Poole on 1 Samuel 17:7: Goliath, Part 3

Verse 7:[1] And the (2 Sam. 21:19) staff of his spear was like a weaver’s beam; and his spear’s head weighed six hundred shekels of iron: and one bearing a shield went before him.


[Now, the shaft of his spear, וְחָ֣ץ חֲנִית֗וֹ] Certain exemplars have חֵץ, the arrow of his spear;[2] others, עֵץ, the wood of his spear[3] (Munster). [Most follow the Masoretic reading[4] עֵץ/wood.] They translate it, the wood (long pole [Tigurinus]) of his spear, or lance (Jonathan, Syriac, Arabic, Strigelius). Others: the shaft of his spear, or lance (Septuagint, Munster, Montanus, Junius and Tremellius, Castalio). The Masoretes think that ח is read in the place of ע: both because עֵץ/wood is written in 2 Samuel 21:19;[5] and because in Deuteronomy 19:5 the wooden handle of the ax is called עֵץ:[6] But there is no necessity to disturb the reading of the Kethib, since חֵץ/arrow is well able to signify a shaft, or the long pole of a lance, just as the Septuagint has aptly rendered it.[7] Besides, only the editions of Plantin[8] and Bomberg[9] acknowledge that Qere; the rest pass over it in silence (Cappel’s[10]Sacred Criticism[11] 3:93).


[Like the beam of those weaving (thus the Septuagint, Montanus),כִּמְנוֹר֙ אֹֽרְגִ֔ים] Like the transverse beam of weavers (Jonathan, Syriac, similarly Munster, Tigurinus, Junius and Tremellius, Castalio). The transverse beam around which weavers wind the dart; which understand with respect to the thickness of the shaft (Menochius out of Sanchez, Vatablus, Hostus, Malvenda). Now, the thickness of this is wont at least generally to be, that a thread that it is a foot long might encircle it. It shows the thickness of the spear by comparison; the length is to be gathered by conjecture from the stature of his body: Now, the length of spears has a double proportion with about two-thirds, and somewhat more, to the stature of a man. Therefore, ἔγχος, the spear, of Hector[12] in Homer’s Iliad σ is ἑνδεκάπηχυ, of eleven cubits; that is, of sixteen and a half Greek feet. Thus the stature of Goliath of almost ten Greek feet required a spear of about twenty-six feet (Hostus’ Concerning the Duel of David and Goliath 5).


A weaver’s beam, on which the weavers fasten their web. It was like this for thickness; and for length, that he omits, as easy to be collected by proportion to the rest.


[And the iron of the spear, וְלַהֶ֣בֶת חֲנִית֔וֹ] And the flame (iron [Pagnine], blade [Syriac, Castalio, Arabic], iron blade [Junius and Tremellius], metal [Munster, Tigurinus, Piscator], point [Jonathan]) of his lance (Montanus). A Hebrew blade is called a flame, either because of its fiery brilliance; or because it tapers like a flame, and comes to a point: They derive it from the root לָהַב, which verb signifies to flash, to vibrate, to gleam, etc. But this verb is not used among the Hebrews, although it is common among the Arabs; I would also add among the Chaldeans, only these do not use it without a prosthesis of the letter ש[13] or צ[14] (Bochart’s A Sacred Catalogue of Animals 1:2:8:135). Metal gleaming, burnished, polished, shining after the manner of a flame (Malvenda).


[Six hundred shekels] Or half-ounces (Malvenda). That is, twenty-five Roman pounds (Menochius), eighteen Zygostatic pounds with an additional three fourths (Hostus). [But concerning the weight of shekels consult the things noted on verse 5 of this chapter.] The weights of the remaining items are to be gathered by conjecture. A spear shaft so thick, and twenty-six feet long, had a weight of six hundred shekels minimum: so that the whole spear was of twelve hundred shekels. Of the weight of the helmet no mention is made here; whence it is likewise to be gathered by conjecture. Now, craftsmen say that the heaviest weight of a helmet today is about ten Roman pounds, or three hundred and twenty shekels of four drachmæ. But if thus the weight of the helmet of this giant you reckon to be ἡμιόλιον, half as much again, only; that is, so that the proportion might be three to two, there will be four hundred and eighty shekels of four drachmæ, which makes fifteen Zygostatic pounds. His target is certainly not to be reckoned to be of a lesser weight than thirty Roman pounds. His sword remains, which, if it were only of one hundred and thirty shekels, was of four Zygostatic pounds and an ounce. Therefore, the weight of the whole armament of Goliath was eigth thousand, seven hundred and thirty shekels; that is two hundred and seventy-two Zygostatic pounds and thirty ounces. The monster, laden with this great weight, was advancing into battle. A certain Alcimus the Epeirot, as it is in Plutarch’s “Life of Demetrius”, employed armament of one hundred and twenty Attic minæ,[15] while the arms of the other soldiers were only of sixty minæ. Budæus, in Concerning the As and its Parts[16] 4, writes, the just burden of a porter is one hundred and sixty Zygostatic pounds. What is found in Pliny all with good reason regard with wonder, when he says, Fusius Salvius used to walk up a ladder with two hundred pounds on his feet, the same in his hands, and two hundred on his two shoulders. We also saw a man, Athanatus by name, who was capable of a miraculous display: he walked across the stage wearing a leaden breast-plate weighing five hundred pounds and shod in boots of five hundred pounds’ weight.[17] Those six hundred Roman pounds of twelve ounces, burdened with which that Fusius was climbing ladders, make seven thousand, two hundred ounces; of which are gathered four hundred and fifty Zygostatic pounds of sixteen ounces, which are in use today. But the twice five hundred pounds of Athanatus make one thousand Roman pounds of twelve ounces, and twelve thousand ounces, whence are gathered seven hundred and fifty Zygostatic pounds (Hostus’ Concerning the Duel of David and Goliath 5).


Six hundred shekels of iron: And though the whole weight of Goliath’s armour may seem prodigious, yet it is not so much by far as one Athanatus did manage; of whom Pliny relates, that he saw him come into the theatre with arms weighing twelve thousand ounces.


[And his armor bearer, וְנֹשֵׂ֥א הַצִּנָּ֖ה] And one bearing his heavy shield, or target, or small round shield (Jonathan, Syriac, Arabic, Munster, Pagnine, Montanus). It signifies a larger shield, which protects almost the whole man (Hebrews in Malvenda). Others: bearing his spear (Tigurinus). Others: a lance, sharp after the likeness of a thorn, or small, or a small shield having a large sharpened point. They compare this term with שָׁנַן, to sharpen; and they maintain that whatever is sharpened, and pierces or penetrates, is thus called (Malvenda).

[1] Hebrew: וְחָ֣ץ חֲנִית֗וֹ כִּמְנוֹר֙ אֹֽרְגִ֔ים וְלַהֶ֣בֶת חֲנִית֔וֹ שֵׁשׁ־מֵא֥וֹת שְׁקָלִ֖ים בַּרְזֶ֑ל וְנֹשֵׂ֥א הַצִּנָּ֖ה הֹלֵ֥ךְ לְפָנָֽיו׃ [2] Thus the Kethib. [3] Thus the Qere. [4] The Masoretes were mediæval Jewish scribes (laboring from the fifth to the tenth centuries AD), responsible for the preservation and propagation of the traditional text of the Hebrew Scriptures. [5] 2 Samuel 21:19: “And there was again a battle in Gob with the Philistines, where Elhanan the son of Jaare-oregim, a Bethlehemite, slew the brother of Goliath the Gittite, the staff of whose spear (וְעֵ֣ץ חֲנִית֔וֹ) was like a weaver-s beam.” [6] Deuteronomy 19:5: “As when a man goeth into the wood with his neighbour to hew wood, and his hand fetcheth a stroke with the axe to cut down the tree, and the head slippeth from the helve (וְנָשַׁ֤ל הַבַּרְזֶל֙ מִן־הָעֵ֔ץ, and the iron slippeth from the wood), and lighteth upon his neighbour, that he die; he shall flee unto one of those cities, and live…” [7] Greek: καὶ ὁ κοντὸς τοῦ δόρατος, and the pole of the shaft. [8] The Plantin (or Antwerp) Polyglot, as known as the Biblia Regia, was printed by Christopher Plantin in Antwerp in eight volumes, 1568-1573. The first four volumes cover the Old Testament in Hebrew, Greek, and Chaldean, each with a Latin translation. Volume 5 contains the New Testament in Greek and Syriac, both with a Latin translation, and the Syriac with a Hebrew translation. A complete Bible in the original languages, and an interlinear Bible, are found in volume 6. Volumes 7 and 8 provide lexical and grammatical aids. [9] Daniel Bomberg (c. 1483-c. 1549) established a printing press in Venice. Although a Christian, he devoted much of his effort to the printing of Hebrew books, including a Rabbinical Hebrew Bible. Bomberg’s work was revised by Jacob ben Hayyim of Tunis (1525). [10] Louis Cappel (1585-1658) was a Huguenot divine of broad and profound learning. He served as a minister of the gospel and Professor of Hebrew and Theology at Saumur. Although his expertise in the Hebrew language was beyond question, his denial of the authority of the vowel points and of the absolute integrity of the Hebrew texts was hotly contested. [11]Critica Sacra, sive de Variis quæ in Sacris Veteris Testamenti Libris Occurrunt Lectionibus Libri Sex: in quibus ex Variarum Lectionum Observatione Quamplurima Sacræ Scripturæ Loca Explicantur, Illustrantur, atque adeò Emendantur non Pauca. [12] Hector was a prince of Troy, and its greatest warrior, eventually slain by Achilles. [13] שלהב signifies to burn, or to glow. [14]צלהב signifies to gild, or to redden. [15] A mina is about one pound. [16]Guillaume Budé (1467-1540) was a French scholar and humanist, a founder of the Collegium Trilingue, and a royal librarian. He is most remembered for his De Asse et Partibus Ejus, a work on ancient coins and weights. [17]Natural History 7:81.

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