17:1 Now the Philistines [enemies of Saul throughout his reign] gathered their forces for war [this would become the occasion and setting in which David’s courage and faith would be demonstrated] and assembled at Socoh in Judah. They pitched camp at Ephes Dammim, between Socoh and Azekah [two towns in the foothills of western Judah].
17:2 Saul and the Israelites assembled and camped in the Valley of Elah [approximately 15 miles west of Bethlehem] and drew up their battle line to meet the Philistines.
17:3 The Philistines occupied one hill and the Israelites another, with the [fertile] valley between them.
17:4 A champion named Goliath, who was from Gath [a town located 5 miles west of Azekah], came out of the Philistine camp. He was over nine feet tall.
Note: The Philistines cleverly used Goliath to wage psychological warfare against the Israelites.
17:5 He had a bronze helmet on his head and wore a coat of scale armor of bronze weighing five thousand shekels [about 125 pounds];
17:6 on his legs he wore bronze greaves [protected the legs below the knees], and a bronze javelin was slung on his back.
17:7 His spear shaft was like a weaver’s rod, and its iron point weighed six hundred shekels [about 15 pounds]. His shield bearer went ahead of him.
17:8 Goliath stood [appearing invincible with his armor] and shouted to the ranks of Israel [a form of psychological warfare], “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.
The story of David and Goliath is a favorite among children and adults alike. This story of a shepherd boy’s courage in the face of incredible odds has captured the imaginations of generations of Bible readers. The setting for the story is the Valley of Elah (17:2), located west of David’s hometown of Bethlehem.
The Philistines, enemies of King Saul throughout his reign, assembled for war on a hilltop overlooking the Valley of Elah. Saul and the Israelites occupied a hill on the opposite side of the valley (17:3). From these hilltop vantage points the Philistine and Israelite armies took inventory of one another.
The Philistine and Israelite armies seemed equally matched until the Philistines introduced their secret weapon — a man named Goliath who stood “over nine feet tall” (17:4). The Philistines cleverly used Goliath to wage psychological warfare against the Israelites. Goliath’s heavy bronze armor and oversized weapons made him appear invincible (17:5-7).
Towering above his countrymen, Goliath stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel (v. 8). He challenged the cowering Israelite army to send a champion against him in a one-on-one, winner-take-all fight to the death (17:9-10). The arrogant giant was confident he could defeat any man sent to fight against him.
17:9 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. [this one-on-one contest was proposed to avoid an all-out battle]“
17:10 Then the Philistine said, “This day I defy [confront, challenge, dare] the ranks of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other.”
17:11 On hearing the Philistine’s words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified.
Note: Whose words cause you to become dismayed or terrified?
17:12 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 old and well advanced in years.
17:13 Jesse’s three oldest sons had followed Saul to the war: The firstborn was Eliab; the second, Abinadab; and the third, Shammah.
17:14 David was the youngest. The three oldest followed Saul,
17:15 but David went back and forth from Saul to tend his father’s sheep at Bethlehem.
17:16 For forty days the Philistine came forward every morning and evening [a reminder that the giants keep coming] and took his stand [cf. Ps. 2:2].
Goliath continued his defiant challenge twice a day for forty days (17:16), but no Israelite dared to answer that challenge. Goliath’s repeated insults had a demoralizing impact on the Israelite army. His thundering voice and imposing presence struck fear in the hearts of the Israelites (17:11,24).
Even Saul, who was “a head taller” than his own countrymen (9:2; 10:23), was afraid to face the giant. Instead, he offered generous incentives to any man brave enough to face and kill Goliath (17:25) — an offer no man was willing to take.
Saul and his men were immobilized by fear. No man dared to put on his armor or draw his sword. No man dared to descend from the relative security of the hill to face Goliath in the valley below.
17:17 Now Jesse said to his son David, “Take [supplementary provisions] this ephah of roasted grain and these ten loaves of bread for your brothers and hurry [emphasizes Jeese’s concern for the well-being and safety of his sons] to their camp.
17:18 Take along these ten cheeses to the commander of their unit [perhaps to insure that the provisions would be allowed to reach Jeese’s sons]. See how your brothers are and bring back some assurance from them.
17:19 They are with Saul and all the men of Israel in the Valley of Elah, fighting against the Philistines.”
17:20 Early in the morning David left [note the word “left” which indicates the start of David’s journey out of obscurity] the flock with 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.
17:21 Israel and the Philistines were drawing up their lines facing each other.
