1 Samuel 17
New English Translation
David Kills Goliath
17 [a] The Philistines gathered their troops[b] for battle. They assembled at Socoh in Judah. They camped in Ephes Dammim, between Socoh and Azekah. 2 Saul and the Israelite army[c] assembled and camped in the valley of Elah, where they arranged their battle lines to fight against[d] the Philistines. 3 The Philistines were standing on one hill, and the Israelites[e] on another hill, with the valley between them.
4 Then a champion[f] came out from the camp of the Philistines. His name was Goliath; he was from Gath. He was close to seven feet tall.[g] 5 He had a bronze helmet on his head and was wearing scale body armor. The weight of his bronze body armor was 5,000 shekels.[h] 6 He had bronze shin guards[i] on his legs, and a bronze javelin was slung over his shoulders. 7 The shaft[j] of his spear was like a weaver’s beam, and the iron point of his spear weighed 600 shekels.[k] His shield bearer was walking before him.
8 Goliath[l] stood and called to Israel’s troops,[m] “Why do you come out to prepare for battle? Am I not the Philistine, and are you not the servants of Saul? Choose[n] for yourselves a man so he may come down[o] to me! 9 If he is able to fight with me and strike me down, we will become your servants. But if I prevail against him and strike him down, you will become our servants and will serve us.” 10 Then the Philistine said, “I defy Israel’s troops this day! Give me a man so we can fight[p] each other!” 11 When Saul and all the Israelites[q] heard these words of the Philistine, they were upset and very afraid.
12 [r] Now David was the son of an Ephrathite named Jesse from Bethlehem in Judah. He had eight sons, and in Saul’s days he was old and well advanced in years.[s] 13 Jesse’s three oldest sons had followed Saul to war. The names of the[t] three sons who went to war were Eliab, his firstborn, Abinadab, the second oldest; and Shammah, the third oldest. 14 Now David was the youngest. While the three oldest sons followed Saul, 15 David was going back and forth[u] from Saul in order to care for his father’s sheep in Bethlehem.
16 Meanwhile for forty days the Philistine approached every morning and evening and took his position. 17 Jesse said to his son David, “Take your brothers this ephah of roasted grain and these ten loaves of bread; go quickly[v] to the camp to your brothers. 18 Also take these ten portions of cheese to their commanding officer.[w] Find out how your brothers are doing[x] and bring back their pledge that they received the goods.[y] 19 They are with Saul and the whole Israelite army[z] in the valley of Elah, fighting with the Philistines.”
20 So David got up early in the morning and entrusted the flock to someone else who would watch over it.[aa] After loading up, he went just as Jesse had instructed him. He arrived at the camp[ab] as the army was going out to the battle lines shouting its battle cry. 21 Israel and the Philistines drew up their battle lines opposite one another. 22 After David had entrusted his cargo to the care of the supply officer,[ac] he ran to the battlefront. When he arrived, he asked his brothers how they were doing. 23 As he was speaking with them, the champion named Goliath, the Philistine from Gath, was coming up from the battle lines of the Philistines. He spoke the way he usually did,[ad] and David heard it. 24 When all the men of Israel saw this man, they retreated[ae] from his presence and were very afraid.
25 The men of Israel said, “Have you seen this man who is coming up? He does so[af] to defy Israel. But the king will make the man who can strike him down very wealthy! He will give him his daughter in marriage, and he will make his father’s house exempt from tax obligations in Israel.”
26 David asked the men who were standing near him, “What will be done for the man who strikes down this Philistine and frees Israel from this humiliation?[ag] For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he defies the armies of the living God?” 27 The soldiers[ah] told him what had been promised, saying,[ai] “This is what will be done for the man who can strike him down.”
28 When David’s[aj] oldest brother Eliab heard him speaking to the men, he became angry[ak] with David and said, “Why have you come down here? To whom did you entrust those few sheep in the wilderness? I am familiar with your pride and deceit![al] You have come down here to watch the battle.”
29 David replied, “What have I done now? Can’t I say anything?”[am] 30 Then he turned from those who were nearby to someone else and asked the same question,[an] but they[ao] gave him the same answer as before. 31 When David’s words were overheard and reported to Saul, he called for him.[ap]
32 David said to Saul, “Don’t let anyone be discouraged.[aq] Your servant will go and fight this Philistine!” 33 But Saul replied to David, “You aren’t able to go against this Philistine and fight him. You’re just a boy! He has been a warrior from his youth.”
