1 Samuel 17
-In Genesis 3:15, God promised a deliver from the seed of the woman to come forth to crush the seed of the Serpent. In Genesis 49:10, Jacob prophesied that a scepter would rise from the tribe of Judah that would rule all people. In Numbers 49:10, Balaam repeated the prophesy of a coming king from the tribe of Judah that would rule over God’s people and deliver them.
-In Genesis 13:14-15, the Lord promised Abraham that his descendants would possess the Promised Land. This was repeated in the time of Moses. (Exodus 12:13; Deuteronomy 9:5)
-Throughout the generations of the Israelite judges, the Israelites suffered the loss of the Promised Land that Joshua had conquered and they suffered the oppression from the surrounding nations at the time, such as Midian, Moab, Philistia, Amelek, and Ammon.
-God spoke through Moses about the time in which Israel would be ruled by a king who needed to be godly and follow God’s Law perfectly. (Deuteronomy 17:14-20)
-After the last of the judges, Samuel, bid his farewell in the service of Israel, the people demanded a king—but not for righteous reasons. (1 Samuel 12:20) God provided them a king in the man of Saul from Benjamin. (1 Samuel 9:1-2; 1 Samuel 13:1)
-The major source of strife for Israel and King Saul were the people of Philistia in the early years of his reign, for the Philistines occupied part of the Promised Land and had not been driven out. In 1 Samuel 13, King Saul abandoned God’s Law by offering a sacrifice that only the priests could do, and this caused God to forever end any prospects of Saul and his descendants being the promised kingdom for Israel. (1 Samuel 13:13-14)
-Saul’s son Jonathan defeated the Philistines in 1 Samuel 14 in a manner almost reminiscent in the manner in which Gideon defeated the Midianites. But this caused a rift between Saul and Jonathan due to the vow Saul had made. Saul was then firmly and forevermore rejected as the promised king over Israel in 1 Samuel 16.
-In 1 Samuel 16, the Lord chose David of the tribe of Judah, the son of Jesse, who was from Bethlehem because God was well pleased with him, even though David had no majesty about him. Samuel then anointed him through the pouring of the oil, and the Holy Spirit fell upon David from that day forward, empowering him to be the promised king.
-By the time of Jesus Christ, the coming Messiah was termed the “Son of David” (John 7:42), and He was anointed for the same reason and in the same fashion as David was anointed by Samuel. (Hebrews 1:8-9; Luke 3:21-22)
The Enemies of the Israelites
-Verse 1: The Philistines lived in the modern day region of Palestine, for the name Philistia became the foundation for the Greek word Palaistinei, from which the name “Palestine” changed. Historical research has thought that they came from the island of Crete, since they were descended from Ham, Egypt, and Casluhim. (Genesis 10:6-14) They then migrated to the region of modern-day Palestine, where Abraham and Isaac encountered them approximately 2000 B.C. (Genesis 21:32; Genesis 26:1)
-Verses 2-3: The Philistines gathered for battle on Judah’s territory, and King Saul and the army of Israel gathered against them, separated by the valley of Elah, which runs from Bethlehem to Gath and Ekron. This battle site would be about 14 miles west from David’s hometown.
-Verses 4-7: Goliath (גָּלְיָ֥ת, meaning “conspicuous”) of Gath was the most formidable man the nation of Israel had ever encountered. He stood 9’9” tall, which would dwarf the tallest men known in the modern world. The tallest living man today is 8’5” from Ukraine, and the tallest man on record was Robert Wadlow from the United States standing at 8’11”. Unlike many giants, however, Goliath was a very strong and powerful man with no physical ailments. The tip of his spear weighed 15lbs, his coal of mail weighed approximately 125lbs. He was covered in bronze armor, and his javelin was cast out of bronze. The only unprotected vital area would have been his face.
-Bronze is made by melting down copper and tin. Copper is too soft by itself, and tin is too brittle. But when mixed together, a very strong and useful metal is created. Bronze would have been extraordinarily expensive in the 2000’s B.C. Bronze weapons are much lighter, sharper, and stronger than weapons made out of stone or wood. Bronze armor is also very much lighter than cast iron armor.
-Verse 8-9: “Choose” (בְּרוּ־) has the idea of being sent towards being consumed, for it literally means “to eat.” Goliath declared himself to be from the nation of Philistia, and mocked the tiny nation of Israel for being the slaves of Saul. He wagered that whichever champion one, that nation would serve his nation as slaves.
-Verse 10: In the ancient near Eastern culture, a champion could be sent to fight on behalf of a nation to decide the fate of that nation. Goliath boldly put himself forward, mocking the nation of Israel and mocking their king. “Defy” (חֵרַ֛פְתִּי) to slur and to cast reproach.
-Saul, being the most formidable man of Israel (1 Samuel 10:23), did not accept the challenge but became paralyzed by fear due to his weakness and inability, because the fact that the Lord had rejected him as king. The average height in that era would have been around 5’5” for men and 5’3” for women, so Saul would have been between 6’3” and 6’6”.
-“Dismayed” (וַיֵּחַ֥תּוּ—to be shattered of all confidence and resolve) often accompanies fear (וַיִּֽרְא֖וּ), which is intensified by the adjective “greatly” (מְאֹֽד׃—with much force) (Deuteronomy 1:21; Deuteronomy 31:8; Joshua 1:9), and the Lord frequently told the Israelites not to fear, for He was with them (Joshua 8:1; Joshua 10:25), but since the apostasy of Israel, they often had fallen into dismay and fear. (1 Samuel 17:11)
-Principle #1: The enemies of God’s people are far more formidable and far mightier than we are, who are God’s people, and our own strength, ability, and capability, causes us to realize how far inferior we are to the enemies we face, producing a debilitating fear, for we often think that God is not near. (Psalm 31:10; Psalm 38:10; Psalm 69:3)
The Arrival of the Shepherd
-Samuel had promised the Israelites that God would not forsake them because of His love for them, out of His great mercy and glory. (1 Samuel 12:20-23)
-The promises of God were at stake, and the glory of the Lord was in question, as it had been before in Israel’s history. (Exodus 31:11-13)
-Verses 12-13: The Divine Writer of Samuel through the words of the anonymous human author now mentions David, whose name means “beloved.” He was from the region of Bethlehem Ephrathah, which means “house of bread.” His father Jesse, the grandson of Boaz and Ruth, was now too old and frail to fight in the Israelite army. Therefore, Eliab, Abinadab, and Shammah went into battle under Saul’s service. Eliab means “God is the Father,” Abinadab means “Father of Nobility [or Liberality],” and Shammah means “astonishment.” Shammah would be the father of the valiant Jonathon in 2 Samuel 21:20. Eliab, Abinadab, and Shammah all were specifically rejected as candidates for being anointed. (1 Samuel 16:6-10)
-Verses 14-15: David had been chosen as the favored servant of the king (1 Samuel 16:15-21), but he was still working part-time for his father tending the family sheep. (1 Samuel 16:11) The early patriarchs were shepherds (Genesis 12:16; Genesis 30:31-40; Exodus 3:1), but became an unfavorable occupation and was given to slaves, hired workers, and younger sons as the older sons favored the military or farming.
-A shepherd in David’s day would often be for days with the flock, for it was their job to feed the sheep (Psalm 23:1), protect the sheep (1 Samuel 17:34-35), guard the sheep (Zephaniah 2:8; Luke 2:8), and count the sheep as they entered the sheepfold. (Jeremiah 33:13)
-Verse 16: The taunting and the defiance from Goliath continued unchecked for forty days. After 40 days, God would have seemed to have left His people (Isaiah 49:14), unlike previous times where He acted mightily on behalf of His Name. (Numbers 12:23; Isaiah 50:2) The sinful confidence of the Philistines would have grown to be bold and proud arrogance towards the God of Israel. But God is not mocked. (Galatians 6:7) God could have righteously abandoned His people for their sins, as well. (1 Samuel 12:25)
-Verse 17-18: David arrived in an inconspicuous fashion that would not have been noticed except by the observant. His father sent him to his brothers to provide nourishment and bring back good news, in like manner as Jacob had sent Joseph. 2,000 years later, another young Man from Bethlehem would arrive in inconspicuous fashion (Luke 2:10-12) except for those who were observant (Matthew 2:1-2), who was sent by His Father (John 6:57) to bring healing to His brothers. (Matthew 15:24)
-Verse 19: King Saul and all the fighting men of Israel were gathered in battle formation, so if they were annihilated, the entire kingdom would be lost—and God’s promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob would seem to be obliterated.
