David and Goliath...and Saul

Last we left off, Saul was made king of Israel. He had his doubters, who he proved wrong by being successful in battle. It seemed that maybe everything was going to be okay, that Israel would unite under a king who was faithful to God and everything would be good!

Then Saul got impatient and committed an act only allowed to priests, disobeying Samuel and more importantly God. As if that wasn’t bad enough—later in a story we’re going to skip—Saul defeats the Amalekites but instead of completely irradiating them as God commanded, he allowed their king to live and basically looted their town—which God has specifically instructed them not to do. It’s becoming very clear that as king, Saul does what he wants and not what God wants.

A new king must be found, but this is easier said than done. For Israel already has a king. Even if God has decided that Saul isn’t to be king anymore, the people still like him as king. The people aren’t ready for a new king. So anyone identified would have to be extraordinary but also will have a difficult road ahead of them, fighting against Saul and his followers. This is not going to be an easy transition of power.

So one would think God would choose a great general, someone who is even more tall and mighty than Saul. But as we’ll see God doesn’t always think along the lines we do.

Someone please read 1 Samuel 16:1-5.

16 The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul? I have rejected him from being king over Israel. Fill your horn with oil and set out; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.” 2 Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears of it, he will kill me.” And the Lord said, “Take a heifer with you, and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.’ 3 Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; and you shall anoint for me the one whom I name to you.” 4 Samuel did what the Lord commanded, and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city came to meet him trembling, and said, “Do you come peaceably?” 5 He said, “Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord; sanctify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.” And he sanctified Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.

Samuel is very upset over this whole Saul disaster. Sure Samuel was opposed to Israel having a king at all, but once God chose Saul, Samuel put his whole support behind him. Samuel invested in him, guiding and leading him as a spiritual leader to him. To see Saul turn away from God again and again, well it was very difficult for him. But here God is like “Samuel, it’s time to get out of your funk. We have a new king to find.”

Samuel is hesitant, because if Saul knows Samuel is out looking for a new king—well the old king isn’t going to allow a new king, is he? So if Saul knows, he’ll kill Samuel. But God gives Samuel a plan, saying he should take a cow with him and then say he’s going to sacrifice the cow and invite this dude Jesse of Bethlehem. And then from Jesse’s family, God will show Samuel which is meant to be king.

So Samuel does as God instructs him. He goes to the town, and the townspeople are worried, worried that Samuel might start something and bring Saul’s attention there. But Samuel tells them he’s just there for a sacrifice and they are relieved.

Samuel invites Jesse and all of his sons to this sacrifice. One of Jesse’s sons will be the new king.

Can someone read 1 Samuel 16:6-7?

6 When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is now before the Lord.” 7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

Jesse and his sons arrive, and Samuel looks at the oldest Eliab and think “Surely this is the one!” Eliab is probably 30 years old or older, so established in life, his appearance seems to be handsome and impressive to Samuel. But God reminds Samuel that God doesn’t judge people based on the outside. He sees what’s in their heart. And for whatever reason, Eliab doesn’t make the cut.

But Eliab is not Jesse’s only son. He has eight sons. Someone please read 1 Samuel 16:8-11.

8 Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. He said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” 9 Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” 10 Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, and Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen any of these.” 11 Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here.”

Son after son Jesse parades before Samuel, but each one Samuel is like “newp, this isn’t the one.” And finally the seventh son—the last son present—goes before Samuel and Samuel is like “Not him either. Are you sure all of your sons are here??”

Jesse didn’t know Samuel was going to pick a king from his sons. He just got an invitation from the prophet of God to come with his family to sacrifice to God. But the home front needed to be taken care of—so he left his youngest, who was probably a teenager while the rest were adults—back home to take care of the sheep.

After all, surely a prophet of God didn’t need to see the youngest and by law least of Jesse’s sons.

But Samuel says to bring him.

Can someone please read 1 Samuel 16:12-13?

12 He sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. The Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; for this is the one.” 13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward. Samuel then set out and went to Ramah.

David is brought before Samuel. He’s described as “ruddy” which if you remember means “red” but basically means “very handsome.” And God identifies that this boy is the one, the one who will be king.

David, the least of Jesse’s son, who when Jesse one day dies would get the absolute smallest inheritance of all of his brothers, if he gets anything. David, who Jesse didn’t really think was important enough to come meet Samuel. David, a shepherd boy is chosen to be king.

This isn’t the first time God has favored or chosen the younger son. Cain was the oldest, but God favored Abel. Ishmael was older, but it was Isaac who was chosen. Esau was the older brother, but it was Jacob that God chose to be the father of Israel. Joseph and Benjamin were both the youngest of Jacob’s sons but his most favored.

God constantly turns human expectations on their head, and it’s no different here with David. This youngest of Jesse’s sons is to be the one favored by God, the one who will be king.

But he’s not king yet.

Now we’re going to read what is probably the most famous story about David, that is David and Goliath. Can someone please read 1 Samuel 17:1-7?

17 Now the Philistines gathered their armies for battle; they were gathered at Socoh, which belongs to Judah, and encamped between Socoh and Azekah, in Ephes-dammim. 2 Saul and the Israelites gathered and encamped in the valley of Elah, and formed ranks against the Philistines. 3 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. 4 And there came out from the camp of the Philistines a champion named Goliath, of Gath, whose height was six[a] cubits and a span. 5 He had a helmet of bronze on his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail; the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of bronze. 6 He had greaves of bronze on his legs and a javelin of bronze slung between his shoulders. 7 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.

The Philistines are at it again, gathering in lands that belong to Israel—for remember Judah is a part of Israel. The Israelites obviously can’t allow this so they form an army as well and these two armies are basically camped across from each other, staring each other down.

Then this huge Philistine comes out, a man called Goliath. He’s huge, has super impressive armor and a huge javelin. He’s basically the scariest dude the Israelites have ever seen.

Someone please read 1 Samuel 17:8-11?

8 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. 9 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.” 10 And the Philistine said, “Today I defy the ranks of Israel! Give me a man, that we may fight together.” 11 When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid.

So Goliath basically challenges the whole Israelite army, throwing the proverbial gauntlet if you will. He’s basically like “We don’t need to go to a full on battle. Just send out one champion! If he defeat me, we will be your slaves, but if I win you will be our slaves.” Seems like an okay deal, only risking one man’s life instead of many, except Goliath is huge and terrifying and there is no one in Israel even close to his stature. These men are shaking in their boots, all like “What the heck are we going to do?”

Someone please read 1 Samuel 17:12-16.

12 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. 13 The three eldest sons of Jesse had followed Saul to the battle; the names of his three sons who went to the battle were Eliab the firstborn, and next to him Abinadab, and the third Shammah. 14 David was the youngest; the three eldest followed Saul, 15 but David went back and forth from Saul to feed his father’s sheep at Bethlehem. 16 For forty days the Philistine came forward and took his stand, morning and evening.

17 Jesse said to his son David, “Take for your brothers an ephah of this parched grain and these ten loaves, and carry them quickly to the camp to your brothers; 18 also take these ten cheeses to the commander of their thousand. See how your brothers fare, and bring some token from them.”

19 Now Saul, and they, and all the men of Israel, were in the valley of Elah, fighting with the Philistines. 20 David rose early in the morning, left the sheep with a keeper, took the provisions, and went as Jesse had commanded him. He came to the encampment as the army was going forth to the battle line, shouting the war cry.

So three of David’s older brothers are in this army. David’s dad, Jesse, is worried about his sons, so he basically donates food to the army as an excuse for David to go check on them. So David leaves his sheep behind, takes the food, and goes to the battle.

Someone please read 1 Samuel 17:21-27.

21 Israel and the Philistines drew up for battle, army against army. 22 David left the things in charge of the keeper of the baggage, ran to the ranks, and went and greeted his brothers. 23 As he talked with them, 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.

24 All the Israelites, when they saw the man, fled from him and were very much afraid. 25 The Israelites said, “Have you seen this man who has come up? Surely he has come up to defy Israel. The king will greatly enrich the man who kills him, and will give him his daughter and make his family free in Israel.” 26 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?” 27 The people answered him in the same way, “So shall it be done for the man who kills him.”

So David drops his food off with the quartermaster and goes to see his brothers and as he’s talking to them Goliath steps out and gives his challenge.

Everyone is terrified of Goliath but also talking about it. They’re like “Whoever kills this dude, the king will be so grateful too forever, and probably like make him a noble.” And David is like “Yeah, something should be done for whoever puts this dude in his place, because by going against us he’s going against the army of God!” And the others agree and are like “Yeah, whoever kills him will be an amazing dude and get lots of stuff.” But notice, despite this promise of rewards, none of them are really eager to do the task.

Someone please read 1 Samuel 17:28-30.

28 His eldest brother Eliab heard him talking to the men; and Eliab’s anger was kindled against David. He said, “Why have you come down? 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 just to see the battle.” 29 David said, “What have I done now? It was only a question.” 30 He turned away from him toward another and spoke in the same way; and the people answered him again as before.

David’s oldest brother hears him talking and he’s like “Dude, what are you doing here? You’re supposed to be at home watching the sheep. Instead you just want to see battle and glory. Stupid kid. Go home.”

Notice that Eliab immediately jumps to the worst conclusion. We know that David was actually sent here by his father, that he has his father’s permission to be away from the sheep and that his father directly asked him to go check on his brothers. But sometimes we don’t give our siblings the benefit of a doubt when we see them somewhere we assume they’re not supposed to be. So Eliab is doing the age old practice of yelling at a younger sibling as if he is David’s parent, when he is in fact not.

This happens all the time, it still happens today. Sometimes we think it’s our job to yell at our younger siblings and discipline them for our parents. But Eliab is wrong here, which David points out. David has done nothing wrong. So David basically ignores Eliab and goes back talking to the other dudes.