17:22 David left [once again, David “left” that which represented previous responsibilities] his things with the keeper of supplies, ran to the battle lines and greeted his brothers.
17:23 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 [and then caught his first glimpse of the defiant giant].
Note: What “Goliaths” are you facing in your life?
17:24 When the Israelites saw the man, they all ran from him [cf. v. 48] in great fear [Israelite morale was low; the psychological warfare strategy of the Philistine army proved to be effective].
Note: Do you scurry for cover when others verbally assault your faith?
17:25 Now the Israelites had been saying [words of resignation], “Do you see how this man [as opposed to David’s “this uncircumcised Philistine” in v. 26] keeps coming out? He comes out to defy Israel [cf. David’s remarks in v. 26]. The king will give [incentives] great wealth to the man [note Saul’s unwillingness to face the giant] who kills him. He will also give him his daughter in marriage and will exempt his father’s family from taxes in Israel.”
17:26 David asked [words of indignation] 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 [as opposed to “this man” in v. 25] that he should defy the armies of the living God? [David knew that God is bigger than Goliath]“
All seemed hopeless for Saul and his men until Jesse sent his youngest son with supplementary provisions for his older brothers (17:12-19). Soon after David arrived at Saul’s camp, Goliath stepped out from the Philistine ranks and darkened the horizon (17:20-23). Morale was so low among the Israelites that they “ran from him in great fear” (17:24).
David heard Goliath’s insults and understood that to insult the army of the living God was to insult God Himself (17:26). The young shepherd boy wondered why no man was willing to face the arrogant and defiant “uncircumcised Philistine” (17:26).
Goliath was not the first and certainly not the last person to oppose God’s people or God’s way. Christianity faces increasing opposition in today’s world. Many adults are hesitant to talk openly of their faith or to base decisions on their Christian worldview for fear of reprisal from powerful persons or organizations.
Some adults lack confidence in their ability to confront appropriately those who oppose God’s way. Others are fearful that if their stand for God proves costly, God may not help them in ways they want. We must not allow our fears to keep us from standing faithfully with God. Standing firm in the face of opposition honors God. And God honors those who stand firm for Him. Don’t let fear defeat you.
Note: “We see things not as they are but as we are.” (John Maxwell)
17:27 They repeated to him what they had been saying and told him, “This is what will be done for the man who kills him.”
17:28 When Eliab, David’s oldest brother, heard him speaking with the men, he burned with anger at him [did not support David] and asked, “Why have you come down here? And with whom did you leave those few sheep in the desert? I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is; you came down only to watch the battle. [note: expect opposition when you attempt to do something great for God]“
17:29 “Now [this word indicates these brothers might have been at odds before] what have I done?” said David [respectfully but firmly]. “Can’t I even speak? [David stayed focused on the real enemy]“
17:30 He then turned away to someone else and brought up the same matter, and the men answered him as before.
17:31 What David said was overheard and reported to Saul, and Saul sent for him.
17:32 David [knowing the Lord was on his side] said to Saul, “Let no one lose heart [become discouraged] on account of this [Goliath] Philistine [Philistines were enemies of Saul throughout his reign]; your servant [David already in Saul’s service (cf. 1 Sam. 16:21)] will [voluntarily] go and fight him [what others were unwilling to do].”
The Philistine strategy to wage psychological warfare against the Israelites proved to be effective. Goliath’s imposing presence made the Israelites feel small and weak. His thundering verbal volleys sent Saul and his men scurrying for cover. Their weapons seemed small and useless in the face of such opposition.
Those who oppose God’s way still employ psychological warfare today. Many believers allow themselves to be easily intimidated by those who oppose God’s way. Rather than take a stand for their convictions, some believers scurry for cover at the first sign of trouble. Others choose to remain silent rather than respond to verbal assaults on the faith.
The cowardly behavior of Saul and his men puzzled the young shepherd boy who had come to visit his brothers. When David asked those around him for an explanation, he received the same answer from every one he asked (17:26-30). No one was willing to face the giant.
However, someone who heard David’s courageous words “reported to Saul, and Saul sent for him” (17:31). David was immediately ushered into Saul’s presence. The handsome young shepherd boy stood confidently before Israel’s king and volunteered to do what no man in Saul’s army was willing to do — fight Goliath (v. 32).
17:33 Saul replied [stated the obvious], “You [physically small in comparison to Goliath] are not able [because of size and inexperience as a warrior] to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a boy [cf. 1 Sam. 16:7], and he has been a fighting man from [indicates Goliath was an experienced warrior] his youth.”
