The Original Giant Bully

In light of the recent allegations of ‘bullying’ between two NFL behemoths that have the media in such a dither, I thought I would weigh in on the issue.  Rather than post the original blog I intended and risk getting skewered on the rapier of public opinion for my traditional (i.e.: old fashioned) views, I thought I would reconnect with the original story involving a giant bully to see how it was dealt with.

I am a big fan on Malcom Gladwell’s work and recently picked up his newest book, David and Goliath: underdogs, misfits, and the art of battling giants.  I’ve only read the first couple of chapters but am looking forward to reading the rest of the book.  The first chapter addresses the epic confrontation in the Old Testament between the giant Goliath and the shepherd boy David.  Since I also recently wrote about that event in my newest book, A Man in the Making: Strategies to Help Your Son Succeed in Life, I couldn’t help but notice that Mr. Gladwell’s version had a slightly different interpretation than mine did, but I think you’ll enjoy both.  Here’s mine:

David was a young man—just a teenager.  He was described as slight of build, fair-skinned, and not very tall.  One time while still a young shepherd boy, a bear made off with one of his flock.  David tracked it down and killed it by himself (possibly with just his bare hands) to get his sheep back.  Another time he did the same with a lion.

One day while bringing lunch to the battlefield for his brothers, David overheard the giant Philistine Goliath screaming insults; laughing and taunting the soldiers and the God of Israel.  He was perplexed and angry that no one was doing anything about it, and so he confidently volunteered to shut Goliath’s pie hole.  David probably figured he’d already killed a lion and a bear with his bare hands—how tough could a measly giant be?  David perhaps knew even then that he had the spirit of God within him and with that confidence likely did not fear a mere mortal man.

Goliath was the mightiest warrior of the entire Philistine army.  The Israeli army was deathly afraid of him as every day he strode forward from the enemy camp and hurled insults at the Jews and their God.  He was reported to be six cubits and a span tall.  A cubit is approximately 18 inches in length and a span is about nine inches, which would have made Goliath a towering nine feet, nine inches tall (about three feet taller than the average NBA power forward).  In order to wear the following gear he was probably heavily muscled, so I think it’s fair to say he weighed at least in the neighborhood of 500 pounds or so.

He wore a coat of armor (plates of bronze sewn overlapping on a leather coat) which weighted 5,000 shekels of bronze, or about 125 pounds.  He carried a bronze javelin, the staff of which was like a weaver’s beam–between 2.5 to three inches in diameter.  I don’t know how long it was but it had to be huge if the diameter was as big around as the head of a baseball bat.  Let’s estimate for sake of speculation that an average spear is one inch in diameter and approximately six to eight feet long.  That would, by extrapolation, make Goliath’s spear about 15-20 feet long.  If it was made of solid Bronze, it would weight at minimum about 270 pounds at 2.5 inches in diameter, and about 345 pounds if three inches in diameter, which would seem excessively heavy even for a behemoth like Goliath.

An Olympic javelin used today is approximately one inch in diameter, weights about 800 grams (1.76 pounds), and is about 2.6 meters long (8.5 feet).    So even if Goliath’s spear was made out of wood and not some lightweight metal alloy (or fiberglass) like today’s javelins, I estimated the weight of an average wooden pole, one inch by 8.5 foot long and came up with about four pounds (I readily admit my math skills are rusty—any engineers out there please feel free to correct me if I’m wrong).  Since Goliath’s javelin was about three times as thick and twice as long as that model, I estimate that his wooden spear probably weighed in the range of 22 to 26 pounds.  Attached to this pole was an iron spearhead weighting 600 shekels or about 17 pounds for a total weight of maybe 43 pounds—a pretty hefty chunk of weight to carry around and throw.  He also wore a bronze helmet on his head, bronze armor (greaves) on his legs, a sword, and had a shield-bearer in front of him.  He was a veritable war machine—bigger and more powerful than any three men combined.

As scrawny little David approached the field of battle with just his shepherd’s staff and sling, Goliath looked down his nose at him and sneered with contempt, “Am I a dog that you come at me with sticks?  Come here [boy],” he thundered, “and I’ll give your flesh to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field!”

Then David, in classic style, responded with complete confidence, “You come against me with a sword, and spear, and javelin.  But I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.  This day the LORD will deliver you over to me, and I will strike you down and cut off your head.” (1 Samuel 17:43-46 NIV)

Enraged, Goliath charged.  It must have been like being charged by an angry bull elephant; ground thundering and dust flying.  But David calmly picked up five smooth stones and running forward slung one from his sling which struck Goliath and embedded itself in his forehead, dropping him like a dirty shirt.  David then walked over, picked up Goliath’s huge sword, and hacked off his giant head, holding it up and taunting the enemy army with it.  The entire Philistine army turned tail and ran. 

What’s the point of this story in today’s world?  The point is that all bullies, even giant ones, are cowards.  If confronted they are easily defeated.  When we cower and bow down to them (whether they be men, women, special interest groups, or even countries) they are empowered and emboldened.  Part of the definition of a man is that he does not allow himself or others weaker than him to be bullied.

While I believe with all my heart that we should protect those who cannot protect themselves, I also believe our culture continues to promote a ‘victim mentality’ whereby nearly any situation is obsessively being considered ‘bullying;’ whether it’s a high school football team that scores too many points against its opponent, or two fully grown, 300-pound men who play professionally in an aggressively competitive and combative sport for a living. Bullies are a fact of life and have been since the beginning of time.  The sooner we learn to deal with them by assuming at least some responsibility for what happens to us in life the sooner we stop bullies from doing their damage.  David understood that.

Question:  What are your thoughts about the increase of “bullying” in our culture today?


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