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David vs. Whatsisname

Column

George Hrab

Skeptical Inquirer Volume 42.2, March / April 2018


I’m not sure I get the point of the story of David and Goliath. And just for clarity, I’m talking about the biblical story, not the 1970s claymation creep-fest that used to give me morality-based fever dreams. (What the hell is this? It looks like Rudolf or Heat Miser but it’s all Jesus-y. And why is the dog talking?) In the Bible, more specifically in the book of Samuel, David (our hero) fights Goliath (not our hero) because Saul and the Israelites1 are for some reason at odds with the Philistines. The Philistines send out Goliath, twice a day for forty days, to cream the living hummus out of any Israelite who even thinks about looking at him funny. Finally, some kid named David decides to go fight the significantly larger-than-himself Goliath, and by using a sling and some rocks slams the G-Man smack in the forehead, kills him, and wins. This is followed by three thousand years of abject peace in the Middle East.2 Yay, Bible!

Okay ...

You could say this story is about being an underdog and beating a much larger foe. 

You could say this story is about fighting smart.

You could say this story is about showing that David is the true king of Israel.

You could also say this story proves that Trump couldn’t have groped those women.

But let me repeat: I’m not sure I get the point of the story of David and Goliath. 

The Israelites are getting pounded twice daily by Goliath. Goliath: an individual. Yeah, he’s huge, but there are thousands of Israelites, right? I know the number one rule of ninja warfare expressly prohibits more than one fighter out of a mob of fighters fighting at a time, but these are Jews in the desert. Chop, chop; bum rush the dude and get it over with. Now there’s a good lesson: work together and you can overcome any large obstacle, as opposed to sitting around and hoping for some lucky one-in-a-million shot to the forehead from a random pipsqueak’s “Dennis The Menace” home sling-kit. And as for the Philistines, why are you sending out your best and biggest dude out to fight—twice a day? Even WWE wrestlers get time off between multiple bouts. No wonder he gets beaten after a cheap shot from some surly brat. He’s exhausted. Here’s an idea: have your army of desert-based sand warriors fight their significantly smaller army of chosen troopers, then right after, everyone can go try and figure out how long a cubit is while having a refreshing schvitz. Easy peasy.3 

Or how about this question: Is David cheating? I mean, he’s using a projectile weapon for hand-to-hand combat. Where’s the sport in that? Is that the moral? If the “Chi-KAH-go Way” to bring a gun to a knife fight, but maybe the “Valley-of-Elah Way” is to bring a wrist canon to a boxing match. If you can’t beat ’em, shoot ’em.4 Nice lesson.

And now to make this buffet even less kosher, while hunting around for details about this particular biblical story, I discovered that there’s apparently a bit of discordance as to whether or not Goliath was even killed by David. Wait … a Bible inconsistency? Whaaa? Anyway, David kills Goliath in 1 Samuel 17, but then some dude named Elhanan kills Goliath in 2 Samuel 21:19. There’s an absolute tzedakah-full of websites valiantly trying to explain away this discrepancy (mostly talmudic based) that are a twisty, pretzely joy to wade through and read. (Was “Goliath” a title? Was it his twin? Was it his brother? Are Elhanan and David the same person? Does The War Doctor count as a regeneration? Oy vey …) I had never heard of Elhanan before, so now I’m going to go check out all his early albums.5 

Which returns me to the completely dull and by now pencil-nubbed point I’m trying to make. I realize that stories such as these are supposed to engender multiple interpretations that result in raised eyebrows and scrunched shoulders, and I know that I’m not having some massive Jerusalem Syndrome–based revelation here. It could mean this, it could mean that, and it’s all supposed to make you … think? I guess? Dunno. It’s just another incredible example of a Bronze Age story that has stuck around way past its explanation date. 

After some personal contemplation, a touch of ritualistic fasting, and a significant amount of semi-public Charlton Heston cosplay, I’ve decided that I’m going to go with the following as the moral of the story of David and Goliath. Ready? Here goes: “Eat fresh fruit often.”

Why not? Makes just as much sense as anything else and could actually affect your life. Or colon. Or both.

Here’s to hoping all the foes you fight are exactly the size you want them to be. And have a banana.



Notes
  1. Their highest charting hit was “Why Do Fools Fall in Kreplach.”
  2. This might not be fully accurate.
  3. Or more accurately: oishy poishy.
  4. I know launching a rock is not technically “shooting,” but 2nd Amendment.
  5. “Eyerlekh on Main Street,” “Challah Need Is Love,” “Bat Out of Helzel”

George Hrab

George Hrab is a multi-instrumentalist, singer, songwriter, producer, composer, and heliocentrist. He has written and produced six independent CDs and a concert DVD; published two books; and recorded hundreds of episodes of an award-winning podcast.