THE BIGGER THEY ARE, THE HARDER THE HAUL
It is Sunday sermon time again, boys and girls. Pull out your textbooks, and I’ll spin you a tale.
This hoary old chestnut comes to you from…any guesses? Got it in one. The good old Old Testament, that jumbled jambalaya of fractured fairy tales. This one’s about the classic underdog (‘where oh where, can my underdog be?’ – Polly Purebred): little guy takes on hulk, smashes hulk, and soars to stardom. A Cinderella story chock full of testosterone.
Abdul Kareem Jabbar vs. Bruce Lee (Game of Death).
Everyone loves an underdog. It assuages us on a primal level; it comforts us with the possibility of overcoming all odds, and hints at the possibility of justice in the cold arms of the universe.
Too bad, most of it is fantasy, if not all. Let’s take a gander, shall we?
17:1 Now the Philistines gathered together their armies to battle; and they were gathered together at Socoh, which belongs to Judah, and encamped between Socoh and Azekah, in Ephesdammim.
Where? Okay, directions: Head north from Jerusalem, take a left at the three big sand dunes, go about five miles, take a right, an immediate left, another right, stop at the big Dagon statue, and ask, “Where the hell am I?
17:2 Saul and the men of Israel were gathered together, and encamped in the valley of Elah, and set the battle in array against the Philistines.
Okay, girdled…er, girded for battle.
17:3 The Philistines stood on the mountain on the one side, and Israel stood on the mountain on the other side: and there was a valley between them.
And then what? Everyone runs down into the valley, and kills each other? Real strategists, these guys.
17:4 There went out a champion out of the camp of the Philistines, named Goliath, of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span.
Translation: Holy shit, this guy’s as big as a house!
17:5 He had a helmet of brass on his head, and he was clad with a coat of mail; and the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of brass.
I wonder if this fellow shopped at Bert’s Big ‘N Tall for Iron-Age Warriors
17:6 He had brass shin-armor on his legs, and a javelin of brass between his shoulders.
Guy likes brass, I guess. Good thing he’s not allergic, ey? I can hear him now: “I wonder why my skin keeps turning blue-green?” Verdigris’s a bitch to get off, I hear.
17:7 The staff of his spear was like a weaver's beam; and his spear's head weighed six hundred shekels of iron: and his shield-bearer went before him.
Guy’s loaded for bear. Yeah, we get it.
17:8 He stood and cried to the armies of Israel, and said to them, Why are you come out to set your battle in array? Am I not a Philistine, and you servants to Saul? Choose you a man for you, and let him come down to me.
I wish we did this today. Save a lot of time. Pretty big set of lungs, to be heard on another mountaintop.
17:9 If he be able to fight with me, and kill me, then will we be your servants; but if I prevail against him, and kill him, then shall you be our servants, and serve us.
Did any of the Philistines have an issue with this? Apparently not.
17:10 The Philistine said, I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man that we may fight together.
LET’S GET READY TO RUMMMMMBLE! Now I know where the WWF got this idea.
17:11 When Saul and all Israel heard those words of the Philistine, they were dismayed, and greatly afraid.
Hey, I’d be pissing myself too: here’s this huge freak, who carries around armory that would burden an army, and can be heard a mountain away?
17:12 Now David was the son of that Ephrathite of Bethlehem Judah, whose name was Jesse; and he had eight sons: and the man was an old man in the days of Saul, stricken in years among men.
What’s that, about thirty, forty years old? Or maybe it ‘s just having eight boys what wears a man out?
17:13 The three eldest 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 next to him Abinadab, and the third Shammah.
This book sure loves the number three.
17:14 David was the youngest; and the three eldest followed Saul.
17:15 Now David went back and forth from Saul to feed his father's sheep at Bethlehem.
Let’s hope that’s ALL he did with the sheep. I’ve heard about shephards: gets pretty lonely out on the dunes.
17:16 The Philistine drew near morning and evening, and presented himself forty days.
AND a long attention span! A man unafraid of commitment! What’s with the ‘forty days’ thingamabob, anyways?
17:17 Jesse said to David his son, Take now for your brothers an ephah of this parched grain, and these ten loaves, and carry them quickly to the camp to your brothers;
I always thought the youngest kid was the most spoiled.
17:18 and bring these ten cheeses to the captain of their thousand, and look how your brothers fare, and take their pledge.
Hey, I believe in cheeses! Oh, wait: wrong book. Off to war you go, kiddo.
17:19 Now Saul, and they, and all the men of Israel, were in the valley of Elah, fighting with the Philistines.
After forty days, who wouldn’t be bored out of their skulls?
17:20 David rose up early in the morning, and left the sheep with a keeper, and took, and went, as Jesse had commanded him; and he came to the place of the wagons, as the host which was going forth to the fight shouted for the battle.
Bo-peep gave him hell for that one.