-Verses 20-23: David now encountered the site of the battle, where the Israelites and the Philistines had just drawn up battle lines on opposing sides of the valley. The war cry resounded, and Goliath emerged as he had for forty days—but this time, the anointed Shepherd-King heard him.
-Principle #2: In the moment of darkness, when the destiny of the promised kingdom hangs in the balance, when God seems silent and the people of God seem to be overcome as a just punishment for our sins, God sends His anointed One, who is our Shepherd-King.
The Revealing of the Anointed
-Verse 24: The people of the Lord were seized by great fear—again—at Goliath’s taunts, and they fled from the scene. This was in part due to the judgment of the Lord and in part due to their own disobedience. (Deuteronomy 32:30)
-Verse 25-27: A great bounty had been promised for the champion who could overthrow Goliath—a bride, great riches, and tax exemption for the man’s family. Goliath was “defying” (לְחָרֵ֥ף) by bringing scorn and reproach upon the people of Israel and Israel’s God. (2 Kings 19:4; 2 Kings 19:16; 2 Chronicles 32:17) David then asks soldiers standing near him what was to be done, and the answer was repeated. David sets the conflict in terms of the armies of the “living God” (אֱלֹהִ֥ים חַיִּֽים׃) and the “uncircumcised Philistine”. (הֶֽעָרֵל֙ הַפְּלִשְׁתִּ֤י). God is the great King over all, for He is the only living God. (Deuteronomy 5:26; Joshua 3:10; Jeremiah 10:10) To be uncircumcised was to be a pagan who willfully defied the living God and the covenant community.
-Verse 28: Eliab became angry at David, and he disbelieved his motivations and accused him of harboring evil intentions, specifically pride (זְדֹנְךָ֗) and an evil (רֹ֣עַ) heart. Such would also be true of the Son of David when He appeared. (John 7:5; John 7:20).
-Verses 29-30: David, rather exasperated with Eliab, turns and asks other men to verify the reports of a potential reward. “Is there not a cause?” is used in the KJV, but this should be better rendered “Was it not just a question?” The men repeated the same as before.
-Verses 31-33: Soldiers, overhearing David speaking, reported his words to Saul, for no one for over 40 days had spoken as David did. Another Shepherd-King would also speak words that no man had spoken before in a manner unrivaled by anyone. (Matthew 7:28; John 7:46) David told Saul that the hearts of the men should not “fail” (יִפֹּ֥ל) as if they fell into a deep sleep of despair, for he would fight for the Lord’s people and for the Lord’s glory. He willingly laid down his life to bring salvation for his people, just as he had done for his sheep against lions and bears. In like manner, so would the Son of David (John 10:11) do the same thing for His sheep and God’s people. (John 10:17-18) The response of Saul, however, was that of disbelief of David’s appearance, ability, and background—just as men disbelieved Christ because of his appearance (Isaiah 53:2), apparent ability (Matthew 27:42), and background (Mark 6:3).
-Verses 34-35: Lions were a threat in the Middle East in David’s day. (Proverbs 22:13; Proverbs 26:13) The “bear” means a literal bear, and the type of bear that David most likely had killed then was the Eurasian Brown Bear. These bears weigh approximately 600lbs when fully grown, and bullets do not always work effectively against them, according to U.S. and Canadian researchers. David would have killed them not with any weapons of war, for the Philistines had earlier confiscated all military weapons in Israel. (1 Samuel 13:19-22) Rather, he would have used a sling or staff and a knife. David asked Saul to believe him based on the works he had already performed, just as the Son of David would ask others to believe in Him. (John 14:11)
-Verses 36-37: David had complete confidence that the Lord would deliver Goliath over to him, for this uncircumcised giant had defied the armies of the living God. He repeats what he told the soldiers in verses 25-27. To be uncircumcised was synonymous with being an unbeliever and one who was endeavoring to dethrone God. (Jeremiah 9:26) “Delivered” (הִצִּלַ֜נִי) means “to snatch away.” David had complete confidence that the Lord would deliver his life, just as the Son of David had complete confidence that the Lord would deliver His life. (Matthew 17:23; Luke 18:33; Luke 24:46) The Lord’s hand was upon David—just as it was on the Son of David. (Isaiah 61:1; Luke 4:18)
-Principle #3: When the Anointed Shepherd is revealed, He is mocked by His own and disbelieved by others. Yet He willingly lays down his life to bring salvation for his people, for He knows that God will deliver Him from death.
