I Samuel 17







                          (vs. 1-11).


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.”

The Philistines gathered together their armies. As the object

of the historian is not to give us an account of the Philistine wars, but only

to record the manner of David’s ripening for the kingly office, nothing is

said as to the space of time which had elapsed between Saul’s victory at

Michmash and the present invasion. We are, however, briefly told that

“there was sore war against the Philistines all the days of Saul” (ch.14:52),

and apparently this inroad took place very many years after Saul’s establishment

upon the throne. The Philistine camp was at Ephesdammim, called Pas-dammim

in I Chronicles 11:13. The best explanation of the word gives as its meaning

the boundary of blood, so called from the continual fighting which took place

there upon the borders.  Shochoh, spelled more correctly Socoh in Joshua 15:35,

was one of fourteen villages enumerated there as lying in the Shephelah,

described by Conder (‘Tent Work,’ 2:156) as a region of “low hills of limestone,

frowning a distinct district between the plain and the watershed

mountains.’’ In this district Socoh lay northeast of Eleutheropolis (Bethjibrin),

midway between it and Beth-shemesh, from each of which places it

was distant about eight or nine miles. It is now called Shuweikeh. For

Azekah see Joshua 10:10.


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.”

The valley of Elah. I.e. of the terebinth tree. A valley between them. Conder

(‘Tent Work,’ 2:160) describes the spot from personal observation thus: “Saul,

coming down by the highway from the land of Benjamin, encamped by the valley

on one of the low hills; and between the two hosts was the gai or ravine.” In the

Authorized Version no exactness of rendering is ever attempted, and both the emek,

the broad strath or valley of Elah, with gently sloping sides, and the flag, the

narrow, precipitous ravine, are equally rendered valley. Really the gai is most

remarkable, and fully explains how the two hosts could remain in face of one

another so long without fighting; for Conder proceeds, “Two points require to be

made clear as to the episode of David’s battle with Goliath: one was the

meaning of the expression gai or ravine; the other was the source whence

David took the ‘smooth stones.’ A visit to the spot explains both. In the

middle of the broad, open valley we found a deep trench with vertical

sides, impassable except at certain places — a valley in a valley, and a

natural barrier between the two hosts. The sides and bed of this trench are

strewn with rounded and waterworn pebbles, which would have been well

fitted for David’s sling. Here, then, we may picture to ourselves the two

hosts, covering the low, rocky hills opposite to each other, and half hidden

among the lentisk bushes. Between them was the rich expanse of ripening

barley, and the red banks of the torrent, with its white, shingly bed. Behind

all were the distant blue hill walls of Judah, whence Saul had just come

down. The mail clad champion advanced from the west through the low

corn, with his mighty lance perhaps tufted with feathers, his brazen helmet

shining in the sun. From the east a ruddy boy in his white shirt and sandals,

armed with a goat’s hair sling, came down to the brook, and, according to

the poetic fancy of the Rabbis, the pebbles were given voices, and cried,

‘By us shalt thou overcome the giant.’ The champion fell from an unseen

cause, and the wild Philistines fled to the mouth of the valley, where Gath

stood towering on its white chalk cliff, a frontier fortress, the key to the

high road leading to the corn lands of Judah and to the vineyards of Hebron.”


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.

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.”  A champion. Literally,

“a man of the two middles,” i.e. one who enters the space between the two armies

in order to decide the contest by a single combat. Of Gath. In Joshua 11:21 this

town is mentioned, together with Gaza and Ashdod, as still having among its

inhabitants men of the race of Anak. Whose height was six cubits and a span.

In our measure his height was eight feet five and one-third inches; for the cubit

is sixteen inches, and the span (really the hand-breadth) is five and one-third

inches. A span, sit, is eight inches, but the word used here is zereth. See on

these measures, Conder, ‘Handbook,’ p. 79. This height, though very

great, has been attained to in modern times. Armed with a coat of mail.

Literally, “clothed in a shirt of scales,” i.e. a corselet made of metal scales

sewn on cloth so as to overlap one another. It was flexible, and protected

the back and sides as well as the front. Five thousand shekels of brass.

Really copper, as brass was then unknown. Conder gives the shekel as

equal to two-thirds of an ounce. This would make the corselet weigh at

least two hundred weight, an enormous load to carry even for a short time.

Goliath’s other equipments correspond in heaviness, and largely exceed the

weight of medieval suits of armor. Greaves of brass upon his legs. The

thighs were protected by the corselet, so that only the legs required

defensive armour. This would account for the weight of the corselet, as it

was much longer than the cuirass, as worn by the Greeks and Romans. A

target. Really, “a javelin.” It was carried at the back, ready to be taken in

the hand and thrown at the enemy when required. The versions have a

different reading — magan, shield, for chidon, javelin. The shield was

carried before him by an armor bearer. The staff. The written text has a

word which usually signifies shaft, arrow, for which the Kri substitutes

wood, the noun actually found in II Samuel 21:19; I Chronicles 20:5;

but most probably the word used here is an archaic name for the

handle or staff of a spear. Six hundred shekels. The weight of the iron

head of the spear would be about twenty-five pounds. However tall and

strong Goliath may have been, yet with all this vast weight of metal his

movements must have been slow and unready. He was got up, in fact, more

to tell upon the imagination than for real fighting, and though, like a castle,

he might have been invincible if attacked with sword and spear, he was

much too encumbered with defensive armor to be capable of assuming the

offensive against a light armed enemy. To David belongs the credit of

seeing that the Philistine champion was a huge imposition.


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.”  He stood and cried unto the armies.

Literally, “the ranks,” the word being the noun formed from the verb translated

set in array, just below. The same word is used throughout (see vs. 10, 20-22,

26, 45). Am not I a Philistine? Hebrew, “the Philistine,” the champion

on their side. I defy the armies. Hebrew, “I have cast scorn or insult upon

the ranks of Israel this day.” The sense is not so much that he defied them

as that they were dishonored by not accepting his challenge. They were

dismayed. That is, terrified, and made uncertain what to do (compare

Jeremiah 50:36). We have seen from Mr. Condor’s account that each

army held an impregnable position on the two sides of the ravine, which

neither could cross without the certainty of being defeated in the attempt

by the other side. Under such circumstances there seemed no way of

deciding the contest except by a single combat. But though Saul and his

warriors were too terrified at Goliath’s appearance to venture to meet him,

still they held their ground for forty days, inasmuch as it was evidently

impossible for him to cross the ravine clad in such cumbrous armor, nor

did the Philistines venture to make the attempt, as the Israelites would have

taken them at a manifest disadvantage.



Aggression not Defense (vs. 1-11)


The facts are:


1. The armies of Israel and Philistia are drawn up in array, with a valley

between them.

2. A gigantic champion, heavily armed and proud of his strength,

challenges any one of Saul’s army to a personal encounter, and with lofty

words defies the armies of Israel.

3. Saul and his men are in great fear.


The episode given by the sacred writer is one of those occurrences likely to arise

under the conditions of ancient warfare. It must be viewed by us as one of the

events which Providence overruled for the gradual introduction of David to

the notice of Israel. But in this section we may confine attention to truths not

immediately affecting him.


  • We have here AN EXHIBITION OF THE WAR SPIRIT. This giant

was under the influence of a mere love of fighting. It was not a question of

rightness or wrongness, but of slaying or being slain. The modicum of

patriotism was overlaid by the lust of contention. This passion dwells more

or less in all men. Its mildest form is a contentious spirit — a quarrelsome

temper, a desire to try our strength against others. It has found wide and

pernicious scope in the history of nations. There is a tendency to foster this

unhallowed spirit even in civilized, so called Christian countries. The

profession of soldier, the pomp of military parade, the zest with which

battles are described, the haze of glory thrown around the unutterable

horrors of war, and rivalry among men for distinction in action — all show

that the war spirit is fostered. Is it not true that a mere desire to find actual

occupation in fighting determines the first choice of multitudes in entering

on warlike enterprises? The evils of this spirit are patent. In itself it is a

debasement of our nature. The God of peace and love is our Father, and

we are to be His children in the spirit that governs us. The execution of law

and right is a totally different thing. The woes it has brought on the world,


Ø      deaths,

Ø      widows,

Ø      orphans,

Ø      poverty,

Ø      desolations,

Ø      debts,

Ø      suspicions, and

Ø      engendered vices,


can never be told. It is the duty of every Christian to strive to crush it out, by

careful training of the young, by discouragement of popular passions, by

enforcement of the teaching and Spirit of Christ, and by earnest prayer

that the Church may be firm in protest against it.



This giant thought himself mighty, and he boasted in his

strength. Boastfulness in any form is disgraceful. Man is not in a position

to magnify himself on any possession, for it is as a shadow, and may

quickly vanish. Pride in mere physical strength is the lowest form of

boasting, save that in actual vice. A quick, bright, intelligent mind is of

more account than height of stature and strength of limb. Yet self-

satisfaction in intellectual qualities and powers is evidence of a moral

weakness which renders man inferior in the higher realms of life. We have

need to learn that man at his best estate is vanity (Psalm 39:5);  that it is not

by might nor by power that the highest achievements are wrought in the

spiritual sphere.



THINGS. The natural order is that which follows from the normal

constitution and relations of things. By appointment Israel were the

possessors of the land. The promise had read thus: Be true and obedient,

and ye shall possess the land in peace, and be exalted above all nations

(Deuteronomy 28:1-13). Had the conditions been faithfully observed,

GOD long ere the days of David would have subdued their enemies

(Psalm 81:13-16). Or, had new enemies trespassed on their borders,

Israel would have assailed in confidence, and not be assailed in great fear.

(The United States of America has gone through this progression to where

we are in the state of fear now.  It is directly associated with our turning

our back on God! – CY – 2016)  Aggression on the foes of God and man is

the work of God’s people; there is a reversion of the natural order when they

are barely able to hold their own, and tremble at the aggressive onslaughts of

the foe. The attitude and work of the Church in relation to the manifold forms

 of evil in the world is not inaptly indicated in Israel’s original relation to the

abominable nations that once held and begirt the promised land — namely,

aggression till the earth is subdued to Christ. If there are defiant systems

assailing the Church of God and making inroads upon her, it is because

she has been unfaithful in her aggressive work. If we do not make

aggression on the domain of sin, the forces of evil will gain power and

make positive aggression on the domain of religion. Vices of all kinds,

and infidelity in brazen forms, flourish and become more than defensive

in action when Christians lose faith in their mission and sink to the level

of other men. Not even the vilest of men nor the hardiest unbeliever will

venture to assail a pure and very devoted spiritual life.



Israel Smitten with Fear (vs. 1-11)


“They were dismayed, and greatly afraid” (v. 11).


1. The renewed attempt of the Philistines to subjugate Israel shows, in

comparison with their former invasion, a decrease of power. They did not

penetrate into the heart of the land (ch. 13:5), but advanced only a short distance

from their own border, and “pitched between Shochoh and Azekah, in

Ephes-dammim,” a dozen miles southwest of Bethlehem. They had been

driven back and held in check.


