You may have heard about David and Goliath, but let’s get to know them in greater detail, and let’s explore the conflict and how, through this conflict, the Bible teaches us the art of battling giants. We’ll all face them, giants who during our conflict appear to be more prepared, better positioned, and better protected. Here’s how it all began:
The events between David and Goliath are told in 1 Samuel 17. The conflict is between the Israelites, led by Saul, and the Philistines. Each group occupied a hill and the Valley of Elah lay between them. (1 Samuel 17:1-3). The Philistines had a front man, a huge warrior, a giant- and this giant was prepared for anything and anyone. The Israelites were in need of a plan because Goliath, this hulk of an opponent, had challenged them.
A champion named Goliath, who was from Gath, came out of the Philistine camp. His height was six cubits and a span. He had a bronze helmet on his head and wore a coat of scale armor of bronze weighing five thousand shekels; on his legs he wore bronze greaves, and a bronze javelin was slung on his back. His spear shaft was like a weaver’s rod, and its iron point weighed six hundred shekels. His shield bearer went ahead of him.
Who was Goliath? Matthew Henry writes “He was of the sons of Anak, who at Gath kept their ground in Joshua’s time (Josh. 11:22), and kept up a race of giants there, of which Goliath was one, and, it is probable, one of the largest.”
How tall was Goliath? David records his height at “six cubits and a span”, which is 9 feet, 9 inches. He was tall. You knew when he was coming. The ground probably shook when he walked. He was so tall he had a vantage point that was unchallenged.
What did Goliath’s armor include? Art, as well as nature, made him terrible. He was well furnished with defensive armor (1 Sam. 17:5, 6): A helmet of brass on his head, a coat of mail, made of brass plates laid over one another, like the scales of a fish; and, because his legs would lie most within the reach of an ordinary man, he wore brass boots, and had a large plate of brass about his neck. The coat is said to weigh 5000 shekels, a vast weight for a man to carry, all the other parts of his armor being proportionate. But some think it should be translated, not the weight of the coat, but the value of it, was 5000 shekels; so much it cost. His offensive weapons were extraordinary, of which his spear only is here described, 1 Sam. 17:7. It was like a weaver’s beam. His arm could manage that which an ordinary man could scarcely heave. His shield only, which was the lightest of all his armor, was carried before him by his esquire, probably for state; for he that was clad in brass little needed a shield. (Adapted from Matthew Henry, Commentary)
So Goliath was tall, foreboding, and equipped to do terrible damage to his opponent. He was challenging the Israelites. Twice a day for 40 days, Goliath came out between the battle lines and challenged the Israelites to send out a champion of their own to fight him and decide the outcome of this conflict.
The problem? Well, the Israelites do not happen to have a 10 foot tall armor clad giant in their camp, and they are afraid. In fact 1 Samuel 17:24 says “Whenever the Israelites saw the man, they all fled from him in great fear.” The Israelites fled in great fear- full of “what if”s: “what if Goliath leads an army to trample us?” “what if we have no one to fight Goliath and we fall to the Philistines?” “what if we never get off this hill?”
Tomorrow we’ll read about David- God’s answer to the Israelites “what if”s and the future shepherd who would become the king of Israel.
So there they were, Saul Israelites on one side of the Valley of Elah and the Philistines on the other. Goliath, the 9 foot tall giant beckoning from the Philistine camp, challenging the Israelites to a one one one fight to end the conflict, and the Israelites had no one to send to accept that challenge. Who can stand?
Along came David, a young shepherd boy who was sent by his father to deliver food to his brothers, soldiers in the Israelite camp.
He reached the camp as the army was going out to its battle positions, shouting the war cry. Israel and the Philistines were drawing up their lines facing each other. David left his things with the keeper of supplies, ran to the battle lines and asked his brothers how they were. As he was talking with them, Goliath, the Philistine champion from Gath, stepped out from his lines and shouted his usual defiance, and David heard it. Whenever the Israelites saw the man, they all fled from him in great fear. (1 Samuel 20-24)
Goliath surely made the Israelites feel small as he towered over them, taunting them, challenging them to a fight that they were not prepared for and did not believe they would win.
When uncertainties make you feel small, remember that God is more than just a friendly ally. He is a trusted warrior who will go out ahead and battle your giants. As you grow in your faith and in grace, he will conquer your insecurities about your looks and abilities as you grow to realize that you are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). He will conquer your lack of confidence in conversation by giving you the proper words to say through his Holy Spirit. He will fill you with security by giving you his righteousness. Then, when you’ve walked through the challenge, you’ll know it was God who won the war, and you can give him all the glory. (NIV Women’s Study Bible)
Now the Israelites had been saying, “Do you see how this man keeps coming out? He comes out to defy Israel. The king will give great wealth to the man who kills him. He will also give him his daughter in marriage and will exempt his family from taxes in Israel.” (1 Samuel 17:25)
Who will stand? The king offered a pretty enticing award; riches, prestige, a beautiful wife, and no obligation to pay taxes. It’s almost as if you can hear the carnival music, “step right up and slay this giant and claim your prize”. It was a top row prize too! Remember the top row of the carnival booths, where all the full size stuffed animals were? Remember walking around the circus or carnival and seeing someone carrying a 6 foot tall giraffe and wondering what feat they had accomplished to win such a trophy?