17:21 Israel and the Philistines put the battle in array, army against army.
Yeah, they’re fighting, we got that already.
17:22 David left his baggage in the hand of the keeper of the baggage, and ran to the army, and came and greeted his brothers.
Keeper of the baggage? Did he get a ticket for it, or what?
17:23 As he talked with them, behold, there came up the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name, out of the ranks of the Philistines, and spoke according to the same words: and David heard them.
After forty days of repeating himself? Yeesh, talk about schizoid.
17:24 All the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him, and were sore afraid.
In the words of Monty Python: “Run away! Run away!” Can’t say as I blame them.
17:25 the men of Israel said, have you seen this man who is come up? Surely to defy Israel is he come up: and it shall be, that the man who kills him, the king will enrich him with great riches, and will give him his daughter, and make his father's house free in Israel.
That sounds pretty good, actually.
17:26 David spoke to the men who stood by him, saying, What shall be done to the man who kills this Philistine, and takes away the reproach from Israel? for who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?
Wait, how do you know he’s uncircumcised? Ain’t his loins all girded up in brass? Brass balls as they say.
17:27 The people answered him after this manner, saying, So shall it be done to the man who kills him.
None of these folks understand how to use a simple yes/no.
17:28 Eliab his eldest brother heard when he spoke to the men; and Eliab's anger was kindled against David, and he said, Why are you come down? and with whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know your pride, and the naughtiness of your heart; for you have come down that you might see the battle.
“I left them with Bo-peep. Naughtiness? Sheep lie, I tell you!”
17:29 David said, What have I now done? Is there not a cause?
Yeah, keep squirming, fella.
17:30 He turned away from him toward another, and spoke after the same manner: and the people answered him again after the former manner.
17:31 When the words were heard which David spoke, they rehearsed them before Saul; and he sent for him.
What, they put on a play?
17:32 David said to Saul, Let no man's heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.
Ah, the brashness of youth.
17:33 Saul said to David, You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are but a youth, and he a man of war from his youth.
Translation: “You gotta be fucking kiddin’ me, kid! Look at him! He’ll eat you for a snack!”
17:34 David said to Saul, Your servant was keeping his father's sheep; and when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock,
Well, which is it? A bear, or a lion?
17:35 I went out after him, and struck him, and delivered it out of his mouth; and when he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and struck him, and killed him.
Obviously a lion. Bears don’t have beards.
17:36 Your servant struck both the lion and the bear: and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them, seeing he has defied the armies of the living God.
You did both? Didn’t you just say ‘or’? “Yo, yo, G! Your little man got a purple collar, or what?”
17:37 David said, Yahweh who delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine. Saul said to David, Go, and Yahweh shall be with you.
So waitaminnit: the bear AND the lion were sharing a single lamb outta the flock? 17:38 Saul clad David with his clothing, and he put a helmet of brass on his head, and he clad him with a coat of mail.
Man, was this the Iron Age, or the Brass age?
17:39 David girded his sword on his clothing, and he tried to go; for he had not proved it. David said to Saul, I can't go with these; for I have not proved them. David put them off him.
Whatever the hell that’s supposed to mean. Maybe he’s allergic to verdigris?
17:40 He took his staff in his hand, and chose him five smooth stones out of the brook, and put them in the shepherd's bag which he had, even in his wallet; and his sling was in his hand: and he drew near to the Philistine.
So he got stoned? Sorry.
17:41 The Philistine came on and drew near to David; and the man who bore the shield went before him.
Waitaminnit: the shield was so big Goliath couldn’t carry it? Or David? Color me confused, and turn the page.
17:42 When the Philistine looked about, and saw David, he disdained him; for he was but a youth, and ruddy, and withal of a fair face.
Translation: “Go away, kid, yer botherin’ me” (courtesy of W.C Fields)
17:43 The Philistine said to David, Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks? The Philistine cursed David by his gods.
“Here! Fetch! Fetch! No?”
17:44 The Philistine said to David, Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the sky, and to the animals of the field.
Translation: dog-meat, baby.
17:45 Then said David to the Philistine, You come to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a javelin: but I come to you in the name of Yahweh of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 17:46 This day will Yahweh deliver you into my hand; and I will strike you, and take your head from off you; and I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the sky, and to the wild animals of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, 17:47 and that all this assembly may know that Yahweh doesn't save with sword and spear: for the battle is Yahweh's, and he will give you into our hand.
Apparently, Davey knew how to talk some serious smack.
17:48 It happened, when the Philistine arose, and came and drew near to meet David, that David hurried, and ran toward the army to meet the Philistine.
Arose? What, he was lying down?
17:49 David put his hand in his bag, and took there a stone, and slang it, and struck the Philistine in his forehead; and the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face to the earth.
Bada-boom, bada-bing! Eat my sling!
