in the Eastern Church, Mary is perceived as a sort of warrior-queen, a commander of the army of the saints, seated even above the angels, participating in this fight herself as well as lending the aid of her strength, power, and wisdom to those of us who feel that the battle might well be lost. Like a new Deborah, one of the ancient judges of Israel, who took command of the armies of God’s people to save them from the hands of their enemies,3 Mary fights with us and for us, especially when all seems lost. https://www.ssje.org/2018/06/23/mary-warrior-of-god-br-lucas-hall/

Here's another insights on Mary as the Warrior Queen.

“Mary is a warrior opposed by the dragon and she commands this impossibly powerful army of angels. That is very good news for us. She’s more powerful than the dragon…let’s join the struggle with her. We fight with love, justice, compassion, and forgiveness. We fight with the Rosary. The ‘Hail Mary’ calls upon the Warrior Queen, the Commander of the angels.”-Bishop Barron

https://nds.edu/blog-entry/mother-mary-warrior-queen/

King David sling and stones, the sling symbolizes the scapular, as one needs to wear it. The stone, a secret weapon or the Word of God which is Jesus Himself the Logos, as depicted by Michaelangelo in his great painting, it symbolizes a secret weapon to defeat the evil of Goliath or Satan's or man's pride.

A stone can become a sword, as Jesus the Word of God in scriptures is like a "double-edge sword in our mouth", but holding it in our hands is more powerful, as it can become a powerful sword, that can cut the ugly proud head of Satan. -Genesis3:15

“Bulging with veins, the right hand is holding what remains of a terrible weapon used in antiquity until the 17th century,” art historians Sergio Risaliti and Francesco Vossilla wrote in the book “L’Altro David” (“The Other David).

The Bible says that when David went to fight Goliath, he took up his shepherd's staff, five smooth stones and his sling.

Of these, only the latter is represented in Michelangelo’s sculpture, as David holds the pouch of the sling in his left hand, above his shoulder.

Crossing his back down to the right hand, the straps of the rather long sling appear to be attached to a mysterious object.

“We believe the object is actually the handle to which a staff had to be mounted, much alike a golf pole,” Risaliti told Discovery News.

Combining the right hand and the left hand, the staff and the sling, Michelangelo would have actually fitted David with a fustibal, according to the researchers.

enter image description here

If we want to become a Warrior like King David, one must acknowledge that we are the "son of thy handmaid" first, like David in Psalm86:16. Acknowledging that we are the son of the Blessed Virgin Mary the Handmaid of God and wearing the scapular on our shoulder or the sling, symbolizes that we belong to Mary as Her sons, like King David did.

The stones, symbolizes a weapon to defeat evil of pride, or Satan's pride. And in scriptures, the "Word of God" is a weapon a double-edged sword in Hebrews4:12 and the Sword of Spirit in Ephesians6:17

Psalm 118:15-27 Jesus is 'the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.

So the sling, represents Mary the link to Jesus, as Mary is the one who gave Logos the Face by Her Fiat, forming Jesus Christ, and the stone represent Jesus the Word of God, the sword.

And in the 13th century, the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Warrior Queen, formed and gave us a new sling and stone, in the form of the scapular and rosary, having five major stones, the five mysteries of the life of Jesus Christ, from joyful, sorrowful, to glorious and added a luminous mystery to upgrade the powerful sword in our hands, in this Age of Darkness.

In closing, we can become another David if we acknowledge that we are the "son of thy handmaid", and we can choose our stones, the Word of God, by holding it in our hands or meditating and contemplating the face of Christ thru the eyes of Our Lady as St.John Paul II the Great Saint implore us, for the rosary to be form like a powerful spiritual sword to defeat the Goliath's in our Christian journey.

Ave!

enter image description here

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    Thank you for this answer.
    – I. Chekhov
    Apr 23, 2023 at 2:23
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A common saying in Christian circles is this:

God doesn't call the equipped; He equips the call.