17:34 But David [remembering past victories achieved with God’s help] 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,
Note: God prepares us for what He has prepared for us.
17:35 I went after [David did not passively accept the loss of a sheep] 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.
17:36 Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear [little Did David realize how those experiences would prepare him to face Goliath; perhaps these feats were accomplished with his sling or with his shepherd’s crook (crude weapons at best); lion and bear were threats to David and his sheep]; this uncircumcised Philistine [a threat to God’s people] will be like one of them [on the same level as a wild animal], because he has defied the armies of the living God [David was prepared the kill the predator threatening the flock of God].
17:37 The Lord [the source of David’s courage] who delivered me [indication of David’s humility; he did not boast about his gallantry or prowess] from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will [indicates David’s ongoing confidence and faith in God] deliver me [see Rom. 8:31] from the hand of this Philistine [David prepared to fight giants in the solitude of the sheep pens].” Saul [who was a head taller than any other Israelite (1 Sam. 9:2)] said [David’s examples impressed and convinced Saul that God was with David] to David [fate of the kingdom depended on this young man], “Go, and [prayer for protection and success] the Lord be with you.”
Saul protested that David was not qualified to fight the experienced giant because he was only an inexperienced boy (v. 33). David however, related to Saul the accounts of his victories over a lion and a bear that had threatened his father’s flock (17:34-36). God had used these past encounters to prepare David for greater battles in the future.
Remembering past victories can fortify our faith and give us the courage to face present challenges. David was confident God would give him victory over Goliath, the predator threatening God’s flock (v. 37).
Perhaps relieved that he did not have to face the giant, Saul said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you” (v. 37).
17:38 Then Saul dressed David in his own tunic. He put a coat of armor on him and a bronze helmet on his head.
17:39 David fastened on his sword over the tunic and tried walking around, because he was not used to them. “I cannot go in these [we cannot meet our Goliath’s in someone else’s strength],” he said to Saul, “because I am not used to them.” So he took them off [David trusted in God rather than in armor: see v. 45].
17:40 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 [fighting giants can be a lonely experience].
Saul tried unsuccessfully to dress David in his own armor (17:38-39). David chose to place his trust in God rather than in the king’s armor. Someone observed that we cannot meet our Goliath’s in somebody else’s armor.
As David walked to the battle field, he paused to select five smooth stones from a stream (17:40). Armed only with these stones and his sling, he walked on to the field of battle to face Goliath. The Philistine and Israelite soldiers watched from the hilltops as the courageous boy and the arrogant giant walked toward each other in the valley below.
Christians in many parts of our world live in the face of intimidating opposition every day. Many are ridiculed, bullied, and threatened by those who oppose God’s way. Some pay the ultimate price for standing for God — death.
I met a 78 year-old believer in a remote area of India who had experienced a lifetime of opposition because of his belief in God. He had endured much hardship through the years. He understood that God does not always deliver His people out of difficulties caused by those who oppose God’s way. However, he testified to the fact that God’s help is sure and that God delivers His people through their trials. This dear and faithful man understood the importance of depending on God’s help. We too, can count on God to help us when facing those opposed to His ways.
Note: Name “five smooth stones” God has made available for you to use in battle against your giants.
17:41 Meanwhile, the Philistine, with his shield bearer in front of him, kept coming closer to David [with the eyes of those on the hilltops riveted on the combatants on the valley floor].
17:42 He looked David over and saw that he was only a boy, ruddy and handsome, and he despised him.
17:43 He said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come at me with sticks?” And the Philistine [insulted that a boy was sent to face him on the battle field] cursed David by his gods.
17:44 “Come here,” he said [threatened to kill David and make certain he did not receive a decent burial], “and I’ll give your flesh to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field! [see Prov. 16:18]“
17:45 David said [David’s words were full of trust in God to whom he ascribed the triumph he anticipated] to the Philistine, “You [bring the weapons of your realm] come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I [bring the weapons of God’s realm] come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel [cf. Ex. 14:14; 15:3 re: God as a warrior], whom you have defied [blasphemed: punishable by stoning as per Lev. 24:16].
Note: Our behavior in the valley can encourage those watching from the hilltops to put their faith into action by standing courageously for God.
17:46 [David prophesied the destruction of the Philistines] This day the Lord will hand you over to me, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. Today I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and [purpose of victory] the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel.
17:47 All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear [Saul earlier had indicated that victory was dependent on the skillful use of these kinds of weapons (17:33)] that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.”
