News and Commentary

The Story Of David And Goliath Gets Archaeological Evidence Backing It Up

Scoffers beware: the Biblical tale of David and Goliath just got more real than ever, thanks to an archaeological discovery that fits the Biblical description of Goliath’s armor.

In the Biblical tale, roughly 3,000 years ago, David, when he was still a young shepherd and not yet the immortal king, engaged in single combat on behalf of the Jews against Goliath, the huge champion of the Jews’ arch-enemies: the Philistines. The story read like this:

A champion named Goliath, who was from Gath, came out of the Philistine camp. His height was six cubits and a span. He had a bronze helmet on his head and wore a coat of scale armor of bronze weighing five thousand shekels; on his legs he wore bronze greaves, and a bronze javelin was slung on his back. His spear shaft was like a weaver’s rod, and its iron point weighed six hundred shekels. His shield bearer went ahead of him.

Goliath stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why do you come out and line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not the servants of Saul? Choose a man and have him come down to me. If he is able to fight and kill me, we will become your subjects; but if I overcome him and kill him, you will become our subjects and serve us.”

After David volunteered to fight Goliath, David confronted him: “As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him. Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell facedown on the ground. So David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone; without a sword in his hand he struck down the Philistine and killed him. David ran and stood over him. He took hold of the Philistine’s sword and drew it from the sheath. After he killed him, he cut off his head with the sword.”

As Haaretz reports, in 2017 archaeologists found shards of pottery in Philistine Gath that were inscribed with names similar to Goliath’s. In the first book of Samuel, it states, “He had a bronze helmet on his head and wore a coat of scale armor of bronze … on his legs he wore bronze greaves, and a bronze javelin was slung on his back.”

Haaretz notes, “Now, if the story had been 7th or 6th century B.C.E. fiction, written hundreds of years after the event, the author would have had no idea how warriors had been garbed in the earlier Bronze Age. … To sum up, Goliath seems to have worn contemporary Bronze Age gear, scribes did exist shortly after his time and possibly within it, and the biblical descriptions suit other ancient texts referring to armies led by champions, rather than as the impersonal institutions of later texts. … The accurate description of a Bronze Age warrior’s equipment opens up the possibility that a memory was handed down over several centuries, embellished to be sure, but with a core of truth.”