A. Goliath challenges Israel.
1. (1-10) The Philistine Goliath challenges Israel.
Now the Philistines gathered their armies together to battle, and were gathered together at Sochoh, which belongs to Judah; they encamped between Sochoh and Azekah, in Ephes Dammim. And Saul and the men of Israel were gathered together, and they encamped in the Valley of Elah, and drew up in battle array against the Philistines. The Philistines stood on a mountain on one side, and Israel stood on a mountain on the other side, with a valley between them. And a champion went out from the camp of the Philistines, named Goliath, from Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. He had a bronze helmet on his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail, and the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of bronze. And he had bronze armor on his legs and a bronze javelin between his shoulders. Now the staff of his spear was like a weaver’s beam, and his iron spearhead weighed six hundred shekels; and a shield-bearer went before him. Then he stood and cried out to the armies of Israel, and said to them, “Why have you come out to line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and you the servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me. If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants. But if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us.” And the Philistine said, “I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together.”
a. They encamped in the Valley of Elah: The green, rolling hills surrounding the Valley of Elah still stand today, and witnessed one of the most remarkable battles in all the Bible. It began when the Philistines, constant enemies of Israel during this period, assembled their army on mountain, and on another mountain stood the army of Israel.
b. And a champion went out from the camp of the Philistines, named Goliath: In their army, the Philistines had one particularly impressive soldier, named Goliath. He was a large man (six cubits and a span can be anywhere from 8’5” to 9’2”), and he had armor and weapons to match his size.
i. Goliath was from Gath, and Joshua 11:22 says that a people known as the Anakim were still there in Joshua’s day. That was some 400 years before this, but it shows how there may have continued to be men of unusually large size coming from the city of Gath.
ii. Goliath was tall, but his height is not unheard of in history. Poole on Goliath’s height: “Which is not strange, for besides the giants mentioned in the Scriptures, Herodotus, Diodorus Siculus, and Pliny, and others, make mention of persons seven cubits high, which is near double to an ordinary man’s height.” Youngblood mentions the documented case of Robert Pershing Wadlow, who was eight feet eleven inches tall at the time of his death on July 15, 1940, at the age of twenty-two.
iii. “Men of an extraordinary size are not uncommon even in our own day: I knew two brothers of the name of Knight, who were born in the same township with myself, who were seven feet six inches high; and another, in the same place, Charles Burns, who was eight feet six! These men were well and proportionably made. (Clarke)
iv. Clarke says that the word champion really comes from the Hebrew word, “a middle man, the man between two.” The idea is that this was a man who stood between the two armies and fought as a representative of his army.
v. Different sources give different estimates, but Goliath’s armor and weapons together probably weighed somewhere between 150 and 200 pounds. This was a big man, and strong enough to carry and use these huge weapons.
c. Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me . . . I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together: Goliath issued a bold challenge to the army of Israel.
2. (11) The fear of Saul and all Israel.
When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid.
a. When they heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid: Of course, that was Goliath’s exact intention in issuing the challenge. The reason why he came out with full battle equipment and paraded in front of the Israelite army was because he wanted them to be dismayed and greatly afraid. Goliath was able to defeat the Israelites on fear alone.
i. In any contest, it’s always useful to demoralize your opponent, and strike fear in their heart. First, it may keep you from ever going to battle with them, because they are so afraid. Second, if it does come to battle, they will fight with fear and apprehension, and so with your words, you’ve done a lot to win the battle before it even begins!
ii. This, of course, is a significant strategy of the devil against us. We don’t battle against flesh and blood enemies like Goliath, but we have our “spiritual Giants” to battle against. The devil has a heavy interest in making you dismayed and greatly afraid before the battle ever begins.
b. When Saul . . . heard these words: Saul had special reason to be afraid. Goliath was the giant among the Philistines, and Saul was head and shoulder taller than other Israelite men (1 Samuel 9:2). Saul was the logical choice to square off against Goliath, and we can expect he knew others were expecting him to fight Goliath.
i. An old Jewish tradition says that this as part of Goliath’s taunting speech: “And ye, men of Israel, what noble exploit has Saul, the son of Kish, of Gibeah, done, that ye should have made him king over you? If he be a hero, let him come down himself and fight with me; but if he be a weak or cowardly man, then choose you out a man that he may come down to me.” (Cited in Clarke)
c. Yet, Saul is dismayed and greatly afraid. At one time, he was known as a fierce and successful military leader (1 Samuel 14:52). But that was before the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul (1 Samuel 16:14). As the Spirit of the Lord left Saul, so did his courage. It shouldn’t surprise us that a many filled with the Spirit of the Lord will have the courage to fight Goliath.
i. The Spirit of the Lord really can give us courage. When we are dismayed and greatly afraid, it isn’t the work of the Spirit of the Lord. God wants to give us a holy boldness and courage, not in ourselves, but in Him.