While there are exceptions to that proverb--as there are with many proverbs, its basic principle is true. David the shepherd boy grasped that principle when he was a youth. In his speech before Goliath, David said,

“You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands" (1 Samuel 17:45-47 NIV, my emphasis and bold italics).

God wants and deserves all the glory for the victories He achieves through us. In the Old Testament, time and time again God demonstrated this truth. In the time of the judges when He called Gideon, God whittled down an army numbering in the thousands to a minuscule band of 300. God told Gideon "The Lord is with you, mighty warrior" when Gideon was quaking in his boots. In God's economy, little is much when He calls us to obey.

Gold told Gideon,

“Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”

Clearly, Gideon had very little to offer God. Nevertheless, God told him that regardless of how ill-equipped and ill-prepared Gideon felt himself to be, he would indeed save Israel from the Midianites.

Later in the story, God gave Gideon the reason for whittling down the size of Israel's army:

“You have too many men. I cannot deliver Midian into their hands, or Israel would boast against me, ‘My own strength has saved me’ Judges 7:2 NIV).

Back to David and Goliath . . .. David clearly had a skill set in his favor as he approached the giant. In David's past, God had helped him kill a lion and a bear in defense of his flock of sheep with only a rock and a sling shot--and perhaps his shepherd's rod (see 1 Samuel 17:34-37). With great confidence in God, David stepped forth bravely to face Goliath "in the name of the LORD Almighty [El Shaddai: Hebrew, אֵל שַׁ], the God of the armies of Israel."

enter image description here

Why five stones, and not just one? I don't think we should read too much into this. David knew that with God's help he could kill Goliath with one stone, but in his thinking David likely thought "Why should I put God to the test?" If defeating the giant took two, three, four, or even five stones, David would still glorify God in the victory.

In applying the account of David and Goliath in the Church Age, Christians realize the battles we fight are not battles of flesh and blood. Today,

though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:3-4 NIV).

Christians today are fighting against a world view, a mind set, a spiritual stronghold empowered by the prince of darkness and his minions. They are invisible, yet powerful, organized, and "armed with cruel hate," as Luther said in his hymn, "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God").

In doing battle against the world, the flesh, and the devil, we need "the full armor of God" (Ephesians 6:11), which only God can supply: the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Christian apologists are called by God to stand at the front lines of the battle, defending the Christian worldview and Christian values. So are Christians who are called by God to take on seemingly intractable and systemic social justice issues, such as abortion, human trafficking, pornography, corruption in government, and the theory of evolution.

In conclusion, by simply being salt and light in the workplace, in academia, in politics, and in public life in general, Christians are doing battle with the forces of evil. At times, we may do so at great peril, as persecuted Christians around the world have discovered. Nevertheless, we can still take our stand for God, his kingdom, and his righteousness, just as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego did in Daniel's day:

“King Nebuchadnezzar, [they said,] we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us[c] from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up” (Daniel 3:16-18 NIV).

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    @jongricafort: You could be right. However, the only reputable source I cite in this post is God's Word, the Bible. My interpretations of the passages I cite from the Bible are backed up by a lifetime of reading and interpreting God's Word and doing so in a fairly consistent and hermeneutically responsible way. Don Apr 21, 2023 at 10:22
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    @jongricafort: Because you and I come from different religious traditions, I guess we will need to agree to disagree agreeably! I must say, however, you interpretation is highly symbolic and speculative. My interpretation is grounded in historical facts and--of course--a view of Scripture that is at least somewhat consistent. Don Apr 22, 2023 at 11:28
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    @MikeBorden: Here's an article you might find interesting, regarding the sling: wearethemighty.com/mighty-tactical/…. Apr 22, 2023 at 21:16
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    @jongricafort "It's between God vs. fallen angel". Jesus is God so Satan can cry foul all he wants. Enmity between the serpent and the woman and between the serpent's seed and the woman's seed. As you must be aware it is the seed of the woman, Jesus, the Son of God, who has destroyed the works of the devil (1 John 3:8) not Mary. If you deny that Jesus is the one who gained the victory then you are denying the Gospel itself. It is Jesus who is worthy to break the seals and open the Scroll (Revelation 5), not Mary. Apr 24, 2023 at 14:11
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    Who do I belong to? I am hidden with Christ in God. Jesus is the one name given under heaven amongst men by which you must be saved (Acts 4:12). Call on any other name to your peril. Thus saith the Lord. Amen. Apr 24, 2023 at 14:13
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The most significant interpretation of the sling and stones is one that we often tend to miss today.

