1 Samuel 17
The story of David's victory over the Philistine giant Goliath
is an enacted parable of the promise of Gen 3:15. It typifies the work of Christ
in two different, though related, aspects: (1) Christ's moral victory over the
power of sin in himself, and (2) Christ's coming military victory over sin in
its governmental forms. It was necessary that Christ first conquer the "world"
in himself, by subduing the lusts of the flesh, so that he might be qualified to
conquer the nations and rule over them. Both these victories -- one now past,
the other yet future -- are beautifully outlined in the stirring drama of 1
Samuel 17. In this epic encounter between faith and force, spirit and flesh, the
godly and the earthly, we see all the redemptive purpose of God, unfolding from
"The Philistines gathered together their armies to battle"
(1Sa 17:1). The name "Philistine" has found a place in the English language as a
common noun, describing those who are ignorant and uncultured, those who are "of
the earth, earthy" (1Co 15:47), without the least aspiration toward higher
The Philistines pitched their tents in "Ephes-dammim", which
signifies "the border of blood". This site was a little south of Jerusalem and
halfway over toward the Mediterranean Sea, at the border between the Israelite
hills and the Philistine plain. It was "between the seas in the glorious holy
mountain" (Dan 11:45) -- the locale where the great invader of Israel in the
last days will meet ignominious destruction!
The "border of blood" marked the crest, or high point, of
human power -- the point where it was broken and turned back. It typifies both
Golgotha in the past, and Armageddon in the future. "Ephes-dammim" is closely
related in meaning to Acel-dama ("the field of blood"), where the traitor Judas
met his fate (Acts 1:19).
"And the Philistines stood on a mountain on the one side, and
Israel... on the other side: and there was a valley between them" (1Sa 17:3).
Mountains in Scripture often represent military powers (Zec 6:1), while valleys
are places of sorrow, humiliation, and trial -- and sometimes of destruction,
such as the valley of Jehoshaphat (Joel 3:12), where the serpent-power of the
Gentiles will be broken. Like David, Jesus had to go into "the valley of the
shadow of death" (Psa 23:4) to conquer the "giant" of sin.
"Goliath" (v.4) means "exile"; "Gath" means "winepress". The
Philistine giant was, like Cain (Gen 4:14,16), an exile from God because of sin.
He was trodden down by David, even as all human power and pride will be trodden
down by Christ in the great winepress of the wrath of God (Rev 14:19). Goliath's
height was six cubits (the number of man: cp "666" in Rev 13:18) and a short
span. Perhaps this "span" represents the brief transition period between six
thousand years of human rule and the kingdom (it was the "span" portion of the
Image that the little stone struck).
Goliath was covered with brass -- symbol of flesh. He was the
human equivalent of the brass serpent of Num 21 -- the power of sin destroyed by
Christ on the cross. He was arrayed in armor and weapons of the flesh, in
contrast to the spiritual arsenal of Eph 6:13-17, which was David's trust (1Sa
17:45) as well as Christ's.
This mighty champion of the flesh came out into the valley
between the two armies, every day for forty days, to defy the God of Israel. It
was a sad, shameful spectacle; not a man of Israel, not even Saul (himself a
giant -- 1Sa 10:23!), had the faith and courage to confront this blasphemer
Now comes a sudden break in the narrative (v 12), introducing
the second antagonist in this epic struggle; David, a young man, a shepherd of
Bethlehem (v 15), had been sent by his father to take provisions to his three
older brothers serving in Saul's army (vv 17-19).
David, when he came to his brethren, was met with mockery and
derision (v 28). Likewise Jesus, when he came to save his brethren from the
"giant" of sin, met the same ridicule. How much natural man needs salvation; yet
how little he realizes it!
The boy David could not understand the inaction of Saul's
"Who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the
living God?" (v 26).
The words of this shepherd boy come to the ears of the
distraught king, who is so desperate that he sends for him. And the poor
shepherd boy says to the mighty king;
"Let no man's heart fail because of him; thy servant will go and fight with this
Philistine" (v 32).
Saul reasons according to the flesh, which is fatally obsessed
with size and natural advantage:
"Thou art not able..." (v 33).
But why not, if God is with him? How often do we forget the
strength of faith, and make the same mistake -- tentative, timid, and even
fearful? How often we forget that, if God be for us, no man or no thing can
stand in our way!
David wisely refuses Saul's offer of armor. The children of
the Spirit are no match for the children of the flesh if they attempt to meet
them on their own ground and do battle with their own weapons. The "seed of the
woman" will always be outclassed by the "serpent brood" in numbers, experience,
prestige, and learning. Their defense and offence must be in the "shield" of
faith and the "sword" of the Spirit (Eph 6:16,17)!
For his weapon, David took his sling and then chose five
smooth stones out of the brook. (Why five? Was it because Goliath had four
brothers, also giants?) The sling, made of animal skin, would require a death
for its preparation. Like the garments that God prepared to cover Adam and Eve's
nakedness after their sin, the sling also typified a sacrificial
The sling (a sacrificial death) gave all the power to the
stone which David hurled against the giant. The stone which brought down Goliath
typifies Christ: He is the stone rejected by the builders, but later made the
cornerstone of God's building (Psa 118:22). He is also the stone cut out of the
mountain of human flesh without hands (ie, born of a woman without human father:
Gen 3:15), which smote and destroyed Nebuchadnezzar's image (Dan 2:34), and then
filled the whole earth.
The smiting of the "dream" image in Daniel 2 is parallel to
David's smiting of Goliath, with one significant difference: One stone smites
Goliath in the head (cp Gen 3:15), which symbolizes the vital life center. The
other strikes the image on the feet, symbolizing the time when destruction is
accomplished. But the end result is the same -- the Image destroyed, and Israel
The Nebuchadnezzar image represents the accumulated history of
the four great empires that collectively make up the "serpent-power" of the
Kingdom of Men, which oppressed God's kingdom of Israel. David's selection of
five stones relates his victory to the fifth great Kingdom, the Kingdom of God
that will finally conquer all and fill the earth with His glory.
"The stone sank into Goliath's forehead" (1Sa 17:49) -- the
typical fulfillment of the Edenic promise that the woman's seed should bruise
the serpent's head. The antitype stretches from the cross to the military
destruction of the last vestiges of human misrule and oppression, when Christ
So "David ran... and drew out Goliath's sword... and cut off
his head" (v 51). And he brought the head to Jerusalem (v 54). David's act
symbolized the destruction of the head of sin, accomplished by Jesus in his own
body, and finalized at Golgotha (the place of the skull!) just outside the walls
of Jerusalem. (Hebrew tradition suggests that Golgotha was so named because it
was the burial place of Goliath's head.)
David's act also prefigures the cutting off of all mortal
ruling power, and the transferring of all the world's headship to Jerusalem,
"the city of the great king" (Mat 5:35).
David's wonderful feat revitalized the army of Israel, which
then went on to rout the Philistines. Those who were powerless and afraid to
face Goliath received new strength and courage in the victory of David. Like
David, Jesus was the only one capable of winning the special victory over the
"serpent" Yet his victory over the "devil", like David's over Goliath, delivered
his brethren who "through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to
bondage" (Heb 2:15).
"O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?... But thanks be to
God, Who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1Co