The Men Who Killed Goliath: Unraveling the Layers of Tradition behind a Timeless Tale of Heroism

There might be no Old Testament story more popular or seared more deeply into Western consciousness than the legend of David and Goliath. It is surprising, then, how few people (aside from scholars) have read the story carefully enough to notice its many oddities and contradictions. The Goliath narrative in 1 Samuel 16–18 is, in fact, two different stories spliced together, and there is yet another brief account in 2 Samuel 21. These three versions of the iconic tale show the interesting ways in which Biblical authors utilized and revised their source materials.

A Summary of 1 Samuel 16–18 and Its Problems

The story in question actually involves much more than the duel between David and the Giant. It tells the reader David’s origins, how he became part of Saul’s household, how he became a military leader, and how he married Saul’s daughter. The problems with the text extend to all these items. A summary of the story is as follows.

  • David is introduced to Samuel (and the reader). He is anointed as a future king in front of his seven brothers, the eldest three of whom are named. (16:1–13)
  • Saul is tormented by an evil spirit from Yahweh. He hears of David’s skill with the lyre and sends for him. David leaves home and enters the service of Saul, becoming his armour-bearer and personal musician. (16:14–23)
  • The Philistines and the Israelites under Saul have mustered their armies at the Valley of Elah and are preparing for battle. A Philistine champion, Goliath of Gath, is introduced. He challenges the Israelites to decide the battle through single combat. (17:1–11)
  • David is introduced again as the youngest son of Jesse with three older brothers who following Saul into battle. His father tells him to visit his brothers and take them food. (17:12–18) Jesse, David, and David’s brothers are introduced here as if the text had not yet mentioned them in the previous chapter.
  • We are again told that the Philistines and the Israelites are fighting in the Valley of Elah. They are preparing for battle as David arrives. (17:19–22) Before leaving, David entrusts his sheep to a keeper, implying he is still a shepherd in Bethlehem and not part of Saul’s court.
  • The Philistine champion is introduced again and called “Goliath by name”, as if the reader didn’t already know. Goliath gives his challenge again. (17:23) Like David, Goliath is introduced to the reader twice.
  • The Israelites are afraid and say the king will give his daughter to whomever kills the champion. David has them repeat the offer. David’s oldest brother, Eliab, gets angry at David’s questions and presence at the battle. (17:24–29) Eliab is treating David as a mere shepherd, seemingly oblivious of the fact that David has been anointed future king and has become a personal assistant to King Saul.
  • Saul hears about the commotion involving David and sends for him. (17:30–31)
  • David tells Saul he will fight the Philistine. He tells Saul of his exploits back when he “used to keep sheep for his father”. (17:32–37) David’s conversation with Saul implies that David is no longer a shepherd.
  • David tries on Saul’s armour, but finds it too heavy. Instead, he gathers five stones in his pouch, readies his sling, and approaches the Philistine. (17:38–40)
  • The Philistine approaches David with his shield-bearer. (17:41)
  • The Philistine and David exchange barbs. David threatens to cut off the Philistine’s head. (17:42–47)
  • The Philistine comes to meet David. David runs to meet the Philistine. David takes out a stone, slings it, and hurls it at the Philistine, hitting him in the forehead and knocking him down. (17:48–49) Twice, David is said to approach the Philistine, and twice, the Philistine is said to approach David. The account of the fight has some redundant phrasing.
  • The text tells us David has killed the Philistine with a sling and stone, and without the use of any sword. (17:50)
  • David runs over to the Philistine, draws his sword, and kills the Philistine. Then David beheads him. (17:51a) Yes, David is twice said to kill Goliath—once with a sling and no sword, and once with a sword.
  • The Philistines flee and are pursued by the troops of Israel and Judah. (17:51b–53)
  • David takes the head of the Philistine to Jerusalem. (17:54) This is an odd anachronism, since Jerusalem is not yet the capital of Israel or associated in any way with David.
  • Saul does not know who David is. Abner, commander of the army, does not know either. David is brought to Saul and introduces himself. (17:55–58) This is probably the most blatant incongruity in the story, since David has been Saul’s personal musician and armour-bearer for some time.
  • Jonathan loves David at first sight and gives him his armour. David is made a commander of Saul’s army. (18:1–5)
  • When David and Saul return home, Saul becomes jealous of the praise heaped upon David. (18:6–9)
  • An evil spirit sent from God drives Saul mad, and he tries killing David with a spear. (18:10–11) This is the second time an evil spirit has been sent by God, and it seems to affect Saul differently here.
  • Saul no longer wants David around, so he makes him a military commander and sends him out on campaigns. (18:12–16) This is the second time in chapter 18 David is promoted to commander in Saul’s army. Again, it is implied that David is a member of Saul’s court and not a shepherd living in Bethlehem.
  • Saul offers his daughter Merab to be David’s wife, in exchange for David’s services as a soldier. David declines the honour, saying he is not fit to be the king’s son-in-law. (18:17–19) But hasn’t Saul already sent David off to be his commander? Or is David still at home? The story is somewhat disjointed.
  • Saul’s daughter Michal loves David, so Saul hatches a plan to offer Michal to whoever brings him 100 Philistine foreskins, hoping David will attempt the feat and be killed. Instead, David succeeds and is happy to become Saul’s son-in-law. (18:20–29) David seems to be eager to join Saul’s family, despite his refusal when Merab was offered to him.

I’ve noted some of the problems in italics. Often, scholars use such inconsistencies to identify multiple sources or layers of redaction in the text. Usually, such analysis is conjectural and cannot be proven. However, in the case of 1 Samuel 16–18, we are fortunate to possess an earlier edition of the text — the Septuagint (LXX) of 1 Samuel, which must have been translated into Greek from an earlier version of the Hebrew book.

You’ll notice I’ve marked several parts of the story with a red asterisk. These sections, amounting to 44% of the text, are completely absent from the LXX (and, by extension, the Bible still used today by Eastern Orthodox Christians). It is almost certain that the translator of 1 Samuel, who used an excessively literal and exacting approach when translating from Hebrew, did not have these portions in his copy of 1 Samuel. If these portions are removed and reassembled on their own, we end up with two complete, coherent versions of the story — the one found in the LXX (“story 1”), and one that was apparently interpolated into Hebrew 1 Samuel at a later date (“story 2”). Taken on their own, the two stories have few, if any, internal contradictions or inconsistencies. They have much in common, but they also differ in significant ways.

The two stories can be summarized separately as follows:

Story 1 (MT and LXX)

  • David is introduced as the youngest son of Jesse. Samuel anoints him as king in front of his brothers.
  • Saul is tormented by an evil spirit from Yahweh. David, previously a shepherd, comes to serve as Saul’s personal musician and armour-bearer.
  • The Philistines and Israelites are preparing for battle. The Philistine champion, introduced as Goliath of Gath, challenges the Israelites to single combat.
  • Goliath’s armour and weaponry are described in detail.
  • David offers to fight the Philistine. He declines the offer to wear Saul’s armour.
  • Despite the Philistine being armed with three weapons, David stuns him with a stone from his sling, and then delivers the killing blow with the Philistine’s own sword.
  • David receives praise upon his return to the capital. Saul grows jealous, so he makes David a commander to get rid of him.
  • Michal loves David, so Saul uses her as bait to send David on a quest to kill 100 Philistines. David succeeds and marries Michal.
Story 2 (MT only)

  • David is introduced as the youngest son of Jesse.
  • David’s job is to tend the sheep, but his father sends him to take food to his brothers in the army.
  • David arrives at the battlefield and hears the taunts of the Philistine champion, who is introduced here as “Goliath by name”.
  • David repeatedly asks about the reward of Saul’s daughter offered to whoever kills the champion.
  • Saul hears David is interested in fighting the Philistine, so he sends for him.
  • David takes on the Philistine in single combat and kills him with a sling and a stone, using not even a sword.
  • This being the first time they have seen David, neither Saul nor Abner know who he is. David introduces himself to Saul.
  • Jonathan takes a liking to David.
  • Saul makes David a commander because he is successful wherever Saul sends him.
  • God sends an evil spirit upon Saul, driving him mad. He tries killing David with a spear.
  • Saul offers David his daughter Merab. David declines, thinking himself unworthy to be Saul’s son-in-law.

It should be clear that both these stories are literary creations, as is the final composite text. What, if any, history they contain is impossible to ascertain. Story 2, despite telling a fairly complete story, has a few rough spots where some material has probably been left out — Goliath’s initial taunt, for example. Perhaps some details were left out when the stories were merged.

To see these two stories separated and placed side-by-side, download this PDF.

The Triumph of David by Matteo Rosselli (1630)
The Triumph of David by Matteo Rosselli (1630)

Additional Evidence

The Septuagint isn’t the only evidence that the canonical Hebrew text is a composite. Josephus relates the story of David and Goliath in Antiquities of the Jews (written near the end of the first century CE). Josephus offers an embellished version of the biblical account, with some harmonizing details mixed in. He follows the LXX closely for the most part, and includes some details that appear in the MT but not the LXX, like Goliath issuing his challenge for 40 days (1Sam 17:16).
However, Josephus makes no mention of other details from Story 2, like Jonathan’s affection for David, the attempted spearing of David by Saul, or the proposed marriage to Merab — despite a highly detailed and embellished summary of every detail from chapter 18 that appears in the LXX (Story 1). He also affirms the means of death given in Story 1 — that Goliath was only stunned by the stone but killed by beheading.

Another early reference to the David and Goliath story is Psalm 151. Part of the Christian deuterocanon, Psalm 151 was once thought to have been a Greek composition, but an early Hebrew version has since been found at Qumran. (In fact, it appears that two separate Hebrew psalms used by the Qumran community were combined to make Psalm 151.) This psalm shows familiarity with Story 1 and recounts David killing the Philistine with his own sword. (The sling is not even mentioned.)

Excursus on Saul’s Daughters

The David-and-Goliath story intersects another difficulty in 1 and 2 Samuel. In 1Sam 18:17–19 (i.e. Story 2), Merab is given to one “Adriel the Meholathite” after David turns down marriage to her. David ends up marrying Michal instead.

Further on, in 2 Samuel 6:16–23, the text declares that Michal had no children to the day of her death. (Was she infertile? Did she stop sleeping with David? The text does not explain.)

Then, 2 Samuel 21:8, the Hebrew text says that Michal bore five sons to one Adriel son of Barzillai the Meholathite. This presents us with two contradictions: which daughter of Saul married Adriel, and whether Michal had children or not.

Most scholars fix the problem by asserting that “Michal” in 2Sam 21:8 must be a scribal error, and that it originally named Merab as the wife of Adriel in agreement with 1Sam 18:17–19. There are problems with this explanation, however. (1) We have already shown that the mention of Merab marrying Adriel in 1Sam 18 is a separate tradition and a later addition to 1 Samuel. It is difficult to assume “Merab” is the correct reading once we realize that the earlier reference to Merab’s marriage — the very passage scholars would like to harmonize 2Sam 21 with — is a later insertion. (2) The LXX confirms the reading of “Michal” in 2Sam 21:8, which means that if there was such an error, it was very widespread, and it happened before the LXX was produced. (3) Josephus, Pseudo-Jerome, and rabbinic sources confirm the reading of “Michal” and propose harmonizations. (4) Targum Jonathan appears to have been based on a vorlage that reads “Michal”, and it solves the problem by asserting that Michal simply raised the children on behalf of Merab.

