1 Sam 17:1-58 – David and Goliath

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1Sam 17:1-3

  1. The Philistines were a Greek people who originally came from “the island of Caphtor”, which is probably Crete (Jeremiah 47:4, Amos 9:7). They had settled on the coast of Israel, including the Gaza area.

1Sam 17:4-7

  1. Since it is a bit uncertain how to interpret the measurement “six cubits and a quarter”, the estimate of Goliath’s length varies between 180 cm and 290 cm. Since the normal height at this time was about 165 cm, Goliath was in any case very much larger than everyone else. But not only was Goliath tall, he was also strong. His armour weighed at least 50 kg, which is twice as much as a normal piece of Greek armour
    1. The tallest man in modern times is Robert Wadlow, who was 272 cm tall when he died at the age of 22 in 1940.
  2. Goliath was from Gath, a city not far from Gaza. In Joshua 11:22, it appears that some of the unusually tall Anakim (Numbers 13:29, Numbers 13:33-34, Deuteronomy 9:2) were still living there.

1Sam 17:8-11

  1. It was not uncommon for Greek peoples to settle wars through chosen fighters who met in a duel. In this way, the will of the “gods” was decided and unnecessary bloodshed was avoided.
  2. Goliath challenges Israel to a duel, explicitly mentioning Saul when he mocks Israel. This must have been difficult for King Saul because he was known in Israel as a “great man” who was “head and shoulders above all the people” (1 Sam 9:2). After all, the one who should have taken up the challenge of the giant Goliath was the tall Saul, but neither he nor any other Israelite dares.
  3. In the past, King Saul has been a brave warrior (1 Sam 14:52), but now he is horrified and terrified. Perhaps this is because the Spirit of God left him in the previous chapter (1 Sam 16:14). The opposite of “faith” is usually not “unbelief”, but rather “fear”.

1Sam 17:12-20

  1. For forty days, Goliath challenges Israel to a duel. Since this was not a professional army but rather a collection of volunteers, the food ran out after a while, and then relatives had to help contribute.
  2. David was Jesse’s youngest son and had the task of looking after the family’s sheep. In David’s day, taking care of the sheep was really a servant’s job. Presumably Jesse could not afford servants, so he had his youngest son do the servants’ chores.
    1. But even though people in Bible times saw shepherding as a low-wage job for servants, God saw it as a perfect illustration of a good leader! A shepherd must care for his sheep, lead them to green grass and fresh water, must guard them and defend them from wolves, and find them if they run away. A pastor (the Latin word for “shepherd”), in the same way, must care for his parishioners, lead them to the Word of God and the Spirit of God, and he must guard them against error and defend them against false prophets and seek out those who are no longer visible in the church.
    2. Although David was forced to perform the task of a servant, he does not seem to have complained, but rather performed his task faithfully. This gave him time to sing songs of praise to God and to practice his tongue, which he undoubtedly benefited from later. So David’s time as a shepherd was not just something he did in anticipation of becoming king, but an opportunity for David to train to become king.
    3. David is an excellent example of a person who is “faithful in a small way” and is therefore “set over many things” by God (Matthew 25:14-30).
    4. In verse 20, we see that young David was not just a shepherd who did his job because he had to, but he really cared for his sheep. When he had to leave them, he made sure that someone else watched over them and took care of them. David was a caring shepherd.

1Sam 17:21-24

  1. The Israelites and the Philistines gathered opposite each other on opposite mountains and prepare for battle. But when Goliath taunts and challenges Israel to a duel, the Israelites are frightened and dare not fight.

1Sam 17:25-27

  1. King Saul is so desperate to find someone who dares to fight Goliath that he is prepared to give that person money, his daughter and tax exemption! But while Israel focuses on the size of Goliath and the royal reward, David focuses on the glory of God. David is a man after God’s own heart, focusing not on the carnal or the material, but on the spiritual.
  2. When David calls Goliath an “uncircumcised Philistine”, he is not doing so primarily to mock Goliath, but to state that Goliath does not belong to God’s people and can therefore be defeated.

1Sam 17:28-30

  1. The most painful criticism usually comes from those closest to you. Presumably David’s eldest older brother Eliab reacts in this way because he felt hit and singled out. After all, Eliab was tall and stately and perhaps should have volunteered to fight Goliath.
  2. You can tell that David was offended by his older brother’s criticism, but he stands his ground because he knows he’s right! Perhaps Eliab’s friends laughed at little David when Eliab tried to reprimand him. But even though David was probably saddened, he doesn’t let his emotions get the better of him, and keeps his focus on God. If David had listened to his big brother’s criticism, he would have lost his courageous belief that God can defeat Goliath. In some ways, David’s battle with his brother was a harder battle to win than David’s battle with his enemy.
    1. In the same way, ordinary members of a congregation may feel when they express something they think is wrong but only get unfair criticism back from the congregation’s leaders. In such cases, it is important to stand up wisely and keep trying to explain what you mean, while also being prepared to take action and make the situation better. If you are not prepared to take responsibility yourself, you should not criticise those who do take responsibility.

