battleline02I Samuel 17 Continued

31. Now when the words which David spoke were heard, they reported them to Saul; and he sent for him.

It seems at least the idea that David is willing to fight the giant gets through to the soldiers. The fact that there is someone willing to fight Goliath spreads like wildfire through the army, until the story of David’s brave words reaches the ears of King Saul. This is just what he has been hoping to find among his men, and so he sends for David. Was he surprised when the courageous warrior he had been hearing about turned out to be his young harpist whom he had left behind when he headed out to battle? Probably!

32. Then David said to Saul, “Let no man’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.”

David has no less courage when he is brought before Saul than he had when he was talking in the army. His words were no idle boast! He urges Saul and his men not to be afraid, and volunteers to fight the Philistine. Such supreme confidence in one so young when the rest of the army was in such terror must have seemed amazing, and perhaps somewhat amusing, to Saul and his men. After all, they had no such faith and confidence in their God as this.

33. And Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are a youth, and he a man of war from his youth.”

Saul might have been impressed by David’s courage, but this alone is not enough to cause him to look past what he sees with his eyes. Therefore, Saul argues with David. He does not believe he is able to fight Goliath because he is still too young. He has not even fought in the army yet, and the Philistine has been a warrior who has been experienced in battle since he was young himself. Now he is a seasoned warrior as well as a man of supernatural size. How then can a boy like David fight him?

34. But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep his father’s sheep, and when a lion or a bear came and took a lamb out of the flock,

David realizes he will have to convince Saul by more than just his faith in God, and so he lists his qualifications. He speaks of two events that took place while he was shepherding his sheep. His sheep were attacked, once by a lion, and once by a bear, who came and took a lamb out of his flock.

35. I went out after it and struck it, and delivered the lamb from its mouth; and when it arose against me, I caught it by its beard, and struck and killed it.

David the shepherd was not afraid of the wild animal that came to steal from his flock. Instead, he chased the fierce creature and struck it so that it dropped the lamb from its mouth. Needless to say, it was probably not very happy about this, and turned on David. Yet he was not terrified at this. He simply grabbed the lion by the beard, struck it, and killed it. This was a very courageous thing that most grown men would not have done! Yet this is what David did, and it shows that even then he had supreme confidence in his God.

36. Your servant has killed both lion and bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, seeing he has defied the armies of the living God.”

David no more fears Goliath than he did the lion and the bear. He killed both of them with God’s help, and this giant champion of the Philistines will be no different. Goliath is already defeated because he dared to defy the armies of the living God.

David is confident that no outcome is possible but that God will give him the victory and prove Himself to be the God of Israel. Of course, he was right, and this was exactly what happened. God had promised to be with Israel in war when they followed Him, and David was depending on His promises. We have no such promises today, nor does God favor any army over any other army in war today. We cannot just assume that God will give us the victory over our enemies. That is not how He works in this dispensation when all nations are now equal and joint in His sight, as Ephesians 3:6 proclaims.

37. Moreover David said, “The LORD, who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.”
And Saul said to David, “Go, and the LORD be with you!”

David is not being rash or arrogant in claiming that he will kill the Philistine. His confidence is not in his own skill or abilities. He is confident in Jehovah, not in himself. It was Jehovah Who delivered him from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, and He will do the same with this Philistine.

Even Saul, who always seems to fall short when it comes to faith, seems to catch some of the dauntless spirit of faith that inspired David. He may not be a man of faith himself, but at least he sees it and honors it in David. So he forgets his misgivings and gives David permission to go with Jehovah with him.

38. So Saul clothed David with his armor, and he put a bronze helmet on his head; he also clothed him with a coat of mail.

Saul, the king without faith, now goes about to prepare David, the man with faith, for his battle that faith alone could truly prepare him for. He gives him all the worldly weapons he can, clothing him in his own armor as a gift. He has a bronze helmet put on his head and a coat of mail put on him as clothing.

39. David fastened his sword to his armor and tried to walk, for he had not tested them. And David said to Saul, “I cannot walk with these, for I have not tested them.” So David took them off.

Saul’s sword is also given to David, and he fastens it on. Then, he tries to walk in the armor, much like when today we try on clothes we are thinking of buying and try walking in them. David is not happy with this armor, however, for he is not used to it. Most people have assumed that the armor did not fit David well. When we consider that Saul was a full grown man whom we have already learned was a head taller than the other men in Israel, and that David was still a boy not yet filled out as a man, it does seem quite possible that fit was part of the problem. However, this is not what David’s complaint is, but just that he is not used to this armor. David fought the lion and the bear wearing nothing but the simple garments of a shepherd. He cannot fight the Philistine in this heavy getup without practicing in it first, and this is no time for practice. Therefore, he is unwilling to fight in this armor, and he takes it off.