Unfortunately, nearly all modern English Bible translations aside from those based on the KJV (like the ASV and WEB) change “Michal” to read “Merab” in 2Sam 21:8.

Michal Despises David, by James Tissot, c. 1898
Michal Despises David, by James Tissot, c. 1898

An Even Earlier Goliath Tradition

The two stories of David and Goliath in 1Sam 17–18 are not the oldest such traditions in the Bible. A seemingly older one appears in an obscure passage in 2 Samuel.

2Sam 21:15–22 tells of several battles between the Philistines and Israel, and how the sons of Raphah, the ancestor of the giants, fight for the Philistines. However, David is told to stay home so that he does not die and “quench the lamp of Israel”, leaving his warriors to take care of the giants. Abishai kills one named Ishbi-benob; Sibbecai kills one named Saph; and then Elhanan the Bethlehemite kills Goliath of Gath, “the shaft of whose spear was like a weaver’s beam” (exactly the comparison made in 1Sam 17). Another unnamed giant taunts Israel, only to be killed by Jonathan, the son of David’s brother Shimei.

It is commonly thought by scholars that this was the original Goliath legend, for various reasons. In the earliest folktales, it was the champion Elhanan who slew Goliath when Israel was threatened by an ancient race of giants. Elhanan, Abishai, and Jonathan were all members of the Shalishim (the “Thirty”), a group of elite warriors who are listed in 2Sam 23. (Sibbecai is also included in the parallel list in 1 Chr 11:10–47.) Later on, as the figure of David the warrior king became more important to Jews and the other characters more obscure, the story of Goliath was retold with David as the hero instead.

Putting these passages from 1 and 2 Samuel side by side, we can see numerous common or similar elements that provide hints as to how these stories developed and grew over time.

  • 2Sam 23: The Thirty are introduced during a battle at the Valley of Rephaim (“Valley of Giants”). They include Abishai, Elhanan the Bethlehemite, Shammah the Hararite, and Jonathan son of Shammah.
  • 2Sam 21: Abishai, Elhanan, and Jonathan son of Shimei David’s brother kill several giants, the descendants of Raphah (the eponymous ancestor of the Rephaim). One is Goliath of Gath, with a spear like a weaver’s beam. Another taunts the army of Israel. Michal also appears in this chapter as the wife of Adriel.
  • 1Sam 16–18 (Story 1): David has a brother named Shammah. He kills Goliath of Gath, a Philistine champion with a spear like a weaver’s beam who has been taunting the army of Israel. He goes on to marry Michal.
  • 1Sam 16–18 (Story 2): David has a brother named Shammah in the army. He kills Goliath of Gath, a Philistine champion who has been taunting the army of Israel. He declines marriage to Merab, who then becomes the wife of Adriel.

Perhaps my attentive readers can point out if I have missed any other interesting connections.

(And in case anyone is wondering, it is trivial to show that the reference in 1Chr 20 to the “brother of Goliath” is a deliberate corruption of the Hebrew text in 2Sam 21.)

Goliath the Homeric Warrior

The detailed description of Goliath’s armour and weaponry is unique in the Bible. Historians have noted that Goliath’s description does not match anything that would have been worn by a Philistine or any other ANE warrior during the time of David; rather, his martial getup is very much like that of a Greek hoplite mercenary of the 7th–5th centuries (including the two spears and a sword — see Finkelstein 2002), and his description suggests a Homeric warrior like the heroes of the Iliad. The idea of single combat between two champions to determine the outcome of larger conflict also finds parallels in the Iliad: the duels between Paris and Menelaus, Hector and Ajax, and Nestor and the giant Ereuthalion. (Close similarities between 1Sam 17 and the Iliad are pointed out in West 214, 370, and 376.) This makes it further unlikely that the story is anything beyond a creative tale of heroism ascribed to David many, many centuries after he might have lived.

Goliath’s height, as you may know, was not the nine feet as you were taught in Sunday school. Although the MT gives it as “six cubits and a span”, it is only “four cubits and a span” in the LXX and other early manuscripts. That’s around 6 foot 9 inches — tall, but not freakishly so. King Saul, who was head and shoulders taller than everyone else (1Sam 9:2), would have been about the same height.

4th century hoplite, illustration by Johnny Shumate
4th century hoplite, illustration by Johnny Shumate

Conclusion

That the tale of David and Goliath is a folktale with accreted tradition rather than a historical event should not prevent us from enjoying the story or appreciating its reliance on other mythical motifs from both the Hebrew and Greek cultural spheres. The power of its message is one that has resounded throughout the ages and holds a special place people’s hearts even today, thousands of years later.

For those of us interested in critical study of the Bible, the story provides a good example of how texts and traditions could be edited, reinvented, and reinserted to tell new stories or supplement existing ones. It also has implications for the dating of 1–2 Samuel, since the text had not yet reached its final form when the Greek version was translated c. 200 BCE.

For those with a devotional interest in the Bible, the story demonstrates that ancient scribes and religious devotees had no problem filling their scriptures with folktales, myths, and hagiographic legends. It is the modern reader, not the ancient one, who insists that for a book to be sacred, it must be divinely inspired and contain only sober historical facts.

