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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature


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(קֶלִע, kela; Sept. σφεδόνη; Vulg. funda), an implement which has in all ages been the favorite weapon of the shepherds of Syria (1 Samuel 17:40), and hence was adopted by the Israelitish army as the most effective weapon for light armed troops. The Benjamites were particularly expert in their use of it; even the left handed could "sling stones at a hair and not miss" (Judges 20:16; comp. 1 Chronicles 12:2). According to the Targum of Jonathan and the Syriac, it was the weapon of the Cherethites and Pelethites. It was advantageously used in attacking and defending towns (2 Kings 3:25; Josephus, War, 4, 1, 3), and in skirmishing (ibid. 2, 17, 5). Other eastern nations availed therhselves of it, as the Syrians (1 Maccabees 9:11), who also invented a kind of artificial sling (1 Maccabees 6:51), the Assyrians (Judges 9:7; Layard, Nin. and Bab. 2, 344), the Egyptians (Wilkinson, 1, 357), and the Persians (Xenophon, Anab. 3, 3, 18). The construction of the weapon hardly needs description. It consisted of a couple of strings of sinew, or some fibrous substance, attached to a leathern receptacle for the stone in the center, which was termed the kaph (כִּ ), i.e. pan (1 Samuel 25:29). The sling was swung once or twice round the head, and the stone was then discharged by letting go one of the strings. Sling stones (אָבְנֵיאּקֶלִע ) were selected for their smoothness (1 Samuel 17:40), and were recognized as one of the ordinary munitions of war (2 Chronicles 26:14). In action the stones were either carried in a bag round the neck (1 Samuel 17:40), or were heaped up at the feet of the combatant (Layard, Nin. and Bab. 2, 344). The violence with which the stone was projected supplied a vivid image of sudden and forcible removal (Jeremiah 10:18). The rapidity of the whirling motion of the sling round the head was emblematic of inquietude (1 Samuel 25:29, "the souls of.thine enemies shall he whirl round in the midst of the pan of a sling"), while the sling stones represented the enemies of God (Zechariah 9:15, "they shall tread under foot the sling stones"). The term margemah (מִרְגֵמָה ) in Proverbs 26:8 is of doubtful meaning. Gesenius (Thesaur. p. 1263) explains of "a heap of stones," as in the margin of the A.V., the Sept.; Ewald and Hitzig, of "a sling," as in the text. The simple weapon with which David killed the giant Philistine was the natural attendant of a shepherd, whose duty it was to keep at a distance and drive off anything attempting to molest his flocks. The sling would be familiar to all shepherds and keepers of sheep, and, therefore, the bold metaphor of Abigail has a natural propriety in the mouth of the wife of a man whose possessions in flocks were so great as those of Nabal (1 Samuel 25:29).


Later in the monarchy, slingers formed part of the regular army (2 Kings 3:25), though it would seem that the slings there mentioned must have been more ponderous than in earlier times, and that those which could break down the fortifications of so strong a place as Kir-haraseth must have been more like the engines which king Uzziah contrived to "shoot great stones" (2 Chronicles 26:15). In 2 Chronicles 26:14 of the same chapter we find an allusion (concealed in the A.V. by two interpolated words) to stones specially adapted for slings, "Uzziah prepared throughout all the host shields and spears, bows and sling stones."

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Sling'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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