The Battle of the Lord
-Verses 38-39: Saul provided David with armor to wear, but David had no prior military experience and had never worn any armor. David would have tried on a tunic with a sword belt, with an outer shell of armor and a helmet of bronze. This was still no comparison to the armor of Goliath. David was given a sword, which was very rare in Israel at that time, but he had no knowledge of how to use a sword or a suit of armor. Therefore, he declined their use.
-Verse 40: David took a staff, a sling, and selected five stones from a nearby stream. These five stones were not all to kill Goliath—Goliath would have assuredly killed him if David missed with one stone or hit his armor with a stone. These five stones were more than likely to kill Goliath—and his four sons who may have been present, if they wished to avenge the death of their father. (2 Samuel 21:22) However, they may also have just been insurance in case David missed with his first stone. The men of Judah were not known for their slinging skills, for the Benjamites were the superior slingmen in Israel. (Judges 20:15-16) His lack of armor and weapons also indicated that only the Lord could give him victory.
-Verses 41-42: As Goliath approached, he saw David and “despised” (וַיִּבְזֵ֑הוּ) him, for David was a red-faced youth that did not have a warrior’s bearing. The anointed Shepherd-King is now despised and rejected for his appearance, just as another anointed Shepherd-King also would be. (Isaiah 53:3)
-Verse 43: David was mocked in the face of death. Goliath accused him of treating him as a “dog” (הֲכֶ֣לֶב). Dogs in the ancient near east were treated in different ways. Egypt treated dogs with almost worshipful significance, and they buried them with great ceremony. But in the region of Canaan, dogs were not household pets, for they were wild strays that ate carrion and garbage. They were almost socially worthless. Also, Goliath “cursed” (וַיְקַלֵּ֧ל—trifling, slight) the name of Yahweh by deriding David. The glory of the Lord’s great name was now at stake, and David was now being mocked in the face of death—just as it was later with the Son of David as He brought salvation for His people (Psalm 79:9; John 12:27-28) even when being mocked in the face of death. (Mark 10:32-34; Matthew 27:30)
-Verse 44-45: Goliath threatened David with the most disgraceful and fearful death that a Jew in that day could imagine: not receiving a proper burial and being eaten by unclean animals. David responded by declaring that human weapons would be of no avail, for he came in the power of the great name of the “Lord Almighty” (יְהוָ֣ה צְבָאֹ֔ות—Lord of hosts or Lord Almighty)—who reigned over His living armies. The Lord Almighty reigns over all (Isaiah 40:22; Isaiah 47:4) and brings salvation for His people (Psalm 80:19) Goliath had “taunted” (חֵרַֽפְתָּ׃) both the great name of the Lord and His armies.
-Verse 46: David now declared to Goliath that Goliath would be the one who would die by being stuck, by being decapitated, and by being fed to scavengers along with the rest of the Philistine army, in order that the world might know that God reigns among the nations. (Habakkuk 2:14) On a global scale, the greater David will one day do this with His enemies who have defied His great name, and the whole world will know His glory. (Revelation 19:17-19)
-Verses 47: David declared that the Lord did not save by the military force of men, but by His mighty power. (Hosea 1:7) This would be true throughout Israel’s history of warfare. (1 Samuel 14:6; 2 Chronicles 4:11; 2 Chronicles 20:15)
-Verses 48-49: David and Goliath now rushed towards each other, and now the anointed shepherd-king alone could bring salvation for an entire nation and save the fate of a kingdom. David, while on the run, slung a stone towards Goliath—and was so accurate that he struck Goliath in his forehead, stunning him and knocking him to the ground. This means of victory was only possible through the Lord’s plan, in the Lord’s power, and for the Lord’s glory.
