Tackling a Giant


!!!חג אורים שמח

दाविद बनाम गोलियथ , דוד-גלית

Inspiring events from our ancient past do have an impact on our psyche and our spirituality. They seem to uplift us from our own shortcomings and failures. They can go as far as encouraging some intrepid souls to act on performing noble tasks. To my mind, the pre-Exodus apocalypses in Egypt, the splitting of the Red sea and then Samson and Delilah; these are stunners. Always fired me up.

Later we do have another titanic event, David (דוד ) vs. Goliath ( גלית ) . Going over the scripture passage in Hebrew, it kind of opened up a new way of looking at the titanic clash between an underdog and a giant. So what happened then ? To bring up the background — Israel as usual was floundering in it’s relationship with Adonai ( אדני ) . With Moses and Joshua gone, it was a free-for-all down the centuries, let’s say through the book of Judges, till we hear of a woman named Hannah (חנה ) .

Hannah was barren and was vexed by the constant taunting of her ‘opponent’ , the second wife of her husband Elkanah (אלקנה ) . She prayed to Adonai and Eli (עלי ), the High Priest at Shiloh, blessed her. She conceived and gave birth to Samuel (שמואל ) , her firstborn. And then in an act of pure selflessness she dedicated her firstborn, born after years of suffering in barrenness, to Adonai. Who does that ???!!!

This act triggered an upswing for Israel, already suffering for their rebellious streak against Adonai. The land had been subjugated and over run by Philistines and though Adonai wanted Israel to rule and be a shining light, they chose to be slaves and live in misery. To cut a long story short Samuel became the chosen prophet who led Israel. The people rebelled again and demanded a king, Saul (שאול ) was appointed as the first King of Israel and did not find favour with Hashem. El-Israel rejected him and replaced him with David (דוד ).

However, Saul was not going to give up his creamy position with ease. He continued to be King while David served him as a sort of personal arms bearer and music player. There was constant war between Philistine and Israel during Saul’s tenure and in one of these wars, the Philistines unleash their ace weapon.

The weapon was a giant warrior called Goliath. Goliath was of the lineage of giants called Rephaimᴿᵖʰ. His stature was enormous and he was a man of war. The Tanakh/OT puts his stature at 6 cubits and a spanᴳᵒˡ, שש אמות וזרת . That should translate to almost 9 feet, maybe more !!! If that was not enough he was wearing a coat of mail that weighed about 60 kilograms and was fully decked and armed for war, carrying a heavy spear and a short sword. His shield was so big that a man was appointed to carry it.

The Philistines were in battle array on one hill, while Israel was arrayed on another hill, a vale separated the two armies. Goliath was dispatched to challenge the Hebrew camp in a one-on-one battle with him. He was on it for 40 days but Israel had no answer for him. This was when a ruddy young lad called David appears on the scene. I am not going to discuss the details about the battle, the reader can refer to 1 Samuel chapter 17. My interest is on the probables that may have decided the fate of the battle, although Adonai was the driving force behind the eventual rout of the Philistines.

The battle has been debated to eternity with some very interesting points put forward. Goliath was huge and his taunts were designed to instil fear in the Israeli camp. This was pure psychological warfare and it was working.

א שמואל יז׃כד ׃ וכל איש ישראל, בראותם את- איש; וינסו, מפניו, וייראו מוד

1 Samuel 17:24: All the men of Israel, when they saw this man, fled from him and were sore afraid.

What struck me was the fact that the Israelis did not take out Goliath using arrows or slingshot volleys. They took his taunts for 40 days. Either the psych warfare had struck Israel to the bone OR the battle arrays were unevenly matched with the scales in favour of the Philistines. Any move to take out Goliath would invite major retribution. The Philistines were wisely letting this play out hoping to minimise casualties. Their plan was to see Goliath win in a one-on-one battle and then force major concessions on Israel without firing a shot.

David appeared in the Hebrew garrison as a delivery lad, supplying replenishment to his brothers engaged in war. He heard about the challenge of Goliath and volunteers. He was then taken to King Saul. This was strange because the Hebrew men of war chose not to volunteer but they accepted David’s quest ! Was this because a lot of people in Israel were already in the know about David’s anointing as a future king ? Saul rejected him initially citing his lack of experience in war fighting, but David persisted citing his previous engagements with lions and bears, as a shepherd. He claimed to be an excellent slingshot. This seemed to have moved Saul to accept David as Goliath’s opponent.

