AN EXPOSITION OF
1 SAMUEL 17:1-58
1 NOW the Philistines gathered together their armies to battle, and were gathered together at Shochoh, which belongeth to Judah, and pitched between Shochoh and Azekah, in Ephesdammim.
2 And Saul and the men of Israel were gathered together, and pitched by the valley of Elah, and set the battle in array against the Philistines.
3 And the Philistines stood on a mountain on the one side, and Israel stood on a mountain on the other side: and there was a valley between them.
Twenty-seven years of peace had passed between Israel and the Philistines. Suddenly, in a deliberate act of provocation the Philistines were challenging the Israelites to battle. Two events combined to cause renewed hostilities.
First, the people of Palestine had heard about the mental instability of the king. Now seventy years of age, Saul was not the man he used to be. Fits of depression filled his days and robbed him of sleep at night. It was reported that he needed music to help him relax. The people were encouraged by the declining health of Saul to renew their hostilities against the Israelites. Second, a new warrior champion had been found to lead the Philistines into battle.
4 And there went out a champion out of the camp of the Philistines, named Goliath, of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span.
The name Goliath means, “exile”. Goliath came from Gath where he had been trained in combat from his early youth. This new warrior champion was no ordinary soldier, for he was a literal giant, possessing unusual height and strength. Most giants in antiquity had gone the way of the dinosaurs and become extinct. When the “terrible lizards” had disappeared, the world seemed a lot safer. And when Israel finally conquered the gigantic sons of Anak, Israel felt a lot safer.
Initially, the people of Israel did not know how the giants would be conquered. In the sunset years of his life Moses remembered the first reports of the giants in the land. “And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight” (Numbers 13:33-14:1). Nevertheless, the Lord gave the victory, and peace for the Hebrews was secured. Now that security was being threatened, for another giant had appeared. There was to be war once more in Palestine.
5 And he had an helmet of brass upon his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail; and the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of brass.
6 And he had greaves of brass upon his legs, and a target of brass between his shoulders.
7 And the staff of his spear was like a weaver’s beam; and his spear’s head weighed six hundred shekels of iron: and one bearing a shield went before him.
The armies of Israel and the armies of the Philistines began to maneuver, and position themselves for battle. The opposing armies lined up on different ranges with a valley in between them. Then came Goliath. One look at Goliath was enough to terrorize any normal solider no matter how battle hardened he had become.
Goliath walked down into the valley, and there he stood between the two armies. He was 9 feet 9 inches tall. Every inch of his body was solid muscle. There he stood in combat armor. On the head of Goliath rested a brass helmet. The rays of the sun caused the brass to shine. It burned with brightness. Covering his body was a coat of mail of tremendous weight. The legs of Goliath were protected. Across his chest hung a sword, much larger than the normal weapons of warfare.
In his hand Goliath carried a long staff, a spear with an iron head. There was something else for his protection. Instead of carrying his own shield, Goliath had a man walk before him advancing the shield, which allowed him greater mobility to dodge and dart one way and then another.
8 And he stood and cried unto the armies of Israel, and said unto them, Why are ye come out to set your battle in array? Am not I a Philistine, and ye servants to Saul? Choose you a man for you, and let him come down to me.
9 If he be able to fight with me, and to kill me, then will we be your servants: but if I prevail against him, and kill him, then shall ye be our servants, and serve us.
10 And the Philistine said, I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together.
11 When Saul and all Israel heard those words of the Philistine, they were dismayed, and greatly afraid.
When the Philistines presented in public their ultimate one man fighting machine, it had the desired effect. The hearts of the people of Israel turned to water. The people were terrified.
To enhance the natural fear Goliath’s presence instilled into the hearts of the people, Goliath added the psychological weapon of propaganda. With great mockery he invited a single contestant from Israel to meet with him in conflict to determine the outcome of the battle. Full of self-esteem and excessive pride, Goliath was certain in his mind what the outcome of any one-to-one combat would be. And so, with unholy boldness the giant said, “I defy the armies of Israel this day. Give me a man that we may fight.”
When Saul and the armies of Israel heard these words fear gripped their hearts. Each soldier meditated upon, and visualized the outcome if anyone dared to challenge Goliath. Goliath was too big, too strong, and so full of self-confidence. It would be suicide for anyone to engage him in hand-to-hand combat. For forty days Goliath mocked the integrity and courage of the men of Israel. For forty days Goliath defied the living God. For forty days Goliath made the Hebrew men of war feel weak and helpless.
