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The Iconography and Reference database offers a comprehensive view of subjects as depicted throughout the ages in various Jewish visual arts –in architecture, paintings, manuscripts and ritual objects. In bi-monthly seminars, each subject is defined and analyzed through its visual and literary components. The results of this research enable us to see the development of a subject from ancient times to contemporary and to note the particular emphasis given to the story in each community or period. The last subject IJA students dealt with was "David and Goliath," a narrative depicted in art from ancient times through the medieval era to the contemporary period. For example, during the Middle Ages the subject is usually depicted as a straightforward illustration of the story in various manuscripts such as the London Miscellany (c.1280) while during the Zionist period (end of the 19th century) David and Goliath was one of the subjects which emphasized the victory of the few over the many (Zeev Raban's David and Goliath). This narrative was often accompanied by depictions of other stories such as Judith and Holofernes, the Maccabees and others.


David & Goliath: A Case Study in Iconography and Reference

The story of David and Goliath is recounted in Samuel I, Chapter 17. The text serves as one important structure around which a visual depiction is constructed. Midrashic sources offer yet another layer of interpretation, which offer up symbols and imagery.

To study the iconography of this story, each section of the Index provides examples of visual depictions of subject matter from its own database. The best examples from each section are chosen and are then studied by the entire group. Iconographic components are isolated and their meaning crystallized. The work culminates in the production of an “Iconography and Reference Document.”

The process of looking, discussing, and refining ideas on a broad range of subjects helps to define the iconography of Jewish art. It is this aspect of the Index which potentially will make it so valuable to researchers and students of Jewish art.

David and Goliath

Lexical definition

Samuel I, 17

 See also:

David struggling with the lion and the bear
Judith and Holofernes

Iconographical Components:

Confrontation between David and Goliath:


facing Goliath (Samuel I, 17:40-42, 48)

approaching Goliath (Samuel I, 17:48)

looking at:
· Goliath
· the shield bearer

holding the sling (Samuel I, 17:40, 49-50)
· with a pebble in it (Samuel I, 17:49)

about to brandish sling

brandishing the sling (Samuel I, 17:49)
· over his head
· from behind his back
· in front of his body
· with a stone in it

hurling pebbles (Samuel I, 17:40)
· one
· three

sling only

represented as
· a lad (Samuel I, 17:33, 42)
· smaller than Goliath (Samuel I, 17:4, 23)
· with a shepherd’s rod (Samuel I, 17:40, 43)
· with a shepherd’s bag (Samuel I, 17:40, 49)

· a crown
· a helmet (Samuel I, 17:36)

accompanied by
· rams (Samuel I, 17:34)
· a harp (Samuel I, 16:23, 18/18:10)
· a dog (Samuel I, 17:43)


facing David

approaching David (Samuel I:41, 48)
· an old man

Goliath’s shield:
  decorated with:
· goat’s head

Goliath’s sword
  A shield bearer (Samuel I:17:7)

David and Goliath Struggling:


strangling Goliath



standing (Samuel I, 17:51)
· on Goliath (Samuel I, 17:51)
· left leg on Goliath

brandishing Goliath’s sword (Samuel I, 17:51)
·  with Goliath’s head skewered on it (Samuel I, 17:54)
· blood lingering from the open wound
· holding Goliath’s head (Samuel I, 17:54)


lying on the ground

head pulled back, neck exposed without head/headless (Samuel I, 17:51)

surrounded by:
· mountains (Samuel I, 17:3)
· both armies (Samuel I, 17:2-3, 19-21)


· Samuel I, 17

· Opening panel of " Ashrei" (Psalms I)

· The hymn "and you recite Passover sacrifice" in the Passover Haggadah

· In the Mishneh Torah, illustrating "Book Seven" dealing with the laws of gleaning, and alluding to the gleaning of Ruth, David's ancestor, while Orpah was, according to the Midrash, Goliath's mother



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Last Updated: 21 October, 2014
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