2. It could hardly have been possible, but for the rashness of Saul in “the

war of Michmash,” by which the opportunity of inflicting a fatal blow was

lost. Hearing, perhaps, of his condition, and perceiving signs of the laxity

of his rule, they sought to repair their defeat.


3. It found the people of Israel, notwithstanding their previous success, ill

prepared to repel the aggression.


Although they went to meet the enemy, and encamped opposite to them, they did

nothing more. In the spirit of a better time they would have immediately fallen

upon them in reliance upon “the Lord of hosts” (Deuteronomy 32:30); but now

they were paralysed with fear, especially at the appearance of the gigantic

champion who came out against them. The Philistines desired to make the issue

depend on a single combat between this man and any Israelitish warrior

who might be appointed to meet him; and he “drew near morning and

evening, and presented himself forty days” (v. 16). A similar fear has

sometimes pervaded the Christian community in the presence of the enemy.




Ø      Their number is great. They consist not merely of one or two, but of a

host of giants.


o        Within: carnal affections, corrupt tendencies, proud thoughts, evil

imaginations, and wrathful passions.

o        Without: ignorance, error, unbelief, superstition, intemperance,

licentiousness, worldliness, and “all ungodliness.”

o        In the background of all “the prince of the power of the air, the spirit

that now worketh in the children of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2).


Ø      Their appearance is imposing. They seem to be possessed of

extraordinary might, and arrayed in terrible armor, and are of great

renown. “Am I not that Philistine” (v. 8), who has exhibited such

prowess and slain so many foes? “He arose, and came, and drew nigh, like

a stalking mountain, overlaid with brass and iron” (Matthew Henry).


Ø      Their attitude is proud, boastful, defiant, contemptuous, and

increasingly confident of victory as day after day the challenge is renewed,

and no one dares to answer it. “The first challenge to a duel that we ever

find came out of the mouth of an uncircumcised Philistine” (Hall). How

often has the contemplation of such adversaries filled even good men with

dismay! While we measure our natural strength against the forces of evil

our case is hopeless. “Who is sufficient for these things?”




Ø      Distrust of God and alienation from him. Faith prevents fear. It looks to

God, judges of the power of the enemy in the light of His omnipotence,

unites to Him, and inspires with unbounded courage (v. 47; ch.14:6); but

unbelief is blind and weak and fearful (Matthew 8:26).  And dismay in great

emergencies reveals the absence or feebleness of faith in the preceding and

ordinary course of life.


Ø      Outward acts of disobedience to the Divine will diminishing moral

power, and producing inward distraction and dread.


Ø      Sympathy with a faithless leader, and participation in the “spirit of fear”

(II Timothy 1:7) which he possesses. Saul had forsaken the Lord. He

had not the presence of Samuel with him; nor, apparently, that of the high

priest; nor did he seek the Divine counsel as aforetime. He ruled

independently of Jehovah; and the people loved too much “to have it so”

(Jeremiah 5:31), sharing in his faithlessness and fear. A faithless and

fearful leader cannot have faithful and fearless followers.


  • IT INCURS DESERVED REPROACH (vs. 8, 26) — uttered by

the enemy, and echoed in the conscience of the people, on account of:


Ø      The cowardice of their conduct.


Ø      The inconsistency of their position, as professed servants of the living

God: unfaithful to their calling, trembling before the votaries of “gods that

were no gods” (v. 44), and bringing dishonor upon the name of

Jehovah. “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through

you” (Romans 2:24; Proverbs 25:26).


Ø      The likelihood of their defeat, of which it is a virtual acknowledgment,

and to which it must infallibly conduct, unless a better spirit be infused

into them. “How is it that ye have not faith?” (Mark 4:40).


Learn that in our greatest extremity God does not abandon His people to despair,

but provides for them “a way of escape.”  (I Corinthians 10:13)




       (vs. 12-31).


The Vatican codex of the Septuagint omits the whole of this section, and it was

inserted in the Alexandrian copy by Origen. It is found, however, in the other

versions; and possibly this treatment of David’s history as of a person unknown,

just after the account given of him in ch. 16., did not seem so strange to readers

in old time as it does to us, with whom reading is so much more easy an

accomplishment. It is, nevertheless, one of the many indications that the

Books of Samuel, though compiled from contemporaneous documents,

were not arranged in their present form till long afterwards. It was only

gradually that Samuel’s schools dispersed throughout the country men

trained in reading and writing, and trained up scholars capable of keeping

the annals of each king’s reign. The Books of Kings were, as we know,

compiled from these annals; but probably at each prophetic school there

would be stored up copies of Psalms written for their religious services,

ballads such as those in the Book of Jashar, and in the Book of the Wars of

Jehovah, narratives of stirring events like this before us, and histories both

of their own chiefs, such as was Samuel, and afterwards Elijah and Elisha,

and also of the kings. There is nothing remarkable, therefore, at finding

information repeated; and having had in the previous narrative an account

of a passing introduction of David to Saul as a musician, which led to little

at the time, though subsequently David stood high in Saul’s favor because

of his skill upon the harp, we here have David’s introduction to Saul as a warrior.


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.”  Jesse… went among men for an old man in the days of Saul. This

translation is taken from the Vulgate; but the Hebrew is, “And

the man in the days of Saul was old, gone among men.” Some explain this

as meaning “placed,” i.e. “reckoned among men of rank;” but probably an

aleph has dropped out in the word rendered men, and we should read

“gone,” i.e. “advanced in years.” Old is used in a very indefinite way in the

Books of Samuel; but as Jesse had eight sons, of whom the youngest was

now grown up, he must have been nearly sixty. Went and followed.

Hebrew, “And there went the three elder sons of Jesse went after Saul to

the war.” Some grammarians consider that this repetition of the verb is

intended to give it the force of a pluperfect, — they had gone,—but it is

more probably an error, and one of the two verbs should be omitted.


15 “But David went and returned from Saul to feed his father’s sheep

at Bethlehem.”  David went and returned from Saul. This is a very

important statement, as it shows that the writer, in spite of what is said in

vs. 55-58, knew that David had visited Saul at his court, and become

personally known to him. Apparently it had been but a short visit, possibly

because after the fit of melancholy had passed away there was no return of

it for the present; and if David had been back at Bethlehem for two or three

years, a young man changes so much in appearance at David’s time of life

that it is no wonder that neither Saul nor Abner recognized him in his

shepherd’s dress. For some reason, then, or other David had not remained

with Saul at Gibeah, but had resumed his pastoral life at Bethlehem, and

the statements made in ch. 16:21-23 belong to the time immediately after

the combat with Goliath, and not before.


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 of thy brethren;  18 And carry these ten cheeses unto the captain of

their  thousand, and look how thy brethren fare, and take their pledge.

19 Now Saul, and they, and all the men of Israel, were in the valley of

Elah, fighting with the Philistines.”  The Philistine .... presented himself.

I.e. took his stand (see on ch.10:23; 12:7, 16). This verse takes up the narrative,

disturbed by the inserted explanation about David’s family relations. The

extraordinary formation of the ground, as described in v. 3, shows how it

was possible for this challenge to go on for forty days without either army

advancing or retiring. During this long time it seems to have been the

business of the friends at home to supply the combatants with food, and so

Jesse sends David with an ephah, about three pecks, of parched corn

as the word is spelled in the Hebrew it means “parched pease.” Also ten

loaves, and, for the captain of their thousand, ten cheeses — rather, “ten

slices of fresh curd.” David was also to take their pledge. Apparently

neither Eliab nor his brethren could write, and therefore they would send

back to their father some token previously agreed upon to show that they

were in good health, and had received the supplies sent them. Now Saul,

etc. This is a part of Jesse’s speech, telling David where he would find his

brethren. For were, the right translation is, “They are in the terebinth

valley, fighting with the Philistines.”



Cooperation in Spiritual Warfare (vs. 12-19)


The facts are:


1. Three of Jesse’s sons are with the army opposing the Philistines.

2. David, being relieved from attendance on Saul, keeps the flock at Bethlehem.

3. Jesse sends David to the camp with provisions, and instructs him to look

after the welfare of his brethren.


It is possible that Jesse may have surmised that some considerable developments

would soon arise out of Samuel’s recent visit to Bethlehem and the wonderful

interest taken in young David.  At all events, it was providential that he sent him

from caring for sheep to care for his brethren on the battlefield. Leaving out of view

the moral condition of Israel and its consequences, as dwelt on in the last section,

we may regard the army of Saul as being engaged in the service of the living

God (vs. 26, 36), virtually against the foes of the kingdom of the Messiah. David’s

visit to the army with provisions and messages relating to the welfare of his soldier

brothers, therefore, brings out the relation that should subsist between those

engaged in open conflict in the service of God and such as are not called to

serve in that form.




circumstances of Israel necessitated just then that some of God’s people

should devote themselves to the campaign as soldiers. Combination under

the guidance of skill would effect what isolated private effort could not

touch. In the Christian economy every true follower of Christ is a soldier,

following the lead of the Captain of our salvation. Nevertheless, the

circumstances in which Christians find themselves demand that some

should be more emphatically fighting men, to undertake, in combination

with others, arduous work which can never be done by Christians in a

private and isolated capacity. Hence we have men, separated from various

occupations, consecrating all their time and energies not merely in defense

of the gospel, but in making war upon the manifold evils which obstruct

the triumph of Christ. These sustain a relation to others, whose time is

otherwise employed on purely personal pursuits, similar to that of the army

at Elah to the Jesses and Davids engaged in domestic and rural occupations.




one in Israel was concerned in the issue of the conflict with the Philistines.

All that free people hold precious was at stake. If it was in the power of

non-combatants to render aid, clearly it ought to be forthcoming. In a

higher and wider sense is it true that the business of Christ’s soldiers at

home and abroad is the business of the entire body of believers, irrespective

of age, position, or ability. The Church is one body, and the sufferings or

pleasures of one member are of moment to all the members. The feeling

which suggests that certain efforts to save men are no concern but to those

engaged in them is unintelligent and unchristian. The call to hold forth the

word of truth is to the one body of the faithful. Our sympathy with Christ’s

mission is real only as we identify our hopes, and aspirations, and

endeavors with those of all who have the “same mind.” Consequently,

every consideration of humanity, of brotherly regard, of love for Christ,

and joy in His advancing conquests, should stimulate aid to those on the

high places of the field.




forethought and David’s readiness contributed to the strength and

encouragement of the absent warriors. Likewise every one in Israel could

aid in the conflict by contributions of food and clothing, and by cherished

sympathy and prayer. In modern nations every member of the community

renders assistance in war, by payment of taxes, combination of counsel,

deep and variously expressed sympathy, and that quota from each one

which makes up the sum of support to be found in public opinion. The

means by which the scattered members of Christ’s Church can fulfill their

duty to their brethren devoted entirely to the campaign against sin are

varied and effective.


Ø      By loyally bearing the common cause on the heart. This may become a

habit if we will but make an intelligent study of what is due from us. Its

value to the distant and near soldiers of the cross is clear to the spiritual

eye. Moral natures are knit together by subtle bonds.