B. David comes to the camp of Israel.
1. (12-15) David, the youngest of eight brothers, splits his time between the palace and the pasture.
Now David was the son of that Ephrathite of Bethlehem Judah, whose name was Jesse, and who had eight sons. And the man was old, advanced in years, in the days of Saul. The three oldest sons of Jesse had gone to follow Saul to the battle. The names of his three sons who went to the battle were Eliab the firstborn, next to him Abinadab, and the third Shammah. David was the youngest. And the three oldest followed Saul. But David occasionally went and returned from Saul to feed his father’s sheep at Bethlehem.
a. David occasionally went and returned from Saul to feed his father’s sheep: At this time, it seems that David was only called to the palace as needed, when Saul was afflicted by the distressing spirit.
b. David was the youngest: Notice that David is said to be the youngest of eight sons of Jesse. Yet Psalm 89:27 calls David God’s firstborn, demonstrating that “firstborn” is as much a title and a concept as a description of birth order. Therefore, when Paul calls Jesus firstborn over all creation in Colossians 1:15, he isn’t trying to say that Jesus is a created being who had a beginning. He is simply pointing to the prominence and preeminence of Jesus.
2. (16-21) David brings gifts from home and comes into Israel’s camp.
And the Philistine drew near and presented himself forty days, morning and evening. Then Jesse said to his son David, “Take now for your brothers an ephah of this dried grain and these ten loaves, and run to your brothers at the camp. And carry these ten cheeses to the captain of their thousand, and see how your brothers fare, and bring back news of them.” Now Saul and they and all the men of Israel were in the Valley of Elah, fighting with the Philistines. So David rose early in the morning, left the sheep with a keeper, and took the things and went as Jesse had commanded him. And he came to the camp as the army was going out to the fight and shouting for the battle. For Israel and the Philistines had drawn up in battle array, army against army.
a. And the Philistine drew near and presented himself forty days: Day after day, Goliath would taunt and mock the armies of Israel, exposing them all (and especially Saul) as cowards who would run from a fight.
i. Significantly, forty days (or forty years) is used in the Scriptures rather consistently as a period of judgment and or testing. It rained for forty days in the time of Noah. Israel was in the wilderness forty years. Jesus fasted and was tempted of the devil for forty days before He began His public ministry. So here, Israel is also tested by Goliath’s mockery.
b. Left the sheep with a keeper: This little observation shows the shepherd’s heart of David. If he left the sheep to run an errand for his father, he made sure the sheep were still well taken care of.
c. And he came to the camp as the army was going out to the fight and shouting for the battle: This must have been the approximate scene for forty days. The armies would gather on each hillside, and scream and shout at each other across the valley. Goliath would make his parade and shout his insults, and after awhile the Israelites would slink away in shame.
3. (22-24) David sees Goliath make his arrogant challenge, and sees the fear of Israel’s soldiers.
And David left his supplies in the hand of the supply keeper, ran to the army, and came and greeted his brothers. Then as he talked with them, there was the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name, coming up from the armies of the Philistines; and he spoke according to the same words. So David heard them. And all the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him and were dreadfully afraid.
a. Dreadfully afraid: All of the Israelite army was dreadfully afraid. There was not one man among them who would take on Goliath. Every one of them fled from him when Goliath came out.
4. (25-27) David hears of Saul’s reward to the man who beats Goliath, but he speaks of God’s honor.
So the men of Israel said, “Have you seen this man who has come up? Surely he has come up to defy Israel; and it shall be that the man who kills him the king will enrich with great riches, will give him his daughter, and give his father’s house exemption from taxes in Israel.” Then David spoke to the men who stood by him, saying, “What shall be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?” And the people answered him in this manner, saying, “So shall it be done for the man who kills him.”
a. The man who kills him, the king will enrich: The situation had become so desperate, the Saul needed to offer a bribe - a cash award, a princess, and a tax exemption - to induce someone, anyone to fight and win against Goliath.
b. Who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel . . . who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God? Other soldiers focused on the danger of the battle or the material rewards to be won. It seems that David alone focused on the reputation of Israel and the honor of the living God.
i. This truly shows David to be a man after God’s own heart. He cares about the things God cares about. He saw the problem in spiritual terms, not in material or fleshly terms.
ii. When the men of Israel said, “This man,” David said, “This uncircumcised Philistine.” When the men of Israel said, “Surely he has come up to defy Israel,” David said, “That he should defy the armies of the living God.” When the men of Israel said, “The man who kills him,” David said, “The man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel.” David saw things from the Lord’s perspective, but the men of Israel saw things only from man’s perspective.