Bibliography

  • Carl S. Ehrlich, “Goliath”, Anchor Bible Dictionary.
  • Israel Finkelstein, “The Philistines in the Bible: A Late-Monarchic Perspective”, JSOT 2002 27:2, pp. 131–167.
  • Niels Peter Lemche, “David’s Rise”, JSOT 1979 4:9.
  • Emanuel Tov, “The Composition of 1 Samuel 16–18 in Light of the Septuagint”, The Greek and Hebrew Bible: Collected Essays on the Septuagint, Volume 72, 1999, pp. 333–362.
  • Emanuel Tov, Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible, Second Revised Edition, 1992, pp. 334–336.
  • M.L. West, The East Face of Helicon: West Asiatic Elements in Greek Poetry and Myth, 1997.

36 thoughts on “The Men Who Killed Goliath: Unraveling the Layers of Tradition behind a Timeless Tale of Heroism

  1. I vaguely remember an article that discussed the possibility of a translation error and that the stone instead lodged in the greaves, causing Goliath to stumble, whereupon his head was removed. I, of course, cannot now find the source – have you run across this theory? Any validity to it?

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    • Ahh, found at least a partial reference. Apparently the idea was forwarded or promulgated by rabbi Jonathan Magonet in his book, Biblical Lives. I have yet to confirm this.

      Liked by 1 person

      • R Vogel, I haven’t heard that theory. There is a discrepancy, however, behind the kind of helmet the authors of the MT (Hebrew) and LXX (Greek) text envision. In the former case, it seems to be a helmet with nothing protecting the forehead – the only chink in Goliath’s armour, which David cleverly aims for. Like Smaug’s missing scale in The Hobbit.

        The Greek translator had a different style in mind, one that covers the forehead, so he added a phrase to explain that the stone went “through the helmet” into Goliath’s forehead. (David must have full-metal-jacket stones or something!)

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    • Thanks Karen. I’ve watched a lot of TED talks but never seen that one.

      Edit: Just watched it. The first half on the deadliness of slings was great stuff. I’m pretty skeptical, however, about modern attempts to medically or psychiatrically diagnose characters in ancient literature. I don’t see the textual evidence that Gladwell claims in support of his conclusion either; Goliath is accompanied by a shield-bearer, not “led by an attendant”, to give one example.

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  2. Hi Paul

    Thanks again for your blog. I only discovered it in February 2015 and have been gradually working back though you old entries. I found this entry especially fascinating. I had long puzzled over why Saul had to be re-introduced to David who he was meant to already know. These posts are so readable and easy for the non-expert like myself to follow.

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  3. I’ve read your article once more. Like you, I wonder about the significance of the five smooth stones.

    My guess is it has something to do with the five showbreads David got from Ahimelech, which in turn points to the riddle Jesus posed in Mark 8:19-21 about 5 loaves, 7 loaves and baskets of fragments.

    Or maybe the author just meant a random number of stones greater than one? 🙂

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    • Who knows. Garsiel suggests that the narrator is using the number five as a theme: Goliath has five pieces of armour, David has five items as well (staff, shepherd’s bag, knapsack, sling, and stones), and there are of course five stones.

      Or, like you suggest, maybe having several stones just makes the story more realistic.

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  4. I’ve heard he had five stones because Goliath had four brothers, but you also have to just assume that David was a kid. What kid is going to pass up a smooth perfect slinging stone when he finds it? I think people just look to much into that little detail.

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  5. Thanks for this some really interesting analysis. Whilst I tend to assume OT stories may be composites, I wasn’t familiar with the fact that there was such a marked difference between the LXX and the MT here. But for a long time I’ve been intrigued by the thing about Goliath only being 6’9″ because even though that seems the more reliable no translation (that I’m aware of) opts for the fact over the fiction. Yet your would think those who hold supposedly hold to inerrancy would be keen to stick to the more verifiable account.

    I think it has an impact on the meaning of the story as well. As you say, cutting Goliath down to size means he’s perhaps only a little taller than Saul, and of course Saul is supposed to be Israel’s champion. This is meant to be Saul’s fight. But Saul’s avoidance of and David acceptance of the challenge is meant to bring shame on the house of Saul as much as it is to champion David’s heroics.

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    • Thanks for the comment, Matt. Those are both good points. Saul does come across as a more cowardly figure if you realize he’s almost Goliath’s height. And his armour being too big and cumbersome for David even emphasizes that aspect.

      The only translation I’m aware of that gives Goliath’s correct height is the NET.

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  6. Giving additional support to the supposition that Elhanan was Goliath’s original slayer is that the name Goliath appears only in vv. 4 and 23 (once in each version), while he is consistently referred to as “the/this Philistine” everywhere else (I count 26 times in chapter 17). See also 18:6 and 19:5, which use the same term.

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  7. David, the Homoerotic Warrior?

    What is your opinion about the relationship between David and Jonathan?

    Jonathan seems to be be quite submissive to David and willing to do much to ingratiate himself with David. Is this some sort of allusion to Greek ideals and the love that the Bible dare not describe?

    Goddess bless,
    Janey

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    • It’s easy to pick out elements that seem homoerotic on their own, but I haven’t done any kind of study on that aspect of the story to see if there’s anything significant to it.

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  8. This is such an insightful and “inciteful” phrasing you use here. It’s a bit like the Lotus Sutra and what that represents in Zen.

    I hope that you will be writing more soon. I re-visit your articles frequently mostly now to incorporate your knowledge about Mediterranean/Near East/Indo-European cultures.. You have the love of Christ without necessarily needing to believe that Christ was “true” although it appears that “he” or “they” really happened. Once reason why the literalists cling so tightly to scripture or the Constitution is that they are trying to be rationalist, some anyway but the illogical of religion or Christ as “divine” clashes with their notions of setting up the perfect society constitutionally. They are obsessed with the Framers as an extension of that, to the point where we don’t Amend our Constitution any longer, unlike our friends to the north.

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  9. I just want to say that “King” David looks just adorable in that red dress with his rosy cheeks and nice sash. Cute legs and boots too. No wonder all of Saul’s children seem to be attracted to him.

