My dear Kacvey,

This letter is intended for your students who wish to know the original story of David and Goliath. This is how the Romano-Jewish scholar and historian Flavius Josephus (37-circa 100) narrated in Book VI (ix) of his “Jewish Antiquities”, and translated by H. St. J. Thackeray and Ralph Marcus.

The story goes:

(ix. 1) Not long afterwords the Philistines again assembled and mustered a great force, and marched against the Israelites; occupying the ground between Sochus and Azekus they established their camp there. Saul, on his side, let out his army against them, and, having pitched his camp on a certain mountain, forced the Philistines to abandon their first camp and to take up a similar position on another mountain over against that which he had occupied himself. The two camps were separated by a valley between the hills on which they lay. And now there came down from the camp of the Philistines one by name Goliath, of the city of Gitta, a man of gigantic stature. For he measured four cubits and a span , and was clad in armour proportioned to his frame. He wore a breastplate weighing 5000 shekels, with a helmet and greaves of bronze such as were meet to protect the limbs of a man of such prodigious size. His spear was not light enough to be borne in the right hand, but he carried it elevated on his shoulders; he had also a spear weighing 600 shekels, and many followed him, carrying his armour. Standing, then, between the opposing forces, this Goliath gave a mighty shout and said to Saul and the Hebrews, “I hereby deliver you from battle and its perils. For what need is there for your troop to join arms and to suffer heavy losses? Give me one of your men to fight with me, and the issue of the war shall be decided by the single victor, and to the people of the victor the other side shall be slaves. It is far better, I think, and more prudent to attain your end by the hazard of one man’s life rather than all.” Having so spoken he retired to his own camp. On the morrow he came again and delivered the same speech, and so, for forty days, he did not cease to challenge his enemies in these same terms, to the utter dismay both of Saul and his army. And though they remained drawn up as for battle, they never came to close quarters.

(2) Now, on the outbreak of the war between the Hebrews and the Philistines, Saul had sent David away to his father Jesse, being content with the latter’s three sons whom he had sent to share the dangers of the campaign. David then returned at first to his flocks and cattle-pastures, but before long visited the camp of the Hebrews, being sent by his fathers to carry provisions to his brothers and to learn how they fared. Now when Goliath came again, challenging and taunting the Hebrews with not having among them a man brave enough to venture down to fight with him, David was talking with his brothers about the matters wherewith his father had charged him, and hearing the Philistine reviling and abusing their army, he became indignant and said to his brothers that he was ready to meet this adversary in single combat. Thereat the eldest of his brothers, Eliab, rebuked him, telling him that he was bolder than became his years and ignorant of what was fitting, and bade him be off to the flock and to his father. Out of respect for his father David withdrew, but gave out to some of the soldiers that he wished to fight with the challenger. As they straightway reported the lad’s resolve to Saul, the king sent for him; and David, when asked by him what he wished, said, “Let not thy spirit be downcast nor fearful, O King, for I will bring down the presumption of the foe by joining battle with him and throwing this mighty giant down before me. Thus would he be made a laughing-stock, and thine army have the more glory, should he be slain, not by a grown man fit for war and entrusted with the command of battles, but by one to all appearance and in truth no older than a boy.”

(3) Saul admired the lad’s daring and courage, but could not place full confidence in him by reason of his years, because of which, he said, he was too feeble to fight with a skilled warrior. “These promises,” replied David, “I make in the assurance that God is with me; for I have already had proof of His aid. Once when a lion attacked my flocks and carried off a lamb, I pursued and caught him and snatched the lamb from the beast’s jaws, and, when he sprang up upon me, lifted him by the tail and killed him by dashing him upon the ground. And I did the very same thing in battle with the bear. Let this enemy then be reckoned even as one of those wild beasts, so long has he insulted our army and blasphemed our God, who will deliver him into my hands.”

(4) So then Saul, praying that the lad’s zeal and hardihood might be rewarded by God with a like success, said, “Go forth to battle.” And he clad him in his own breastplate, girt his sword about him, fitted a helmet upon his head and so sent him out. But David was weighed down by this armour, for he had not been trained nor taught to wear armour, and said, ” Let this fine apparel be for thee, O King, for thou indeed art able to wear it, but suffer me, as thy servant, to fight just as I will.” Accordingly he laid down the armour and, taking up his staff, he put five stones from the brook into his shepherd’s wallet, and with a sling in his right hand advanced against Goliath. The enemy, seeing him approaching in this manner, showed his scorn, and derided him for coming to fight, not with such weapons as men are accustomed to use against other men, but with those wherewith we drive away and keep off dogs. Or did he perhaps take him for a dog, and not a man? “No,” replied David, “not even for a dog, but something still worse.” This roused Goliath’s anger, and he called down curses upon him in his god’s name and threatened to give his flesh to the beasts of earth and the birds of heaven to rend asunder. But David answered him, “Thou comest against me with sword, spear and breastplate, but I, in coming against thee, have God for my armour, who will destroy both thee and all your host by our hands, For I will this day cut off thine head and fling thy carcase to the dogs, thy fellows, and all men shall learn that Hebrews have the Deity for their protection, and that He in His care for us is our armour and strength, and that all other armament and force are unavailing where God is not.” And now the Philistine, impeded by the wight of his armour from running more swiftly, came on toward David at a slow pace, contemptuous and confident of slaying without any trouble an adversary at once unarmed and of an age so youthful.

(5) But the youth advanced to the encounter, accompanied by an ally invisible to the foe, and this was God. Drawing from his wallet one of the stones from the brook which he put therein, and fitting it to his sling, he shot it at Goliath, catching him in the forehead, and the missile penetrated to the brain, so that Goliath was instantly stunned and fell upon his face. Then, running forward, David stood over his prostrate foe and with the other’s broadsword, having no sword of his own, he cut off his head. Goliath’s fall caused the defeat and rout the Philistines; for, seeing their best warrior laid low and fearing a complete disaster, they resolved to remain no longer, but sought to save themselves from danger by ignominious and disorderly flight. But Saul and the whole Hebrew army, with shouts of battle, sprang upon them and with great carnage pursued them to the borders of Gitta and to the gates of Ascalon. Of the Philistines 30,000 were slain and twice as many wounded. Saul then returning to their camp destroyed the palisade and set fire to it; while David carried the head of Goliath to his own tent and dedicated his sword to God.

Malcolm Gladwell, a Canadian author, once, said: “That term, ‘David and Goliath,’ has entered our language as a metaphor for improbable victories by some weak party over someone far stronger.”