Jonathan, who once, assisted only by his armor-bearer, had killed twenty of the Philistines, was afraid. 1 Samuel 14:14 And that first slaughter, which Jonathan and his armor-bearer made, was about twenty men, within as it were an half acre of land, which a yoke of oxen might plow.
Abner, the captain of the army of Israel was afraid, though he is described in Scripture as being a valiant man. 1 Samuel 26:15 And David said to Abner, Art not thou a valiant man? And who is like to thee in Israel? Wherefore then hast thou not kept thy lord the king? For there came one of the people in to destroy the king thy lord.
Saul, who stood head and shoulders above other Israelites, and was renowned for being a mighty warrior, was afraid.
12 Now David was the son of that Ephrathite of Bethlehem-Judah, whose name was Jesse; and he had eight sons: and the man went among men for an old man in the days of Saul.
13 And the three eldest sons of Jesse went and followed Saul to the battle: and the names of his three sons that went to the battle were Eliab the firstborn, and next unto him Abinadab, and the third Shammah.
14 And David was the youngest: and the three eldest followed Saul.
15 But David went and returned from Saul to feed his father’s sheep at Bethlehem.
16 And the Philistine drew near morning and evening, and presented himself forty days.
17 And Jesse said unto David his son, Take now for thy brethren an ephah of this parched corn, and these ten loaves, and run to the camp to thy brethren;
18 And carry these ten cheeses unto the captain of their thousand, and look how thy brethren fare, and take their pledge.
As this, the drama of Goliath defying the army of Israel was being played out, the Biblical scene shifts from the Valley of Elah to the home of David, son of Jesse of Bethlehem-Judah. Apparently David had returned home for a visit from the court of King Saul. Back home again he was doing what he knew best to do, tend to the sheep. His three oldest brothers had left the house to pursue a military career, or else they had been conscripted. Whatever the situation, they were in the army of Israel, and their father, Jesse, wanted to know how they were doing.
Calling David from the hills Jesse instructed him to take food to his brothers and a gift of cheese to their commander. “David, see how your brothers are doing and report that news back to me” seems to have been the mission. Rising up early in the morning David set out to find his brothers. It was reported they were stationed in the Valley of Elah, so to the valley David went. What did it matter if he was entering into a war zone? He had a mission to accomplish.
19 Now Saul, and they, and all the men of Israel, were in the valley of Elah, fighting with the Philistines.
20 And David rose up early in the morning, and left the sheep with a keeper, and took, and went, as Jesse had commanded him; and he came to the trench, as the host was going forth to the fight, and shouted for the battle.
21 For Israel and the Philistines had put the battle in array, army against army.
22 And David left his carriage in the hand of the keeper of the carriage, and ran into the army, and came and saluted his brethren.
With growing excitement, mingled with love and a desire to bring some physical relief to his brothers, David risked his own safety to find his brothers. As David united with them, he noticed how nervous and tense everyone seemed to be. And then came Goliath. Big, bad, bully Goliath. At his appointed time, Goliath appeared to issue his verbal propaganda–much like Tokyo Rose would do during WWII.
23 And as he talked with them, behold, there came up the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name, out of the armies of the Philistines, and spake according to the same words: and David heard them.
24 And all the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him, and were sore afraid.
As Goliath spoke, David witnessed the reaction of the men in the army. He watched as good men began to tremble in fear from the mere presence of Goliath. When the rehearsed speech of Goliath ended, and he lumbered back to his base camp, conversation began in the camp of Israel. David listened to the conversation in the camp and was sadden by what he heard.
25 And the men of Israel said, Have ye seen this man that is come up? Surely to defy Israel is he come up: and it shall be, that the man who killeth him, the king will enrich him with great riches, and will give him his daughter, and make his father’s house free in Israel.
26 And David spake to the men that stood by him, saying, What shall be done to the man that killeth this Philistine, and taketh away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?
27 And the people answered him after this manner, saying, So shall it be done to the man that killeth him.
The king had promised much wealth to any man brave enough to fight with Goliath and emerge victorious. There would be financial security, plus a royal wedding, for Saul was willing to give one of his daughters in marriage. There would be rewards for the soldier’s family as well. Perhaps Saul was thinking that if men would not fight for a just principle, perhaps someone would fight for a price.
