The life of a giant is no piece of cake.
I recently listened to a book about the making of the classic movie, The Princess Bride, which featured a humongous actor known as AndrÃ© the Giant. AndrÃ© was a gentle giant, according to the bookâ€™s writer, Cary Elwes, who played a lead role in the movie. AndrÃ© stood 7 feet, 4 inches tall, and weighed 520 pounds. But all of that bulk left him with an aching back. Imagine how your body would feel if you carried an extra 300 pounds around with you every day.
It was difficult for Andre to fit into many vehicles, and they couldnâ€™t find a horse that could carry him in the movie. Everywhere he went, people stared. When children saw him, they would either run toward him in delight or flee in terror, screaming.
But AndrÃ© took it all in good stride until he died in 1993 at age 46. (Giants also often live shorter lives.)
The tallest man in recorded history was Robert Pershing Wadlow from Alton, Illinois, who soared to the height of 8 feet, 11.1 inches. He weighed 490 pounds, but in photos he looks quite thin because the weight was spread across an enormous frame. He died especially youngâ€”at age 22 due to an infection.
Many giants, including AndrÃ©, suffer from acromegaly, a disorder that creates excessive growth hormones. Some have even theorized that Goliath of Biblical fame suffered from acromegaly. In his book, David and Goliath, Malcolm Gladwell wonders if Goliath might have had vision problems due to this disorder. Why else, he asks, did Goliath talk about David coming at him with â€œsticksâ€ (plural) when David carried one shepherdâ€™s staff?
But who knows for sure?
One of my favorite stops in Israel was the Valley of Elah, the lush land west of Jerusalem, where David did battle with Goliath. We found a dry streambed running through the field, where tourists (myself included) routinely pick up five smooth stonesâ€”just as David did when he was looking for rocks to sling at the giant. Our tour guide told us the stones were probably trucked over to keep replenishing the streambed, so who knows where these rocks really came from. But I still keep them on my bookshelf because, after all, I had gathered them from the Valley of Elah and thatâ€™s good enough for me.
In David and Goliath, Gladwell quotes Eitan Hirsch, a ballistics expert with the Israeli Defense Forces who calculated that a slinger could hurl a rock with a speed almost equal to a bullet from a gun. Thatâ€™s why ancient armies had entire units of â€œprojectile warriors,â€ who fired arrows and slung stones.
So Davidâ€™s sling was a more fearsome weapon than we often give it credit. Whatâ€™s more, David had the advantage of being fast and nimble because he wasnâ€™t weighted down with armor. (He wisely turned down Saulâ€™s offer to loan him his armor.) Goliath, in contrast, was like a lumbering tank, wearing roughly 100 pounds of armor.
The only vulnerable spot on Goliathâ€™s body was his forehead, which was unprotected. Any slinger worth his salt was highly accurate, so itâ€™s no surprise that David was able to strike him in the forehead, and that Goliath died on the spot. Stones were so deadly that the Romans had a special tool designed solely for pulling rocks from the bodies of injured soldiers.
These are all good reasons why Goliath was defeated by a younger, smaller opponent. But there were two even better reasonsâ€”reasons of the heart.
The first: Based on Goliathâ€™s taunting, he was probably suffering from a severe case of pride. â€œAm I a dog,Â that you come at me with sticks?â€ he teased the young David. Goliath was quite the trash talker, and after striking fear into the entire Israelite army, his head mustâ€™ve gotten quite big, and he became overconfident. Little did he know he was going to soon lose that head.
As Proverbs 16:18-19 says, â€œPrideÂ goes before destruction, a haughty spiritÂ before a fall. Better to be lowly in spirit along with the oppressed than to share plunder with the proud.â€
But most importantly, Goliath had another, even greater heart problem. He lacked the Lord.
David, who could do a bit of trash talking himself, shouted, â€œYou come against me with sword and spear and javelin,Â but I come against you in the nameÂ of theÂ LordÂ Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.â€
Notice the difference in their taunts. For Goliath, it was all about him. The Israelites had insulted him because they sent a boy â€œwith sticksâ€ to battle him. For David, it was all about God. David wasnâ€™t upset that Goliath insulted him. He was upset that Goliath had insulted God.
David had both humility and the Lord on his side. And it didnâ€™t hurt that he could sling stones with the best of them.
Looking at it that way, Goliath really didnâ€™t stand a chance.
By Doug Peterson