Please read 1 Samuel Chapters 16 – 17 for some of David’s wonderful story.
In approximately 1025 B.C. the Lord tells Samuel to go to Bethlehem, a town six miles south of Jerusalem, to anoint a new king.1 This was the home of Ruth and Boaz, and it is one of their great-grandsons that Samuel anoints.2 Samuel is afraid Saul might kill him, but the Lord shows him how to disguise the purpose of the visit by offering a sacrifice in Bethlehem. When he arrives there, the elders wonder what is wrong, but Samuel calms their fears. He has come to anoint one of their young men, not to reprove anyone of sin. When Jesse and his sons come to the sacrifice, Samuel is impressed by the oldest son, Eliab, a tall and handsome man. But the Lord reminds Samuel that he considers inner qualities of an individual rather than the outward appearance, and the one he will choose will be “a man after his own heart.”3 None of Jesse’s seven sons present at the sacrifice is the chosen one, so Samuel insists that the youngest son be brought from tending the sheep. When David arrives, he too is handsome and fit, but, more importantly, the Lord has chosen him to shepherd the people of Israel.4 While his brothers look on in amazement, Samuel anoints David with oil as the new king-designate. “From that day on the Spirit of the Lord came upon David in power,” as he had come upon Saul at the earlier anointing.5 Throughout the rest of his life, David enjoyed the empowering of the Spirit upon his work and ministry.
Unlike David, Saul experiences the departure of the Spirit of God and the coming into his life of an evil spirit. This evil spirit is “from the Lord” in the sense that God permits him to torment Saul and that ultimately he is under God’s control.6 Saul’s jealousy and depression are made worse because of the influence of this evil spirit, and at times he drives Saul to violence.7 According to the Scriptures, the evil spirit affected Saul sporadically.8
In an attempt to help Saul find relief from the evil spirit, Saul’s attendants suggest that he secure a musician to play soothing music. Ironically, the man they recommend is none other than David, recently anointed to succeed Saul.9 In addition to his ability as a shepherd, David knew how to play the harp, and he had a fine personality. He also enjoyed divine favor.10 If only Saul and his aides had understood to what extent the Lord was with David, they never would have invited him to come. By doing so, Saul gives valuable court training to his successor and allows him to make many friends. Saul likes David very much and asks Jesse if David might remain in his service. Although Jesse must have realized what a dangerous position David would be in if Saul ever found out about the anointing, he could also see how the Lord was preparing David for his future work.
The event that catapults David into the public eye is his astonishing victory over Goliath.11 As a warrior and a general he would consistently defeat the Philistines for the rest of his life.
After years of relative peace, the Philistines once again threaten the Israelites, sending their troops into the Valley of Elah, about fifteen miles west of Bethlehem. Instead of trying to engage the Israelites in battle, the Philistines send out a champion fighter named Goliath to challenge one of the Israelites to individual combat. The outcome of the battle would hinge on the struggle between the two men. This custom was known among the Greeks, and Homer’s Iliad contains the famous account of Achilles’ victory over Hector. Apparently the Hittites of Asia Minor also practiced individual combat to a limited extent. According to Scriptures, a later war between Israel and Judah was to be settled by a twelve-man “team,” representing each side.12 In view of Goliath’s great size and strength, it is easy to see why the Philistines were counting on him. He is over nine feet tall and his armor weighs about 125 pounds. When he hurls his challenge toward the Israelites, Saul and his men cower in fear. Their defeatist attitude is reminiscent of the fear of the ten spies who saw the tall residents of Hebron prior to the eventual conquest.13
As tension mounts at the battle scene, we are told that David’s three oldest brothers are among Saul’s troops, listening to Goliath’s defiant challenge for forty days. David is back in Bethlehem taking care of the sheep, for Saul’s condition had apparently improved. Anxious about his older sons, Jesse decides to send David to visit the troops and take some food to his brothers and their commander. David probably welcomed the chance to see the excitement of impending conflict and to find out why no battle had taken place yet. When he arrives at the scene, he soon discovers the problem as Goliath steps forward to shout his defiance against Israel. Once again the Israelites shrink back in fear.
