1 Samuel 17

The Battle of Elah: David Defeats Goliath
1 Samuel 17
Typical Teaching in David and Goliath. There are many pictures in the Old Testament of New Testament truth. “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning” (Rom 15:4). In any book, illustrations are often helpful to understand the text. The pictures give warmth and depth to the text. The same is true with the Word of God. The picture given in 1 Samuel 17 is one of the most vivid and complete pictures in the Old Testament! David is a type of Christ in this chapter. “Whose Son is this?” (v.55) The key to the chapter is to see David as a type of the Son, sent by the Father.

The Characteristics of the Giant – The Futility of the Flesh (17:1-11)

1 And the Philistines assembled their armies to battle, and were gathered together at Sochoh, which belongs to Judah, and encamped between Sochoh and Azekah, in Ephesdammim. 2 And Saul and the men of Israel were gathered together, and encamped in the valley of terebinths, and set the battle in array against the Philistines. 3 And the Philistines stood on the mountain on the one side, and Israel stood on the mountain on the other side; and the ravine was between them.
4 And there went out a champion from the camp of the Philistines, named Goliath, of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. 5 And he had a helmet of bronze upon his head, and he was clothed with a corselet of scales; and the weight of the corselet was five thousand shekels of bronze. 6 And he had greaves of bronze upon his legs, and a javelin of bronze between his shoulders. 7 And the shaft of his spear was like a weaver’s beam; and his spear’s head weighed six hundred shekels of iron; and the shield-bearer went before him. v.7 Incredible detail about the armor is given. Without David, Israel is only occupied with the enemy. The very thing that could have preserved the giant’s life (his shield) he gave to another to carry. Perhaps this is why it says “above all, taking the shield of faith” (Eph. 6:16).
How did giants get to be in the earth after the flood? Questions often arise about the existence of giants after the flood, such as in the time of David. How could there be giants then if the Gibborim (product of women and angels) were destroyed in the flood? The Bible doesn't answer every question of our curious mind, and some things we will not know this side of heaven. But Genesis 6:4 does reveal at least one fact that sheds light on this question, that not all giants were the product of “the sons of God” coming in to the daughters of men. The Nephilim actually pre-existed the Gibborim. This doesn't answer how the Nephilim came to be. Perhaps there was a genetic variation in certain humans, but we are not told. The point is simply this, if giants could come to be on the earth apart from the action angels before the flood, it is perfectly reasonable that they could spring up again after the flood.
8 And he stood and cried to the ranks of Israel, and said to them, Why are ye come out to set your battle in array? am not I the Philistine, and ye servants of Saul? choose for yourselves a man, and let him come down to me. 9 If he be able to fight with me, and to smite me, then will we be your servants; but if I overcome and smite him, then shall ye be our servants and serve us. vv.8-9 There were consequences for losing to Goliath. They would all become the slaves of the Philistines. It would’ve been presumptuous for just anyone to go to fight.
10 And the Philistine said, I have defied the ranks of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together. v.10 Goliath viewed the men as the “servants of Saul” or the “ranks of Israel”. David viewed them as the“armies of the Living God”. Two completely different perspectives.
11 And Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, and they were dismayed and greatly afraid. v.11 Saul was characterized by the flesh… trying to do things in his own strength. The children of Israel were comparing the giant to themselves. David’s faith caused him to compare the giant to God. The ten spies made the same mistake (Num. 13:33). They didn’t understand the qualities of grasshoppers, which can leap over great barriers! But they were “afraid and greatly dismayed” when they saw the man. Fear is the result of confidence in the flesh. “Have ye seen this man?” (v.25).

The Son Sent by the Father (17:12-20)

12 Now David was the son of that Ephrathite of Bethlehem-Judah whose name was Jesse; and he had eight sons; and the man was old in the days of Saul, advanced in years among men. v.12 We have David reintroduced to us in v.12. He was introduced to us in the previous chapter in his moral character, but now we have him in his warring character. 
13 And the three eldest of the sons of Jesse had gone and followed Saul to the battle; and the names of his three sons that went to the battle were Eliab the firstborn, and the second to him Abinadab, and the third Shammah. 14 And David was the youngest; and the three eldest had 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 to David his son, Take, I pray, for thy brethren, this ephah of parched corn and these ten loaves, and carry them quickly to the camp to thy brethren; 18 and carry these ten cheeses to the captain of the thousand, and visit thy brethren to see how they are, and take a pledge of them. 19 Now Saul, and they, and all the men of Israel were in the valley of terebinths, fighting against the Philistines. vv.15-19 David went and returned from Saul perhaps to calm his troubled spirit. Then he fed his sheep for 40 days. He did not return until his father’s specific request. This was the first time David had been to where the fighting was. It reminds of that there came a specific time when the Father sent the Son; “and when the fullness of the time was come…” (Gal. 4:4). Also, David needed that time of 40 days alone with the Lord to gain victory over the lion and the bear. It is a time of testing, both for Saul, and for David. Perhaps the 40 days speak of the 40 centuries of the testing of the first man. No man was able to meet the enemy, and so the Father sent the Son.
20 And David rose up early in the morning, and left the sheep with a keeper, and took his charge and went, as Jesse had commanded him. And he came to the wagon-defence; and the host which was going forth to the battle-array shouted for the fight. v.20 David hadn’t abandoned the sheep. He “left the sheep with a keeper”. The Lord left the sheep, setting aside Israel which had rejected Him, to go to the cross an accomplish the Father’s will. It is never right for us to abandon one responsibility to take on another.