Tomorrow we’ll see who steps up- who will take a stand.
David clarifies the offer of what the man who defeats Goliath will receive, and the men around him confirm that “The king will give great wealth to the man who kills him. He will also give him his daughter in marriage and will exempt his family from taxes in Israel” (1 Samuel 17:25).
David’s older brother Eliab overhears the conversation and lashes out at David, accusing him of leaving the few sheep that their family owned alone in the wilderness while he came down to gawk and watch the battle. David again asks for clarification as to the reward for conquering Goliath and again the men tell him. Saul gets wind of David’s presence and questions and sends for him (1 Samuel 17:26-30)
David said to Saul, “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him.” (1 Samuel 17:31)
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)
David had no martial arts training, no prize fighter skills, no body armor. David was a boy, and Goliath was a man who had been a “warrior from his youth”. David had no credentials, authority, or business fighting Goliath, or did he?
But David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. 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.”
Saul said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you.” (1 Samuel 17:34-37)
David was armed with the strength of the Lord, who had rescued him from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear. David took back his sheep from the lion and the bear. He fought forces much stronger than he was for what he knew belonged to him. David stood up, and fought for justice- for his property, for his life, and now for God.
David isn’t embarrassed to tell Saul that he is a shepherd. David owns who he is, he is authentic and truthful. David tells Saul that his credentials, his authority, and his business in fighting Goliath is the Lord. David says “so what” to the obvious “what if”s that Goliath represents. What if my adversary is better trained than I am? What if my adversary is better equipped than I am? What if my adversary has a better position that I do? What if my own supporters turn against me? And David says “so what”.
Notice the characteristics of David that he shares with Jesus? David is a good shepherd. He takes care of the sheep, protects them, and is willing to lay down his life for them. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). David is a young man, from humble means. He faces adversity, and mocking; in the case of David from his brothers. He really has no visible qualifications or distinctions to take on the task before him, but does so because of his faith in God. David stands up.
David knows that Goliath is no match for the strength of the Lord, regardless of his size, stature, or warrior training. Tomorrow we’ll read about how David prepares to fight his giant, and I can’t wait to share with you the part about the armor!
So, let our faith be more than anthems
Greater than the songs we sing
And in our weakness and temptations
We believe. -Lyrics from We Believe by the Newsboys
David, a shepherd boy, has called out Goliath, a 9 foot tall Philistine warrior, and agreed to fight him based on his faith in God, who has protected him from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear (1 Samuel 17:34-37).
Then Saul dressed David in his own tunic. He put a coat of armor on him and a bronze helmet on his head. David fastened on his sword over the tunic and tried walking around, because he was not used to them (1 Samuel 17:39).
David has no earthly preparation or protection for this battle with Goliath. He was not a trained and skilled warrior. He did not have body armor or a shield carrying front man, like Goliath did. So Saul dresses David for the battle, suiting him up in Saul’s own tunic and a coat of armor and bronze. But David stumbles around in these items because he isn’t used to them.
Remember the first time you put on roller skates? Trying to stay upright, trying to move forward, feeling like your feet and legs might betray you at any time. Now imagine going in that same condition to run a marathon. It’s ridiculous. And that’s that situation David was in.
Saul likely rattled off a host of “what if”s: “What if Goliath tackles you?” “What if he hits you with his club? Or his hands? Or kicks you with his enormous feet?” “What if you get pummeled by his shield carrying front man?” “What if, what if, what if”. And David answers with a resounding “So what”. “So what if Goliath comes at me, I am armed with the armor of the Lord”.
Saul believed that David needed this earthly protection, but David knew better. David knew that earthly protection is not needed in a battle fought by God. David takes off the worldly gear and decides to be himself.
“I cannot go in these,” he said to Saul, “because I am not used to them.” So he took them off. 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 (1 Samuel 17:40).
Those that aim at things above their education and usage, and covet the attire and armor of princes, forget that that is the best for us which we are fit for and accustomed to; if we had our desire, we should wish to be in our own coat again, and should say, “We cannot go with these;” we had therefore better go without them (Matthew Henry).
Tomorrow we’ll read about the conflict between David and Goliath, and then we’ll wrap up this first part of the “What if” series with the resolution of this conflict and see how God uses a shepherd boy to slay a giant. Shepherds slaying giants, in a battle that is larger than life, wearing the armor of God, is a central theme in the Bible.
After we wrap up with David and Goliath we’ll move on to Hagar, one of the most interesting women in the Bible (she decides it is better to be a slave in Sarah’s house than a princess in her own kingdom and the giants she battles, well…we’ll get there but suffice it to say that she is pretty amazing!). We’ll come back to David in this series, in his later years, because Goliath is not the only giant that David faces, and this conflict is not his only trial.
David, the shepherd boy, rejected worldly armor and protected with spiritual armor approached Goliath, a 9 foot tall warrior.
