1 Samuel 17


We come today to the well-known story of David and Goliath. But in order to understand this well-known story, let me take you back to the beginning of the Bible and to the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve — God’s people at that time — were there in the garden, the place God had prepared for them. And at the centre of the garden, there was the Tree of Life which held out the promise of everlasting life in the presence of God. But then an enemy came into the garden. It was the serpent, who was really the Devil in disguise. And he tempted Eve to take and eat the fruit from the forbidden tree, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. And Eve listened to the voice of the serpent, and she took the forbidden fruit and she ate it. And she gave some to Adam and he too ate it. And as a result, Adam forfeited the right to eat from the Tree of Life and he and his wife had to leave the garden and go out of the presence of the Lord.

What should Adam have done differently? Well, God had placed him in the garden to take care of it and to guard it from anything — like the serpent — which might defile it. And so, when confronted with the enemy, with the serpent, Adam should have driven the serpent away. But he failed to do that; and instead he was driven out of the garden, away from the Tree of Life.

But do you remember God’s promise at that time? He promised that the day was coming when the seed of the woman will crush the head of the serpent. In the garden the Lord foretold the coming of the Saviour who would come to destroy the Devil and to set his people free from Satan’s tyranny so that they might live with him forever.

Well, that’s what happened in the beginning. And 1 Samuel 17 repeats that story, but with a different ending. What’s this chapter about? Well, we’ve got God’s people — the Israelites — living in the place God has prepared for them: the Promised Land of Canaan, an Eden-like land, flowing with milk and honey. And it was the place where they enjoyed the presence of God, because the Lord dwelt among them in the tabernacle. But then an enemy entered the land: the Philistines invaded the land of Israel; and their champion, their mighty warrior, was this giant Goliath, who — perhaps significantly — wore armour made of what? Bronze scales: scales like the scales of a serpent. And if the Philistines were successful, then God’s people would be driven out of the Promised Land, just as Adam and Eve were driven out of Eden. But on this occasion, in 1 Samuel 17, a mighty king came forward who fought on behalf of God’s people; and who — in the name of the Lord — won a great victory over the serpent-like enemy who threatened God’s people. David crushed the head of the giant so that his people could continue living in the Promised Land of Canaan, where they enjoyed the presence of the Lord.

And by crushing the head of the giant, David foreshadowed how Jesus Christ our King would triumph over Satan so that all of God’s people may live forever in the Promised Land to come where we will enjoy the presence of God forever. So, that’s what this story is about, because this story is a revelation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. And it’s here to teach us to trust in Christ the King for salvation and to rejoice in the victory he has won on our behalf.

So, let’s go through this chapter which I’ll divide into three parts. In the first part, we’re introduced to the enemy. In the second part, we’re introduced to Israel’s king. And in the third part, we have the battle and its outcome.

Verses 1 to 11

And the first part is verses 1 to 11. And we read that the Philistines have gathered their forces at this place called Socoh in the land of Israel which belonged to the tribe of Judah. And the Philistines were camped on one side of a valley; and the Israelites were camped on the other side. And in verse 4 we’re introduced to the Philistine champion: Goliath from Gath. And we’re told about his height: he was over nine feet tall. And we’re told about his armour: he wore a bronze helmet; and he wore a coat of bronze scales; and he had bronze coverings on his legs. And then we’re told about his weapons: the bronze javelin which was slung on his back, though some commentators suggest that this was actually a curved sword; and then there was his spear with an iron point. So, this was the Philistine champion; and the champion was appointed to fight on behalf of his men. So, instead of sending out every man to fight in a bloody battle which would have led to many, many casualties, one man from each side was chosen to fight one another and the winner takes all. And so, that’s Goliath’s proposal in verse 8:

Choose a man and have him come down to me. 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.

And so, he challenged the Israelites to choose a man to fight him.