David’s Motivations (17:21-27)

21 And Israel and the Philistines put the battle in array, rank against rank. 22 And David left the things he was carrying in the hand of the keeper of the baggage, and ran into the ranks, and came and saluted his brethren. 23 And as he talked with them, behold there came up the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name, out of the ranks of the Philistines, and spoke 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 greatly afraid. 25 And the men of Israel said, Have ye seen this man that comes up? for to defy Israel is he come up: and it shall be, that the man who smites him, him will the king enrich with great riches, and will give him his daughter, and make his father’s house free in Israel. 26 And David spoke to the men that stood by him, saying, What shall be done to the man that smites this Philistine, and takes 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 told him after this manner, saying, So shall it be done to the man that smites him. v.26 We find that David’s confidence was in the Living God… you cannot defeat the Living God! We find a number of motivations that David had, and they speak to us of the deep motives that moved the heart of Christ to go to the cross.
  1. Devotion to his father. Ultimately, the Lord’s highest motivation was to do the will of His Father. It was laid upon Him (v.29). “Lo, I come … to do thy will, O God” (Heb. 10:7).
  2. Desire to take away the reproach of Israel. Christ could say, “the zeal of thine house hath eaten me up” (Psa. 69:9). Christ went to the cross to put away sin before the sight of a Holy God.
  3. The promise of a bride. David was told that the kings would give the victor his daughter in marriage. Certainly, we see in this the deep love of Christ for the Church. “Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” (Eph. 5:25).
  4. To gain freedom for his family. David wanted to make his father’s house free in Israel. This reminds us of how Jesus came to “save his people [Israel, primarily in view, all believers by extension] from their sins” (Matt. 1:21).
  5. A personal reward for David. The promise was that the king will “enrich with great riches” him who slays the giant. We cannot help but think the acquired glories of Christ… glories He would not have had apart from the cross; “Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death…” (Isa. 53:12).

Opposition from Within: Overcome by Faith (17:28-37)

28 And Eliab, his eldest brother, heard while he spoke to the men; and Eliab’s anger was kindled against David, and he said, Why art thou come down? and with whom hast thou left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know thy pride and the naughtiness of thy heart; for thou art come down that thou mightest see the battle. v.28 David hadn’t abandoned the sheep. He “left the sheep with a keeper” (v.20). It is nice to see that David didn’t hold this occasion against Eliab. Later Eliab became one of his captains.
29 And David said, What have I now done? Was it not laid upon me? 30 And he turned from him to another, and spoke after the same manner; and the people answered him again after the former manner. v.30 David could’ve folded under the accusations of his brother, but he felt that it had been “laid upon him”. Having a sense of the Lord’s will in our lives will help us to endure opposition. David new extreme loneliness in his lifetime, but the Lord never forsook him. At a young age David had tremendous faith. These are the moral characteristics that we need to have in our life to defeat the giants. It is beautiful to see that David didn’t hold it against Eliab. Later, he even made Eliab one of his captains (1 Chron. 27:18).
31 And the words were heard which David spoke, and 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. v.32 David never shows even a hint of self-preservation, or fear of what would happen to himself. Saul even tries to dissuade him, and get David to look at himself in adversity.
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. v.33 Saul says “you are not able”; i.e. you cant do this. Saul was envious of David’s confidence, but couldn’t product it in himself. David had the secret of godliness, which Saul could never understand.
34 And David said to Saul, Thy servant fed his father’s sheep, and there came a lion, and also a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock. 35 And I went after him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth; and when he arose against me, I seized him by his beard, and smote him, and slew him. 36 Thy servant smote both the lion and the bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. 37 And David said, Jehovah who 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 to David, Go, and Jehovah be with thee. vv.34-37 David wisely looks back on another time when he was concerned about others (the sheep) and God helped him.

David’s Armor (17:38-40)

38 And Saul clothed David with his dress, and put a helmet of bronze upon his head, and clothed him with a corselet. 39 And David girded his sword upon his dress, and endeavoured to go; for he had not yet tried it. And David said to Saul, I cannot go in these; for I have never tried them. And David put them off him. vv.38-39 Saul tries to load up David with the armor of the flesh. Those who walk by faith will be uncomfortable with the armor of the flesh. The weapons of our warfare are not carnal.
40 And he took his staff in his hand, and chose him five smooth stones out of the brook, and put them in the shepherd’s bag that he had, into the pocket; and his sling was in his hand. And he drew near to the Philistine. v.40 David’s armor was not like Goliath’s, and not like Saul’s. Not a sword, spear and shield. He used the ordinary tools of his profession. David’s armor was despised by the Philistine. The staff speaks of dependence (prayer). The bag speaks of the knowledge of the Word of God, because it contained the stones. The pocket was what secured the stones, perhaps a picture of what is treasured in the heart. The sling is a contrast to the arm of the flesh… perhaps it speaks of the Spirit of God. The stones were taken from the brook, which might be a picture of the Word of God ministered to our souls by the Spirit of God. The same power that allowed David to hit the giant is the power that refreshes us day by day. Why five stones? Perhaps they speak of the five books of Moses. Also, later on we learn that there were four sons of the giant (2 Sam. 21). Why did David choose five? One one was needed to kill the giant. I believe that it was faith… David did not limit God. There was only one giant that day, but who knew what the Lord would have for him next. When the giant comes, it is too late to spend time in the place of refreshment. What is in your bag? Are you prepared?