Goliath stood as champion of the Philistine army, calling out for an Israelite champion to meet him in combat. He was big and tough, and no one wanted to face him sword-to-sword.

When David, a shepherd and experienced slinger who had slain multiple scary predators with his weapon of choice, volunteered to face him, the king tried to outfit him as an infantryman, to face Goliath as an equal. But David refused, because he wasn't an infantryman; he was a slinger.

When the actual fight happened, the most surprising detail isn't that David won; it was that at no point does Goliath seem to realize just how utterly screwed he is to be facing a guy with a ranged weapon rather than another infantryman. To put it simply, he had the same chance of winning as the big thug with the sword who confronted Indiana Jones in the marketplace, and for the same reason. But somehow he never notices this; he suggests instead that maybe David is there to fight him with his shepherd's staff.

The moral of the story is not "God helps the little guy win against an overwhelming foe." The overwhelming advantage in this fight always belonged to the guy with the ranged weapon. The moral is "as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts." (Isaiah 55:9) Rather than send an infantryman to face the giant on his own terms, God delivered the Israelites by instead sending someone who had an overwhelming advantage against a really big target.

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    God Himself being the overwhelming advantage ... not the ranged weapon ... right? Apr 18, 2023 at 23:03
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David was no fool. He was very alert and perceptive to his surroundings. The five stones he picked up were for a purpose. He knew he was capable of hitting his mark with just one attempt. With Goliath having 4 brothers, David wanted to be prepared in case these brothers came forth once Goliath had been defeated. 2 Samuel 21:16-22 confirms that there were other giants amongst the crowd.

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    – agarza
    Sep 7, 2023 at 22:35
  • I like your practical answer. I really don't think that David was trying to be symbolic. Basically, he needed to kill Goliath--or be killed. While your observation that Goliath had four brothers, I'm not sure that David didn't want to pack a little extra ammo just in case he missed the first shot, or that it might be deflected by Goliath's armor or one of his weapons.
    – Dieter
    Sep 8, 2023 at 4:40
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As you intend to write on this subject, seeing the story as written with particular acuity in the book "Patriarchs and Prophets" (1890) may be of considerable interest to you. The following is excerpted from pages 644-648.

David and Goliath


When war was declared by Israel against the Philistines, three of the sons of Jesse joined the army under Saul; but David remained at home. After a time, however, he went to visit the camp of Saul. By his father's direction he was to carry a message and a gift to his elder brothers and to learn if they were still in safety and health. But, unknown to Jesse, the youthful shepherd had been entrusted with a higher mission. The armies of Israel were in peril, and David had been directed by an angel to save his people.

As David drew near to the army, he heard the sound of commotion, as if an engagement was about to begin. And “the host was going forth to the fight, and shouted for the battle.” Israel and the Philistines were drawn up in array, army against army. David ran to the army, and came and saluted his brothers. While he was talking with them, Goliath, the champion of the Philistines, came forth, and with insulting language defied Israel and challenged them to provide a man from their ranks who would meet him in single combat. He repeated his challenge, and when David saw that all Israel were filled with fear, and learned that the Philistine's defiance was hurled at them day after day, without arousing a champion to silence the boaster, his spirit was stirred within him. He was fired with zeal to preserve the honor of the living God and the credit of His people.

The armies of Israel were depressed. Their courage failed. They said one to another, “Have ye seen this man that is come up? surely to defy Israel is he come up.” In shame and indignation, David exclaimed, “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?”

