What the Bible says about David and Goliath

Topics chevron-right David and Goliath

1 Samuel 17:1 - 1 Samuel 17:18

David and Goliath

17 Now the Philistines gathered their forces for war and assembled at Sokoh in Judah. They pitched camp at Ephes Dammim, between Sokoh 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.

A champion named Goliath, who was from Gath, came out of the Philistine camp. His height was six cubits and a span.

He had a bronze helmet on his head and wore a coat of scale armor of bronze weighing five thousand shekels;

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. His shield bearer went ahead of him.

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.”

10 Then the Philistine said, “This day I defy the armies of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other.

11 On hearing the Philistine’s words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified.

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 very old.

13 Jesse’s three oldest sons had followed Saul to the war: The firstborn was Eliab; the second, Abinadab; and the third, Shammah.

14 David was the youngest. The three oldest followed Saul,

15 but David went back and forth from Saul to tend his father’s sheep at Bethlehem.

16 For forty days the Philistine came forward every morning and evening and took his stand.

17 Now Jesse said to his son David, “Take this ephah of roasted grain and these ten loaves of bread for your brothers and hurry to their camp.

18 Take along these ten cheeses to the commander of their unit. See how your brothers are and bring back some assurance from them.

1 Samuel 17

Combat by Champions

Hittite Apology of Hattushili, c. 1267 – 1237 BC. The story of Hattushili personally defeating his enemy is a strong parallel to the story of David and Goliath.

Kim Walton. The Istanbul Archaeological Museums, Turkey.

The contest joined between the “champion” Goliath and David is perhaps the best known example from antiquity of a military conflict decided by “single combat,” namely, a fight between representatives of the warring factions intended to get an initial indication of how the general battle would go. The logic behind such contests was grounded in the belief that battles were ultimately decided by God or the gods, and that the champion representing the more powerful deity would triumph. The premise that the people of the loser would serve the people of the winner did not suggest that the general battle would not be fought; it just gave an assessment of the expected outcome. A superior champion would serve as a ready instrument for the god, but the gods were not constrained to the relative skills and strength of the combatants. In a match as lopsided as this, a victory by David would serve as incontrovertible evidence of the superiority of Yahweh.

Other examples of similar situations from ancient sources are well-known, such as those in Homer’s Iliad (Paris versus Menelaus, Hector versus Ajax) and the Egyptian Story of Sinuhe, in which Sinuhe defeats a Syrian challenger. Sinuhe uses an arrow in place of David’s sling, but, like David, he then uses his opponent’s own sword to complete the victory. While certain similarities with the story of David’s triumph over Goliath are striking, it is important to distinguish between duels settling personal grievances and representative combat. A good example of the latter is found in an account by Hattushili III, who defeated the champion of the enemy with the result that the rest of the army fled. We can therefore see that David’s confrontation with Goliath illustrates a practice that was familiar in the ancient world. By any account, it should have been Saul, who had been chosen to lead the armies, who represented the Israelites in battle. ◆

Read more from NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible

1 Samuel 17:49

49 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.

Struck the Philistine on the forehead (17:49). Questions have been raised concerning whether a stone from David’s sling could have struck Goliath’s forehead, given the kinds of helmets that Philistines are depicted as wearing (see illustration). But the biblical text does not suggest that Goliath’s armor was typical Philistine hardware but exceptional (see sidebar on “Goliath’s Armor” at 17:5 – 7). That said, it is interesting to note that the Hebrew word rendered “greave” in verse 6 (miṣḥâ), which occurs only here in the Hebrew Bible, is very close, if not identical, to the Hebrew word for “forehead” (mēṣah). Noting this curiosity, A. Deem has suggested that David’s stone finds its mark not in Goliath’s forehead but at the “greave” in the gap required for walking. It is difficult to decide between these two interpretations; in either case Goliath is toppled and quickly dispatched by David, using Goliath’s own sword (v. 51).

Read more from Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary of the Old Testament

Psalm 23:1 - Psalm 23:6

Psalm 23

A psalm of David.

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.

    He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,

    he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
    for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.

Surely your goodness and love will follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord

Psalm 23. The Good Shepherd

A psalm of trust which celebrates the gracious care of Yahweh; and in which the needs and troubles of the psalmist are touched on only incidentally. Most commentators find two pictures of Yahweh here: the Shepherd looking after His sheep (vv. 1–4), and the Host providing for His guest (vv. 5, 6). Certainly vv. 5, 6 do not maintain the sheep metaphor, but there is no need to assume the conscious introduction of another metaphor; the psalm is a unified expression of what God does for the psalmist. Verses 5, 6 suggest that it was written for, and most suitably used at, a sacrificial meal in the temple, probably a thanksgiving banquet (see on 22:25; cf. 36:8; 65:4; 116:17 f.) after an experience of deliverance.

Sheep in green pastures (Holmes Photography)

It is not surprising, especially in the light of Jn 10 (cf. Heb. 13:20; 1 Pet. 2:25), that Christians have applied this psalm to Jesus Christ; nor that it has been paraphrased a number of times to be sung as a hymn: e.g. ‘The Lord’s my Shepherd, I’ll not want’ (Whittingham, etc.); ‘The God of love my shepherd is’ (Herbert); and ‘The king of love my shepherd is’ (Baker).

TITLE: see Introduction III. 1, 2. 1. shepherd: used metaphorically in Israel and in other ancient Near Eastern nations as a title for a king or leader (cf. 2 Sam. 5:2; 1 Kg. 22:17; Jer. 23:1 ff.; Ezek. 34:1 ff.), it contains the ideas of authority and care. In the OT Yahweh is usually thought of as the shepherd of Israel, rather than of the individual (80:1; cf. 28:9; 100:3; Isa. 40:11; Jer. 23:3; Ezek. 34:11 ff.). 3. my soul: see on 3:2; 19:7. right paths: conveys the ideas of ‘straightness’, ‘conformity to law’, and ‘deliverance’ (see on 33:5; 5:8). for his name’s sake: because it is His nature to do so (see on 5:11; 20:1). 4. the darkest valley: It could apply to any terrifying experience (see on 9:13). rod: a club (often iron-tipped) used for protection from wild animals. staff: used for support and guidance. comfort: there is no promise of immunity from trouble or suffering.

5. enemies: presumably fellow Israelites, also in the temple. anoint: lit. ‘make fat’ (cf. NEB ‘hast richly bathed’); not the word used for anointing a king but of entertaining a guest (cf. Lk. 7:46). 6. love: Heb. ḥesed (see on 5:7). follow: ‘or ‘pursue’ (cf. the enemies of v. 5). I will dwell: NIV follows the ancient versions; MT reads ‘I shall return (to)’. In either case it expresses the worshipper’s ideal of continual communion with God (see on 15:1): ‘your house will be my home as long as I live’ (GNB). house: see on 5:7. forever: lit. ‘to length of days; cf. NEB ‘my whole life long’.

Read more from Zondervan Bible Commentary (One Volume)