Friday, May 4, 2012

I'm a super dork

So I was reading the bible story the other day about David and Goliath, and right off the bat some things stood out that didn't make any sense.  My view about many bible stories these days is that, while I don't have any evidence to doubt that something didn't happen specifically the way it's written, it all falls well behind the message, which to me is not only paramount, but timeless.  I don't see the story of David and Goliath as being about them, or that David was better suited as king than Saul, nor do I see it being about Israel or kings or time-periods for that matter, because all of us fight our own Goliaths each and every day, and that has application right now; in essence, it's a parable intended for every generation and not a historical fact.  What conclusively tells me that about this story are the weapons, armor, and tactics that are named; and as it turns out I'm not the only one who picked that up.

I'm a big dork for all things military, and when I'm told that a dude was frickin' nine feet tall (for reelz!  It says so!), who is a champion fighter trained from birth to kill for a living, that despite it being the iron age he's wearing bronze armor and an iron spear (that oh by the way is humongous for no apparent reason), I have doubts.  Not really doubts, because the whole thing is totally nonsensical.

To start, he's wearing a bronze helmet, and from my previous knowledge and recent research probably covered his forehead specifically to prevent the outcome mentioned in the story.  Goliath was an infantryman, a dismounted one, so his helmet would most likely have covered his face and nose.  Having picked a career where other savage guys swing edged weapons at your face all day within bad breath distances will definitely make you consider armoring the places on your head where you're vulnerable.  So how does a stone from David's sling find its way to the squishy part of Goliath's dome-piece?  Weird.

Next, he's wearing bronze coat of mail -- or scale armor, which is more likely.  I think that if I were the ruler of a rich country who's ready to stake the future of my kingdom on a single fight to the death with my prized ginormous champion (he's ten feet tall!  Seriously!), I'd have him in mail made from iron, considering that technology was fairly mature in that time period.  But that's just me.  Same goes for his greaves and for his sword or javelin, depending on the variant of bible you're reading.  From what I've read, the word for sword varies from the Hebrew and Greek language, and can mean both weapons.  Most likely it was a sword because David took it and cut Goliath's head off with it.  The reason the sword/javelin thingy is so important is because of Goliath's spear: a spear is usually not a throwing weapon because it's not very suited for it like a javelin is.  Spears are more suited as a handheld weapon used to kill outside of the range of the sword, and it makes no sense whatsoever to have this massively heavy spear unless it's intended to be used as a projectile.  It also makes no sense to throw your medium range weapon at an enemy and then get in all close to him and hope he isn't more skilled than you with the sword.  That would be stupid.

Standing back now for clarity on Goliath's armaments, you have a guy who's a veteran fighter, a so-called champion, who's just this massive specimen (twelve feet tall, I tell ya), and he's outfitted with the same outdated armor as everyone else.  It makes no sense.  His sword (here we'll consider it over the javelin) is made of bronze as well, instead of much stronger iron -- bronze swords lasted longer when used as thrusting weapons than as slashing weapons, and here's this big somebitch with one trying to pick a fight with another champion with a weapon he will presumably break with the first strike against his opponent's armor.  Again, it makes no sense.  And to top it off, he has a spear that's so friggin' huge as to be cumbersome, instead of the easily manipulated weapon that it's supposed to be.  It's sounding more and more like a tall tale to me (pun intended).

As for tactics, it was common for a champion, knight, noble, or other esteemed fighter to have a shield bearer or squire to haul all his shit around.  He may be a big man but somebody else can carry it all when he's not dismembering his enemies.  Where it goes off the rails is where the shield bearer is pressed into the fight, or kinda shoved out in the middle of the fight with it.  To an infantryman, the shield is almost as much of a weapon as the sword, and you want me to believe that the thirteen-foot professional fighter would give it to a regular sized guy and trust him to stop an attack?  How big was the shield?  If I were forty two feet tall, I'd want a shield large enough to match the distance between the greaves on my legs and the chin-strap of my helmet, you know, for that total coverage thing that keeps me alive while others poke spears at me.  The only way I can see having someone else bear a shield for a soldier in combat would be for an archer, and only because they have to use both hands to use their weapon.  In the case of infantry, they have that shield firmly attached to their left arm so they can instantly stop a blow.

In conclusion, either Goliath was incompetent as a warrior, or Samuel or whomever had a poor sense of memory, or perhaps a big imagination.  On the latter point, there's a ton of correlating evidence that suggests that a Homeristic approach was taken to the story.  Correlation is not causation, but it is what it is.  The intended message is still loud and clear, and in my mind doesn't deduct at all from the scriptures.  But being the realist that I am, I have to raise the BS flag on that battle going down like it did.

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