Self-Confidence vs. Confidence in God (17:41-47)

41 And the Philistine came on and approached David; and the man that bore the shield was before him.
42 And when the Philistine looked about and saw David, he disdained him; for he was a youth, and ruddy, and besides of a beautiful countenance. 43 And the Philistine said to David, Am I a dog, that thou comest to me with staves? And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. vv.42-43 Goliath came full of self-confidence. He rejected the notion that he was “a dog”. Mephibosheth called himself a dog, and was blessed. Syro-Phoenician woman acknowledged that she was a dog, and her daughter was healed. But Goliath was destroyed. He disdained David’s youth and good looks. The energy of Divine life is not something the world can understand. He thought David was inexperienced in battle, but he little realized that the young man was already a seasoned veteran in conflict of faith. Goliath also despised the staff in David’s hand; “thou comest to me with staves?” He despised dependence.
44 And the Philistine said to David, Come to me, and I will give thy flesh to the fowls of the heavens and to the beasts of the field. v.44 Goliath says “Come unto me” (bring it on) in self-confidence. In Isa. 50 we have the Lord saying the same thing, but in perfect confidence in God. “Who will will contend with me? Let him come near unto me…” The Lord in resurrection beckons all His enemies to just try it. The very same verse is quoted in Rom. 8:33… those in Christ join in in the cry of victory!
45 And David said to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with sword, and with spear, and with javelin; but I come to thee in the name of Jehovah of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied. 46 This day will Jehovah deliver thee up into my hand; and I will smite thee, and take thy head from thee; and I will give the carcases of the camp of the Philistines this day to the fowl of the heavens and to the wild beasts of the earth. And all the earth shall know that Israel has a God; 47 and all this congregation shall know that Jehovah saves not with sword and spear; for the battle is Jehovah’s, and he will give you into our hands.

David’s Victory Over Goliath (17:48-53)

48 And it came to pass, when the Philistine arose, and came and advanced to meet David, that David hasted, and ran towards the ranks to meet the Philistine.
49 And David put his hand into the bag, and took thence a stone, and slang it, and smote the Philistine in his forehead, and the stone sank into his forehead; and he fell on his face to the earth. 50 So David overcame the Philistine with a sling and a stone, and smote the Philistine and killed him; and there was no sword in the hand of David. 51 And David ran, and stood upon the Philistine, and took his sword, and drew it out of its sheath, and killed him completely, and cut off his head with it. And when the Philistines saw that their hero was dead, they fled. vv.49-50 There were two components of the slaying of the giant. The stone and the sword. The scripture is clear that the stone “killed him”, but the sword “killed him completely”. There is little doubt what the sword represents. “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Heb. 2:14-15). Death was the weapon of the Devil, but through that very thing, Jesus “destroyed” the Devil, and now death no longer has its sting. But what does the stone speak of? Some believe that the slung stone pictures the Lord’s victory over Satan in the temptation in the wilderness, where He “bound the strong man”, meeting each temptation with the Word of God. However, I have enjoyed that the one stone David used is a picture of the Person of Christ. He is the precious cornerstone (Isa. 28:16), the rock of Israel (2 Sam. 23:3), the stone cut out without hands (Dan. 2:34), a great rock in a weary land (Isa. 32:2), the smitten, spiritual Rock that followed Israel (1 Cor. 10:4). It was the power of Christ’s person that defeated the enemy. Perhaps it pictures the three hours of darkness, where Christ suffered in atonement. The giant was dead when the stone smote him, but the sword was needed for an official, judicial action. No one could see that Goliath was dead until the head was severed. Both were needed.
52 And the men of Israel and of Judah arose, and shouted, and pursued the Philistines, until thou comest to the ravine and to the gates of Ekron. And the wounded of the Philistines fell down on the way to Shaaraim, even to Gath, and to Ekron. 53 And the children of Israel returned from chasing after the Philistines, and they pillaged their camps.

David Returns (17:54-58)

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 to Abner, the captain of the host, Abner, whose son is this young man? And Abner said, As thy soul liveth, O king, I cannot tell. 56 And the king said, Inquire thou whose son this youth 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, young man? And David said, I am the son of thy servant Jesse the Beth-lehemite. vv.54-58 How could Saul not recognize David after David had calmed his troubled spirit in ch. 16? Saul really had no relationship with David. He loved David for what he could get from him. It is possible to look at people, hear them, and even spend time with them and never really know them! Saul had never seen David in his warrior character before. To the man of the flesh, it was like a whole new person.