34 David replied to Saul, “Your servant has been a shepherd for his father’s flock. Whenever a lion or bear would come and carry off a sheep from the flock, 35 I would go out after it, strike it down, and rescue the sheep from its mouth. If it rose up against me, I would grab it by its jaw, strike it, and kill it. 36 Your servant has struck down both the lion and the bear. This uncircumcised Philistine will be just like one of them,[ar] for he has defied the armies of the living God.” 37 David went on to say, “The Lord who delivered me from the lion and the bear will also deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” Then Saul said to David, “Go! The Lord will be with you.”[as]
38 Then Saul clothed David with his own fighting attire and put a bronze helmet on his head. He also put body armor on him. 39 David strapped on his sword over his fighting attire and tried to walk around, but he was not used to them.[at] David said to Saul, “I can’t walk in these things, for I’m not used to them.” So David removed them. 40 He took his staff in his hand, picked out five smooth stones from the stream, placed them in the pouch[au] of his shepherd’s bag, took his sling in hand, and approached the Philistine.
41 [av] The Philistine, with his shield bearer walking in front of him, kept coming closer to David. 42 When the Philistine looked carefully at David, he despised him, for he was only a ruddy and handsome boy. 43 The Philistine said to David, “Am I a dog, that you are coming after me with sticks?”[aw] Then the Philistine cursed David by his gods. 44 The Philistine said to David, “Come here to me, so I can give your flesh to the birds of the sky and the wild animals of the field!”[ax]
45 But David replied to the Philistine, “You are coming against me with sword and spear and javelin. But I am coming against you in the name of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel’s armies, whom you have defied! 46 This very day the Lord will deliver you into my hand. I will strike you down and cut off your head. This day I will give the corpses of the Philistine army to the birds of the sky and the wild animals of the land. Then all the land will realize that Israel has a God, 47 and all this assembly will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves! For the battle is the Lord’s, and he will deliver you into our hand.”
48 The Philistine drew steadily closer to David to attack him, while David quickly ran toward the battle line to attack the Philistine.[ay] 49 David reached his hand into the bag and took out a stone. He slung it, striking the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank deeply into his forehead, and he fell down with his face to the ground.
50 [az] David prevailed over the Philistine with just the sling and the stone. He struck down the Philistine and killed him. David did not even have a sword in his hand.[ba] 51 David ran and stood over the Philistine. He grabbed Goliath’s[bb] sword, drew it from its sheath,[bc] and after killing him, he cut off his head with it. When the Philistines saw their champion was dead, they ran away.
52 Then the men of Israel and Judah charged forward, shouting a battle cry.[bd] They chased the Philistines to the valley[be] and to the very gates of Ekron. The Philistine corpses lay fallen along the Shaaraim road to Gath and Ekron. 53 When the Israelites returned from their hot pursuit of the Philistines, they looted their camp. 54 David took the head of the Philistine and brought it to Jerusalem, and he put Goliath’s[bf] weapons in his tent.
55 [bg] Now as Saul watched David going out to fight the Philistine, he asked Abner, the general in command of the army, “Whose son is that young man, Abner?” Abner replied, “As surely as you live, O king, I don’t know.” 56 The king said, “Find out whose son this boy is.”
57 So when David returned from striking down the Philistine, Abner took him and brought him before Saul. He still had the head of the Philistine in his hand. 58 Saul said to him, “Whose son are you, young man?” David replied, “I am the son of your servant Jesse in Bethlehem.”
- 1 Samuel 17:1 tc The content of 1 Sam 17-18, which includes the David and Goliath story, differs considerably in the LXX as compared to the MT, suggesting that this story circulated in ancient times in more than one form. The LXX for chs. 17-18 is much shorter than the MT, lacking almost half of the material (39 of a total of 88 verses). Many scholars (e.g., McCarter, Klein) think that the shorter text of the LXX is preferable to the MT, which in their view has been expanded by incorporation of later material. Other scholars (e.g., Wellhausen, Driver) conclude that the shorter Greek text (or the Hebrew text that underlies it) reflects an attempt to harmonize certain alleged inconsistencies that appear in the longer version of the story. Given the translation characteristics of the LXX elsewhere in this section, it does not seem likely that these differences are due to deliberate omission of these verses on the part of the translator. It seems more likely that the Greek translator has faithfully rendered here a Hebrew text that itself was much shorter than the MT in these chapters. Whether or not the shorter text represented by the LXX is to be preferred over the MT in 1 Sam 17-18 is a matter over which textual scholars are divided. For a helpful discussion of the major textual issues in this unit see D. Barthélemy, D. W. Gooding, J. Lust, and E. Tov, The Story of David and Goliath (OBO). Overall it seems preferable to stay with the MT, at least for the most part. However, the major textual differences between the LXX and the MT will be mentioned in the notes that accompany the translation so that the reader may be alert to the major problem passages.