Ø      By special acts and seasons of prayer. Emphasis given to our general

sympathy by special pleading with God on behalf of His faithful servants is

the all-powerful means of taking our share in the one great conflict. Even

the greatest of apostles felt that he would do his work better if friends

would but respond to his appeal, “Brethren, pray for us.” (II Thessalonians

3:1)  This is an aid which may be rendered by young and old, hale and

weak, the rich and poor. Only eternity will reveal how much, among the

many concurring causes that issue at last in THE FULL TRIUMPH OF

CHRIST is due to the prayers even of the helpless invalids, and poor,

unheard of saints that dwell in cottage homes.


Moral and material support. We may seize opportunities for assuring

our brethren, whose hearts are often faint and weary, that we do carry their

cares and sorrows, and do regard their work as ours. We rob devoted men

of strength when we are reluctant of letting them know our deep interest in

them. The material support is also within the reach of most. To devote a

portion of our means to Christ’s cause is a great privilege. Had the Church

devoted half on Christian enterprise that has been devoted to questionable

self-indulgences, the joys of men and angels would ere this have been




Parental Solicitude (vs. 17-18)


Family life occupies a prominent place in the Books of Samuel, and the

affectionate concern of parents for their children is often mentioned (see

ch. 2:24; 10:2). Jesse, who, in consequence of his advanced age

(v. 12), was himself unable to go against the Philistines, had his three

elder sons in the army of Israel; and after they had been absent for some

weeks, sent their youngest brother with provisions for their need, to make

inquiries about their welfare, and “take their token,” by which he might be

assured thereof. Such solicitude as he displayed is:




Ø      Arising out of the instinctive affection which is felt by parents.

Ø      Continuing throughout the whole of life.

Ø      Commended by the heavenly Father, who puts it into the heart; and

often illustrated, directed, and regulated by the teachings of His word

(Genesis 18:19; 22:2; II Samuel 18:33; Ephesians 6:4; I Timothy 5:8).




Ø      Of the distance of children from home, and of their deprivation of

parental oversight, counsel, and restraint.

Ø      Of their need: temporal, spiritual, and eternal.

Ø      Of their peril: from their own tendencies, their intimate associations, and

their open enemies.


  • PRACTICAL. Expressed:


Ø      In sending them presents of that which is best adapted to their wants.

Ø      By the hand of a brother (Genesis 37:14; 43:11).

Ø      With the request of a token of affectionate regard for the gratification of

a heart that desires and seeks their happiness.


  • ILLUSTRATIVE of “the kindness and love of God our Saviour

toward man” (Titus 3:4). The relation of an earthly father to his

children is a shadow of that of the heavenly Father to men; it was doubtless

appointed from the first to be such, and the loving care which arises out of

it is, in comparison with that of the “Father of spirits,” only as a ray of light

compared with the sun. This also is:


Ø      Natural and spontaneous, for “GOD IS LOVE!”

Ø      Considerate (Psalm 103:13-14). “In thee the fatherless findeth

mercy” (Hosea 14:3).

Ø      Practical. “I have loved you, saith the Lord,” etc. (Malachi 1:2;

Matthew 7:11; John 3:16).


  • Exhortation:


Ø      To parents. Let your kindness to your children be such as accords with

that of your heavenly Father to you, and as affords a true image of it.

Ø      To children. Show kindness to your parents in return for their kindness

to you (ch. 22:3), as your heavenly Father requires.

Ø      To all. “If I be a father, where is mine honour?” (Malachi 1:6).


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.” He came to the trench. More probably the barricade,

or outer circle of defense for their camp, made of their wagons (see on ch. 10:22).

Strictly the word means a wagon track, but the primary meaning of

the verb is to be round. This was the shape of camps in old time, and they

were protected against surprise by having the wagons and baggage placed

round them. The word occurs again in ch. 26:5, 7. The latter part

of the verse is literally, “And he came to the circle of the wagons, and to

the host that was going forth to the array; and they shouted for the battle.”

If the article be omitted before “going forth,” for which there is some

authority, the rendering of the Authorized Version would be right. David left his

carriage. I.e. that which he was carrying. The word is rendered stuff in

ch. 10:22; 25:13; 30:24. Literally the word means utensils, and

so whatever he had with him for any purpose (compare Acts 21:15). Ran

into the army. Literally, “to the array,” “to the ranks,” the place where the

troops were drawn up (see v. 10).


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.”  The champion, the Philistine of Gath,

Goliath by name. The Hebrew is, “The champion (see on v. 4), Goliath the

Philistine his name, of Gath,” probably the very words of the original

record. Out of the armies, or ranks. This is a very probable correction of

the Kri, made by restoring a letter which has apparently dropped out. The

word in the written text might mean “the open space between the two

armies;” but it occurs nowhere else, and this space was chiefly occupied by

the ravine. The men of Israel… fled from him. I.e. they drew back in

haste from the edge of the ravine, which Goliath could no more have

crossed, encased in armor weighing two and a half hundred-weight, than

a knight could have done in the middle ages. In v. 40 we read that it was

out of this ravine that David selected his pebbles, and, being encumbered

with no armor, it was easy for him to climb up the other side and attack

his heavily armed opponent.


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.”

To defy Israel. Rather, “to cast scorn on,” “to dishonor Israel” (see on v. 10).

The king will enrich him with great riches,... and make his father’s house

free in Israel. Many years must have elapsed before Saul could thus have

developed the powers of the crown, and the last words show that contributions

were levied from all the households in Israel for the support of the king and

his retinue. There had manifestly been a great advance since the day when

Jesse sent the king a few loaves of bread, a skin of wine, and a kid (ch.16:20).

Still we cannot imagine that Saul had introduced taxes, nor was the political

organization of the State ripe enough for so advanced a state of things. The

words more probably refer to freedom from personal service in the army

and elsewhere; though it is quite possible that on special occasions

contributions may have been levied, and presents, no doubt, were

constantly being made to the king, though on no regular system. Taketh

away the reproach. The noun formed from the verb rendered defy in v.10,

where see note. Uncircumcised. See on ch.14:6. David, like

Jonathan, sees a ground of confidence in the uncovenanted relation of the

Philistine towards God. The living God. A second ground of confidence.

The god of the Philistines was a lifeless idol; Jehovah a Being who proved

His existence by His acts. So shall it be done. As the people all answer

David’s inquiries in the same way, Saul had evidently made a proclamation

to this effect, which we may suppose he fulfilled, though not in the frankest

manner (ch.18:17, 27).  (Although this is not a vow, it is a promise and perhaps

Saul stood by his word like many of us do with the following example being

par for the course.  CY – 2016)


“It is storied of a merchant that in a great storm at sea vowed to Jupiter, if

he would save him and his vessel, to give him a hecatomb. The storm

ceaseth, and he bethinks that a hecatomb was unreasonable; he resolves on

seven oxen. Another tempest comes, and now again he vows the seven at

least. Delivered, then also he thought that seven were too many, and one

ox would serve his turn. Yet another peril comes, and now he vows

solemnly to fall no lower; if he might be rescued, an ox Jupiter shall have.

Again freed, the ox sticks in his stomach, and he would fain draw his

devotion to a lower rate; a sheep was sufficient. But at last, being set

ashore, he thought a sheep too much, and purposeth to carry to the altar

only a few dates. But by the way he eats up the dates, and lays on the altar

only the shells. After this manner do many perform their vows” (Adams,

vol. 1. p. 112).


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.

29 And David said, What have I now done? Is there not a cause?”

Eliab’s anger was kindled against David. As David,

with growing indignation at an uncovenanted heathen thus dishonoring

the subjects of the living God, puts eager questions to all around, his elder

brother angrily reproaches him with words full of contempt. Between the

eldest and youngest of eight sons was a vast interval, and Eliab regards

David’s talk as mere pride, or, rather, “presumption,” “impertinence;” and

also as naughtiness, or badness, of heart, probably because he imagined

that David’s object was to provoke some one else to fight, that he might

see the battle. David’s answer is gentle and forbearing, but the last words

are difficult. Is there not a cause? Have not those whom we are ready to

condemn a reason and justification for their conduct? Such a question put

to ourselves might stop much slander and fault finding. But the Hebrew

literally has, Is it not word? And the ancient versions and the best modern

commentators understand by this, “It was but a mere word;” “I was only

talking about this challenge, and was doing no wrong.


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.”  Manner. Literally, word,

the noun translated cause in v. 29, and meaning in both verses “conversation.”

It occurs here thrice, the Hebrew being, “And he spake according to this word:

and the people returned him a word according to the former word.” And as

David thus persisted in his indignant remonstrances at the ranks of the living

God being thus dishonored by no man accepting the challenge, they rehearsed

them before Saul, who thereupon sent for him. And thus David a second

time, and under very different circumstances, found himself again standing

in the king’s presence.



Self-Conquest (vs. 19-31)


“What have I now done? Is there not a cause?” (v. 29. Was it not a

word? or, Was it anything more than a word?). In the conflict of life the

first victory which every one should seek to achieve is the victory over

himself. Unless he gain this, he is not likely to gain others, or, if he gain

them, to improve them aright; but if, on the ether hand, he gain it, he is

thereby prepared to gain others, and to follow them up with the greatest

advantage. Such a victory was David’s.


1. He arrived at the wagon rampart when the host was about to make an

advance; leaving there the things he carried, he ran into the ranks to seek

his brethren; and, while talking with them, there stalked forth, as on

previous days, the Philistine champion, at the sight of whom “all the men of

Israel fled, and were sore afraid” (v. 24). The shepherd youth alone was

fearless. There was in him more faith than in the whole army. And in

conversing with the men around him he intimated the possible overthrow

of this boastful giant, and the “taking away of the reproach from Israel,”

and expressed his amazement at the audacity of the man in “defying the

ranks of the living God” (whose presence and power ALL appear to have



2. On hearing his words, and probably surmising that he entertained the

thought of encountering the champion, Eliab was filled with envy and

anger, and reproached him as being out of his proper place, as only fit to

have the charge of a few sheep, and even neglectful of them, and as proud,

discontented with his calling, bad-hearted, and delighting in the sight of

strife and bloodshed, which, he said, he knew, however others might be

deceived. Ah, how little did he really know of his brother’s heart! But

angry men are more desirous of inflicting pain than of uttering the truth.


3. This language would have excited the fierce wrath of most persons. But

David maintained his self-control, and gave the soft answer which turneth

away wrath.” (Proverbs 15:1)  He thus obtained a victory which was hardly less

noble than that which he shortly afterwards obtained over Goliath. Consider his

self-conquest (with respect to the passion of anger) as:




Ø      The contemptuous reproach of a brother. From him at least better things

might have been expected. But natural affection often vanishes before envy

and anger (Genesis 4:8), and is transformed into intense hatred. “There

is no enemy so ready or so spiteful as the domestical” (Hall).


Ø      An ungrateful return for kindness. David had come with valuable

presents and kindly inquiries, and this was his reward.


Ø      An unjust impugning of motives. Eliab sought for the splinter in his

brother’s eye, and was not aware of the beam that was in his own;

(Matthew 7:5); the very things with which he charged his brother were

most apparent in his own scornful reproach” (Keil).