5. (28-30) David is misunderstood and falsely accused by his brother.
Now Eliab his oldest brother heard when he spoke to the men; and Eliab’s anger was aroused against David, and he said, “Why did you come down here? And with whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know your pride and the insolence of your heart, for you have come down to see the battle.” And David said, “What have I done now? Is there not a cause?” Then he turned from him toward another and said the same thing; and these people answered him as the first ones did.
a. Eliab’s anger was aroused against David: We might have thought that David’s visit would have pleased Eliab, especially considering all the things he brought from home. But David’s words angered Eliab, and there were many reasons why:
i. First, he was angry because he felt David was an insignificant, worthless person who had no right to speak up, especially with such bold words (Why did you come down here? And with whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness?).
ii. Second, he was angry because he felt he knew David’s motivation (I know your pride and the insolence of your heart), but he didn’t really know David’s heart. “Here he taketh upon him that which belongeth to God alone (Jeremiah 17:10), and judgeth David’s heart by his own. Well might Augustine say that envy is vitium diabolicum, a devilish vice, such as wherein is found the venom of most other vices.” (Trapp)
iii. Third, he was angry because he thought David was trying to provoke someone else into fighting Goliath just so that he could see a battle (you have come down to see the battle). Eliab himself was a tall man of good appearance (1 Samuel 16:7), and he may have felt that David was trying to push him into battle.
iv. Finally, he was angry because David was right! When you are dismayed and greatly afraid or dreadfully afraid, the last thing in the world you want is someone telling you to be courageous.
b. What have I done now? Is there not a cause? David stuck to his position. There is no doubt that what his oldest brother Eliab said hurt him, but he would not let it hinder him.
i. What helped David to handle the hurt this way? He was more concerned with God’s cause (Is there not a cause?) than with his own feelings
c. Is there not a cause? David’s attitude is completely different than the other men of Israel, including King Saul. David is concerned with God’s cause before everything. Before his own personal safety, before his own personal glory, before his only personal honor, he has a passionate concern for God’s cause. Where did David get this perspective, this courage?
i. It had been born in secret and nursed in solitude. David had a real relationship with God. God was as real to him as his brothers were, or even as Goliath was. “There is no short cut to the life of faith, which is the all-vital condition of a holy and victorious life. We must have periods of lonely meditation and fellowship with God . . . Thus alone can the sense of God’s presence become the fixed possession of the soul, enabling it to say repeatedly, with the psalmist, ‘Thou art near, O God.’” (Meyer)
ii. It stood the test of daily life. David was following the simple, humble instructions of his father. “Go take these things to you brothers,” and he did just that. We often think that we must be delivered from the normal cares of life before we can be used of God. But God wants to use us in and through the normal cares of life.
iii. It bore meekly misconstruction and rebuke. When David was misunderstood and rebuked, publicly, by his own brother, probably amid the laughs of the other soldiers, he could have blown it. But he showed the strength of the armor of God in his life, and replied rightly. He didn’t care about his glory or success, but only for the glory and success of the Lord’s cause. Goliath was a dead man right then! This is where the battle was won! If Eliab’s hurtful words can get David in the flesh, and out of the flow of the Spirit of the Lord, then David’s strength is gone. But when David ruled his spirit and answered softly, he was more in step with the Spirit of the Lord than ever. You could start digging Goliath’s grave right then!
iv. “Immediately before the encounter with the Philistine he fought a battle which cost him far more thought, prudence, and patience. The word-battle in which he had to engage with his brothers and with king Saul, was a more trying ordeal to him than going forth in the strength of the Lord to smite the uncircumcised boaster. Many a man meets with more trouble from his friends than from his enemies; and when he has learned to overcome the depressing influence of prudent friends, he makes short work of the opposition of avowed adversaries.” (Spurgeon)
C. David prepares to fight Goliath.
1. (31-32) David’s confident words become known to Saul.
