1 Samuel 17 Commentary: David’s Confrontation with Goliath

1 Samuel 17 commentary

1 Samuel 17 Commentary

1 Samuel 17 narrates one of the most iconic events in biblical history: the young shepherd David’s encounter with the Philistine giant, Goliath.

Set against the backdrop of a tense standoff between the Israelite and Philistine armies, this chapter unfolds the tale of David’s unlikely victory and captures not just a physical clash but a profound lesson in faith and God’s power working through an unassuming hero.

As we explore the events of 1 Samuel 17, from the fear instilled by Goliath’s challenge to David’s triumphant and faith-filled response, believers find examples of courage, faith, and the dynamics of divine intervention in human affairs.

1 Samuel 17:1-11, The Philistines Gather for Battle and Goliath’s Challenge

The chapter opens with the Philistines gathering their forces for war against Israel, a scene is set in the Valley of Elah, establishing the geographical context for the ensuing battle.

Now the Philistines gathered their armies for battle. And they were gathered at Socoh, which belongs to Judah, and encamped between Socoh and Azekah, in Ephes-dammim. And Saul and the men of Israel were gathered, and encamped in the Valley of Elah, and drew up in line of battle against the Philistines. And the Philistines stood on the mountain on the one side, and Israel stood on the mountain on the other side, with a valley between them.

1 Samuel 17:1-3, ESV

Goliath, a champion from the Philistine camp, steps forward. His description is striking – a giant of a man, armored and intimidating. His challenge to Israel is not just a battle of strength but also a psychological warfare, aiming to instill fear and despair among the Israelites.

And there came out from the camp of the Philistines a champion named Goliath of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. He had a helmet of bronze 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 javelin of bronze slung between his shoulders. The shaft of his spear was like a weaver’s beam, and his spear’s head weighed six hundred shekels of iron. And his shield-bearer went before him.

1 Samuel 17:4-7, ESV

This section vividly describes Goliath’s armor and weapons, emphasizing the formidable threat he posed. Goliath’s challenge to Israel is clear: send a man to fight him. If Goliath is defeated, the Philistines will become subjects to Israel, but if he prevails, Israel must serve the Philistines.

This challenge, repeated for forty days, demonstrates the Philistine’s confidence and the Israelites’ growing dread.

He stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why have you come out to draw up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not 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 ranks 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.

1 Samuel 17:8-11, ESV

1 Samuel 17:12-24, David’s Arrival at the Battlefront

As the narrative shifts, we meet David, who is described as the youngest son of Jesse, tending sheep in Bethlehem. His three oldest brothers are with Saul’s army, setting the stage for David’s entry into the story.

Now David was the son of an Ephrathite of Bethlehem in Judah, named Jesse, who had eight sons. In the days of Saul the man was already old and advanced in years. The three oldest sons of Jesse had followed Saul to the battle. And the names of his three sons who went to the battle were Eliab the firstborn, and next to him Abinadab, and the third Shammah. David was the youngest. The three eldest followed Saul, but David went back and forth from Saul to feed his father’s sheep at Bethlehem.

1 Samuel 17:12-15, ESV

David’s father, Jesse, sends him to the battlefront with provisions for his brothers and their commander. This act is a common practice, ensuring the well-being of soldiers through family support.

And Jesse said to David his son, “Take for your brothers an ephah of this parched grain, and these ten loaves, and carry them quickly to the camp to your brothers. Also take these ten cheeses to the commander of their thousand. See if your brothers are well, and bring some token from them.”

1 Samuel 17:17-18, ESV

Upon arriving, David witnesses the fear of the Israelites caused by Goliath’s challenge. His reaction to the situation, compared to that of the other Israelites, starts to highlight his unique character and faith.

As he talked with them, behold, the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name, came up out of the ranks of the Philistines and spoke the same words as before. And David heard him.

All the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him and were much afraid.

1 Samuel 17:23-24, ESV

1 Samuel 17:25-30, David Hears of Goliath’s Challenge

The soldiers discuss the king’s reward for defeating Goliath: great wealth, a royal marriage, and tax exemption for his family – indicating the desperation of King Saul and the Israelites.

And the men of Israel said, “Have you seen this man who has come up? Surely he has come up to defy Israel. And the king will enrich the man who kills him with great riches and will give him his daughter and make his father’s house free in Israel.”

1 Samuel 17:25, ESV

David’s questions about the reward and his concern for the dishonor brought upon Israel by Goliath’s challenge stand in stark contrast to the fear and dismay of the soldiers. His perspective begins to reveal his faith in God and his understanding of the true nature of the battle.

And David said to the men who stood by him, “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 the same way, “So shall it be done to the man who kills him.”

1 Samuel 17:26-27, ESV

Eliab, David’s eldest brother, hears him speaking with the soldiers and rebukes him, highlighting the disbelief and misunderstanding David faces, even from his own family.

