Bible Study Series: Life of David
David & Goliath, Jesus & Satan
by F Gordon
We now come to one of the greatest and well known stories in all the earth, that of the battle between David and Goliath. This event has been used as an example of someone big versus someone small, and great sports teams versus not so good ones. But the context is a battle between Israel and the Philistines, between two men, David and Goliath and pictures for us a greater battle between Jesus and Satan.
1 Samuel 17. 3-11 The Philistines stood on a mountain on one side, and Israel stood on a mountain on the other side, with a valley between them. And a champion went out from the camp of the Philistines, named Goliath, from Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. He had a bronze helmet on his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail, and the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of bronze. And he had bronze armor on his legs and a bronze javelin between his shoulders. Now the staff of his spear was like a weaver's beam, and his iron spearhead weighed six hundred shekels; and a shield-bearer went before him. Then he stood and cried out to the armies of Israel, and said to them, "Why have you come out to line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and you the servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me. If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants. But if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us." And the Philistine said, "I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together." When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid.
Israel stood on one mountain, the Philistines on the other with a valley separating them. We are then introduced to the big guy Goliath, who stands around 9 foot 6 inches tall (2.9m) with all the armour for battle. Goliath is covered with bronze and bronze in scripture is used to picture judgment. Goliath defied the armies of Israel. He called out to the servants of Saul, bring me a man to fight and when Saul and all Israel heard the words they were afraid. Servants of Saul? They were called to be servants of Jehovah but they wanted a king so they could be like the nations and here they are dismayed and fearful. Where was Saul? He was the goliath of Israel, he stood head and shoulders above everyone yet his faith has departed. Where was his son Jonathon? He had just won a great victory but he seems absent from this scene.
This is not the first time Israel has had trouble with giants as we see in Numbers 13.25-33
And they returned from spying out the land after forty days. Now they departed and came back to Moses and Aaron and all the congregation of the children of Israel in the Wilderness of Paran, at Kadesh; they brought back word to them and to all the congregation, and showed them the fruit of the land. Then they told him, and said: "We went to the land where you sent us. It truly flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. Nevertheless the people who dwell in the land are strong; the cities are fortified and very large; moreover we saw the descendants of Anak there. The Amalekites dwell in the land of the South; the Hittites, the Jebusites, and the Amorites dwell in the mountains; and the Canaanites dwell by the sea and along the banks of the Jordan." Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, "Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it." But the men who had gone up with him said, "We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we." And they gave the children of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying, "The land through which we have gone as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great stature. There we saw the giants (the descendants of Anak came from the giants); and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight."
We see that they spied out the land for 40 days. Forty is the number of testing. Goliath presents himself in front of the Israelites for 40 days. There were forty years of wandering in the wilderness, Jesus fasted for 40 days, and Noah was in the ark 40 days. On returning from spying out the land for 40 days they agreed with God that it was a land that flows with milk and honey, yet they said “nevertheless” the people are strong, they have fortified cities and to top it all off, we saw giants there. The spies saw the difficulties not God and his promises and faith was shut out. Unbelief always starts with difficulties but faith starts with God. As Israel failed here so this is replaced once again with Goliath.
1 Samuel 17.17-20 Then Jesse said to his son David, "Take now for your brothers an ephah of this dried grain and these ten loaves, and run to your brothers at the camp. And carry these ten cheeses to the captain of their thousand, and see how your brothers fare, and bring back news of them." Now Saul and they and all the men of Israel were in the Valley of Elah, fighting with the Philistines. So David rose early in the morning, left the sheep with a keeper, and took the things and went as Jesse had commanded him. And he came to the camp as the army was going out to the fight and shouting for the battle. For Israel and the Philistines had drawn up in battle array, army against army. And David left his supplies in the hand of the supply keeper, ran to the army, and came and greeted his brothers.
1 Samuel 17.23-27 Then as he talked with them, there was the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name, coming up from the armies of the Philistines; and he spoke according to the same words. So David heard them. And all the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him and were dreadfully afraid. So the men of Israel said, "Have you seen this man who has come up? Surely he has come up to defy Israel; and it shall be that the man who kills him the king will enrich with great riches, will give him his daughter, and give his father's house exemption from taxes in Israel." Then David spoke to the men who stood by him, saying, "What shall be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?" And the people answered him in this manner, saying, "So shall it be done for the man who kills him."
David was away from Sauls house tending his fathers sheep while Goliath was taunting Israel morning and evening. Jesse sends David with bread for his brothers and in this we have a type of the father who sends his son into the world to confront the enemy. Jesus is the bread of life who came down from heaven sent to bring deliverance and free us from slavery.
So David left his sheep with a keeper showing his faithfulness as a shepherd and came to his brothers just at the right time to hear Goliath and his words. This had been occurring for 40 days so Saul had promised great riches, his daughter and freedom from paying taxes to anyone with the courage to kill this defiler. David on hearing this is concerned with the reproach upon God. His faith starts with God just as Joshua and Caleb’s faith did. But where there is faith there is opposition and David must first face this before he faces Goliath.
