Chapter 2

The Story of David and Goliath

Having recapped the biblical story, we can focus on David and Goliath. Whether this story is familiar or we are hearing it for the first time, our understanding is always enriched when we slow down to notice the details.

The story of David and Goliath doesn’t begin with David. It begins with an old enemy—the Philistines—warring against king Saul and the people of Israel. The battlefield was a valley, with the two armies camped on the hills on either side. Every day, a Philistine champion, Goliath, would come out from the Philistine camp. He was a giant, taller than any other man in the battle. He wore heavy protective armor from head to toe and carried an enormous spear in his hands; his personal shield–bearer stood in front of him. In a land of bloody battles and seasoned warriors, even the bravest hid from him.

Each morning, Goliath would then shout a challenge to the army of Israel: “Choose a man to fight against me; if he kills me, all the Philistine people will be servants to Israel, but if I kill him, Israel will be our servants” (1 Samuel 17:8–9). In other words, Goliath was saying, the outcome of the entire battle could be decided by a one–on–one fight to the death. If Goliath was the biggest and strongest Philistine, some might have hoped that the biggest man in Israel—King Saul—would respond to the challenge, but when he heard the words of Goliath, both he and all Israel were terrified and discouraged.

The scene changes to David and his aging father, Jesse. Three of David’s brothers were in Saul’s army, so youngest brother David would go back–and–forth from Jesse to battlefield for reports and to deliver food and supplies to his brothers. All the while, (forty days in a row) Goliath bellowed his challenge each morning and evening.

One day, David arrived with supplies just as the two armies faced off on the battlefield. While he spoke with his siblings, Goliath sauntered onto the battlefield and taunted Israel. David heard and watched Israel’s army retreat. When David learned of the reward that would be given to the man who killed Goliath—riches and one of Saul’s daughters as a wife—he responded, “ . . . who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?” (17:26). David was concerned about the mockery to God’s reputation, the wealth and a princess bride were the icing on the cake.

David’s answer and persistence, despite his soldier brother’s anger, eventually found the ear of the king and Saul sent for David who confidently told Saul that he would go and fight “with this Philistine” (17:32). Saul pointed out the obvious: “You can’t defeat this giant warrior, you’re just a kid, and he has been a warrior since he was your age!” But David was determined. As a shepherd, he had protected his sheep from lions and bears in hand–to–paw battles. This Philistine was just another toothy predator. He would also “strike down this uncircumcised Philistine like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God” (17:36).

David’s ability to defeat the giant seemed about as sure as the protection of a puppy against a burglar. David spoke with outrage and confidence, but so far it is only talk. Verse 37 reveals the foundation of young David’s confidence: “And David said, ‘the LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.’” David was not an over–confident lap dog whose bark was worse than his bite; David was a young man who relied on the LORD for deliverance in a dangerous situation.

David was not an over-confident lap dog whose bark was worse than his bite; David was a young man who relied on the LORD for deliverance in a dangerous situation.

Saul offered David his armor, but David had never used armor and didn’t want to wear it. Instead, he chose to face the Philistine with his shepherd’s tools—his staff, five smooth stones, and his sling.

The imposing giant approached David with his shield–bearer in front of him. When Goliath realized David was just a boy and saw the tools in his hand, he said, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” Goliath saw no threat in the warrior facing him: “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the beasts of the field.” David poked the bear, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all the assembly may know that the LORD saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the LORD’s and he will give you into our hand” (17:45–47). In these verses we get another peek into David’s heart—although he was small and unimposing, his God was great; his God would deliver, and his God would get the credit for the victory.

Goliath moved forward to face David, and David ran toward the giant. Placing one of the stones from his bag into his sling, David hurled it and struck the Philistine in the forehead. The stone sunk deep and the giant fell on his face. David then ran forward again and used the giant’s own sword to cut off Goliath’s head. A shepherd with a shepherd’s simple tools had defeated the enemy’s greatest warrior. When the Philistines saw the fall of their champion, they ran; Israel pursued, routing the defeated foe. When they returned, they plundered the Philistine camp. In Jerusalem, Saul asked for the family identity of David, and David came to him with Goliath’s head in his hands (17:51–57). What a story!

Questions for Reflection

1. Read 1 Samuel 2:10; 16:1–17:58. What key elements of the story of 1 Samuel most impact the way we understand the story of David and Goliath?

2. Can you think of a time in your life when you have been faced with unfavorable odds, and knew that the only way out would be if God were working for you? If so, what effect did this experience have on your faith?

3. How does the story of David and Goliath inspire you as you face challenges in life?