1 Samuel 17 – “David Slays Goliath”

Hebrew-English Text
I. Summary
Goliath, a mighty Philistine soldier, ridicules the Israelites. David travels to the battlefield and kills him with his sling. The Israelites attack and force the Philistines to retreat.

II. Photo
David prepares to battle Goliath: “He took his stick, picked a few smooth stones from the wadi, put them in the pocket of his shepherd’s bag and, sling in hand, he went toward the Philistine.” (v. 40)

III. Important Verses
4-7: A champion of the Philistine forces stepped forward; his name was Goliath of Gath, and he was six cubits and a span tall. He had a bronze helmet on his head, and wore a breastplate of scale armor, a bronze breastplate weighing five thousand shekels. He had bronze greaves on his legs, and a bronze javelin [slung] from his shoulders. The shaft of his spear was like a weaver’s bar, and the iron head of his spear weighed six hundred shekels; and the shield-bearer marched in front of him.
32-37: David said to Saul, “Let no man’s courage fail him. Your servant will go and fight that Philistine!” But Saul said to David, “You cannot go to that Philistine and fight him; you are only a boy, and he has been a warrior from his youth!” David replied to Saul, “Your servant has been tending his father’s sheep, and if a lion or a bear came and carried off an animal from the flock, I would go after it and fight it and rescue it from its mouth. And if it attacked me, I would seize it by the beard and strike it down and kill it. Your servant has killed both lion and bear; and that uncircumcised Philistine shall end up like one of them, for he has defied the ranks of the living God. The LORD,” David went on, “who saved me from lion and bear will also save me from that Philistine.” “Then go,” Saul said to David, “and may the LORD be with you!”
38-40: Saul clothed David in his own garment; he placed a bronze helmet on his head and fastened a breastplate on him. David girded his sword over his garment. Then he tried to walk; but he was not used to it. And David said to Saul, “I cannot walk in these, for I am not used to them.” So David took them off. He took his stick, picked a few smooth stones from the wadi, put them in the pocket of his shepherd’s bag and, sling in hand, he went toward the Philistine.
45-47: David replied to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin; but I come against you in the name of the LORD of Hosts, the God of the ranks of Israel, whom you have defied. This very day the LORD will deliver you into my hands. I will kill you and cut off your head; and I will give the carcasses of the Philistine camp to the birds of the sky and the beasts of the earth. All the earth shall know that there is a God in Israel. And this whole assembly shall know that the LORD can give victory without sword or spear. For the battle is the LORD’s, and He will deliver you into our hands.”
49: David put his hand into the bag; he took out a stone and slung it. It struck the Philistine in the forehead; the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell face down on the ground.

IV. Outline
1-3. The Philistines and Israelites line up for battle
4-7. Goliath is described
8-11. Goliath taunts Saul’s army
12-15. The house of Jesse
16-23. David travels to the camp to bring his brother’s provisions
24-30. David’s interest in Goliath
31-37. David decides to fight Goliath
38-40. David advances with only a stick, some stones, and a sling
41-44. Goliath scoffs at David
45-47. David responds by praising God
48-51a. David kills Goliath with his sling and chops off his head
51b-53. The Israelites defeat the Philistines and loot their camp
54. David takes Goliath’s head and weapons
55-58. David meets Saul

V. Comment
Chapter 17 relates how David, the young shepherd boy, kills the mighty Goliath. As was mentioned in the previous comment, many scholars view the events of 1 Samuel 16-17 as an amalgamation of different “historical” documents. There are many verses in this chapter that support this theory. For instance, although David’s family had been introduced in the previous chapter, vv. 12-15 reintroduce them: “David was the son of a certain Ephrathite of Bethlehem in Judah whose name was Jesse. He had eight sons, and in the days of Saul the man was already old, advanced in years. The three oldest sons of Jesse had left and gone with Saul to the war. The names of his three sons who had gone to the war were Eliab the first-born, the next Abinadab, and the third Shammah; and David was the youngest. The three oldest had followed Saul, and David would go back and forth from attending on Saul to shepherd his father’s flock at Bethlehem.” Similarly, although Saul had shown favor to David in chapter 16, he meets him for the first time in vv. 55-58: “When Saul saw David going out to assault the Philistine, he asked his army commander Abner, ‘Whose son is that boy, Abner?’ And Abner replied, ‘By your life, Your Majesty, I do not know.’ ‘Then find out whose son that young fellow is,’ the king ordered. So when David returned after killing the Philistine, Abner took him and brought him to Saul, with the head of the Philistine still in his hand. Saul said to him, ‘Whose son are you, my boy?’ And David answered, ‘The son of your servant Jesse the Bethlehemite.’”

Verses like these, and an analysis of the Greek witnesses to the Hebrew Bible, are what lead some scholars to conclude that 1 Samuel 16-17 contains four different accounts of David’s rise to power. Collins writes: “Yet another account of the discovery of David follows in the story of his combat with Goliath in 1 Samuel 17. There are actually two stories here. The first is found in 17:1-11, 32-40, 42-28a, 49, 51-54. The second is found in 17:12-31, 41, 48b, 50, 55-58; 18:1-5, 10-11, 17-19, 29b-30. The verses that make up the second story are missing from the Old Greek translation, as found in Codex Vaticanus. It is generally agreed that in this case the Greek preserves the older form of the text. The second story is an independent account of the combat. It introduces David as if he were previously unknown. Moreover, he is still a shepherd, rather than a musician at Saul’s court. This popular variant of the story must have been interpolated into the Hebrew text at some time in the Second Temple period.” (227)

VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)
Collins, John J. “Introduction to the Hebrew Bible,” (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2004).
Klein, Ralph W. “1 Samuel” Word Biblical Commentary vol. 10 (Waco, Texas: Word Books, 1983).
McCarter, P. Kyle, Jr. “1 Samuel,” Anchor Bible vol. 8 (New York: Doubleday, 1980).
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