David Was a Young Man of High Caliber

Slings were popular military weapons in ancient times, even in the centuries after Christ. Its most famous use is probably in the Bible account of David and Goliath. This encounter took place in the Elah Valley, where I am currently excavating.

Some of us may know the words to a children’s song about the battle.

Once there was a boy named David, down by the babbling brook. One little boy named David, five little stones he took. One little stone went in the sling and the sling went round and round…

This lyric may help to form a mental picture of slinging stones as something like large pebbles. Real ancient slinging stones were quite different.

A few slinging stones have been excavated where we are at Khirbet Qeiyafa/The Elah Fortress. Here is a photo that reveals something of their true size.

An ancient slinging stone. Imagine one of these hitting your head at 60 to 70 miles per hour.

What do you think is the caliber-equivalent of this ancient slinging stone? Imagine one of these hitting your head at 60 or 70 miles per hour.

David “took his staff in his hand and chose five smooth stones from the brook and put them in his shepherd’s pouch. His sling was in his hand, and he approached the Philistine… And David put his hand in his bag and took out a stone and slung it and struck the Philistine on his forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face to the ground.” (1 Samuel 17:40, 49)

Now there’s an image to remember.

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About LukeChandler

Luke holds an M.A. in Ancient and Classical History and has been an adjunct professor at Florida College in Temple Terrace, Florida. Luke and his wife Melanie have five children. He serves as a minister in English and Spanish with the North Terrace Church of Christ and participates annually in archaeological excavations in Israel. Luke also leads tours to Europe and the Bible Lands.
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8 Responses to David Was a Young Man of High Caliber

  1. afrankangle says:

    It appears from the image that slinging stones have a smoothness with rounded edges to differentiate them from natural stones. Correct?

  2. lukechandler says:

    Correct. Slinging stones are evenly spherical and around the size of the one in the photo, which helps them to stand out from the many kinds of stones and rocks one finds while excavating.
    It’s an example of the general rule we use to search for artifacts – look for anything that appears to have been worked or shaped by human hands. It’s usually easy to tell the difference.

  3. Pingback: Archaeology: Sling Stones, David and Goliath « Biblical Paths

  4. David Grubbs says:

    Think you’d find this interesting: my brother Brian (Melanie’s cousin) has taken up slinging, and has a vid up on YouTube. Listen for the crack: it’s a sonic boom

    I enjoy the blog, btw. Totally envious.

  5. Pingback: Video of an Ancient-Style Sling in Action « Luke Chandler's Blog

  6. Pingback: Discoveries at Khirbet Qeiyafa (#2) | Luke Chandler's Blog

  7. David says:

    Can you give me the rest of the words to the song “One little boy named David”? I remember only part of the song from long ago and am only able to come up with your archeological site in my search.
    Thanks.

    • lukechandler says:

      Hello David,

      Here is what I learned growing up. As with many kids’ songs, there may be variations circulating out there.

      “Once there was a boy named David, down by the babbling brook. One little boy named David, five little stones he took.
      One little stone went in the sling and the sling went round and round. (repeat)
      Round and round and round and round, round and round and round,
      One little stone went up, up, up, and the giant came tumbling down.”

      Hope this is the version you were seeking. Happy to help! While you’re here, would you like to participate on a dig in Israel next summer? If so, let me know. Our dig site overlooks the battlefield of David and Goliath.

      Best wishes,
      Luke

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