40. Then he took his staff in his hand; and he chose for himself five smooth stones from the brook, and put them in a shepherd’s bag, in a pouch which he had, and his sling was in his hand. And he drew near to the Philistine.

David goes to face Goliath with no armor and no weapon but a staff and a sling. Moreover he takes no fancy ammunition for his sling, but merely stops by the brook and picks up five smooth stones to use, putting them in the humble shepherd’s bag at he wears in a pouch made for them. Thus carrying his sling he comes against Goliath.

This matter of the five smooth stones has drawn much attention. Some have made a big deal out of the stones, trying to find some signification in each one. Others have wondered why a man of faith like David would pick out five stones instead of only one. Didn’t he believe that God would give him victory with the first stone? This has led others to suggest that Goliath had four brothers, and that David took the other four stones for them. But if this is the case, why were Goliath’s brothers never mentioned in the text? It seems far more likely that he was just replenishing his ammo for the sling, and that he picked five stones to fill his bag, not because he did not trust the first one or thought he would have a need for all five or anything else. We must not try to make a mountain out of a molehill when it comes to these five stones. “Hidden messages” in details like this should not distract us from the real and obvious lesson of the passage.

41. So the Philistine came, and began drawing near to David, and the man who bore the shield went before him.

After forty days, at last a champion is found to fight against the Philistine. When Goliath hears, he approaches with his great sword and his huge armor and the man carrying his tremendous shield, all these impressive weapons of war that he put so much trust in.

42. And when the Philistine looked about and saw David, he disdained him; for he was only a youth, ruddy and good-looking.

The Philistine looks around as if looking for someone else. Surely David is just a servant to the mighty warrior who is to face him! But no one else is there. He disdains David because he is nothing but a good-looking young boy.

David is described here as a youth. This might better be translated “boy,” and seems to cover from birth to about twenty years of age. As we said, David is probably around seventeen here. He is described as ruddy. This word means “red.” It could be talking about David’s skin, but the word ‘admoniy is only used three times, and the first time it is used is of Esau, and seems to be connected with his hair. Thus, this could mean that David had red hair. This would be unheard of in the Middle East at this time, but of course we are uncertain how the Israelites really looked three thousand years ago. The best guess here seems to be that David had red hair. He is also described as good-looking. This just makes the Philistine despise him more, as if he is just a pretty-boy rather than a real warrior.

43. So the Philistine said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods.

Goliath is insulted that this pipsqueak is sent against him. He sees David’s staff, which looks to him like nothing but a stick. He does not even seem to notice the sling that David also holds in his hand, counting this perhaps as of even less importance than David’s little staff. He feels he is being treated like a dog, chased with sticks, instead of being faced by a real warrior with real weapons. Thus he curses David by his gods.

44. And the Philistine said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field!”

The Philistine boasts that he will kill David and leave his body for the carrion birds and scavengers of the field. No doubt he would have, if David had been foolish enough to come near to him. Clearly this giant’s strength is in hand-to-hand combat, and he is hoping for an easy victory by that means. Yet David is a slinger. We should not think of a little slingshot like a child might use in our day. These slings were the equivalent of artillery in the armies of the day. They made up a major part of any army at the time. A stone was placed in the sling, and the stones of the valley where this battle took place are unusually hard. Then, the slinger would spin the sling. An expert slinger could get his sling spinning at five to seven times per second. When he let the rock go, a practiced slinger could be very accurate. Judges 20:16 speaks of the accuracy of the slingers of the army of the tribe of Benjamin.

16. Among all this people were seven hundred select men who were left-handed; every one could sling a stone at a hair’s breadth and not miss.

Considering the hardness of the stones in the region, and assuming that David was a practiced and excellent slinger, a stone from his sling could have the impact of a rather large caliber bullet at close range. Against this attack, the giant, with all his impressive size and armor, has no defense. And David was not the only slinger in Israel’s army! They had the means to defeat the giant all the time, if they had not been overcome by their fear. David’s faith not only made him courageous, but it also allowed him the clear thinking to see that this giant could easily be felled if one merely used the right means.

45. Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a 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.

David is unfazed by the boasts of the Philistine champion. He answers that the Philistine has his weapons, but that is all he has. David has Yahweh Zebaoth, the Lord of Hosts, and it is in His name that he comes against this enemy of His people. Unlike the rest of Israel’s army, David remembers Who his weapon is! He lets the giant know that it is the God of the armies of Israel that he has truly defied, and not Israel’s army only. Against this God, the giant appears to be nothing more than a pipsqueak.