Ø      An open attack upon reputation. His words were intended to damage

David in the eyes of others, as unworthy of their confidence and regard. All

these things were calculated to exasperate. “Thus David was envied of his

own brethren, herein being a type of Christ, who was rejected of the Jews,

being as it were the eldest brethren, and was received of the Gentiles”

(Wilier). The followers of Christ are often exposed to similar provocation.

“And the strength of a good soldier of Jesus Christ appears in nothing

more than in steadfastly maintaining the holy calm, meekness, sweetness,

and benevolence of his mind amidst all the storms, injuries, strange

behavior, and surprising acts and events of this evil and unreasonable

world (Jonathan Edwards).




Ø      Extraordinary meekness and forbearance in enduring reproach. “He

that is slow to wrath is of great understanding,” etc. (Proverbs 14:29;

15:18; 25:28).


Ø      Firm and instant repression of angry passion. For it could hardly be but

that a flash of indignation should glance into his breast; but “anger resteth

in the bosom of fools” (Ecclesiastes 7:9).


Ø      Wise and gentle reserve in the language employed. It is as useless to

reason with the wind as with an angry man. “Set a watch, O Lord, before

my mouth,” etc. (Psalm 141:3).


Ø      Continued and steadfast adherence to a noble purpose. David went on

talking “after the same manner” (v. 30). We ought not to suffer ourselves

to be turned from the path of duty by the reproach which we may meet

therein, but we should rather pursue it more diligently than ever, and prove

by our conduct the sincerity and rectitude of our spirit. “He that is slow to

anger is better than the mighty, and he that ruleth his spirit than he that

taketh a city” (Proverbs 16:32). “It is better to conquer the deceitful

lusts of the heart than to conquer Jerusalem” (St. Bernard).


“The bravest trophy ever man obtained

Is that which o’er himself, himself hath gained.”


“When thou art offended by others, do not let thy mind dwell upon them,

or on such thoughts as these: — that they ought not so to have treated

thee; who they are; or whom they think themselves to be, and the like; for

all this is fuel, and a kindling of anger, wrath, and hatred. But in such cases

turn instantly to the strength and commands of God, that thou mayest

know what thou oughtest to do, and that thine error be not greater than

theirs. So shalt thou return into the way of peace” (Scupoli). And of this

spirit Christ is the supreme pattern (I Peter 2:21-23).




Ø      A sense of peace and Divine approbation. “Angels came and ministered

unto Him” (Matthew 4:11). It is always thus with those who conquer



Ø      The purifying and strengthening of faith, by means of the trial to which

it is subjected (I Peter 1:7; James 1:2).


Ø      The commendation of character in the sight of others, who commonly

judge of the truth of an accusation by the manner in which it is met, and

naturally confide in a man of calmness, firmness, and lofty purpose. “They

rehearsed them” (his words) “before Saul: and he sent for him” (v. 31).


Ø      The preparation of the spirit for subsequent conflict. “Could the second

victory have been achieved if he had failed in the first conflict? His combat

with Goliath demanded an undimmed eye, a steady arm, and a calm heart,

and if he had given way to stormy passion for only a brief season there

would have been a lingering feverishness and nervousness, utterly unfitting

him for the dread struggle on which the fate of two armies and two nations

was depending” (C. Vince).



A Religious Man’s View of Things (vs. 20-30)


The facts are:


1. David arrives at the camp just as preparations are being made for battle.


2. While with his brethren he hears the defiance of Goliath, and observes

the dismay of Israel.


3. Being informed of the inducement offered by Saul for any one to slay

Goliath, he makes particular inquiries as to the facts, and suggests the

vanity of the defiance.


4. His inquiries arouse the jealousy of Eliab, who imputes to him

unhallowed motives.


5. Nevertheless, David persists in his attention to the matter.


The timidity of the entire army seems to have been accepted by Saul as

quite reasonable in presence of such a foe. David’s converse with the men

revealed a remarkable unanimity of sentiment among them. Estimated by

the ordinary maxims of war during times when brute force in individual

conflict decided the day, there was, indeed, small chance for a dwarf

against a giant. The embarrassment was great, natural, and irremovable.

But from the moment of David’s arrival this condition of things appeared

to him unreasonable. Coming fresh from the fold, unfamiliar with the

ordinary rules of armed warfare, and interpreting facts by principles

acquired elsewhere than in the camp and among pusillanimous men, he

marveled at the dismay of Israel, and dared to be singular in his opinion

that the giant was not to be dreaded. Events from a religious point of view

assume a different aspect. Notice:



FORMIDABLE DIFFICULTIES. David was at this time, in comparison

with others, eminently religious. The facts of life impress us according to.

sentiments and views already entertained. When, therefore, this devout,

God-fearing youth looked on the conflict, he saw it with eyes full of

religious light. He felt that the entire army was wrong in feeling and

opinion. The principle holds good in other applications. The eminently

religious get an impression of the world peculiar to their refined spiritual

condition. The most conspicuous instance of this is in the case of the holy

Saviour. Coming from the pure, loving sphere of heaven, more sweet and

restful than David’s rural pastures, how different would the earth, with its

conflicts, cares, and woes, appear to Him as compared with their

impression on men! Holy men see the world with new eyes when they

descend from some mount of transfiguration. No wonder if some highly

purified and trustful souls, looking on the fear and inactivity of professed

followers of Christ, are disgusted and ashamed at the lack of hope and

confidence. If we have the “mind of Christ,” fresh, pure, deep in conviction

of God’s all-wise and mighty will, toned with pity, and elevated by undying

hope, we shall often get impressions of our surroundings which may make

us singular, but which, nevertheless, will be just.




of the shepherd youth saw the world through a Divine medium, and, with

all the sincerity of goodness and force of deep conviction, he was not

afraid to let it be known that he differed from others. Who is this

Philistine?” He defy the “armies of the living God!” The fire burned; he

could not but speak. To him it was a most abhorrent thought that any one

could dare to assert his strength against God. It is obvious that David

reduced the whole situation to a question of first principles. He

remembered who the Philistine was in the sight of God, and what the

meaning of Israel’s existence in the great purpose of redemption. The fear

of Israel he referred to loss of faith in the people’s mission to the world,

and in God as the perfecter of that mission. Illustrations of the same

course are elsewhere found. True religious enlightenment must express

itself in some form. The holy cannot look on life and be silent. Our

Saviour’s words and deeds were largely the expression of the effect of

man’s condition upon His nature. It is especially important to remember this

reference to first principles in their application to:


Ø      The sorrows and woes of mankind through sin. We cannot solve the

mystery of evil, but can fall back on the primary truth that God is good and

wise, and therefore His government in the end will be justified.


Ø      The prevalent habits of the world. We must not fail to trace them to

radical alienation from God, and apply the only radical cure, renewal of

nature by the Spirit of God.


Ø      The obstacles in the way of Christ’s triumph. They are real as facts, but

we must justify our faith in their removal by indicating their essentially

transitory character in contrast with the “everlasting strength” OF



  • MAY BE MISREPRESENTED. David’s pure mind was

charged with vanity and idle curiosity (v. 28). The accusation was the

more painful in coming from a brother. Jealousy creates a jaundiced

medium through which the holiest and most beautiful things appear

hideous. A greater than David was also reviled, and His most holy and

blessed words and deeds associated with the most wicked of origins

(Mark 3:22; John 10:20). Pliny and Tacitus, judicious men of the

world, could not appreciate the opinions and motives of the early

Christians. Even now strong faith in God, and belief that all obstacles to

the progress of Christianity will give way because essentially human, is

regarded as fanaticism. Even among some professed believers in Christ

those are held to be too sanguine who feel sure that the most formidable of

modem giants is as nothing before the mighty power which somehow will

sweep it away. Be it so; TIME WILL SHOW!






        (vs. 32-40).


32 “And David said to Saul, Let no man’s heart fail because of him;

thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine.  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.”  On being brought before the

king, David says, Let no man’s heart fail because of him, i.e. “on account of this

Philistine.”  Literally it is “upon him,” and some therefore translate “within him.”

The Septuagint for man reads “my lord” — “Let not my lord’s heart fail within

him.” Probably “within him” is the best rendering of the phrase. Thou art

but a youth. I.e. “a lad” (see on ch.1:24; 2:18). It is the word applied to David’s

brethren in ch.16:11, and his friend must have been very enthusiastic when, in

ibid. v.18, he described him as a “hero of valor and a man of war.”


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.”  David does not appeal to

any feat of arms. He may have served with credit in repelling some Philistine foray,

but these combats with wild beasts, fought without the presence of spectators, and

with no regent necessity (as most shepherds would have been too glad to compound

with such enemies by letting them take a lamb without molestation), still more

clearly proved David’s fearless nature. Lions and bears were both common

in ancient times in Palestine, when the country was more densely covered

with wood; and bears are numerous in the mountainous districts now.

Lions seem to have been less feared than bears (Amos 5:19); but Canon

Tristram thinks there were two species of the lion in Palestine — one

short-maned, which was not very formidable, the other long maned, which

was more fierce and dangerous (‘Nat. Hist. of Bible,’ p. 117). The Hebrew

literally is, “There came the lion and even the bear,” the articles implying

that they were the well known foes of the shepherd. The written text has

zeh, “this,” for seh, “a lamb,” probably a mere variety of spelling. There

can be little doubt that David refers to two different occasions, especially

as bears and lions never hunt in company. By his beard. Neither the bear

nor the lion has a beard, and the word really means “the chin,” “the place

where the beard grows.” The Chaldee translates the lower jaw, and the

Septuagint the throat. It is plain from this description that David slew the

beast with his staff. He arose against me. This shows that the combat thus

particularly described was with the bear, which does thus rise on its hind

legs to grapple with its foe, while the lion crouches and then springs. Pliny

also says that the weakest part of a bear is its head, and that it can be killed

by a smart blow there. The manner in which David killed the lion is not

described. Defied. See on v. 10.


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.”  Saul said unto David, Go. The king’s consent was necessary

before David could act as the champion of the Israelites. It was a

courageous act in Saul to give his permission, considering the conditions of

the combat (see v. 9), but the two arguments here given persuaded him:

the first, David’s strong confidence in Jehovah, insuring his courage; and,

secondly, the coolness and bravery he had shown in these dangerous

encounters with savage animals.



Reasonable Confidence in God (vs. 31-37)


The facts are:


1. David’s words being reported to Saul, he sends for him.

2. David volunteers to go forth and fight the Philistine.

3. In justification of his confidence, he refers to God’s deliverance of him

from the lion and bear.

4. Saul bids him go, and desires for him the Lord’s presence.


It was doubtless a relief to Saul to be informed that at least there was one in

Israel who dared to accept the Philistine’s challenge. His surprise was equal to

his relief, and may have lessened his hope, when he saw the stripling. The

quiet confidence of David was natural and reasonable to himself, but

evidently required some justification before Saul. The story of the lion and

bear was adduced, with beautiful simplicity of spirit, to indicate to Saul

that the confidence cherished was amply warranted by past experience. To

David’s mind the logic was unanswerable. It is by tracing the mental

process by which David rested in his firm conviction that we shall see the

true ground of our confidence in God, when called by His providence to

enter upon undertakings of a serious nature.


