G I A N T - S C A L P E R



6 8 5 2

The Runt of Ephratah

Since its arrival in royal Ibbatha in the heart of Mizraim, the greatest of all the nations, the Topaz had brought nothing good to the Earth during its long residence. Strife and unforgiveness, bitter rivalry raged in uncountable households. Even the most godly families such as Jesse’s of Bethlehem, were rent apart with envy, jealousy and division. Thanks to the Topaz, there could be no peace in harmony in the world either, as greed, anger and fighting spilled over borders and involved the armies of nation after nation. What champion could the Almighty God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob raise against the Topaz? Wally the NTM butterfly based at the decrepit genotype archives in the Aleutians? He hadn’t proven effective against the star-stones that followed Wormstar--which had somehow been pulled through a wormhole between the Twin Universes. After the Sardius-Carnelian’s abrupt departure, he had watched one after another wing in from deep space and take up residence on the Earth, and it turned out to be FC who devised a successful response, enlisting mere humans, that met their respective challenges. The Topaz, however, was the exception. It had dug in and was not going to be dislodged like the others! Who next would FC enlist against it, seeing that others had not proven effective?

King Saul, anointed by Samuel the Sopetet-Ro’eh, though Samuel had most reluctantly given up his sopetet-office for Saul’s accession, he seemed to be the man of the hour--but after a good beginning he not only had disappointed Samuel but was sinking, day by day, unto the influence of the Topaz. A fresh start in the leadership of the nation was urgently needed. But who was worthy? Who could resist the second-most powerful star-stone come to rule the Earth?

A shepherd ignored by older brothers, Elhanan found plenty of time amidst caring for his flock of sheep to think about their ways. Of all the animals, these were surely meant for men to take in charge! Was there any so weak and dependent as sheep? How tenderly the dams cared for their young, and how helpless the young were--a case of the defenseless caring for the utterly helpless! Lambs wouldn’t be able to survive a day without constant attention by either the mother or himself the shepherd! Weak limbed, the newborn could scarcely stand, and surely could not outrun any foe that would dart at the flock from hiding places in the big rocks or the tall grass and weeds. A full-grown, horned ram stood some chance against small attackers such as foxes and a lone jackal, but one wild dog could attack a ram without danger to himself. If a ram survived a dog’s attack, it would be by running away and hiding in the high rocks until the dog tired of hunting him, not by resisting.

He had to be constantly alert, with both eyes and ears--for though dusk and night were the most dangerous times, predators such as roving foxes, jackals, hyenas, eagles, and even wolves and lions on occasion, would appear as if out of nowhere and strike at the flock, making off with the weakest and easiest to drag off and kill, usually the newborn or the very young. With the strength of the Most High enabling him and giving him courage, he had driven off every attacker so far, and for each foe he made a pile of stones, to keep constantly before his eyes memorials of God’s deliverance and mercy.. Against most attackers he used his slingshot. Whenever he wasn’t actively caring for the sheep, or composing songs, he was practicing to improve his aim and speed. The leather was taken from a wild goat that had broken its neck, taking one leap that was farther than he calculated. He had watched the daredevil goat making amazing jumps in the cliffs from rock to rock, only to see it tumble down the slopes one day. It was worth the long, hot trek to get it. Since the goatskin was especially tough, it made a wonderful, long handled slingshot!

He had taken down an eagle and several griffon-vultures with it. They thought they were safe in the sky, and the upwelling winds would carry them out of range, but not so! Hyenas and other attackers on the ground could be driven off before they even reached a sheep in the flock, for he could intervene at a distance with a well-aimed missile. The slingshot was a great weapon for a shepherd who trained himself expertly, as handy to him as his crook and rod. With his crook he didn’t have to make chase but easily caught the passing, even the running leg of whatever sheep he wanted to examine or help--and with his rod, he knocked snakes on the head and smashed scorpions he found under rocks. . But his slingshot was his best choice for the bigger foes of his flock. With it he more than matched their speed and might. Yet, among the big rocks of high pasture he couldn’t see everything at one time, and he couldn’t stop them from seizing one or two of the sheep when they attacked, but burdened as they were he could catch up with them, and then slay them. He had in the last year slain a bear and a lion with his shearing knife, though he was smaller and lighter than his foes. The bones of his foes were dotting the landscape, making passing shepherds and visitors comment on the number. Watching his grazing flock, for it was morning, in the hills south of his city of Bethlehem, he could barely see the housetops from where he sat on a big rock. A sudden cloud misted his eyes as he thought about his home. How little he saw it! His mother, his father, his brothers--but his brothers cared little or nothing for him. Eliab the firstborn, then Abinadab, Shammah, Nethaneel, Raddai, Ozem...all followed Eliab in calling him names and excluding him. Turned out from the houshold pottery business, where his hands made hopeless pots no one would buy--though not one brother would take the time to teach him properly--he was sent to herd the family sheep, and rarely did one of his elder brothers ever come to visit him. Eliab, Abinadab, Shammah, Nathaneel, Raddai, Ozem, they all acted in league to push him away from their father’s bosom rather than draw him close. Why was that? What had he done? Hardly ever did they visit him. Then when one came, it was to upbraid him about something--or make little of him in some way. Why did they despise him so? he wondered again and again. He was doing his father’s business, day after day, faithfully. The flock was always increasing, and he had not lost a single sheep, and had slain wolves, a bear, and even a lion for the sake of the flock. He might have been mauled by the bear, or bitten by the lion and clawed badly, but his family, when they heard of these attackers, sent no one to inquire about him, if he needed anything. It was as if he didn’t exist! All they thought of was the flock, for which he was held strictly accountable when the counting and shearing was done twice a year in Bethlehem. One bad scratch on his thigh from a lion claw had taken a long time to heal, and he had need of a salve and binding-cloth for it--but he had used grass tied with a leather thong to keep the deer flies from boring into it and inflaming it. He had seen shepherds who could not work and had turned to begging because they had lost limbs in such a way. In the clear, dry mountain air Elhanan could see great distances as long as there wasn’t a mountain in the way. He gazed for some time off at the smoke climbing up from the cook fires and ovens of little far-off Ephratah, the smallest district of the land his fathers of the tribe of Judah had possessed since the Great Return. His eyes cleared as he thought how great his God was, to deliver his people of Israel from the mighty Mizraimites! Were not his people like sheep and lambs, weak and utterly dependent on their Shepherd for life, provender, and protection? Deliverances closer home came to mind too. He thought of the bear he had caught, and the lion after that--chasing them as they dragged off a bleating lamb, then grabbing them by the throat and plunging his knife into their hearts. It was God, he knew, that gave him the courage of a trained warrior to do such things, where other shepherds would have run off, rightly fearing the claws of the bear and the lion and their tearing teeth. Indeed, shepherds had to think of their lives, for a ravenous beast was ferocious once it had seized its prey! It would fight to the death for it, so, with God’s power, that was what he gave it--death. Never did he give quarter either. Once a hyena had attacked his flock, even if he had chased it off, Elhanan knew it had left a scent trail and it would come back again and again, and somehow the other hyenas got wind of attack and gathered courage to attack the flock too. So each beast, large or small, had to be followed wherever it went off and slain. If he was not to lose one sheep after another, he had to make sure none was lost--none! Up on his big rock, feeling its massive strength, he began to think of a phrase, then another, and soon an entire song of praise to God was coming forth from him.

I will love You, O Lord, my Strength. The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; my God, my Strength, in whom I will trust; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised; so shall I be saved from my enemies...

He grabbed his homemade, ten-string harp (the strings made with especially strong lion gut!) and began to follow along, committing the song quickly to memory. He had made several hundred songs this way, and could sing every one from memory. It passed the time, and he had the gift, and why not please the ears of his God? He felt, in his heart, that God listened to him and was pleased, even if no one else listened or cared to hear his songs--songs his elder brothers had called “crazy songs of a lovesick goat alone on the mountain.”

Hearing of his song-singing and skylarking atop big rocks while his flock grazed beneath him in full sight, Nathaneel, Raddai, Ozem, and Shammah and some cousins had sneaked close enough to overhear Elhanan--and knowing they were there, Elhanan had sung most of his stock of psalms just to make their spying expedition worth their time. His brothers, after rising up and jeering and and throwing sheep dung and calling him names, went away, telling everyone their brother had lost his wits evidently and was best left alone with the sheep where he could do least harm. Why anyone would compose songs expressing his inmost thoughts and feelings to the Almighty of their Fathers was beyond them--it was even indecent and perhaps blasphemous, and ought to be stopped! How could God be compared to a shelter in a storm, or a strong tower, or any of the other things Elhanan had thought up, having nothing better to do? It was unthinkable, to bring him down to earth like that! El Elyon sat enthroned in his high heaven, angrily regarding at the sins of the wicked nations outside the borders of Israel, ever devising new punishments and torments for them, and, thus, had no time for regarding a silly-headed, presumptuous shepherd boy in Ephratah who thought somehow had got the fool idea that God should be spending all his time and attention on protecting and helping him against wild beasts--the ones he met in the wilderness, and the ones that were even worse, those that sprang up within his own heart and sought to master him!

But it was true! God Almighty cared for him, and Elhanan knew it, day after day in what happened to him! So he could not help praising his wonderful God, not matter what his brothers said about him.