46. This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you and take your head from you. And this day I will give the carcasses of the camp of the Philistines to the birds of the air and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel.

David tells the Philistine what he is going to do to him in the name of his God. The LORD will give this giant into his power, for that is what the “hand” symbolizes. David assures him that he is going to strike him, and then take his head from him. David is not concerned with missing. Surely if his first stone slung at the giant missed, he would never have had an opportunity at a second. Even the best slinger could make a bad shot in the excitement of the moment. Yet David does not rely on his skill alone, but on the power of the God Whom he serves. To him, victory does not rely on his own ability, but on the ability of God.

David tells Goliath that once he is dead, David will defeat the Philistine army, and it is their carcasses that will be given to the birds of the air and the scavenging beasts of the field, and they will be given by David, not by Goliath. The result will be that all the land around will know that there is a God in Israel Who is able to save Israel by His power.

47. Then all this assembly shall know that the LORD does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the LORD’s, and He will give you into our hands.”

David wants the assembly of cowardly Israelites to learn that Jehovah does not need to use weapons to save His people. His is the battle, and He can save with whatever is available. It is Jehovah Who will give the Philistines into their power, not the skill or prowess of David.

The word “assembly” here is the Hebrew word qahal. It is equivalent to the word ekklesia in the New Testament, which is usually translated “church.” It speaks of a marked-out company, or a designated assembly of representative leaders. In this case, it speaks of the army, for the army of any nation is marked out by that nation to represent it in battle. When the United States stormed Normandy in World War II, the entire nation did not storm Normandy, but rather the army did in their capacity of representing the nation. So an army is a marked-out company of designated representatives. David wants Israel’s army to know the truth about Jehovah. Perhaps, he even wants the Philistine qahal to know it as well. Even Israel’s enemies need to know of His greatness!

48. So it was, when the Philistine arose and came and drew near to meet David, that David hurried and ran toward the army to meet the Philistine.

So the Philistine stirs himself and comes to meet David in battle, no doubt still hoping for the hand-to-hand combat at which he excels. David does not wait for him to come, but runs toward the enemy army to meet the giant, thus to get a better shot. We would note here that, while the other Israelites trembled in fear, David ran to meet the fearsome giant! Surely God gave him the courage to do what no other man in the army was willing to do.

49. Then David put his hand in his bag and took out a stone; and he slung it and struck the Philistine in his forehead, so that the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face to the earth.

David takes a stone out of his bag and puts it in his sling. We know that David was a shepherd, not a warrior. Yet it is a fact that the shepherds of the day, often having little to do while watching their sheep graze, would often practice at slinging stones, and would become very proficient at it. Indeed, since Israel rarely had a very big standing army, many of its slingers probably learned the skill in just such a way. As we said above, these slings were serious weapons, and in the hands of an accomplished slinger could cause severe damage indeed. Thus David is not without skill to counter the force of the onrushing giant.

So David slings a stone, and strikes the giant with great accuracy right in his forehead. Of course, it is always harder to hit a moving target, yet this excellent shot was not solely dependent on David, but also on Yahweh Who was with him. The stone sinks into the forehead of the giant, who falls on his face, mortally wounded.

50. So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone, and struck the Philistine and killed him. But there was no sword in the hand of David.

In this way David mortally wounded Goliath with a sling and a stone, and without a sword or such classical infantry weapon in his hand.  He proved indeed that the LORD was the only weapon he really needed, and that with the LORD any weapon at all would be sufficient. Remember, Samson used the jawbone of a donkey! Compared to that, a sling was more than enough for God to use to get the job done.

Yet at the same time, we cannot help but note that his strategy of meeting heavy infantry with artillery fire was a sound one. Were there not plenty of other slingers in Saul’s army who could just as easily have accomplished the same task? What was really lacking was not ability, but confidence. Every one of those slingers was probably thinking of what would happen to him if he missed. None of them was considering the sure help of the LORD that would accompany them against His enemies, as David was considering it. With confidence in God on his side, David found the means to get the victory ready to his hand. Without such confidence, the rest of the army failed. This shows again that the LORD was the real secret to David’s success.

51. Therefore David ran and stood over the Philistine, took his sword and drew it out of its sheath and killed him, and cut off his head with it.
And when the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled.

David runs to stand over the Philistine. When he does so, he sees that Goliath is mortally wounded, but not yet dead. (This fits the above statement, that David killed Goliath without a sword in his hand, with this one, which says he killed him with his own sword. The stone mortally wounded him, and his own sword finished him off.)

So David drew the giant’s own sword to end his life with. He cuts off his head, putting an exclamation point on to the defeat of the Philistine champion.

The Philistines flee when they see their champion dead. As we might have expected, they felt no compunction to keep Goliath’s promise that they will become the Israelites’ slaves now that he is defeated. Those words were ultimately meant as a mockery. Yet many Philistines will die as a result of their refusal to submit.

52. Now the men of Israel and Judah arose and shouted, and pursued the Philistines as far as the entrance of the valley and to the gates of Ekron. And the wounded of the Philistines fell along the road to Shaaraim, even as far as Gath and Ekron.

When the army of Israel and Judah sees this, they arise with a shout and pursue after the Philistines. The Israelites are very brave now that the giant is dead and the Philistines are fleeing! The disadvantage of going down into the valley and then having to go up the hill on the other side to attack the enemy is now gone, since the Philistines have turned their backs to them.

Thus the Israelites chase the Philistines back to their own land. They chase them all the way to the gates of Ekron, which as we have seen before in Samuel was the northernmost of the royal cities of the Philistines. The wounded fell along the road to Shaaraim, which means “Double Gate,” and was a town of Judah. Remember that it was in Judah that this war took place. They fell from there all the way into Philistia, both to the gates of Ekron and all the way south from there to Gath. Which city they fled to probably depended on which city they were from, as each soldier fled back to his home.

53. Then the children of Israel returned from chasing the Philistines, and they plundered their tents.

Having chased the Philistines back to their fortified cities, the Israelites do not bother with sieges. Instead, they come back to the original battlefield and plunder the tents in the Philistines’ camp. As any good army would do, the Philistines had doubtless come well-supplied, and in their flight they have had to leave much of these supplies behind. Thus their tents were probably filled with many goods, which now are taken by the Israelites. Thus God gives them a rich reward as well as a great victory.

54. And David took the head of the Philistine and brought it to Jerusalem, but he put his armor in his tent.

David keeps Goliath’s armor for himself. No doubt this will not be for David’s own use, since it was too large for any normal man, but rather as a trophy of the great victory God had given him, as we see Goliath’s sword became at the tabernacle. The head of Goliath he brings to Jerusalem, no doubt again to be used in the celebration of victory. It is interesting that he brought it to Jerusalem, for that was not the capital of Israel at that time, but only a city in Benjamin on the border of Judah. Perhaps David already had his eye on Jerusalem, as he later made this place his capital city.

55. When Saul saw David going out against the Philistine, he said to Abner, the commander of the army, “Abner, whose son is this youth?”
And Abner said, “As your soul lives, O king, I do not know.”

As Saul watches David going out to fight Goliath, he wants to know who David’s father is. Remember, he has to repeal his taxes, since he had promised to make the father’s family of the one who killed the giant free of taxes in Israel. Perhaps he wants to know so he will know how great a tax loss this will be! He also has promised to give the one who defeats Goliath his daughter’s hand in marriage. In their system, that meant she would become a part of David’s family, and he wanted to know what family it is that he is going to ally himself with in marriage. It seems that David’s confidence inspired Saul, for he seems to already be counting up what his losses will be from paying out the rich reward he promised.

Abner, as we have seen, was Saul’s uncle, though he seems to have been about Saul’s age. He was also his army commander. Abner does not know whose family David belongs to. Remember that up to now, David has been Saul’s harpist, and no one probably pays much attention to the family of a musician, certainly not an army commander like Abner. Jesse was not a famous man, so there was no reason for Saul or Abner to take note of David’s family before this.

56. So the king said, “Inquire whose son this young man is.”

The king wants to know who his father is, and commands his servants to look into the matter. He seems more interested in Jesse than in young David. Perhaps he views David as just a brash and courageous youth, whereas his father would be more of an adult and more like the kind of person Saul would have communion with.

57. Then, as David returned from the slaughter of the Philistine, Abner took him and brought him before Saul with the head of the Philistine in his hand.

These things happened while David was going out to fight Goliath. Now, we come back to the end of the matter, when David is returning victorious. Abner brings David to Saul, still holding Goliath’s head in his hand!

58. And Saul said to him, “Whose son are you, young man?”
So David answered, “I am the son of your servant Jesse the Bethlehemite.”

Saul asks his question of David, and David reveals who his father is and where he is from. His father was no one important, and his home city was a very small and insignificant town. At least the burden of excusing Jesse’s household from taxes will not be too great. Yet perhaps Saul felt rather let down that he would have to marry his daughter to such an insignificant man. Saul has long since forgotten the lowly condition from which he himself was raised!

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