  • A PRIMARY TRUTH. The power of God is adequate to any human

need. This general truth was the basis of David’s reasoning. It was

involved in his very conception of Jehovah, and found beautiful utterance

in his language of later years. The power of the Eternal was not a mere

philosophic idea requisite to complete the notion of God, but a living

energy permeating all things. The ascription of natural changes and events

immediately to God (Psalm 18.) is only the expression of a faith which sees

the Divine energy in and through all things. The people at Elah, on seeing

Goliath, thought of his strength. The reverse effect produced in the mind of

David by Goliath’s boast was the thought of the eternal power. The

influence of general truths on our life is great — greater than some

suppose. They lie deep down in the mind, and yet are ever at command to

regulate thought and feeling, and to suggest lines of conduct. Hence those

in whom they are most fresh and clear are persons of wider range of view,

sounder judgment, and deeper convictions. It is important to have the

mind well fortified with those general truths that relate to God; and, in

view of the difficulties and dangers of life, it is well to keep clear the truth

that in Jehovah is “everlasting strength.”  (Isaiah 26:4)


  • AN EXPERIENCE. David referred to the experience he had had of the

power of God in delivering him from the lion and bear while in the

discharge of his life’s calling. The Almighty hand had befriended him at a

time when he put forth his own energies to subdue his dangerous enemies.

Without having recourse to miracle in these cases, it is enough to notice

that David recognizes Divine aid in the putting forth of effort, and the

primary truth had been translated into the experience of life: and so become

strikingly verified. A fact is an unanswerable argument. The logic

strengthens. Most of us can fall back on deliverances from lions and

adders (Psalm 91:13). The mental record of the past furnishes a

premiss on which to build an argument of hope for the future

(II Timothy 4:17-18).


  • A REVEALED FACT. David could not cherish the confidence he did

without welding with his primary truth and personal experience the fact

that THE ALMIGHTY WAS ALWAYS THE SAME and that, therefore,

continuity in aid might be looked for. The unchangeableness of God was an

assured fact, not from philosophic speculation on the necessary nature of the

Supreme, but because made clear to the mind by the Holy Spirit (II Peter 1:21).

“From everlasting to everlasting thou art God,” keeping covenant forever

(Psalm 89:34). Therefore the argument from past experience of His

power was, so far, available for conflict with a gigantic foe. The force of

this revealed fact concerning the Divine Being is great. It gives our mind a

resting place amidst the incessant flux of things. It opens up to view a rock

on which we can stand calm and secure in face of all changes of earth. The

frailty of our life seems a blessing in association with SO PRECIOUS A

REALITY!  As the uniformity in the laws of nature furnish a basis of wise

calculation and confidence in action, SO THE UNCHANGING POWER

OF GOD in  relation to human need IS A GROUND OF HOPE AND

CONFIDENCE in pursuit of legitimate objects.


  • A PRESENT EMERGENCY. David found himself in presence of an

emergency more trying than when lion and bear were confronted, for the

interests were wide. He was too sensible a youth to imagine that the eternal

power would be manifested because men desired it, whatever the occasion.

But if aid was given formerly in real need, and now a need more pressing

was felt, the argument of faith was conclusive. Moreover, the earlier

occasions were private and personal; this was public, affecting the interests

of Israel; and were not these the interests of him for whose advent Israel

lived? The ruddy youth perhaps saw a connection between the overthrow

of Goliath and the great kingdom of which he sang in Psalm 72. We have

here a safe criterion of the reasonableness of confidence in God’s aid.

When an emergency arises which deeply affects the honor and safety of

Christ’s Church, and the diffusion of the blessings of His reign, we are

warranted to cherish fullest confidence that God will help us in our

endeavor, by such means as we possess, to meet the peril. Let Churches

and individuals act by this rule, and they will never be disappointed. It is

involved in the promise, “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of

the world.” (Matthew 28:20)


  • A PROVIDENCE. The previously noticed elements in the ground of

David’s confidence were more influential from the fact that he did not

force himself into the position, but was there by providential leading, in

which he was quite passive. A man may at the last moment shrink from a

dangerous work if conscious that he, by contrivance, sought it out; but

when we are literally urged by circumstances into difficulties and dangers,

and have a good cause in hand, then we may take the providence as an

encouragement to go through. Providence led the apostles into conflict

with rulers, and, hence, they dared to be confident.


  • A PLEA. David could fortify his expectation of help by the plea that

his heart was honest in intent. He sought not to fight the giant for love of

fighting, for securing renown, for any private end, but for love to his

people Israel and the honor of Israel’s God. Purity of motive in ordinary

life is no substitute for faith in Christ for acceptance with God; but it is a

condition on which God grants His aid to us in our exertions. If we face

gigantic evils, in themselves too great for our wisdom and strength, from

an intense desire to conquer them for Christ, cherishing no vain personal

ambition, then the highest confidence is justified. A power equal to our

need, unchanged by time, realized in past experience, required for an

emergency in which the honor of Christ is at stake, sought by one

providentially led to face the difficulty, and desired not for vain reasons,

but purely for the glory of God — such a process of thought places

confidence in God’s help on a most reasonable basis.


Our wisdom is to go forth, not under the influence of the opinions of

unspiritual men, but under the full force of our own religious convictions.

We must not expect to know in what way the power of God will work

with us; the fact that it will is enough.



Faith’s Argument from Experience (vs. 32-37)


“He will deliver me out of the hand of the Philistine” (v. 37). Many

things tend to hinder the exercise and work of faith. Some of them arise

from the heart itself. Others arise from the speech and conduct of other

people. Such was the scornful reproach cast upon David by his eldest

brother, and such the cold distrust with which he was at first regarded by

Saul. But as he had doubtless overcome his own tendency to unbelief by

recalling what God had done, so now by the same means he overcame the

unbelief of the king, and excited his confidence and hope. “Let no man’s

heart fail because of him”  (v. 32). “Thou art not able to go against this

Philistine” (v. 33). But “there was that in the language of this youth which

recalled the strength of Israel, which seemed like the dawn of another morning,

like the voice from another world” (Edersheim). “And Saul said unto David,

Go, and Jehovah be with thee” (v. 37); thus displaying one of the best features

of character he possessed after his rejection. We have here:




Ø      Consisting of accomplished facts. “Thy servant kept his father’s sheep,

and there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock:

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.” (vs. 34-35).


Ø      Occurring in personal history, and therefore the more certain and deeply

impressed on the mind. How full is every individual life of instructive

providential occurrences, if we will but observe them.


Ø      Wrought by a Divine hand. “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.  (v. 37).  Where unbelief perceives nothing but

chance and good fortune a devout spirit sees “Him who is invisible” (Hebrews

11:27); and the extraordinary success which the former attributes to man the

latter ascribes to God.


Ø      Treasured up in a grateful memory. “Therefore will I remember thee,”

etc. (Psalm 42:6; 77:10-11). Experience is the collection of many

particulars registered in the memory.”  (Romans 5:3-5)




Ø      Rests upon the unchangeableness of God, and the uniform method of

His dealings. “The Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent” (ch. 15:29).

Hence every instance of His help is an instruction and a promise,

inasmuch as it shows the manner in which He affords His aid, and gives

assurance of it under like conditions. “Because thou hast been my help,

therefore in the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice” (Psalm 63:7; 27:9).

“This was a favorite argument with David. He was fond of inferring

future interpositions from past. And the argument is good, if used

cautiously and with just discrimination. It is always good if justly applied.

The difficulty is in such application. The unchangeable God will always do

the same things in the same circumstances. If we can be certain that cases

are alike we may expect a repetition of His conduct” (A.J. Morris).


Ø      Recognizes similarity between the circumstances in which Divine help

has been received and those in which it is expected, viz,


o        in the path of duty;

o        in conflict with an imposing, powerful, and cruel adversary;

o        in a state of perilous need;

o        in the exercise of simple trust;

o        in the use of appropriate means;

o        and in seeking the honor of God.


When there is so close a resemblance the argument is readily applied, and

its conclusion irresistible.


Ø      Regards the help formerly received as a pledge of personal favor, and

an encouragement to expect not only continued, but still greater, benefits

from Him whose power and love are MEASURELESS!   “I was delivered

out of the mouth of the lion; and the Lord shall deliver me from every evil

work, and will preserve me unto His heavenly kingdom:  to whom be

glory for ever and ever.”  (II Timothy 4:17-18; II Corinthians 1:10).


“Man’s plea to man is that he never more

Will beg, and that he never begged before:

Man’s plea to God is that he did obtain

A former suit, and therefore sues again.

How good a God we serve, that, when we sue,

Makes His old gifts the examples of his new”



Ø      Is confirmed in practice as often as it is faithfully tested, and increases in

force, depth, and breadth with every fresh experience of Divine help. “Oh,

were we but acquainted with this kind of reasoning with God, how

undaunted we should be in all troubles! We should be as secure in time to

come as for the time past; for all is one with God. We do exceedingly

wrong our own souls and weaken our faith by not minding God’s favors.

How strong in faith might old men be that have had many experiences of

God’s love if they would take this course! Every former mercy should

strengthen our faith for a new, as conquerors whom every former victory

encourageth to a new conquest” (Sibbes, ‘Works,’ 1:320).


38 “And Saul armed David with his armor, 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 armor, 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.”  Saul armed David with his armor. Rather, “Saul clad

David in his war dress.” The word does not mean arms, either offensive or

defensive; for in ch. 4:12, where it is rendered “clothes,” we read

of its being rent. It occurs again in ch. 18:4, and is there rendered

“garments.” Strictly it was the soldier’s coat, worn under his armor, and

girt close to the body by the sword belt. It does not follow that David was

as tall as Saul because he thus put on his military coat; for it would be

adjusted to the body by the belt, and its length was not a matter of much

consequence. When, then, it is said that David girded his sword upon his

armor, it means upon this coat, though the corselet of mail would also be

worn over it. He assayed to go. I.e. he made an attempt at going, took a

short walk thus arrayed, making trial all the while of his equipments; and he

found them so cumbrous that he felt that he would have no chance against

the Philistine except as a light-armed soldier. The agility of his movements

would then make him a match for one so heavily overweighted as Goliath.

Wearing, therefore, only his shepherd’s dress, armed only with a sling,

David descended into the ravine which separated the two armies, chose

there five pebbles, and, clambering up the other side, advanced towards the

Philistine. For brook the Hebrew has “torrent bed.” Condor speaks of a

torrent flowing through the ravine (see on v. 2).



Naturalness (vs. 38-40)


The facts are:


1. Saul clothes David with his armor.

2. David, distrusting its value, puts it aside.

3. He goes forth to the conflict armed only with a sling and a stone.


There is a curious blending of cowardice, prudence, and folly in Saul’s

conduct. Not daring to fight the foe, he hesitates not to accept a youth; and

while providing ordinary armor for his defense, he fails to see that an

armed youth would really be at a disadvantage with an armed giant. Apart

from higher considerations, David’s good sense shows him that free

nimbleness would be of more value than limbs stiffened under a coat of

mail. The gentle negation, “I have not proved them,” covered a positive

faith in other armor often proved. He would be David in the conflict, and

no one else. The issue was staked on his perfect naturalness. He knew “in

whom he believed”  (II Timothy 1:12), and was true to his own individuality.