1Sam 17:31-32

  1. Just as King Saul’s cowardice and fear spread to the army of Israel, so little David’s courage and faith in God began to spread.
    1. A leader in the Kingdom of God should lead the way by being courageous and believing in God.
  2. There is a difference between saying “Someone should fight Goliath” and “I will fight Goliath”! David was not only prepared to talk, he was also prepared to act.
    1. In a congregation, it is very easy for ordinary members to have critical opinions about this and that. This is not automatically wrong, as long as you are also prepared to act and make the situation you are criticising better. If you are not, it is probably better to keep quiet.

1Sam 17:33-37

  1. You can almost touch Saul’s disappointment when he realizes that when someone FINALLY volunteers to fight Goliath, it’s a little shepherd boy!
    1. Saul looks at David’s age, size and inexperience and therefore judges that he is not fit to face Goliath. In human terms, of course, Saul is right, but if you count on God, as David does, victory depends not on worldly conditions, but on God’s power and will.
    2. David is wise from his experience as a shepherd. David knew that God has saved him before, and therefore walks in bold faith that God will also save David now.
      1. The opposite of “faith” is often not “unbelief”, but rather “fear”. What prevents us from doing God’s will is often not that we do not believe in God’s power and will, but that we do not dare.
  2. When David had gotten a job as the family’s servant, he didn’t look down on his job as a shepherd, but took it very seriously. Therefore, God was able to train and prepare David for his future tasks.
    1. In the same way, we should not look down on tasks that may be considered unimportant or unprestigious, but rather see these tasks as important in God’s eyes and an opportunity for us to prepare for future tasks. He who is faithful in small things will also be faithful in great things (Matthew 25:21).
    2. If David had not dared to face the lion and the bear then, he would not have dared to face Goliath now. But when David faced the lion and the bear, he didn’t know that one day he would face Goliath.
      1. In the same way, the challenges and trials we face today can prepare us for the trials we will face in the future. Therefore, it is important to dare to take on even the small challenges we face in our daily lives today, otherwise there is a big risk that we will not dare to take on the big challenges we will face tomorrow.

1Sam 17:38-40

  1. From a human perspective, it was natural for King Saul to want to offer David the best battle equipment available, namely King Saul’s own. But Saul’s armor is not suitable for little David, who prefers to use the weapons he knows best. If God saved David with a slingshot and a stone before, then a slingshot and a stone will do against Goliath as well.
    1. In the same way, Christians today can try to take on the vocation and spiritual equipment of another person. They may look up to a successful pastor and leader, and therefore try to imitate and do something similar. But it rarely works because that is not the armor God has given you.
  2. Not only did David believe that SOMEONE should face Goliath, he also believed that HE himself would do it if necessary, and now that he is the only one who dares, he DOES it too!
    1. Faith is not only about believing rightly, but also about doing right and living rightly (Jas 2:14).

1Sam 17:41-48

  1. When Goliath sees that Israel is finally sending a champion to the duel, he and his shield-bearer go out to meet David. But when Goliath realizes that it is actually David he is about to face and that David is not just the shield bearer of a great Israelite warrior, he is insulted!
  2. It must have been a bizarre sight to see the great Goliath yelling and screaming at little David, who then pepped back with his goal-breaking voice! But even though it was seemingly an uneven battle, no giant is big enough as long as David has God on his side!
  3. “The Lord of Hosts” means “God of Armies”.
  4. The closer David gets to the battle, the more his faith grows. Now he has gone from saying to his brother Eliab that someone should fight Goliath, to saying to King Saul that I should fight Goliath, to now saying to his enemy Goliath that the Lord will strike you down TODAY.
  5. Almost everyone on earth has heard of David and Goliath, but it was not to make himself famous that David went against Goliath, but so that “the whole world will know that Israel has one God”.
    1. In the same way, we should be careful not to get involved in the church just to be known and liked, but rather to serve because we love God and our fellow human beings.
  6. As Goliath approaches, David is faced with the inevitable question, “Will God fight Goliath or will David fight Goliath?” David knows that God will win the victory THROUGH David, so he rushes towards Goliath to start the battle.
    1. Sometimes it’s easy for us Christians to get a little clumsy and think that God will do all the work for us. God has rightly promised to be with us, but we must also dare to believe that he is, otherwise nothing will happen.

1Sam 17:49-51

  1. When David was out grazing the sheep, there was plenty of time to practice with the slingshot and harp. He seems to have practised to perfection, and hits Goliath right on the nose!
    1. When everyone else was thinking, “Goliath is so big I can’t beat him,” David was thinking, “Goliath is so big I can’t miss him!”
  2. A skilled slunger could hurl the stone at 100 miles an hour!
  3. David’s victory over Goliath is a model of Jesus’ victory over the devil.
    1. Both David and Jesus were sent to battle by their Father and rejected by their brothers.
    2. Both David and Jesus entered the battle in a way that seemed humanly impossible to win.
    3. Both David and Jesus won a vicarious victory for their people. Just as all Israel shared David’s victory over Goliath, so the whole church shares Jesus’ victory over the devil.  

1Sam 17:52-54

  1. David’s bravery infected the army of Israel in the same way that King Saul’s fear had done before.

1Sam 17:55-58

  1. Saul knew who David was because David played and sang at court. But since Saul had promised his daughter to the one who defeats Goliath, he now needed to get to know David’s father and family as well.
  2. At this time Jerusalem had not yet been taken and become the capital of Israel. This would later be done by David himself (2 Sam 5:1-9).
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