    You find pictures or paintings that are exceptional to look at to tie in with your writings. David here as the Greek archetype of beautiful beardless boy warrior.

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  10. The whole idea of heroes collecting foreskins is just weird and embarrassing to pretty much all humans but it indicates an absolute obsession with circumcision among many of the Semites, Egypt notwithstanding.

    Think of the prim little Sunday School teachers dealing with all of the questions about the this and well, about a thousand other things you mention. It’s all bizarre because unlike the ancient Greeks, Jews and Christians are still tied in to all of this stuff and continue to spar verbally over circumcision.

    For many/mostJews, including many Jewish feminist females, circumcision is fine unless it’s done to an XX. And no misleading here. Many peoples have circumcised females in a way that does not or barely interferes with female fertility or sexual pleasure at all. Yet it’s a serious crime to “circumcise” an infant or child female and it seemingly makes you parent of the year to do it to an XY.

    My understanding is that many liberal Jews are now only commemorating with a pinprick and not actual removal of another human being’s bodily integrity. Health? I bet “circumcised” females derive a variety of health benefits similar to those purported for males. Like the ancient Greeks, who abhorred circumcision, I consider it indefensible unless chosen at a point where the person has control over personal decision making.

    People in Europe and perhaps Canada to a lesser degree, are beginning to focus on the issue of bodily integrity and seeing this as something involving a fundamental human right, far different from infant inoculation. The purported health benefits are derived by summing over populations but those are personal hygiene issues.

    Why does the idea of “collecting” clitoral hoods as a prize of war seem sickening but not the collection of foreskins? It’s the same analogous body part. Not to mention, Goddess knows, you have to touch the thing to remove it seemingly. I think there are a couple of different occasions in the Old Testament where women circumcised men to prevent Yahweh from killing them. Hard again, to imagine Yahweh killing women because he disliked the appearance of their genitalia.

    Jews who lived in largely Greek areas found ways to mimic not being circumcised so they could hang out with Greek men in the saunas. The tissue in these areas is incredibly elastic but it took a long time apparently to achieve. A large part of the New Testament dealt with circumcision and it was essential because Greeks refused to convert if forced to undergo circumcision. Who knows but this might be why Charles Martel and his warriors fought so hard to keep the infidel out of France along with the Romanians and Austrians 800 years later.

    Bobby D said: They asked me for collateral, so I pulled down my pants in one of his songs…. What does that line even mean though?

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  11. I keep coming back to your writings from the periods of Kings and Chronicles because even though it’s mostly all pretend, at least the people depicted seem to have semi-plausible lives. David’s not supernatural, only preternatural. He seems to be heterosexual but not afraid to be in the company of men.

    After a discussion with my evangelical mother, it’s clear though that most Evangelicals simply do not know the Bible. David is a tragic figure who went from beast and brightest and most talented and best dancer to evil.

    Concomitantly, I attempted to find a female, any female who is portrayed positively in the Bible besides Mary and eh. It’s virtually all negative. Catty wives, women who exist only as the names of wives and mothers with no back story, prostitutes, murderesses, traitoresses, child-killers. Hagar is presented fairly positively even though her story is implausible.

    Elizabeth laughed. Mary Magdalene was a prostitute. There are no new testament books named for females and all of the old testament books named for females are either ciphers, prostitutes, traitoresses, or all of the above. The seducer of Joseph, Jezebel–I am really trying hard here. Eve is a simpleton with no back story or redemption story. Lot’s wife. No backstory and apparently women in the Bible got few or no second chances. Saul’s daughter? The witch of Endor? Bathsheba stayed with her rapist–yeah, hard to blame her for that but still plus she connived against Absalom even knowing presumably that David killed Uriah the Hittite.

    But the period between Saul and Solomon is fascinating because Saul, David, Absalom and Solomon are all brilliant and above other men and they all come crashing down to earth. Not only was David a rapist, he failed to punish his son who raped Absalom’s sister. Absalom appears to have been a King Arthur type of king apparent while David is Modred or is it Saul? If David had stepped aside for Absalom, all of this might have turned out much much better for everyone even Christians.

    When we add in things from tradition like Lilith and screeching demons and goddesses of oak groves who appear to have been hidden more or less intentionally to make the Jews seem more monotheistic than they were, I am sorry but I see no positive female role models in the Bible at all and I see a deliberate attempt to push Yahweh as a male-god as stupid as that seems to me now with a huge gray beard and presumably junk, while anyone who sought the divine in female-oriented spirits and approaches is deemed worthy of death and censure. And yet, females tend to be a disproportionate number of people who actually go to church and temple

    I would love to see you maybe go through the Saul through Solomon period in terms of comparative mythology and archaeology along with the quest for a positive female in the Old Testament or by anyone not named Mary who actually did something besides get married or have children or being intentionally evil like Jezebel. People say Rahab. Rahab was an abomination of a human being without any redeeming qualities at all unless being a traitoress and prostitute constitute redemption. Rahab didn’t get killed did she? Acts to live by. Just roll over for any invader and betray your own people and the Bible will deem you a heroine. The Greeks and Romans have many many females in their mythological traditions. Why don’t the Jews and Christians and Muslims?

    I have learned an extreme amount from you that seems to be entirely different from everyone else. The only thing some evangelicals are right about is the King James Bible. It appears to me to be by far the best translation in just about every single way except niggling debates over Hebrew. It’s the only Bible that reads like a sacred work in English, taking the Old Testament at least into the realm of Shakespeare and Homer in terms of the literary quality and beautiful phrasing. The NIV is boring and sterile and now we know, it’s an utter and complete lie from what we were promised in Christian school. It’s far more political than the KJV and it lacks all felicity in language. Religion needs to be inspiring. But it seems pointless to me to keep trying to find every single mistranslation in the NIV. To what effect and they are all arguable but this is a work defined in terms of boundaries and parameters to sustain questionable Biblical archaeology, history and textual evidence. Anyone who uses the NIV, eh. Why would one?

