The Agora
Bible Commentary
1 Samuel

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31

1 Samuel 17

1Sa 17:1

1Sa 17: "The giants of our past often make havock of our present" (TMD 30). Returning day after day, to challenge us -- until we put them to rest once and for all.

Godly leadership: looks for opportunities to make a difference (vv 20-24); has ability to see the real issue (v 26); is an encourager of men (v 32a); is willing to be personally involved (v 32b); values past accomplishments for present challenges (vv 33-36); has an unquestionable dependence on God for victory (v 37); avoids doubters (vv 28,33); never leads in someone else's armor (vv 38-40); always sizes up the opposition and makes sure it has adequate resources to do the job (v 45); remembers whose battle it really is (v 47); never backs off from a formidable challenge (v 48); makes doubly sure the enemy is defeated (v 48); is usually sought by others (vv 55-58).

THE PHILISTINES: See Lesson, Philistia in prophecy. 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, and earthy" (1Co 15:47), without the least aspiration toward higher things.

THE PHILISTINES GATHERED THEIR FORCES FOR WAR: Had they heard of Samuel's rejection of Saul, and his poor state? Do they now seek the best opportunity to avenge their earlier defeats at his hand?

SOCOH IN JUDAH: A few miles southwest of Jerusalem, at the border of Israel and Philistia.

EPHES DAMMIM: Sig "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. The "border of blood" marked the crest, or high point, of human power -- the point where it was to be broken and turned back. "This far you may come and no farther; here is where your proud waves halt" (Job 38:11). As such, "Ephes Dammim" typifies Golgotha in the past, and Armageddon in the future: the sites where "sin" reaches its high-water mark and is afterward repulsed by the Hand of God. (Linguistically, Ephes Dammim is closely related to "Aceldama" -- the "field of blood", where the traitor Judas met his fate: Acts 1:19.)

1Sa 17:2

ELAH: Fem "ail", sig "great tree". Oak sym the righteous (Isa 61:3; 65:22; Psa 1:3).

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. Figuratively, too, Israel will have to go through the "valley of Achor (trouble)" (Hos 2:15), and the "valley of Baca (tears)" (Psa 84:5-7) before finally reaching the Kingdom of God.

1Sa 17:4

CHAMPION: Heb "benayim" = lit, a double space, or the space between. "The man who stands between", ie the 2 camps. Cp Psa 8n ("Muth-labben").

GOLIATH: Sig "exile". From rt "to be naked", or "to be carried captive". Cp Heb 2:15: this was the man who sought to enslave the men of Israel!

GATH: Heb "winepress", ie of the wrath of God (Isa 63:3; Rev 14:20).

NINE FEET: Lit "six cubits": 6 -- a number pointing to the race of giants (cp 2Sa 21:20). Cp Rev 13:18 (666).

1Sa 17:5

BRONZE: Sym the flesh (Num 21:6-9). He was the human equivalent of the bronze, or brass, serpent of Num 21 -- the power of sin destroyed by Christ on the cross (John 3:14). 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.

1Sa 17:7

LIKE A WEAVER'S ROD: Not size but appearance and shape. A spear with a leash or cord, increasing leverage, and thus enabling the soldier to throw it a greater distance. Refd in 1Sa 17:7; 2Sa 21:19; 1Ch 20:5; 11:23 (MNIV 104).

1Sa 17:8

SERVANTS OF SAUL: Sadly, this is true: they followed Saul and not God!

1Sa 17:11

ALL THE ISRAELITES WERE DISMAYED AND TERRIFIED: Ct 1Sa 11:5-11; 14:47 -- when God's Spirit was in Saul. It was a sad, shameful spectacle; not a man of Israel , not even King Saul (himself a giant: 1Sa 10:23!), had the faith and courage to confront this blasphemer.

1Sa 17:12

BETHLEHEM: "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel" (Mic 5:2).

EIGHT SONS: Only 7 in genealogy (1Ch 2:15). "8" sym new birth, circumcision, resurrection.

HE (Jesse) WAS OLD AND WELL ADVANCED IN YEARS: Sig the end of the old, and the beginning of the new!

1Sa 17:13

The 3 eldest sons sym natural Israel: "Eliab" = "El is father" -- the origin of nation (Exo 4:22; Hos 11:1). "Abinadab" = "father is willing, or gracious" (Rom 10:22). "Shammah" = "desolation, ruin" -- the end of the nation (cp Jer 4:7). Thus the "3 days" of Israel's history; in the 3rd day, David (Christ) raises them up (Hos 6:2).