Eliab, David's eldest brother, when he heard these words, knew well the feelings that were stirring the young man's soul. Even as a shepherd, David had manifested daring, courage, and strength but rarely witnessed; and the mysterious visit of Samuel to their father's house, and his silent departure, had awakened in the minds of the brothers suspicions of the real object of his visit. Their jealousy had been aroused as they saw David honored above them, and they did not regard him with the respect and love due to his integrity and brotherly tenderness. They looked upon him as merely a stripling shepherd, and now the question which he asked was regarded by Eliab as a censure upon his own cowardice in making no attempt to silence the giant of the Philistines. The elder brother exclaimed angrily, “Why camest thou down hither? and with whom hast thou left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know thy pride, and the naughtiness of thine heart; for thou art come down that thou mightest see the battle.” David's answer was respectful but decided: “What have I now done? Is there not a cause?”

The words of David were repeated to the king, who summoned the youth before him. Saul listened with astonishment to the words of the shepherd, as he said, “Let no man's heart fail because of him; thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine.” Saul strove to turn David from his purpose, but the young man was not to be moved. He replied in a simple, unassuming way, relating his experiences while guarding his father's flocks. And he said, “The Lord that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, He will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine. And Saul said unto David, Go, and the Lord be with thee.”

For forty days the host of Israel had trembled before the haughty challenge of the Philistine giant. Their hearts failed within them as they looked upon his massive form, in height measuring six cubits and a span. Upon his head was a helmet of brass, he was clothed with a coat of mail that weighed five thousand shekels, and he had greaves of brass upon his legs. The coat was made of plates of brass that overlaid one another, like the scales of a fish, and they were so closely joined that no dart or arrow could possibly penetrate the armor. At his back the giant bore a huge javelin, or lance, also of brass. “The staff of his spear was like a weaver's beam; and his spear's head weighed six hundred shekels of iron; and one bearing a shield went before him.”

Morning and evening Goliath had approached the camp of Israel, saying with a loud voice, “Why are ye come out to set your battle in array? am not I a Philistine, and ye servants to Saul? choose you a man for you, and let him come down to me. If he be able to fight with me, and to kill me, then will we be your servants: but if I prevail against him, and kill him, then shall ye be our servants, and serve us. And the Philistine said, I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together.”

Though Saul had given David permission to accept Goliath's challenge, the king had small hope that David would be successful in his courageous undertaking. Command was given to clothe the youth in the king's own armor. The heavy helmet of brass was put upon his head, and the coat of mail was placed upon his body; the monarch's sword was at his side. Thus equipped, he started upon his errand, but erelong began to retrace his steps. The first thought in the minds of the anxious spectators was that David had decided not to risk his life in meeting an antagonist in so unequal an encounter. But this was far from the thought of the brave young man. When he returned to Saul he begged permission to lay aside the heavy armor, saying, “I cannot go with these; for I have not proved them.” He laid off the king's armor, and in its stead took only his staff in his hand, with his shepherd's scrip and a simple sling. Choosing five smooth stones out of the brook, he put them in his bag, and, with his sling in his hand, drew near to the Philistine. The giant strode boldly forward, expecting to meet the mightiest of the warriors of Israel. His armor-bearer walked before him, and he looked as if nothing could withstand him. As he came nearer to David he saw but a stripling, called a boy because of his youth. David's countenance was ruddy with health, and his well-knit form, unprotected by armor, was displayed to advantage; yet between its youthful outline and the massive proportions of the Philistine, there was a marked contrast.

Goliath was filled with amazement and anger. “Am I a dog,” he exclaimed, “that thou comest to me with staves?” Then he poured upon David the most terrible curses by all the gods of his knowledge. He cried in derision, “Come to me, and I will give thy flesh unto the fowls of the air, and to the beasts of the field.”

David did not weaken before the champion of the Philistines. Stepping forward, he said to his antagonist: “Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied. This day will the Lord deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcasses of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. And all this assembly shall know that the Lord saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the Lord's, and He will give you into our hands.”