But, of course, Israel had already chosen a man for such occasions, hadn’t they? They had chosen Saul. He was tall — wasn’t he? — head and shoulders above the rest of the Israelites. And they had chosen him to go out before them and to fight their battles for them. That’s what the Israelites asked for back in chapter 8. But look at verse 11 where it tells us that on hearing Goliath’s words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified. Saul did not want to go and fight Goliath. He was as dismayed and terrified as the rest of his men.

And before moving on, look at how Goliath taunted them. He said in verse 10: ‘This day I defy the ranks of Israel!’ The word translated ‘defy’ means scorn or mock. He was not afraid of them and so he mocked them.

Verses 12 to 37

The second part is verses 12 to 37 where we’re introduced to Israel’s king. Israel’s king, of course, is not Saul, though Saul still sat on the throne. But do you remember chapter 16? God had taken his Spirit from Saul and he had sent his Spirit on David, because David has been chosen and anointed to be king of God’s people in place of Saul. So, while Saul remained on the throne, the true king — though no one knew it yet — was David.

And in verse 17, the narrator introduces us to David as if we’ve never encountered him before. And so, we’re reminded that David was the son of Jesse, who was from Bethlehem. Jesse had eight sons in total and the three oldest sons were soldiers in Saul’s army. But David wasn’t a soldier at that time. Now in Numbers chapter 1 we’re told that only those men who were aged 20 and over could serve in the army. And so, since David was not yet a soldier, then that suggests that he was still only a teenager. And we’re told in verse 15 that he went back and forth from Saul to tend his father’s sheep. He went back and forth from Saul, because in chapter 16 we read how he had been appointed to play music for Saul whenever Saul was troubled.

And we read in verse 17 that his father sent David to the battlefield to bring his brothers and their commander some food and to bring word back to Jesse on how they are. And so, David went to the battlefield and he heard Goliath’s challenge to the men of Israel; and presumably he saw how frightened the Israelites were. And then we hear in verse 25 of how Saul offered a great reward to the man who was prepared to go and fight Goliath on their behalf. If only there was someone who would go out and face the giant on their behalf. Is there someone who will go? Well, it turns out that there is, because David is prepared to go. And look how David regards Goliath, because he refers to him in verse 26 as ‘this uncircumcised Philistine’. That’s how Saul’s son, Jonathan, referred to the Philistines back in chapter 14. The Israelites were the circumcised, whereas the Philistines were the uncircumcised. And that’s significant because circumcision was the sign of God’s promise to be the God of his people and to take care of them always. So, David knew that God was on their side — the side of the Israelites — and that God was against the Philistines, because they were not his people. And so: ‘Who does this uncircumcised Philistine think he is, that he should scorn and mock and defy the armies of the living God?’ It seems to David that Goliath has insulted not just the Israelites, but he’s insulted the Lord their God.

Well, take a look at verse 28 now, where we see how David’s brother despised him? It says he burned with anger against David and he spoke harshly to him. And it foreshadows how the Lord Jesus was despised and rejected by those he came to save. And take a look at verse 33 now, where we see Saul’s scepticism. In verse 33 Saul said to David: ‘You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a boy….’ He doubted David’s ability to save, just as many doubted the ability of the Lord Jesus to save his people. But David is not worried, because in the fields, when looking after his father’s sheep, he’d had to fight against wild animals. In the past, he’d killed both the lion and the bear. And so, the uncircumcised Philistine will be just like them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. As far as David was concerned, the Lord who delivered him in the past will deliver him once more.

Verses 38 to 58

The third and final part of the story is verses 38 to 58 which includes the well-known episode of this well-known story when Saul gave David his armour to try on. But since he was not used to it, David took it off and he relied instead on his sling and stone to fight against the giant. And when Goliath saw the boy, he despised him and he cursed David and boasted how he would give his flesh to the birds of the air and to the beasts of the field. But David boasted in the Lord, in whose name he came: the name of the Lord God Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel and the God Goliath had insulted. In the name of the Lord, he will strike Goliath down; and he will cut off his head; and it is David who will give the flesh of the Philistines to the birds and the beasts; and the whole world will hear of it and they will know that there is a God is Israel who saves his people.

