1 Samuel 17 - David and Goliath

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1 Samuel 17:37-54 – David versus Goliath (Victory belongs to the Lord)


There is one Hebrew commentary on this subject which talks about “David’s prowess was simply the hand of Hashem acting in this world” ……i.e. God won the fight for David and the Israelites. It can be seen as faith triumphing over physical strength using the armour of God.


Where is this story situated?

The place is called Socoh in the valley of Elah (near Beit Shemesh – and it is worth noting that Shemesh is the Hebrew word for sun).

The first thoughts are the actions of the Philistines were quite audacious and showed a lack of respect as they were in Judean territory (even though the borders may have changed since then.) The place itself was called “Ephes-dammim”

  •  There are three references and translations;

    • ‘Ephes’ – “free” – soldiers wanted to work for nothing to destroy Israelis, these soldiers were ready to fight and kill the Israelites

    • ‘Dam’ refers to Red land i.e. where blood I spilled

    • ‘Pas’ means ceased i.e. “bloodshed ceased”


Main players - David

David was the youngest son of Jesse and he had just been anointed as Gods chosen by Samuel as in 1 Samuel 16:13

What is worth mentioning is David was already versed in fighting as a shepherd as he had already killed a Lion and a bear whilst he was guarding the flocks under his care. The key aspect of David was he was loyal to the name of the Lord as when he came to give the soldier food in;

1 Samuel 17:26

What is clear from this verse is that David trusted in God and made a clear rejection of Saul’s armour.


What was David’s physical weaponry?

David predominantly had his sling which was a strip of cloth or leather folded double and in the centre a stone is placed. The sling is held at each of the ends and rotated until as such time one of ends are released ejecting the stone at great velocity. Slings are used elsewhere in the bible such as where they were used by elite soldiers;

Judges 20:16 - Among all these soldiers there were seven hundred select troops who were left-handed, each of whom could sling a stone at a hair and not miss.


The character of Saul

At this point in time he wasn’t God’s anointed as his time had passed. It is clear early on his scriptures that Saul was only temporary by the fact some commentators see that he was anointed with a flask unlike David who was anointed with a horn.

1 Samuel 10:1 - Then Samuel took a vial of oil, and poured it upon his head, and kissed him

Now we read later on that the Holy Spirit had departed from Saul.

1 Samuel 16:14- But the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD troubled him.


One Explanation is that Gods divine plan could be executed and God himself be glorified through his servant David. This is very relevant as God needed to work through David for the Israelites.

1 Samuel 17:11- When Saul and all Israel heard those words of the Philistine, they were dismayed, and greatly afraid.


N.B. the words are “greatly afraid “or “terror stricken” dependant on the version you are reading. Saul had recently seen Jonathan and his armour bearer defeat a single Philistine garrison and what is clear is this wasn’t the same character in previous chapters of 1 Samuel. Saul at this point looked on the outside of a person and not on the inside and before the battle he judged the outward appearance of David look at;

1 Samuel 17:33 - And Saul said to David, Thou art not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him: for thou art but a youth, and he a man of war from his youth.


At this point in time Saul’s decisions were not logical as he though his armour would fit David in verse 39.


Who were the Philistines?

They were Invaders from the sea who settled in Canaan and many commentators think they were from Crete in Greece. What was clear was that conflict would be needed to remove them from the land which God spoke to Moses

Exodus 23:31-32 And I will set thy bounds from the Red sea even unto the sea of the Philistines, and from the desert unto the river: for I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand; and thou shalt drive them out before thee. Thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor with their gods.

The problem was Joshua had not entirely removed them from the land of Israel;

Joshua 13 1-3

1.When Joshua had grown old, the Lord said to him, “You are now very old, and there are still very large areas of land to be taken over.

2.“This is the land that remains: all the regions of the Philistines and Geshurites,

3.from the Shihor River on the east of Egypt to the territory of Ekron on the north, all of it counted as Canaanite though held by the five Philistine rulers in Gaza, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gath and Ekron; the territory of the Avvites


The Philistines would later be devastated by the same Assyrian kingdom that overtook Israel (2 Kings 18:33–35). They were also defeated by Hezekiah’s (2 Kings 18:5–8).

The Philistines themselves were pagan worshipping as they worshipped Deities such as the fish gods Dagon which David talks about in other Psalms as being wicked people. They were also violent people, and their days were numbered as David always talked about Gods enemies being destroyed on behalf of Israel which David was acknowledging;

Psalm 44:4 - For not by their own swords did they conquer the land, nor did their own arm

give them victory; rather, it was your right hand, your arm and the light of your face; because you favoured them.


Who was Goliath?

His description is in 1 Samuel 17:4 - 9 and it is said in scripture he was from Gath and history is not exact in where this is located, but many writers see it as somewhere near Hebron. His blood line was a race of giants called the Anakim. Some commentators see his as related to the Nephilim in Genesis 6.

N.B. There are 2 Goliaths mentioned in the bible and the other one is in 2 Samuel 21:19, were not told their relationship, if any to each other.

His name Goliath translated can mean building i.e. he is as tall as a building and it is thought he was either 13, 9 or just under 7 foot depending on the version of the text you use. Either way he was a lot taller than the average height of people of 5.5 feet at the time. His armour would have weighed 125 pounds (60kg) as it was made of copper. (Some texts use bronze).

Goliath also wore a neck guard, and many illustrations omit this as well as other aspects of this story. He carried a giant spear called a weaver’s beam where weavers roll their material as well as the fact, he had a shield bearer who was a soldier who would hold the shield and stand aside Goliath to protect him.

Goliath's character can be seen within this context as somewhat of a bully and prideful of his own strength and ability. The purpose of speeches before battle was to demoralise opposing force

As David Guzik quotes in his commentary of Samuel.  

In any contest, it's always useful to demoralize your opponent and strike fear in their heart. First, it may keep you from ever going to battle with them because they are so afraid. Second, if it does come to battle, they will fight with fear and apprehension and so with your words, you've done a lot to win the battle before it even begins.

It is worth noting that this is similar to the strategy of the satan uses against believers.

Within this chapter, Goliath was making his speech either to

  • Saul as it was customary to call the King in a fight as a way of communicating between opposing forces.

  • If they were on a mountain top, was Goliath challenging God himself in verse 8 as the King of the Israelites


David’s battle before he gets on the battlefield

David had a battle before he even got into the fight with Goliath with his brother Eliab who was his eldest brother in 1 Samuel 17 verse 28

The battle here was one of respect, as he was his older brother and within the family structure there was an order of a brothers importance and stance, similarly when  like when Jesse suggests to Samuel about who to anoint as a king in chapter 16 . Eliab accuses David of irresponsible behaviour, vicious intent and malice and pride in he thought he knew David’s heart, but he was really mirroring his own feelings. What is important is David won the battle as his soft answer in verse 29.


The Battle

There has been much talk about some of the imagery and meanings of various aspects of this battle, the first one being the number of stones being 5. Some commentators see Goliath having 4 brothers, but we have no actual proof of this.

What is amusing  about the whole battle is  Goliath had to look about and scan the horizon as he couldn’t see his opposition and could it have been David’s height or a muse to state Goliath did not see a viable enemy to fight.

Goliath starts by calling David a “dog” which at the time signified a male prostitute and therefore he insulted his status. He cursed him by his own non-existent gods and as in effect he was taking on the Lord God almighty.

David responds by stating in verse 45 he states he is sent on a mission from God and in verse 47 he states God will have the victory and he will deliver your head into the hands of us the Israelites. Hence David put his faith on God to defeat Goliath.

The battle started when Goliath approached David, he ran forward due to his faith in God. David would have used the sling and hit him straight in the forehead with the projectile rock.

There is a reference here to falling on your face in 1 Samuel 5:2-5 which is where the Philistine god Dagon fell on his face before the Lord and here we see a worshipper of Dagon falling on his face. The stone hit Goliath in the forehead and in the OT the priests put it into their forehead plate, and it represented stubbornness (good and bad) as in;

Exodus 39:30 [The artisans] made the Forehead-plate and inscribed upon it “Holy unto God.”


Analysis of battle

Goliath was wearing a helmet, hence the stone must have been going at some speed but it had we know the Lord was behind it (it is worth noting that some commentators see the place David hit was between Goliaths legs armour as this was the reason he fell forward

In terms of Goliaths death, we know that the stone killed him, but David still beheaded him with his own sword and some of the reasons behind this are;

  1. To make sure he was dead

  2. On a more spiritual level, God uses satan’s weapons against him.

   Psalm 57:6 - They have prepared a net for my steps; my soul is bowed down: they have digged a pit before me, into the midst whereof they are fallen themselves.


It is worth reminding us of the Israelite and Philistine relationship changed over the course of history as David used Goliath’s sword again later on in 1 Samuel 21:9 and flees to the Philistines city of Gath who were the opponents in this part of scripture.

David took Goliaths head with him to Jerusalem in verse 54 as a constant reminder to David of God’s victory. Some Jewish literature states that Goliath’s head was buried with King David as a sign to identify him with if his remains are ever found.


What is clear in this story is God had the victory.

We can contrast the many Gods of the Philistines against the one True God.

There was an immense difference between David and Goliaths attributes such as size i.e. tall and small, their armour and weaponry.

The point I believe is to show how God’s man succeeds even when all odds are against you.

As in Proverbs 3 v 5 not leaning on your own understanding and trusting in God’s plan. Also, in verse 39 it makes a reference to armour – sometime spiritual armour won’t fit as we haven’t tested it and put faith in God.

This part of scripture teaches is about man’s lack of faith in God i.e.

Saul questioned David’s ability and ultimately questioned God to win the battle for the Israelites. In contrast to David who believed in God, put his trust in him and ran at the enemy rather than merely saying God will have the victory and not doing anything about it David was  God’s chosen and this was made clear at an early age in 1 Samuel 16 and his youth was an example as Paul talks about in


David knew how to use his tools; he didn’t always resort to the sword as when he replied to his brother in a calm and soft manner.

Most of all he put GOD FIRST in life as we should and acknowledge him and he will win the battle for us.