David and Goliath: this is one of the most popular stories of the Bible. The shepherd boy that killed the giant Philistine Goliath.
Before going into the science of this event, I wanted to give a short background. In 1 Samuel 17, scripture tells us of the Israelites assembled in the Valley of Elah against the Philistines. The Philistines had their greatest warrior, the champion Goliath who, according to the Bible was six cubits tall. This would make him roughly 9 feet, 6 inches in height if measured by the 18 inch cubit and just over 11 feet tall if measured by the 21 inch cubit. This measurement comes from one Hebrew manuscript tradition called the Masoretic text, which is a text fixed around 100 AD by the Israelites. However, the Dead Sea Scrolls contained another version of the translated Hebrew Bible that places Goliath’s height at around four cubits and one span or 6 feet, 6 inches. Regardless of these two, archaeologists have long noted that male skeletons from this biblical period had an average height of less than 5 feet, 6 inches. So, even if Goliath was on the shorter side of the interpreted text, he was still a giant in comparison to the average Israelite. He wore heavy armor that was estimated at 125 pounds in weight.
1 Samuel 17:16 says, “For forty days the Philistine came forward every morning and evening and took his stand.” but no Israelite dared to challenge Goliath, except the young shepherd boy David. Wearing no armor, David chose five smooth stones from the stream and put them in the pouch of his shepherd’s bag and with his sling, he stepped forward to challenge Goliath.
1 Samuel 17:45 “David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.”
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.”
I wanted to write about how story is scientifically possible and by means of an experiment, proven that one stone striking Goliath in the forehead could have killed him instantly.
The sling, though a weapon of a poor person, was incredibly effective and very often underestimated. A hand sling made of braided hemp would have been the most likely sling used by David because it gives superior accuracy to the staff sling. The stones would have had to to be smooth and oval to improve the aerodynamic nature of the projectile. It is written in scriptures how David protected his sheep if a lion or bear came to attack them so the fact he was an experienced slinger is not outside the realm of possibility.
The History Channel did in fact run this experiment with Ballearic Slinger Champion Luis Pons Livermore. They erected a 9 foot Goliath that had at the area of the forehead a load cell, which is a device that would measure the amount of impact. It was only 4.9 square inches, representing the area of Goliath’s forehead that was not covered by his armor. According to trauma surgeon Dr. Mike Edwards, the force necessary to kill a human being from blunt force trauma is anything over 3,000 Newtons or 3 kilo Newtons. This force, spread over the area of 30 square millimeters would cause a shockwave. It would cause the brain to shake causing irreversibly tissue damage.
So Mr. Livermore was asked to perform the shot to access if this story was possible at all. When he releases the stone from the sling, a snap is heard. This snap from the sling is actually a sonic boom from the sheer power released…its so powerful, its breaking the sound barrier.
When he took the shot, not only did he hit the load cell with impressive accuracy, but the load cell measured the force to be 3.62 kilo Newtons. This was more than enough force to kill Goliath!
I have included the segment from the episode so you can watch Mr. Livermore in action.
Whether you believe the Biblical stories to be true or not, my aim is to show that they are, in fact, possible. You make your own conclusions. I firmly believe David was a shepherd boy that was anointed and blessed by God.
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