Now when the words which David spoke were heard, they reported them to Saul; and he sent for him. Then David said to Saul, “Let no man’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.”
a. They reported him to Saul: David spoke boldly against Goliath. When others said, “This man,” David said, “This uncircumcised Philistine.” When the men of Israel said, “Surely he has come up to defy Israel,” David said, “That he should defy the armies of the living God.” When the men of Israel said, “The man who kills him,” David said, “The man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel.” (1 Samuel 17:25-26)
b. Now, these words of David are reported to Saul. It isn’t as if David’s words were all that bold. He never said, “Well, if I went out to fight against that Philistine, I would whip his tail. He’s nothing.” David didn’t talk like that, but he did at least stand up to Goliath. David didn’t show a lot of backbone, but he showed a lot more than anyone else in Israel, so it was worth reporting to Saul.
i. Perhaps this was the most significant thing David said: “Is there not a cause?” (1 Samuel 17:30) David was different from all the men of the army of Israel, because he saw the battle as a cause of the Lord.
c. Then David said to Saul, “Let no man’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.” Saul had waited a long time - at least 40 days - to hear someone say these words. But to hear them now, from the mouth of this boy, almost seemed like a cruel joke. “The good news is that some one finally wants to fight Goliath. The bad news is that it is a little shepherd boy.”
i. David’s words to Saul almost make the matter worse. “Let no man’s heart fail because of him” almost sounds like, “All right everyone, calm down, I’ve got the situation completely under control.” It would have seemed ridiculous coming from this teen-age boy. It would have seemed like youthful pride and overconfidence to the extreme. But it wasn’t; David really was trusting in God.
d. Your servant will go and fight with this Philistine: These are bold words. This is the first time David specifically volunteers to battle Goliath. It is one thing to say, “Someone should do something about that.” It is entirely another thing to say, “I will do something about that.”
2. (33-37) David’s training as a shepherd prepared him.
And Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are a youth, and he a man of war from his youth.” But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep his father’s sheep, and when a lion or a bear came and took a lamb out of the flock, I went out after it and struck it, and delivered the lamb from its mouth; and when it arose against me, I caught it by its beard, and struck and killed it. Your servant has killed both lion and bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, seeing he has defied the armies of the living God.” Moreover David said, “The Lord, who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” And Saul said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you!”
a. You are not able . . . you are but a youth: Saul thought David was disqualified because of his young age, size, and inexperience. This shows that Saul was looking at the battle purely in natural, outward terms. The outward “tale of the tape” said there was no way David could win. The “tale of God’s tape” said there was no way David could lose.
i. Even if you are but a youth, God can really use you. But it’s up to you. Don’t expect God to use you just because you are a youth. Instead, receive what God said to Timothy: Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity. (1 Timothy 4:12) Paul was telling Timothy, “Live in such a way that on one will have occasion to despise your youth.” So God can use us when we are young, but we have to be serious about Him and serious about our Christian life.
b. You are but a youth and he a man of war from his youth: Saul essentially tells David, “He’s been a soldier longer than you have been alive! How could you ever overcome him?” Again, this shows that Saul is only looking at the outward, not the spiritual dimensions of this battle.
c. Your servant has killed both lion and bear: God prepared David for this exact battle when David was a lowly shepherd. A lion would attack the lambs, and David would battle the lion. A bear would come against the sheep, and David would battle the bear. All along, God was preparing David to fight Goliath. How long did David prepare to fight Goliath? All of his life, up to that day.
i. This is generally God’s pattern for preparation. He calls us to be faithful right where we are at, and then uses our faithfulness to accomplish greater things for Him. If David had run scared at the lion or the bear, he would never have been ready to fight Goliath now. But he had been faithful then, so he will be faithful now.
