David and Goliath

When again the Philistines gathered an army together for war, they marched into the territory of Judah, and pitched their camp above the Valley of Elah, and on the steeps of a mountain ridge west of Bethlehem. And the host of Israel lay on the northern height of the valley, so that the two armies were face to face, and in sight one of another; the Philistines occupying the mountain on the one side, and Saul and his army occupying the mountain on the other side, with the wide valley and ravine between them. Through this ravine a pebbly brook coursed down among its rocks from the mountains above.

Now in the ranks of the Philistines at this time was a giant of prodigious strength and girth and stature, whose name was Goliath. He was of the city of Gath, and his four sons who were as yet in their childhood there, grew up to be giants like him; and one of them had six fingers on either hand, and on either foot six toes. From the crown of his head to the sole of his foot Goliath stood six cubits and a span. And he was the champion of the army of the Philistines.

While the day of battle was still in the balance, and neither army moved, morning and evening this Goliath would issue out from among the tents of the camp of the Philistines, stride down into the valley and there, in full view of both armies, would roar out his challenge, defying all Israel. Unlike his fellows in the ranks who were dressed in kilts with a pleated head-cap strapped under the chin, and who, apart from spear and broad-sword, carried only a two-handled shield or wore a cuirass of leather, he was clad from head to foot in armour of brass. A helmet of bronze was upon his head; a bronze coat of mail loose and supple covered his body, the scales of it overlapping one above another like the scales of a fish; and it weighed five thousand shekels of brass. Greaves also of bronze covered his shins, and a javelin of bronze hung between his shoulders. The haft of the spear he carried was like the beam of a weaver’s loom, and the pointed head of iron upon it weighed six hundred shekels. And there went out before him a crook-backed Philistine who in stature was a dwarf by comparison, and he carried the giant’s shield.

Now when this champion had bawled his challenge, and no man made answer, he would begin to taunt and mock at the Israelites.

‘Why, forsooth,’ he would shout against them, ‘have you come out in your rabble against the Philistines, and why have you set yourselves in battle array, seeing that the quarrel between us may be decided here and now. Here stand I, a warrior of the princes of Philistia; and there sit you, servants of Saul. If there be any man among you with the courage of a sheep, drive him down to meet me, face to face. For I swear by Dagon that if he prevail against me and kill me, then shall the Philistines become the slaves of Israel, to hew them wood and draw them water. But if, as I surely shall, I prevail against him, and fell him to the dust with this spear in my hand, then shall Israel be the slaves of the Philistines. Hai, now! Yet again this day I defy the armies of Israel. If man among you there is none to meet me, call on Jehovah to smite me with his thunderbolt! Peradventure he will answer!’

He clashed with his spear upon his breastplate, shouting derision. And the troops of Israel who heard him were dismayed. There were many men among them of tried valour and skill in battle, but not one ready to go out against this giant in single combat, with even a hope of triumphing over him. And defeat would bring disaster.

So morning and evening, Goliath would come striding down out of the camp of the Philistines, yell aloud his challenge, and pour out his taunts and insults. And the Philistines laughed to hear him.

Now of the eight sons of Jesse, who was himself too old for the hardships of war, the three eldest, Eliab, Abinadab and Shammah, were serving in the ranks of the army under Saul. But David, the youngest, was with his father in Bethlehem, keeping his sheep.

When one evening he returned home, his father bade him set out on the morrow for the camp of the army of Israel to see how his brothers fared.

‘And take with thee,’ he said, ‘a bushel of this parched corn, and these ten loaves and these ten cheeses; and run to the camp and bring me news, for it is many days since we had word of them.’

  By PanEris using Melati.

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