We speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom,
There are some old, old stories that have been handed down to us from as far back as, as.... well, as far back as I can remember. One of those stories that I've heard so many times, and never bothered to question, is the story of David and Goliath, and included in this story, the relationship between David and King Saul.
I suspect we've all seen the pictures and read the story of the little boy who brought down a giant at least twice his size, and that with nothing but a slingshot and a pebble he found along the way. An amazing story, any way you look at it.
The many times I've heard this story, and that often from a Sunday School teacher or the pastor of my church (or a church of the airwaves), certain images have formed in my head, and these often because of what I had been told by these experts of the Word. And certainly, if there was anything that we might have all the facts presented to us concerning, it would be this exciting, albeit simple story.
Are you ready to be bored to tears? If so, then join me as I take a closer look at the obvious and the nonessential aspects of a common children's story:
1Now the Philistines gathered together their armies to battle, and were gathered together at Shochoh, which belongeth to Judah, and pitched between Shochoh and Azekah, in Ephesdammim. 2And Saul and the men of Israel were gathered together, and pitched by the valley of Elah, and set the battle in array against the Philistines. 3And the Philistines stood on a mountain on the one side, and Israel stood on a mountain on the other side: and there was a valley between them.
We have the establishing shot given to us that enables us to form a picture in our mind as to just what is happening. We find two armies gathered for war, each of the armies standing in array on a mountain on either side of a valley. This is a scene any great producer would love to have as a setting for his movie.
4And there went out a champion out of the camp of the Philistines, named Goliath, of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. 5And he had an helmet of brass upon his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail; and the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of brass. 6And he had greaves of brass upon his legs, and a target of brass between his shoulders. 7And the staff of his spear was like a weaver's beam; and his spear's head weighed six hundred shekels of iron: and one bearing a shield went before him.
Even having no idea what this passage is talking about, speaking of shekels and greaves and weaver's beams, we can imagine this to be a fellow to avoid making mad if at all possible. It's estimated that this great warrior was about nine feet tall, and mighty strong to be carrying the weight of his armor and weaponry.
8And he stood and cried unto the armies of Israel, and said unto them, Why are ye come out to set your battle in array? am not I a Philistine, and ye servants to Saul? choose you a man for you, and let him come down to me. 9If he be able to fight with me, and to kill me, then will we be your servants: but if I prevail against him, and kill him, then shall ye be our servants, and serve us. 10And the Philistine said, I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together. 11When Saul and all Israel heard those words of the Philistine, they were dismayed, and greatly afraid. (1Sam 17:)
The Israelites were afraid. And who can blame them? Would you accept the Philistine's challenge?
I've highlighted some words in the passage above. Did you notice them? Do they mean anything to you? I suspect they don't because I've yet to hear anyone comment on them. We'll look at those words later, but first, back to the war:
12Now David was the son of that Ephrathite of Bethlehemjudah, whose name was Jesse; and he had eight sons: and the man went among men for an old man in the days of Saul. 13And the three eldest sons of Jesse went and followed Saul to the battle: and the names of his three sons that went to the battle were Eliab the firstborn, and next unto him Abinadab, and the third Shammah.
Take note that there were eight sons of this man, and the three oldest were in the Army, the very same army we have been witnessing astraddle of the valley of the giant.
14And David was the youngest: and the three eldest followed Saul. 15But David went and returned from Saul to feed his father's sheep at Bethlehem.
Did you catch that? David did what? What is this talking about? The three oldest sons returned with Saul to the battle, but David is now returning home from.... where?
16And the Philistine drew near morning and evening, and presented himself forty days.
Do you get the picture? This big fella has been standing in the middle of the battle ground shaking his fist at Saul and his army for forty days, with the battle raging around him (as we will see later). Can you imagine that? Over a month this man hasn't been fighting because no one would approach him.
Forty is a significant number. We find that the Israelites were tested in the desert for forty years. Jesus was tested in the wildness for forty days. Paul was beaten with 40 stripes, the maximum allowed by law (1Cor 11:44).
17And Jesse said unto David his son, Take now for thy brethren an ephah of this parched corn, and these ten loaves, and run to the camp to thy brethren; 18And carry these ten cheeses unto the captain of their thousand, and look how thy brethren fare, and take their pledge. 19Now Saul, and they, and all the men of Israel, were in the valley of Elah, fighting with the Philistines. 20And David rose up early in the morning, and left the sheep with a keeper, and took, and went, as Jesse had commanded him; and he came to the trench, as the host was going forth to the fight, and shouted for the battle. 21For Israel and the Philistines had put the battle in array, army against army. 22And David left his carriage in the hand of the keeper of the carriage, and ran into the army, and came and saluted his brethren.
Again we have an establishing shot. The armies are doing battle, but apparently not to such a degree that David can't have a few words with his brothers. Perhaps they were in the rear guard, or more likely (in my opinion) they were part of the command unit along with King Saul, for reasons we will be shown later.
David, the youngest of eight, was tending sheep, like a good youngest son might be expected to be doing. Now we find him witnessing a battle which very likely is being fought hot and heavy all around our antihero, Goliath:
23And as he talked with them, behold, there came up the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name, out of the armies of the Philistines, and spake according to the same words: and David heard them. 24And all the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him, and were sore afraid. 25And the men of Israel said, Have ye seen this man that is come up? surely to defy Israel is he come up: and it shall be, that the man who killeth him, the king will enrich him with great riches, and will give him his daughter, and make his father's house free in Israel.
We find that great rewards will be given the one who kills the giant, and the family of the man will be free from having to pay taxes.
Take note that the men of Israel, and David's brothers, seem to be giving David a lot of attention, especially interesting considering that there is a battle raging around them. Doesn't it seem strange that anyone would be paying attention to a runny-nose kid fresh from tending sheep? Isn't that the picture we have painted of him? The pictures I've seen of David are of a lad barely in his teens, or when an age is given, he is assumed to be a scrawny seventeen year old. Have you been given this same picture?
We're now in familiar territory. This is the moment we've all been waiting for, and that we're all acquainted with:
26And David spake to the men that stood by him, saying, What shall be done to the man that killeth this Philistine, and taketh away the reproach from Israel? for who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God? 27And the people answered him after this manner, saying, So shall it be done to the man that killeth him. 28And Eliab his eldest brother heard when he spake unto the men; and Eliab's anger was kindled against David, and he said, Why camest thou down hither? and with whom hast thou left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know thy pride, and the naughtiness of thine heart; for thou art come down that thou mightiest see the battle. 29And David said, What have I now done? Is there not a cause?
Brothers can be so annoying sometimes. Here we have David's older brother assuming to know David's intentions. Is he supportive of his younger sibling? Of course not. He rails on him. Consider Jacob's brother, and Joseph's eleven brothers. And let's not forget that Jesus had half-bothers who were known to be anything but supportive of Jesus during His ministry:
30And he turned from him toward another, and spake after the same manner: and the people answered him again after the former manner.
Again, a lot of attention given this youngster. Why?
31And when the words were heard which David spake, they rehearsed them before Saul: and he sent for him. 32And David said to Saul,
We have here a little, unknown shepherd boy, who is getting a lot of attention, even from the king, right in the midst of a raging battle. Doesn't this seem strange to anyone but me?
Let no man's heart fail because of him; thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine. 33And Saul said to David, Thou art not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him: for thou art but a youth, and he a man of war from his youth. 34And David said unto Saul, Thy servant kept his father's sheep, and there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock: 35And I went out after him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth: and when he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and smote him, and slew him. 36Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear: and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them, seeing he hath defied the armies of the living God. 37David said moreover, The LORD that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine.
What an amazing story this skinny kid is telling the king. Who would believe such a whopper? Would you? Certainly not from some unknown kid out of the hills. But is David unknown to the king and all these people? It would seem so, wouldn't it? I'd always heard that he was:
And Saul said unto David, Go, and the LORD be with thee.
Did you catch that? Did I hear what I think I heard? Do you think King Saul might have been sending this kid to the slaughter house, just to appease the giant? That's what I've heard, and that's the only explanation I can formulate from Saul's response.
In fact, it seems to me that what we're witnessing here is a miracle unrecognized. If King Saul was in fact just sacrificing David to the giant, that might be understood as feasible, especially considering that Saul was not known for his obedience to God and for his concern for other people, having even thrown a javelin at his own son in an effort to kill him. But there's something being missed here. Saul would not only be sacrificing David, but he would have been selling his entire nation, including himself, into slavery. Remember this?
Choose you a man for you, and let him come down to me. 9If he be able to fight with me, and to kill me, then will we be your servants: but if I prevail against him, and kill him, THEN SHALL YE BE OUR SERVANTS, AND SERVE US.
There was a challenge made that would put everyone in jeopardy if someone took up the challenge, and failed. Would King Saul allow a nobody kid to represent him and all his nation when the stakes were so high? Somehow I tend to think not. But then, if the obvious is not the reason for King Saul having a senior moment, what is the reason for his judgement call?
38And Saul armed David with his armour, and he put an helmet of brass upon his head; also he armed him with a coat of mail. 39And David girded his sword upon his armour, and he assayed to go; for he had not proved it. And David said unto Saul, I cannot go with these; for I have not proved them. And David put them off him.
Keep in mind that Saul was head and shoulders taller than all the men in Israel. We might assume then that the armor he placed on this scrawny kid looked like a metal trench coat daddy placed on his 8 year old son for a gag. But this passage doesn't seem to read that way. I get the feeling David is familiar with the suit of armor Saul wears, and that the reason David didn't want to wear it is for the reason given: He hadn't tried it out to see if it worked well. We try out a pair of shoes before we buy them, how much more so might we try out a suit of armor if we're going to war?
40And he took his staff in his hand, and chose him five smooth stones out of the brook, and put them in a shepherd's bag which he had, even in a scrip; and his sling was in his hand: and he drew near to the Philistine. 41And the Philistine came on and drew near unto David; and the man that bare the shield went before him. 42And when the Philistine looked about, and saw David, he disdained him: for he was but a youth, and ruddy, and of a fair countenance.
Goliath appraised his opponent, and found him far from his match. But then again so was 7 foot tall King Saul not his match. Notice what Goliath saw in David, and notice what he didn't have to say about David:
43And the Philistine said unto David, Am I a dog, that thou comest to me with staves? And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. 44And the Philistine said to David, Come to me, and I will give thy flesh unto the fowls of the air, and to the beasts of the field. 45Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied. 46This day will the LORD deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcases of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. 47And all this assembly shall know that the LORD saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the LORD'S, and he will give you into our hands.
48And it came to pass, when the Philistine arose, and came and drew nigh to meet David, that David hasted, and ran toward the army to meet the Philistine. 49And David put his hand in his bag, and took thence a stone, and slang it, and smote the Philistine in his forehead, that the stone sunk into his forehead; and he fell upon his face to the earth.
We have two things in particular to be aware of here. First we have Goliath, not challenging the Israelites as we would assume he was doing, but he was defying God. This brings to mind the Prodigal Son who told his father that he had sinned, not against the father, but against God (Luke 15:18).
It's known that David wasn't even armed when he approached Goliath, and that he picked up five smooth stones on the way to the battle. But did you notice that when he came to use his sling shot, he took out one stone, leaving the others in the bag? Such confidence. Realize, the two were close enough to talk, so David was certainly within range of that spear if nothing else. Wouldn't you have thought he would have taken at least one other stone, just in case?
If you've ever watched (or participated in) a kendo match, or watched Samurai warriors in the movies, you are probably aware that there are just the very smallest targets that can be hit, these being the joints between the various pieces of armor the warriors wear. This is true of the Knights of old as well. It's very possible that the only vital target left open on this gigantic warrior was a spot between the eyes, or the eyes themselves. If this is so (and it isn't sure that it is), then David's aim was amazingly accurate, especially considering the inherent lack of accuracy of the weapon he used.
50So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and smote the Philistine, and slew him; but there was no sword in the hand of David. 51Therefore David ran, and stood upon the Philistine, and took his sword, and drew it out of the sheath thereof, and slew him, and cut off his head therewith. And when the Philistines saw their champion was dead, they fled. 52And the men of Israel and of Judah arose, and shouted, and pursued the Philistines, until thou come to the valley, and to the gates of Ekron. And the wounded of the Philistines fell down by the way to Shaaraim, even unto Gath, and unto Ekron. 53And the children of Israel returned from chasing after the Philistines, and they spoiled their tents.
Here's something else that might be easily missed. David drew the giant's sword from the scabbard. This indicates to me that Goliath is so confident in his winning this battle that he didn't even bother to take out his sword.
54And David took the head of the Philistine, and brought it to Jerusalem; but he put his armour in his tent. 55And when Saul saw David go forth against the Philistine, he said unto Abner, the captain of the host, Abner, whose son is this youth? And Abner said, As thy soul liveth, O king, I cannot tell. 56And the king said, inquire thou whose son the stripling is.
We might assume from this verbal exchange that David was unknown to both King Saul and to his officer, Abner. Is this true? How can it be otherwise considering the words exchanged here?
We also see that the king seems to have a disregard for the one who saved the day, calling him a "stripling."
According to my dictionary, a stripling is just a word indicating a youth. But I find that the Hebrew word carries with it even more significance. The word has elsewhere been interpreted "young man," without any devious connotations (see 1Samuel 20:22). Beyond this, the word itself implies "something kept out of sight."
Just something to add clarification to those seeking deeper waters in which to wade.
57And as David returned from the slaughter of the Philistine, Abner took him, and brought him before Saul with the head of the Philistine in his hand. 58And Saul said to him, Whose son art thou, thou young man? And David answered, I am the son of thy servant Jesse the Bethlehemite. (Samuel 17:)
The king is asking David who he is, and who his father is. Does this seem strange to you? It does to me. Why? Let's take a look at the chapter preceding this one that tells us of the battle we're so familiar with:
1 Samuel 16
1And the LORD said unto Samuel, How long wilt thou mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? fill thine horn with oil, and go, I will send thee to Jesse the Bethlehemite: for I have provided me a king among his sons. 2And Samuel said, How can I go? if Saul hear it, he will kill me. And the LORD said, Take an heifer with thee, and say, I am come to sacrifice to the LORD. 3And call Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show thee what thou shalt do: and thou shalt anoint unto me him whom I name unto thee. 4And Samuel did that which the LORD spake, and came to Bethlehem. And the elders of the town trembled at his coming, and said, Comest thou peaceably? 5And he said, Peaceably: I am come to sacrifice unto the LORD: sanctify yourselves, and come with me to the sacrifice. And he sanctified Jesse and his sons, and called them to the sacrifice. 6And it came to pass, when they were come, that he looked on Eliab, and said, Surely the LORD'S anointed is before him. 7But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart. 8Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. And he said, Neither hath the LORD chosen this. 9Then Jesse made Shammah to pass by. And he said, Neither hath the LORD chosen this. 10Again, Jesse made seven of his sons to pass before Samuel. And Samuel said unto Jesse, The LORD hath not chosen these. 11And Samuel said unto Jesse, Are here all thy children? And he said, There remaineth yet the youngest, and, behold, he keepeth the sheep. And Samuel said unto Jesse, Send and fetch him: for we will not sit down till he come hither. 12And he sent, and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and withal of a beautiful countenance, and goodly to look to. And the LORD said, Arise, anoint him: for this is he. 13Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brethren: and the Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward.
We find from this reading that David was anointed of God, and selected to be the future king of Israel. In fact, as we have read, God had already rejected Saul, and in fact Saul was chosen only because the people rejected Samuel, thereby God, and wanted a king like those nations around them. They were in the process of conforming to those they were to be separate from.
Another problem with Saul being king is, that as we have seen, the kingly line is that of Judah, and Saul is from the tribe of Benjamin. David on the other hand not only was of the proper tribe, but he was from Bethlehem, from which the Messiah was to issue forth.
This is the first anointing David is to undertake. This anointing is that of faith. We think faith is something we automatically possess. This is not so, as is so easily seen by the actions of the Apostles before their anointing at Pentecost. We also assume that we are anointed when we're baptized. Again, another dangerous assumption.
It's the descriptions given of David that causes us to assume that David is just a teenager. But as far as I have been able to discern, there is no evidence of this. Perhaps when he was anointed he was of such an age, there's no way of knowing. But this anointing might have taken place years before the battle we're witnessing with the Philistines, though I tend to doubt that (for no special reason).
We see that Samuel assumed the oldest son, Eliab, was God's choice to replace Saul. Saul was tall, and by what God said of Eliab, he was tall also. This being so, it might also be assumed that David could have been on the tall side as well. Then again he might have been very short and scrawny, though I tend to doubt that. We have no real evidence one way or the other.
So Samuel rose up, and went to Ramah. 14But the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD troubled him.
Did you catch that? What do you make of it? God sends an evil spirit? Do you think this might be a misprint or a bad interpretation?
15And Saul's servants said unto him, Behold now, an evil spirit from God troubleth thee. 16Let our lord now command thy servants, which are before thee, to seek out a man, who is a cunning player on an harp: and it shall come to pass, when the evil spirit from God is upon thee, that he shall play with his hand, and thou shalt be well. 17And Saul said unto his servants, Provide me now a man that can play well, and bring him to me. 18Then answered one of the servants, and said, Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, that is cunning in playing, and A MIGHTY VALIANT MAN, AND A MAN OF WAR, and prudent in matters, and a comely person, and the LORD is with him. 19Wherefore Saul sent messengers unto Jesse, and said, Send me David thy son, which is with the sheep.
Do you see what I'm seeing? Remember, this chapter comes before the previous one, the one in which David fights Goliath.
The king sends servants to Jesse and has him send the sheep-tender to him. We see from this that King Saul, as well as his advisor, knows of David, who his father is, and not only that, we have this:
"Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, that is cunning in playing, and a mighty valiant man, and a man of war."
David is known to be a "Man of war." This shepherd is a man of war? Remember, this is before that teenager goes to battle against the giant. Did you notice this before? Does it bring questions to your mind as it does mine?
20And Jesse took an ass laden with bread, and a bottle of wine, and a kid, and sent them by David his son unto Saul. 21And David came to Saul, and stood before him: and he loved him greatly; and he became his armourbearer. 22And Saul sent to Jesse, saying, Let David, I pray thee, stand before me; for he hath found favour in my sight. 23And it came to pass, when the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, that David took an harp, and played with his hand: so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him.
Are you catching all this? That's quite a relationship this young lad has with the king. He's the armor bearer, he's a mighty man of valor and a warrior. He's loved by the king. And the king sent to David's father asking him to let David live in the palace.
Yet we read later that Saul didn't know who this young man is. Might that mean we're missing something? However, considering what we see here, it does explain why King Saul would let this "stripling" go into battle and risk the freedom of him and all his nation, does it not?
There's one more thing I find interesting concerning the stories we're told in Sunday School about David and Goliath, and that is the age of David when he fought the giant. Where do they come up with an exact age of David when no age is given? I've always heard that he was seventeen at the time of the battle. Yet from what I read here, that David was already a man of valor and a mighty warrior, I find it difficult to harmonize with the idea that he was a teenager. Besides this, we have the chapter that follows the grand event:
1And it came to pass, when he had made an end of speaking unto Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. 2And Saul took him that day, and would let him go no more home to his father's house. 3Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul. 4And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was upon him, and gave it to David, and his garments, even to his sword, and to his bow, and to his girdle. 5And David went out whithersoever Saul sent him, and behaved himself wisely: and Saul set him over the men of war, and he was accepted in the sight of all the people, and also in the sight of Saul's servants. 6And it came to pass as they came, when David was returned from the slaughter of the Philistine, ....
First of all, take note of that last part of a verse. This is all taking place before they returned from the battle, so we can't interpret this to say that it is years later.
Again, notice that David is living in the palace when he fought Goliath. But wait! We read here that David went no more to his father's house. Yet in the previous chapter we see that his father sent him to check on his brothers, and that he was tending sheep at the time.
I know the preachers like to make everything simple for us so we can seemingly understand it. But I find the Scriptures complicated and confusing when looked at beneath the superficial covers. I suspect God wrote His book so we will have to come to Him if we ever hope to understand what He's saying. He's a master craftsman, and that of more than just the physical, but of words as well.
We're looking at the age of David. We find that David was a man of war before he fought Goliath, that we can know for fairly certain. What happened here in the above Scriptures is somewhat vague. However, we find that Saul made David a commander over many soldiers. Now, if not before, he certainly is a warrior.
We find it all through the Bible, but especially in passages such as this:
2Take ye the sum of all the congregation of the children of Israel, after their families, by the house of their fathers, with the number of their names, every male by their polls; 3From twenty years old and upward, all that are able to go forth to war in Israel: thou and Aaron shall number them by their armies. (Num 1:)
In Israel it's the age of twenty that a man becomes of age as far as war is concerned. What, then, was a seventeen year old doing creating a reputation for himself as a mighty warrior? Do you find that a little odd, and out of synch with God's will?
What am I saying here in this study? Am I just playing with words, do you think? I would think so, if I didn't know better. It's my intention to find what God is really saying, and what He's saying to me. As far as this study is concerned, I find nothing in particular that I can learn from it other than I can't rely on what those in the position of instructor and expert have to say, even when it involves something as simple as a children's story.
6Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought: 7But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: 8Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. 10But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. 11For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. (1Cor 2:)
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