Saul’s Third Attempt to Kill David & Technological Supremacy of the Philistines’ Iron Weapons

Wow, I thought Jacob was a sneak when he got Esau’s birthright and blessing.  Saul’s out for blood. 

How is this going to work out?

“And Saul spake to Jonathan his son, and to all his servants, that they should kill David. 

But Jonathan Saul’s son delighted much in David: and Jonathan told David, saying, Saul my father seeketh to kill thee: now therefore, I pray thee, take heed to thyself until the morning, and abide in a secret place, and hide thyself:

Sling Shot
Many people think of ancient slings as not much more than toys.

However, the Bible tells us that a young shepherd named David killed the giant Philistine, Goliath, with a very accurately slung stone (1 Sam 17:40, 49).

The Bible states that the Israelites used slings as weapons of war (2 Kgs 3:25).

Archaeologists are finding evidence that confirms these biblical stories.

Slingstones were important weapons in an ancient army’s arsenal.

At one excavation site in Israel, 10 miles north of Jerusalem, slingstones have been found in almost every area of the dig.

Interestingly, the site is located in the territory given to the tribe of Benjamin.

This tribe was known for an elite corps of slingers (Jdg 20:15-16; 1 Chr 12:2), many of whom were left-handed slingers.

700 of them could each “sling a stone at a hair and not miss.”

“After three seasons of excavation, we have found nearly three dozen slingstones.

Most are roughly round and slightly over two inches in diameter, from the size of a billiard ball to a tennis ball.”

And I will go out and stand beside my father in the field where thou art, and I will commune with my father of thee; and what I see, that I will tell thee” (1 Sam 19:1-3).

Jonathan spoke highly of David to Saul, reminding him of all that he did and that he hadn’t sinned against him in anyway.  Aside from that, if he killed David it would be cold blooded murder and it would be against God.  Saul then said, As the LORD liveth, he shall not be slain  (1 Sam 19:6).

Khopesh – Liberty Biblical Museum
Khopesh also known as the Egyptian sickle-sword that evolved from battle axes.

A typical khopesh is 50–60 cm (20–24 inches) in length, though smaller examples do also exist.

This blade was designed for hooking an opponent’s shield or disarming them.

These weapons changed from bronze to iron in the New Kingdom period.

The blade is only sharpened on the outside portion of the curved end.

The khopesh evolved from the epsilon or similar crescent shaped axes that were used in warfare.

Note, however, that the khopesh is not an axe.

Unlike an axe, the khopesh did not make push-cuts, but rather slashes, like a sabre.

The khopesh went out of use around 1300 B.C. However, in the 196 B.C. Rosetta Stone it is referenced as the “sword” determinative in a hieroglyphic block.

“After that things went back to normal, and there was another war with the Philistines and David went out and slew them with a great slaughter, and they fled from him.

And the evil spirit from the LORD was upon Saul, as he sat in his house with his javelin in his hand: and David played with his hand. 

And Saul sought to smite David even to the wall with the javelin; but he slipped away out of Saul’s presence, and he smote the javelin into the wall: and David fled, and escaped that night. 

Saul also sent messengers unto David’s house, to watch him, and to slay him in the morning: and Michal David’s wife told him, saying, If thou save not thy life tonight, tomorrow thou shalt be slain.

So Michal let David down through a window: and he went, and fled, and escaped. 

And Michal took an image, and laid it in the bed, and put a pillow of goats’ hair for his bolster, and covered it with a cloth.  

And when Saul sent messengers to take David, she said, He is sick.

And Saul sent the messengers again to see David, saying, Bring him up to me in the bed, that I may slay him. 

And when the messengers were come in, behold, there was an image in the bed, with a pillow of goats’ hair for his bolster.

And Saul said unto Michal, Why hast thou deceived me so, and sent away mine enemy, that he is escaped? And Michal answered Saul, He said unto me, Let me go; why should I kill thee? 

So David fled, and escaped, and came to Samuel to Ramah, and told him all that Saul had done to him. And he and Samuel went and dwelt in Naioth” (1 Sam 19:9-18).