ii. Wasn’t this bragging? No, not at all. “David does not conceal the fact that he had given both lion and bear their due. There is neither modesty, humility, nor truthfulness in giving the lie to the grace of God within you. A holy act should not be repudiated by its author any more than a brave boy should be disowned by his father. If you did work valiantly by the help of the Spirit of God, you did do it, and should not refuse to say so. How are you to glorify God by denying the fruit of his Spirit?” (Spurgeon)
iii. How did David kill both lion and bear? He just did it as a faithful shepherd. “When he kept his sheep and the lion came, David did not raise the question whether he could kill the lion: he killed him, and then the question was settled. When the bear came, and was about to rob him of one of his lambs, he did not say to himself, ‘Have I a call to kill that bear?’ Not he; but he killed him, and then he knew he was called to do it.” (Spurgeon)
iv. “When David was young in years he was old in experience, because he had watched the hand of the Lord in its dealings with him. He had not been an idler among the hills, but a worshipper, a worker, a student, a practical, living man of God . . . thus he gained his experience by the active discharge of his duty as a shepherd. He did what he was called upon to do with holy daring, and in so doing he learned the faithfulness of God. Many men have lions and bears, but no experience.” (Spurgeon)
v. “I charge you, therefore, my beloved brethren and sisters, who know the Lord, be up and in earnest to slay your lions and your bears, that you may learn how to kill your Philistines: that is to say; — serve God with all your heart, and patiently bear the cross for his name’s sake, so that when the time shall come for you to stand as a lone man for Christ, you may do it gloriously, and may bring honor to your divine Leader.” (Spurgeon)
d. Your servant has killed both lion and bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, seeing he has defied the armies of the living God. David seems to be increasing in boldness as the story progresses. First, he said someone should fight Goliath (1 Samuel 17:26, 29). Then he said he would fight Goliath (1 Samuel 17:32). Now, he says he will beat Goliath!
e. The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine: As a shepherd facing the lions and the bears, David had no idea he was being trained to fight a giant. When we are in the midst of our preparation, we rarely see how God is going to use it. We just entrust it to Him. Yet now, David can look back and know that the same God who delivered him before will also deliver him now. David knew that God’s help in times past is a prophecy of His help in the future.
i. He will deliver me: Do you believe it? Do you believe God will deliver you? God will deliver you. He has promised to get you to your destination: He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6). God may deliver you from trials or deliver you in the midst of trials, but He will deliver you!
3. (38-40) David prepares to fight Goliath.
So Saul clothed David with his armor, and he put a bronze helmet on his head; he also clothed him with a coat of mail. David fastened his sword to his armor and tried to walk, for he had not tested them. And David said to Saul, “I cannot walk with these, for I have not tested them.” So David took them off. Then he took his staff in his hand; and he chose for himself five smooth stones from the brook, and put them in a shepherd’s bag, in a pouch which he had, and his sling was in his hand. And he drew near to the Philistine.
a. So Saul clothed David with his armor: Saul was still in the natural, in the flesh, in the things that are merely outward. He figured that if this boy was going to beat Goliath, he would need the best armor in all Israel - the armor of the king.
b. He tried to walk . . . David said to Saul, “I cannot walk with these, for I have not tested them.” Saul tried to put his armor on David, but it didn’t work. It didn’t work because Saul’s armor did not physically fit David. Everything was too big, and David could not move well with Saul’s armor. Also, it didn’t work because Saul’s armor did not spiritually fit David. Armor, military technology, or human wisdom would not win this battle. The Lord God of Israel would win this battle.
i. Often, people try to fight with another person’s armor. They see God do something wonderful through someone else, and they try to copy it without really making it their own. This is never how God’s work is most effectively done.
ii. David did not face Goliath unarmed. He had much better armor than Saul’s. Saul had a bronze helmet, but David had the helmet of salvation (Ephesians 6:17). Saul had a coat of mail, but David had a breastplate of righteousness (Ephesians 6:14). Saul had a sword, but David had the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (Ephesians 6:17). David had the whole armor of God! (Ephesians 6:11).
iii. That same armor was available to Saul. At one time he had it. But now, Saul only trusted in man’s armor. That’s why David is going out to face Goliath, and Saul is giving advice from the sideline.
iv. Sadly, many people would say the same about the armor of God: I cannot walk with these, because I have not tested them. Are you more used to the weapons and armor of the flesh, or the weapons and armor of the Spirit? “Press some people to their exercise of prayer, or any other piece of the armour of God, and they must say, if they say truly, as here, I cannot do withal, for I have not been accustomed to it.” (Trapp)
c. So David took them off: David had to renounce Saul’s armor. He had to vow, “I will not fight with man’s armor. I will trust in the Lord and His armor instead.” Often we want a safe “middle ground” where we try to wear both kinds of armor. But God wants us to trust in Him and Him alone.
i. “To me, it is a pathetic thing to find so many Christians believing that the best way to bear witness for the Lord is to imitate the devil’s methods, to try to resist Satan by the same kind of program and technique, ability and organization, which he himself has perfected.” (Redpath)
d. A staff in his hand . . . five smooth stones . . . a shepherd’s bag, in a pouch which he had, and his sling was in his hand: David used the same things he had used before. These were the same tools he had used to kill the lion and the bear before. What God had used before, He would use again.
