How Stories Evolve: The First Instance

A Geezer’s Notebook, By Jim Foster

Attacking the Bible shouldn’t be done, but sometimes an obvious error in translation needs to be corrected.

David and Goliath

(A faithful retelling)

One of the many problems that can arise from a history built upon centuries of campfire tales is occasionally a story that is basically factual will be embellished a tad after a round or two of fermented goat’s milk. Once the alcohol kicks in and the hour draws late, the raconteurs may attribute feats of glory to some long-dead hero that somehow leave the realm of common sense and move rapidly into the world of supernatural bull droppings.

An excellent example of this historical phenomenon is the account of the Biblical battle between the champion of the Philistine Army, the mighty Goliath, and David, an apprenticed Israeli shepherd lad. There seems to be some problem with the accuracy of the report after a few hundred years of campfire tales. It appears the size of the Philistine champion may have been enhanced somewhat in the telling and re-telling. According to the celebrated Israeli historian, Isaac of Tel Aviv, Goliath stood about 12’ tall, give or take a foot or two to allow for his elevator sandals. On the other hand, his friend and contemporary, Lazarus of Bathurst and Lawrence opines that Isaac may have misread certain scrolls wherein the story was eventually recorded. In his research papyrus, The Effects of Grain Alcohol and Hallucinatory Drugs on Biblical History Lazarus postulates the Philistine Enforcer was probably a shade under 32’ from his bunions to the shine on his bald head.

Modern archaeologists dispute both these estimates. Using DNA samples taken from the warrior’s jockey shorts and feathered helmet, they have concluded that Goliath was in actual fact about 5’6”.

The story itself now becomes suspect since this new evidence indicates Goliath was hardly a giant and even David’s famed prowess with a sling shot is being questioned.

Fortunately a faithful account of this famous battle has turned up in a box of discarded Christmas decorations under the stairs in my basement. In the interest of historical accuracy and our understanding of what really happened, I shall attempt to translate for you.

1) And the Philistines didst camp near Shochoh. And the Israelites didst set up shop by the valley of Elah. And didst both sides gather their armies onto the highest part of an mountain and didst they hurl vile insults the one unto the other and didst both sides bend over and display their buttocks and there was much giggling and mirth – until the mosquitoes came. Lo, didst the Philistines and the Children of Israel head for the tents and hideth under the blankets until the morning sun didst driveth the little rascals back into the swamp. Verily when the mosquitoes had vanished didst the king address the troops.

SAUL – All right men, everybody line up!

DAVID – What’s going on, Ezra? What are we lining up for? We had short-arm inspection Monday. It’s too early for breakfast. Who’s the old guy on the blower?

EZRA – Saul Something-or-other.

DAVID – Odd name; must be a foreigner.

SAUL – Men, we need a volunteer to do a little job this morning. The successful candidate will get a new pair of sandals, his name on a plaque, and a statue showing his naughty bits will be commissioned and placed in a public place.

DAVID – What did he say, Ezra?

EZRA – The successful candle maker will win a new pair of camels and his public bits will be reconditioned and placed in a naughty place.

DAVID – Well, let me know who won. I’m going to rustle up some grub.

SAUL ― All the hero has to do is slay the Philistine giant, Goliath. Did I mention the new sandals?

2) And the armies of Israel fell back and were sore afraid. And yea didst they point each unto the other saying, “Take him! Take him!” and “Benny here is a good man in a fight”.

3) And many didst remember dental appointments and within the twinkling of an eye the Israelite camp was barren except for Saul, Ezra and David; who at that moment was going through someone’s tent looking for a snack.

SAUL ― Lo, people of Israel, is there but two brave men left among our vast armies brave enough to fight the Philistine?

4) And Ezra didst suddenly come down with a migraine and didst beg off to slip back to Jerusalem for some Anacin. And King Saul, seeing Ezra was without horse, offered him a lift and the two disappeared in a cloud of dust.

5) And did David come out from the tent with his head in a kit bag saying, “Ezra, dost thou have a corkscrew? Methinks I have found a bottle of passable plonk. Ezra? Ezra?”

6) And lo did he look around and he was alone – except for a giant, 70,000 Philistine foot soldiers and a carpenter who had his tape measure out and was checking David’s cubits for a wooden box.

GOLIATH – Ho! Ho! Ho!

DAVID – Keep it down, Shorty, I’m trying to rustle up some breaky here. Aren’t you supposed to be on the side of a can of green beans or something?

7) And Goliath did takest up his spear which measured some 14 furlongs from the pointy end to the end with the feathers and weighed 30 talents. And lo didst he flang it at David who was busy trying to pull the cork from the jug with his teeth and never noticed.

8) Then didst the mighty Goliath wield his broad-axe, which alas was made by the lowest bidder and verily didst the head falleth off in his backswing and lay waste some seventy of his countrymen. And there was much grumbling and cursing throughout the ranks.

9) Lo, didst Goliath draw out his sword, which was four cubits and a span long and didst he march upon David who was down on his knees wrestling with the wine bottle. And didst the lad mumble Jehovah’s name several times and not too favourably either.

10) And behold a mighty shout arose from the Philistine hosts as Goliath, their champion, did bear down upon the Israelite, waving his blade, hewing down several small trees and the odd sentry as he passed.

11) And he didst take a mighty swing at the shepherd boy and lo didst he miss him by a foot and a half and clove the bottle in twain and the wine didst pour out upon the thirsty ground.

12) And David didst rise up to his full height (4’8” – 4’9” tops) and criest out in a loud voice, “Why you no good torn down son of a… ” and the fight was on. Lo, didst the boy pick up a handful of rocks and chase after the Philistine pelting him with boulders, stones and pebbles – anything he could get his hands on.

13) And Goliath did flee like the wind crying out, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” and disappearethed o’er the mountaintop. Lo, didst David flang a day-old bagel and it also disappearethed o’er the crest.

14) Yea verily didst it strike the Philistine between the lamps and he expired. And there was blood and poppy seeds as far as the eye could see.  And the Philistine armies didst sayeth, “Oh, oh!” and took off for home on the dead run.

15) One by one, didst the Israelites creep back onto the battlefield and didst taketh turns kicking the downed enemy and posing for paintings with one foot on the giant’s chest and one finger in the air. And didst they rejoice abundant and cry out, “We’re Number One!”

16) And Saul didst stand before his people and wave his arms for silence and turneth to the shepherd boy, saying unto him, “You have saved us from a certain death. Whatsoever you asketh of me shall be your reward.”

17) And David didst approach his king and looking both ways whispered in his ear, “About that circumcision thing – is there any way I can get it put back on?”

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