Malcom Gladwell, author of multiple best-selling books on the nature of success, marketing, and culture, released a new sure-thing bestseller that reframes the story of David and Goliath from the typical “Sunday school” understanding.
He gave a TED talk explaining his premise (16 min video)
The basic premise is that we misconstrue David as the underdog and Goliath as the impossible-to-defeat foe, as David miraculously defied logic and nature (and the giant), defeating him with a simple sling and stone.
This is a misconstruation, according to Gladwell, because essentially the sling is the military equivalent of a .45 handgun, and Goliath is something of a “paper tiger”: a blind(ish), deformed, human with “giantism”, who is slow to move and short-sighted.
The point of the story for Gladwell: giants aren’t always what they seem, David was not the underdog, and never underestimate the power of superior tech, nimbleness, and heart.
I didn’t like it one bit. Not at all. Sucks the story dry of God, for example. But I’ve done a 180. Well, maybe a 160.
David not being an underdog actually preserves the Christological typology of the story better! Remember from my earlier post, David is a “type” of Christ here.
The correct theological “analogy” (actually typology) here is that Goliath, the foe, is sin. We are the Israelites, who cower in submission for fear of death, and David is Jesus, the Messiah who rescues us from the foe.
David was not afraid of Goliath. He was indignant and fearlessly ran to meet the enemy. However, he does so in an unexpected way, as Gladwell points out. Not toe-to-toe, on the enemy’s terms, but with a sling. David knew his foe and knew exactly how to conquer that foe, and confidently did just that.
Similarly, Jesus conquered sin and death in the most surprising way possible. Jesus knew The Foe, and knew exactly how to conquer The Foe. And did so, by allowing himself to be captured, tortured, and brutally murdered, the punishment we deserve for our sin, and then by rising from the dead by God’s power. He thus conquering sin and death.
I’m a fan of Gladwell’s basic understanding of the story. I hope he sees the deeper connections.