Now Eliab his eldest brother heard when he spoke to the men. And Eliab’s anger was kindled against David, and he said, “Why have you come down? And with whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know your presumption and the evil of your heart, for you have come down to see the battle.” And David said, “What have I done now? Was it not but a word?” And he turned away from him toward another, and spoke in the same way, and the people answered him again as before.

1 Samuel 17:28-30, ESV

1 Samuel 17:31-37, David Volunteers to Fight Goliath

David’s words are reported to King Saul, who summons him. David confidently offers to fight Goliath, a stark contrast to the fear and hesitation of Saul’s soldiers.

When the words that David spoke were heard, they repeated them before Saul, and he sent for him. And David said to Saul, “Let no man’s heart fail because of him. Your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.”

1 Samuel 17:31-32, ESV

Saul doubts David’s ability to fight Goliath due to his youth and inexperience. David responds by recounting his past experiences of protecting his sheep from lions and bears, showcasing his courage and trust in God’s protection.

But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him. Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God.” And David said, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” And Saul said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you!”

1 Samuel 17:34-37, ESV

1 Samuel 17:38-40, David Prepares to Fight without Armor

Saul attempts to equip David with his own armor, but David finds it cumbersome and untested. This moment underscores David’s reliance not on human means but on God’s strength and his own skill with a sling.

Then Saul clothed David with his armor. He put a helmet of bronze on his head and clothed him with a coat of mail, and David strapped his sword over his armor. And he tried in vain to go, for he had not tested them. Then David said to Saul, “I cannot go with these, for I have not tested them.” So David put them off. Then he took his staff in his hand and chose five smooth stones from the brook and put them in his shepherd’s pouch. His sling was in his hand, and he approached the Philistine.

1 Samuel 17:38-40, ESV

1 Samuel 17:41-47, Confrontation Between David and Goliath

The confrontation between David and Goliath is dramatic. Goliath, with his armor and spear, contrasts sharply with David, who is armed only with a sling and his faith in God.

And the Philistine moved forward and came near to David, with his shield-bearer in front of him. And when the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him, for he was but a youth, ruddy and handsome in appearance. And the Philistine said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. The Philistine said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the beasts of the field.”

1 Samuel 17:41-44, ESV

David’s response to Goliath’s scorn is significant. He declares that the battle is the Lord’s, and God will deliver Goliath into his hands. This declaration emphasizes the spiritual dimension of the conflict.

Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword and 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 down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hand.”

1 Samuel 17:45-47, ESV

1 Samuel 17:48-51, David Defeats Goliath

As Goliath approaches, David quickly attacks, striking Goliath on the forehead with a stone from his sling.

The scene is a dramatic testament to David’s skill and faith, and God’s providence.

When the Philistine arose and came and drew near to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. And David put his hand in his bag and took out a stone and slung it and struck the Philistine on his forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face to the ground.

So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and struck the Philistine and killed him. There was no sword in the hand of David.

1 Samuel 17:48-50, ESV

Goliath falls, and David uses the giant’s own sword to kill him. This act symbolizes not just a physical victory but also a spiritual triumph over fear and doubt.

Then David ran and stood over the Philistine and took his sword and drew it out of its sheath and killed him and cut off his head with it. When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled.

1 Samuel 17:51, ESV

1 Samuel 17:52-54, The Israelites Rout the Philistines

Inspired by David’s victory, the Israelites pursue the Philistines, turning the tide of the battle, demonstrating how one act of faith and courage can inspire and change the course of events.

And the men of Israel and Judah rose with a shout and pursued the Philistines as far as Gath and the gates of Ekron, so that the wounded Philistines fell on the way from Shaaraim as far as Gath and Ekron. And the people of Israel came back from chasing the Philistines, and they plundered their camp.

1 Samuel 17:52-53, ESV

David’s triumph over Goliath and the subsequent routing of the Philistines mark a significant turning point in the conflict between Israel and the Philistines.

And David took the head of the Philistine and brought it to Jerusalem, but he put his armor in his tent.

1 Samuel 17:54, ESV

1 Samuel 17:55-58, Saul Inquires about David

King Saul inquires about David’s family, indicating his interest in the young hero who has just altered the course of the battle. This inquiry sets the stage for David’s future interactions with Saul and his rise in the Israelite community.

As soon as Saul saw David go out against the Philistine, he said to Abner, the commander of the army, “Abner, whose son is this youth?” And Abner said, “As your soul lives, O king, I do not know.” And the king said, “Inquire whose son the boy is.” And as soon as David returned from the striking down of the Philistine, Abner took him, and brought him before Saul with the head of the Philistine in his hand. And Saul said to him, “Whose son are you, young man?” And David answered, “I am the son of your servant Jesse the Bethlehemite.”

1 Samuel 17:55-58, ESV