In his usual insightful way, Daniel McClellan just posted on the question of Goliath’s armor. He justly takes issue with the argument made by Azzan Yadin that a Philistine origin of Goliath’s helmet can be rejected based on Egyptian bas reliefs from three or four generations earlier in which the head dress of Pilishtu warriors is quite different. He also claims, without yet providing evidence, that “Goliath’s armor should be interpreted as reflecting Neo-Assyrian battle armor (not Homeric).” Here’s hoping that Daniel will go on to make his case. In the mean time, a few words about the discussion among scholars to date.
The main players in the debate, so far as I know, have been Yigael Yadin, Israel Finkelstein, Azzan Yadin, Graham Philip, and V. Philips Long. Based on his research, Yigael Yadin (1963:265) concluded that the biblical description of the get-up of Goliath is compatible with a date at the onset of the Davidic period. Israel Finkelstein (2002) does not contest this conclusion. He likewise avers that “every single item in the description of Goliath’s armament can be compared to Aegean weapons and armour from the Mycenaean period to Classical times.” But he goes on to note that the aggregate of Goliath’s armor was not standard issue until the 7th cent. bce. Okay, but that is a very weak argument against the notion that a piran h̬uyanza (the Hittite term [Hoffner 1968]), a איש הבינים “man between the two [formations]” (the Hebrew term), who would promachizein “go out in front to fight” (the Greek expression) might well have been so dressed for the purposes of one-on-one combat.
As V. Philips Long (2009) points out, Saul offers David the use of his bronze helmet in 1 Sam 18:38, but that cannot be construed as prima facie evidence that anyone other than Saul among the Israelites had a bronze helmet with which to fight. One has to allow for a degree of singularity in the way show-off champions dressed. The same logical fallacy plagues Graham Philip (2003) insofar as he suggests that “both the javelin and the greaves are unusual for Syro-Palestinian warriors”; this may “hint at [Goliath’s] foreign connections.” Okay, but maybe a javelin and greaves were not unusual equipment for Syro-Palestinian warrior-champions, even if the an ordinary G.I. wouldn't dream of it.
McClellan quotes Azzan Yadin (2000) as follows:
The head gear is unlike the distinctive feathered helmets of the Egyptian reliefs at Medinet Habu; Goliath’s chain mail (שריון קשקשים) is Mesopotamian-Syrian; and the great shield, requiring a shield bearer, is unlike the small round shields of the Philistines portrayed in Egyptian reliefs.
McClellan discounts Yadin’s head gear argument, as already noted, but thinks the second argument carries weight, and seems to believe that great shields and shield bearers are anachronistic in Iron Age I. But I wonder.
LXX 1 Sam 17:5 references a coat of mail (for a discussion, see the comments by Albert Pietersma), but 1 Sam 17:5 in the original more likely references a scale corslet of the kind known from the Mycenaean period (Catling 1970; Chadwick 1976: 160-163; Schofield and Parkinson 1994).
As for great shields, shield bearers, and body armor, didn’t Hector have his Deiphobus who carried his white shield? Didn’t Diomedes, the youngest of the Greek champions, the favorite of Athena, wear a full suit of bronze armor? Yes, I know when the Iliad was written. It contains anachronisms of various kinds (Castleden 2005: 119-120 suggests a few). But do we know that these features are anachronisms?
Let me re-pose the question: after researching descriptions and representations of the get-up of challengers in one-on-one combat in literary, epigraphic, and anepigraphic sources, what would one suggest as the conceivable chronological range for a get-up like the one Goliath is given in 1 Sam 17?
Intended and unintended anachronisms are staples of history-writing. Biblical history-writing contains its fair share. But are there any obvious ones in MT 1 Sam 17:5? Not that I know of.
Hector William Catling, “A Bronze Plate from a Scale-Corslet Found at Mycenae,” AA (1970) 441-449; Rodney Castleden, “Metalwork and Armour,” in Mycenaeans (Peoples of the Ancient World; London, Routledge, 2005) 118-125; John Chadwick, “Weapons and War,” in The Mycenaean World (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1975) 159-179; Israel Finkelstein, “The Philistines in the Bible: A Late-Monarchic Perspective,” JSOT 27 (2002) 131-167; Harry A. Hoffner Jr., “A Hittite Analouge to the David and Goliath Contest of Champions,” CBQ 30 (1968) 220-25; V. Philips Long, “David Kills Goliath (17:1-58),” in Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary Volume 2. Joshua. Judges. Ruth. 1 and 2 Samuel (John H. Walton, ed.; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009) 345-352; Graham Philip, “Weapons and Warfare in Ancient Syria-Palestine,” in Near Eastern Archaeology: A Reader (Suzanne Richard, ed.; Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 2003) 184-192; Louise Schofield and Richard B. Parkinson, “Of Helmets and Heretics: A Possible Egyptian Representation of Mycenaean Warriors on a Papyrus from El-Amarna,” The Annual of the British School at Athens 89 (1994) 157-170; Roland de Vaux, “Single Combat in the Old Testament,” in The Bible and the Ancient Near East (London: Darton, Longman, & Todd, 1972) 122-35; Azzan Yadin, “Goliath’s Armor and Israelite Collective Memory,” VT 54 (2000) 373-95; Yigael Yadin, The Art of Warfare in Biblical Lands, in the Light of Archaeological Study (2 vols.; M. Pearlman, tr.; New York: McGraw-Hill, 1963) 1:265.
From the Manga Bible: