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1 Samuel 17:1-3 KJV

1 Now the Philistines gathered together their armies to battle, and were gathered together at Shochoh, which belongeth to Judah, and pitched between Shochoh and Azekah, in Ephesdammim. 2 And Saul and the men of Israel were gathered together, and pitched by the valley of Elah, and set the battle in array against the Philistines. 3 And the Philistines stood on a mountain on the one side, and Israel stood on a mountain on the other side: and there was a valley between them.

Was the distance between the Valley of Elah and Ephesdammim considerable?

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    Why do you think that the Philistine army encampment would only know of the event from first hand witness by eye ? Would not a mounted soldier swiftly convey the news to the troops ?
    – Nigel J
    Commented Oct 4, 2023 at 14:41
  • The context in 1 Samuel 17:43 suggests that the Philistine (Goliath) is expressing contempt for David by asking if he is regarded as lowly as a dog, given that David is approaching with mere staffs.
    – Betho's
    Commented Oct 5, 2023 at 1:18
  • For the Philistines, David did not slay Goliath with a sling; rather, from a distance, they witnessed a young boy vanquishing their giant with a sword. The sight of the smallest Israelite slaying their mighty champion led them to believe that any Israelite could conquer them.
    – Betho's
    Commented Oct 5, 2023 at 1:21

3 Answers 3

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The map below makes the description quite plausible indeed. It locates Azekah in the southeast of the Valley of Elah. Shochoh is further to the southeast. And Ephesdammim is right where the text says it should be.

enter image description here

On the other hand, other maps make the correlation a bit more difficult, so one suspects that the map above was drawn to the biblical specifications, rather than from ancient non-biblical sources. Here is a photograph that attempts to show the probable location, enter image description here

Intriguingly, there is another account which says that Goliath was killed by someone other than David.

2 Samuel 21:19

There was another battle with the Philistines, in Gob, and Elhanan, son of Jair from Bethlehem, killed Goliath of Gath, whose spear shaft was like a weaver’s beam.

Some translations say "brother of Goliath" but most do not (there are textual variants). In any case, if David really did the deed in/near the Valley of Elah, then it is quite possible that both armies saw it. With no binoculars, the combatants would have been quite hard to make out. Reports of the outcome, however, would have reached the armies nearly instantaneously.

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  • +1. One might also add the comment in 1 Sam 17:51, "When the Philistines saw that their hero was dead, they turned and ran."
    – Dottard
    Commented Oct 4, 2023 at 1:00
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    Yes, but I presume that "saw" could very well mean "realized". A shouted message or two of "Goliath has fallen" is all they would need to know the outcome. Commented Oct 4, 2023 at 1:13
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    I Chronicles 20:5 says that Elhanan killed the brother of Goliath. I think this increases the likelihood that "brother Goliath" is the correct reading in 2 Samuel as well. Alternatively "בֵּ֣ית הַלַּחְמִ֗י" doesn't mean from Bethlehem but the "House of Lachmi." So Elchanan killed the entire House of Lachmi, the relatives of Goliath. Commented Oct 4, 2023 at 17:32
  • @DanFefferman just an aside, we also have "seen" this with eyes of faith.
    – ACME
    Commented Oct 4, 2023 at 19:54
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According to 3D images from Google Earth, the Valley of Elah at its narrowest point between two "mountainsides" is about a half mile. So, the death match between the champions was witnessed by the two armies at about a quarter mile or 440 yards.

Using Thales' Theorem, Goliath at that distance would have had an apparent height of about 1/16 inch on a ruler held at a foot from your eyes.

By comparison, the football players viewed from Section 413, Row 20 at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara ($299 for one ticket) will each appear to be about 1/4 inch tall.

Here's an excellent article on the effective military use of slings, including Biblical warfare.

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The question asked may not be appropriate.

  • The Philistines witnessed Goliath's death, but they might not have known how David killed him, as the sling was not a familiar weapon used in battle. The event happened so quickly that the Philistines chose to flee immediately instead of figuring out what killed their giant.
  • Similarly, the Israelites might not have known how David killed Goliath. On David's victorious return, Saul and his generals would undoubtedly want to know how David accomplished the feat, and this fact was then recorded in scripture.

This question that asked from the Philistines' perspective does not align with the cognition that the scripture was written from the Lord and the Israelites' perspective. Therefore it will have no definite answer to this question in scripture.

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    The Bible often tells a story from the perspective of human beings on both sides. In this case after Goliath falls " When the Philistines saw that their hero was dead, they fled. " The question if appropriate because it asks if they could see the actual fight or not. If not they could still come to "see" (realize) that Goliath had fallen even if the result was conveyed by shouts or messengers. Or they might have seen a distant larger figure fall and a smaller one emerge victorious, even if they could not make out the details. Commented Oct 4, 2023 at 15:58
  • For the Philistines, David did not slay Goliath with a sling; rather, from a distance, they witnessed a young boy vanquishing their giant with a sword. The sight of the smallest Israelite slaying their mighty champion led them to believe that any Israelite could conquer them.
    – Betho's
    Commented Oct 5, 2023 at 1:22
  • @DanFefferman - I'm not sure if I got you wrong. I'm focus on the discussion whether the Philistines knew Goliath was killed by a sling. Commented Oct 5, 2023 at 1:53

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