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1 Samuel 17:33 (NRSV) says:

Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are just a boy, and he has been a warrior from his youth.”

I have taken into consideration the answer stated in this link, which argues that David was 15 years old or younger. Are there any proven claims on the exact age of David when he fought Goliath? If not, what is the best approximation?

  • 4
    Thanks for you first question on BH.SE. Two things: (1) You should add a specific verse quote/reference into your question, since one of the requirements for this site is to have a specific text at least as a start point for the question (perhaps 1 Sam 17:33). (2) Do not expect a "proven" claim on "exact age," because if such existed, there would not be all the controversy about how old he was. However, you may get some answers that give even more biblical evidence to pinpoint a good approximation of age for David. – ScottS May 22 '14 at 13:55
  • Welcome to Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange! Be sure to take our site tour to learn more about us. We're a little different from other sites. Be sure to properly cite the text you're asking about. The chapter and verse numbers do not always line up between the Hebrew, Greek, and English texts. I've edited your post in line with ScottS's helpful comment. I also added the claim from the link into the question, as Internet links change. – Dan May 22 '14 at 14:14

10 Answers 10

18

The only Biblical answer I can find is that the men were at least 20 to be in the army. So David would have been less then twenty if he was considered too young to fight.

Num 1:3

from twenty years old and upward, whoever is able to go out to war in Israel, you and Aaron shall number them by their armies.


The following is only conjecture and can not be proved, though I do think it is logical.

Based on the age (of twenty) of "manhood" and a few more references (to show my work), it is possible to make a logical guess.

1) We know that his 3 oldest brothers were at the fight.

1Sa 17:13

Now David was the son of the Ephrathite of Bethlehem in Judah, whose name was Jesse, and he had eight sons. And Jesse was old in the days of Saul, advanced in years among men. The three older sons of Jesse had gone after Saul to the battle. And the names of his three sons who went to the battle were Eliab the firstborn, and the second to him Abinadab, and the third Shammah.

2) Assuming that all who were old enough to go to war went.

1Sa 14:52

Now the war against the Philistines was severe all the days of Saul; and when Saul saw any mighty man or any valiant man, he attached him to his staff.

3) And if Shammah, the youngest of the 3 that went, was 20 then that leaves 4 brothers between them and David. If they were born a year apart then David would be 14 or 15. Obviously if they were born with more time between them then David could be even younger.

If not all were required to join the war but only those that wanted to, then David could be up to 19.

It is worth noting that both the Hebrews and Goliath thought David was a boy that was too young to fight. So if he was 19 then he might not have really looked like a boy.

Based on this line of reasoning, I think he was between 12 and 15 years old when he fought and killed Goliath, though nothing is certain.

| improve this answer | |
  • @PaulVargas, I have made another update. Is this better or do I still need more? – Joshua Wilson May 23 '14 at 2:44
  • @JoshuaWilson I can follow your logic here. Looks good. +1 – Dan May 23 '14 at 3:01
  • @JoshuaWilson Very well explanation. Thanks with this! – Jon P May 23 '14 at 4:46
  • If they were born a year apart then David would be 14 or 15. - What if some of his brethren were twins ? :-) – Lucian Aug 2 '17 at 6:58
11

This information is in further support of an answer close to Joshua Wilson's (which was not really much other information that the original link you posted), though leaning toward the older end of his range and perhaps even slightly older (15-18 years old).

Reading commentaries and looking at various translations informs one that Saul's age and length of reign are somewhat suspect from the witness in 1 Sam 13:1 (cf. Act 13:21). Such might have helped pinpoint David's age, but there is still some other evidences.

Some other Facts

David was 30 years old when he became king, having just moved from Ziklag (2 Sam 1:1), and settled in Hebron (2 Sam 2:4). It was not until Hebron that he had any children himself (2 Sam 3:2; 1 Chr 3:1), but he had already been married to both Ahinoam and Abigail (1 Sam 27:3) during the 1 year and 4 months he lived among the Philistines (1 Sam 27:7) immediately prior to Saul's death (1 Sam ch. 28-29).

David was then about 28 (30 - 1yr 4m) years old when he moved to Philistine land, the last part of his time in running from Saul.

Abigail did not become David's wife (1 Sam 25:42) until after Samuel died (1 Sam 25:1), so in the timeline of 1 Samuel, probably David was likely 26-27 when marrying Abigail.

Now Ishbosheth was 40 when his father Saul died (2 Sam 2:10), but Jonathan had been the oldest son (1 Sam 14:49, 20:31). So Ishbosheth was 10 years older than David, which means Jonathan was more than 10 years older than David.

Some Logical Conclusions

All the above is stated for the following reason—right after David's victory over Goliath, we have three things indicating something about his maturity that would point toward the higher end range of 15-18.

  1. David was large enough to be able to wear the robe and tunic of Jonathan (1 Sam 18:4), a man 10+ years David's senior. This indicates not a lot of height/size difference (like one would expect between say a 12 year old and a 23+ year old man).
  2. David was mature enough to be put in a command position immediately (1 Sam 18:5), and upon returning from defeating Goliath (vv.6-9), the next day (v.10) or soon after he was placed in command of 1000 men (vv.12-13). That is not a responsibility likely to fall upon someone too young (i.e. he became a man of war, based off defeating Goliath, despite his youth).
  3. David may have been old enough to be of marriageable age (1 Sam 18:26), though there is an undetermined time gap with 1 Sam 18:19. Still, given #1-2, #3 is likely true, David was old enough to be given a wife based off his slaying of Goliath.

The Inconclusiveness of David's Birth Order to Determine Age

There are problems with placing too much weight on David's birth order for determining his age. This is because:

  1. We do not know if any of his older brothers were twins or triplets.
  2. We do not know his brother's ages, so assuming 4 older brothers not yet 20 (not men of war), then looking for a maximum age for David, assuming #1 is not true, and assuming a roughly normal gestation period (no premature births, about 40 weeks, or 9.23 months, we'll say 10 months minimum between pregnancies), we have this rough possibility:

    4th oldest = 19yr 11m old
    5th oldest = 19yr  1m old
    6th oldest = 18yr  3m old
    7th oldest = 17yr  5m old
    David      = 16yr  7m old
    

    Yet if #1 is true, then for every multiple birth among these four brothers, David's maximum age would bump up one slot.

    UPDATE: Regarding this calculation, I should note David's two sisters from 1 Chr 2:16—Zeruiah and Abigail. I confidently assert that Zeruiah is a non-factor in these calculations. She most certainly was born prior to the 4th oldest son, as her own three sons (Abishai, Joab, and Asahel), nephews to David, are also men of war at the time of David—Abishai during the time of David's fleeing Saul (1 Sam 26:6), and Joab and Asahel by the time of Saul's defeat during the confrontation with Abner (2 Sam 2:12-32). So she was likely at least 10-15 years older than David to have three sons of her own that were either already men of war, or at least nearing that age at the time David was also nearing it.

    Abigail is harder to disqualify from affecting the calculations. She was mother of Amasa, who does not enter the scene until much later in David's reign, when Absalom (David's son) elevated Amasa during his coop to take the throne (2 Sam 17:25). So Amasa could be near Absalom's age, and thus Abigail closer to David's age. If Abigail falls between the 4th oldest son and David, then David's maximum age would have to bump down 10 more months, so for sake of argument, assume she is just above David, though she could be in any slot (this assumes as well that she was not a fraternal twin to any of those sons):

    4th oldest = 19yr 11m old
    5th oldest = 19yr  1m old
    6th oldest = 18yr  3m old
    7th oldest = 17yr  5m old
    Abigail?   = 16yr  7m old
    David      = 15yr  9m old
    

    There is no further information I am aware of to either include or exclude Abigail as a possible factor, and so David's maximum age must be set as a range between 15yr 9m and 16yr 7m, depending upon whether she was or was not a factor by her birth order.

  3. However, there is a reasonable possibility that David is the 7th of 8 total sons of Jesse. This would bump David up one slot in the above order as well. How could David be 7th of 8? Doesn't it state he is the "youngest" (1 Sam 16:11, 17:14), and clearly had seven brothers (1 Sam 16:10), with eight sons total (1 Sam 17:12)? Follow this logic...

    First, 1 Chr 2:13-15 gives a listing of David's family by birth order from Jesse:

    1st Eliab
    2nd Abinadab
    3rd Shimea (a.k.a Shammah, 1 Sam 16:9, 17:13)
    4th Nethanel
    5th Raddai
    6th Ozem
    7th David
    8th is then unnamed and uncounted here
    

    Some common ways of reconciling this with David being the youngest of eight speculates that this much later Chronicle account does not mention one brother who died young (i.e. before reaching manhood and/or having children; e.g. Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary on 1 Chr 2:15) or was disowned by Jesse between the Samuel and Chronicle accounts, or had a different mother (a solution noted in Gill's Exposition of 1 Chr 2:13), and is not listed here for one of these reasons.