The teaching is wide and important in relation to:


  • EDUCATION. To be natural is one of the ends of education, and there

is a naturalness in the means and process by which alone that and all the

ends of education will be secured. While psychologically the sum of

faculties is the same in all, the relative power of them may vary.

Constitutional tendencies and tastes also greatly differ. The inherent

capacity of certain faculties seems likewise to be affected by inheritance.

Discrimination is therefore requisite in education, otherwise we may place

a Saul’s armor on a David, and encumber his mental movements. No

doubt a weak faculty is benefited by being stimulated to work, and a

deficient taste may be improved by exercise; but the apportionment of

work to faculties and tastes should be regulated, not by some general

average of minds, but by what will make the most of the idiosyncrasies of

the individual. That educational training and equipment is natural which

leaves the mind most free and effective. What is gained on one side by

painful drudgery may be lost on another by embitterment and crippled

talents. Especially in religious education is this important. Let us not

clothe the mental nature of children with the forms suited to men. Probably

much of the distaste for religious instruction springs from the perfect

unsuitability of the form to the receptivity of the mind.


  • OCCUPATION. Success in any calling depends largely on the

naturalness of it to the abilities, tastes, and aspirations of the employed.

The Goliath of poverty and disappointment too frequently overpowers

really good and able men, because their occupation, though good and

useful in itself, is unnatural to them. In the pressure of life it is hard, no

doubt, to find the proper place for each one; but more forethought on the

part of parents and guardians would obviate some of the evils. The over

crowding and eager race of men, trampling one another down in poverty,

raises the thought whether these troubles are not the voice of Providence

calling on men to spread abroad and cultivate the rich distant lands waiting

for occupants. Naturalness of occupation and of manner is also desirable

in works of charity and religion. Let not men be armed with powers and

prerogatives out of accord with their mental and moral stature. Let not the

youth of the Church, in their enthusiasm for Christ, be fettered by

impositions that will nullify their zeal Nor let the immature assume

functions for which ripe experience alone can qualify. The wise Church is

that which takes cognizance of all its members, and finds out and

encourages some sphere of Christian activity natural to the attainments and

social position of each individual. Ministries may differ in style and be most

natural — e.g. Paul and John.


  • SPIRITUAL CONFLICT. In one respect David’s was a spiritual

conflict. He discerned the great religious issues at stake, and the fitness of

the means by which the battle was to be fought. For sweeping off from the

earth a great foe of God’s purpose in Israel, and, therefore, in Christ, he

had not proved the armor of Saul, the unspiritual king; but he had proved

other means of warfare suited to his individuality as a youth full of faith in

God and enthusiasm for the golden age of the world. The man after God’s

own heart will not fight in the attire of the man who had lost faith in God.

He must have freedom for such powers as are natural to himself, and that

would give scope for his trust in God.


Ø      Is there not here a foreshadowing of a greater than David? Christ, in

seeking to rid the earth of the giant foe of God’s righteous government,

sin, knows that men have been accustomed to contend with the evil by

various appliances — philosophy, art, social and political organization,

repressive ordinances, commercial intercourse, and other agencies created

for the preservation of society. There were men who hoped that he would

adopt some of the ordinary appliances (John 6:15). But Christ worked

out His mission on the line of his own individuality. Recognizing

organizations, and social laws, and ordinary knowledge as useful, He

nevertheless struck at the root, not at the ramifications, of sin. “Except a

man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” “Make the tree

good and his fruit good.” And this He effects by the power of His holy life,

of His self-sacrifice, and pure truth, brought to bear on the deepest springs

of thought and volition by the mighty working of the Holy Spirit

(Matthew 11:29; John 3:7; 10:16-18; 13:15; 17:17; II Corinthians 5:21;

Philippians 2:5; I Peter 2:21-25; 3:18).


Ø      We may also see here a parallel to our personal conflicts with evil.

There are “carnal” weapons sometimes used for subjugation of evil, but the

spiritual man knows of an “armor of God” (Ephesians 6:11-17), often

proved AND NEVER KNOWN TO FAIL!   Both in our own hearts and in

the world sin will be most surely overcome if we distrust mere

accommodations to its nature and conformities to its methods, and use with


Christian naturalness lies in using Christian means:


o        faith,

o        prayer,

o        truth,

o        love,

o        hope, and

o        patience.




(vs. 41-54).


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.”

When David had crossed the ravine, Goliath and his armor bearer advanced

towards him; and when he saw that the Israelite champion was but a lad (see

v. 33), with red hair, which added to his youthful appearance, and handsome,

but with nothing more than a staff in his hand, he regarded this light equipment

as an insult, and asks, Am I a dog, — an animal held in great aversion in the East,

that thou comest to me with staves? The plural is used as a contemptuous

generalization, but the Septuagint is offended at it, and with amusing matter of

fact exactness translates, “With a staff and stones.” And the Philistine cursed

David by his gods. The Hebrew is singular, “by his god,” i.e. the deity

whom he had selected to be his especial patron.


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.”  And with a shield.

Really, “a javelin” (see on v. 6). David of course menitions only his arms

of offence. As Goliath had reviled David by his god, so David now

expresses his trust in the God of Israel, even Jehovah of hosts, whom the

Philistine was dishonoring. This day.  I.e. immediately (see ch.14:33).

Carcases is singular in the Hebrew, but is rightly translated plural, as it

is used collectively. That all the earth may know, etc. As we saw on v. 37,

it was David’s strong faith in Jehovah, and his conviction that God was

fighting for him in proof of His covenant relation to Israel, that not only

nerved him to the battle, but made Saul see in him one fit to be Israel’s

representative in so hazardous a duel.  (I recommend Ezekiel – Study of

God’s Use of the Word Know – this web site – CY – 2016)



The Battle is the Lord’s (v. 47)


Many of the battles which are waged on earth are not the Lord’s. They are

unnecessary and unrighteous. The end they seek and the means they adopt

to attain it ARE EVIL!   Other conflicts are only the Lord’s in an inferior sense.

Although not unnecessary, nor in themselves unrighteous, they are waged

with secular aims and carnal weapons. But there is one which is the Lord’s

in the highest sense. It is a holy war; a conflict of the kingdom of light with

the kingdom of darkness. Observe that:


1. The obligation is imposed by the Lord. “Fight the good fight of faith.”

    (I Timothy 6:12)


2. The adversaries are the adversaries of the Lord. “Principalities and

    powers,” (Ephesians 6:12)


3. The soldiers are the people of the Lord. Those in whose hearts the

    principles of the kingdom of God are implanted — “righteousness, peace,

    and joy in the Holy Ghost.”  (Romans 14:17)


4. The Commander is the Anointed of the Lord. “The Captain of our

    salvation.” (Hebrews 2:10)  “The Leader and Commander of the people.”

    (Isaiah 55:4)


5. The weapons are provided by the Lord. “Put on the whole armor of

    God” (Ephesians 6:11); “the armor of light.” (Romans 13:12)


6. The success is due to the Lord. He gives the strength which is needed:

    teacheth our hands to war, and our fingers to fight”  (Psalm 144:1), and

    “He will give you into our hands.” (v. 47)


7. The end is the glory of the Lord. When it is over God will be “all in all.”

    (I Corinthians 15:28)  “Who is on the Lord’s side?” (Exodus 32:26)



   Three Victories in One Day (vs. 29, 37-39, 45-47)


Here the history assumes the charm of romance, and David stands forth a

hero above all Greek and Roman fame. By the grace of God he won three

victories in quick succession.


1. Over the spirit of anger. When David, shocked to see all Israel defied

and daunted by one Philistine, showed his feeling to the men that stood by

him, his eldest brother, Eliab, sneered at him openly, and taunted him with

being fit only to keep sheep, or to look at battles which others fought.

Possibly, this ungracious brother had not forgiven David for being

preferred before him in the day when Samuel visited the house of Jesse;

probably too he was conscious that it was the duty of some such tall

soldier as himself to encounter the Philistine champion, and he was ashamed

and irritated because he was afraid to fight. So he vented his ill-humor

in a most galling and insulting reproach, hurled at his stripling

brother. His words might have provoked a sharp retort. But David was in a

mood of feeling too exalted to descend to wrangling. He was forming a

purpose, at once patriotic and pious, which he saw that Eliab was unfit to

appreciate, and therefore made a calm and mild reply: “What have I now

done? It was only a word;” q.d. “I may surely ask a question.” Thus the

hero ruled his own spirit; was master of himself before he mastered others;

had that disinclination and disdain for paltry quarrels which belongs to men

who cherish high and arduous aims; and David’s first triumph was the

triumph of meekness.


2. Over the precautions of unbelief. When the youth was led to the king,

and in his presence offered to fight with the Philistine, he was told that he

was not old or strong enough for the encounter. When a tried soldier of

lofty stature like Saul himself shrank from the combat, how could this

stripling attempt it? It was certain death. David was not shaken from his

purpose. He showed the king that his trust was IN GOD and that the

remembrance of past encounters with wild beasts when the Lord delivered

him made him confident of victory over the giant. Then Saul said, “Go, and

the Lord be with thee.” Perhaps he said it from a mere habit of using such

phrases, perhaps with a melancholy feeling that from himself the Lord had

departed. But he had so much consideration for the brave youth before him

as to put his own armor on him, and gird him with his own sword. It may

seem strange that he did not assign to him a suit of armor more suited to

his size; but there was little armor of any kind among the Israelites, and

none so good as that of the king. It was well meant, but it was a sign of

unbelief. Saul could not trust in God to defend this young champion, but

would cover him with a brazen helmet and a coat of mail. David, however,

happily for himself, put off the armor. It only encumbered his body, taking

away his native nimbleness of movement, and it tended to weaken in his

mind that total faith in God and sense of dependence on Him which was

more to him in such a field than even the armour of a king. Thrice was he

armed who had his quarrel just, and the living God for his refuge and



3. Over the proud blasphemer. Goliath was a terrible opponent in a time

when gunpowder as yet was not, and prowess in the field depended on

size, strength, and armor. No one dared to accept his challenge; and as he

stalked along the valley he scoffed at the men of Israel with impunity. It

was a prodigy of courage on the part of a youth like David — however

strong and active, not above the customary height of men — to assail that

moving tower of brass. But it was no blind fanaticism, such as despises

caution and skill, and disowns the use of fit means, as though implying a

want of faith. David’s faith made him use his utmost care and dexterity,

trusting in God to give him a sure aim and a quick victory. It is quite a

mistake to dwell on the simplicity of David in going forth to the combat

with a weapon so unlikely, so inadequate, as a sling. On the contrary, he

would have shown not simplicity only, but folly, if he had trusted to sword

and spear. If he were to strike the giant at all, it must be from a distance,

and not with weapons held in the hand; for Goliath’s long arm and long

spear would never have let him near enough to inflict a blow. So David

shrewdly took the sling, with which he was familiar, and picked from the

bed of the brook a few pebbles which would pass through the air like

bullets. The sling was in fact the rifle of the period, and men who practiced

the art could make their bull’s eyes with this weapon as well as our modern

rifle shooters, though not at so great distances. The giant, seeing the

shepherd’s staff in David’s hand, and probably not perceiving the thong of

the sling, demanded whether he was regarded as a dog, that might be

beaten with a stick. Then he loudly defied the rash boy who ventured to

meet him in combat, and cursed him by his own heathen god. Back across

the valley went the noble answer of Jehovah’s servant. “I come to thee in

the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou

hast defied.” Then came the terrible moment, and both armies “held their

breath for a time.” David made the attack. Nimbly he ran forward to be

within shot. Goliath had opened the visor of his helmet to look at the foe

whom he despised, and to shout defiance. Thus was his forehead exposed.