The slingshot ( קלע )ˢˡ, was no ordinary weapon in ~1000 B.C. and, among Saul’s Benjamin tribesmen were elite slingshot marksmen who could sling stones at a hair’s breadth and not miss. Excavations of other more recent ancient historical sites, have unearthed evidence that suggests that lead bullets used in slingshots had almost the same power as a .44 Magnum ! The slingshots could be accurate to ~100 meters. David, as a shepherd lad was adept at this weapon. It did not require a lot of physical strength as much as a lot of training and it was a potent weapon. I’ll give credit to Saul for this, he knew talent when he saw it.

Goliath on the other hand, was weighed down by a tonne of warrior stuff; his brass coat of mail, a gigantic spear, a brass short sword and greaves of brass on his legs. His outlook appeared to have been more for psychological warfare rather than actual war fighting which requires good mobility. At nearly 9+ feet tall and with this heavy fight gear he must have weighed like 200 kilograms, maybe more. In a fast moving fluid battlefield, he would be toast for accurate archers or sling shots. On the other hand, a one-on-one engagement with the sword or even a spear would have tilted the engagement in Goliath’s favour. His reach was simply enormous.

Going back to the events in the Hebrew garrison, Saul tried foisting his heavy, oversized, fight gear on David. An act which exposed his lack of clarity in war fighting. Saul was one of the tallest people in Israel. But, David wisely rejected it and went to battle with nothing but his staff and slingshot. If he would have been wearing the oversized heavy armour, the story would likely have ended with Goliath being victorious. Adonai wins battles by enlightening men’s hearts to act appropriately in actual situations. David had a tried and tested weapon and he could use it with lightening reflexes honed by years of sheep herding. He would stay light and agile. That was all that was required !!

When David did go down to the battle, Goliath held him in contempt. A ruddy lad with a staff !! Goliath seems to have noticed David’s staff but gave a complete miss to his slingshot. A fatal oversight.

;א שמואל יז׃מג ׃ ויאמר הפלשתי אל- דוד, הכלב אנכי, כי- אתה בא- אלי במקלות ויקלל הפלשתי ,את -דוד ,באלהיו

1 Samuel 17:43: The Philistine said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come upon me with sticks ?” And the Philistine cursed David by his god.

The scripture mentions an exchange of words. This was another oversight by Goliath. He did not know that he was facing an ace marksman with a .44, the talking allowed David to mark out Goliath, calculating probable trajectories. Goliath’s overconfidence aided David to have a definite bead on the weakest spot i.e. the exposed forehead. He had five smooth stones aka five bullets. Goliath’s armour was not without chinks. The bigger you are the more of a target you will be to your opponent and Goliath was huge. Both the opponents moved in for the battle, the .44 Magnum was loaded up swiftly, it’s aim honed by years of experience. Bam !! Goliath came down as a derailed express train. Even if David had missed the first shot, he could in all probability swiftly reload and fire at pre-selected spots on the huge target. Goliath definitely could not move faster than lions or even bears. He was a sitting duck.

In retrospect the outcome was always in favour of David. El-Israel was training him through the tough years as a shepherd in the harsh environment of Judah. When the time was ripe the weapon was unleashed on the Philistines. The more potent weapon was not the heavily armoured giant but the ruddy lad with a honed .44 Magnum or the slingshot. Its the typical way in which El-Elyon always rubs in human pride, by rearing an innocuous unknown, as a very potent weapon and then unleashing it on human pride and arrogance. Just look at Moses, Gideon, Samson and of course the tiny Semitic nation of Israel itself, all chosen to glorify His Mighty Name.

Lesson: There is no chance of winning against El-Israel, He will beat the world hands down. Kapish ?



ᴳᵒˡ1 Samuel 17:4, there is an intense debate on the ‘actuals’ of Goliath with many arguing that he was more like 7 feet and the estimates go all the way up to 9+ feet. In my view giants would be far over 7 feet, else they would just be very tall men.


Featured Image by : Osmar Schindler (1869-1927), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Aramaic in the Old and New Testament

Winding down deeper into the Scriptural ancient scripts trail, one discovers so much more. It often seems like diving deeper and deeper into a bottomless ocean. There is so much knowledge and spirituality to be gained, I often wonder, as to how did I miss making this pleasant journey earlier in my life? It’s happening now all thanks to a microscopic bug labelled Covid. Ironic.

