Many years ago before I was saved, I used to belong to the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA). A couple of times during the week I’d go to fighter practice and on the weekends I’d go with the guys in my unit to tournaments in California. And every so often, we got together with a lot of other people and went to war. 

Figure 1 – An open field battle in the SCA

This is why I know what it’s like to fight in armor, and this is why today when I read this verse in 1 Samuel, I paused in wonderment.

He had a bronze helmet on his head and wore a coat of scale armor of bronze weighing five thousand shekels;

1 Samuel 17:5 (NIV)

If you’re not familiar with 1 Samuel 17, you should go read it because it’s the story of David and Goliath. Verse five describes Goliath and what he wore. What I never noticed before was that Goliath was wearing a bronze helmet. Goliath’s helmet would have looked something like this one in Figure 2.

FIGURE 2

This presents a problem in the narrative about David and Goliath because of this verse right here.

Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell facedown on the ground.

1 Samuel 17:49 (NIV)

I have no problem with the notion that David’s sling stone struck Goliath and knocked him out. After all, it was probably traveling at about 62 MPH.

I’ve been hit in the head wearing my helmet in battle, so I know how easy it is to be knocked out. The problem with this verse is two-fold. First, we are told that the stone sank into Goliath’s forehead. Second, Goliath fell facedown. Now, if you go search on Google for images of David and Goliath, you’ll see a lot of depictions of this fight. Like this one from Biblestudytools.com (Figure 3).

As you can see, this picture, and most like it, shows Goliath with his head tilted back. That’s because, at 62 MPH, the head will not move forward after being hit in the forehead. When we consider gravity and Goliath’s weight, there’s little chance he would have fallen forward as 1 Samuel 17:49 informs us. 

Figure 3 – Goliath is falling backward

As I researched this issue today, I encountered an article from 1978 that addresses this very issue; …and the Stone Sank into his Forehead written by Ariella Deem. Deem points out that the issue of the forehead being struck has to do with the word “greaves” from 1 Samuel 17:6.

on his legs he wore bronze greaves, and a bronze javelin was slung on his back.

1 Samuel 17:6 (NIV)

Apparently, there was no word for greaves in Hebrew. Therefore, the word that is used to describe the greaves is ū·miṣ·ḥaṯ. This word describes the shape of the greaves. A curved shape much like the piece of armor that extends down from the forehead on the helmet to cover the nose. As seen in figure 2. The same word is used in 1 Samuel 17:49 to describe the “forehead” or the place where Goliath was struck: miṣ·ḥōw. The difference between the two words is that one is masculine and the other feminine. Otherwise, they are the same word. 

This could mean then that Goliath wasn’t struck in the forehead*, but in the knee above or between the joint that allows the greaves to bend depending on the style of greaves. This would explain why Goliath tumbled forward. After falling down, Goliath wouldn’t have been able to get up to defend himself. The weight of his armor was anywhere from 90-126 pounds which would have made it very difficult to get back up. This coupled with Goliath’s incredible height of over 9 feet, would explain why, after being hit in the knee by a sling stone traveling 62 MPH, Goliath would have been dazed and easily dispatchable by David.

This doesn’t change the story of David and Goliath. David’s faith in God isn’t any less. In fact, when I think about it, aiming a sling and hitting someone in the knee between their armor is a lot harder than hitting them in their forehead. It reminds me that the only perfect armor is the armor of God.

Do you know God? God knows you, and he loves you. He sees you as significant because you are. No one is insignificant to Him. He’s with you today, and he wants you to know him. Jesus died for your sins and mine so we could be free of guilt, be free from death, and live eternally with him. Eternal salvation is just a prayer away. 

Pray this prayer with me to accept the gift of salvation today:

Lord Jesus, forgive me for all my sins. I repent from my ways. Wash me in your blood and cleanse me from all unrighteousness. I believe that you died on the cross, were buried, and on the third day, God the Father raised you from the dead. Right now, Lord Jesus, I open the door to my heart, and I receive you into my heart as my Lord and personal Savior. Amen.

If you prayed that prayer, then congratulations! You are on the first step of a brand new life. Allow me to be the first to welcome you to my family, the family of God. There are abundant resources available online for new Christians. You can visit here for more information on what to do next. You can also leave me a comment, and I’ll do my best to help you on the next step of this incredible journey.

References 

Deem, A. (1978). “…and the stone sank into his forehead”. A note on 1 Samuel XVII 49. Vetus Testamentum, 28(3), 349–351. https://doi.org/10.2307/1517043 

NBCUniversal News Group. (2012, February 29). Ancient warrior’s helmet is discovered in waters off Israel. NBCNews.com. Retrieved April 15, 2022, from https://www.nbcnews.com/id/wbna46574945

*I am not saying the Bible is wrong in saying that Goliath was struck in the forehead.