-Principle #4: Even though He is mocked in the face of death, the anointed Shepherd-King stands alone to assuredly redeem His people from death for the glory of the Lord, for the battle is the Lord’s.
The Victory of the King
-Verse 50: David “prevailed” (וַיֶּחֱזַ֨ק—to grow strong and to be strengthened) over Goliath, for he was the anointed Shepherd-King of God’s people—and he did so through the power of the Lord, for he had no sword with him.
-Verse 51: Goliath’s sword was unmatched in the military might of the world at that time. (1 Samuel 21:9) David now took Goliath’s own sword and crushed his head with it, severing it completely. This struck panic into the heart of the Philistines, for their champion was dead. That which the Israelites had done in the past (1 Samuel 4:10) was now what the Philistines had done, as had other enemies of Israel in times past. (Judges 8:12)
-Verses 52-53: Now that God’s people had been saved, they were filled with courage and fought as the people of God once again. They ran after their enemies with great boldness all the way into Philistine territory, for Gath and Ekron were Philistine cities. They then plundered their enemies. In the same manner, the salvation with which Jesus Christ gives us enables us to fight with courage and boldness, for our foes have been defeated through the power of our King. (1 Corinthians 15:56-57; 1 Timothy 6:12; 2 Corinthians 2:14)
-Verse 54: David took Goliath’s head and buried in Jerusalem, which at that time was a tiny city known as Jebus that wasn’t even in the Israelite’s control. However, he kept Goliath’s armor. While the precise location of Goliath’s buried head is unknown, Jesus Christ was crucified 2,000 years later in the region where it would have been buried, at the location of Golgotha—“The Place of the Skull.” It was atop the Place of the Skull that Jesus Christ brought about salvation for His people by His death on the Cross. (Mark 15:22-24) Christ indeed approached the enemy with sticks—sticks shaped in the form of a Cross. Jebus would later become Jerusalem, the site of David’s kingship, and it will later become the city of Christ’s kingship as well. (Psalm 110:2; Zechariah 8:3)
-Verse 55-56: Saul turned to Abner, his commander of the army, and asked him whose son David was. Abner did not know, so he sent for David to be brought before the king of Israel. The question remained, “Whose son is this man?” Later on in Israel’s history, the same question would arise about Jesus Christ, the Son of David. (Matthew 13:55; Luke 4:22)
-Verse 57-58: Returning victorious, having brought salvation for the Lord’s people, David is brought once again into Saul’s presence and asked of his father, all while still carrying the head of Goliath. He replied that he was Jesse’s son, from the town of Bethlehem. Saul had forgotten David’s father, as he was told in 1 Samuel 16 whose David’s father was. And in the same manner, that answer appeared again with who is the Father of the Son of David, as Christ hung on the Cross. (Mark 15:37-39)
-In the story of David and Goliath, we are not David, for Christ is the greater David in the broader story of redemptive history. The Lord is God the Father. Rather, we are as the uncircumcised Philistines were prior to being saved, for we were the uncircumcised who defied the glory of God. (Romans 2:29) If we are saved, we in ourselves are far too weak to achieve victory on our own, for Christ’s victory has defeated all our foes and He leads us forward into triumphant battle.
-Throughout Israel’s history, David and his kingdom would be remembered as idyllic, yet it was not perfect and David was not a perfect man. Therefore, as Old Testament history unfolded, the “Messiah” (Anointed One) was prophesied as being the greater David. Jesus Christ is the greater David who has now come (Luke 1:32) and will come again, and He is our Messiah (Luke 2:11), our Shepherd (Ezekiel 34:23; John 10:14), and our King. (Revelation 19:16) His kingdom will never end, for He is the Lord over all throughout all eternity. (Isaiah 9:7; Jeremiah 23:5-6)
-Principle #5: The Son of David is the culmination of David’s victory and kingdom, for Jesus Christ is our victorious King, being the very Son of God, and His kingdom will never end.
-“Blessed be the LORD! For he has heard the voice of my pleas for mercy. The LORD is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him. The LORD is the strength of his people; he is the saving refuge of his anointed. Oh, save your people and bless your heritage! Be their shepherd and carry them forever.” (Psalm 28:6-9 ESV)