Picking up where we left off in last week's post, I want to share with you the next few pages from my upcoming illustrated children's book David and Goliath. This book has been a labor of love for me. I love the story of David and Goliath. I've loved it since I was a boy. It resonates with me, and as I've talked to others, I've realized how widely the tale resonates.
My goal has been two-fold. First, to present the story in a compelling, understandable, and engaging style. Second, to add as much historical and cultural details to the story as possible without bogging down the narrative. I want there to be hints in the story so that if a young reader really engages with the story he can see that there are other things to discover. For example, why does David (in my version) name the five stones he picks up? In my telling, David gives the stones the names of five Philistine warriors. First Chronicles Twenty tells us these warriors were descended from the giants. David will face (Goliath) and might possibly run into (Lahmi, Ishbi-Benob, Saph, and Six-Fingers) after he defeats Goliath. Thus, he picks up five stones. This is just one example of many.
That said, take a read here below. I'd love to hear some feedback - the good, bad, and ugly. Any criticism or suggestion is welcome. Enjoy!
The armies of Philistia crossed Ephes Dammim, the boundary of blood, and marched into the southwest bend of the Valley of Terebinths. On the hill north of the Philistines stood the fortified Judean city of Azekah. An administrative outpost of the Israelite monarchy, Azekah controlled the Valley of Terebinths and the intersection of roads that made the area so invaluable. Passing by Tel Azekah and through the valley was the north-south trade road connecting Beth-Shemesh in the north and Lachish in the south as well as the east-west road linking the inlands of Judah with the western Mediterranean Sea. Thus, the Philistines meant to wrest control of Azekah and the valuable trade routes from King Saul and the Israelites.
Below Azekah, a dry brook meandered through the midst of the valley through fertile farm lands overlooked by hills planted with vineyards. Further east as the valley turned south, the winepresses of Tel Sokoh pressed the valley’s grape harvest into wine.
The armies of Philistia thus entered the valley between Azekah and Sokoh. The Philistines had meant to take the valley by surprise, but there, on the north side of the valley, appeared the armies of Israel.
King Saul, with Prince Jonathan and General Abner, had mustered all the fighting men of the tribes of Israel to the hill town of Sha-arayim. The thirteen-thousand strong Israelite camp was formed in ranks around the two gates of the town. From his royal pavilion, King Saul watched as the Philistine army crossed the Ephes-Dammim into the land of Israel.
Unlike the rag-tag collection of shepherds and farmers serving in King Saul’s army, the Philistine soldiers were professional warriors well-equipped with uniforms, helmets, spears, and shields. The Philistines slammed their weapons into their shields and shouted in rhythm.
“Philistia! Philistia! Philistia!”
Saul was dumbfounded as more and more invaders poured into the valley. The armies of Philistia formed ranks. Then the ranks parted, kicking up dirt and dust into the air. Their battle cry changed.
“Goliath! Goliath! Goliath!”
The chant roared louder as a chariot passed through the Philistine soldiers. Saul watched as a team of two horses raged, their nostrils flaring, as they galloped forth pulling the bronze enameled chariot, armed with quivers of javelins, and carrying three men.
The chariot driver snapped the reins. Beside him, the shield-bearer maintained his balance while skillfully holding a rectangular, body-sized shield. Between the two of them, towered the bronze-armored chest of the Philistine champion.
The chariot rolled to a stop and the warrior descended from the war car. Though he stood on the ground, the Philistine warrior was still taller than both driver and shield-bearer. In his hand was a massive iron spear. On his belt hung a short sword. Bronze greaves and bracers protected his legs and forearms. A sickle sword, the weapon of a chariot warrior, hung on his back between his shoulders. A bronze helm, decorated with the black feathers of the Philistines, protected his head.
The Israelite soldiers gasped when they saw the size of the man. Mutters of warrior and giant were whispered from one man to the next.
Three Israelite brothers, the sons of Jesse, stood among the ranks of Israel. Eliab was the oldest followed in age by Abinadab and Shammah.
“His armor shines like the sun,” said Shammah.
“And his spear is as thick as a weaver’s beam,” observed Abinadab.
Another man from the tribe of Judah asked, “Who is he?”
“I know his name,” replied Eliab. “He is Goliath of Gath.”
“Why do you even come out in battle array, O Saul?” Goliath the Philistine champion now stood between the two camps. King Saul was unmoved, but below him the Israelite ranks stirred like an overturned anthill.
“Will you not fight with me?” Goliath laughed derisively. “No! You will not. For all the armies of Philistia have come out in arms against you. Hear, O Israel! Listen, you dogs! Your Philistine master speaks.”
Abinadab and Shammah looked to King Saul, who appeared unnerved. Eliab never took his eyes off of Goliath.
“The women of Israel sing, ‘Saul has slain thousands.’ But where is your king? Where is Saul? Why does he not come out? I am but one man and alone. He does not come out because I am a Philistine.”
The warriors of Philistia cheered at Goliath’s words.
“I have laid waste to the coasts and to the peoples all about you. Saul has slain his thousands, but I have slain tens of thousands! I am Goliath of Gath.”
Thunderous applause boomed from the Philistine hordes.
“As I do not see Saul your king, then you, servants of Saul, choose a man for yourselves that I may fight him. If he kills me then we shall be your servants. But if I kill him, then you shall be our slaves!”
Goliath laughed maniacally as the armies of Philistia began to chant.
“Goliath! Goliath! Goliath!”
The soldiers and captains of Israel looked up towards Sha-arayim, to the royal pavilion, to King Saul. Abner stood by his side, as did Jonathan.
“King Saul,” spoke Abner, “Shall I convene a counsel, my lord?”
“What do we do, my king?”
Saul stood frozen.
That does it for this week's excerpt from Shepherd King Chronicles: David & Goliath. Be sure to listen to next week's podcast for a reading of this week's excerpt. If you have any thoughts on this excerpt, whether they be positive or negative, please let me know in the comments section below. If you enjoyed this post please like and share!