    Second, Gill's Exposition of 1 Chr 2:13 also notes others have David 7 of 8. He states (emphasis added):

    Kimchi mentions a Midrash ... according to which his name [David's unmentioned brother of 1 Chr 2] was Elihu, and was younger than David, who is mentioned in 1 Chronicles 27:18, and Jarchi observes, that the writer, having found the pearl (David), reckons not the eighth son Elihu

    Others consider Elihu of 1 Chr 27:18 to be another name for Eliab. Whether Elihu is the name of the 8th brother or not is irrelevant (though I lean that way), what is more important is dealing with the "youngest" terminology used for David, so...

    Third, David may not have been the "youngest," but rather the "smallest" of his brothers. The word used, קָטָן (qāṭān) can mean "small" or even "unimportant" (see BDB). Given God's comment about Eliab's physical stature (1 Sam 16:7), the term being used of David may refer to his stature, not his age (which is even more plausible given the 1 Chr 2:13-15 information).

All this to say that not knowing details of the other brothers, David's age is rather flexible. If two brothers are twins and David was 7th in order, then David could well be 18 years old.

David's "Youth"

The word used of David's "youth" (1 Sam 17:33, 42) is נַ֫עַר (nǎʿǎr). There is a large range of flexibility in its meaning (see BDB), including "marriageable age," and David using the term himself of Absalom (2 Sam 18:5), his third son (2 Sam 3:3) at a time when he was clearly already a grown man (having his own children, 2 Sam 14:27). So it can be a very "relative" term, as well as one indicating appearances of youth. So the term could still easily be used of one just under 20 years old.

Final Concluding Thoughts

Based off the time frame of David marrying Abigail, there has to be some years time for his fleeing Saul prior to that, as well as his brief marriage to Michal that occurred relatively soon after the Goliath incident. That, coupled with the information from Joshua Wilson's answer certainly weighs to him being under 20 at the time of the encounter.

However, the other factors of his size and maturity hinted at in connection with his slaying of the giant weight heavily to his being probably not less than 15, and likely a couple more years mature than that.

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  • Your answer had a good coverage based on the logical conclusions which were not discussed by Joshua Wilson. But, still, this makes a missing link on how and when he was born being the youngest in the 8 brothers. Plus, can you give your view on the "boy" factor of David as what the other characters said in the time being. Good references used though :) – Jon P May 27 '14 at 4:37
  • @nathan742: I've added discussion of the items you requested. Learned a lot myself from the study as well. – ScottS May 27 '14 at 16:35
  • Don't forget that 1 Chr. 2:16 tells us that David had two sisters, and there's a decent chance that one or both of them were born between the 3rd son and David (7th or 8th). If so, this could reduce the estimate of David's age by as much as 2 years (or 1 year and 8 months if using 10 month gaps). By my calculations, if David was 8th, there's a 56% chance that one of the sisters falls in the critical range and a 31% chance that they both do. (Odds are reduced to 44% and 20%, respectively, if you assume David was 7th.) – Mark Aug 1 '15 at 20:58
  • @Mark: I have to admit I did not consider the sisters in my initial calculations. I do not know how you are deriving your "chance" numbers, but I can state this much: Zeruiah is certainly not a factor, but Abigail may be (see my updated answer for my revised analysis taking them into consideration). – ScottS Aug 3 '15 at 17:42
  • @ScottS My chance numbers were based on assumption of each sister independently falling into any of the 9 positions before/between/after the 8 brothers with equal probability. I didn't look into the ages of their kids as you have--nice. All in all, both you and Joshua Wilson have done an excellent analysis. Thanks! – Mark Aug 4 '15 at 12:57
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We're not told directly David's age when he fought Goliath. However, we are told how old he was when he became king, so we can figure it out that way.

"David was thirty years old when he began to reign" (2 Sam. 5:4)

"In Hebron he reigned... seven years and six months, and in Jerusalem he reigned thirty-three years" (2 Sam. 5:5)

So now we know he was about 37.5/38 years old when he brought the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. Now we can work backwards in time. Where was the Ark before it came to Jerusalem?