It’s a wonderful speech. And what makes it all the more wonderful is that every word of it was fulfilled, because David stepped forward and slung a stone at Goliath, crushing his head and causing him to fall, face down, just as Dagon, the Philistine god, fell face down before the ark of the Lord back in chapter 5. And so, David — God’s anointed king — triumphed over the serpent-like enemy, using only a sling and a stone. And taking Goliath’s own sword, he cut off his head. And when the Philistines saw that their hero was dead, they ran for their lives, while the Israelites chased after them with a shout of victory.

And the chapter ends with Saul asking his commander: ‘Whose son is that young man?’ This puzzles some of the commentators, because it seems as if Saul does not know who David is, even though Saul met David in chapter 16 and he spoke to him on the battlefield. But, of course, he’s not asking who David is; he’s asking about his father, because hadn’t he promised in verse 25 to exempt the victor’s father from having to pay taxes in Israel?


And so there you are. God’s people were dismayed and terrified, because they were unable by themselves to stand up to the serpent-like enemy who had invaded the Promised Land and who threatened to remove them from it. But God’s anointed king was able to win a great victory over the enemy on their behalf so that all of God’s people could continue to live in the Promised Land of Canaan. Whereas Adam failed to drive away the enemy who had invaded the Garden of Eden, David was able to crush the head of Goliath and drive away the Philistines who invaded the land of Canaan.

And by his victory over Goliath, David foreshadowed the even greater victory which Christ our King has won over Satan our enemy. When he was on the earth, the Lord Jesus was able to withstand all the temptations and attacks of the Devil, who came at him with his wicked schemes. And the Lord Jesus was able to overpower Satan’s demons and set free those who were possessed by them. And because he was obedient to his Father, even unto death on the cross, the Lord Jesus was raised from the dead and he ascended to heaven to receive the Holy Spirit, whom he sends down into the world to set his people free from Satan’s tyranny and to bring them — by faith and repentance — into his own kingdom of grace. And as members of his kingdom, we wait for the day when Christ the King will come again, because when he comes again with glory and in power, he will crush the Devil forever so that his people will be able to live in perfect peace and safety in the place he has prepared for us, which is the new heavens and earth, where we will enjoy the presence of God forever.

Do you remember the saying of the Lord Jesus in Mark 3 about the strong man whose house is full of possessions? He was referring to the Devil. And, in a sense, this world is his house, because this fallen world is under his control; and he deceives the nations of the world and blinds the minds of unbelievers everywhere to keep them from knowing and worshipping the true God. He has taken possession of this fallen world and unbelievers everywhere do his will.

But the Lord Jesus is the even stronger man who came into the world to overcome Satan and to plunder his house and to set Christ’s people free. By ourselves, we cannot stand up to Satan, just as the Israelites could not stand up to Goliath. But Christ our King has won the victory on our behalf and we now know that Satan is a defeated enemy and that one day our Saviour will come to crush and destroy him forever. And until that day comes, Christ our King anoints his people with the same Spirit who anointed him to enable us to stand up to the Devil’s wicked schemes in the strength of the Lord our God. He enables us more and more to withstand the wicked schemes of the Devil and to resist his temptations so that instead of doing what the Devil wants, we’re able more and more to do what God wants. And though the Devil will try to make us stumble, we have the help of Christ’s Spirit to stand firm in the faith and to remain faithful to our Saviour.

The Bible tells us that the Devil is like a roaring lion. But if you trust in Christ the Saviour, then you don’t need to be afraid of the Devil, because he has been bound by Christ your King. And even though he may appear at times like a roaring lion, Christ our King is stronger by far. — And so, you should keeping trusting in Christ your King and you should look to him for help each day, because he gives you his Spirit to stand up to the Devil’s temptations and to do God’s will here on earth. You should look to Christ your King to help you to stand firm in the faith and to remain faithful to him always, until Christ your King comes again to crush the Devil forever and to bring you into the life to come, where you will enjoy perfect peace and rest in the presence of your God forever.