...For by You I can run against a troop, by my God I can leap over a wall... ...It is God who arms me with strength, and makes my way perfect. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer, and sets me on my high places. He teaches my hands to make war, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze... And the Lord had done far greater things! You have also given me the shield of Your salvation; Your right hand has held me up...I have pursued my enemies and overtaken them; neither did I turn back again till they were destroyed...

Elhanan, pausing in the long psalm of many lines, thought how blessed he was. How could he possibly express all that was welling up in his heart toward God? It was impossible, though he should compose and sing a thousand psalms! Where was there a God like his among the nations? The Philistines--Elhanan paused to spit--this offspring of Japheth and Javan, invading the lands promised to Abraham from the islands of the Great Sea, they did not know Israel’s God. They revered a mere idol, an abomination borrowed from the worshipers of an old corn-deity that was half-man, half-fish and was served by temple harlots, both male and female! Their armies thrown back by the per-aa at the gates of Mizraim, they sailed to the Glorious Land and settled along the coasts, where they built five powerful cities for their five kings and then turned to oppress Holy Israel with continual raids and attacks. What was the stinking pride of Ashdod and Askelon to the Holy One, the Most High God, who could not be contained by heaven and earth and all the things that walked or crept upon the ground? What was this paltry, man-made Philistine image to the imageless, all-powerful Great Shepherd, the Almighty of such noble fathers of his people as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob?

Elhanan spat again, more vigorously. Yes, the Philistines may be mighty in shipcraft like the peoples of Tyre and Sidon. Their weapons and warcraft were equally great. But they were idolaters of the worst stripe, whoring after a false abomination that could do no man any good. The things they did in Dagon’s tall-pillared temples were unspeakable, slaying even their first-born infants to please him. Samson the Deliverer had not done enough, though he had killed thousands of Philistines in his day. Someone was needed who would finish the job where Samson left off. Dagon should be smashed and thrown on a dung-heap! If he ever had the time, he would go himself and confront the Philistines and their wicked priests, and tear evil old Dagon down with his own hands and smash him to powder with rocks!

...For you have armed me with strength for the battle; You have subdued under me those who rose up against me. You have also given me the necks of my enemies, so that I destroyed those who hated me. They cried out, but there was none to save; even to the Lord, but He did not answer them. Then I beat them as fine as the dust, before the wind; I cast them out like dirt in the streets...

How he hated this Dagon, with a special hatred. For in the name of Dagon the proud, warring Philistines oppressed Israel bitterly, breaking the peace constantly with raids like hyena packs on a sheepfold again and again. Dagon and his worshipers should be wiped from the face of the earth! Elhanan climbed down from his rock, the psalm completed, and committed to memory. He thought about the anointing as he took a water skin and went to anoint an old ewe who was bothered with biting flies. The water helped her for a time, and she was thirsty too, he found. How surprised he had been when the old man of God showed up at the family compound, to perform a sacrifice in Bethlehem just when he was bringing in his sheep for the second counting and shearing. Then, thinking it was none of his affair, he left to find lodging at the usual place, the nearest inn’s stables that were set in dry caves in the slopes on the town’s edge. He went to the inn-keeper and met a scowl instead of a smile. “No, I have nothing for you, Lastborn of Jesse! Nothing, and don’t argue with me! That head ro’eh brought too many folk with him this time from Ramah, and I have to refuse you this time. I already let the stables to them, for their animals and servants. You’ll have to go someplace else. There’s absolutely no room, not a corner in the wall, available at my inn tonight!”

Elhanan was speechless, and stared at the inn-keeper, who was in a hurry, and moved quickly away to take care of pressing business with the newcomers. Elhanan ran after him, catching the man’s robe. “But you are the only place I can go! We have always come here! You know the others don’t let room for flocks. You know that. I’ve always come here. You can’t turn me out. My sheep cannot stay in the open, in the street, where the night dogs will find them and tear them! Give me lodgings, son of Shimei! I will pay you a whole sheep if you favor me with a stable. I’ll even take that small one I know, the one farthest down, with the manger--” The inn-keeper wrenched away his robe from Elhanan’s clutching fingers. “I told you not to detain me! I’ve got many guests who are paying well for lodging with me tonight! A whole sheep, you will pay! Faugh! I will earn many times that for that stable you mention! Go away! If the king of Holy Israel himself should come seeking lodging tonight, I’d turn him away, I tell you! I am full up!”<>/h3>

“No, don’t turn my sheep away! Have pity, Bar-Shimei! I can’t let them stand in the open tonight, not with all the night-roaming dogs running in the streets and outside the walls! They will be torn by the dogs!” The inn-keeper was angry now. “You’re wasting my valuable time, Bar-Jesse. I warn you now! Let me go! Do you think I will board your filthy sheep when I can board high-paying ro’ehs and followers of the ro’ehs, all these holy gentlemen of Ramah? Sure, some of them are a little odd in their ways and pray more than is proper, but their money is good--oh, their money is good! Now begone!” Elhanan’s pleading hands dropped slowly. He saw that no amount of words would turn the inn-keeper’s heart when his heart was so inflamed with love of gold and silver to be gained. “But my mother sheep and the little lambs...” Elhanan couldn’t help it. His eyes flooded with tears for his flock, since he couldn’t protect them completely from the town dogs, which would be attacking them all night from every side, wherever he led them. Did he have ten arms that could sling ten stones at once? Only then would they stand a chance, he knew. Would El Shaddai, the Help of the Helpless, sprout ten arms on his body?

The inn-keeper laughed over his shoulder as he moved off. “That’s your problem! I need to be ten men to be doing my job today, and you are wasting my time! Oh, one lamb--maybe one newborn lamb--do I have space for keeping, but not your whole flock! So go! Get from here!” Turning away from the inn, Elhanan thought of one place that was left, and though he knew the reaction he would get, he looked for an opportunity when no one was visible to sound the alarm, then ran and opened the gates wide of his family’s house. With a toot of his shepherd’s whistle, he sounded the alarm to his sheep and on cue they raced with him into the family compound, into the clean, well-kept, walled garden where sheep were absolutely forbidden. Hunks of bread for lunch still in the mouth, two gardeners and five or six servants came running, yelling and making fists at him. “Stop, get them out of here! What do you think you are doing, Elhanan?” they all shouted. The confusion and noise were terrific, with bleeting and baa-ing sheep being chased, and sheep running everywhere, knocking over pots set out to dry while trying to hide from their pursuers. Here and there a sheep began nibbling the precious roses and garden plants as well. Elhanan tried to explain why he had to come with his flock, but it was no use. He just let the sheep run about, and made no attempt to gather them and leave. What chance did they face in the streets? It was better here, no matter how furious his family was with him, he decided.

Conspicuously absent, his brothers did not join the servants and gardeners as they attempted to catch the sheep and shove them one by one outside the compound gates. Finally, Ozem came out to the yard, just as the last sheep was being dragged to the gate. He went to Elhanan. “The old ro’eh of Ramah has come to hold a holy sacrifice in the town, he is with father, sitting in the place of honor, and asks for you....he asks for you to be sent to him. So go, you smelly little shepherd, since he asks for you! Perhaps, he needs someone like you to care for his sheep in Ramah! Perhaps, he needs a ram for his sacrifice! Who knows--he won’t tell anyone!” Elhanan was astonished as he stared at his disgusted brother, who stood looking at Elhanan as if he were looking at a pile of sheep droppings--which, in fact, thanks to him were now plentiful in the compound, already drawing flies. Unable to clean his hands and wash his face, for he was given no time to go for his own water (the servants treating him like a stranger), he was pulled from the yard and into the house, only to find the others of his family looking at him as if he were not really a member of their family. This was not the inner chamber, and they were all standing by the door of the chamber, discussing things among themselves, though they immediately ceased talking the moment he appeared.

Why did his older brothers, Eliab, Abinadab, Shammah and the others, standing tall and proud, hang their heads? he wondered, surprised. What had happened to make them so downcast and angry toward him? Then it happened. The old, white-bearded man of God, the chief ro’eh of Israel, walked from the inner room that his father reserved for important guests, saw him pointed out to him with begrudging words and ark looks and, with little pause to consider what he saw for the first time, led him away to another chamber where they could be alone. Expecting that the ro’eh had a request for one of the sheep, a ram to be chosen for the sacrifice, Elhanan waited with his head bowed. The ro’eh barred the door, then turned and poured a whole beaker of oil on his head! What? He could hardly stand still, he had no idea what was happening, as he stood with fragrant oil dripping down his face and chin and onto his garments. But the man of God bent close to his ear, declaring,

The Almighty God, the Shepherd of Israel, says to you, “I have laid help upon one that is mighty; I have exalted one chosen out of the people. I have found him my servant, with my holy oil have I anointed him, with whom my hand shall be established. Mine arm also shall strengthen him. And I will beat down his foes before his face, and plague them that hate him. But my faithfulness and my mercy shall be with him, and in my name shall his horn be exalted. I will set his hand also in the sea, and his right hand in the rivers. He shall cry unto me, ‘Thou art my father, my God, and the rock of my salvation. Also I will make him my firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth. My mercy will I keep for him for evermore, and my covenant shall sand fast with him. His seed also will I make to endure for ever, and his throne as the days of heaven.

