Saturday, 28 March 2015
Goliath and David, Swords and Pens
The shepherd boy, with his sling stolen from a dead soldier who was surely more practiced with it than he, nonetheless let fly a stone straight and true. Onlookers marveled at his courage, his faith. When the projectile struck its mark, and the giant staggered, hearts on one side of the ravine sunk, those on the other side soared.
Goliath recovered his footing and straightened up. His forehead was already sprouting a mighty goose egg, so he discarded the helmet that chafed at it. Then he laughed.
David, to his credit, only stood there, shaking, for a moment, before loading up another stone. Marvelously, this one, too, hit Goliath, but it glanced off the bronze breastplate and caused no damage.
Goliath was a warrior, from a race of warriors, who admired valor and lived by a code of honour, crude and violent though it may have been. As such, he respected the valiance of the youth, but could not bring himself to treat him as an equal.
"What god is this that would send a child against men?" he asked his steward.
"They believe their faith strengthens them," the steward answered. It was a strange custom to the Philistines, who made sacrifices, but of their enemies, not their children.
"I will not give battle to a boy," he told the steward. Then, to the enemy camp, he shouted. "Will you hide behind your children? Not one of you is man enough to face me? Saul? Will you not stand for your people?"
No voices made reply, and the wind mocked them all.
Then, as Goliath stared down his cowardly opponents, another stone struck him, straight between the eyes. It had not come from David, who had been stock-still, muttering to himself with his eyes closed since his second shot found itself ineffective. Goliath stumbled backward, slipped, lost his footing, and buckled sideways to the ground.
"Now, boy!" yelled a voice. A cacophony of similar cries rose to join it.
David ran forward to where the giant lay dazed in the dirt. "Not so big on your back, eh Philistine?" he mocked, reaching for Goliath's sword. "Your size is nothing to the God who made us all."
"I let you live, shepherd. What do you mean to do now?"
In answer, David grasped the sword, nearly as tall as he, with both hands, but he struggled to raise the blade. He fought with the weight as Goliath sat up, shaking the cloud off his head. David's small arms shook and strained, but he dropped the sharp edge in the dirt, the point grazing Goliath's breastplate harmlessly.
"You're brave, I'll give you that," said Goliath, snatching the sword from David, then throwing it to his steward who caught it easily. "Would you like to learn how to use that properly? Would you like to grow up strong, instead of herding sheep?"
"The Lord is my strength!" David yelled, and rushed at the giant, throwing his fists wildly.
Goliath stuck a huge hand out and snatched the boy by the face. "Look at me!" He shook the youth's head in his grip, but the crazed look would not leave David's eyes.
"Fine," said Goliath, "then go. But remember who let you live, and who sent you out to die. When your brothers lie dead all over this valley with mine, remember that if they had been men, they could have ended this with almost no blood." He threw the boy, headfirst, into the dirt, disgusted, then turned and walked back up the ridge with his steward.
"What shall we tell the men?" the steward asked.
"Nothing," said Goliath. "Unless these Hebrews come to face us like men, we will leave this place in three days. There will be no battle to record. There is nothing for us in this desert, anyway. I will not stain the sand or the men's blades with the blood of fanatical cowards for a scrap of desolate coast."
David picked himself up from the dirt, scared and scraped and scratched but otherwise unharmed. He ran with all the speed he could muster back to Saul's tent, and recounted what happened through trembling lips, his stutter plaguing him the whole while.
The wind picked up, and tore through valley. A rare rain broke through the skies that evening, lashing at the tents in both camps. The next morning, Goliath and his steward stood in the mud, calling the same challenge, but it went unanswered. For two more days, the camps faced each other silently, until the orders were given and the Philistines packed up and headed back down to their ships.
The Hebrews cheered their victory, saying the Lord sent the storms to chase the invaders off, saying the faith of the shepherd boy broke the giant's courage. They broke camp and headed for home. On the march, Saul ordered his scribe.
"The world must know how the Lord sent the boy to turn back the giant. Write what happened here, that the kingdom will know their God protects them."
"Why not kill the giant?" asked the scribe.
"Hm?" asked Saul.
"They're gone, either way, right? Perhaps the Lord gave the boy the strength to slay Goliath. Perhaps this was a heroic victory for the Hebrews." The scribe bounced his eyebrows and gestured to where David sat, shaking and mumbling, rocking side to side as the donkey carried him dutifully along. "The boy has faith in spades, that cannot be denied."
"Whatever," said the king, with a wave of his hand. "Just write something."