But 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. This 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, and 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."

1 Samuel 17:45-47

Whether you believe in the Bible, the Tanakh, or simply consider the Hebrew Scriptures as an ancient book of literature, the account of David and Goliath is one of the most well known stories in the Old Testament.

The People

David

David, the youngest of eight sons of Jesse, was a small shepherd boy from Bethlehem. According to scripture, he had fiery red hair, and was strong, healthy, and courageous. He bravely defended his flocks from wild beasts including lions and bears with his trusty sling. Of course it wasn't all action and adventure with David; he was also a musician and a poet - a writer of psalms.

Goliath

Goliath of Gath was known as one of the greatest, fiercest, and monstrous warriors of all time. He was said to stand "six cubits and a span" tall (about 9.5-10 feet or 3 meters). His armor was heavier than any of the Israelite warriors, and his weapons were taller than any of them.

The Story

The following is a paraphrase of the text that can be found in 1 Samuel 17.

The Israelites (lead by King Saul) and Philistines were encamped in Judah separated by the valley of Elah. Each day, the mightiest of the Philistine warriors, Goliath of Gath, would step forward and shout to the armies of King Saul, "Aren't you here to fight the Philistines? Am I not a Philistine? Choose your best man and send him down to fight me. If he can kill me we will become your servants. If I kill him, you will serve us. I defy the army of Saul to send someone to fight me!" Normally these would be some serious fighting words, but Goliath wasn't your typical soldier. It was said that he stood nearly 10ft (3m) tall. His chain mail alone weighed 180lbs (81kg), the tip of his spear weighed over 20lb (10kg). The Israelites were very afraid of this giant.

It so happened that three of Jesse's sons were in Saul's army. So after 40 days of being away from home, Jesse sent his youngest son, David, to bring them some supplies. So David got up early the next morning, and left with grain, bread, and cheeses. Just as he was arriving at the camp, Goliath was beginning his daily taunting of the Israelites. David was angered that this uncircumcised heathen should be allowed to speak to the chosen people of God in this manner. He quickly learned from the soldiers that King Saul had promised riches and his daughter's hand in marriage to the man who could defeat Goliath. Naturally, he volunteered.

Saul quickly learned that someone had taken his challenge, and wished to meet with David. The king immediately saw that David was just a small young boy and dismissed him. However, David spoke up and told Saul of his fights with lions and bears, and insisted that with God almighty on his side, he would be victorious. Saul presented David with his personal helmet, armor, sword, and shield and sent him out to battle. Unfortunately, David was much too small to handle all of this equipment, so he set it aside and went down to the valley of Elah with only his staff and his trusty sling. He walked to the stream and chose five smooth stones, then continued toward the huge warrior.

As Goliath saw David approach, he mocked him saying, "What am I, a dog that you come to me with a stick?" He then continued to direct insults at David and his God, and promised to tear him apart and feed his flesh to wild animals. To this David replied, "You come at me with sword and spear, but I come to you in the name of the Lord who you have defied. Today God will give your life to me, and I will cut off your head. Your weapons are no match against my God!"

With that, David grabbed a single stone from his pouch, placed it in his sling and let it fly at the giant. His aim was true, and the stone hit Goliath in the center of his forehead, sinking into his skull. He immediately fell face-first, to his death. David then made good on his promise by running up to Goliath, and cutting off his head with the giant's own sword. Upon seeing this, the Philistines fled, but the Israelites pursued them. It is said that there was a path of dead Philistines leading all the way back to their homeland.

From this point, David became Saul's right hand man. Unfortunately, Saul did not make good on all of his promises, so many years later David defeated him to become King...

...but that, my friends, is another story.

Typological Connections

The story of David and Goliath has numerous typological connections throughout the early books of the Hebrew Scriptures. Simply stated, we learn from David that the might of men does not bring victory in battle; it is the strength of David's "LORD of hosts" that hands out success and defeat as He chooses. Armed with only a sling, David defeats the well armored giant with a single shot - obviously the work of God. One of the earliest examples we see of Yahweh bringing military victory is with Abraham. With a troop of slightly over three hundred men, Abraham defeats a coalition of kings to rescue his nephew, Lot. Even one of the defeated kings recognizes the power of God's part in the victory as he says to Abraham, "blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!"

The stories of Moses provide us with several typological examples of the Lord providing military victory. Most obvious of these is the total destruction of the Egyptian armies as they are swallowed by the Red Sea. Not only do the Israelites never raise a sword, but Moses is talked through each step by God Himself. Victory is again assured when the Edomite tribe of Amalek attacks Israel. Moses simply directs Joshua to send "some men" out to fight them. Holding his staff high during the battle assures a winning battle, and later the Lord tells Moses that this will be a permanent victory because He is going to "utterly blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven." Moses is later promised that YHWH will "send an angel in front of you to guard you on the way" to be "an enemy to your enemies and a foe to your foes" and make them "turn their back to you."

Joshua, another faithful servant of God is given numerous military victories, the most notable of these being the defeat of Jericho. Again, before any of the Israelites raise a weapon, God crumbles the walls of this great city allowing them to enter and impose the ban. Another miraculous victory occurred as Israel defended the city of Gibeon. After the men successfully battled the attackers, Yahweh sends "huge stones from heaven" against the enemies killing more men than were killed by the sword.

David's statement above also enforces some of the themes found in the book of I Samuel. One of the major themes is the act of proving the existence and power of Yahweh to non-believers. We see that David defeats Goliath so "that all the earth may know that there is a God." Several other passages provide proof such as this. One example includes the story where the Ark of the Covenant is captured by the Philistines. When the statue of their god, Dagon, was repeatedly knocked over and the people in the vicinity were infected with tumors, the Philistines understand that the God of the Israelites was real and full of power. To prove this to themselves, the Philistines load the Ark onto a cart pulled by cows and state "if it the Ark goes up... to its own land... then it is he Yahweh who has done us this great harm." Of course, the Ark returns home and God's influence is proven.

The passage above also exemplifies the theme of punishing those who defy the will of God. Throughout the early books of the Hebrew Scriptures, God is seen punishing those who are disobedient. In Genesis, the entire world is wiped clean through the great flood because "the Lord saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth." The Lord causes the annihilation of Sodom and Gomorrah because of the grave sins he sees there. Yahweh later sends plagues on the entire country of Egypt because of its sins against His chosen people.

One of the most important lessons learned from David is seen through the common theme of reliance on God (or lack of self-reliance). David completely trusts his Lord to bring him victory. He sheds the weapons and armor that is provided to him simply because, with the Lord on his side, he doesn't need them. Most of the heroes of the Scriptures are people who placed their faith in God rather than in their own strength. Moses wondered how he could lead the people with his inability to speak well, but trusted that God would help him. Regardless of their complaining, the Israelites that Moses was leading were rewarded for their reliance on God through provisions of manna, quail, and water throughout their time in the desert. The reliance of the young Caleb and Joshua was shown after their return from spying in Canaan. While the other spies reported that there was no way to defeat the great Canaanite warriors, only these two believed their God had the power to help them conquer the land. For this reason, Caleb and Joshua are the only two men from the group of Israelites at this time to actually enter the Promised Land.


Part of this was a homework assignment. I fleshed it out quite a bit for E2.

CST Approved

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