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Weapon's Of The Bible : Goliath's Spear

Updated on November 19, 2016

There is a great deal of debate concerning the weapons Goliath carried into his battle with David. Specifically, the design and size of Goliath's spear as described in the Bible has long been a source of friction between the experts. Was it too heavy to throw, was the description of a Weaver's beam referring to the design of the weapon, or its size alone? There is even a theory which suggests the design of the weapons Goliath carried were new to the Hebrews and thus they did not have the proper words or terminology to give an adequate description.

The first item to examine are the types of weapons. The Bible story clearly speaks of multiple weapons, one a spear and one a javelin. Goliath also carried a sword, but that is not the topic here. Instead we will focus on the throwing weapons, or potentially throwing weapons. The spear was apparently carried in one or both hands while the javelin was slung on his back.

  • He had a bronze helmet on his head and wore a coat of scale armor of bronze weighing five thousand shekels; on his legs he wore bronze greaves, and a bronze javelin was slung on his back. His spear shaft was like a weaver’s rod, and its iron point weighed six hundred shekels. His shield bearer went ahead of him.

The javelin would have obviously been a throwing weapon to be used against an enemy at some distance. The sword was of course used for close quarter combat. The spear however was possibly a mixture of both. The point of the spear alone weighed 600 shekels, which translates to just over 15 pounds. This would make the weapon far too heavy to be used as a long distance weapon. A strong man could have thrown the spear at this weight, however the range would have been limited and its accuracy would certainly have been very limited. If the spear was not a long distance weapon, just what was its intended purpose?

Among some scholars it is believed the spear described was used as a thrusting weapon, or perhaps to pry open a fortified location. In this case the ability to throw the weapon would have been unimportant. If the spear was indeed a throwing weapon, is there anything we can learn from the biblical description? The comparison to a weaver's beam could have been just a reference to the overall size of the weapon itself. It is also possible this description referred to how the weapon was used rather than its size alone. If this theory is accurate, there are two strong possibilities on how the weapon was to be used.

The first is that the spear could have been a Atlatl, also known as a spear thrower. This weapon was used in ancient times and was considered a long distance weapon. A person who knows how to use an Atlatl can propel the spear at speeds of up to 90 miles per hour. Basically the spear lays in a small groove carved into a section of wood. The thrower would then sling the spear forward without releasing the wooden holder. This would impart additional energy to the spear giving it greater speed and distance. The primary problem with the Atlatl was it took a great deal of practice and was not easy to make. The second item was far easier to make, use, and could greatly increase the weapons range as accuracy.

The second possibility is an Amentum which was also used in ancient times. The Amentum was a spear or javelin with a cord wrapped around it. The person using the weapon would hold one end of the cord on their fingers as they threw the spear. As the spear was released the cord would be pulled forward as well before being released. Not only would this give it more thrust, but it caused the spear to spin. This spinning effect made its flight more stable and thus increased accuracy

The cord had an effect very similar to rifling in a gun barrel. It also had an amazing affect on the range of the weapon. The same spear thrown without the use of the Amentum had a range of just over 65 feet. With the Amentum the range was improved to over 260 feet. That is a significant increase. The Amentum was used in early Olympics, warfare and hunting. In the Olympics the spear would have been thrown at about a 40 degree angle. When used in battle or hunting it would have been thrown more on a horizontal. Another large advantage of the Amentum was the cord could be adjusted to allow more range, or increased accuracy, depending on the situation.

The Bible's description of the spear closely matches that of a Amentum, aside from the excessive weight. While the similarity to the Amentum is interesting it remains far more likely the spear was used as a thrusting weapon. Combined with Goliath's great strength the size of and weight of the weapon would have made it very intimidating as well as lethel. The fact the Bible mentions another throwing weapon, the javelin, the spear most probably had a function other than as a throwing weapon.


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