i. A charming - but purely legendary - Rabbinical story says these five particular stones called out to David from the brook and said, “By us you shall overcome the giant!”
ii. They were five smooth stones. “Had they been rough or angular, they would not have easily passed through the air, and their asperities would, in the course of their passage, have given them a false direction. Had they not been smooth, they could not have been readily despatched from the sling.” (Clarke)
iii. Why did David choose five stones? He only needed one to kill Goliath. Perhaps it was because Goliath had four brothers (1 Samuel 21:18-22).
e. And he drew near the Philistine: This is where it mattered. David could have said the bold words, renounced Saul’s armor, trusted in God’s armor, and gathered his shepherd’s tools. But if he never went into the battle, what would it matter? Ultimately, David had the faith not just to talk, not just to renounce, not just to prepare, but to actually draw near the Philistine. That’s real faith.
D. David defeats Goliath.
1. (41-44) Goliath curses David and his God.
So the Philistine came, and began drawing near to David, and the man who bore the shield went before him. And when the Philistine looked about and saw David, he disdained him; for he was only a youth, ruddy and good-looking. So the Philistine said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. And the Philistine said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field!”
a. So the Philistine came . . . and the man who bore the shield went before him: Obviously, because of Goliath’s size and experience, it was not a “fair” fight. But to add to even that, it was two against one! Goliath had an armor bearer with him.
b. When the Philistine looked about and saw David, he disdained him: The idea behind looked about is almost that Goliath had to look around to find David. David was so small compared to this man, that Goliath had a hard time even seeing him. But when he did see him, he disdained him. There was nothing - nothing - in David that struck fear or respect in Goliath’s heart. Goliath felt insulted that the had even sent David! (Am I a dog that you come to me with sticks?)
i. When Goliath asked, “Am I a dog?” it was worse than it sounds. The Hebrew word for dog (kaleb) is used in passages like Deuteronomy 23:18 for male homosexual prostitutes.
c. And the Philistine cursed David by his gods: If it hadn’t been established before, it is certainly settled now. This is not a fair fight. It isn’t Goliath and his armor bearer against David. It is Goliath and his armor bearer against David and the Lord God of Israel. The battle is over. Anyone with any spiritual understanding could finish the story from here.
d. Come to me: “Bring it on, little boy!” David will be more than happy to oblige Goliath’s request.
2. (45-47) David, full of faith, replies to Goliath.
Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you and take your head from you. And this day I will give the carcasses of the camp of the Philistines to the birds of the air and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. Then all this assembly shall know that the Lord does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s, and He will give you into our hands.”
a. Then David said to the Philistine: We can imagine Goliath’s deep, deep, bass voice reverberating against the tall hills surrounding the Valley of Elah. It must have struck fear into the heart of every Israelite soldier, and probably even some of the Philistine soldiers! Then David answered with his teen-age voice; perhaps even with his voice cracking. The Philistines would have laughed when they heard David practically screaming in his cracking voice, and the Israelites would have been mortified.
b. You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied: David makes a contrast between himself and Goliath, without giving credit to Goliath himself. “Those are some pretty fancy weapons you’ve got there, mister. But I’ve got something far better than your weapons.”
i. To say, “I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts” is to say, “I come as a representative of the Lord of hosts, the God who has heavenly armies at His command. I am a sent man, on a mission from God.”
ii. Meyer lists some characteristics of those who truly battle as representatives of God, in the name of the Lord: Their motives are pure. Though David was accused of having evil motives, his motives were in fact pure. He was motivated by a true love for the Lord, and for the glory and honor of the Lord. They are willing to let the Lord lead the battle. David did this at the prompting of God, not his own flesh. They take no counsel with the flesh. David would not wear Saul’s armor. They are willing to stand alone. David was willing to fight all alone.
c. This day, the Lord will deliver you into my hand: David is bolder and bolder! It was one thing to tell Saul he would kill Goliath (1 Samuel 17:36). It was an entirely different thing to tell Goliath he would kill Goliath, and to say the Lord would do it this day. Adding I will strike you down and take your head from you was a nice, emphatic touch!
i. David was careful to say the Lord will deliver you into my hand. David was bold, but he was bold in God, not in himself. He knew that the battle belonged to the Lord.
d. That all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel: This whole incident made David famous. But that was not why he did it. He did it for the fame and the glory of the Lord, not his own name. He wanted all the earth to know that there is a God in Israel.
e. Then all this assembly shall know: At this point, it wasn’t enough for all the earth to know that there is a God in Israel. Israel needed to know that there was a God in Israel! They needed to know it also! Saul and the rest of the soldiers of Israel thought that the Lord only could save with sword and spear. They didn’t really believe that the battle is the Lord’s. David was about to give them some living proof!
f. He will give you into our hands: Again, notice David’s humility. It isn’t He will give you into my hands. David knows this was an “our” battle, but that he was fighting on behalf of all Israel. If they weren’t trusting in the Lord, David would trust for them!