"So they set the ark of God on a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab on the hill" (2 Sam. 6:3) (1 Chron. 13:7)

Okay, so how did the Ark get to be in the house of Abinadab on the hill, and how long was it there?

"The men of Kirjath Jearim came and took the ark of the Lord, and brought it into the house of Abinadab on the hill... So it was that the ark remained in Kirjath Jearim a long time; it was there twenty years" (1 Sam. 7:1-2)

So now we know that the Ark first went to house of Abinadab on the hill twenty years earlier, making David 17.5/18 years old at that time.

The Philistines were attacking from the south west, and the Ammonites were attacking from the north east. Eli had just died a few months earlier, Samuel was old, and Nahash the Ammonite was attacking Jabesh Gilead. So the people said "We want a king!"

"And when you saw that Nahash king of the Ammonites came against you, you said to me, ‘No, but a king shall reign over us,’" (1 Sam. 12:12)

It was most likely in Saul's first year that Goliath vs. David happened. If it were much later than that, David would be in his twenties.

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David was 20 years old when he killed Goliath: this is because 20 years of age was (is) GOD's precedent age for a young Israelite man to be recruited or participate in the military of the children of Israel, as Scripture states in Numbers;chapter 1. When king Saul referred to as to David as a "boy" or "youth" in 1 Sam 17:33, he was referring to his youthful physical appearance and Stature. Notice: if David was under 20 years of age; he would not have been allowed to fight Goliath or in any battle for that matter; as being under 20 years of age goes against the precedent command of God(through the Law of Moses) for a Israelite person to join the military and represent the firstborn nation of the God of Israel. I find it hard to understand the reasoning or suspicion that David was under the age of 20 years when he killed Goliath, for if that was the case, why was David age eligibility to represent the army of Israel not questioned by king Saul or even Samuel the prophet? And why would God break His command or precedent age under the Law of Moses; to recruit or allow the youthful men of Israel to serve in army of the God of Israel?

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I don't think David was under the age of 20 year old as the term "man" was used by God when He talk about him in the Bible (see 1 Samuel 16:18 for example). Under the age of 20, they were designated as "male", and from age 20 as "man" for the ones able to fight. God talk about David as someone of a certain level of maturity and strongness (virile). I just find it logical, but I have no idea because the ones from the army call him "too young" to fight Goliath as he is just a "boy". Sure at age 20 year old is still a boy as it is a very young age and still kind of juvenile, but it would maybe mean that he had not yet reaches the age of 20 as long as a male person could join the military army from age 20 only and knowing that he was not in the army yet at this moment.

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I think Jonathan should be older than david ✡ just three years or lower than that. Because according to the scripture David ✡ and Jonathan where friends so is not possible for Jonathan to take David ✡ as friend if the age is older than that. So by this logic we can find out how old was David ✡ when he fight Goliath enter image description hereenter image description hereenter image description hereenter image description hereenter image description hereenter image description hereenter image description here](httdescription hereenter image description hereenter image description hereenter image description hereenter image description here

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  • I think you may have pressed too many buttons and insert the pictures many times. Please provide some reference and/or argument to support your thesis. – Dottard Jun 3 at 22:41
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Here's one other clue that would support the idea that he's older than 15 years old. In the previous chapter, one of Saul's attendants describes David this way:

1 Sam 16:18 (NIV)

One of the servants answered, “I have seen a son of Jesse of Bethlehem who knows how to play the lyre. He is a brave man and a warrior. He speaks well and is a fine-looking man. And the Lord is with him.”

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1Sam 13: 1 may indicate that David was older than 20s. It says that Saul reigned for 2 years, during which David started to reign in Hebron. David was 30 when he became a king in Hebron, and the battle with Philistines was during Saul's reign; within 2 years period before David was 30. Am I missing something?

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Although it’s difficult to precisely identify David’s age at that time, there are some indications that he was of reasonably mature/large stature at the the time to be able to put on Saul’s armor who was head and shoulders above everyone else in Israel.

1Sam 17:38: "And Saul armed David with his armour, and he put an helmet of brass upon his head; also he armed him with a coat of armour formed by chains."

Furthermore, the opinion of an Israelite warrior seems to indicate that at least by some he was accepted as mighty valiant man and a man of war at that time... A description which suggests some level of maturity not typical for a young teenager.

