Bible Affirming Truth

David and Goliath

At the time of Saul and David, the Philistines were one of Israel's most important enemies. As a people, they were skilled at working with iron forged weapons, which gave them the ability to make impressive chariots. With these chariots of war, they dominated the coastal plains but were not competent in the mountainous regions of central Israel.

Why did the Israelites wait 40 days and not beginning the attacks? Everyone was afraid of Goliath. He seemed invincible. Not even Saul had stepped out to fight! But an equally important reason had to do with the characteristics of the land. The sides of the valley were very steep. Whoever made the first move would have a strong disadvantage and probably suffer great loss. Both sides were waiting for the other to attack first.

The battle ground of David vs Goliath, at the Valley of Elah, where the two armies were at the mountain ranges on either side of the plain.

In 1Samuel Chapter 17, the story of David defeating Goliath was described (appendix)
v.40: He took his stick in his hand and chose for himself five smooth stones from the brook,
v.48: David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine.
v.49: “...took from it a stone and slung it, and struck the Philistine on his forehead. And the stone sank (taba – sink or penetrate) into his forehead, so that he fell on his face to the ground”.
v.51: Then David ran and stood over the Philistine and took his sword and drew it out of its sheath and killed him, and cut off his head with it. When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled.

The smooth Stones that David used in his sling, rounder and smoother than most, because they are found in a slowly moving brook in that area. They are much easier to target when coming off a sling and with a more controllable trajectory. (Just compare throwing a round ball and a Rugby ball). Some, though rounding off at edges, are still piercing enough to "sink into the forehead" (17:48).

Similar shallow brook in the vicinity of the Valley – full of smooth stones and below eye level

Rapid streams and fast rivers

Stones at fast rivers have rough sharper edges

Not easy to find smooth stones in rapid brooks – all wash away.

Apparently the Biblical account of the fight between David and Goliath have met all these 10 conditions:

  1. A brook at the side of the battlefield.
  2. The brook must be on the side of Israel’s encampment.
  3. A shallow brook with running water – but not too rapid to wash stone away.
  4. Brook must be small so that David can just walk across it.
  5. Brook must not be within sight of Goliath & his armor bearer (below eye level).
  6. Many stones available to David as he has no time to slowly choose.
  7. Stones is seen to be picked – water cannot be too deep.
  8. Size to be right so as to act as bullets.
  9. Battle field within sight of both Saul’s and Philistines’ army.
  10. Battlefield is flat enough for David to run.

There are also 10 facts in the Goliath story that are often missed.

  1. David is about 19 yrs old – not a boy.
  2. Goliath is not a Philistine but an Anakim from Gath.
  3. David did it not for the reward but because Goliath taunt the armies of God –v26.
  4. Goliath is >9 ft and not just >7 ft. tall.
  5. He has a shield bearer that has a life size shield standing in front.
  6. His sword however is not that big. This is affirmed later when the priest Ahimelech considered it fit for David’s own use (1 Sam 21:9). David accepted it instantly, as he was running from Saul and need a good sword as a weapon. Too big a sword will only hinder him on the run.
  7. Goliath has challenged Israel for 40 days and no one dared to response. David was sent there by his father as an errand boy.
  8. V46 detailed that God has told David that Goliath will be delivered to him and David trust this and so it is by faith.
  9. David did not wear armor because he is not familiar with it – not that he is against it and Saul really provided it.
  10. Goliath did not die from the stone.
David's faith in God caused him to look at the giant from a different perspective. Goliath was merely a bigger mortal man who defied the all-powerful God. David looked at the battle from God's point of view. If we look at big and unsolvable problems from God's perspective, and trust that God will fight for us and with us, we would likely succeed. And when we put things in the proper perspective, we see more clearly, and can fight more effectively.

David chose not to wear the King's armor because it felt cumbersome and unfamiliar. David was probably very versant with his sling, a simple weapon that can certainly kill. Similarly, God will use the unique skills he has already placed in our hands, so there is no need to "wear the King's armor." Just be ourselves and use the familiar gifts and talents God has given us. He will work the miracles through his trusting servants.

When Goliath the giant insulted and threatened, David didn't waver. Everyone else pondered on human plans in fear, but David ran to the battle, with the word of God. He knew what actions need to be taken. David did the right thing in spite of discouraging insults and fearful threats. Only God's opinion mattered to him.

The NIV text of 1Samuel Chapter 17:

1Now the Philistines gathered their forces for war and assembled at Sokoh in Judah. They pitched camp at Ephes Dammim, between Sokohand Azekah. 2 Saul and the Israelites assembled and camped in the Valley of Elah and drew up their battle line to meet the Philistines.3 The Philistines occupied one hill and the Israelites another, with the valley between them.

4 A champion named Goliath, who was from Gath, came out of the Philistine camp. His height was six cubits and a span.[a] 5 He had a bronze helmet on his head and wore a coat of scale armor of bronze weighing five thousand shekels[b]; 6 on his legs he wore bronze greaves, and a bronze javelin was slung on his back. 7 His spear shaft was like a weaver’s rod, and its iron point weighed six hundred shekels.[c] His shield bearer went ahead of him.

8 Goliath stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why do you come out and line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not the servants of Saul? Choose a man and have him come down to me. 9 If he is able to fight and kill me, we will become your subjects; but if I overcome him and kill him, you will become our subjects and serve us.”10 Then the Philistine said, “This day I defy the armies of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other.” 11 On hearing the Philistine’s words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified.

12 Now David was the son of an Ephrathite named Jesse, who was from Bethlehem in Judah. Jesse had eight sons, and in Saul’s time he was very old. 13 Jesse’s three oldest sons had followed Saul to the war: The firstborn was Eliab; the second, Abinadab; and the third, Shammah.14 David was the youngest. The three oldest followed Saul, 15 but David went back and forth from Saul to tend his father’s sheep at Bethlehem.

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

17 Now Jesse said to his son David, “Take this ephah[d] of roasted grain and these ten loaves of bread for your brothers and hurry to their camp. 18 Take along these ten cheeses to the commander of their unit. See how your brothers are and bring back some assurance[e] from them. 19 They are with Saul and all the men of Israel in the Valley of Elah, fighting against the Philistines.”

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.

51 David ran and stood over him. He took hold of the Philistine’s sword and drew it from the sheath. After he killed him, he cut off his head with the sword.