Skeptics frequently take a historical biblical story and attempt to show that it is impossible. Some religious folks have answered these challenges by saying the event is a miracle of God and thus is not open for discussion. The Bible certainly describes miracles of God that can’t be explained by natural causes and are therefore not available for investigation. For example, we can’t prove that Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead by scientific evidence because we were not there and can’t go back in time. If a person doesn’t believe in God, then a biblical record will certainly not convince them and may encourage them to reject the Bible as a bunch of fairy tales. In the case of David and Goliath, however, the evidence is strong that the account is credible.
Several years ago, I had an American Field Service student from South America in my physics class at Riley High School. When our class was studying centrifugal force and circular motion, he offered to show us what he called a “shepherd sling.” This was a pouch with a long cord attached at each end made from some non-stretchable material. One of the cords had a loop at the end of it, and the other cord was straight.
My student put a golf ball in the pouch and swirled the pouch and ball around his head, holding the two cords in his hand, the one with the loop wrapped around his finger. He got the ball/pouch going at a very high speed and then released the straight end of the cord, sending the golf ball flying at an incredible speed. Taking this outside, he could knock a tin can off a post at 100 feet. The force of the strike was so strong that the can flew a considerable distance. From 100 feet, this student could put a rock through a thick board.
Biblical Archaeology Review published an article examining the statistics for the encounter of David and Goliath. Archaeologists have discovered reliefs in the mortuary temple of Ramesses III showing Egyptian slingers defending a ship. An Assyrian relief from Nineveh celebrating Sennacherib’s military victories shows Assyrian slingers in 701 B.C. whirling stones toward Judahite defenders atop the walls at Lachish. Archaeologists have found the remains of slings and the stones used in them.
These ancient slings had military uses up to 400 yards, and Roman slingers used them at distances of 200 yards. Arabian slingers hunt game at 30 to 50 yards today, and a moderately skilled slinger can achieve up to 113 miles per hour. Goliath had a javelin that he could throw 20 to 30 yards, meaning that David’s sling was vastly superior with about twice the range.
God certainly facilitated the actions of David, but the story of David and Goliath has historical validity, indicating that it was not miraculous and not a myth.
— John N. Clayton © 2022
Reference: “Taking a Sling” by Boyd Seevers and Victoria Parrott in Biblical Archaeology Review fall 2022, pages 50 -54