If you have read the previous ancient scripts trail post, then you know that Hebrew is the script for the Tanakh/Old Testament (OT) and Koine Greek for the New Testament (NT). However, it now emerges that considerable portions of the scripture text are written in Aramaic. Well, its just about 1% of the OT, but then that is about 250 verses, and a few of them in the NT too. ( The Gospel of Mark, chapter 5, verse 41 has the Aramaic “Talitha Kumi” or “Little girl, arise” also used as the featured image of this post. )

The Aramaic language was the official language of various empires that attacked and subjugated the Northern and Southern Kingdoms of Israel and Judahʳᵉᶠ. Not surprising then that the books of Daniel and Ezra carry many chapters in Imperial Aramaic*, the lingua franca of the Babylonianᴺᵉᵇᵘ and the Achaemenidᶜʸʳ empires.

I was able to code in Imperial Aramaic to my system, for the pleasure of the interested readers. It has a Unicode block allotted to it, . Daniel chapter 2 verse 4 kicks off the Aramaic portion and it ends with chapter 7. The script reads from right to left.

Daniel 2:4 — Then the Chaldeans spoke to the King in Aramaic – “O King, live forever! Tell the dream to your servants, we will give the interpretation.”

דניאל ב.ד — וידברו הכשדים למלך, ארמית: מלכא לעלמין חיי — אמר חלמא לעבדך ופשרא נחוא

𐡃𐡍𐡉𐡀𐡋 — 𐡅𐡉𐡃𐡁𐡓𐡅 𐡄𐡊𐡔𐡃𐡉𐡌 𐡋𐡌𐡋𐡊 𐡀𐡓𐡌𐡉𐡕 𐡌𐡋𐡊𐡀 𐡋𐡏𐡋𐡌𐡉𐡍 𐡇𐡉𐡉 — 𐡀𐡌𐡓 𐡇𐡋𐡌𐡀 𐡅𐡐𐡔𐡓𐡀 𐡍𐡇𐡅𐡀

Above, you can see the English, then Hebrew and lastly in bold italics, the Imperial Aramaic text. It almost takes me back to the time when Daniel must have stood before an enraged emperor i.e. Nebuchadnezzar, who wanted to tear apart all the magicians, soothsayers and wise men of his kingdom. He wanted them to tell him what his dream was and to interpret his dream. The slaughter was about to begin as no one was willing to do so. That is until Daniel stepped in. Living in faith was never easy.

The NT has far fewer Aramaic portions. The older Imperial Aramaic script had changed to a form closely resembling the Syriac-Aramaicᴾᵉˢʰ script. (The script reads from right to left and has its own Unicode block, allowing me to code it in my system.) It is an established fact that Aramaic was the common language in Israel, during the time of Christ. The Gospel of Mark, chapter 15 verse 34 has Aramaic in it.

Mark 15:34 — At the ninth hour, Jesus cried in a loud voice – “Eloi Eloi lema sabachtani” which is translated as “My God, My God why have you forsaken me?”

ܐܠܝ ܐܠܝ ܠܡܢܐ ܫܒܩܬܢܝ

Aramaic in bold italics, above. The Syriac Peshitta NT puts it as ‘Eil Eil Lmana Shwaqthani’. I have rendered it as ‘Eli Eli Lmana Sabaqthani’ᴱˡᶦ, more in line with the traditional rendering. Some of the bystanders of the crucifixion, heard His cry, and misunderstood it as a call to Elijah. ‘Eli’ rhymes partly with ‘Elia’, Aramaic for Elijah.

The Aramaic script fills an important void as far as my understanding of the Scripture goes. It brings into focus the times of Jewish captivity and exile in Babylon and then other empires, then on to the Messiah and His Ministry. The language and the script continued to be used widely in the Middle-East till the 7th century AD. Thereafter, it managed to survive through the centuries in parts of Syria, Turkey, Iraq, Israel and India. Currently, it is the liturgical language of the Syriac Orthodox church.

That’s all from me.

Please do check out the references below if you are interested in digging deeper into Aramaic.


ʳᵉᶠ History of ancient Israel and Judah

* Imperial Aramaic

ᴺᵉᵇᵘ Babylonian Kingdom

ᶜʸʳ Achaemenid Empire

ᴾᵉˢʰ Syriac-Aramaic Unicode Peshitta — The Syriac NT

‘ᴱˡᶦ The cry of the Messiah on the Cross — ‘Eli’ translates to ‘My God’, ‘El’ for God and the ‘i’ suffix denotes the genitive case ‘My’; ‘sebaq’ means to forsake, in Aramaic.