    What to me is far more interesting and important is your comparative mythology which points out things that most of us miss in our “own” religion. It would be fascinating to see you relate Eve to Helen of Troy and Venus. I would love to see you analyze androgyny in the Bible compared to the Greeks, Romans and Persians. You have done a lot on Satan but I would love to see you relate Lucifer to Venus and androgyny and lawyers in general.

    To me, the most beautiful and important book of the Bible is the Book of Job. I like the legal aspect. I like the counsel of the heavens. I like the fact that God(unclear to me what name was used here as we don’t seem to be able to date this work well, but Yahweh/El/God was the bad guy.

    As a lawyer, I love how Job trounces God in argument and so God just argues louder and more incoherently. Where were you? God’s responses are circular and amount to beating his own breast. Even Zeus had standards by which he meted out justice but not this God. And that’s the point, right? Ascribing any negative even to “his ways are not our ways” is essentially agreeing that yes, this God was evil but he did create the word

    It’s a subtle fine point but in my opinion, Job did curse God but Job refused to commit suicide and Job covered these deep religious and philosophical questions in beautifully composed and poetic prose that is a highlight among all religious.mytholgical literature.

    You are doing great and important things and how thrilling it must be to live in Japan. I spent two weeks in Tokyo and Kyoto and it changed my life and I adored the people and culture and the language. I still don’t understand why my iPhone videos sound natural and not robotic but I hope you can get them in your natural Canadian lilt at some point. I don’t write as much as you but my goals are similar in many ways. You are improving society and you are especially influencing movers and shakers and free thinkers and other geniuses. If there is a Goddess, Christians deserve someone far better than Yahweh and their feeble attempts to rationalize and justify everything sort of comes off all dumb blonde.”I just read the Bible; I don’t judge it”.

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    • Janey, thanks for the nice words as always. I think the so-called Witch of Endor does get portrayed in a positive light despite how most people have interpreted the story throughout history. And of course you have Jael and Deborah in Judges as well as Judith in her eponymous book.

      I have more on Saul and Solomon coming.

      > it’s clear though that most Evangelicals simply do not know the Bible.

      No disagreement there.

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      • My view is that the person be perceived to be a positive as a human being nowadays or who does something important that doesn’t involve using her wiles to kill the enemy, political velocity non. Note that there is an explicit derogatory statement about Jael and Barak impugning one as a male and I failed to see how Jael comes off positive. It’s just Ester all over again. Note the tendency to use females to berate “cowardly” males or were they rather just live and let live pacifists. Only Jews during that period might have conceivably seen this person positively.

        As much as I find the Talmud immensely important, much of it is, sorry, garbage where these “scholars” simply invent justifications that never happened. The quest to impugn Job, the one true hero of the Bible is found all over the Talmud and even in Christian writings that claim Job repented. I never ever got that perception from the KJV, that Job in any way moderated his opinions or apologized. He is sardonic if anything and clearly a formidable lawyer/advocate. Deborah might be the most heroic but again, I don”t believe in war or murder or killing or pretending to have sex with men to betray them. Maybe Jezebel in fact is the heroine of the Bible.

        I know that you agree that what is particularly pernicious is that Christians and some ultra right Jews believe these things actually happened. Greeks do not believe Aphrodite spontaneously formed out of foam any longer but eh, the Virgin Mary sort of did without any original sin and an inspiring assumption into heaven. She and the Holy Spirit mysteriously enter Judaism/Christianity at the same exact time along with concepts like the word and demiurge. I love when you write about these things to. But where’s the Biblical Dido? Or even Circe? Why do Greek women seem to have pacifist inclinations but not Hebrew women

        And as you have covered well, it’s simply bizarre that these Canaanite and Hebrew women interbred with demi-Gods like the Greeks but Christians and Jews believe this actually happened?

        The most vexing part of Job’s story—after his servants and children die, after the boils, after the debates—comes when Job challenges God to explain Himself in the mode of an ancient Near Eastern lawsuit. The deity appears and, though He declines to explain why He does anything (He prefers to boast of His vast power and inscrutable planning), He praises Job for speaking “in honesty” and condemns the Scripture-quoting pals for not doing the same.

        Job then utters a few enigmatic lines of Hebrew that scholars have struggled to translate for millennia: “al kayn em’as / v’nikham’ti al afar v’eyfer.”

        The King James Version gives those lines as “Wherefore I abhor myself / and repent in dust and ashes.” Historically, most other versions stab at something similar—though, as we will see, modern scholarship suggests some very different alternatives.

        Whatever Job says, it seems to work: In an abrupt epilogue, we see Job restored to his former comfort and glory. Many analysts think the happy ending was added to an initial core text that lacked such comfort. But even if you accept it as part of the story, it’s unsettlingly cryptic. We are not told why Job is rewarded, whether his reward was divinely given, or what scars the episode has left upon him. We are merely told that he’s materially back to something resembling what he had before.

        https://slate.com/human-interest/2022/03/job-torah-story-despair-alternative-war-democracy-climate-apocalypse.html

        I must have seen a footnote in the KJV text but this is how I always intuitively felt about the Book of Job. Job is a hero unlike any other individual in the Bible. The phony ending spliced on the end detracts thoroughly from the entire message of the Book and again, is deeply offensive to women and really to Jewish values. I have daughters and I would take more but no, not if you kill the ones I have. That’s no equivalency and comparing women to live stock and evaluating their worth based upon beauty is fatuous. I disbelieve entirely that the ending of Job as currently composed included the bizarre “happy” ending. This book is thrilling to me and your writings are thrilling. My sense and experience tell me that if anything, women exceed men in most ways and it also tells me that Jewish men appeared to be terrified of females in a bizarre and unhealthy and sorry, creepy way.