1Sam 16:18: "Then answered one of the servants, and said, Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, that is cunning in playing, and a mighty valiant man, and a man of war, and prudent in matters, and a comely person, and the LORD is with him."

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The story of David, Goliath and Saul There are few stories more enduring than that of David and Goliath. Many believe that David was as young as fifteen when he struck the giant down with his shepherd’s sling. Such is the ubiquity of the tale that any conflict between a big guy and a little guy is called a David and Goliath battle. Most people can relate the main details fairly consistently. There is a “however” which is that important details have been missed, meaning that the common understanding is based upon some erroneous assumptions. If you are interested in digging down to the reality, you might be tempted to read on. My research is based upon a rather Catholic view on the story, some simple mathematics, plus some basic logic.enter image description here

The beginning of the story: The selection of King Saul is a good place to start. “And he [Kish] had a son, whose name was Saul, a choice young man, and a goodly: and there was not among the children of Israel a goodlier person than he: from his shoulders and upward he was higher than any of the people.” (1 Sam. 9:2) We see that Saul is described as a young man (probably in his 20s to early 30s) who was a head taller than his peers. Archaeology demonstrates that the average height of a man around 1000 BCE was less than 5 feet 6 inches, allowing to probability that Saul was over 6 feet tall.

Saul was secretly anointed by the prophet Samuel to be king (1 Sam.10) and we know that his total reign was 40 years (Acts 13:21). Traditional estimates have Saul being publicly crowned some months later, already having a son Jonathan who was in charge of 3,000 men. Here is a difficulty. Saul, “a choice young man” already has a son at the beginning of his reign who had to be more than 20 years old to be of fighting age (Num. 1:45). So, if Saul was in his mid-40s at the beginning of his reign, he had to be mid-80s when he was fighting in the heat of battle prior to killing himself rather than being captured. It would also mean that Jonathan was in his 50s when he befriended the future King David prior to the killing of Goliath while David was supposedly a teenager. The narrative of the friendship of David and Jonathan would indicate that they were of similar age. How is that possible?

An alternative timeline: The secret anointing of Saul and later events allow the probability that the confidence was kept for many years prior to him being chosen by the people. The public portion of his reign was probably only twelve years. 1 Sam. 13:1 has been difficult to translate because of damage to the source manuscript. It says that Saul began to reign at the age of XX 1 and that he reigned for XX 2 years. [The XX refers to missing digits.] It is possible to insert likely figures into those positions to attempt to make sense of it all. If that verse refers to the public portion of Saul’s reign, those figures might be 51 or 61 for his age and 12 for the years of his public reign, the total being 40 years. A few late manuscripts of the Septuagint (Greek) translation of the Old Testament read that Saul was 30 years old when he began to reign, though the earliest MSS fails to list an age. Where the Septuagint deals with Saul’s reign from his anointing, the damaged Masoretic text suggests the details of his public reign.

Samuel 15 recounts how Saul disobeyed God and was rejected as King. Given the 12 year public reign of Saul, his rejection must have taken place within 2 to 3 years of the beginning of that period. Keep in mind that upon Saul’s death, David became king at the age of 30. At the time that Saul was rejected, David was 20 or 21 years old when he was anointed, and probably only a dozen or so years younger than Jonathan. Samuel anointed David as the future King at that time, but his reign was never counted until the death of Saul.

David’s next move: If David was to be the future King, it would have been wise for him to join the army, just as his brothers did. He was talented in the ways of warfare and gained a reputation for himself in battle and for his music. When Saul was oppressed by an evil spirit, Saul called for someone to play the harp in order to soothe his spirit. (1 Kings 16: 15 – 18). “Then answered one of the servants, and said, Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, that is cunning in playing, and a mighty valiant man, and a man of war, and prudent in matters, and a comely person, and the LORD is with him.” There is the proof. David was a man of war, a member of Saul’s army when he began to play the harp for the King. He had recently been anointed as future king, and he was definitely over the age of 20 to be counted as a soldier. Numbers 1:45 is clear that someone must be over the age of 20 to be counted as a member of the army. So close was David to King Saul that David was appointed as the King’s armour bearer.