28 And Eliab his eldest brother heard when he spake unto the men; and Eliab’s anger was kindled against David, and he said, Why camest thou down hither? And with whom hast thou left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know thy pride, and the naughtiness of thine heart; for thou art come down that thou mightest see the battle.
Eliab (lit. God is Father), the oldest brother of David, watched his reaction to the taunts of Goliath, and his sadness at the words of the men in camp, Eliab sensed something that surprised and disturbed him. David was not afraid! With that discovery Eliab became upset, and suddenly lashed out at his younger brother in foolish fury and unjust accusations.
29 And David said, What have I now done? Is there not a cause?
Unjust criticisms are the most difficult to accept, and Eliab was being extremely unfair. Eliab did not know the “evil” of David’s heart, for there was no evil on this matter. Nor did Eliab know the true evil of his own heart, for it was there on this matter. It is an interesting dynamic of human nature to denounce violently in others the very sins that self is guilty of committing.
David was surprised at the unexpected verbal assault. He who had come to do good was being accused of doing evil. Every Christian must guard their tongue against falsely accusing someone of doing wrong when they are attempting to do that which is good and right in the sight of God.
One reason why such thinking and comments must be arrested, is because it can lead to the unpardonable sin, which is blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. To blaspheme the Holy Spirit is to ascribe to Satan the works of God. In Mark 3:29 Jesus warned “he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation.”
When David was accused by Eliab of evil, he asked in astonishment, “What have I done?” The logical answer is, “Nothing!” David had done nothing wrong. He had only suggested that Goliath could be defeated in battle. The very idea instilled hope and courage in the hearts of some. Like wildfire, the exciting news spread that a champion had been found in Israel to challenge Goliath.
30 And he turned from him toward another, and spake after the same manner: and the people answered him again after the former manner.
31 And when the words were heard which David spake, they rehearsed them before Saul: and he sent for him.
32 And David said to Saul, Let no man’s heart fail because of him; thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine.
It was not long before the news reached the ears of King Saul. Once more David was summoned to stand before the sovereign of the land. Saul wanted to know if it were true. Did David really believe he could engage in personal combat with Goliath and emerge victorious? Saul pointed out the obvious. David was young, and inexperienced, while Goliath was a proven military veteran. But David was not impressed, nor was he intimidated.
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.
34 And David said unto Saul, Thy servant kept his father’s sheep, and there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock:
35 And I went out after him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth: and when he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and smote him, and slew him.
36 Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear: and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them, seeing he hath defied the armies of the living God.
37 David said moreover, The LORD that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine. And Saul said unto David, Go, and the LORD be with thee.
In the hour of pressure, David remembered the faithfulness of God, and that sustained him when nothing else could. David remembered that in the providence of the Lord he had been tested in personal battles of his own, and had emerged victorious. Once a lion tried to feed on his flock. On another occasion a bear tried to do the same. As a good shepherd, David defended his flock. He knew that none of his sheep were safe if even one was lost, or devoured, and so David did what was necessary to protect the sheep. David went after the lion, and after the bear, and killed them.
In all of this David was a type of Jesus Christ, who is the Good Shepherd. He too was willing to lay down His life for His sheep. And when the enemy came as a roaring lion to steal and to devour, Jesus destroyed Him at the Cross. Now His sheep are safe and secure, for He is the One who watches over their souls.
As far as David was concerned, Goliath was but a beast of the field. He was no different than a lion or a bear, and could be defeated. David knew how to use his physical weapons of warfare to combat the physical and spiritual warrior he faced.
38 And Saul armed David with his armour, and he put an helmet of brass upon his head; also he armed him with a coat of mail.
39 And David girded his sword upon his armour, and he assayed to go; for he had not proved it. And David said unto Saul, I cannot go with these; for I have not proved them. And David put them off him.
40 And he took his staff in his hand, and chose him five smooth stones out of the brook, and put them in a shepherd’s bag which he had, even in a scrip; and his sling was in his hand: and he drew near to the Philistine.
When David was through speaking, King Saul sensed that he was in the presence of a most unusual young man. In a marvelous gesture of confidence, and honor, the king offered David his own armour. But they would not do. David would use the simple weapons he was most familiar with, for God had entrusted these to him when he was the Shepherd of the Hills.