David’s quick eye saw the advantage; he slipped a pebble into the sling,

and let it fly. A sharp whistle in the air, and the stone sunk into the giant’s

haughty brow. “He fell on his face to the earth.” How the men of Israel

shouted as they heard the clang of his heavy armour on the ground, and

saw their young champion cut off the boaster’s head with his own sword!

Then it was the turn of the Philistines to fear and to flee; and the Israelites

pursued them, and “spoiled their tents.” So one man gained three battles in

a day, and thousands reaped the advantage of his victories. Is not this what

we have under THE GOSPEL?  One who was born in Bethlehem, but in whom

His own brethren did not believe, is our Deliverer and the Captain of our

salvation. Jesus overcame provocation by His meekness and lowliness of

heart. He overcame all temptation to unbelief and self-will by His perfect

trust in God His Father. He also overcame that strong adversary who had

long defied and daunted the people of God, and had lifted up the name of

false gods on the earth, blaspheming Him who is true. This enemy seemed

to stride to and fro in the earth, and boast himself against the Lord with

impunity. But the Son of David has bruised the enemy’s head, laid low his

pride, and now thousands and tens of thousands ENTER INTO HIS

VICTORY AND SHOUT HIS PRAISE!  To David belonged the honors of the

day. Jonathan loved him. All Israel extolled him. So let us love and praise HIM

WHO HAS WON FOR US A GREATER VICTORY and a richer spoil. We thank

victorious generals, we decorate valiant soldiers, we raise statues and trophies to

national champions. But, in truth, the country which they have saved is

their real monument, the nation which they rescue from oppression or

danger is the true and lasting pillar of their fame. So is it in regard to

THE CAPTAIN OF OUR SALVATION!  Words and offerings for His cause

are insufficient for His praise. The Church of the redeemed is His monument.

ALL whom He has saved out of the enemy’s hand ARE TO THE PRAISE

OF HIS GLORY!   “Hosanna to the Son of David; ......hosanna in the highest!”  

(Matthew 21:9)


48 “And it came to pass, when the Philistine arose, and came, and drew

nigh to meet David, that David hastened, 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.”

When the Philistine arose. Apparently he was seated, as

was the rule with armies in ancient times when not engaged in conflict

(compare v. 52). When, then, he saw David emerge from the ravine, he

rose, and, carrying his vast load of armor, moved slowly towards his

enemy, trying to frighten him by his curses. David, meanwhile, in his light

equipment, ran towards the army, Hebrew, “the rank,” i.e. the Philistine

line, in front of which Goliath had been sitting. As the giant’s helmet had

no visor, that protection not having as yet been invented, and his shield was

still carried by his armor bearer, his face was exposed to David’s missiles.

And in those days, before firearms were invented, men by constant practice

“could sling stones at a hair-breadth, and not miss” (Judges 20:16).

And even if David were not quite as skillful as those Benjamites, yet, as the

giant could move only very slowly, the chances were that he would hit him

with one or more of his five pebbles. As it was, he struck him at his first

attempt upon the forehead with such force that Goliath was stunned, and

fell down upon his face to the ground.


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.”  So David prevailed over the Philistine

with a sling and with a stone. It is evident that the narrator regarded David’s

victory as extraordinary; and no doubt it required not only great courage, but

also perfect skill, as only the lower portion of the forehead would be exposed,

and on no other part of the giant’s body would a blow have been of any

avail. The narrator also calls attention to the fact that David relied upon his

sling alone, for there was no sword in the hand of David. Slings

probably were regarded as useful only to harass an enemy, while swords,

which they had only lately been able to procure (ch. 13:22), were

regarded as the real weapons of offense. David, therefore, completes his

victory by killing Goliath with his own sword as he lay stunned upon the

ground. As Ahimelech considered it fit for David’s own use (ch. 21:9),

it was probably not so monstrous in size as Goliath’s other weapons.

Champion is not the word so rendered in vs. 4, 23, but that used in

ch.16:18 for “a hero of valor.”



The Governing Principle of Life (vs. 41-51)


The facts are”


1. The Philistine, on observing the youth and simple weapons of David,

disdains and curses him, and boasts of soon giving his flesh to bird and beast.


2. David, in reply, declares that he comes in the name of God, and

expresses his assurance that, in the speedy death of his foe, all men would

learn that the battle is the Lord’s.


3. Goliath falls by means of the sling and stone.


4. Seizing his sword, David cuts off his head, whereon the Philistines flee.


We may regard Goliath and David as representatives of two very distinct

orders of character — the one serving as a foil to the other. The low

human purpose, the boastful trust in human strength, and the vanity of

gaining personal renown, on the one side, set off in bold relief the

execution of a Divine purpose, the quiet trust in Divine strength, and the

supreme desire to see God glorified, on the other side. “I come to thee in

the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou

hast defied” — here is the great principle that governed David’s conduct.

In the name of the Lord” did the stripling raise his voice, select his stones,

and use his sling. Nor was this a mere accident in his life. A crisis may

bring out into clear and bold expression the principle which governs a good

man’s life, but it does not create it. “In the name of the Lord” was his

motto when feeding the sheep, slaying the lion and bear, and composing

the Psalms. Consider:



A GOOD MAN’S LIFE. There are various mental acts entering into and

lying at the spring of conduct — some more original than others. Life

cannot be fully understood without an analysis of them and a recognition of

their mutual relation. At one time:


Ø      a passion may be regarded as the governing principle, e.g.

“The love of Christ constraineth us” (II Corinthians 5:14)

Ø      at another, a supreme regard for right — e.g. “Do justly”

(Micah 6:8),

Ø      at another, obedience to a superior will — e.g. “Not my will, but

thine be done.”  (Luke 22:42)


But these and others of kindred nature are in Scripture summarized in the

beautiful formula, “In the name of the Lord.” David’s conduct brings this

principle into triple form.


Ø      The purpose of life is the purpose of God. That which God, by the

revelations of His mercy and the ordinations of providence, is working out:


o        the cutting off of evil and

o        the establishment of righteousness


is the adopted and cherished purpose of life. In every calling, pursuit,

enterprise, alliance, pleasure, secular or spiritual conflict, the true man goes

forth “in the name of the Lord” to destroy the foe of God and man. He is

conscious of a definite unity of purpose, and wills that it be identical with



Ø      The power trusted to is THE POWER OF GOD! The Lord in whose name

David went forth saveth not with sword and spear.” The stripling did not

expect Goliath to fall down dead while he lay at rest in his tent, but be

went forth using those means natural to him as a youth, and this too

because of the unseen hand which taught “his fingers to fight.” (Psalm

144:1)  God’s strength is not a vast reserve locked up for use on some far

distant day, when some new system of worlds has to be created, any more

than that it has been all poured forth into laws and forces now acting. THE

ETERNAL SPIRIT IS ETERNALLY STRONG  and as a Spirit is in such

contact with us that, by placing ourselves in a certain attitude of loving trust,

we receive from Him according to our need.


Ø      The glory sought is that of the Lord. The motive of David was not to

become notorious among men, not to promote some private advantage, but

that “all the earth might know that there is a God in Israel.” Here the

stripling warrior was governed by the same reference to God as was

recognized by the Apostle Paul when he said, “Do all to the glory of God”

(I Corinthians 10:31). This:


o        abnegation of self,

o        this joy in the honor of the holy name,

o        this ambition to see men bowing in reverence to the Lord of all,


enters into the private and public, the secular and spiritual, works of

THE RENEWED MAN!  See the beautiful and impressive language of

saints of different ages:


o        David -  II Samuel 22:33, 35; Psalm 20:5; 63:4;

o        Hezekiah - II Chronicles 32:7-8;

o        unknown – Psalm 115:1;

o        Paul - II Corinthians 10:4;

o        writer of the Book of Hebrews – ch. 11:32-34.




INFLUENCE. Goliath, judging others by the principles that governed his

own conduct, disdained David: his abusive language shows that he had no

conception of the nature of the inspiration that made the stripling so cool

and brave. Some men live in a world not penetrated even by the vision of

others. Spheres of life come into collision, but do not intersect. The scorn

and contempt of the ungodly is a common fact (Psalm 123:4; I Corinthians

1:18; 4:13). Christ and His apostles were treated with contempt, and their

design of subduing the world was, and still is, by some referred to madness:


Ø      ridicule of prayer,

Ø      of missions to savage men,

Ø      of expectation of Christ’s gospel being accepted by all,


still abounds. Are not the people “few,” the means contemptible — out

of harmony with the age, and opposed to the principles of physical science?

It is the old story of a boastful Goliath. It is the same revelation of profound

ignorance. Verily, if there were no more in Christian men than in their foes,

the conflict would soon be settled (II Corinthians 4:4).




on that very day his foe would fall, and so illustrate the supremacy of the

good man’s principle. Events confirmed the truth. The issue of the great

conflict between Christ’s Church and opposing forces of evil is thus

FORESHADOWED!  We may go forth with the same assurance that at the

end of the world’s great day of battle we shall be in a position to say,

“Now thanks be unto God, who always causeth us to triumph in Christ”

(II Corinthians 2:14; I Corinthians 15:57-58). The same result may be

looked for in respect of our own personal conflicts with sin; for though we

may be weak, and pained by the scorning of the proud, yet, using our sling

and stone in the strength of God, it will be found at last that we are “more

than conquerors through Him that loved us.” (Romans 8:37)  And this,

which applies to life as a whole, is of equal force in respect to any form

of vice or moral evil we contend with day by day (Psalm 44:6-7; Micah 7:8).


The great need for Christians is to rise to the height of their powers and privileges

as soldiers of Christ (“Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be

strong.”  - I Corinthians 16:13).  Every triumph achieved for Christ over

sins, or individuals, or obstacles is a pledge of coming victories.


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.”  To the valley. Hebrew, gai. As we have seen, there was

a gai or ravine between the two armies, but in the Hebrew there is no article,

and the Israelites must also cross this before any fighting began. The panic

which struck the Philistines when they saw their champion fall enabled the

Israelites to do so, but the pursuit only then commenced. The Septuagint

reads Gath, a very probable emendation, for, as we saw in the passage

quoted from Condor on v. 2, Gath was situated at the mouth of the

terebinth valley. The Syriac and Vulgate retain valley, but the former

understands it of the mouth of the valley of Elah. Shaaraim was a town

assigned to Judah (Joshua 15:36) in the Shephelah (see on v. 1), but

was now held by the Philistines. They spoiled their tents. More correctly,

“their camp.”