The ro’eh uttered other things that he could not take in at the moment. ...”.Herald of the Bright and Morning Star, the Samech who loves God’s law and hates vain thoughts, whose hiding place and shield is Jehovah-Nissi, and in God’s word he hopes”? “The Ten-Armed Dawidum called to resist the Wicked Star, the Divider of Men”? And, most startling to his burning ears: ...”chosen of God to be king over all Israel, with the new name “Dawid” given him in place of Elhanan”? He, the family’s shepherd, was called to be the Almighty’s herald, a commander of the armies, and a king over Israel? It was altogether impossible, though he respected the old one as a holy leader of his people. As soon as it was over, he was led out by the bowing ro’eh, then received by his family and his brothers, who looked at him, their eyes bursting with questions, wondering what menial task the old ro’eh had given the shepherd-brother, and why it had to be given so privately and auspiciously.

“O Smelly One of Ephratah, what did the old ro’eh of Ramah say to you?” the eldest, Eliab, taunted, grabbing Elhanan’s elbow and pressing it hard. “Is he asking for wool from the flock, or a sheep for the holy sacrifice? Tell the truth and don’t try to lie to us!” Elhanan pulled his arm away. He held silent, though the scoffing Abinadab and Shammah demanded the same thing. Finally, when he would not answer them a word, their faces turned red, and they pushed out from the family gathering. “So you can hold your tongue, eh? Well, get back to your sheep herding!” he was told. “We can’t stand the stink of sheep and their droppings and flies in this house! Return to your few small sheep in the wilderness! That’s all you’re good for!” But if that were all, why had he been anointed by the man of God and told that he was chosen of God to be a mighty “ten-armed” king who would put down all Israel’s foes, including the Philistines? It didn’t make sense at all to Elhanan, especially since Israel already had a king, the mighty warrior named Saul.

Elhanan could not take it in, and put the matter away for God to work out in his time and way. He had sheep in his care, and that was enough for now anyway! He still had time to get them away from the town and its scavenger dogs if he hurried! Shearing would have to be let go for that year! They had made it impossible!

Climbing down the rock, he was checking the lambs to see if any had problems that morning, when he saw dust on the mountain opposite. There was a road that came down it, and turned by the dry river and could reach his mountain, he knew. Was he going to have visitors? It was quite a distance, so he could not see who it was. But he wasn’t worried. He could lead his flock off, with a word, and be out of sight amidst the big rocks in a moment or two. He could elude any robber band that way. Once his sheep scattered amidst the big rocks at his command, there was no catching them! Then, at a safe distance, he would call, and they would come to him, everyone, from its hiding place in the clefts of the rocks! So, he wasn’t worried who it might be. Once he saw them, there was still plenty time to decide what best to do, talk to them or take the flock away to safer, higher ground.

The company of fifty armed men, all wearing suits of armor, finally came into view so that Elhanan could count them and judge what nation and tribe they might be. Unmistakably, they were Israelite by their dress and language--for he could hear the voices clearly at a distance--but what were they doing so far south in the mountains facing the wastes of the Negeb wilderness? The king’s power had been cut back severely by the Philistines, and he seldom sent war parties this far to the south anymore, fearing he would lose them. Then when he did send them, he chose commanders and fighting men from other tribes, not willing to risk his precious fellow Benjaminites.

The men wiped their brows with their sleeves as they walked alongside their horses and mounts to save mounts’ strength, and keep looking about as if they had one thing on their minds: water. Waterskins were hung slackly on their animals, so that meant they were in trouble and had not taken enough with them when starting out. But there was little water in the area for so many men and beasts, Elhanan knew from experience. You had to know exactly where it lay hidden, or you would pass right by and perish from thirst, as they men, evidently, were about to do. When he judged it was the right time, Elhanan went forward to meet them, leaving his sheep, so as not to show them to the newcomers. They could tell by his clothes and shepherd’s crook what he was. He stood up to be seen on a rock and let them approach. Finally, he was spotted, and the men stopped at a sign by their leader, the captain. After a pause, the captain sent a man forward. “Morning of fragrance, my brother! I am Elhanan of the tribe of Judah, the son of Jesse of Bethlehem,” Elhanan said to the man when he came. Of course, he didn’t say he was the last born son, which carried no distinction. He knew that if visitors guessed the low esteem his family had for him, they too would regard him with contempt, and even attack his flock.

The soldier was carrying his bow in readiness, but Elhanan’s civilized manner and the unusual cleanness and handsomeness of face made him relax, let it down and wipe his face with his sleeve. “Morning of light! A son of Jacob in this forsaken wilderness? I am surprised. Not even the wild asses and conies could live here! How can your sheep be so fat as I see them? But we need water for ourselves and our beasts! Can the son of Jesse tell us where it might be? We will perish if we do not find any soon!” Elhanan smiled, and then climbed down swiftly. He motioned for the man to follow him, right back down the path and then off to the side where it lay hidden, a secret spring that ran only a few feet among the rocks before disappearing back into the earth. If they had gone by they truly would have perished! he told the soldier, for it was the only source of water until Beer-Sheba. And many had perished in the desert before reaching Beer-Sheba’s refreshing palms and grassy pools of water. Knowing that the captain must have the first drink, the man hurried back to his waiting company, but Elhanan had thought to bring a waterskin and he met the captain with the first draught of the water. Climbing up so the captain would not have to climb down for it, he waited.

The noble-looking, high-browed captain, Jeconabah of the tribe of Issachar, came forward, took the water from Elhanan’s hand , and drank. While the animals were being taken to the spring and watered, the captain sat with Elhanan’s waterskin and rested in the shade of a big rock, which didn’t quite shade him wholly, as the Issacharite was a very stocky, long-legged man. Elhanan, having saved the company, saw the captain beckon him closer with a smile. “We owe you our lives, shepherd!” the captain said, impressed by the shepherd’s hospitality and good looks, since most shepherds he had met were suspicious, dirty, reclusive churls, while this boy was clean of face and hands and had bright, intelligent eyes that shone like jewels in his beautifully-molded, oval face. “What do you want? We have some things we can give you as a reward!” Elhanan bowed, then shook his head. “Nothing is lacking here, I have all we need, me and my sheep! My crook, rod, slingshot, water-skin, knife, they are all I need, for I have my flock and know all the places round-about where the cockle weed grows that I cut into fodder, since there is no grass in these parts to feed them. Besides, El Shaddai takes care of us, we do not need anybody else!”

The captain looked doubtful when he mentioned God and depending on Him alone. “You feed them without grass?” he protested to Elhanan. “Come now! This is a barren place, with just big rocks. I am no fool about such things. How can you do that? Show me that you are telling the truth!” Elhanan leaped away amidst the rocks and returned soon with a bundle of common cockleburrs and thistles. Wearing kidskin gloves, he used his stone-sharpened knife to cut away the unedible parts, and soon had a pile of stems that he fed to an eager ewe that came when he called her by name. When she finished he gave her a gentle push and she scampered away out of sight among the rocks. “Just a little satisfies each sheep, you see, so I don’t need to search far and wide for the scanty grass” he explained to the captain. “There is very good strength in the roots too, which I dig up and give to them. As long as there are weeds such as these, my flock will never starve. And you can see there is always plenty of them, even in the time of drought when other flocks go hungry.” The captain was amazed. “You are telling the truth! Do the other shepherds follow you in this?” Elhanan shook his head. “No, they prefer grass if they can find it, and don’t like the work of preparing the weeds. But I’ve told them the weeds will give more strength than the grass, but they are lazy fellows and don’t listen. So their flocks remain small and ill-fed in these parts.”

Not wanting to let an opportunity slip, Elhanan eagerly inquired about the men’s type and length of training, the various weapons and how they were best used, and what order and place did his unit play in the battle array against Israel’s enemies. The captain’s eyes, already regarding Elhanan with respect, shone with amazement at the depth and sharpness of the boy’s questions--for these were down-to-earth practical things that a man could now--not the rare, unknowable things the priests and the prophesying ro-ehs of Ramah, for instance, fussed about. “How can you, a lone shepherd in the wilderness, know so much about armies and making war? I must grant you, having seen it, your turning weeds into good forage, but-- “ “I always ask the way-farers if they are friendly and mean no harm, whether Moabite, or Edomite, or Israelite, how they fight and in what manner. Usually they are willing to share their knowledge once I share my water so freely and do not send them off looking in the wrong spots where they will perish. To give their knowledge to a lone shepherd seems no harm to them. I also win their hearts to me by singing--”

The captain’s head lowered, and his face grew troubled. He missed the mention of Elhanan’s singing of psalms, being a man of war only. “Since you already know so much, you should be tell me how to overcome the Sea Peoples of the coast!” Elhanan’s eyes were sharp. He saw the captain was not only troubled, but there was fear and shame in his eye--the kind that defeats a man’s spirit so that he will run away a coward. “The Philistines--have they...?” “Yes, the Philistines!” the captain cut in bitterly. “Israel has enemies enough without them, but they are worse than all the others combined! Daily they boast that they will either capture us all and make slaves of us, or else push us into the desert wilderness where we will all perish! Either way, they say they take our land and make its bounty theirs!” Then he fell silent, looking north. There was a shout, a cry of pain, at the spring, and a man came running and swatting at something. He held one hand over his eye, howling so ridiculously that the other soldiers were laughing at him.

Elhanan jumped up. He pulled an herb, bee-balm, from his shoulder bag, and spit on it, then rubbed some earth on it, spit again, and took it to the man, who looked at it doubtfully as Elhanan explained. “My sheep get stung ever so often, and this takes away the pain and the swelling. Try it!” His eye already swelling shut, the soldier took it, then put it over his eye on the sting. He sat down on a rock, groaning. Elhanan went and took an ember from his campfire, got a brand of a certain tree to burn smokily, and took it to the spring, where it soon cleared away the wasps come to drink the water. Returning, he found the man with the sting standing with a smile on his face. “I have no pain anymore, shepherd, it’s gone as you said!” he marvelled. He hurried away to resume his duties.

