All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. - 2 Timothy 3:16-17
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King David
Based on 1 Samuel 16–17

1 Samuel 16 is the middle chapter of the book and pivotal in another way, as well. The first half (verses 1–13) ends with the Spirit of the Lord coming upon David. The second half (verses 14–23) begins with the Spirit of the Lord leaving Saul and being replaced with a “distressing” or evil spirit.

The Lord tells Samuel to stop mourning for Saul because it is inappropriate in light of the fact that the He has rejected him as king. The Lord then tells him to go to Bethlehem with a horn of oil to anoint a new king He has chosen. Samuel responds with, “How can I go? If Saul hears it, he will kill me.” Samuel’s fear is real, because anointing a new king will be considered treasonous.

But the Lord says, “Take a heifer with you, and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.’ Then invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; you shall anoint for Me the one I name to you.” Neither Saul nor the people should have any question about this sacrifice because, as a prophet, Samuel routinely offers sacrifices in various cities.

The prophet goes to Bethlehem to meet Jesse, the grandson of Boaz, the husband of Ruth. Going back another six generations, one comes to Perez, the son of Judah, from whose line the Messiah will be born. Bethlehem is also very significant, since it is the birthplace of the Messiah.

The Events at Bethlehem

The elders of Bethlehem tremble when the prophet arrives and ask if he is coming peaceably. The elders probably are wandering what terrible thing has happened, or what wrong they have done. He answers, “Peaceably,” and states that he has come to sacrifice to the Lord. Then he asks them to sanctify themselves and come with him to the sacrifice. Such ceremonial cleansing usually involves bathing and putting on fresh, clean garments. Then, Samuel consecrates Jesse and his sons and invites them to the sacrifice.

After the ceremony is over, the prophet prepares to anoint a king by having Jesse’s oldest son Eliab come before him. As he observes Eliab, Samuel believes he is the one, because he is the oldest and appears kingly. But the Lord informs the prophet, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Next, Abinadab is brought in, but the Lord rejects him. He is followed by Shammah, who is also rejected. In fact, all seven of Jesse’s sons are rejected.

Two Spirits

The story now switches from the Lord’s Spirit coming on David to the Lord’s Spirit departing from Saul. An evil spirit comes upon him and troubles him with a severe melancholy that probably stems from the knowledge that the Lord has rejected him as king. His servants recommend seeking one who is skillful on the harp to play for him, and when Saul asks for suggestions, one of his servants recommends Jesse’s son, David, as a skilled musician, a mighty man of valor, prudent of speech, and handsome. Immediately, Saul sends to Jesse, asking for the services of his son.

Jesse sends David with gifts of bread, wine, and a young goat. He plays for Saul during his depressed moods and refreshes his spirit. Saul comes to greatly appreciate this young man and even appoints him his armorbearer. Again, Saul sends to Jesse, asking if David can enter his service.

Chapter 16 ends with an ironic twist—Israel’s future king comes to serve a rejected and dejected king who is totally unaware of the implications of welcoming David into his palace. He is much more than just a handsome young man and a skilled harp player!

David, however, seems not to be a permanent resident of the court, but is only there as needed, spending the remainder of the time at home, tending his father’s sheep.

Goliath

During his time at home, the Philistines gather their forces on a hill overlooking the Valley of Elah, while Saul’s forces camp on a hill on the other side of the valley.

A military champion named Goliath strides out from the camp of the Philistines and challenges the Israelites to send a man to fight him in what is called representative warfare. The purpose of this type of warfare is to eliminate a general engagement of the troops of both sides that will cause the loss of many men. Their dispute is to be settled by the death of just one man from one of the two sides, while the men of the losing side become the servants or slaves of the winning side.

Goliath is stated in Hebrew to be “six cubits and a span in height” (about nine feet and nine inches). He has a bronze helmet on this head, wears a coat of mail on his body that resembles fish scales with a weight of 5,000 shekels of bronze (about 125 pounds). His spear is like a weavers beam that has a loop and a chord wound around it so that it can be hurled at a longer distance with greater stability by virtue of the resultant spin. The spear’s iron head weighs about 15 pounds. In addition, he has an armorbearer who walks before him. An armorbearer’s shield is probably a standing shield about twice the size of a round shield.

For 40 days—a number biblically associated with a negative period—Goliath taunts Israel’s army morning and evening, challenging Saul to send out a man to fight him. The effect on Saul’s men is one of dismay and great fear. Goliath’s bravado consists of insults and curses that are intended to demoralize and intimidate his opponent.