        The ritual bath “thing” is dispiriting and disgusting. When you use hero, I think it is in the sense of Greek heroes, Samson and so forth. Deborah fits that and I would love to know more about her back story, mythological or not. When I use hero, it is from a lawyer who believes in the Rule of Law above all things and who believes life is too precious for war and other silliness. Unlike these Hebrew women, in general, they don’t use women for war because women have no more interest in war than do felines, also notorious for their reluctance to do things their instincts tell them are not in their best interests or that are boring. Men and feminists both continue to shame females for caring about their looks and presentation and smelling nice and it is always cast as frivolity. Nonsense. Beauty and pacifism are their own reward. Education is its own reward. I have to admit I had to look up Jael and she has so a nice name in terms of being a homonym with jail which is where she probably belonged unlike Elizabeth Holmes but Janey will riff off of anything.

        Every single day I get down on my knees and thank the universe for the Book of Job. It transformed my life and it can transform the lives of other. Seek not vengeance. Seek not to understand nor to persuade evil but instead speak truth to power and Job did exactly that. Goddess bless as always.

        Janey

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  12. I am not kidding about Jezebel. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jezebel.

    She almost eliminated the scourge of Israel and as we all know, the supposed victors write the history. She’s by far the most talented, determined and arguably enlightened person in the Old Testament male or female.

    Elisha was filth and of exceedingly poor moral character. Elijah was a narcissistic thug and pretender. Yes, Elijah. You bring fire from heaven. All praise Elijah. The very endings of the three names tell you who is actually the person in the right and it’s Jezeb-El, not Eli-jah or the derivate Elisha of the bald head, ugly appearance and exceedingly poor intellect.

    He was no Elijah and it appears the writer lacked imagination in creating the name. Sorry Elisha but that sounds like a chick’s name. I have to be sardonic about so much of this. She-bears indeed.

    Moses is heroic and he seems to have known heroic women. Aaron is a weak ineffectual cipher. Joshua is literally, the worse person in the history of the world until Adolph Hitler. All praise Joshua. Hey, isn’t that the same in Hebrew as Yeshua? Saul, David, Absalom and Solomon were the best of the best in that society. Abraham? Utter and complete paganist and loser but still superior to El and apparently quite the warrior and negotiator but there’s no arguing with Yahweh. El at least listened. Leah wasn’t bad but no hero.

    Joseph was a hero so there’s Joseph, Moses, maybe Elijah, Saul, David, Jonathan, Absalom and Solomon. None of David’s advisers indicate any sort of morality whatsoever. Joab is pure evil. Joshua is pure evil. Solomon appeared to lack any restraint or intelligence at all except for a couple of fatuously trite examples of “wisdom”. I have been in a divorce. No, cutting children in half is simply not a realistic human project and the notion that the real parent would not persist is unsupported by my experiences as a lawyer and a citizen in divorce court. We all want to know more about the Queen of Sheba and the African Semitics in Ethiopia but we get nothing but teasers but in reality, Ethiopians appear to be the true heroes of the Bible and its preservation in many ways. They came across as holy and righteous in a way that again, sorry, Hebrews do not to me. Melchizedek might be viewed as heroic and we all desperately want to know more about him/them but again, we are left with nothing but a couple of juicy morsels. Jacob? Scam artist and deceiver and not the brightest bulb in the Middle East. Not to mention that Jacob is an utter and complete wimp willing to die without even uttering a word in his own defense. Abraham is pathetic in these verses. Where’s Abram when you need him? Cain is a myth meant to defend the fact that Jews tend not to engage in agriculture. Esau, the same. The brave hunter lawyer’ed out of his inheritance by his lackluster houseboy twin brother who loved his momma.

    Anyone out there, please stand up. Everyone has found their favorite mistranslation. Find me anyone decent by modern standards in the Bible or even up to Greek and Roman standards of right, wrong and justice? Nobody responds, not even you Paul because you can’t. It’s all phony and contrived. And you have nothing to work with. Like Abraham, not even ten worthy humans in the Old Testament? No Aeneas? No Achilles? No Odysseus? No Goddesses? No Atalanta? No Helen? Maybe there’s Dido but she gets left out except in the Talmud. The very segregation of the Talmud from the Old Testament saved Judaism because it made the O.T. seem to be the collection of things that actually happened as opposed to mere commentary. The Greeks didn’t distinguish mythology from connived history although I am certain that many of them found all of the pantheon to be hogwash.

    Women had immense power in Greece and Rome and in Persian and Celtic societies, even in Egypt and apparently Ethiopia. They are considered to be beings on par and just as valuable if not more valuable than males. Look at the mysteries and Greek females were terrifying to Greek males but Greek males admitted it. Jewish male scribes connived to write females out of history and they trot out all of these pathetic examples to somehow indicate the opposite and yet, it makes everything worse. Should parents even allow children to read the Old Testament? I am not sure that any of it is suitable for children from the bizarre sexuality, obsession with male genitalia, female purity and constant and unremitting war. Only the Book of Job stand apart, beckoning to us from within the Old Testament itself with the Escherian notion: Everything in the Old Testament is false and you can believe that because Job says so and yes, “all scripture is inspired by God and suitable, bla bla bla. Hoist by its own petard, indeed.