Watching all this, the captain grew more impressed with the shepherd, and more willing to talk. Elhanan let the matter rest a moment, but he could not bear the suspense. “Have they waged war against us again? Where are they encamped, sir?” The leader shook his head. He laughed, but it was with a sour expression. “Where are they not encamped in our land these days? We are overrun by them like a plague of locusts!” Elhanan was shocked. He had not dreamed it was going so bad for Israel. The Philistines had always been foes, but had kept to their coasts. Now it seemed they intended to seize the whole land given to his forefathers! “But the king, he is very mighty in war my elder brothers have told me. He will surely meet and crush them in battle with the holy army of Israel!” The captain, looking into Elhanan’s eyes now, saw the wonderful innocence of youth and he met it with his own age’s experience and bitter knowledge. “Ha! He too is keeping to his tent! Don’t depend on the son of Kish to pull us out of the Philistine fish-net, my boy! Their net has caught him too!”

Almost as soon as the truth was out of his mouth, the captain looked upset, and glanced quickly around to see if his men had caught his hasty words. But they were too busy to water themselves and their animals and keeping away the wasps with the smoking branch to have heard him. Relieved, he turned back to the inquisitive, bright-eyed shepherd boy, and was angry. “There! I’ve said too much for your tender ears! But we are in grave danger. That is all I can tell you! Now play me something on your harp, for I see you have one, before we depart.” Elhanan would not be put off. He played and sang several of his songs to the Almighty, and the captain and his men were pleased, and though they wanted more, he turned back to his pressing questioning of the captain. “But where are they encamped? Tell me, sir! I have my mother and father, and my family to think of!” The captain scowled. “Well, maybe it won’t harm to let you know. You make fine music, shepherd! And you have watered us and our beasts, saving us from terrible thirst. The Philistines, well, they are encamped in the Valley of Elah.” Elhanan’s eyes blazed. He leaped forward, right in the face of the captain. “That is near my home! What is happening there!” “The king sent us down here to find a place of refuge for him, that is how bad things are going in the north. The Philistines have a champion, a mighty warrior of Gath who defies us to fight him, and there is no man in Israel mighty enough. So we are encamped opposite them on a mountain but can do nothing--nothing!” “Who is this champion of theirs? Why doesn’t our king fight him and slay him and cut off his foreskin with the strength of the Lord God of Israel? Why doesn’t he chase this Philistine army back into the sea? They came from the sea, let them return to it! They worship a fish-man, let them swim in the depth of the sea with him!”

The captain roared. “Do you know what you are saying, boy? You should see this Gittite. By the gods who spawned him, in his helmet and shoes and with his hand raised, he stands twice the height of the king, who is among the tallest of our people! Never have we seen such a giant come against us! He can stand and make water on your head, he is such a mountain! No one can stop him! No one! I’ve heard he has brothers too, just as big, back in Gath. One is called Lahmi, and he has given word he will come soon against us! I tell you, Israel is finished! Very soon we will have to all run to the caves with our wives and little ones and our servants!” Having said this, the captain was anxious to get going again, having found out that the region south of Bethlehem was no place to quarter the king and his court. Hadn’t he told the king that when he first asked about that part of the country? But the king was desperate, and had sent scouting parties wherever he imagined there existed the slightest possibility he could find refuge from his Philistine foes.

He left Elhanan standing there, and hurried to get his men back on the road north. Stunned and bewildered, Elhanan stood watching the men load the baggage-carrying donkeys with full water-skins and then move off. What should he do? He knew he was needed back in Bethlehem, with the Philistines on his father’s doorstep. He felt feeble and weak in his knees, thinking of the captain’s description of the Gittite giant. But his own songs came to mind, and after playing several on his harp, his strength and spirit returned, and grew to such a pitch that he knew the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was more than able to dash Dagon and his uncircumcised armies to the ground, even if every one of them was as mighty as this Gittite the captain had described to him. As soon as it was light again the following day, he led his flock slowly north. Before he sighted his native city, the captain and his men had returned to Saul the king and reported long before that the area down toward Beer-sheba was unsuitable for flight. They mentioned, in passing, that they had met a shepherd who could play the harp and sing beautifully.

Afterwards, the king, tormented in the night by his fears, could not sleep. His staff searched for a harpist to come and soothe the king’s troubled mind. Hearing of the music-making of the shepherd, Elhanan son of Jesse, a royal messenger was sent to Bethlehem to bring him to the king’s court. By the time Elhanan reached his hometown, the disappointed messenger, hearing that Elhanan was not at home and was not expected again for a long time, had already left word to send him as soon as he appeared. Elhanan’s second-eldest brothers Raddai, Nethaneel, and Ozem him at the town gate’s, surprising him. They had provisioned themselves with donkeys and travelling garments and were just setting forth to go find him, when he appeared! Their faces looking as if they had swallowed a terrible poison, Elhanan looked at them in vain for a brotherly greeting. For a moment he thought his father or mother might be in poor health, but, no, it was the king’s summons, sent by a special messenger! Elhanan was called to the tents of the king, and specific instructions were given to bring his harp. “How should the king’s ears be pleased with the crude songs and wretched music you scratch out, shepherd?” Ozem cried bitterly. “I’ve heard the son of Kish has gone mad! This ought to prove it!”

Raddai boxed Ozem’s shoulder. “Stupid donkey! People may be listening, and someone may report your evil mouth to the king’s men. Let the king find out himself, by hearing with his own ears, that someone has made a terrible mistake! When he hears this donkey braying and screeching in his own ear, he will wake up from his dark cloud and give the donkey the thrashing he deserves!” Raddai then began to bray while Ozem jumped about like a crazy goat and strummed an invisible harp, his brothers doubled up with laughter. Elhanan, his face showing pity, went about his business. He took the sheep to the inn, and made arrangements for them to be quartered and fed until he returned. If he did not return by such and such a time, then a hireling was to take charge and lead them to pasturage. Going to his father, Elhanan knelt and received his father’s blessing, which was short and not very heart-felt since he was getting old and forgetting he even had a son named Elhanan. How else could it be explained that he had sent his youngest son forth without even a helper to show him how to keep the sheep well. How else could it be explained that he did not see that at least one of his brothers attend him for a time. No, he had been thrust out utterly alone and forsaken--and if not for God helping him he would have perished, and his sheep with him!

“Now be a good boy and go and minister to your dear elder brothers at the king’s side. Take some bread and some wine and a kid to them, for they must be very hungry by now in that country yonder!” Father Jesse shook his grizzled head. He had just remembered something. “I cannot fathom why the king should call on you to sing and play to him! It is beyond all reckoning! Do you sing? Do you play? But that is what the king’s man said to us--and we must send you. Be sure and do your best not to cast shame upon your father’s head with a poor performance! I hear the son of Kish has been suffering in his spirits lately, and his mind is darkened with deep gloom. Perhaps he is desperate to hear something that will turn his dark thoughts away from the Philistines who have come up against us with their army and champion. Make the best songs you can, my son, and perhaps your songs will lighten him so that he can drink and laugh again with his people! That would be good! When he is in a bad mood, he seems to tax us the more!” Elhanan nodded, then hurried out to get ready for his journey to the king’s camp.

A week later he returned to Bethlehem. He had been found very pleasing to the king, not only to his ears but, surprising Elhanan, who had always been told he was stupid and ugly, pleasing to his king’s eyes. The king pressed him to remain, but Elhanan’s duties to his sheep made him resist the royal wish. “No, sire, my sheep will suffer and maybe perish without me, so I cannot stay here so long away from them. I cannot entrust them to hirelings.” The king, touched by his counsellor and chief commander Abner, relented. This was no cheek-kissing Benjaminite but a Judahite, as independent as they came, and Abner was always right about such matters, the king knew, so he did not press his royal perogative to hold the youth who pleased him so much with his music and beautiful youth. Returned home, Elhanan found exactly what he feared--the sheep being mistreated by a hireling who betrayed his trust and turned lazy. He had fed only the biggest ones and neglected the weakest and smallest, and he was glad he had left the king’s company. Court life with so much bustle and formality and fine clothes did not suit him as well as the wilderness and its freedom to worship God as he pleased. He was just going to leave Bethlehem with his flock when Nathaneel came running.

“Stop, you little fool, you can’t go now!” the fourth-born shouted. “A messenger is with father with the king’s command. “Somehow you have found favor in the king’s sight, and he commands us that you return to him with your music. And father says you must do as the king says, or--,” added on his own, “--he will thrash you in the gate.” Elhanan, despite both king and father and a threatened public thrashing, stood opposed. He went to his father, protesting. Hearing this, his father came out, walking with difficulty on his swollen feet and ankles, to plead with him.

“Have regard for your dear elder brothers, my son! Think of their health and well-being before your own! The son of Kish has so many of his people to feed, he always takes a double tithe of what I send. Your brothers will need more food--for what you first brought will soon be swallowed up by the host of the king’s cousins and uncles! And the armies have been encamped there so long now there is absolutely nothing left in the valley or the mountains round about for man or beast--no, you cannot let your elder brothers starve! And the king’s summons, it cannot be despised. He has a fierce heart of a bear, his son of Kish the king, and might send a cruel sword against us here if you refuse! By the way, have you seen the great giant, the champion of Gath everyone is talking about? I’ve heard a most evil report of him! No man of us will ever take hisforeskin off, I tell you! We are in deep trouble this time! We may all have to flee to a cave in the South! At my age, with my gray hairs and gout, think of it! Me and your old mother and our household living in a Cave of Abdullam--terrible! terrible!”