- 1 Samuel 17:1 tn Heb “camps.”
- 1 Samuel 17:2 tn Heb “the men of Israel” (so KJV, NASB); NAB, NIV, NRSV “the Israelites.”
- 1 Samuel 17:2 tn Heb “to meet.”
- 1 Samuel 17:3 tn Heb “Israel.”
- 1 Samuel 17:4 tn Heb “the man of the space between the two [armies].” See v. 23.
- 1 Samuel 17:4 tc Heb “his height was six cubits and a span.” The LXX, a Qumran manuscript of 1 Samuel, and Josephus read “four cubits and a span.” A cubit was approximately 17.5 inches, a span half that. So the Masoretic text places Goliath at about 9½ feet tall (cf. NIV, CEV, NLT “over nine feet”; NCV “nine feet, four inches”; TEV “nearly 3 metres” while the other textual witnesses place him at about 6 feet, 7 inches (cf. NAB “six and a half feet”). Note, too, that the cubit was adjusted through history, also attested in Babylon (NIDOTTE 421-424 s.v. אַמָּה). If the cubits measuring Goliath were reckoned as the cubit of Moses, his height at 6 cubits and a span would be approximately 7 feet 9 inches tall. This is one of many places in Samuel where the LXX and Qumran evidence seems superior to the Masoretic text. It is possible that the scribe’s eye skipped briefly to the number 6 a few lines below in a similar environment of letters. The average Israelite male of the time was about 5 feet 3 inches, so a man 6 feet 7 inches would be a very impressive height. Saul, being head and shoulder above most Israelites, would have been nearly 6 feet tall. That is still shorter than Goliath, even at “four cubits and a span,” and makes a sharper contrast between David and Saul. There would have been a greater expectation that a 6 foot tall Saul would confront a 6 feet 7 inches Goliath, placing Saul in a bad light while still positioning David as a hero of faith, which is fitting to the context.
- 1 Samuel 17:5 sn Although the exact weight of Goliath’s defensive body armor is difficult to estimate in terms of modern equivalency, it was obviously quite heavy. Driver, following Kennedy, suggests a modern equivalent of about 220 pounds (100 kg); see S. R. Driver, Notes on the Hebrew Text and the Topography of the Books of Samuel, 139. Klein, taking the shekel to be equal to .403 ounces, arrives at a somewhat smaller weight of about 126 pounds (57 kg); see R. W. Klein, 1 Samuel (WBC), 175. But by any estimate it is clear that Goliath presented himself as a formidable foe indeed.
- 1 Samuel 17:6 sn Or “greaves.” These were coverings (probably lined for comfort) that extended from about the knee to the ankle, affording protection for the shins of a warrior.
- 1 Samuel 17:7 tn The translation follows the Qere and many medieval Hebrew mss in reading “wood,” rather than the “arrow” (the reading of the Kethib).
- 1 Samuel 17:7 sn That is, about fifteen or sixteen pounds.
- 1 Samuel 17:8 tn Heb “he”; the referent (Goliath) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
- 1 Samuel 17:8 tn The Hebrew text adds “and said to them.”
- 1 Samuel 17:8 tc The translation follows the ancient versions in reading “choose,” (from the root בָּחַר, bakhar), rather than the MT. The verb in MT (בָּרָה, barah) elsewhere means “to eat food”; the sense of “to choose,” required here by the context, is not attested for this root. The MT apparently reflects an early scribal error.
- 1 Samuel 17:8 tn Following the imperative, the prefixed verbal form (either an imperfect or jussive) with the prefixed conjunction indicates purpose/result here.
- 1 Samuel 17:10 tn Following the imperative, the cohortative verbal form indicates purpose/result here.