54 “And David took the head of the Philistine, and brought it to Jerusalem;

but he put his armor in his tent.”  David...brought it to Jerusalem. This is an

anticipation of later history. The Jebusites at this time held Jerusalem; but

when David had taken it from them, he removed the head of Goliath thither,

and the narrator, following the usual custom of Hebrew historians, mentions

the ultimate fate of this trophy here (see on ch. 16:21). He put his armor

in his tent. I.e. he carried it to his home (see on  ch. 2:35; 4:10; 13:2, etc.),

where it became his private property. The mistranslation of camp by tents in

v. 53 might lead an English reader to suppose that it meant a tent in the camp

of Israel; but most probably the men all slept under their wagons. Abravanel

supposes that by David’s tent was meant the tabernacle of Jehovah, but this

would surely have been stated more fully. Either, however, now, or at some

later period, David must have presented the sword as an offering to the

tabernacle, as it was laid up at Nob, whence he took it with him in his flight

(see ch. 21:9).



David’s Conflict with Goliath (vs. 38-54)


“So David prevailed” (v. 50).


1. David was specially prepared for the conflict by the whole of his

previous life, and especially by his successful attack upon the lion and the

bear, and his victory over himself.


2. He was providentially led into the conflict. “Jesse little thought of

sending his son to the army just in the critical juncture; but the wise God

orders the time and all the circumstances of actions and affairs so as to

serve His designs of securing the interest of Israel and advance the man

after His own heart” (Matthew Henry).


3. He was inwardly impelled to the conflict by the Spirit of the Lord that

had come upon him (ch.16:13), and had formerly inspired Saul

with fiery zeal against the Ammonites (ibid. ch. 11:6). If he had gone

into it in any other manner he would doubtless have failed.


4. He rendered invaluable service to Israel by the conflict, not only thereby

repelling the invasion of the Philistines, but also teaching them the spirit

they should cherish, and the kind of king they needed. “It is not too much

to assert that this event was a turning point in the history of the theocracy,

and marked David as the true king of Israel, ready to take up the Philistine

challenge of God and His people, and kindling in Israel a new spirit, and in

the might of the living God bringing the contest to victory” (Edersheim).


5. He became an appropriate type of Christ by the conflict. “It is a

rehearsal of Christ’s temptation and victory a thousand years afterwards”

(Wordsworth’s ‘Commentary).


6. He was also an eminent pattern for Christians in the conflict; exhibiting

the spirit which they should possess in their warfare with “the world, the

flesh, and the devil.” “David’s contest with Goliath will only be

apprehended in its true light if the latter be regarded as a representative of

the world, and David the representative of the Church” (Hengstenberg).






Ø      He neglected not the use of weapons altogether. To have done so would

have been rash and presumptuous; for it is God’s method to grant success

to those who employ the legitimate aids which He has provided for the

purpose. Although David did not trust in weapons of war, he did not throw

them away, but used them wisely. We must do the same in the spiritual



Ø      He rejected the armour, defensive and offensive, which seemed to

others indispensable. “I cannot go in these; for I have not proved them.

And David put them off him” (v. 39). Some weapons may appear to

others, and even to ourselves, at first, to be the best, and yet not be really

such. Some weapons may be suitable to others, but not to us. We must

learn by experience. We must be simple, genuine, and true to ourselves.

And above all, we must look for Divine guidance in the matter. “The

weapons of our  warfare are not carnal,” (II Corinthians 10:4).


Ø      He selected the weapons which were most effective. “And he took his

staff in his hand, and chose him five smooth stones,” etc. (v. 40) —

selected them carefully, knowing well which were the best for his purpose;

and he was not satisfied with one or two merely, but provided a reserve.

His weapons were insignificant only in the view of the inconsiderate. They

were the most suitable that can be conceived, and gave greatest promise of

success; and his genius was shown in their selection. Intelligence was

opposed to brute force. “It was just because the sling and the stone were

not the weapons of Goliath that they were best fitted to David’s purpose.

They could be used at a distance from the enemy; they made his superior

resources of no avail; they virtually reduced him to the dimensions and

condition of an ordinary man; they did more, they rendered his

extraordinary size a disadvantage; the larger he was, the better for the

mark. David, moreover, had been accustomed in his shepherd life to the

sling; it had been the amusement of his solitary hours, and had served for

his own protection and that of his flock; so that he brought to his

encounter with Goliath an accuracy of aim and a strength and steadiness of

arm that rendered him a most formidable opponent” (A.J. Morris). The

lesson here taught is not that anything will do to fight with, but that there

must be in spiritual, as well as in secular, conflicts a proper adaptation of

means to ends.




Ø      Humility. His heart was not haughty and proud (Psalm 131:1), as

Eliab said it was, but humble and lowly. He was conscious of unworthiness

before God, of utter weakness and insufficiency in himself, and ready to do

and bear whatever might be the will of the Lord concerning him. Humility

(from humus, the ground) lies in the dust, and is the root out of which true

excellence grows. It is the first, the second, and the third thing in religion

(Augustine). “Before honor is humility” (Proverbs 15:33). “He giveth

grace to the humble.” (James 4:6)  “Be clothed with humility.”

(I Peter 5:5)


Ø      Faith. “I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts” (v. 45; see

ch. 1:3). He looked beyond man to God, and relied upon His help.

“He did not compare himself with Goliath, but he compared Goliath

with Jehovah,” who was the Leader and “God of the ranks of Israel.” He

believed, and therefore he fought, and prevailed. “Although unarmed in

the estimation of men, he was armed with the Godhead” (St. Ambrose).


Ø      Zeal. He was little concerned about his own honor and renown, but he

was “very jealous for the Lord God of hosts” (I Kings 19:14). He

heard the gods of the heathen extolled (v. 43), and the name of Jehovah

blasphemed, and he was desirous above all things that God should be

glorified. “All the earth shall know that there is a God in Israel!” (v. 46).

“All this assembly shall know that the Lord saveth,”  (v. 47). When we

fight for God we may confidently expect that He will fight for us. “The

battle is the Lord’s.”  (II Chronicles 20:15)


Ø      Courage, which stood in contrast to the fear with which Israel was

smitten, and was the fruit of his humility, faith, and zeal. It was shown in

his calm and dauntless attitude in going forth against his opponent, in the

presence of the two armies, in breathless suspense; in his bold and

confident answer to the contemptuous challenge of the foe; and in his

eagerness and energy in the actual conflict. “David hasted, and ran,” etc.

(vs. 48-49, 51). “So David prevailed.”


  • THE VICTORY WHICH HE ACHIEVED.  Not only was the boastful

Philistine overthrown, speedily, signally, and completely, but also —


Ø      The enemy fled in terror (v. 51), and their power was broken (v. 52).


Ø      Israel was imbued with a new and better spirit (vs. 52-53).


Ø      He himself was honored — by God in giving him the victory and

opening before him a wider sphere of activity, by the king (vs. 55-58;

ch. 18:2), and by all the people. Even the Philistines long

afterwards held his name in dread (ch. 21:11). “This first heroic

deed of David was of the greatest importance to him and all Israel, for it

was his first step on the way to the throne to which Jehovah had resolved

to raise him” (Keil). “Raised by the nation, he raised and glorified it in

return; and, standing at the crowning point of the history of the nation, he

concentrates in himself all its brilliance, and becomes the one man of

greatest renown in the whole course of its existence” (Ewald).




 (vs. 55-58).



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, Enquire 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.”  Abner, whose son is this youth? Hebrew, “lad,” na’ar.

We have seen that the narrative in ch. 16:21-23 carries the

history of David’s relations with Saul down to a much later period, and

that in v. 15 of this chapter David is represented as not dwelling

continuously at Saul’s court, but as having returned to Bethlehem and

resumed his pastoral occupations there, whence he would be summoned

back in case of the recurrence of Saul’s malady. It is plain from what is

stated here that David had not thus far spent time enough at Gibeah to be

personally well known either to Saul or his officers (see note on v. 15).

Stripling. Not na’ar, but alem, the masculine of the word almah, used in

Isaiah 7:14. It means a young man fully grown, and arrived at the age

to marry, and so is more definite than na’ar, which Saul uses in v. 58. As

David returned, etc. Abner, as captain of the host, would naturally watch

the combat, and as soon as it was possible would bring the young warrior

into the king’s presence. But what is recorded here could have taken place

only after the pursuit of the Philistines was over, and really these five

verses should be united with ch. 18, as their object is to introduce the

account of the love of Jonathan for David. Starting then with the inquiry

made by the king of Abner, asking for fuller information as to the young

man’s parentage, the historian then tells how after the chase he was

brought before Saul, and then, in ch. 18:1, that the result of their

conversation was the warm love that henceforward knit together these

two kindred souls.



Unknown and Yet Well Known (vs. 52-58)


The facts are —


1. Stimulated by the exploit of David, the people complete their victory

over the Philistines.

2. David leaves his weapons in his tent and carries Goliath’s head to


3. During the conflict Saul inquires who David was, but obtains no

information, till, on presentation, David declares himself to be the son of



The summary of events here given brings out incidentally a fair illustration of

general truths.




character passed beyond the death of Goliath: it infused fear into the

Philistines and aroused the spirit of his countrymen. In this stimulating

power we have one of the prime qualities of true leadership. The value of

our actions lies much in this moral force. One of the difficulties of conflict

in a good cause is to arouse enthusiasm, nourish courage, and incline men

to exchange their lethargy for action. In the cause of Christ we have need

to pray that He would raise up men fitted, by their heroic spirit, to arouse

the slumbering energies of His people.



stripling who befriended Saul in his military difficulties was the same as

comforted him in his private sorrows. The deft fingers that once drew

sweet music from the harp now used the stone that brought Saul’s enemy

to the earth. This was the second of the many acts of kindness rendered by

the future to the present king, though Saul recognized not his former

comforter under the new guise of chivalry. It is a happy circumstance when

a man can enrich others by the exercise of diverse and unlooked for gifts,

even when not recognized. By such merciful providences does God

sometimes mitigate the misfortunes even of the undeserving.




David had, next to Samuel, been the most beautiful character in Israel. This

is a just inference from his choice and anointing by Samuel, the sweet

charm of his music and song, his noble endurance of Eliab’s base

imputation (vs. 28-29), the simple story of the lion and bear, the tone of

his address to Goliath, and the entire spirit displayed through the day. If

moral and high spiritual qualities are of greatest permanent value to a

nation, then David was, next to Samuel, Israel’s greatest benefactor. And

yet Saul and his officers knew him not. Concerned with the arm of flesh

and the framework of national life, great authorities are often unaware of

the presence of persons most important on account of their elevation of

character. This will ever be true until the time comes when moral and

spiritual considerations have their proper place in the councils of kings and

princes. But though “unknown” in earthly courts, the holy and Christly

have their record in the court of heaven, and are held in everlasting

remembrance by Him who delighteth in His saints and guards them as

the apple of his eye.


It will be an encouragement to constancy in goodness to remember that

while “unknown” we are “well known” (II Corinthians 6:9).




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