“No, father, I did not see him, for he had gone back to his brothers in his city when I came to the king’s camp, and was to come again, by his word.” So Elhanan had to find another hireling to take his flock in charge. Almost always fellows who refused strenuous work like farming or viticulture, who preferred to hang about the town gates and talk to wayfarers and then ask for small loans so they could buy bread and cheese to eat--hirelings had no heart for a shepherd’s flock--they looked on it only as a hated piece of work for low pay that took them away from the city gates where life was interesting and leisurely. But who else could he get but these lazy good-for-nothings? He had no choice since his brothers still at home refused to take the flock. Besides, with the Midianites and Amalekites raiding on one side, and the Philistines doing the same on the other, the entire nation was in the iron grip of her enemies, and he could not turn away from his father’s plea to help in this way. Everyone in Bethlehem and other cities of Israel had heard about the king’s collapse by this time. Cowering in his tent, tormented day and night by fears and dark clouds of the mind, the king was unable to stand and fight, and his army was the same, fearing the feather-crowned, crowing champion of Gath that daily challenged the Army of Israel, who had gone back to Gath and might even return with any number of his giant brothers--all sons of the “mighty god Dagon” and a Dagon temple priestess, people were claiming.

So Elhanan gritted his teeth, obeyed his father, and took a donkey carrying the ten cheeses, the ephah of parched corn, and ten loaves that Jesse gave him, and delivered them to the camp of Saul to his brothers Eliab, Abinadab, and Shammah. Then, not disappointed when he received no thanks from them, he reported to the king’s pavilion. He found it in a Benjaminite uproar, the king in a fit throwing himself violently upon the ground, and all his counsellors and commanders shouting at each other in bewilderment. It was sometime before Elhanan could get anyone to tell him what had happened, to cause the son of Kish so much distress. From an uncle of the king, for the king’s court was mostly Benjaminites kinsmen of his father Kish, he learned the champion had returned from Gath just then, and had something from the temple called “Dagon’s Eye.” If the giant wasn’t unconquerable enough, he had thought to bring along something even more fearsome and deadly--an Eye of Burning, according to reports, that smote human flesh and bone from a great distance, wherever it gazed, so that no mortal man could stand against it. Elhanan couldn’t conceive such a thing even as it was described to him. Nevertheless, the heaps of bones from his defeated enemies, proof of God’s great deliverances in his life, came to mind. This Philistine champion’s bones, too, would soon be picked clean by the jackals, and foxes, and vultures and whiten the ground!

He said to the king’s uncle, with others listening, “What reward will the man get who slays this Philistine, cuts off his infidel foreskin, and takes away the shame and reproach he has given Israel? Who is that uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?” The old man, with the others, fell back thunderstruck. “My, what presumptuous spirit you have! Do you, a mere youth, think you can stand up to him, when the king will not, nor any champion we have amongst us will not take the king’s place against the giant?” The kinsman’s rebuke ordinarily would have caused the rebuked to shrink away in shame. But he had rebuked the wrong person this time. Elhanan, remembering how God gave him victories against a mighty lion, a bear, and many other foes, stood straight for the sake of his God’s honor and Israel’s sake and did not waver. “What reward will the man get who kills this uncircumcised Philistine?”

The king’s uncle, amazed that the youth had shrugged off his rebuke so handily, was beside himself with wonder and shock. “Why, the treasure of a rich man will be his, and the king’s daughter in marriage, and even his father’s household will not be taxed by the king for his father’s lifetime! But don’t think you will get them! You may be daring in spirit, but I fear you are presuming too great a thing, my boy! The giant will seize you like a quail of Horeb in his bare hands, break your body in two in his grip, and then cast you to the ground and trample your bones into the earth!” The king’s uncle hurried away, and the others shook their heads and left Elhanan. Without the king’s men around as a restraint on their anger, his brothers threw themselves against him at that moment.

“Why did you come back here?” Eliab cried, making as big a scene he could. “What is going to happen to those wretched sheep of yours you’re always boasting you care so much about? This proves you’re a liar and are neglecting them! Oh, I know your pride, and your evil mind. You come here just to observe the battle, and watch us brave men spill our precious life blood for our country, and then you’ll run back to your little sheep!” Everyone had turned to see who was causing Eliab’s outcry, and Elhanan merely shook his head. Having anticipated it, his brother’s accusations flew like arrows over his head, as he turned him a mild expression. “What have I done? Why do you say that?”

He turned from his brothers to some other Israelites, repeating what he had just said to the king’s uncle. They were just as amazed that anyone in Israel could act so daring and wanting to fight the giant. It was reported then to the king, who immediately sent for Elhanan. This time the king was back in his right mind, or mostly so. At least he was standing on his two feet again, his arms held by chief commander Abner and his aid, and his hair was neatly combed, oiled, and tied with a royal diadem so that he appeared more like a king than an abject who couldn’t face battle. “Yes, I will go and fight the Philistine,” he assured the trembling, pale, defeated king. “There is no reason for anyone to fear him, you’ll see.” The king shook off his supporting general, he was so amazed. “But you are not able to fight him, for you’re a mere youth, and he is a trained soldier!”

Elhanan’s sparkling, almond-shaped eyes shone with victory as he drew a big breath and stood as tall as he could. He told the king what God had enabled him to do for his flock, how he had slain a bear and then a lion. “Thy servant slew both the lion ands the bear, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be just like one of them, seeing he has defied the armies of the living God! See if the Lord will not deliver him into the hands of your servant too, and give me his foreskin to present to you!”” Elhanan continued, when the king did not stop him. “The Lord that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this heathen.” Saul, at his wit’s end, shook his head doubtfully. How could this stripling, however brave his heart, fight a mountain of a man that was the Philistine giant? But he gave up trying to dissuade him. After all, he was of the tribe of Judah, not a favored Benjaminite, and so his life could be ventured. “Go, and the Lord be with you,” said the king routinely, not expecting any such thing of the Lord.

Not noting how weak the royal blessing really was, Elhanan stepped from the royal tent, everyone of the Benjaminite fraternity falling away silently from him as if he were a Philistine idol-worshipper and not their appointed champion, whom the king their royal kinsman himself had just given his blessing. Yet even in this dark, little Benjaminite pond there happened to be a croaking frog--someone brave or reckless enough to voice a protest heard by all, “How can this be? A mere boy like that fight and give his life when the king won’t fight? Now I’ve seen everything! Yes, I’ve seen everything now!” Saul heard it, and winced. Before he could take further steps and find out who it was who dared speak out like that, the king felt his latent shame boil. He knew that if he didn’t do something now for his royal name, the tribes of Israel would greet his face with catcalls. So he sent a man and called Elhanan back.

“Take my armor,” Saul commanded, his kingliness reviving a bit. With his armor on the boy, let the boy fight. It would shame all the others who feared for their lives and wouldn’t fight for the king, while it would show that he, Saul the king, was compassionate, caring for the brave but reckless youth! “Yes, take the king’s armor!” chorused the king’s general, Abner, who had already drawn his own sword to keep other whisperers from daring to wag their tongues in the king’s presence. Feared and hated by his inferiors, it was said of him that he was strong, superbly trained, and brave enough to take the challenge of the giant and stand the chance of defeating him, but what would he gain personally from it? Abner’s king was really his own self, his enemies whispered. Not even for the king his master would he risk his best interests. Immediately, royal armor-bearers took Saul’s magnificent armor, the brass helmet, the coat of mail, and his sword, and started to arm Elhanan. Elhanan sagged beneath the great weight, then quickly stripped it all off.

“Sire, I cannot go with your armor crushing me to the ground,” he said to the king and his men. “I have not trained with such things.” Instead, he said, his own light clothes were best for his lighter frame, and he took his shepherd’s pouch and slingshot. As for the “Eye of Dagon,” he thought he might think of how to fight it later. Surely, God had seen it and prepared something that would equal ten-arms’ might to defeat it. What that “something” might be, he hadn’t the slightest idea--but he knew from past experience that God, though he might tarry, was always on time with help. Seeing that the shepherd boy of Judah-Ephratah was not going to be dissuaded, Saul’s heart was touched by the boy’s valor and felt at a loss to keep Elhanan from a sudden, brutal death. The king whispered something to Abner, but the chief commander shook his head, whispering something from his own experience. At this word from Abner that the boy was best let go to his certain doom, the king turned back to his cushions, giving orders to clear his tent so he might be alone with just himself and his first-born son, Jonathan. The other two sons with him would go with Abner to safety. Together, Saul and Jonathan would remain to face the giant when he came with his Philistines--and then die!

Quickly, all his servants began to gather the king’s most valuable possession and begin loading the pack-donkeys for a sudden evacuation. Benjaminite relative after relative, all having grown rich in the royal circle--began striking their elaborate, expensive tents and taking off with their own gear and possessions, leaving the king’s tent standing alone in a widening circle bare ground. This had to be the ignoble end of the king’s reign, the son of Kish deserted by even his close brethren--that was clear to all except the shepherd who had just left the royal presence. Clearly, it was the end! All hope had fled from Saul and his court.

