“David,” a 17-foot tall marble statue, was finished by Michelangelo (age 29!) in 1504 and now stands in the Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence, Italy. Some viewers believe it shows David before his fight with Goliath, tense and ready for combat, his sling in his left hand.
1 Samuel 17 (NRSV)
David and Goliath
Now the Philistines gathered their armies for battle; they were gathered at Socoh, which belongs to Judah, and encamped between Socoh and Azekah, in Ephes-dammim. 2Saul and the Israelites gathered and encamped in the valley of Elah, and formed ranks against the Philistines. 3The Philistines stood on the mountain on the one side, and Israel stood on the mountain on the other side, with a valley between them.
4And there came out from the camp of the Philistines a champion named Goliath, of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span (that is, between 8 and a half to 9 feet). 5He had a helmet of bronze on his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail; the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of bronze. 6He had greaves of bronze on his legs and a javelin of bronze slung between his shoulders. 7The shaft of his spear was like a weaver’s beam, and his spear’s head weighed six hundred shekels of iron; and his shield-bearer went before him (that is, his armor and weapons weighed somewhere between 150 and 200 pounds).
I have read that the word champion comes to English from Old French by way of Latin and is related to the Hebrew word meaning “the middle man.” The idea is that this man stood between his army and the enemy’s army, and fought as a representative of his side. Of course, we usually remember the winners instead of the losers, so champion carries a victorious connotation.
8He stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why have you come out to draw up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me. 9If 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.” 10And the Philistine said, “Today I defy the ranks of Israel! Give me a man, that we may fight together.” 11When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid.
DISADVANTAGE: Saul is afraid. Yet Saul has won notable military victories. And we remember that Saul stands taller than any other Israelite — head and shoulders above the rest. Logically, this is his battle; he is the reasonable choice to stand up for Israel. But he is “dismayed and greatly afraid.”
12Now David was the son of an Ephrathite of Bethlehem in Judah, named Jesse, who had eight sons. In the days of Saul the man was already old and advanced in years. 13The three eldest sons of Jesse had followed Saul to the battle; the names of his three sons who went to the battle were Eliab the firstborn, and next to him Abinadab, and the third Shammah. 14David was the youngest; the three eldest followed Saul, 15but David went back and forth from Saul to feed his father’s sheep at Bethlehem.
16For forty days the Philistine came forward and took his stand, morning and evening.
Forty— days or years — is a number consistently used in Scripture for testing. Noah sat in the ark while it rained for 40 days. The Israelites wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. Jesus was tested by the devil after 40 days of fasting. Here Goliath mocks Israel and their God for 40 days.
17Jesse said to his son David, “Take for your brothers an ephah of this parched grain and these ten loaves, and carry them quickly to the camp to your brothers; 18also take these ten cheeses to the commander of their thousand. See how your brothers fare, and bring some token from them.” 19Now Saul, and they, and all the men of Israel, were in the valley of Elah, fighting with the Philistines.
20David rose early in the morning, left the sheep with a keeper, took the provisions, and went as Jesse had commanded him. He came to the encampment as the army was going forth to the battle line, shouting the war cry. 21Israel and the Philistines drew up for battle, army against army. 22David left the things in charge of the keeper of the baggage, ran to the ranks, and went and greeted his brothers. 23As he talked with them, the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name, came up out of the ranks of the Philistines, and spoke the same words as before. And David heard him. 24All the Israelites, when they saw the man, fled from him and were very much afraid.
25The Israelites said, “Have you seen this man who has come up? Surely he has come up to defy Israel. The king will greatly enrich the man who kills him, and will give him his daughter and make his family free in Israel.”
26David said to the men who stood by him, “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?”
The situation is desperate! Saul offers a bribe, as well as a bride and a tax exemption, to entice someone into fighting the giant! But David sees the battle in spiritual terms. We remember that in Acts, God calls David “a man after my own heart.”
27The people answered him in the same way, “So shall it be done for the man who kills him.”
28His eldest brother Eliab heard him talking to the men; and Eliab’s anger was kindled against David. He said, “Why have you come down? With whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know your presumption and the evil of your heart; for you have come down just to see the battle.”
