The biblical account of David and Goliath from the book of Samuel is perhaps one of the most popular tales from Scripture. Not only does it portray one of the greatest examples of heroics from the Bible, but it is also a tale that applies in modern times to our very own lives.
It shows us that despite how large adversity may be for an individual, anyone can overcome it. It serves to teach us that by having faith though not necessarily in God but in oneself, victory can be achieved even with the odds stacked against us.
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The Story of David and Goliath in the Bible
The tale starts with the Philistines (an ancient people from biblical times known for their conflict with the Israelites) army gathering their forces for war on one side of a valley.
The Philistines in this tale are described as being the enemy of the biblical God and that they worship pagan gods. Meanwhile, the Israelites had taken on the role of the servants of the biblical God.
The Israelites occupy the other side of the valley as they are led under king Saul—the man said to have been the tallest in Israel.
But there was a man taller than even king Saul—some say a nine-foot monster of a man who held in Gath. In the book of Samuel, he’s described as wearing a bronze helmet, a coat of scale Armor also made of bronze and the javelin slung on his back. His name was Goliath, and he was as fearsome and as menacing as any nine-foot monster could be.
It’s understood that his presence in the valley stalled Saul’s forces, for they were too struck with both fear and awe at the sheer size of this bellowing giant.
The Challenge from Goliath
For a whole 40 days, Goliath would march his way towards the Israeli forces and openly mocked them with his booming voice, denouncing their God and exclaiming at none as formidable as he. He would grow tired of waiting for the Israelites to make their move though, and so he would offer them an ultimatum.
He told the Israelites to send a single man to face him and in doing so it would spare the rest of the men having to face him and his army. The winner of the battle would see their side hold dominion over the other, but his words only sent more panic through the Israeli army.
No longer would they be in a union when they fought Goliath but instead, a single man would have to bear the terror facing his unmitigated strength, one on one.
Being the king, it was expected that Saul fights Goliath. After all, he was the tallest man in Israel—not so tall as Goliath, but tall enough that he was considered to be a very viable candidate. But Saul hesitated despite being adorned in his armour, would not come out to face Goliath.
David Learnt about Goliath’s Insult
And so, enters David into the story—a mere boy who was more suited to tending to the sheep, given that he had no extraordinary height, no rippling muscles, and certainly no reputation that would paint him as a fierce warrior—or a warrior at all for that matter.
He was the son of a man named Jesse from Bethlehem, the three oldest sons of Jesse had all followed Saul to battle in the valley, and it was David’s job which he was tasked with by his father to bring food and good tidings to the brothers in their time of war.
On this occasion when he was sent by his father to bring gifts to his brothers, he came across the two armies staring off against each other in the valley. In the effort to locate his brothers, David would overhear Goliath beckoning his usual tirade of insults at the Israeli God and would notice how the Israeli army cowered in his presence.
David would learn from the panic mutterings of the Israeli army that King Saul was desperate to get rid of the giant Goliath, that he would do anything for the man who was able to slay him. This included giving the man his daughter and would exempt him from paying taxes.
Liking the sound of all this, it spurred David into action, and he would tell the other Israelites and his brothers of his intention to slay Goliath.
While this may be interpreted as David’s bravery and it is his belief in himself and God that makes him so full of conviction, it can also be said that the only reason he nominates himself so readily is because of the reward being offered.
In the biblical story, David only considers acting after he hears about the reward and so his acts can be interpreted as being one of selfishness.
However, most agree that David acted in accordance with God’s plan and that it’s understood from previous passages that David had been chosen by God to eventually replace King Saul, whom he was unhappy with.
David Faces King Saul
David would be brought before King Saul to make his bold Proclamation, but King Saul wasn’t impressed. He didn’t believe that a mere boy who’d handled sheep all day was a viable fighter against the monster like Goliath, and most likely, Saul’s zero chance in David’s success—if David lost, which he surely would have done, Saul would lose his entire kingdom to the Philistines.
Furthermore, it didn’t sit right with Saul to send an innocent boy into the path of Goliath, for it certainly would have been a massacre. But David was able to convince Saul to let him fight, where he tells the king of an account where he fought off a lion and a bear who had come to carry off his father’s flock. David recounted that he sees the creatures by the hair, struck them, and killed them all by himself.
David went on to explain that he owed these victories to God and that God would see him victorious against Goliath as well. So struck by David’s account, Saul agrees to let him fight and dressed David in his tunic.
He armed David with the finest coat of armour and an equally fine sword, but when David tried to move around, he found the armour and the sword most cumbersome, so he removed them and opted to fight Goliath without any reinforcement at all.
Despite Saul’s protests of this being a suicide mission, David calmly chose five small stones from the ground and placed them in his Shepherds bag. With a sling in hand, he paced his way out into the valley and the midst of Goliath.
David and Goliath — The Fight of Ages!
Much like Saul, Goliath wasn’t very impressed with the skinny boy marching his way to meet him. In fact, Goliath was offended that such a challenger was even being presented before him.
In reference to David’s sling, Goliath states, ‘Am I a dog that you come at me with sticks?’ (1 Samuel 17:43) Before he went on to curse David telling him that he was going to feed his flesh to the animals after he was done killing him.
David calmly told Goliath that he was going to lose this contest and his life and that with the power of his God, he would see to the slain of Goliath by the removal of his head. He also stated that Goliath would pay for the crimes he has made against the Israeli people and God and that it was his corpse that would be fed to the animals.