In that same frame of mind should Christians engage in spiritual warfare? The weapons that God has entrusted to the Christian soldier to combat the world, the flesh, and the devil are not large and cumbersome. Nor are they complex, despite all teaching to the contrary. Consider the whole armor of God, as given in Ephesians 6:11-18.
“Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. 13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. 14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; 15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: 18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.”
Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation, the Word of God, prayer, watching, perseverance (faithfulness, consistency), supplication (intercession), these ten weapons of spiritual warfare constitute the whole armor of God. With them every foe can be defeated for the glory of the Lord, and the good of the soul. With these divine provisions, the believer can stand against the wiles of the devil. Therefore,
“Onward Christian soldiers,
Marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus
Going on before!
Christ, the royal Master,
Leads against the foe;
Forward into battle,
See His banner go!
At the sign of triumph
Satan’s host doth flee;
On, then, Christian soldiers,
On to victory!
Hell’s foundation quiver
At the shout of praise;
Brothers, lift your voices,
Loud your anthems raise!
Like a mighty army
Moves the church of God;
Brothers, we are treading
Where the saints have trod;
We are not divided;
All one body we
One in hope and doctrine,
One in charity.
Onward, then, ye people,
Join our happy throng,
Blend with ours your voices
In the triumph song;
Glory, laud, and Honor,
Unto Christ the King;
This thro’ countless ages
Men and angels sing.”
Like David, let every Christian go forth to battle. Making his way to the Valley of Elah, David encountered the worst enemy Israel has ever known. The eyes of every soldier in both army camps were riveted on the contestants below. There was David, an obscure figure dressed in the simple garb of a Shepherd of the hills.
41 And the Philistine came on and drew near unto David; and the man that bare the shield went before him.
42 And when the Philistine looked about, and saw David, he disdained him: for he was but a youth, and ruddy, and of a fair countenance.
43 And the Philistine said unto David, Am I a dog, that thou comest to me with staves? And the Philistine cursed David by his gods.
44 And the Philistine said to David, Come to me, and I will give thy flesh unto the fowls of the air, and to the beasts of the field.
45 Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied.
46 This day will the LORD deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcases of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel.
47 And all this assembly shall know that the LORD saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the LORD’s, and he will give you into our hands.
There was Goliath, massive and strong, a seasoned warrior ready for battle. Nevertheless, the encounter took place as David had visualized it in his mind. As he came close to Goliath, David called out to the giant, “This day will the LORD deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcasses of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel” (1 Samuel 17:46).
David was confident he would kill Goliath, cut off his head, and feed what was left to the vultures, and so he did. Taking a single stone from his pouch and placing the stone in his sling, David ran with confidence towards Goliath. Releasing the string on the sling the rock was hurled over the shield barrier to fly to the forehead of Goliath. The stone found its mark as it sank into the skull of the giant, collapsing him to his knees.
Without hesitation David ran to Goliath, took the warrior’s own sword, and sliced off his head. Holding the blood trophy high against the blue sky, David invited the Philistines to know God was on the side of Israel. The victory belonged to the people of God. Now from the narrative observe the following biblical lessons.
There is a just cause in life which is to challenge, and defeat any and every spiritual enemy that would defy the living God, and oppose His people (1 Samuel 17:29). Sometimes this has to be done literally. There are dictators and rulers of darkness that would enslave the world, such as Adolph Hitler, Mussolini, Sadam Hussein, Yasser Arafat, or Vladimir Putin. Many times political and personal freedoms only come through military victory.
Usually, for the Christian, the issue is not military service, but how to defeat the Goliath-like strength of sin in the soul. Sin comes to mock the heart, and defy the rule and reign of God. Because this is true, there is a desperate need to kill Sin, because it opposes the new man in Christ, and seeks to make the soul quiver and shake, so that personal righteousness is subdued.
In dealing with personal sin in the heart, there must be a profound confidence in the living God that personal success is possible. It is the lie of Satan; it is the unholy boast of the Evil One that Sin cannot be defeated. “Sin shall reign in the heart” is the arrogant argument, for sin in the soul has been there since childhood. “Not so,” is the response of faith. “This day shall the Lord deliver you into my hand.”