17:50 So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and struck the Philistine, and killed him; but there was no sword in the hand of David.
Yeah, we got that. Makes for some good drama, though.
17:51 Then David ran, and stood over the Philistine, and took his sword, and drew it out of the sheath of it, and killed him, and cut off his head therewith. When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled.
From the sounds of it, the sword was probably as big as David. Guess not.
17:52 The men of Israel and of Judah arose, and shouted, and pursued the Philistines, until you come to Gai, and to the gates of Ekron. The wounded of the Philistines fell down by the way to Shaaraim, even to Gath, and to Ekron.
17:53 The children of Israel returned from chasing after the Philistines, and they plundered their camp.
17:54 David took the head of the Philistine, and brought it to Jerusalem; but he put his armor in his tent.
Here’s dent number one in the story: “Another problem is that David is said to have brought Goliath's head to Jerusalem (1 Sam 17:54), though Jerusalem belonged to the Jebusites at the time, which casts some doubt on this detail of the story.”
17:55 When Saul saw David go forth against the Philistine, he said to Abner, the captain of the host, Abner, whose son is this youth? Abner said, As your soul lives, O king, I can't tell.
I can let that go, as it may have been too far to tell.
17:56 The king said, "Inquire whose son the young man is!"
Still okay, thus far.
17:57 As David returned from the slaughter of the Philistine, Abner took him, and brought him before Saul with the head of the Philistine in his hand.
Be nice if they kept some chronological order. Was this before or after the alleged trip to Jerusalem?
17:58 Saul said to him, Whose son are you, you young man? David answered, I am the son of your servant Jesse the Bethlehemite.
Here’s where dent number two comes in: in First Samuel Chapter 16, it states:”
16:18 Then answered one of the young men, and said, Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, who is skillful in playing, and a mighty man of valor, and a man of war, and prudent in speech, and a comely person; and Yahweh is with him.
16:19 Therefore Saul sent messengers to Jesse, and said, Send me David your son, who is with the sheep.”
“Sheep LIE, I tell you! Why won’t anyone believe me?” And then:”
16:20 Jesse took a donkey loaded with bread, and a bottle of wine, and a kid, and sent them by David his son to Saul.
16:21 David came to Saul, and stood before him: and he loved him greatly; and he became his armor bearer.
16:22 Saul sent to Jesse, saying, please let David stand before me; for he has found favor in my sight.
16:23 It happened, when the evil spirit from God was on Saul, that David took the harp, and played with his hand: so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him.”
So either Saul’s got short-term memory loss (betcha that ‘evil spirit’ came back, huh?), or the Masoretic scribes weren’t quite all they were cracked up to be. David ended up being his armor-bearer, and somehow, next chapter, he’s back up in the mountains, er, tending sheep?
Here comes dent number 3:
” Textual conflicts
David may not have been the one to kill Goliath. Elhanan, the son of Jaare-oregim the Bethlehemite, is given credit for killing Goliath in 2 Sam 21:19. The KJV adds the phrase "the brother of" before Goliath's name in order to avoid contradicting the story of David's victory.
The KJV insertion is justified by the parallel account of Elhanan's deed at 1 Chron 20:5b, which states that "Elhanan the son of Jair slew Lahmi the brother of Goliath." The word "Jair" here is "Jaare-oregim" at 2 Sam 21:19b; "oregim" is Hebrew for "weavers," which also appears at the end of both verses. Also, "Lahmi" (Hebrew "´eth-lach·mi´," where "´eth" simply means that Lahmi is the object of the verb "slew") in the former becomes "behth hal·lach·mi´" (“Bethlehemite”) in the latter. Hence many scholars view 2 Sam 21:19b to be the result of two scribal errors, with 1 Chron 20:5b as the correct account.
However, other scholars argue that Elhanan may have been the victor over Goliath, but that David was later credited with the deed in order to enhance his reputation. It has been contended that, because of David's introduction to Saul in 1 Samuel 16:19-23, Saul should have known who David was in 1 Samuel 17:55-58 and would not need to ask whose son David is, especially since Jesse, David's father, is also mentioned in the earlier passage.
One response to this is to argue that the earlier passage only implies that the servants of Saul knew that David was the son of Jesse. There is no reason to believe Saul had to have known that Jesse was David's father two years later in Chapter 17. “
Now, Ahmed Osman, in his book ‘Jesus in the House of the Pharoahs’ Appendix C, pg. 207-10, stipulates that “The tale of the slaying of Goliath does not belong to the story of either David (he contends that there were two, one being the mighty chieftain, the other being a lowly shephard)., but that, on pg. 209, that it belongs to “an ancient Egyptian literary work known as the Autobiography of Sinuhe”.
I guess David(s) did indeed exist. And hey, it's a pretty good story, but it loses cohesion upon careful examination, like just about all of the stories in the same book.
Fairy tales all.
Till the next post, then.