3. (48-49) David kills Goliath.
So it was, when the Philistine arose and came and drew near to meet David, that David hastened and ran toward the army to meet the Philistine. Then David put his hand in his bag and took out a stone; and he slung it and struck the Philistine in his forehead, so that the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face to the earth.
a. When the Philistine arose and came and drew near to meet David, that David hastened and ran toward the army to meet the Philistine: What a scene! Goliath, enraged at David’s boldness, drew near to quickly kill David. David didn’t run away. He didn’t hide. He didn’t panic. He didn’t drop to his knees and pray. Instead, David hastened and ran . . . to meet the Philistine.
i. David knew that the battle belonged to the Lord (This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, 1 Samuel 17:46). But when Goliath ran at him, he didn’t just look up into heaven and say, “O.K. Lord, now is the time to do it.” David knew that it was the Lord’s battle, and the Lord’s victory, but that he had something he was supposed to do in the battle.
ii. Many Christians struggle at this very point. Is God supposed to do it or am I supposed to do it? The answer is, “Yes!” God does it and we do it. Trust God, rely on Him, and then get to work and work as hard as you can! That is how we see the work of God accomplished.
iii. “The lazy-bones of our orthodox churches cry, ‘God will do his own work’; and then they look out the softest pillow they can find, and put it under their heads, and say, ‘The eternal purposes will be carried out: God will be glorified.’ That is all very fine talk, but it can be used with the most mischievous design. You can make opium out of it, which will lull you into a deep and dreadful slumber, and prevent your being of any kind of use at all.” (Spurgeon)
b. He slung it and struck the Philistine in his forehead, so that the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face: David had the calm hand and careful aim of someone who is really trusting in God. He used the sling - which was a leather strap with a pouch in the middle - to hurl a stone, killing Goliath.
i. It’s easy to see where this battle was won: out with the sheep of David’s father. In those lonely hours alone with the lambs, David would talk to God and take a lot of target practice with his sling. Now his communion with the Lord and his skill with the sling are both used by God! “In the use of the sling it requires much practice to hit the mark; but when once this dexterity is acquired, the sling is nearly as fatal as the musket or bow.” (Clarke)
ii. Everyone else thought, “Goliath is so big, I can’t beat him.” David thought, “Goliath is so big, I can’t miss him.” “A man of less faith might have been too nervous to take the proper aim.” (Balikie)
c. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face: Just as the Philistine god Dagon had fallen on his face before the Lord (1 Samuel 5:2-5), so now the worshipper of Dagon falls on his face, being struck in the forehead.
i. Trapp calls the forehead, “The seat of pride and impudency; there being no other part of Goliath capable of danger; the rest of him was defenced with a brazen wall. This was the Lord’s own work, and it is justly marvelous in our eyes.”
4. (50-54) David beheads Goliath and Israel romps over the Philistines.
So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone, and struck the Philistine and killed him. But there was no sword in the hand of David. Therefore David ran and stood over the Philistine, took his sword and drew it out of its sheath and killed him, and cut off his head with it. And when the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled. Now the men of Israel and Judah arose and shouted, and pursued the Philistines as far as the entrance of the valley and to the gates of Ekron. And the wounded of the Philistines fell along the road to Shaaraim, even as far as Gath and Ekron. Then the children of Israel returned from chasing the Philistines, and they plundered their tents. And David took the head of the Philistine and brought it to Jerusalem, but he put his armor in his tent.
a. David ran and stood over the Philistine, took his sword and drew it out of its sheath and killed him, and cut off his head with it: First, David made certain the job was dead. You can’t mess around with sin or your spiritual enemies; you must kill them dead. Second, David used Goliath’s own sword to cut off his head.
i. At a later time, David would write in Psalm 57:6: They have prepared a net for my steps; my soul is bowed down; they have dug a pit before me; into the midst of it they themselves have fallen. God loves to use the devil’s own plan to entrap him!