    This is all sick stuff, again sorry. Compared to the Iliad, Odyssey and the Aeneid, these are not heroic nor moral people at all and there’s no indication that I can find of any morality in the O.T. except by Cyrus the Great, who was truly heroic. Scythian women kicked ass. Greek women gave as good as they got. Sorry guys. The O.T. is simply not composed of any material that is redeemable, believable or relevant and we are still fighting the same battles over the Mid East 3,000 years later.

    Maybe it’s time to stop taking any of this stuff as anything but sardonic, sarcastic material written by tiny little XY’s. Hebrews have no Aristotle. They have no Zeno. They have nothing to redeem them nor the society depicted in their great book. In my opinion, this is partially why Jewish scholarship now tends to be elevated above and apart. Look at the Noble prizes and great scientists of the last two hundred years. Now there’s Nozick and so many other highly esteemed Jewish religionists and philosophers and above all, lawyers. Jews continue trying to get things right in real life while most Christians defend the excesses like Jericho that virtually no Jews nor Janey are willing to defend under any circumstances.

    Again, sorry but Hitler didn’t kill animals. Joshua hated animals and children and gentiles and Joshua was not one to quibble with God a la Moses or Abraham or Job. Your comparative mythology writings have really been enlightening to me in a period where all gender and sexuality is in turmoil and no, the past was not acceptable. Jewish females are strong and accomplished and not known for being shrinking violets but there are very few murderesses or traitoresses and they tend to be among the most educated people/XX’s on the planet. I think being Canadian is a big benefit to you because you grew up in a place that is everything that the United States ought to be and you don’t have politics there intermingled with, eh. Canada is a kinder, gentler society and the loyalists were far from evil. Canadians perceive nuances whereas the U.S. and Israel eh, tend to be bombastic and self-righteous. Being victims does not give a people any sort of moral authority.

    This is controversial but it’s highly possible that Judaism and Christianity have moved closer and closer over the past 2,000 years not farther apart. There were reasons that Jews and Muslims were seen as being incompatible with European society and it wasn’t all based on random prejudice. Again, American christians don’t understand the importance of the circumcision issue whereas Muslims and Europeans and many Canadians get it completely. In the past, since the O.T. was perceived as true, of course, Christians did not want to be associated with the evil acts of the Hebrews. Islam’s worse now but it’s writings seem devoid of the manic evil and bizarre character of the Old Testament.

    Moses, for the most part and Job stand apart as heroic and righteous and Moses stands out for his diffidence and his willingness to berate Yahweh for Yahweh’s intemperance and foolishness. Moses is the lawyer for the children of Israel/Midionites and justice:

    Moses:

    Listen Yah, I am thinking maybe destroying this new batch of people might not be in your best interests. You know, been there, done that. It’s trite and your anger is unbecoming and unhinging you. Calm down and take my hand and we will get through this. I have zero interest in having “people or a tribe of my own and I am just not going to do it”. Ultimately suicide was what Moses and Job had over Yahweh since there was no afterlife back then. Human beings can and should commit suicide if forced to kill others. If Job had been manipulated any further, he had the ultimate power. Making humans have an eternal soul is the Christian response to God’s powerlessness to force us to exist. Like vampires, Christians believe we are cursed to live eternally, against our will or face eternal cruel and inhumane torture.

    I have found two righteous men in the Bible. Whether Moses and Job were Hebrews is highly debatable. I will include the hero of modern Jews and ancient Jews in Cyrus the
    Great. That’s it. The rest are charlatans and manipulators, warmongers, murderesses, prostitutes and thugs without any seeming intellect at all. Some philosophers question whether people were full intellectually developed during Biblical/Classical Greek times and I think until WWI, humans simply were not woke. WWI shocked the world with its insipid and unremitting violence and lack of purpose. By Vietnam, people were refusing to fight other people’s wars and now we have drones, so eh better than flesh and blood. I am not dying for Ukraine or Israel as an American or Canadian since Russia is our neighbor, not Ukraine.

    I don’t know Pau but all of this has to be deconstructed to ground zero as does all of the archaeology because many people are hard-headed. Far from being the foundation of American democracy, the Old Testament provides only examples of what to avoid. The Ten Commandments?. Moses gave to Yah better than he got and that goes for Job. Find me anyone else who embodies the Talmudic notion of “my children have defeated me”. Job simply annihilated God and the very concept of God systematically and in a thrilling and convincing manner that just grows and grows in intensity. The writer set all of this up perfectly. It’s a stunning tour de force and required reading for all in either Greek, Hebrew or the KJV.

    For anyone who has gasped in frustration at the litany of evangelical non-sequiturs about God and the Bible, it is thrilling to see God exposed as a self-righteous, brow-beating know nothing who then presumably goes back to the heaven host and wagers on the next unsuspecting human people. No one could possibly believe this story actually happened except sorry, an Evangelical. Catholics and Jews no longer believe any of that happened nor did Abraham try to murder his son or any of the rest.

    I am a pretty good lawyer. If there were a case I would make one and even as a barrister, I would love to make a convincing argument for someone but there’s nothing there and who cares where I was or Job was. The God of the Old Testament is merciless and evil. Jericho is the original story of defending genocide. It has to stop and like you, it’s not easy when many of my family members at least partially believe this stuff.

    Peace, love but above all, thank you for helping us construct very valid opinions about what God should not be and how women should not be portrayed and undervalued. Me Too goes back centuries but at least the Greeks and the Romans were honest and the women gave as good as they got and they were presented as full sexual beings in spite of “watering the earth like sigh livestock” when they excrete. Swear to Goddess Greeks thought that. Who stands when they can sit? George Costanza said that.

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  13. Sorry. I meant to say Isaac in one of the places above. Ishmael again seems superior and Isaac is primarily a space keeper between Abraham and Jacob and the 14 is it tribes of Israel.

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