Elhanan, unescorted and forsaken, found his way out to the battle front to see what was happening. Everything was the same as he had seen it, the two equal in size armies camped on opposing mountainsides, with the Valley of Elah between. But now the giant of Gath named Goliath was again present, tipping the scales overwhelmingly, it was thought by both sides, in the Philistines’ favor. There was a stir on the opposite mountain, the shouts of victory coming up from the thousands of Philistines gathered with their horses, tents, and weapons. The shouting seemed to grow louder and louder, as a procession of the Philistines made its way down into the valley and began to cross.

“Woe to us, Goliath the Gittite is back and is coming to attack us with all his Philistines!” sentinels cried, running back from the battlefront. “Prepare yourselves, he is not alone. He is coming with his new weapon to slay us all! Run for your lives, sons of Israel!!” Now this was considered worse than Lahmi’s coming. Ignoring the terrified sentries yelling “The Eye of the god Dagon is with him!, ” his slingshot in hand Elhanan kept walking down the mountainside toward the approaching Philistines. Before the Philistines reached the mountain the Israelites held, they paused, and then a very tall, feather-crowned figure stepped out from between them and proceeded with big strides, strutting like a king of kings, with only his shield-bearer going before him.

Elhanan, ignoring the warnings to flee, kept walking down, though he paused once to pick up five smooth stones in a dry creek bed. Soldiers in full armor tried to stop him going down, not knowing the king had appointed him the army’s champion for the day’s battle. “Hey! Not that way, boy, he’ll kill the likes of you. Save your life! Climb as high as you can! He’s coming! Seek cover in the rocks above at once!” Elhanan could hear the shouts of terror behind him, with dislodged rocks raining down the steep slopes as the whole army of Israel began to scramble and flee in panic to higher ground. But he kept going down the mountain. Soon there was no one left of Saul’s army but himself, and he was facing the approaching Gittite.

Beyond human dimension, the warrior grew in size, and continued to advance, his mailed vest and other pieces of armor making a kind of rough music as he went. Elhanan could see plainly this was no ordinary mortal man--everything was massive, beyond normal girth and height. He was described to him as a giant, and that he was! His helmet, his coat of mail, his greaves of brass on his legs, the staff of his spear as big as a weaver’s beam--it was all truly reported. He had human-looking flesh and bone and hair (thick, cord-like braids hung in masses from his head), but his size and strength was such that he had to have been spawned by beings greater than men! But what beings could they be? The Philistine paused and gazed up and about the slopes of the mountain where the followers and court of Saul had scampered like flocks of little sheep and goats to safety. He wasn’t interested in the shepherd boy standing nearby and observing him, for by his clothes and without any sword and armor he could not be a warrior. With no contender visible, he repeated his challenge, raising his voice and shouting as he had done many days.

“Why are you coming out like this in battle array? Am I not a Philistine,and you servants of Saul? Well, then, choose among you a man for your side, and let him come down to fight me. If he kills me, then we are your slaves. If I kill him, then you become our slaves.” Would any Israelite dare to fight the likes of him? Of course, not! So the giant enjoyed himself richly, expanding his massive chest, thumping it with his hand and laughing at the sight of the fast-retreating haunches of the Israelites. His shield-bearer beside him also laughed with his master the Gittite as he threw another taunt after them.

“I defy the armies of Israel this day! Give me a man, if you have one, that we may fight each other! Give me a man!” Since his Eye of Dagon--the weapon that could slay an entire army--was obviously not needed for a pack of cowards, Goliath decided to send it back to his tent for safe-keeping. He reasoned that if he could only shame the Army of Israel into attacking him, then he would use it then--but such, apparently, was not going to happen. Israel was too afraid, too broken in spirit to fight him. Why waste the Eye’s strength for nothing! He wouldn’t need his weapons. Why, with his bare hands he would break any man the Israelites dared send against him! Elhanan watched as the giant’s shield-bearer went up to the giant to take the glittering huge jewel that he carried like an amulet on a big golden neck-chain. “The Eye of Dagon!” he thought. “So I must face not one but two champions at once!” He began to pray to the Most High God to take his five smooth stones and confound not only the Eye but the Philistine who carried it. Then he began to sing one of his songs of victory. As he sang a message flashed into his mind.

Mighty Man of Ten Arms, I the Lord your God am the Disallowed Stone! Take Me and fling Me, the Stone that the builders rejected, and I will become the head of the corner!

Before the Eye hanging from the golden chain could be moved out of reach amidst the thousands of the Philistine host, Elhanan ran down, stopping just a stone’s throw from the giant. “Stop, I am your man, Philistine!” he called out. “Let’s fight! And I will take your foreskin, uncircumcised dog, and cast both it and your ugly head at the king’s feet! And as for Dagon’s eye, I will crush it beneath my own feet!” Goliath and his shield-bearer could not believe their ears. The loitering, lone shepherd had issued a challenge? He had come alive and dared cast such words at them! Surely it was a joke, yet the shepherd boy did not seem to be anything but serious. Goliath’s eyes--dark and heavy-lidded, fixed on Elhanan. His head of coarse, corded, brown hair shook out from his feathered helmet, as he lifted his helmet and ran his beringed fingers slowly swung slowly through his hair, scratching his scalp in disbelief. Replacing his helment, he set down his spear and leaned on it as he squinted upwards, trying to fathom how a shepherd boy from Israel could gather so much courage. But, no, it was the Israelite way, he concluded. When they couldn’t stand up like men and fight like men, they resorted to mere bluster. It was only a joke to send this one shepherd boy against him, and he was being made to look ridiculous. That was all it was--a stupid Israelite joke! Goliath liked his jokes and riddles as much as any man, but his pride was touched to think that his enemies believed he could be taken in this way. Taunting Israel’s king and army was enjoyable before, but he was angry now!

“Am I a dog, that you come to me with a shepherd’s staff? You mean you are so crazy, that you do neither fear me nor the great Eye of my mighty god Dagon?” He began cursing Elhanan and the name of the God of Israel. He started upwards, intending to teach him a lesson. “Come to me, Israelite shepherd, and I will tear your little maiden’s arms from your body and will make food out of you for the birds and the jackals and foxes! No, I will do something better with you. I have a riddle for you. What creature has its head between its legs, and buttocks between its arms?” Just to make sure the shepherd boy got the point, he added, “If you don’t know, I will tell you! A shepherd boy who presumes to play with a warrior, after I pull off his legs and arms and stick them at opposite ends of his puny body!”

Elhanan stood his ground as the growling, cursing Philistine climbed toward him, stepping easily over big boulders in his path as if they were small pebbles. “You come with a sword, and a spear, and a shield. You even carry a weapon we know nothing about, this foul Eye of your abomination that you worship! But I come to you in the name of the Lord of Hosts, the God of the armies of Israel whom you have defied. With the ten arms the Lord God has just promised me, I’ll need nothing else to defeat you, you’ll see!” This outburst from a mere shepherd boy made the Philistine giant curse and mock all the more as he climbed toward Elhanan. “What ten arms? I see but two, and small and ordinary ones of a youth at that! And your legs--why they are a runty sheep’s compared to mine! Just wait, before a man can spit I will put your legs where your arms now are, and your arms where your legs now are! Do you still want to fight me? Run, while you can still save yourself from my spear!”

Laughing in anticipation of the joke he would make of Elhanan’s body, the giant raised his arm to heave his spear. Elhanan, not listening to the giant’s last taunt, cried, “This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, that all the earth may know there is a God over the whole earth dwelling in Holy Israel!” Everything happened very slowly from the time the rock from Elhanan’s sling struck with pinpoint accuracy. The giant stopped moving forward, his whole hulking form seemed to turn slowly as he dropped his spear, his other hand reaching upward toward his forehead where the stone had just sunk into his skull.

Elhanan watched as the infidel, foreskinned giant shuddered and slipped to his knees, still clutching at the irritating, smarting, thornlike-thing stuck deep in his forehead. But before he could fall on his face, the Eye of Dagon sprang to life. Sending the shield-bearer tumbling backwards, jetting flames before its path, it started toward Elhanan, who then saw he was in graver danger than he had been with the giant. Where were the ten arms the Lord had promised? He needed them now, for later it would be too late!

All he could think to do, he did at that moment. Elhanan stood his ground, continuing to sing of Victory in the Name of God, as he seized one stone after another, swung it, and released it at terrific speed at the Eye. The moment it left the sling, something seemed to grab each stone and direct it. The star seemed to darken, its flames drawing back into itself as the four stones darted like flaming angels first one direction, then another, encircling it. Faster and faster, becoming invisible, the stones formed a tight net around the Eye. It moved forward once more, but either the stones or the singing, or both, tightly restrained it like a fish-net. Caught, unable to move but in one direction only, upwards, the Eye saw its escape route and took it. As Elhanan’s singing the Name of God scorched the air around it, the Eye flew straight upwards, vanishing before their eyes--its threatened powers powerless to stop a mere Israelite shepherd boy! Then the Angels who guarded Holy Israel appeared only to Elhanan while casting up a mist round Elhanan and themselves. Machsi, Umtsudath, Tsinnah, and Usocherah stood in ferocious, warlike splendor before him. The next moment they vanished into the curtain of mist, which spun up into the heavens.

The feat of Elhanan--obscured only momentarily by a cloud that flew away as quickly as it appeared--captured the whole attention of the two watching armies--and when they turned, no one disbelieved what they saw. Goliath the champion of Gath lay spread-eagled and naked as washed rugs drying drying on a rocky slope, his brass and feather helmet tumbling down away and his body stripped of armor. Over him stood the shepherd boy, holding the sword of Goliath with his two hands and shouting with the voice of triumph. Then the shepherd brought the sword down. Because he was not used to swords, especially one so big as the Gittite’s, he first clove the giant’s scalp of long, coarse hair instead of cutting off his head. Swinging again with all his might, this time the shepherd severed the head at the neck, and it rolled away, doing just as he had done countless times with deadly snakes lest they revive and come again and attack his flock.

In no hurry, Elhanan paused. He considered the giant’s taunt and riddle. Why not return to the giant the violence he had threatened? He went to work with the sword and hewed off the giant’s arms and legs. Where the arms had been, he lay out the legs, so that his trunkless head lay between them. Then where his arms had been, he lay the arms. It was a sight no one had seen before on earth--neither in Philistia or Israel would it ever be seen again--a naked giant cut in pieces and reassembled into a monstrosity and a mockery. Lastly, he removed the giant’s foreskin with his shearing knife--proof along with the head he could throw at the king’s feet that the giant was, indeed, slain. As Elhanan held up the big, caplike foreskin on the tip of the giant’s sword and waved it like a banner, the Philistines saw that Dagon their god had failed them, and their hearts filled with panic. Commanders and common soldiers together had watched mesmerized as the victor had made sport of their champion’s body, but now awakening to their mortal danger, they all began to flee from their mountainside in every direction but Israelite territory.

As if dazed, the Israelite army did nothing for a few moments, but here and there some soldiers awakened from shock, seeing the Philistines fleeing, and shouted the victory cry. With a tremendous roar, the whole army of Israel then began to cry victory and start running down the mountain after the Philistines. Meanwhile, as the Israelites pursued and cut down the Philistines as far as the gates of Ekron, Elhanan took his proofs of the victory to the king.. Before he could announce himself coming in triumph from the field of the greatest victory Israel had witnessed in many years of fighting the Philistines, the king’s commander, Abner, went to intercept him after saying to his master, “Let me handle him.”

A formal summons should have been unnecessary. Neither was an escort from the likes of Abner needed. Elhanan had determined to present his proofs and then see what the son of Kish would do in the way of honoring his word concerning rewards. The foreskin, he decided, was enough. He himself would keep back the head, scalp, and sword, so that no one could dispose of these signs of the Lord’s great victory and dispute his part in it. Abner, however, would not let Elhanan proceed in shepherdly simplicity, and so he escorted him and then announced him to the king. “O king, there is an Israelite lad, from Judah, here to present a gift of some kind to you. Maybe it is only a cheese or sheepskin. He looks and smells like a shepherd to me. But you have need of rest after the big battle and the rout of the Philistines. Will you see him, sire, or should I turn him away back to his sheepfold? We have no need of his gift anyway--we have the spoils from the camp of the Philistine, so much that we can not carry all of it away with us.” Privy to the intent of his commander, the king went along, nodding after a pause, as if he considered it a bit beneath his royal dignity to treat with mere shepherds. What could the gift be? he muttered. Never one to turn aside a gift, however small, he overruled Abner’s advice, and commanded that the lad be admitted to his presence.

Elhanan was astonished at the rudeness of the guards as they grabbed his arms and then pushed him through the door of the king’s tent. Why should they act so to him? It was if he was being made to know that, victor or not, he remained a shepherd boy and lowly subject of the king. And what about the great victory over the Gittite champion, whom God had delivered into his hands? How could they treat him so coldly when his hands were still red with the Gittite’s blood? “What is your gift, my son?” the king cooly inquired after Elhanan was presented to the king. Elhanan was astonished. Hadn’t he played his music to the king? Why was he being treated so like a stranger? Had they found fault in him, and were disowning any knowledge of him? Elhanan stood, wondering what to do next. But he had the gift ready, and he held it out.

The counsellors and relatives and commanders gazed at the thing in Elhanan’s hand, and could not believe at first what they saw. Circumcised since their eight day, all nevertheless had seen enough naked and dead Philistines this day to know what it was. But the size was such that there could be no mistaking just who had been attached to it recently. Everyone shrank back at first, and no one spoke. The king, however, tottered toward it, his body shaking. He was smiling, nevertheless, then laughing as he seized it in his hand, held it up for all to see. Stretched on his hand, drew every eye. “Where did you get this, shepherd boy?”

“It is the Gittite champion’s, that dog of Dagon, sire!” The king stopped laughing. “No, you must be mistaken. Unless you crept up when he was walking away and ran and struck him from underneath his skirt--you could not have gotten it!” Everyone except the king’s eldest son began laughing at this joke of the king’s. “The king is mistaken, “ Elhanan said. “I slew the giant, then cut off his foreskin. The whole army of the Lord saw me do this thing today. Everyone under heaven has seen it done, and that I sp;eak the truth to the king my lord.” Saul’s eyes widened as he realized a mere shepherd of Judah was contradicting him. His face grew red. He tried to speak, but his rage was too much to express in words. But Abner, not willing to see the king lose his temper on a mere boy and slay him with nothing gained by it, drew the king away. He said something in the king’s ear, and Saul nodded, and calmed down. When he turned back to Elhanan, he was cold and distant once again. “Tell me, who is your father?” “Jesse of Bethlehem is my father, ” Elhanan replied, ignoring Abner and looking straight at the king, though finding the request very strange, indeed. What could be the reason for the king’s change toward him? Then he knew. “Oh, they are thinking to give the honor and credit to my father, then deny me my rightful rewards, ” he thought. “Let the son of Kish turn back from his word! Let him keep his treasure and his daughter from me! What do I want with this man’s goods? God is not being given the credit for the victory. They suppose it is something my father taught me that enabled me to win this great victory. Why do they not honor God who gave me this great victory? This is most shameful! It is not me, it is God he is rejecting!”

He turned away as soon as the foreskin was taken from the king and put in a box for its safe-keeping, but the king’s eldest son Jonathan stopped him outside the tent. “Yes, it is God, the Rock of Israel, who should receive the honor!” Jonathan told him, looking into his eyes. “I know you are grieved at how they are all treating the matter! It is most shameful. How could a mere man defeat the both the Gittite and the Eye of Dagon, as I have see with my own eyes? God truly was with you!” Elhanan could say nothing. He started to go again to find a stream or spring where he could wash off the Gittite’s blood, but the prince took his own beautiful coat and put it over Elhanan’s shoulders. Then, without waiting for Elhanan’s reply, he went and brought back a royal ewer from his father’s tent. Quickly, he washed Elhanan’s hands just like a slave would do for his master. Elhanan was thunderstruck, and he considered what this prince might be meaning. He dared not stop the prince, but he was stiff as a board while the prince tended to him. Finally, he said to the prince when he had finished his service to him. “I am not cold in the outdoors and the nighttime. I am a shepherd. I am used to the weather, and my shepherd’s simple clothes are all I need. And I have never required servants to make me clean, nor fine pots such as this to hold water for my washing! Why then do you treat me as if I am a prince like you?”

Crown Prince Jonathan smiled. “But everything I have is now yours. I know what God’s spirit has departed from my father and gone to you. I know that you are to be the next king. You are anointed! They all suspect you are anointed, and that is the real reason they treated you so basely, since they all hate Samuel here.” Elhanan now was amazed, and he opened his heart.. He walked with Jonathan a ways from the camp where there were always eyes and ears to catch what was going on. When they were alone he turned to the prince. “Thank you for your coat. But I do not need fine clothes.” The prince took his sword and his bronze shin-greaves and held them out to Elhanan. He also stripped off his rings and put them in a pile. “All I have is yours--and will be yours. Please take them. You will honor me if you do so, for I know you are the Chosen of God to rule us in my father’s stead!”

Thunderstruck, Elhanan let the coat slide from his shoulders, and stood gaping at him. “How could you know that? I’ve forgotten that myself until now! Is that what the ro’eh of Ramah really meant? Me a king over all the nation of Israel?” Jonathan knelt before Elhanan, then picked up the fallen coat. He held it up. Elhanan took the coat, and his fingers gripped Jonathan’s, and Jonathan returned equal pressure. Elhanan sank to his knees, staring into Jonathan’s eyes. A moment later, he had removed his own jacket along with a wooden ring-seal with his name and gave it to the prince. The prince slipped jacket and the ring on, thanking Elhanan. It wasn’t necessary to speak. Their eyes could speak freely without words. But finally Elhanan used words. “Let your father keep the foreskin of the giant. I must take the sword and the scalp and head to a place for safe-keeping, lest some servant of the king seek to hide them where the people cannot see them again. Do you know of one?”

Jonathan thought for a few moments, then nodded. “I do! There is a place called Nob on a hill near Jebus, in the house of a holy priest that is retired from the service of the Lord’s house. He will do whatever I ask, and neither the king nor Abner will know of it, so that these things will remain yours and the people’s. You already have enemies jealous of your great victory. I know the mind and heart of my father’s chief commander Abner. He is a man fitted only for war and blood, hardened and cruel in heart, and all those under his authority will seek to thrust you into obscurity, and make the king out to be the victor this day. But this is your proof, that you, with the Almighty of Abraham guiding your hand, have defeated our mighty foes!” He looked at the rings the prince handed him, never having handled such costly things. As for the coat, he felt strange wearing a prince’s fine coat instead of a rough-sewn sheepskin. But Jonathan saw how he felt, and he threw his arm around Elhanan, saying, “You are now a king, to rule when my father is gone to his fathers, so you must learn to dress like a true royal!”