Now for some controversy: I have been brought up in the Protestant tradition that the King James Version of the Bible is the only one that is authoritative. Many books have been written on the subject, and it seems that to suggest otherwise is tantamount to heresy. At the risk of being labelled a heretic, my position is that I am more interested in finding the truth than I am in following a belief that may be nothing more than tradition. In the KJV, the text that is relied upon is the MT (Masoretic Text) which a Jewish sect called the Masoretes applied themselves to, and completed between 700 – 1100 CE. The oldest manuscripts that are available are nearly 1,000 years older than that and are known as the Septuagint [first translated in the early 3rd century BCE[. What manuscripts did Jesus, His Disciples, Paul and the church fathers rely on? Research has been done to identify the source of many hundreds of quotes from the Old Testament that are used in the New Testament. Jesus and his Disciples quoted from the Septuagint over 90% of the time, while Paul quoted exclusively from the Septuagint. The Church fathers were openly critical of the Jewish texts, claiming that they had been corrupted. The Catholic Church and many Eastern Orthodox churches rely on translations from the Septuagint. While the differences don’t change doctrine, there are examples where later scholarship has added embellished detail. The story of David and Goliath is one significant example. In the Septuagint, the verses from 1 Samuel 17:12 – 31 are not to be found. Those verses, when included in the MT, have created some anomalous and disturbing scenarios. Gone is the narrative of a young shepherd boy bringing food for his brothers, and of Saul forgetting who David and his family were. In the MT, the story is full of holes and questions. In the Septuagint, the story makes perfect sense.

How big was Goliath? According to the MT, Goliath was 6 cubits and a span (about 9 feet 9 inches), while in the Septuagint, the Dead Sea Scrolls and Josephus, he was 4 cubits and a span (about 6 feet 9 inches). Whatever the actual dimensions, he was a lot bigger than David. If David weighed in at 150 pounds, even the shorter recording of Goliath may have been 500 pounds. He was also incredibly strong as his armour of mail weighed 125 pounds and the iron head of his spear weighed 15 pounds.

The death of Goliath: David, who was perhaps 23 or 24 years old, dispatched Goliath with a stone from a sling. When Goliath saw David, he said “Do you think I’m a dog? … Is that why you’ve come after me with a stick?” (1 Sam. 17:43 ESV) From Goliath’s perspective, David was coming at him with a stick (a staff actually), but we know that Goliath was brought down by a stone from a sling. There is an interesting possibility. David may have been the original inventor of the staff sling. The Romans used it much later and called it a fustibalus. They used to practice for an effective range of about 600 feet with a good degree of accuracy. One end of the sling was attached to the staff. The other end had a loop that hooked over the staff end so that it can release at the correct moment. Such a device can deliver quite a heavy stone with great force and velocity. If David had used a piece of granite the size of a billiard ball, it would have weighed about 11 ounces. That’s twice the weight of a billiard ball or a baseball which are about equal in mass. Baseball players wear helmets to protect from errant near-100 m.p.h. pitches. Now imagine having something solid that is twice as heavy as a baseball hitting a person in the head at a much greater speed. A brass helmet may even have transmitted the energy straight through to the skull, fracturing it.

The paragraph is educated speculation based on Goliath’s testimony of what he saw. It does not rule out the possibility that David used a shepherd’s sling. 1 Sam. 17:40 identifies the weapons that David took with him; a staff, a sling and five smooth stones. In most artistic representations, artists neglect David’s staff. The Bible is specific about these three items. Why would the staff be mentioned if it wasn’t used in some way?

In conclusion: In the search for the truth, it is sometimes necessary to bring into question things that we thought were settled and absolute. This article opens up aspects of a well-known story that most readers have never considered. My hope is that it leads to reasoned debate, resulting in a greater understanding of the how we interpret the events.

There will always be ‘what ifs’ and ‘buts’. For example, I Sam. 17:33 says, “And Saul said to David, Thou art not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him: for thou art but a youth, and he a man of war from his youth.” Taken out of context, this gives the impression that David may have been a teenager, but the word ‘youth’ [Hebrew נְעוּרִים] can mean ‘early life’. What we know is that David was already an accomplished soldier in Saul’s army and had been given the important job as the King’s armour-bearer. Saul, a tall athletic man considered that his personal armour would fit David. If he really had been a little boy, that offer would never have been made. What Saul was saying was, “You are in your early days and are not experienced like Goliath who is battle-hardened since he was young.” This is prudent advice to a young man. The story has turned out to be much more nuanced than anybody has believed.

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