"He Slingeth at the Left Hand . . . ."
In Judges, Chapter 20, there is a description of the Battle of Gibreah, fought not far from Jerusalem during a civil war between the Tribe of Benjamin and the other eleven Israelite tribes that resulted when some Benjaminites offered a gross insult to a distinguished holyman.
The biblical account tells us that the Benjaminites numbered 26,700 men, a figure by no means improbable. It goes on to say that the Benjaminite army included 700 slingers. In terms of the account of the battle this is just a thrown away line, as the slingers are not mentioned again. But what is said about these men is very interesting. In Verse 16 we are told that these men are all left-handed.
Now handedness is of no consequence when using a sling. Lefties and righties can be equally effective slingers. In fact, in the pre-modern world, when handedness was of little consequence, save in one circumstance. The left handed would have been at a disadvantage when fighting in ranks with sword or spear and shield. The necessity of keeping the ranks properly aligned would require the left handed to wield their swords or spears with their less adept right hands. Most left handed men would have found this uncomfortable. And a small percentage, those who were profoundly left-handed, would have found it extremely difficult, and thus dangerous.
So this seemingly unimportant line thrown into an account of a relatively insignificant battle suggests that at least among the ancient Hebrews men who were acutely left-handed may have been assigned to duty as slingers. Tending to confirm this is the fact that the number indicated in Judges, 700, would be too few of them to account for all the lefties in he army. Although the figure varies somewhat from culture to culture, about 14-percent of humanity is left handed, whereas the 700 southpaw Benjaminite slingers amounted to only about 2.5-percent of their total force.
Amazing the things one can learn from Scripture.
"Then, Your Majesty . . . ."
It has long been the custom to invite distinguished visitors from other nations to attend one’s maneuvers. This not only cultivates a certain spirit of friendship, but also serves to let the other guys know what your people can do, which may be useful in deterring aggressive intentions.
Thus, in 1912, the Swiss invited Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany to attend their annual maneuvers.
In addition to the usually field exercises and reviews, the Swiss staged a marksmanship contest. The Kaiser was asked to present the prize to the winner, arguably the finest shot in Switzerland.
Upon congratulating the man, and awarding him his prizes, the Kaiser asked, "How many of you Swiss are there who can shoot so well."
"One hundred thousand, Your Majesty," replied the Swiss.
The Kaiser’s next question was fully in keeping with the customary clumsiness and insensitivity which gave heartburn to foreign ministers, "Suppose I were to send two hundreds thousand men against you?"
"Then, Your Majesty, we will each shoot twice," came the quick comeback, defusing a potentially embarrassing moment.
Interestingly, German planning for war with France and Russia, had long included the possibility of invading Switzerland, an undertaking that was shortly dropped from the agenda. So perhaps the invitation to the Kaiser had been prompted by a desire on the part of the Swiss to let him know that if his legions attempted to invade their country they’d meet with a deadly welcome.