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A javelin was a light spear, or lance, used in ancient warfare. Although also often used at close range, as a thrown weapon the javelin's effectiveness was medium-range i.e. deadly against troops armed with swords or thrusting spears, but not as useful against enemy archers who could fire arrows at javelin throwers while out of javelin range. Usually made of wood, some had a leather cord wrapped around the shaft that caused the javelin to spin when released, providing more stable flight, similar in principle to a modern-day rifle bullet that is made to spin by a faint groove machined into the inside surface of a rifle barrel.


Saul and David Goliath was armed with a javelin, but he arrogantly wasted time taunting the young shepherd instead of killing him with it. Although Goliath had a shield-bearer in front of him, the giant Goliath's head was obviously above the "protected zone" of the shield bearer, which gave David the one clear shot that he needed:

"And there came out from the camp of the Philistines a champion named Goliath, of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. He had a helmet of bronze on his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail, and the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of bronze. And he had greaves of bronze upon his legs, and a javelin of bronze slung between his shoulders ... And the Philistine came on and drew near to David, with his shield-bearer in front of him. And when the Philistine looked, and saw David, he disdained him; for he was but a youth, Ruddy and comely in appearance. And the Philistine said to David, "Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?" And the Philistine cursed David by his gods ... 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 17:4-6,41-43,49 RSV)

As Saul became increasingly unstable, he tried on at least two occasions to kill the shepherd who would soon become King David:

"And Saul was very wroth, and the saying displeased him; and he said, They have ascribed unto David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed but thousands: and what can he have more but the kingdom? And Saul eyed David from that day and forward. And it came to pass on the morrow, that the evil spirit from God came upon Saul, and he prophesied in the midst of the house: and David played with his hand [i.e. he played the Lyre], as at other times: and there was a javelin in Saul's hand. And Saul cast the javelin; for he said, I will smite David even to the wall with it. And David avoided out of his presence twice. And Saul was afraid of David, because The Lord was with him, and was departed from Saul." (1 Samuel 18:8-12 KJV)

"And the evil spirit from The Lord was upon Saul, as he sat in his house with his javelin in his hand: and David played with his hand. And Saul sought to smite David even to the wall with the javelin; but he slipped away out of Saul's presence, and he smote the javelin into the wall: and David fled, and escaped that night." (1 Samuel 19:9-10 KJV)

Fact Finder: Did Saul even try to kill his own son Jonathan with a javelin?
1 Samuel 20:33

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