Although no one has yet volunteered to fight Goliath, Saul offers substantial rewards to the man who can defeat him. Wealth and honor will be his, along with exemption from taxes for his father’s family. The victor will also receive Saul’s daughter in marriage, with no further bride-price expected. Normally a sizable amount of silver or valuables was paid by the groom to the family of the bride, though military exploits were sometimes substituted. Saul’s offer is attractive, but who would stand a chance against the gigantic Philistine?
David is the first one to express any interest, primarily because Goliath is defying “the armies of the living God.”14 Why should he be allowed to disgrace Israel day after day? Whatever his size, Goliath is only an “uncircumcised Philistine.”
If Jonathan was willing to attack a whole Philistine unit,15 someone should have the courage to fight Goliath. As David tries to encourage the troops, he is severely reprimanded by his oldest brother Eliab. Eliab may have been jealous of David’s anointing or he may have felt guilty for not volunteering to fight Goliath himself, but in any event his assessment of his brother is totally wrong. David is not trying to avoid family chores nor is his heart conceited and wicked. He is trusting the Lord and has the confidence that God will give Israel victory.
Eventually word of David’s courage reaches Saul, who sends for him and learns of his willingness to fight. In view of David’s age and inexperience, however, Saul at first rejects his offer. But David reminds Saul that as a shepherd he had killed a lion and a bear, both of which were far more agile than Goliath. God has saved him from wild animals and he will save him from Goliath.
Convinced of David’s faith and courage, Saul gives him his blessing and tries to outfit him with armor. But David is not used to the bulky equipment and cannot wear it. Instead, he takes his shepherd’s staff, his sling, and five smooth stones from the stream and heads into battle. Since most of the expert slingers were from the tribe of Benjamin, Saul is aware of the deadly effectiveness of this weapon.16
After waiting for forty days, Goliath is disappointed and disgusted when he sees the youthful, unarmed David coming toward him. How much glory is there in killing a defenseless youth? David listens to Goliath’s curses and then acknowledges that his main weapon is “the name of the Lord Almighty.”17 Because of David’s apparent weakness, the glory for the victory will go to the Lord, and this could be a testimony to the whole world. Like Saul’s son, Jonathan, David believes that the battle is the Lord’s and that victory does not depend on who has the best weapons or the most soldiers. Just as the parting of the Red Sea terrified the nations,18 so the death of Goliath will demonstrate the power of Israel’s God.
As Goliath moves in to silence his brash opponent, David slings one of the stones with unerring accuracy. It strikes the Philistine on the forehead, perhaps killing him instantly.19 David then removes Goliath’s sword from the scabbard and cuts off his head. Stunned by this turn of events, the Philistines flee back to their coastal cities with the Israelites in hot pursuit. As David had predicted as recorded earlier,20 many of the Philistines are killed along the way. David puts Goliath’s weapons in his own tent and later dedicates the sword to the Lord, taking it to the tabernacle21 as a way of acknowledging that God gave him the victory. According to the Scriptures, David then took Goliath’s head to Jerusalem.22 This may refer to a later time after David conquered Jerusalem23 or it may mean that a number of Israelites already lived in Jerusalem. Since Jerusalem was a major city, it would have been a logical place to display a trophy of victory.
The early stories of David are ones that demonstrate the power of integrity, faith, courage, obedience and the total trust in the One Almighty God whom David had learned to rely upon from a very early age.
- 1 Samuel 16:1-13
- See Ruth 4:17
- 1 Samuel 13:14
- See 2 Samuel 5:2
- 1 Samuel 16:13; also 1 Samuel 10:6–10
- See 1 Kings 22:19–23; Job 1:12
- 1 Samuel 18:10–11
- 1 Samuel 16:23
- 1 Samuel 16:14–23
- 1 Samuel 16:18
- 1 Samuel 17:1–58
- See 2 Samuel 2:15
- See Numbers 13:31–33
- 1 Samuel 17:26
- 1 Samuel 14:1-23
- See Judges 20:16; 1 Chronicles 12:2
- 1 Samuel 17:45
- See Exodus 15:14–15
- 1 Samuel 17:49
- 1 Samuel 17:46
- 1 Samuel 21:9
- 1 Samuel 17:54
- See 2 Samuel 5:1–9