Journal of Book of Mormon Studies

Article Title

Nephi and Goliath: A Case Study of Literary Allusion in the Book of Mormon


Ben McGuire


When authors use the rhetorical device of literary allusion, they not only teach through their own words but also attach to their own text meanings and interpretations from the alluded text. This is true of Nephi’s allusion to the account of David and Goliath in Nephi’s own account of his killing Laban, which allusion is generally of a thematic nature. A few of the main thematic parallels between the two accounts are that both unbelieving Israel and Laman and Lemuel are fearful of the main antagonist, both David and Nephi prophesy the death of their opponent, and both Goliath and Laban have their heads cut off and armor stripped. The implications of this allusion run deep. At a time in which the right to kingship was continually in dispute between Nephi and Laman, Nephi casting himself as David—the archetypal king of Judah, whose faith led to his supplanting Saul—could be seen as legitimizing his regal authority over Laman.