Meanwhile, the Philistine, with his shield bearer in front of him, kept coming closer to David. He looked David over and saw that he was little more than a boy, glowing with health and handsome, and he despised him. He said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come at me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. “Come here,” he said, “and I’ll give your flesh to the birds and the wild animals!” (1 Samuel 17:41)
David proclaims his authority and continues toward Goliath.
David said to the Philistine, “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 theLord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.” (1 Samuel 17:45-48)
David rushed toward his opponent. He didn’t pause, hesitate, or stand still. David ran quickly to the battle line, sure of himself and the protection of the Lord over him. And without any hesitation, David uses his only weapon, a stone.
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. (1 Samuel 17:48-51)
David teaches us:
- That God uses who He calls. In this case a shepherd boy.
- That God empowers those He calls with what they need. In this case, a flat stone.
- That God uses us best when we remain authentic- true to who we really are. In this case, David rejected worldly armor and walked right up to the giant with a sling and a rock.
Who will you choose to listen to? Will you listen to the voice of your peers, who tell you that you have no authority? Or the voice of leaders, who tell you that you have no protection for what you are about to do? Or the voice of the giant, who laughs at you and taunts you? Or, will you listen to the Voice of Truth, who says “do not be afraid”? Choose to listen and believe the Voice of Truth and boldly approach your giant.
…but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint. (Isaiah 40:31)
Goliath, despite all of his warrior training, his towering presence, his suit of armor, and his strength, was no match for this battle. David’s rock, propelled by a slingshot and directed by God, hit Goliath on the head and takes him out. Giant down.
See how frail and uncertain life is, even when it thinks itself best fortified, and how quickly, how easily, and with how small a matter, the passage may be opened for life to go out and death to enter. (Matthew Henry)
David completes Goliath’s slaying by cutting off Goliath’s head with his own sword. David had no use for a sword in the battle, and didn’t bring one of his own. His triumph was marked by using his enemy’s sword. David is more than a conqueror.
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us (Romans 8:37).
David’s victory over Goliath was typical of the triumphs of the son of David over Satan and all the powers of darkness, whom he spoiled, and made a show of them openly (Col. 2:15), and we through him are more than conquerors (Matthew Henry).
What happened to the Philistines, who relied wholly upon the strength of their champion?
Matthew Henry explains “When they saw him slain, they did not, as Goliath had offered, throw down their arms and surrender themselves servants to Israel (1 Sam. 17:9), but took to their heels, being wholly dispirited, and thinking it to no purpose to oppose one before whom such a mighty man had fallen: They fled (1 Sam. 17:51), and this put life into the Israelites, who shouted and pursued them (David, it is probable, leading them on in the pursuit) even to the gates of their own cities, 1 Sam. 17:52. In their return from the chase they seized all the baggage, plundered the tents (1 Sam. 17:53), and enriched themselves with the spoil.”
So while the Philistines were fleeing, running screaming for the hills, what happened to David?
Matthew Henry writes ” He brought the head of the Philistine to Jerusalem, to be a terror to the Jebusites, who held the strong-hold of Sion: it is probable that he carried it in triumph to other cities. His armour he laid up in his tent; only the sword was preserved behind the ephod in the tabernacle, as consecrated to God, and a memorial of the victory to his honour, 1 Sam. 21:9. 5. The notice that was taken of David. Though he had been at court formerly, yet, having been for some time absent (1 Sam. 17:15), Saul had forgotten him, being melancholy and mindless, and little thinking that his musician would have spirit enough to be his champion; and therefore, as if he had never seen him before, he asked whose son he was. Abner was a stranger to him, but brought him to Saul (1 Sam. 17:57), and he gave a modest account of himself, 1 Sam. 17:58. And now he was introduced to the court with much greater advantages than before, in which he owned God’s hand performing all things for him.”
David was a shepherd, a psalmist, and a commander. David lived a life filled with complexities and a hunger for God. Dr. Charles Stanley explains:
Shepherd: David was anointed king long before commanding anything other than sheep (1 Sam. 16:1-13). Protecting the sheep was a job he took seriously, even killing a lion and a bear to do so. During those days, he learned to be strong and brave, and to take care of creatures weaker than himself. An early life of obedience to his human father taught him the humility he would later need in order to depend on God.
Psalmist: David’s writings reveal his hunger for God. He is open about issues like fear, depression, defeat, loneliness, and sorrow. By describing valley experiences and communing with the Father in the night watches, David provided us with intimate glimpses of the God he knew so well.
Commander: Starting with David’s encounter with Bathsheba, the king’s life was plagued by heartache, pain, suffering, and conflict. David had sinned greatly, but God forgave him and continued to use him. He ruled Israel for 40 years, and his people called Jerusalem the “City of David.” His restoration teaches us about the consequences of sin and the limitlessness of God’s grace.
We’ll visit David again later in the series and learn more about the trial David faces with Saul. That story is packed with sword throwing, attempted murder, trials, and tribulations. Up next, Hagar, one of the most interesting women in the Bible, will show us that nothing is impossible with God.