b. When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled. Hadn’t they agreed before (1 Samuel 17:9) that if their champion lost, they would surrender to Israel? But they didn’t. We should never expect the devil to live up to his promises. But the soldiers of Israel pursued and defeated the Philistines. David’s example had given them great courage and faith in the Lord.
i. David never read 1 Timothy 4:12, but he lived it: Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity. David led by example, and led Israel to a great victory.
c. David took the head of the Philistine and brought it to Jerusalem, but he put his armor in his tent: Since it was many years later that Jerusalem was conquered (2 Samuel 5:6-10), it is likely that this means David eventually brought Goliath’s head to Jerusalem. But David will use the sword of Goliath later (1 Samuel 21:9). David had some enduring reminders of God’s great work.
i. “Presumably David had the head pickled and hung it in his banqueting hall after he had captured Jerusalem.” (Ellison)
ii. “I wish that young men here would aspire to brave lives for the God of Israel. I would that for truth, and goodness, and the eternal glory, they would be ready to rise to the measure of their destined hour. Why should we all be mean men? Is there not room for a few downright devoted beings, who will lift their hand unto the Lord, and never go back? If self-sacrifice is wanted, let us make it. If some one is needed for a heathen land, or to bear testimony for truth in this almost apostate nation, let us cry, ‘Here am I! Send me!’ God’s David will not hang back through cowardly fear or dread of consequences, but will take up his place as God shall help him, and say, like Martin Luther, ‘I can do no other: so help me, O my God.’” (Spurgeon)
d. David did it! He conquered the giant Goliath. Are there impossible victories God has waiting for you, if you will be like David?
i. “Ah,” one says. “That was fine for David. But you don’t know the trouble I’ve seen.” Let Spurgeon answer you: “‘Ah, you do not know my trouble, dear sir!’ True, my dear friend, and you do not know mine, and I am not going to tell you. It would not comfort you if I told you my distresses; and it certainly would not comfort me if you told me all your airings, and moanings, and sighings. I expect that we have each to suffer the best trouble that could have been appointed us. If you had my cross it would be an unsuitable burden for you; and if I had yours, it would be a grievous load for me.”
5. (55-58) Saul meets a victorious David.
When Saul saw David going out against the Philistine, he said to Abner, the commander of the army, “Abner, whose son is this youth?” And Abner said, “As your soul lives, O king, I do not know.” So the king said, “Inquire whose son this young man is.” Then, as David returned from the slaughter of the Philistine, Abner took him and brought him before Saul with the head of the Philistine in his hand. And Saul said to him, “Whose son are you, young man?” So David answered, “I am the son of your servant Jesse the Bethlehemite.”
a. Inquire whose son this young man is: Does this mean that Saul did not recognize David, even though David had played for Saul in the palace, to soothe the king when the distressing spirit came upon him (1 Samuel 16:14-23)?
i. Perhaps Saul did recognize David, and he was simply asking about David’s family background (inquire whose son this young man is). After all, Saul had promised his daughter to the man who killed Goliath, and Saul wanted to know something about his future son-in-law.
ii. Or, it may be that Saul indeed did not recognized David. Some think that David played behind a screen or a curtain for Saul, and so Saul never saw his face. Others think that Saul was influenced by the distressing spirit at this time, and not entirely in his right mind. We also know that David had not spent all his time at the palace. He also would go home and tend the sheep, presumably for extended periods (1 Samuel 17:15). It’s possible that David’s appearance changed during a time when he was away from Saul, so Saul didn’t immediately recognize him. When Saul calls David a young man, the word means someone who is full grown, mature, and ready to marry.
b. David won a great victory, but not greater than the victory Jesus won on our behalf. David’s victory over Goliath is a “picture in advance” of the victory Jesus won for us.
i. Both David and Jesus represented their people. Whatever happened to the representative would happen to God’s people also.
ii. Both David and Jesus fought the battle on ground that rightfully belonged to God’s people, ground that they had lost.
iii. Both David and Jesus fought when their enemy was able to dominate the people of God through fear and intimidation alone.
iv. Both David and Jesus were sent to the battleground by their father (1 Samuel 17:17).
v. Both David and Jesus were scorned and rejected by their own brethren.
vi. Both David and Jesus fought the battle without concern with human strategies or conventional wisdom.
vii. Both David and Jesus won the battle, but saw that their enemies did not then give up willingly.
viii. Both David and Jesus fought a battle where the victory was assured even before it started.
© 2001 David Guzik - No distribution beyond personal use without permission