1 Samuel 17:1 Now the Philistines gathered their forces for war and assembled at Sokoh in Judah.
This begins the account of David and Goliath, one of the most celebrated stories in literature. The Israelites were gathered in the Valley of Elah to fight the Philistines. They occupied one hill, the Philistines another, and the valley stretched between them. The stakes were high, and the Philistines had an advantage: A champion named Goliath (1 Samuel 17:4).
He was over nine and a half feet tall, wore a suit of armor, and had a personal shield bearer. Humanly speaking, Goliath seemed invincible. For the next forty days, morning and evening, he challenged the Israelite army.
Choose a man and have him come down to me. If he is able to fight and kill me, we will become your subjects; but if I overcome him and kill him, you will become our subjects (1 Samuel 17:8-9). This went on for weeks because there was not a soldier in Israel who dared to fight Goliath.
1 Samuel 17:12 Now David was the son of . . . Jesse, who was from Bethlehem.
David was watching his father’s sheep in Bethlehem, about fifteen miles away. Three of his brothers were in the army, and David was sent by his father to bring them supplies. As he was talking with them, Goliath . . . stepped out from his lines and shouted his usual defiance (1 Samuel 17:23). David was appalled. Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God? (1 Samuel 17:26), he asked.
David knew Goliath had every advantage but one: he was not circumcised. Circumcision was the mark of Israel’s covenant with God, and it came with certain promises. [T]he Lord your God himself will fight for you (Deuteronomy 3:22). And, I will be an enemy to your enemies and will oppose those who oppose you (Exodus 23:22). David believed the promises of God, and was not afraid of Goliath.
1 Samuel 17:31 What David said was overheard and reported to Saul, and Saul sent for him.
David said to King Saul, Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him. Saul replied, You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a young man, and he has been a warrior from his youth (1 Samuel 17:32-33). We do not know David’s age at the time, but since Israelite men were able to serve in the army at age twenty (Numbers 1:3), he was likely still in his teens.
But even though he was young, David had experience. When a lion went after a sheep from his flock, David killed the lion and rescued the sheep. When a bear did the same thing, David killed the bear. The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine (1 Samuel 17:37), he said.
David was courageous in the face of danger because he recalled God’s help in the past. If you can remember a time God helped you in the past, it can give you courage in the future. Has God taken care of you financially? He can do it again. Has God taken care of you physically? He can do it again. Has God taken care of you spiritually? He can do it again. The God who helped you in the past, will help you to the end.
1 Samuel 17:40 Then he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd’s bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine.
No one was more surprised than Goliath to see his youthful opponent. He expected a warrior, but encountered a boy who was not even dressed for battle. Come here, he said, and I’ll give your flesh to the birds and the wild animals! (1 Samuel 17:44). His words were meant to intimidate, but David had words as well.
You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands (1 Samuel 17:45-47).
This is one of the best battle speeches ever recorded, and it shows the remarkable faith that David had in God. He wasn’t merely hoping God would save him; he was absolutely certain God would save him. This is like saving faith in Jesus Christ. [It] is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8), wrote Paul. Sometimes faith is little more than hoping, but other times it can be remarkably confident.
1 Samuel 17:48-51 As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him. Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell facedown on the ground.
So David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone; without a sword in his hand he struck down the Philistine and killed him. David ran and stood over him. He took hold of the Philistine’s sword and drew it from the sheath. After he killed him, he cut off his head with the sword. The Philistine army ran for their lives, and many were cut down. It was a great day for Israel.
It is not unusual for those who read this story to identify with David. But we are not David. We are like the trembling Israelites, defenseless before a powerful enemy. We need someone like David who can rescue us from the power of death. That person is David’s great-great-grandson, Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:17). Through his life, death and resurrection, Jesus defeated death and has given us eternal life. Through the victory of Jesus Christ, we can battle the forces of darkness, knowing their doom is sure.
Reflection and Review
Why wasn’t David afraid of Goliath?
How does this story remind us of Christ?
How does this story affect your faith?