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Goliath

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Goliath (Jālūt) (Arabic: جالوت) is the name of a powerful Palestinian warrior defeated by Prophet David (a). The name "Jalut" is mentioned in the noble Qur'an three times in the story of the battle between Palestinians and Israelites. It has been narrated with more details in the Old Testament, where Jalut is referred to as Goliath. The victory of Prophet David (a) reminds that at war, the victory belongs to the faithful and God helps them, even though they are small regarding number and provisions.

Its Terminology

In lexical and Islamic exegetic sources, the word "Jalut" is considered non-Arabic, and it is said that Muslim scholars agree on it. In their linguistic researches about the Qur'an, some orientalists studied the etymology of the word "Jalut". According to Josef Horovitz, a Jewish-German orientalist, this name is certainly related to the Hebrew word or the Aramaic[Note 1] word meaning wandering and exile, the fact that was common among the Jews of Medina.

In the Old Testament

According to the Old Testament, when Palestinians and Israelites stood against each other in the Valley of Elah, Goliath went forth from among Palestinians and began his war cry. He continued this action every morning and night for forty days, which frightened Israelites. Saul (Talut), the commander of Israelites' army, had promised that he would give the killer of Goliath a great amount of properties and marry her daughter to that person. When the young David (a) heard the war cries of Goliath, convinced Saul (Talut) to fight with him and then went to the battlefield. When Goliath saw David (a) going to fight him without a sword and only holding a stick and stone, mocked and threatened him. David (a) too threatened Goliath (Jalut) and said that he (a) would kill him, so that everyone would believe that there is a God. Then, David (a) hit Goliath on the forehead with a stone sling and killed him. Then, he (a) went upon his body and severed his head. This victory led to the complete defeat of Palestinians and their escape.[Note 2] Head of Goliath was taken to Jerusalem[Note 3] and his sword remained in a temple in the city of "Nob"[Note 4] until it was later returned to David (a).[Note 5]

Goliath (Jalut) was born in the city of "Gath" (located in southeast of Gaza) and is mentioned in the Torah as Goliath of Gath.[Note 6] However, this possibility has been mentioned that he was not originally from Palestine and merely served in the army of Palestinians as a soldier.

Also, extraordinary physical characteristics have been reported for him, including that he had a height of three meters and had heavy weapons in the battle with Israelites.[Note 7] It is written in the Old Testament that Elhanan killed Goliath, not David (a),[Note 8] which seems to be a mistake of scriptwriters of the Torah; because, elsewhere,[Note 9] Elhanan is introduced as the killer of Goliath's brother, not Goliath himself. The encounter of Goliath with David (a) has been the subject of many poems and artistic works especially sculpture and painting in the West.

In the Qur'an

The story of the battle between Talut and Goliath (Jalut) is mentioned in the Qur'an in brief and without details as the following:

The prophet of Israelites at that time is mentioned Samuel in the Torah who chose Saul (Talut) as the king to fight Palestinians by the order of God. After Israelites made some objections to their prophet for his choice, finally accepted him as the king and under his command went to fight Goliath and his companions. On the way to the battlefield, after they passed a river which was a means of divine trial, most of the army of Talut expressed weakness against Goliath and his army and when the soldiers who remained loyal to Talut encountered Goliath and his army, asked God for patience and victory and thus conquered him by the will of God and David (a) killed Goliath[Note 10].

In Islamic Historical and Exegetic Sources

In Islamic historical and exegetic sources, there are points mentioned about Goliath. 'Ali b. Ibrahim al-Qummi considered him Coptic, Dinwari mentioned him among the descendants of Walid b. Rayyan[Note 11], and al-Mas'udi mentioned his lineage as Jalut b. Malud b. Dabbal b. Hattan b. Faris[Note 12]. Al-Tabari considered him among Amalek[Note 13] and mentioned Goliath (Jalut), the king of Amalek. Al-Mas'udi mentioned him from Berbers[Note 14] and Ibn Khaldun mentioned him from Canaanites[Note 15]. Al-Ya'qubi mentioned him as Goliath which is his Hebrew name and mentioned his height five cubits[Note 16]. Al-Tabari too described him a robust warrior.

