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1 Samuel 17:20-50 1
20 Early in the morning David left the flock in the care of a shepherd, loaded up and set out, as Jesse had directed. He reached the camp as the army was going out to its battle positions, shouting the war cry. 21 Israel and the Philistines were drawing up their lines facing each other. 22 David left his things with the keeper of supplies, ran to the battle lines and asked his brothers how they were. 23 As he was talking with them, Goliath, the Philistine champion from Gath, stepped out from his lines and shouted his usual defiance, and David heard it. 24 Whenever the Israelites saw the man, they all fled from him in great fear. 25 Now the Israelites had been saying, “Do you see how this man keeps coming out? He comes out to defy Israel. The king will give great wealth to the man who kills him. He will also give him his daughter in marriage and will exempt his family from taxes in Israel.” 26 David asked the men standing near him, “What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and removes this disgrace from Israel? Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?” 27 They repeated to him what they had been saying and told him, “This is what will be done for the man who kills him.” 28 When Eliab, David’s oldest brother, heard him speaking with the men, he burned with anger at him and asked, “Why have you come down here? And with whom did you leave those few sheep in the wilderness? I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is; you came down only to watch the battle.” 29 “Now what have I done?” said David. “Can’t I even speak?” 30 He then turned away to someone else and brought up the same matter, and the men answered him as before. 31 What David said was overheard and reported to Saul, and Saul sent for him. 32 David said to Saul, “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him.” 33 Saul replied, “You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a young man, and he has been a warrior from his youth.” 34 But David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, 35 I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. 36 Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. 37 The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.” Saul said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you.” 38 Then Saul dressed David in his own tunic. He put a coat of armor on him and a bronze helmet on his head. 39 David fastened on his sword over the tunic and tried walking around, because he was not used to them. “I cannot go in these,” he said to Saul, “because I am not used to them.” So he took them off. 40 Then he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd’s bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine. 41 Meanwhile, the Philistine, with his shield bearer in front of him, kept coming closer to David. 42 He looked David over and saw that he was little more than a boy, glowing with health and handsome, and he despised him. 43 He said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come at me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. 44 “Come here,” he said, “and I’ll give your flesh to the birds and the wild animals!” 45 David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. 47 All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.” 48 As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him. 49 Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell facedown on the ground. 50 So David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone; without a sword in his hand he struck down the Philistine and killed him.

Background

The books of 1 and 2 Samuel used to be one book. Many years later, it was divided into two parts. The name of the book comes from the first important person in this book, Samuel the prophet. However, Samuel did not write the book, dying before the end of it. The book of 1 Samuel records a major change from the time of the judges to Israel’s first king. The judges had led the Israelites for about 350 years after the death of Joshua. During this time the Israelites called their leaders ‘judges’. Samuel was the last of the judges. He was also a prophet and a priest. Samuel anointed Saul, the first king of Israel. But Saul did not obey God. So, God chose another king, David, who would obey him. 1 Samuel ends with the death of Saul. The book of 2 Samuel records the life of David as king.

Ephrathah is another name for Bethlehem. ‘Judah’ is the land that belongs to the tribe of Judah. Jesse was too old to fight in the army. But 3 of his sons were in Saul’s army. When David was with Saul, David played his harp. When Saul did not need him, David went back to Bethlehem. Jesse’s sons had been with Saul for at least 6 weeks. Jesse wanted to know whether they were safe. He also wanted to know whether the battle was going well. So, he sent David with some food for them. First, David got another shepherd to look after his sheep. Then he went to find his brothers. Goliath insulted the Israelite army twice a day for 40 days. Every day the Israelites got ready for a battle. They shouted their war cry as they went out. They hoped that this would frighten their enemy but every day they saw Goliath and were afraid. They ran away. David arrived at the Israelites’ camp and heard Goliath shouting to them.

