Recently I discovered that a shepherd’s sling (probably very similar to the one that David used to kill Goliath) can hurl a stone so hard and fast that the stone can actually break the sound barrier and create a mini sonic boom! That is so cool! This discovery immediately made me think about David and Goliath.
Here is the Biblical account of David using his sling to kill Goliath.
“He took his stick in his hand and chose for himself five smooth stones from the brook, and put them in the shepherd’s bag which he had, even in his pouch, and his sling was in his hand; and he approached the Philistine.“ ( 1 Samuel 17:40 NASB)
Smooth stones are an important detail because they have an aerodynamic shape and provide the least amount of wind resistance which allows the projectile to (a) travel at a faster rate and (b) improve accuracy. The words used to describe David’s pouch and sling also support the idea that he used the shepherd’s sling that we know today.
“48 Then it happened when the Philistine rose and came and drew near to meet David, that David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. 49 And David put his hand into his bag and took from it a stone and slung it, and struck the Philistine on his forehead. And the stone sank into his forehead, so that he fell on his face to the ground. 50 Thus David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone, and he struck the Philistine and killed him; but there was no sword in David’s hand.” (1 Samuel 17:48-50 NASB)
According to the research I have done, the forehead is a thick and very strong piece of bone that helps to protect the brain. For a stone to sink into Goliath’s forehead it would have been traveling at quite a fast rate of speed and been very accurate (i.e. the importance of having smooth stones). From what I have read and watched, a skilled person is able to launch a stone with a shepherds sling so fast that it can actually break the sound barrier and create a sonic boom! The sling seems more like a high powered sniper rifle than a kids toy! Make no mistake about it, this was a very deadly weapon and David was highly trained to use it. This is how David was able to produce enough speed and momentum to kill Goliath and to cause the stone to sink deep into his forehead.
Below you will find a video where a guy is able to hit watermelons with a shepherds sling. It is super impressive and I am sure I couldn’t even get close to his talent, but at the end it says that he took 17 shots at 3 target, that’s about a 17% success rate if I understand these numbers correctly.
Well, David had a lot more pressure on him (his own life was in the balance, he was young, his brothers mocked him, Saul really didn’t seem very confident, the entire army of Israel was watching etc.) and he had pinpoint accuracy, this leads me to believe that he was an expert at handling and using this deadly weapon.
Here are some other references to this type of sling or similar in the Bible:
Used to describe highly skilled military men using it as a weapon of war
Out of all these people 700 choice men were left-handed; each one could sling a stone at a hair and not miss. (Judges 20:16 NASB)
They were equipped with bows, using both the right hand and the left to sling stones and to shoot arrows from the bow; they were Saul’s kinsmen from Benjamin. (1 Chronicles 12:2 NASB)
Moreover, Uzziah prepared for all the army shields, spears, helmets, body armor, bows and sling stones. (2 Chronicles 26:14 NASB)
Used to describe the strength of Leviathan, not even sonic powered slingstones can hurt him!
“The arrow cannot make him flee; Slingstones are turned into stubble for him. (Job 41:28 NASB)
Here are some actual videos which show this phenomena, the “crack” or “pop” you hear is the mini sonic boom that is produced by the rock breaking the sound barrier.