It was impossible to grasp, but Elhanan smiled back into Jonathan’s smiling face. “Tell me about the wild beasts you smote and slew in the wilderness!” Elhanan sat down, considered Jonathan’s question, then struck his own chest. “First I had to slay the lion and bear inside me, then God gave me strength to slay the lion and the bear in the wilderness around me!” Jonathan nodded. “I wondered how you could not be angry with your brothers. I have seen how they mistreat and mock you. How can you treat them so mildly? I have watched you. You never become angry with them! You must love them in your heart!” Elhanan looked away. “Yes,” he murmured, “but it was not always so. They pushed me into the wilderness with the sheep they despised. They should have stood with me for a time, teaching me how to keep the sheep, for I was very young and knew nothing. But they left me alone there, and I would have perished, thanks to them! I was so angry, I wanted to kill them. I took a sheep, a very young one--”

Elhanan broke and wept. “I threw it off a cliff! Then I came back to my own mind. I saw what evil I had done. I remembered the God of my fathers, how He helped Jacob in his distresses and was a refuge and a fortress to him. I called upon Him to come and save me--and He came! He came!” He turned his streaming face back to Jonathan’s. “Whatever evil they did to me, then and now they are still my brothers, sons of my father and mother. For their sake I had to strike dead the wild beasts living within me that still hated them and sought to return evil for evil. Only God could do it, I discovered.” How much other things they could tell each other, and wanted to know about each other! A perfect match in heart and mind, they sought each other’s company from that time on beyond any other man’s or woman’s. No one else could speak so freely as they did with each other.

Night came, and Elhanan and Jonathan parted, so that they could sleep each in his own place, as Elhanan did not trust himself among strangers and Benjaminites. Elhanan took his sheepskin, and lay down in a place he had found among the big rocks. But in the night Prince Jonathan came with a lantern and woke him. Elhanan was surprised that he had been found. But Jonathan whispered, “The Lord led me here to you! But I have come for the king my father. He cannot sleep. He asks to have the head of the Gittite brought, so that he may gaze upon his enemy and see that he is truly dead. Do this for him, and then he may sleep! He says he has been tricked. The foreskin is from a horse or ox and is not the Gittite’s! He is keeping watch by himself in his tent until you come and prove it really was the Gittite that was slain this day. Will you come? He is much tormented by his fears at night.” Elhanan nodded sleepily, then sprang up and was awake. He pulled his sheepskin round his body, tied it, for it was cold in the night mountain air. He went to the cleft where he hid the Gittite’s sword, head and scalp, and brought them out. Taking only the head by pushing his fingers up into its nostrils, he followed Jonathan.

The prince crept softly back into camp, and they passed only a few guards who recognized the prince and let him proceed. The prince stepped into the king’s tent, and there was, as he had said, no one but the king waiting up. This time Abner was not visible anywhere, for he was busy seeing that the wagons he had ordered brought up to the camp were being loaded with the booty from the spoiling of the Philistines and then sent off under proper guard to the king’s treasure storehouse in Gibeon.. Elhanan stood, his hand still holding the head by the nostrils. Light from a lamp on a stand shone in Elhanan’s face and across his bare chest and then fell on the head. “Let me see the Philistine’s face!” said the king. “I must see the face of it, whether it truly be the face of the Gittite champion!”

Why the king wished to look upon such a dead and ugly sight, Elhanan had no idea, but he obeyed. With pity and disgust, he turned the head and the king gazed upon the Gittite’s features.

Elhanan and the Giant's Head

The king was visibly shaken to see the giant’s face so close, though a smile was clamped on his lips. The enormous dark brows and eyes hung aslant and sightlessly, the mouth fell agape, the jaw jutting and the big yellow teeth exposed, while blood oozed from the grimacing lips in a black rivulet that puddled on the tent floor. No other head of a man could equal the size. After a long look, the king was satisfied. With a sigh that was more a groan than a sigh of relief, the king sank back on his cushions. Without another look at Elhanan, he wearily waved for Jonathan to take the shepherd boy and the head away. Elhanan was waiting just for this command, and he quickly exited the tent, determined to keep the head from the greedy, ignoble, and deceitful king’s grasp. After all, there had not been one word of his rewards, rewards he had honestly won before the watching eyes of the entire army of the Lord!

Outside, Prince Jonathan just as quickly led Elhanan back through the guards and sentries to the open ground. Elhanan turned once and looked into Jonathan’s eyes, who took the meaning and looked ashamed for all Elhanan had endured that night in the king’s presence. “Do not trouble yourself concerning their baseness toward you, “ said Jonathan. “For you have become our Dawid this day!” Elhanan heard him, but couldn’t grasp the term at first, it was only given to the highest and bravest commanders of the army--and only the most honored warriors were ever given such a title. But it was late, and the day too far gone for thinking much about it. The Samech of Ephratah went away into the dark to his private place, while Jonathan found he could not sleep, wondering how Elhanan could keep his anger after being defrauded of just reward for slaying the Gittite giant” And from that day Jonathan could not stomach the company of his fellow Benjaminites, and so he kept Elhanan as much as he could at the court to share his company. To please the restless Elhanan, who thought of his sheep going without proper care, Jonathan had a special royal seal fashioned by a master craftsman in the court. “Dawid” was cut on the fine gemstone. Bowing, the prince presented it to Elhanan, who was reluctant to receive it, since taking it might say to others that he was thinking himself superior to the king and his commander, Abner. The prince would not give up, however, and kept pressing it upon Elhanan, until he took it. Hearing of the great honor Jonathan had conferred upon the shepherd and harpist from Bethlehem of Ephratah in Judah, the king first entertained suspicion that this “Dawid” in his midst might have desire to surpass the son of Kish in the favor of the people. Mainly to get free of the poisonous atmosphere round the king at court, Elhanan, taking bands of warriors, went from the court and gained victories over the Philistines and other enemies of Israel every time he went out. The women of Israel found him a great new hero and champion, and began singing his name more often than they sang the name and exploits of the son of Kish. Cast increasingly in the shade of the rising Dawid of Bethlehem, the king fretted and wondered what to do. No matter how well he fought, this Dawid surpassed him with his stunning victories. The idea he had designs on the throne grew in the king’s mind until the time the king became so jealous of Dawid-Elhanan he sought to kill him, forcing him to become a fugitive. Pursued by Abner and all his soldiers, even the king taking command and pursuing him in person, he had to seek refuge in caves and even amongst the enemies of Israel the Philistines, until Saul the king was dead and the throne free to be given to him according to the word of the Lord spoken by Samuel.

Many years later, after Elhanan had sat long on the throne vacated by Saul whom the Philistines had slain along with Jonathan, the king had much to regret. He had won a great contest with the Eye of Dagon—thanks to Yahweh the Almighty of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob standing with him when he confronted the Gittite giant. But later the Eye had returned to sow discord and division, and evil spread in his kingdom, starting first in his own household after he took Bathsheba and had her husband killed in battle to get him out of the way. His son Amnon raped his beautiful half-sister, and then his son Absalom killed Amnon and fled. When Absalom returned to the court with his father’s forgiveness, thanks to Joab taking him under his wing, he repaid his father by sowing insurrection among the people, finally rising up against the king to take his throne. He fled Absalom, but succeeded in turning and defeating him in battle—and Absalom was slain by Joab, against the king’s word to spare his son’s life.

What grief! First Amnon, then Absalom. And there was continual fighting in the royal household and among the subject countries Israel ruled—was there any peace left to him after he had taken Bathsheba and had a child by her, murdering her husband to get his way? He had repented, but the Lord God punished his sin by taking the child’s life then allowing his sons to revolt, one after the other. He had won a single battle against the Eye of Dagon, but it had returned to Israel and plagued his reign year after year, for decades, until he lay on his deathbed. He knew that the kingdom would be divided, when his sons forsook the Lord God and whored after idols—what peace would follow his reign? His son Solomon might know peace, but only for a time—that is, if he could hold the throne. Elhanan, who was commonly called King Dawid now, could only give Solomon every advantage conceivable and pray God’s blessing upon him. He himself grieved that it might not be sufficient to keep the throne for his son—some other contender in the royal household might rise up to bloodily seize it.

But the thing that gave Dawid greatest remorse was the sense he had failed his divine purpose. He had always dreamed one thing, desired one thing above all other things men wanted in life—to build the holy House of God. But God had forbidden him to begin the construction, saying he was a bloody man of war. War? He had been called to make war on Israel’s enemies, and he had obeyed the summons. But he knew the Almighty meant by “war.” He had unlawfully taken another man’s wife, then arranged for the husband’s murder—and Uriah the Hittite had been his own loyal champion, a mighty soldier who would die rather than disobey the king his master. He had deliberately betrayed the love and trust of this good man! God would not let the malefactor go unpunished. He had rejected Dawid’s most earnest request, to build the holy temple—which had grown to be Dawid’s whole purpose in life, the one thing for which he worked, prayed, and dreamed. Another—his son—would build it. Yes, his and Bathsheba’s son, who had not suffered for Dawid’s dream, not fled from Saul full thirteen years in the burning wilderness, who had not lived with the heathen of the Philistia to preserve his life-—all so that a boy bred in the palace could reap the greatest honor of the Lord!

Was it worth the woman he had stolen from another man? The king wept, but tears for what might have been did him no good on his deathbed.


Copyright (c) 2004, Butterfly Productions, All Rights Reserved