Fighting giants can be a lonely experience. As the Israelites watched from the hilltops they followed the solitary figure of the shepherd boy in the valley below. How absurd it must have seemed to them to send a boy into the valley to face the giant warrior alone. Yet in the Valley of Elah and in other valleys throughout the centuries, solitary figures have stood courageously for God.
Countless men and women through the centuries have descended into the valley between the hilltops of truth and error to fight for God’s truth. Others have sustained the blows of ridicule and rejection from those opposed to God’s way. Still others have given their lives while holding fast to the confession “Jesus is Lord.”
As Goliath approached David, he noticed that “he was only a boy…and he despised him” (17:42). The giant warrior “cursed David by his gods” (17:43) and boasted of what he would do with the boy’s dead body (17:44).
David was not fazed by Goliath’s curses and threats. He told Goliath that he was coming against him in the name of the Lord Almighty (v. 45), not with the kinds of weapons Goliath employed. David declared his faith that God would help him defeat Goliath, and the victory would be a witness of God’s presence and power among His people (v. 46-47).
17:48 As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward [cf. v. 24; motivated by great zeal for God] the battle line to meet him.
17:49 Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone [God achieved victory by weak means], he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead [area not covered by his helmet]. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell facedown on the ground.
17:50 So David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone [see Judg. 20:16]; without a sword in his hand he struck down the Philistine and killed him.
17:51 David ran and stood over him. He took hold of the Philistine’s sword and drew it from the scabbard. After he killed him, he cut off his head with the sword. When the Philistines saw that their hero was dead, they turned and ran [Goliath’s death resulted in panic in the Philistine ranks].
17:52 Then [inspired by David’s courage and victory] the men of Israel and Judah surged forward with a shout and pursued the Philistines to the entrance of Gath [Goliath’s hometown (17:4)] and to the gates of Ekron. Their dead were strewn along the Shaaraim road [more than ten miles of road] to Gath and Ekron.
17:53 When the Israelites returned from chasing the Philistines, they plundered their camp.
Fighting shepherd boys can be a hazardous experience. David “ran quickly toward the battle line” (17:48) to meet Goliath. As their respective armies watched the scene, David reached into his bag and armed his sling with a stone. David skillfully released the stone from his sling and struck Goliath in the forehead. The impact of the stone stopped the giant in his tracks and “he fell facedown on the ground” (17:49).
In a matter of minutes the battle was over. The faith of the shepherd boy triumphed over the pride of the giant (v. 50). Goliath’s death resulted in panic in the Philistine ranks (v. 51) and paved the way for victory for the Israelite army (vv. 52-53).
From the moment David saw Goliath and heard his defiant threats, he acted in ways that honored God. He did not run in fear and hide like others. He did not acquiesce to Goliath’s threats. He did not try to fight the battle in another’s armor. He did not volunteer to fight Goliath to advance selfish or self-righteous aims.
David simply exercised his faith in God and put that faith into action by facing Goliath. David’s faith honored God and God honored David’s faith by giving him victory in battle. We too, must act in ways that honor God when facing opposition. Our behavior in the valley can encourage those watching from the hilltops to put their faith into action by standing courageously for God.
17:54 David took the Philistine’s head and brought it to Jerusalem, and he put the Philistine’s weapons [refer to 1 Sam. 21:9] in his own tent [perhaps Goliath’s tent which David claimed by right of victory].
17:55 As Saul watched David going out to meet the Philistine, he said to Abner [Saul’s cousin; 14:50-51], commander of the army, “Abner, whose son is that young man?” Abner replied, “As surely as you live, O king, I don’t know.”
17:56 The king said, “Find out whose son this young man is.”
17:57 As soon as David returned from killing the Philistine, Abner took him and brought him before Saul, with David still holding the Philistine’s head.
17:58 “Whose son are you, young man?” Saul asked him. David said, “I am the son of your servant Jesse of Bethlehem.”
Practical Consideration: How can you stand courageously for God when others oppose God’s way?
• Refuse to be intimidated by the giants who oppose God (1 Sam. 17:11).
• Remember that God is bigger than any giant you will ever face. Don’t lose perspective (1 Sam. 17:26).
• Recall God’s past victories. Doing so can fortify your faith and give you courage to face present challenges (1 Sam. 17:34-36).
• Remove anything that will hinder you or rob you of effectiveness (1 Sam 17:39).
• Rely on God and His strength in the battle (1 Sam 17:45-47).
• Rejoice in the victory only God can give (1 Sam. 17:50).