- 1 Samuel 17:11 tn Heb “all Israel.”
- 1 Samuel 17:12 tc Some mss of the LXX lack vv. 12-31.
- 1 Samuel 17:12 tc The translation follows the Lucianic recension of the LXX and the Syriac Peshitta in reading “in years,” rather than MT “among men.”
- 1 Samuel 17:13 tn Heb “his.”
- 1 Samuel 17:15 tn Heb “was going and returning.”
- 1 Samuel 17:17 tn Heb “run.”
- 1 Samuel 17:18 tn Heb “officer of the thousand.”
- 1 Samuel 17:18 tn Heb “and your brothers, observe with respect to welfare.”
- 1 Samuel 17:18 tn Heb “and their pledge take.” This probably refers to some type of confirmation that the goods arrived safely. See R. W. Klein, 1 Samuel (WBC), 177. Cf. NIV “bring back some assurance”; NCV “some proof to show me they are all right”; NLT “bring me back a letter from them.”
- 1 Samuel 17:19 tn Heb “all the men of Israel.”
- 1 Samuel 17:20 tn Heb “to a guard”; KJV, NASB, NRSV “with a keeper”; NIV “with a shepherd.” Since in contemporary English “guard” sounds like someone at a military installation or a prison, the present translation uses “to someone else who would watch over it.”
- 1 Samuel 17:20 tn Or “entrenchment.”
- 1 Samuel 17:22 tn Heb “the guard of the equipment.”
- 1 Samuel 17:23 tn Heb “according to these words.”
- 1 Samuel 17:24 tn Or “fled.”
- 1 Samuel 17:25 tn Heb “he is coming up.”
- 1 Samuel 17:26 tn Heb “and turns aside humiliation from upon Israel.”
- 1 Samuel 17:27 tn Heb “people.”
- 1 Samuel 17:27 tn Heb “according to this word, saying.”
- 1 Samuel 17:28 tn Heb “his”; the referent (David) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
- 1 Samuel 17:28 tn Heb “the anger of Eliab became hot.”
- 1 Samuel 17:28 tn Heb “the wickedness of your heart.”
- 1 Samuel 17:29 tn Heb “Is it not [just] a word?”
- 1 Samuel 17:30 tn Heb “and spoke according to this word.”
- 1 Samuel 17:30 tn Heb “the people.”
- 1 Samuel 17:31 tn Heb “he took him.”
- 1 Samuel 17:32 tn Heb “Let not the heart of a man fall upon him.” The LXX reads “my lord,” instead of “a man.”
- 1 Samuel 17:36 tc The LXX includes here the following words not found in the MT: “Should I not go and smite him, and remove today reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised one?”
- 1 Samuel 17:37 tn Or “Go, and may the Lord be with you” (so NASB, NCV, NRSV).
- 1 Samuel 17:39 tn Heb “he had not tested.”
- 1 Samuel 17:40 tn This Hebrew word occurs only here and its exact meaning is not entirely clear. It refers to a receptacle of some sort and apparently was a common part of a shepherd’s equipment. Here it serves as a depository for the stones that David will use in his sling.
- 1 Samuel 17:41 tc Most LXX mss lack v. 41.
- 1 Samuel 17:43 sn Sticks is a pejorative reference to David’s staff (v. 40); the same Hebrew word (מַקֵּל, maqqel) is used for both.
- 1 Samuel 17:44 tc Many medieval Hebrew mss have “the earth” here, instead of the MT’s “the field.”
- 1 Samuel 17:48 tc Most LXX mss lack the second half of v. 48.
- 1 Samuel 17:50 tc Most LXX mss lack v. 50.
- 1 Samuel 17:50 tn Verse 50 is a summary statement; v. 51 gives a more detailed account of how David killed the Philistine.
- 1 Samuel 17:51 tn Heb “his”; the referent (Goliath) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
- 1 Samuel 17:51 tc Most LXX mss lack the words “drew it from its sheath.”
- 1 Samuel 17:52 tn Heb “arose and cried out.”
- 1 Samuel 17:52 tc Most of the LXX ms tradition has here “Gath.”
- 1 Samuel 17:54 tn Heb “his”; the referent (Goliath) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
- 1 Samuel 17:55 tc Most LXX mss lack 17:55-18:5.