The story of the encounter between Israelites and Palestinians, especially the duel between Goliath and Prophet David (a) is reported in details in Islamic sources. It seems that these reports are typically influenced by Jews' reports of this story and entered historical and exegetic sources of Muslims with additions and omissions and sometimes differences, while some of these reports have many differences with the Jewish narration.

The Place of Killing Goliath

About the place of killing Goliath (Jalut), there are different reports in Islamic sources. Al-Mas'udi mentioned Beit She'an[Note 17] as the place the battle took place. Ibn 'Asakir mentioned "Qasr Umm Hakim" near "Marj al-Sufr", in the suburb of Damascus, the place where Goliath was killed. Dabbagh mentioned the place of that event, a village in southwest of Bethlehem which is now called "Khirbit al-Shawika". The naming of a region as "Ain Jalut" which is a village between "Beit She'an" and "Nablus" in Palestine is considered to be related with the battle of David (a) and Goliath.

David's Triumph, a Symbol of the Victory of the Faithful

In Islamic sources, with reference to the Qur'an, the miraculous triumph of David (a) over Goliath and thus a great victory of Israelites over Palestinians indicates that at war, the victory belongs to the faithful whom God helps; even though they are small in number and provisions[Note 18]. In the same way, the companions of the holy Prophet (s) in the battle of Badr are likened to the number of the faithful in the battle between the army of Talut and Jalut and the number of Muslims in this battle is considered the same as the number of the soldiers of Talut.

Also, Jabir b. 'Abd Allah Ansari, the companion of the Prophet (s) likened the killing of 'Amr b. 'Abdwadd by Imam Ali (a) in the battle of Ahzab to the story of Goliath and David (a). Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Balkhi in his Mathnawi too, mentioned the battle between David (a) and Goliath in brief.

Notes

  1. According to Collins, this is an ancient language of the Middle East, still spoken in parts of Syria and the Lebanon, belonging to the NW Semitic subfamily of the Afro-Asiatic family. Originally the speech of Aram, in the 5th century bc it spread to become the lingua franca of the Persian empire.
  2. For more reading, see the book [1 Samuel 17]:1-53
  3. [1 Samuel 17]:54
  4. Based on map of Occupied Palestine in Old Testament times, this area currently is in the vicinity of Jerusalem in the east.
  5. [1 Samuel 21]:9 and 22:10
  6. [2 Samuel 21]:19-22 and [1 Chronicles 20]:5 & 8
  7. [1 Samuel 17]:47
  8. 2 Samuel 21:19
  9. [1 Chronicles 20]:5
  10. Refer to the Qur'an 2: 247-251
  11. Or Rayyan b. Walid, a contemporary pharaoh with the Prophet Moses (a) or the Prophet Joseph (a), based on contradictory information in the sources.
  12. "Ibn" literally means "son" in Arabic, whose abbreviated form is "b.".
  13. According to the Bible, Amalek was the first enemy that Israel encountered after the crossing of the Sea of Reeds.
  14. According to Britannica, Berber is any of the descendants of the pre-Arab inhabitants of North Africa. The Berbers live in scattered communities across Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Mali, Niger, and Mauretania.
  15. According to livescience.com, the Canaanites were people who lived in the land of Canaan, an area which according to ancient texts may have included parts of modern-day Occupied Palestine, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan.
  16. Acording to Collins dictionary, cubit is an ancient unit of linear measure, about 18-22 inches (45.4-55.5 cm); orig., the length of the arm from the end of the middle finger to the elbow.
  17. Currently, this city is located in the northern district of Occupied Palestine.
  18. Qur'an2:249: Those who were certain that they would encounter Allah said, ‘How many a small party has overcome a larger party by Allah’s will!

References

  • The material for this article is mainly taken from جالوت in Farsi WikiShia.
  • THE BIBLE.New Revised Standard Version.