Three of David’s older brothers serve in Saul’s army, so Jesse, their father, sends him with an ephah (about three-fifths of a bushel) of parched grain and ten loaves of bread for his brothers. He also sends ten cheeses to give to their army captain. David is sent to take the provisions, check on his brothers, and bring back news.

David arises early, leaves his sheep with another shepherd, and travels to the army camp. He leaves his supplies with the quartermaster, runs through the men and greets his brothers. While conversing with them, Goliath appears again, challenging Saul and his army to send him a worthy opponent. However, when they see Goliath, the Israelite soldiers flee from him in dreadful fear.

“What shall be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel?” David asks, “For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?”

He is told that whoever kills the giant will be greatly enriched by Saul, will receive his daughter in marriage, and his father’s house will be exempt from taxes.

David’s oldest brother Eliab hears his questions and becomes fiercely angry with his little brother. “Why did you come down here?” he asks, “And with whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know your pride and the insolence of your heart, for you have come down to see the battle.”

“What have I done now?” David asks. “Is there not a cause?” Then he asks another soldier the same question and gets the same answer. Others hear David’s questions and report them to the king, who sends for him.

David addresses the king, “Let no man’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine,” to which Saul answers, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are a youth, and he a man of war from his youth.”

David responds to the king’s words with youthful confidence, “Your servant used to keep his father’s sheep, and when a lion or a bear came and took a lamb out of the flock, I went out after it and struck it, and delivered the lamb from its mouth; and when it arose against me, I caught it by its beard, and struck and killed it. Your servant has killed both lion and bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, seeing he has defied the armies of the living God.” David adds still more, “The Lord, who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.”

Saul’s Armor Refused

Saul is convinced by David’s courage and logic, so he sends him on his way with the words, “Go, and the Lord be with you!”

Saul wants to give David every advantage he can, so he clothes him with his coat of mail, bronze helmet, and armor. The ancients believe that wearing the clothing of another imbues you with his essence. This may be Saul’s way to bind himself to David, so he can share in David’s victory.

David, however, denies Saul’s moment of glory when he states that he cannot walk with all that armor on. He takes his staff, picks up five stones from the streambed, and puts them in a pouch in his shepherd’s bag. His sling consists of two long cords with a pocket in the center. A two to three inch stone, about the size of a fist, is placed in the pocket and the sling is whirled around overhead until one chord is released. A skilled slinger can hurl rocks at more than 100 miles per hour and be effective up to a distance of about 100 yards.

David’s Great Victory

As Goliath focuses on David, he sees that he is only a boy. “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” he asks, implying that his staff would be appropriate for beating a dog, the lowest of animals. The Hebrew word for dog is often used as an epithet for a male prostitute. He then curses David in typical Near Eastern style by invoking the names of his gods and saying, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field.”

Knowing that swords and spears were in short supply in Israel, David answers, “You come to me with a sword, 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.”

Then David taunts the giant back, saying, “This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you and take your head from you. And this day I will give the carcasses of the camp of the Philistines to the birds of the air and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. Then all this assembly shall know that the Lord does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s, and He will give you into our hands.”

As he runs toward Goliath, David slips a stone into his sling, hurls it, and strikes the giant in the forehead, knocking him facedown into the ground—like the idol god, Dagon, fell facedown before the ark of the covenant. Then, drawing Goliath’s own sword, David kills him and decapitates him. The despised shepherd’s weapon has brought down the entire army of Philistines, and David the shepherd has singlehandedly won a victory for Israel!

Realizing their champion is dead, the Philistines break the terms of the representative agreement and flee in disorder. The Israelites pursue them as far as the entrance to the valley, and the gates of Ekron. Their slain bodies apparently lay on the road to Gath and Ekron as carrion, in fulfillment of David’s threat to Goliath.

As the soldiers return, they plunder the tents of the Philistines. David brings back Goliath’s head with him, which is eventually it is taken to Jerusalem as a battlefield trophy. David also keeps Goliath’s sword and armor in his tent.

This story clearly reveals that the ancients believe the battles are always between the gods, and that the strongest god always wins. David strongly believes in his God, and his resultant victory bears out the fact that his belief is true.

Saul, on the other hand, tries to transfer God’s power to himself, but forgets that the battle is always the Lord’s.


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