Joel Ryan Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
Most people are probably familiar with the story of David and Goliath—even if they’ve never opened a Bible or stepped foot inside of a church.
A shepherd boy, armed with nothing but courage, faith, and a sling, slays a fearsome giant with a single stone. It is the ultimate (and perhaps original) underdog story.
But David’s victory over Goliath was more than just a one-hit wonder and win for the little guy. It was a public confirmation of God’s anointing on David’s life (1 Samuel 16) and a testament of David’s unflappable faith.
David would go on to become a national hero, respected military commander, king of Israel, and man after God’s own heart; and his story is well-documented throughout Scripture.
Goliath’s story, like his life, ended that day.
But who was this Philistine giant whose name has become synonymous with size, strength, and defeat? What do we actually know about the champion from Gath?
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Who Were the Philistines?
Anyone who has read the early books of the Old Testament knows of the Philistines. With their advanced iron weapons, innovative technology, and aggressive military tactics, the Philistines invaded, harassed, or otherwise oppressed the children of Israel for most of their early history.
In fact, the Philistines were prominent players in the stories of Samson, Samuel, Saul, and David.
The Bible and archeological evidence both tell us that the Philistines were originally a seafaring people who had migrated from somewhere in the Aegean Sea (possibly near modern day Crete; Jeremiah 47:4) to the Mediterranean coast of Canaan around the 12th century B.C.
Around the 13th century B.C., they began to move inland, expanding their civilization into the Judean countryside by taking over Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Ekron, and Gath (Joshua 13:3). That last city might sound familiar as it was said to be home of Goliath, the giant we read about in 1 Samuel 17.
In fact, only a few years ago, archeologists digging near Tell es-Safi in modern-day Israel unearthed what they believe to be the ruins of Gath, offering further insight into the cultural history and practices of the Philistines.
That city, when united with the other Philistine tribes, would have been an ideal staging point for Philistine incursions into the Judean countryside. As expected, these campaigns were often met with resistance from Israel’s armies, led by the judges and later kings.
It was one of these campaigns that brought Saul and David into conflict with the Philistines and their champion. So where did this conflict occur?
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