In dealing with personal sin, the proper means of grace must be used. When David fought Goliath he used proper means to slay him. Into our hands God has placed gospel stones, or weapons, to defeat sin, but we must put forth our hand and use the divine resources. There is human responsibility. The means of grace must be used.
In dealing with personal sin, a proper motive is essential. David wanted to defeat his Goliath in order to exalt the name of the Lord. Sometimes the desire to have victory over Sin is based upon less noble reasons.
For example, the soul might say to itself, “I need to be holy because the shame and guilt of secret sin that I feel is so very painful.” “I need to be holy because I will be exposed if I am not more careful.” “I need to be holy because I will lose my health if inappropriate behavior continues.” “I need to be holy because I realize spiritual strength is drained from me.” “I need to be holy because my family will be shamed if my evil is revealed.”
While all of these points are valid reasons for pursuing a holy life, the motives they speak of are very self-centered. A higher motive than self must be sought.
When David repented, he turned his thoughts from self towards God, and said, “Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight” (Psalm 51:4).
The best motive for slaying the giant of Sin in the soul is the glory of the Saviour. When the giant of Sin is defeated and dead the Lord will be magnified.
I do not know what your great Sin may be, but this much is certain, it must be slain. Sin must not be allowed to live to terrorize the heart, and to be a tyrant of the soul. In John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, Christian meets the Giant of Despair. This Giant was well known to Charles Spurgeon who was given to depression. Mr. Spurgeon knew that the Giant of Despair had to be slain. But how would the giant be killed? Mr. Spurgeon found the answer in Psalm 42 when he read the words of the Psalmist. “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? And why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.”
In dealing with personal sin remember there is a shield that protects evil that must also be overcome. According to 1 Samuel 17:41 it was the custom of Goliath to have an armor bearer go before him with a large shield. “And the Philistine came on and drew near unto David; and the man that bare the shield went before him.”
48 And it came to pass, when the Philistine arose, and came and drew nigh to meet David, that David hasted, and ran toward the army to meet the Philistine.
49 And David put his hand in his bag, and took thence a stone, and slang it, and smote the Philistine in his forehead, that the stone sunk into his forehead; and he fell upon his face to the earth.
50 So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and smote the Philistine, and slew him; but there was no sword in the hand of David.
51 Therefore David ran, and stood upon the Philistine, and took his sword, and drew it out of the sheath thereof, and slew him, and cut off his head therewith. And when the Philistines saw their champion was dead, they fled.
If the armor bearer was present the day David and Goliath met, then the Warrior-Shepherd of the Hills had to get past the man holding the shield. In like manner, Sin has a shield of armor. Before Sin can be hurt, before Sin can be slain, its protective shield must be penetrated. Let me suggest that the protective shield around Sin is the eternal optimism of a potential self-reformation.
The soul will plead with God to forgive sin, and then sin again. The soul will promise God to be better, and then sin again. The soul will rationalize every failure, and then sin again. The soul will make eternal resolutions, and then sin again.
Because this is true, what must be done? The solution is to bypass the protective gear and do battle with the greater threat to the soul. Now understand a spiritual truth. Jesus Christ is presented in Scripture as a Stone large enough to crush every enemy. Only Christ can destroy the spiritual Goliath in the heart called Sin. Here is the hope of every Christian. No Sin is too great to withstand Christ. Jesus can and will put to death the Goliath called Sin that the soul struggles with if the Lord’s strength is appropriated. The hand of faith must reach forth to lay hold on Christ and fling Him, as it were, against Sin. By God’s grace this will be done so that the greater Warrior-Shepherd of the Hills will become the protector and Victor of His people. Amen.
52 And the men of Israel and of Judah arose, and shouted, and pursued the Philistines, until thou come to the valley, and to the gates of Ekron. And the wounded of the Philistines fell down by the way to Shaaraim, even unto Gath, and unto Ekron.
53 And the children of Israel returned from chasing after the Philistines, and they spoiled their tents.
54 And David took the head of the Philistine, and brought it to Jerusalem; but he put his armour in his tent.
55 And when Saul saw David go forth against the Philistine, he said unto Abner, the captain of the host, Abner, whose son is this youth? And Abner said, As thy soul liveth, O king, I cannot tell.
56 And the king said, Inquire thou whose son the stripling is.
57 And 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.
58 And Saul said to him, Whose son art thou, thou young man? And David answered, I am the son of thy servant Jesse the Bethlehemite.