1Sa 17:15

While David preserved his father's sheep, Saul lost his Father's nation!

1Sa 17:16

FORTY DAYS: The number of probation, ruin, judgment: Flood, Moses, Nineveh, Christ in wilderness.

EVERY MORNING: Manna given (Exo 16:21). Fire on the altar (Lev 6:12). Incense offered (Exo 30:7). Praise offered (1Ch 23:30). Service offered (1Ch 9:27). Sacrifice presented (2Ch 2:4; 13:11). God visits (Job 7:18). God is their arm (Isa 33:2). His compassions new (Lam 3:23). The Philistines present themselves (here). God silences the wicked (Psa 101:8). Judgment (Zep 3:5). Administer justice (Jer 21:12).

1Sa 17:17

David is sent by his father with bread for his brethren (cp Joseph in Egypt).

1Sa 17:20

AS JESSE HAD DIRECTED: "Here I am -- it is written about me in the scroll -- I have come to do your will, O God" (Heb 10:7).

1Sa 17:24

Why does not Jonathan, who is surely faithful and brave, take up the challenge? Is he waiting for David too?

Where was the priest, the spiritual leader, to speak to and strengthen the faith of the soldiers? See Deu 20:1-4.

1Sa 17:25

Even with such inducements, no one will venture forth to challenge the Philistine giant.

GREAT WEALTH: Cp Rom 2:4; 11:33; Eph 1:7,18; 3:8.

1Sa 17:26

The "boy" cannot understand the actions of the "men"! "He saw that there was no one, he was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so his own arm worked salvation for him, and his own righteousness sustained him. He put on righteousness as his breastplate, and the helmet of salvation on his head; he put on the garments of vengeance and wrapped himself in zeal as in a cloak" (Isa 59:16,17).

1Sa 17:28

DAVID'S OLDEST BROTHER: Fear and jealousy: the oldest son was afraid; the youngest was not.

THOSE FEW SHEEP IN THE WILDERNESS: The few sheep may be scoffed at by the wicked, but the greatest work is their care; it is God's work! Cp Luk 12:32. Cp also brethren's treatment of Joseph and Moses. "If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ" (Gal 1:10).

YOU COME DOWN ONLY TO WATCH THE BATTLE: Since David has no gifts with him (v 22), his coming is misconstrued. See Joh 1:11: "He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him."

1Sa 17:29

NOW WHAT HAVE I DONE?: "If I said something wrong, testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?" (Joh 18:23).

CAN'T I EVEN SPEAK?: "Is there not a cause?" (AV; ASV). 'Isn't there a reason either for my coming to the camp?' Or 'Isn't there a reason for my being sent by my father?' (Cp sacrifice of Christ: "For this very reason I came to this hour": Joh 12:27.)

1Sa 17:32

LET NO ONE LOSE HEART: "Do not let your hearts be troubled. You trust in God; trust also in me" (John 14:1).

"When confronted with a Goliath-sized problem, which way do you respond: 'He's too big to hit"... or, like David, 'He's too big to miss'?"

1Sa 17:33

YOU ARE ONLY A BOY: But David was already a brave warrior: 1Sa 16:18.

1Sa 17:34

"Like a roaring lion or a charging bear is a wicked man ruling over a helpless people" (Pro 28:15).

1Sa 17:37

GO, AND THE LORD BE WITH YOU: Coming from Saul, these are idle and empty words!

1Sa 17:38

A BRONZE HELMET: Such a helmet (v 5) was to do Goliath no good (v 49)!

1Sa 17:39

No power of flesh is needed: no titles, no elaborate dress or weapons, no ritual. 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 "seed of the serpent" in numbers, experience, prestige, and learning. Their defense -- and offense -- must be in the "shield" of faith and the "sword" of the Spirit (Eph 6:16,17)!

1Sa 17:40

STAFF: "Your rod and your staff, they comfort me" (Psa 23:4).

Why 5 stones? Because Goliath had 4 brothers/sons: 2Sa 21:15-21. Also, 5 books of LM: the word of God is the true "sword of the Spirit" (Eph 6:17)! The victory of Christ (the little stone) introduces the 5th great empire (Dan 2).

SMOOTH: Smooth stones fly straighter. Stones whose rough edges have been rounded off, by living water (Psa 119:9; Joh 4:4-14; 7:37-39). Stone = Christ (Psa 118:22; Dan 2:34).

STREAM: "He will drink from a brook beside the way; therefore he will lift up his head" (Psa 110:7). Stream sig God's word in Psa 119:103; 36:8,9; 42:1.