1 Samuel 17.28 Now Eliab his oldest brother heard when he spoke to the men; and Eliab's anger was aroused against David, and he said, "Why did you come down here? 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."
David’s first opposition to his faith comes from his own brother Eliab. He was angry with David but why? Eliab was the firstborn of Jesse’s sons, he was the first one rejected by God to be anointed king by Samuel. Maybe he was jealous of his youngest brother, resentful because he was the firstborn son. Eliab attacks his younger brother, “why did you come and with whom did you leave those few sheep”. He is saying that David is insignificant, he is a boy with only a few sheep. Then he accuses him of pride. In all this we see the hand of Satan trying to halt the man who walks by faith, this was the first test for David. How would he respond to these attacks?
1 Samuel 17.29 And David said, "What have I done now? Is there not a cause?"
What have I done now? Is there not a cause? For David this was all about God’s honour and His people who were being continually mocked. He didn’t retaliate or put his brother in his place, his concern was God’s honour.
1 Samuel 17. 31-33 Now when the words which David spoke were heard, they reported them to Saul; and he sent for him. Then David said to Saul, "Let no man's heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine." And Saul said to David, "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’s next opposition comes from King Saul. All that Saul saw was a boy before him who would not be able to fight a giant who was experienced at war.
1 Samuel 17. 34-37 But David said to Saul, "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." Moreover David said, "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." And Saul said to David, "Go, and the Lord be with you!"
Here we have David giving Saul his battle credentials, he had been in battle before and killed both the lion and the bear. This had been God’s training ground for him and Goliath was no different to one of these. God would deliver David. This is true faith, the same God that gave David victory before would give him victory now. A lion, a bear, a Goliath, it was all the same to David.
1 Samuel 17. 38-39 So Saul clothed David with his armor, and he put a bronze helmet on his head; he also clothed him with a coat of mail. David fastened his sword to his armor and tried to walk, for he had not tested them. And David said to Saul, "I cannot walk with these, for I have not tested them." So David took them off.
The next test for David was to be clothed in Saul's armour. It may be the latest book that promises victory, other methods that promise victory, or new experiences. Saul trusted in his armour but not God. David instead chose to use what was familiar to him and trust God for the victory.
1 Samuel 17.40 Then he took his staff in his hand; and he chose for himself five smooth stones from the brook, and put them in a shepherd's bag, in a pouch which he had, and his sling was in his hand. And he drew near to the Philistine.
David chose 5 smooth stones. Jewish writers reference the stones to the five books of Moses or the fact that Goliath had four brothers, however the picture is about going to battle Goliath with simple means; a sling and a stone versus a giant with all experience and armour. 1 Corinthians 1.27 says; “But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty”.
1 Samuel 17. 41-48 So the Philistine came, and began drawing near to David, and the man who bore the shield went before him. And when the Philistine looked about and saw David, he disdained him; for he was only a youth, ruddy and good-looking. So the Philistine said to David, "Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?" And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. And the Philistine said to David, "Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field!" Then David said to the Philistine, "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. 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." So it was, when the Philistine arose and came and drew near to meet David, that David hastened and ran toward the army to meet the Philistine.
David’s whole focus here is that God will be magnified. He came against his foe in the name of the Lord of Hosts, he wanted this battle to be the Lords that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. This truth is often the last in the story of our struggle.
1 Samuel 17. 49-51 Then David put his hand in his bag and took out a stone; and he slung it and struck the Philistine in his forehead, so that the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face to the earth. So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone, and struck the Philistine and killed him. But there was no sword in the hand of David. Therefore David ran and stood over the Philistine, took his sword and drew it out of its sheath and killed him, and cut off his head with it. And when the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled.
So David ran to meet his enemy and slung the stone to find a gap in Goliath’s helmet for it to lodge in his forehead. There was no sword in the hand of David so he used Goliath’s own sword to cut off his head. We need to think of this as a battle between two representatives which meant slavery or freedom. This pictures for us the battle for our redemption between Jesus and Satan, David uses Goliath’s own weapon to cut off his head, the same way Jesus used the crucifixion and death to defeat Satan. Hebrews 2.14-15 “...that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage”. Death was Satan’s weapon and Jesus used this means to defeat him and bring us freedom.
So what are our Goliath’s?
We may not face a physical giant that is 9 foot 6 inches (2.9m) tall who wants to feed us to the birds of the air. Our goliaths can be anything that cause us to fear or tremble. Situations of which we are afraid or circumstances that are too big for us to handle. The nation of Israel had giants to face in their walk with God and we will too. Our goliaths are our own and sometimes collective. We must face them with God and trust Him for the outcome.
How was David’s faith so strong?
David’s faith was strong because when the situation of Goliath arose he remembered past victories where God delivered him. So there was no difference, only a new challenge for God to show himself strong in a weak vessel using simple weapons. This must be true of us also. Whatever it is that we are facing , we need to remember the times in our lives when God has acted for us and worked on our behalf. These times increase our faith so when the goliath’s arise we can have faith in God to face the battle.