“And Saul sent messengers to take David: and when they saw the company of the prophets prophesying, and Samuel standing as appointed over them, the Spirit of God was upon the messengers of Saul, and they also prophesied.

Slingstones/Flying Stones
Slingstones, among the most prominent weapons of the Hellenistic and Roman periods, first appear in the cultural context of the Wadi Rabah culture of the Southern Levant.

After a relatively short time span, this “tool” type disappeared with the fading of this culture and the onset of the later, Chalcolithic cultures.

It seems that slingstones first appeared during a period when there was an increased dependence on the herding of domesticated animals, and they may have been an element of the tool-kit of herders. In this regard, it should be emphasized that the producers of slingstones preferred specific raw material, shape and dimensions, as well as weight.

This homogeneity may have helped the slingers to maintain better control of the distance and accuracy of each throw.

And when it was told Saul, he sent other messengers, and they prophesied likewise. And Saul sent messengers again the third time, and they prophesied also.

Then went he also to Ramah, and came to a great well that is in Sechu: and he asked and said, Where are Samuel and David? And one said, Behold, they be at Naioth in Ramah. 

And he went thither to Naioth in Ramah: and the Spirit of God was upon him also, and he went on, and prophesied, until he came to Naioth in Ramah. 

And he stripped off his clothes also, and prophesied before Samuel in like manner, and lay down naked all that day and all that night. Wherefore they say, Is Saul also among the prophets?”  (1 Sam 19:20-24).

Technological Supremacy
of the Philistines’ Iron Weapons

Two Edged-Sward
“… Ehud the son of Gera, a Benjamite, a man lefthanded: and by him the children of Israel sent a present unto Eglon the king of Moab.
But Ehud made him a dagger which had two edges, of a cubit length; and he did gird it under his raiment upon his right thigh.
And he brought the present unto Eglon king of Moab: and Eglon was a very fat man.
And Ehud came unto him; and he was sitting in a summer parlour, which he had for himself alone. And Ehud said, I have a message from God unto thee. And he arose out of his seat.
And Ehud put forth his left hand, and took the dagger from his right thigh, and thrust it into his belly:
And the haft also went in after the blade; and the fat closed upon the blade, so that he could not draw the dagger out of his belly; and the dirt came out” (Jud :15-17, 20-22).

Iron weaponry placed the Philistines in a position of distinct advan­tage over their adversaries.

Perhaps more than any other factor, iron weapons proved the decisive element in the Philistines’ early domination of Israel.

The Philistines were one of the Sea Peoples who had arrived on the Canaanite shores at the end of the Bronze Age.

There is evidence of ironwork from the early Iron Age both in Egypt to the south and in the Hittite Empire in Asia Minor to the north.

But both empires guarded their technological advancement. Still, during the second half of the second millennium B.C., the Philistines defeated the Hittites and most likely took from them the technology of ironwork.

To protect this valuable commodity and their corresponding advantage, the Philistines guarded the technology from their neighbors, notably the Israelites.

Within Palestine, facili­ties of iron smelting have been discovered in the ancient Philistine settlements at Ekron and Tell Qasile.

A iron-wheeled chariot, probably of similar design to the chariots used by Sisera’s forces.

See the story of Chariots at Warfare: Chariots or Warfare: Armour.

In fact, the Phili­stines prohibited Israelites from engaging in the trade of ironsmithing, lest the Israelites also gain iron weapons.

Go­liath the Philistine had a spearhead made of iron. The Hebrew text describes this spear as a “weaver’s beam”; it is possible that this term was used because the iron weapon was rela­tively new to the Israelite culture and no word had as yet been coined to describe it.

It was partially the threat of the Philistines and their superior weapons that motivated the tribes of Israel to demand a king.

As the monarchy began under Saul, the Philistines continued to dominate Israel’s armies in open battle, including the battle at Mount Gilboa where Saul and his sons died.

To combat the weapon superiority of the Philistines, the Israelites relied upon super­ior knowledge of the landscape and on guerilla warfare.

But it was not until David was crowned king that the Israelites began to ex­perience victory over their traditional foe.

As David’s conquests expanded the borders of Israel, he was able to secure rich iron deposits to the south in Edom.

These proved an extremely valuable asset to Israel.