Saul wanted someone to kill Goliath. That person would save Israel. Saul offered a big reward. First, he offered a lot of money. Then the man could marry Saul’s daughter. The reward was not just for the brave man. It was for his family too. They would not have to pay taxes in Israel. The Hebrew word meant that the family would be ‘free’. This can also mean that they did not have to serve the king.  while the Israelite soldiers knew the reward for the man who would kill Goliath, David did not know this so he had to ask. David did not want honor for himself. He wanted honor for the living God. ‘Heathen Philistine’ means that the Philistines did not worship the one true, living God. They worshipped false gods and idols (including Dagon). David did not want Israel to have this shame of defeat. David especially did not like it when Goliath insulted the God of Israel.

Eliab, David’s older brother was angry with David and insulted him. Perhaps he was jealous. Eliab was afraid of Goliath but David was not afraid. David was young, strong and he was brave, skills learned while protecting his father’s sheep. David, through God’s help, had killed fierce lions and bears. He knew that God would help him now to kill Goliath. David insulted Goliath when he called him a ‘heathen Philistine’.

No one in the army of Israel would fight Goliath. So Saul let David fight him. Saul gave David his armor to protect him. But David was not used to wearing armor. Instead, David trusted God to protect him. The battle was not really between David and Goliath. The battle was between Goliath’s gods and the God of Israel. It was an insult to call a person ‘a dog’. Goliath thought that David was insulting him. Goliath did not know the power of Israel’s God. He thought that no one could defeat him. Goliath thought that his armor and his strength would protect him. However, David was confident. The ‘name of the Lord’ (verse 45) is another way to refer to the Lord himself. (See Exodus 3:13-15.) David knew the power of his God. He also knew that this was the Lord’s battle, not his. He told this to Goliath. David gave the honor to God.

David could see where Goliath’s helmet did not protect him. So David took just his shepherd’s stick, bag and a sling. A shepherd used his stick to fight wild animals. A ‘sling’ was a piece of material with a string on each side. David put the stone in the material and held the two pieces of string. He swung this round fast. Then he let go of one piece of string. The stone went through the air very fast letting David attack Goliath before he got too close. David was an expert with a sling. He was very accurate. He had probably often practiced while he protected his the sheep. The stone hit Goliath. It made him unconscious and he fell forward. David did not have a sword of his own. So he used Goliath’s sword to cut off his head. The Philistines saw the power of Israel’s God. They ran away. But they did not become slaves to the Israelites as Goliath had said earlier in verse 9. The Israelites killed many *Philistines as they ran home.

After a battle, the soldiers robbed the enemy that they had defeated. This was the soldier’s reward. David took Goliath’s armour as his reward. In 1 Samuel 21:9, the priest had Goliath’s sword. Perhaps David gave the sword to the Lord because the Lord won the battle. In those days, the leader of the army that won a battle cut off the head of their enemy’s leader. This was the prize for the winner. It made the army who lost the battle feel humble. Verse 54 does not say when David took Goliath’s head to Jerusalem.

The only way to tackle the giants of our lives is to take small, single steps of faith. Those steps give us the courage and confidence to continue. We don’t have to use force or physical strength to succeed. In Matthew (17:20), Jesus said, “If you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, will say to this mountain, ‘move, hence to yonder place’ and it will move and nothing will be impossible for you.”

Items for Discussion

  • What do you think are today’s contemporary GIANTS?
  • Why are people fearful of them?
  • What is it about the strength of one’s faith that helps them overcome fear?
  • Saul tried to use bribery to garner courage – Why didn’t it work?
  • While David was no doubt faithful and brave, what skills did he have that helped assure his success?
  • How would you explain this statement: Faith is a skill, just like that of a marksman with a slingshot, that needs to be practiced to be effective.
  • If the unknown is fearful, how would you recommend someone overcome it?

Discussion Challenge

  • Who are the Goliaths standing before the Christian Church today?

Notes:

  1. NIV New International Version Translations
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