29David said, “What have I done now? It was only a question.” 30He turned away from him toward another and spoke in the same way; and the people answered him again as before.
31When the words that David spoke were heard, they repeated them before Saul; and he sent for him.
This is good news and bad news for King Saul. Good news: finally someone is willing to fight the giant! Bad news: it’s a kid!
32David said to Saul, “Let no one’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.”
1 Peter 1:13 (NIV)
Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.
33Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are just a boy, and he has been a warrior from his youth.”
“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.”
— Charles Haddon Spurgeon
34But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father; and whenever a lion or a bear came, and took a lamb from the flock, 35I went after it and struck it down, rescuing the lamb from its mouth; and if it turned against me, I would catch it by the jaw, strike it down, and kill it. 36Your servant has killed both lions and bears; and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, since he has defied the armies of the living God.” 37David said, “The Lord, who saved me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, will save me from the hand of this Philistine.
God had been preparing David, and now David understood that. Goliath is a dead man right now!!
So Saul said to David, “Go, and may the Lord be with you!”
2 Timothy 2:1 (Contemporary English Version)
My child, Christ Jesus is kind, and you must let him make you strong.
38Saul clothed David with his armor; he put a bronze helmet on his head and clothed him with a coat of mail. 39David strapped Saul’s sword over the armor, and he tried in vain to walk, for he was not used to them. Then David said to Saul, “I cannot walk with these; for I am not used to them.” So David removed them.
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).
40Then he took his staff in his hand, and chose five smooth stones from the wadi, and put them in his shepherd’s bag, in the pouch; his sling was in his hand, and he drew near to the Philistine.
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).
41The Philistine came on and drew near to David, with his shield-bearer in front of him. 42When the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him, for he was only a youth, ruddy and handsome in appearance. 43The Philistine said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. 44The Philistine said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the field.”
45But David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with sword and spear and 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. 46This very day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head; and I will give the dead bodies of the Philistine army this very day to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the earth, so that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, 47and that all this assembly may know that the Lord does not save by sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s and he will give you into our hand.”
48When the Philistine drew nearer to meet David, David ran quickly
“David ran” — so far was he from fear!
–from John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes
toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. 49David put his hand in his bag, took out a stone, slung it, and struck the Philistine on his forehead; the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell face down on the ground.
Ecclesiastes 3:5 (NASB)
There is . . . a time to throw stones . . .
The Israelites thought: Goliath is so big, I can’t fight him.
David thought: Goliath is so big, I can’t miss him!
50So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone, striking down the Philistine and killing him; there was no sword in David’s hand.
Do you remember this song from your childhood? HERE is “Only a Boy Named David.”
51Then David ran and stood over the Philistine; he grasped his sword, drew it out of its sheath, and killed him; then he cut off his head with it.
When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled. 52The troops of Israel and Judah rose up with a shout and pursued the Philistines as far as Gath and the gates of Ekron, so that the wounded Philistines fell on the way from Shaaraim as far as Gath and Ekron. 53The Israelites came back from chasing the Philistines, and they plundered their camp. 54David took the head of the Philistine and brought it to Jerusalem; but he put his armor in his tent.
David will use Goliath’s sword later. But the giant’s head? — a hunting trophy on his living room wall?! At least one commentator has suggested that David had Goliath’s head pickled and eventually hung it in his banqueting hall!
55When Saul saw David go out against the Philistine, he said to Abner, the commander of the army, “Abner, whose son is this young man?”
Abner said, “As your soul lives, O king, I do not know.”
56The king said, “Inquire whose son the stripling is.”
57On David’s return from killing the Philistine, Abner took him and brought him before Saul, with the head of the Philistine in his hand.
“David,” by Caravaggio, 1607 (Kinsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria)
58Saul said to him, “Whose son are you, young man?”
And David answered, “I am the son of your servant Jesse the Bethlehemite.”
What impossible situations are in front of you, situations that call for victory? Let this story HERE renew your faith! Along with David, and Steve Green — “We Trust in the Name of the Lord our God.”
The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Images courtesy of: