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1 Samuel 17:1-17:58
Key Verse: 17:45

In history wars have occurred unceasingly. In a sense human history is the history of battles. There are many battle stories in the Bible. However, the fighting story of David and Goliath is a unique one, for it was a duel. Life is a battle, for there are many challenges in life. Most people just avoid challenges and real issues in life and try to appear fine. However, unless we do overcome challenges, our life is a sorrowful one amid many other seeming blessings. In fact we should see and fight our own Goliath and learn how to defeat him. Spiritually speaking, in a true sense all people have one common enemy, named devil, who is behind visible Golaith. So the life battle is a duel, between me and the devil. If one cannot win in this battle, he cannot be truly victorious and happy despite many other victories in life, competing and defeating others and achieving many things and obtaining recognition and honour among people. In our life journey we should learn how to win this battle. May this study of David and Goliath guide us and help us in this matter! This can be also a good preparation for this fall semester.

First, the person of Goliath and of David (1-26). Look at verses 1-3, “Now the Philistines gathered their forces for war and assembled at Socoh in Judah. They pitched camp at Ephes Dammin, between Socoh and Azekah. Saul and the Israelites assembled and camped in the Valley of Elah and drew up their battle line to meet the Philistines. The Philistines occupied one hill and the Israelites another, with the valley between them.” From the period of Judges through the end of David’s reign, the Philistines (“sea people”) were an ever present enemy of Israel. As we studied last week, in chapter 4 the Israelites went out to fight against the Philistines, but they were defeated by the Philistines, even having the ark of God captured. Then in chapter 7, later the Philistines attacked the Israelites, but God heard Samuel’s prayer and fought for Israel, and the Philistines were defeated. At another time in chapter 14 the Israelites won over the Philistines through Jonathan. Now it is the fourth battle occurrence between them recorded in this book. This battle is different from the other times. This is the battle between two representatives. And there is a long description about each of the two.

Look at verse 4. “A champion named Goliath, who was from Gath, came out of the Philistine camp. He was over nine feet tall.” The Philistine representative was a man named Goliath, known as a champion. This Philistine champion was about 3 meters in height. According to Guinness world record, the tallest man in medical history (Robert Pershing Wadlow, USA, born in 1918) was 2.72 m tall. In the Bible is the record of an Egyptian who was seven feet and a half (2.3 m) tall (1 Chr. 11:23). But Goliath was much taller. Then in verses 5-7, “He had a bronze helmet on his head and wore a coat of scale armor of bronze weighing five thousand shekels (57 kg); 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 (7 kg).” So Goliath was fully armed with the best equipment of that time: bronze helmet, heavy weighed bronze coat of scale armor, bronze greaves, bronze javelin, a long spear shaft with a weighty iron point. He looked formidable and imposing. His preparation for the battle seemed to be perfect. And the last description of him was that “his shield bearer went ahead of him.”

The appearance of Goliath was indeed imposing and formidable. But what did he do next? Look at verses 8-10. “Goliath stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel. ‘Why do you come out and line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not the servants of Saul? 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 and serve us.’ Then the Philistines said, ‘This day I defy the ranks of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other.’” Here we see Goliath’s psychological strategy through his words. Goliath used visible effect and then psychological effect to scare the Israelites, and it worked. In verse 11, “On hearing the Philistine’s words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified.”

Here we need to observe Goliath’s appearance and tactic carefully. He was leading the Israelites to fight in terms of a dual battle based on his own merit and strength. We don’t know anything about his ability to lead the whole army and mobilize the military power to fight most effectively. He suggested only to fight on a duel, mentioning it twice, “Choose a man and have him come down to me”, and “Give me a man and let us fight each other.”

What many medical experts now believe is that Goliath had a serious medical condition. He looked and sounded like someone suffering from what is called acromegaly—a disease caused by a benign tumor of the pituitary gland. The tumor causes an overproduction of human growth hormone, which could explain Goliath’s extraordinary size. And furthermore, one of the common side effects of acromegaly is vision problems. Pituitary tumors can grow to the point where they compress the nerves leading to the eyes, with the result that people with acromegaly often suffer from severely restricted sight and diplopia, or double vision. Of course nobody knew this at time. What the Bible says, “…his shield bearer went ahead of him.” Why was Goliath led onto the valley floor by an attendant? Because the attendant was his visual guide. In verse 41 even as he kept coming closer to David, his shield bearer was in front of him. And when he could see David that he was only a boy, ruddy and handsome, he said, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” Sticks plural? David was holding only one stick, which was his shepherd staff. This indicates his poor eye sight.

And because of his blur and his tall and oversize body even with heavy full equipment, his mobility was very poor, while David could move quickly. So Goliath seemed to be strong only in that standing dual fight. That’s why, he said, “Choose a man and have him come down to me”, instead of saying, “I will go to him.” He had to take his stand there even forty days, when no Israelite came down to me. He was tricking the Israelites to fall into his trap. He also spoke the words which could not be kept. He said, “If he is able to fight and kill me, we will become your subjects…” However, later when the Philistines saw that their hero was dead, they turned and ran, not becoming the subjects to Israel. Here we see Goliath’s flaw in his appearance and limitation in his strategy. But Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified at him.

We learn that we should have a correct view of Goliath. Even Goliath had his weakness. We are to know that Satan has been defeated through Jesus’ death and resurrection. He is like a roaring and ferocious lion but he is a fatally wounded one. He is totally powerless at the name of Jesus. Also, in God there is not such a thing as impossible. In God there is a way for any hard task and in any difficult situation.

Then, how was David described? Look at verse 12. “Now David was the son of an Ephrathite named Jesse, who was from Bethlehem in Judah. Jesse had eight sons, and in Saul’s time he was old and well advanced.” David was the youngest son of Jesse who had eight sons. The family was nothing special, just an ordinary family in a little town of Bethlehem, while Goliath was from Gath, one of the five major cities of the Philistine. In the age of 17 David was even not qualified to be drafted to the army of Israel. He was just tending his father’s sheep as a shepherd. Yet, David was shown obedient and accountable and caring when his father gave him the task to see how his brothers were doing and bring back some assurance from them. When David reached the camp, Israel and the Philistines were drawing up their lines facing each other. As David ran to the battle lines and greeted his brothers and was talking with them, Goliath, the Philistine champion from Gath, stepped out from his lines and shouted his usual defiance, and David heard it. When the Israelites saw the man, they all ran from him in great fear. And they were only talking about King Saul’s promise to give great wealth, his daughter in marriage, tax exemption for the family to the one who kills the Philistine. But David’s response was this at the situation: “David asked the men standing near him, ‘What will be done for the man to kills this Philistine and removes this disgrace from Israel? Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?’” David’s physical and human quality to fight was almost nothing. But he had a spiritual quality to put God’s honour first, knowing who he is, who the Philistine is, and whose army the army of Israel is: He is one of the circumcised people of Israel, God’s chosen people, and the enemy, the uncircumcised, and the army of Israel, the army of the living God. Disgrace for God and his people was unthinkable to David; especially the uncircumcised Philistine defying the armies of the living God he could not bear. He had the holy anger to hate the enemy of God’s people. Truly, he loved God and put the honour of God first.

Second, the fight between Goliath and David (27-58). Look at verse 28. “When Eliab, David’s old brother, heard him speaking with the men, he burned with anger at him and asked, ‘Why have you come down here? And with whom did you leave those few sheep in the desert? I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is; you came down only to watch the battle?” David’s oldest brother, who was supposed to encourage him most, opposed him, discouraging him greatly. Eliab should have been burned with anger at the Philistine, but he was burned with anger at a wrong person. His anger was most probably related to his jealousy, that his little brother was chosen over him by God/Samuel (16:6,7). He lived with David for a long time, but his knowledge of his youngest brother was wrong, maybe even superficial. Anyway, this unexpected obstacle came from the inner circle of his own family. In such a situation it is easy to respond back emotionally and fight a human battle. This was a crucial time for David to win or lose his inner battle. What did David do? After saying, “Now what have I done? Can’t I even speak?”, David turned away to someone else and brought up the same matter. David was not involved in such a human battle. He ignored it. We should overcome this kind of discouragement if we want to serve God. At the right time an opportunity came to David. What David said was overheard and reported to Saul and Saul sent for him.

Upon first hearing the Philistine’s words of defiance, David had concern for God’s honour, asking, “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?” Now he was concerned about his people, when he said to Saul here, “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him.” The boy David was courageous. But Saul could not believe it and replied, “You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a boy, and he has been a fighting man from his youth.” King Saul was on the level of human reasoning and logic. David would not yield to such human judgment. Though he was a boy, his mind went above it, through his life experience. He 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 delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” David’s courage to fight the Philistine was not groundless. It was based on God’s grace of deliverance in his life and the experience of the victory in God and continuous faith and trust in the LORD his God.

At this Saul’s heart was moved, and said to him, “Go, and the LORD be with you.” 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 his sword over the tunic and tried walking around, because he was not used to them. Saul was trying to help David according to common knowledge about fighting preparation. But David was not accustomed to it. So he said, “I cannot go in these, 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.

Sometimes we think that in doing the gospel work we need some other things that are fit to the trend of the world. But we should never ignore the strength God gave us: his word and prayer. These two are timeless equipment in our spiritual battle, and we need to all the more to be used to them.

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 only a boy, ruddy 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 of the air and the beasts of the field!” What the Philistine said could be scary to a boy like David.

But 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 hand you over to me, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. Today I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, 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.” David was not scared at all. Rather, he had amazing confidence in the LORD Almighty. He clearly knew how to fight the battle. He knew how the enemy Philistine campion was coming toward him. His weapon was sword, spear and javelin. As for David, he prepared five smooth stones and a sling. Although he would use them, he was not depending on such things. His weapon was the name of the LORD Almighty, the greatest and the most powerful weapon man can have. When he mentioned the name of the LORD Almighty, he was depending the mighty power of the LORD Almighty, which is above all human power. As he would fight in the name of the LORD Almighty, his victory was assured and he would fight together with God. So he said, “This day the LORD will hand you over to me, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. Today I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth.” And the ultimate purpose of fighting was more than the victory. He said, “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.”

Here we should learn how to fight the battle. Sword, spear and javelin can be all kinds of human equipment, human knowledge, technology, power. But we should learn to fight in the name of the LORD Almighty: withfull dependence on God through much prayer and firmly and deeply believing his words. And we are to fight for his name’s sake, for his glory, to show U of T campus and the people in this country that our God is the living God and Christ Jesus is the Saviour and Lord for us and for all people of the world.

Then the actual fighting is written in just 2 verses. In verses 48 and 49, “As the Philistines 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.” At this very moment of duel, David moved quickly and attacked the Philistine with sling and stone as he had planned, and it was completely successive. It is amazing that the stone did not bounce back from the forehead of the Philistine after hitting it, but sank into his forehead.

In ancient times, there were three kinds of warriors. The first was cavalry—armed men on horseback or in chariots. The second was infantry—foot soldiers wearing armor and carrying swords and shields. The third were projectile warriors, or what today what would be called artillery: archers and, most important, slingers. According to a historian, Baruch Halpern, these three kinds of warriors are to one another like the game of rock, scissors, paper. With their long pikes and armor, infantry could stand up cavalry. Cavalry could, in turn, defeat projectile warriors, because the horses moved too quickly for artillery to take proper aim. And projectile warriors were deadly against infantry, because a big lumbering soldier, weighed down with armor, was a sitting duck for a slinger who was launching projectiles from a hundred yards away. Goliath was heavy infantry. He thought that he was going to be engaged in a duel with another heavy-infantry man. But David was a slinger in God’s providence. We are not sure whether David knew all those types of fighting. But when he depended on God, God led him to fight into the most effective way of fighting and gave him a decisive victory which no one could expect.

The author described this victory of David concisely and meaningfully in this one verse, “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.” This kind of victory is the one only God can give. We are reminded of the words, “the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength” (1 Cor 1:25).

Then David ran and stood over the Philistine. He took hold of the Philistine’s sword and drew it from the scabbard. After he killed the Philistine, he cut off his head with the sword as he had said to him (17:46). And this was to make his victory sure.

When the Philistines saw that their hero was dead, they turned and ran. They were supposed to become subjects to Israelites, but they ran away. Then the men of Israel and Judah surged forward with a shout and pursued the Philistines to the entrance of Gath and to the gates of Ekron. Their dead were strewn along the Shaaraim road to Gath and Ekron. When the Israelites returned from chasing the Philistines, they plundered their camp. David took the Philistine’s head and brought it to Jerusalem, and he put the Philistine’s weapons in his own tent. This was the display of God’s victory. And at this time of amazing victory, when he was asked by the king, “Whose son are you, young man?” he clearly said, “I am the son of your servant Jesse of Bethlehem.” He did not hide his poor family background at the time of fame and success.

May we have a corrective view of Goliath and come to fight against him in the name of the LORD Almighty for his honour so that we can defeat our own Goliath in life and display the victory and glory of God.

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