Not standing for that insult, Goliath moved him to rush David but to his surprise, David came rushing forward to meet him. Reaching into his bag, David was able to take out one of the stones, which he used to sling at such a speed that it sank into Goliath’s forehead, knocking him to the ground!
With this, the valley was hushed into silence, and all anyone could do was watch all in awe as David stood over the giant victorious.
But David wasn’t quite done. He proceeded to decapitate the giant with his sword and this savagery would see the Philistine army turn to flee. Unfortunately for them though, the Israeli army would follow and seated a second of their camps and the butchering of their troops.
Israelites won the Battle over the Philistines!
It would be a major victory for the Israelites, given that the Philistines had been a principal enemy for them from 12,000 to 1000 BC.
The Philistines were quite a threat to the Israelites as well, not just because they boasted a warrior like Goliath, but because they were skilled at working with iron and forging weapons.
It would allow them to construct masterful chariots which could be used in battle to write down their enemies, as well as to cover large distances of terrain.
However, as you can imagine, the chariots would not be much of a use in the valleys given the harshness of the rocky terrain and so he put them at a disadvantage.
It would explain why Goliath and the Philistines didn’t just rush the Israelites in the 40 days of Goliath boasting—because they were cautious that the Israelites would fare better on the landscape of the valley.
Questions about David and Goliath from the Readers!
Who is David in the Bible?
David, the second king of ancient Israel (flourished around 1000 BCE). David was the eldest of Jesse’s eight sons, a farmer and sheep breeder from the Israelite tribe of Judah. David most likely spent his childhood caring for his family’s herd. He established the Judaean dynasty and unified all of Israel’s tribes under a single king. David’s power was enlarged by his son Solomon. David is revered in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
In the Books of Samuel, David is a youthful shepherd and harpist who rises to prominence by defeating the giant Goliath, a Philistine champion in southern Canaan.
Who is Goliath in the Bible?
Goliath is depicted in the biblical Book of Samuel as a Philistine giant who was vanquished in a single fight by the child David. He is characterized as “a champion from the Philistine camp, whose height was six cubits and a span” (Samuel 17:4).
The Philistines had come up to fight Saul, and this warrior came out day after day to challenge him to a single battle. Only David dared to react, and with a sling and stones, he defeated Goliath.
Why Did Goliath Want a One-to-One Fight?
It’s understood that given the characteristics of the landscape, whoever attacked first would be at a disadvantage because they could be easily overrun given that the terrain could not facilitate orderly formations of infantry.
It would explain why Goliath opted to have a one-on-one battle against the single Challenger, for he knew too that the battle would forever be a stalemate with neither army willing to commit armies first.
Given that no one was as tall as Goliath, Goliath believed that in a one-on-one battle, he was virtually invincible. He could not conceive the idea of losing to even a veteran warrior, let alone a shepherd and this only cemented the belief in himself that he would win no matter what.
Why Did David Win the Battle against Goliath?
However, David had a belief in the higher power—in God himself—and so it cost Goliath in a different perspective. He didn’t see the giant as a powerful being but instead just a mortal man, created by God just like any other.
More importantly, though, Goliath was defying God in what was perceived as his pagan ways and his insulting of the Israeli people. With this in mind, David believed that God would not want for Goliath to win, and so it would be he who came out victorious.
Furthermore, when we see David reject the offer to use the King’s armour, it can be interpreted that God wanted David to use the skills and resources he had given him, not the ones given by another man.
The idea is that no matter what sort of adversity one faces, they have the power to overcome it through the grace of God and his guidance. It also lends to the idea that God works miracles through a person and that if one’s belief in him is strong enough, a person can achieve even otherworldly feats.
Even as Goliath launched his verbal attacks at David, David was not phased. The soldiers of Israel cowered at Goliath every move inward, but David did no more than let it wash over him. It’s understood that this is because David feared God more than he feared Goliath, and he knew he was working with God’s intentions in mind. This meant he couldn’t feel any fear because he already knew the outcome would be favourable for him regardless of how it concluded.
Did David face Goliath Due to Material Rewards?
However, some believe that the battle against Goliath—if you can call it a battle—was a complete fluke and that the tale is one of luck than anything else.
It can be said as mentioned earlier that David only acts after hearing about the reward offered by King Saul for slaying Goliath. Before that, he doesn’t appear to be too concerned with Goliath, nor seemed compelled to fight him, thus illustrating the point this isn’t a tale about David channelling God’s will or with God’s best intentions but instead is simply David gambling his own life to try and better it.
Did David Doubt God Against Goliath?
Furthermore, you notice that David collects five stones from the ground on approaching Goliath. It can be argued that if David’s belief in God was so absolute and he knew victory was ensured, why did he pick up five stones instead of just one? If God’s power was ultimate as said, and surely only one stone would have been needed.
It can be said that David’s collection of five stones is a doubt in his belief, that even though he has the courage and the conviction to take down Goliath, he maintains a shred of doubt that one stone couldn’t possibly have been enough, and therefore, that his belief in God was not enough either.
For the most part, though, the story of David and Goliath is recognized as simply David serving God, and defeating Goliath, as a result, was unyielding belief. David serves as an example to those of the faith, that by placing one’s trust in God, anything can be achieved.
The phrase David and Goliath has since taken on a less biblical connotation, usually referring to an underdog situation, where a smaller weaker contender is facing a much bigger stronger adversary.
Art Credits: Christian Vichi, JW.ORG.