The story of David and Goliath is one of the most fascinating stories found in the Bible.
If you ever set foot in a Sunday school classroom, you probably heard the story of David and Goliath from 1 Samuel 17. It describes how David, a young shepherd, defeated the giant Philistine warrior Goliath with a single stone from a sling, when the rest of the Israelites were terrified.
Is this account just a ‘tall tale’ as some people think, or did it really happen? Is there any archaeological evidence for the story of David and Goliath?
Archaeological Evidence of David and Goliath
In recent years, archaeologists have unearthed evidence that demonstrates beyond a doubt that the events of David killing Goliath found in the Bible are consistent with the archaeological record.
I find it so fascinating. You can read about these discoveries in full detail and even see pictures of the artifacts here.
The City of Gath
The Bible in 1 Samuel 17:4 tells us that Goliath lived in Gath (in Hebrew pronounced ḡaṯ). This city is mentioned 33 times in Scripture.
Gath was one of the cities that was plagued with the emerods and mice because the Philistines had captured the Ark of the Covenant (1 Samuel 5:8-10). At that time, the Philistines knew that the God of Israel was greater than their god, Dagon (1 Samuel 5:1-6), but that didn’t stop them from coming against the Isrealites in battle.
Archaeologists have found that the city of Gath had enormous gates to go with its enormous fortifications and walls.
Most sources believe Goliath was 9 ft. 9 in. tall. In 2015, a huge gate entrance to the city was unearthed that would have been built to accommodate very tall humans. Giant spears that were found in 1962 that are as heavy as the Bible describes Goliath’s spear being (1 Samuel 17:7). .
Pieces of armor have been discovered that would have been in accordance with the weight of Goliath’s armor mentioned in 1 Samuel 17:5.
The Tel Dan Stele
As recently as 1993, The Tel Dan Stele was discovered in north Israel. Its fragments were found amongst stones used in an ancient stone wall that survived into recent times. The stele contains thirteen lines of Old Aramaic, including the words “house of David”.
In 2005, a shard of pottery with writing was discovered at Tell es-Safi and dated to the 10th to the early 9th centuries BC. Two names appear scratched on the potter which are very close in spelling to Goliath, showing an ancient record of the existence of Goliath.
There’s a lot more archaeological evidence of both David and Goliath that’s really cool to read about.
Could a Sling and Stone Really Kill Someone?
How realistic is this story? Could a simple shepherd boy really defeat a well-trained Philistine warrior wearing armor, with just a sling?
It is important to know that slings in the ancient world were not plastic toys-, they were dangerous weapons of war! Warriors trained with slings until they were absolutely deadly. Even today, I have seen youth who are trained with slings shoot down birds in the sky with one shot.
The oldest slings known from the biblical world came from King Tutankhamun’s tomb (ca. 1320 BC) who had slings buried with him.
Slings are mentioned other places in the Old Testament as weapons of war (Judges 20:16, 2 Kings 3:25). The deadly nature of slings was well known in the Ancient World.
Before Goliath Came the Lion and Bear
Not only does the Bible record that David killed Goliath, it also states that before he killed Goliath, David killed lions and bears with his own hands.
But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep his father’s sheep, and when a lion or a bear came and took a lamb out of the flock, I went out after it and struck it, and delivered the lamb from its mouth; and when it arose against me, I caught it by its beard, and struck and killed it. Your servant has killed both lion and bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, seeing he has defied the armies of the living God.” Moreover David said, “The Lord, who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” 1 Samuel 17:34–37
I believe that part of the reason David had the confidence to fight and defeat Goliath was because he had first seen the Lord deliver him from the lion and the bear. This is an important lesson we can learn from David’s life. As we gain victories with the Lord in smaller areas, our confidence is strengthened to believe He will be faithful in the big areas too.
Other People Who Have Killed a Bear or Lion
It is interesting to know that humans have killed bears throughout history for various reasons, even without guns.
There have been recent cases where a mother has killed a bear to protect her child. One example of this occurred in 2013, when a mother in British Columbia, Canada, fought off a black bear that had entered her family’s home and was attacking her 7-year-old daughter. The woman attacked the bear using a baseball bat. The girl suffered injuries but survived the attack.
In another example, a mother in Alaska killed a brown bear that had charged at her and her two children while they were hiking in a remote area in 2018
There are several historical and legendary accounts of individuals killing lions with their bare hands as well.
In recent times, there have been a few isolated reports of individuals killing lions with their bare hands. For example, in 1991, a man in Tanzania named Evarist Mgogo claimed to have killed a lion with his bare hands after it attacked him while he was out hunting. Mgogo reportedly strangled the lion to death using his strength and knowledge of pressure points.