There was a ring of fearlessness in his tone, a look of triumph and rejoicing upon his fair countenance. This speech, given in a clear, musical voice, rang out on the air, and was distinctly heard by the listening thousands marshaled for war. The anger of Goliath was roused to the very highest heat. In his rage he pushed up the helmet that protected his forehead and rushed forward to wreak vengeance upon his opponent. The son of Jesse was preparing for his foe. “And it came to pass, when the Philistine arose, and came and drew nigh to meet David, that David hasted, and ran toward the army to meet the Philistine. And David put his hand in his bag, and took thence a stone, and slang it, and smote the Philistine in the forehead, that the stone sunk into his forehead; and he fell upon his face to the earth.”

Amazement spread along the lines of the two armies. They had been confident that David would be slain; but when the stone went whizzing through the air, straight to the mark, they saw the mighty warrior tremble, and reach forth his hands, as if he were struck with sudden blindness. The giant reeled, and staggered, and like a smitten oak, fell to the ground. David did not wait an instant. He sprang upon the prostrate form of the Philistine, and with both hands laid hold of Goliath's heavy sword. A moment before, the giant had boasted that with it he would sever the youth's head from his shoulders and give his body to the fowls of the air. Now it was lifted in the air, and then the head of the boaster rolled from his trunk, and a shout of exultation went up from the camp of Israel.

The Philistines were smitten with terror, and the confusion which ensued resulted in a precipitate retreat. The shouts of the triumphant Hebrews echoed along the summits of the mountains, as they rushed after their fleeing enemies; and they “pursued the Philistines, until thou come to the valley, and to the gates of Ekron. And the wounded of the Philistines fell down by the way to Shaaraim, even unto Gath, and unto Ekron. And the children of Israel returned from chasing after the Philistines, and they spoiled their tents. And David took the head of the Philistine, and brought it to Jerusalem; but he put his armor in his tent.”


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An even more simplistic answer is that David simply packed some extra ammo just in case. Why not? After all, either David or Goliath would die in this encounter, and David wasn't asking God to strike Goliath with lightning or anything.

Here are a couple of interesting references:

Learning from David and Goliath: The True Origin of the Sling Weapon

The Ancient Sling Power: Chronograph Test

Let's compare some actual test results from the referenced video between two slings and a .45 caliber handgun:

41" sling: Top speed: 77 m/s = 172 mph with a 47g projectile Top energy: 256 Joules with a 232g projectile

28" linen sling: Top speed: 63 m/s = 141 mph with a 73g projectile (145 Joules), Top energy: 206 Joules with a 245g projectile

Modern .45 caliber handgun: Speed: 150 m/s = 336 mph (muzzle velocity) with a 15g projectile, Energy: 169 Joules

Note that the energy in a bullet is delivered over a much smaller cross-sectional area than the stones, but the amount of energy delivered by a sling is surprisingly large!

For a “between the eyes" shot, my guess is that David chose lighter, faster (harder to dodge) stones about the size of quail eggs, weighing about 70g with the shorter and faster swinging, linen sling.

Yes, this explanation is brutish, violent, and gross. But then warfare then as now is ugly and tragic. No wonder that God didn't want David, a man of blood, to build the Temple.

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Perhaps you think about this passage as posing the question "Is David the One who will finally get it right."

Is he:

  1. the seed of the woman who will crush the head of the snake -- Genesis 3:15 (David crushes Goliath's head)
  2. Another prophet like Moses -- Deuteronomy 18:15 (David emerges from the wilderness after 40 days/years, he leads with the tools of a shepherd, a sling/staff)
  3. The Joshua who encourages the Israelites to not feat the giants because God is with them Numbers 13:33, 14:9-10 (The Israelites want to stone Joshua for this)
  4. A true Israelite who faithfully enters the promised land Joshua 4:20-24 (After 40 years wandering the far side of the Jordan, they take stones of remembrance from the river)
  5. Israel's faithful judge who drives Canaanites out of the land
  6. The faithful king who destroys the enemy instead of sparing them and making them slaves (Saul spared the king and the cattle in 1 Sam 15:9)

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