SLING: Made of animal skin, pointing to sacrifice. The sling (sym Christ's sacrifice) gave power and direction to the stone (God's word)!

1Sa 17:42

ONLY A BOY: Faith as a child (Mat 18:3). Cp other young men: Joseph, Samuel, Jeremiah, Daniel, Josiah, John Bapt, Jesus. "Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young" (1Ti 4:12).

1Sa 17:43

AM I A DOG?: Goliath WAS a "dog": alien, outsider, unclean (cp Rev 22:15; cp Psa 22:16,20).

1Sa 17:45

David knew the promise of Deu 20:1-4! As did Paul: "The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds" (2Co 10:4). The name of Yahweh is a strong tower (Pro 18:10).

1Sa 17:46

// Eze 39:7,17; Rev 19:17,18.

Interesting contrast: "All the world... Elohim" (v 46); and "all those gathered here (ie Israel)... Yahweh" ((v 47).

1Sa 17:49

HE SLUNG IT AND STRUCK THE PHILISTINE ON THE FOREHEAD: "Some say, that when David said he would give his flesh to the fowls of the air, at the mention of that [Goliath] looked upwards, and what was upon his forehead fell backwards, and then David slung and smote him; or he might put back his helmet to talk with David, and hear and be heard the better; and having nothing to fear from an unarmed man, might neglect to put it forward again; or there might be some open space left in the helmet for him to look through, in at which the stone might pass; so the Targum renders it, he smote him in the house of his eyes, so the stone passed through the eye hole into his brain: but after all, supposing his forehead ever so well covered, as the stone slung by David was under a divine direction, so as to hit a person in motion, it came with a divine power, which nothing could resist; and supposing this, of which there need no doubt, it could as easily pass through the helmet of brass, as pierce into his forehead and sink there" (Gill).

"See how frail and uncertain life is, even when it thinks itself best fortified, and how quickly, how easily, and with how small a matter, the passage may be opened for life to go out and death to enter" (Henry).

THE STONE SANK INTO HIS FOREHEAD: "...and smote the Philistine on his forehead, and the stone penetrated THROUGH THE HELMET into his forehead" (LXX).


1Sa 17:50

The "little stone" which is Christ impresses itself into the minds of men, and they fall down in worship before the God of Israel (cp idea, Rev 7:3).

1Sa 17:52

The army of Israel, no longer cowering in their tents, take courage from the victory of David and rush forward to help him complete the total victory over the forces of the flesh. Cp Heb 2:15.

1Sa 17:54

THE PHILISTINE'S HEAD... TO JERUSALEM: Head = governing power of nations, is brought to Jerusalem, the city of the great King (Mat 5:35)! Cp Gen 3:15: the head of the serpent of sin, destroyed by seed of woman.

AND BROUGHT IT TO JERUSALEM: Jerusalem proper was still in hands of Jebusites (2Sa 5:6-10). Goliath's sword was kept at Nob (1Sa 21:9), very near Jerusalem (cp Isa 10:32; Neh 11:32). So prob Goliath's head was buried there too. Nob may be Golgotha ('the place of a skull'). "Nob" may sig "head, height, top" (Tes 51:225). Also, cp Heb 2:14,15.

1Sa 17:56

FIND OUT WHOSE SON THIS YOUNG MAN IS: (1) Saul, beset by mental illness and instability, and an evil spirit (1Sa 16:19-23), had (temporarily?) forgotten David (cp v 15). These chs are not out of order. Or... (2) Saul wants to know name of father especially. Notice that Saul and David talk for some time (1Sa 18:1). Saul naturally wants to know the family background of the young man whom he proposes to admit to his family (v 25).

"What kind of man is this?" (Mat 8:27). "Who is this?" (Isa 63:1). And there is in the NT a question about the ancestry of Jesus, and its implications: Luk 20:41. In this context, Jesus being the son of David has relevance.

1Sa 17:58

WHOSE SON ARE YOU, YOUNG MAN?: "Fame and infamy are attached to family names. Jeroboam the son of Nebat was a name to be shunned: to be spiritually associated with it was a sin and a judgment. Son of man, a title taken to himself by the Lord Jesus, is one we all bear. It takes us back in time to the beginning of things when sin and death came into the world through the first man Adam. Son of God was Christ's title by birth and spoke of divine intervention in human affairs. It will be bestowed by adoption upon those who, though now the sons of God, will receive the full experience of the divine nature in the age to come. It is good for us to ask ourselves each day: Whose son art thou? This will help us to decide the course to take, the words to use and the thoughts to think in everyday living" (TMD).

Previous Index Next