Imagine if David had listened to Eliab and went home with his tail between his legs instead of doing what we know he is supposed to do in this battle—that is defeat Goliath. It’s something for us to remember. We don’t always know everything, and sometimes just because a person isn’t where you think they’re supposed to be, doesn’t mean they’re not where God wants them to be.

Alright can someone please read 1 Samuel 17:31-37.

31 When the words that David spoke were heard, they repeated them before Saul; and he sent for him. 32 David said to Saul, “Let no one’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.” 33 Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are just a boy, and he has been a warrior from his youth.” 34 But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father; and whenever a lion or a bear came, and took a lamb from the flock, 35 I went after it and struck it down, rescuing the lamb from its mouth; and if it turned against me, I would catch it by the jaw, strike it down, and kill it. 36 Your servant has killed both lions and bears; and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, since he has defied the armies of the living God.” 37 David said, “The Lord, who saved me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, will save me from the hand of this Philistine.” So Saul said to David, “Go, and may the Lord be with you!”

Saul calls for David, and David is like “Don’t worry, my king, I’ve got this. I’ll fight him.”

Saul basically responds, “Are you insane? You are a teenager. This guy is a full grown killing machine. He will cut you down like grass.”

But David is very confident in his own ability, claiming he’s fought lions and bears when they came for a lamb in the flock. Now it’s true that we modern people tend to think of being a shepherd as a very easy gig, just chilling out with some sheep. Maybe whistling at a dog who helps you herd them. But things were different back then. It was a shepherd’s job to protect the sheep from all sorts of animals who might threaten it. Often we Americans think of that as wolves—but that’s a very British/European threat. In Israel it seems that there are bears and lions who might also threaten sheep. So David would have to learn how to fight them to protect them. So David has probably fought a few animals, and this is probably not just the claim of an overconfident teenage boy.

So Saul basically gives him the okay to try to take down Goliath.

Someone please read 1 Samuel 17:38-40.

38 Saul clothed David with his armor; he put a bronze helmet on his head and clothed him with a coat of mail. 39 David strapped Saul’s sword over the armor, and he tried in vain to walk, for he was not used to them. Then David said to Saul, “I cannot walk with these; for I am not used to them.” So David removed them. 40 Then he took his staff in his hand, and chose five smooth stones from the wadi, and put them in his shepherd’s bag, in the pouch; his sling was in his hand, and he drew near to the Philistine.

Saul doesn’t want to send David out unprotected, so he gives David his own armor—since David has known of his own. A bronze helmet, a chainmail coat, a huge sword, and David tries to walk in this but can’t. Saul is a full grown man, old enough to have a son who’s David’s age or older. Saul is a warrior, a king who has led people in many battles. David is a teenager and the stuff is way too big for him. But even when it’s strapped down to size, David is just not used to moving about in this stuff. It’s like putting football pads on someone who has never worn them before. Sure they might protect David, but if he can’t move in it, he’s going to be dead anyway.

So David removes the armor and instead takes a shepherd’s weapons: his staff, five stones, and a sling.

Now when we say sling I don’t want you to think a slingshot. These are not the same thing. This is not something where you create a projectile by fulling back on it and then releasing it. This is more like  a device where you put a rock in it, then you like whip it about in a circle until it reaches the velocity you want and then when you stop the circular motion it shoot the rock out of it. These are also highly inaccurate weapons, generally speaking, but they can be deadly. Because you can put some big rocks in them.

So David goes before the Philistines like this, an unarmed boy. Needless to say they are not impressed. But David is confident, because he knows he has God at his back.

Someone please read 1 Samuel 17:48-51.

48 When the Philistine drew nearer to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. 49 David put his hand in his bag, took out a stone, slung it, and struck the Philistine on his forehead; the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell face down on the ground.

50 So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone, striking down the Philistine and killing him; there was no sword in David’s hand. 51 Then David ran and stood over the Philistine; he grasped his sword, drew it out of its sheath, and killed him; then he cut off his head with it.

When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled.

Even if David only seems like a boy, Goliath is still going to fight him. It’s not his fault the Israelites sent someone wimpy looking to be their champion. So they face each other, and before they’re even close enough for Goliath to be able to use his sword, David uses his sling, shoots out a rock, and hits Goliath in his head, knocking him out or at least knocking him down.

Which is an impressive and impossible shot, because remember a sling is a very inaccurate weapon. So yes David was skilled, but really without God I find it highly unlikely he could have made such a shot.

David then runs forward, takes Goliath’s sword and cuts off Goliath’s head.

This causes the Philistines to run, for not only is their champion dead, but if such a small wimpy boy could do it, how ruthless must the rest of the army be?

Someone please read 1 Samuel 17:55-58.

55 When Saul saw David go out against the Philistine, he said to Abner, the commander of the army, “Abner, whose son is this young man?” Abner said, “As your soul lives, O king, I do not know.” 56 The king said, “Inquire whose son the stripling is.” 57 On David’s return from killing the Philistine, Abner took him and brought him before Saul, with the head of the Philistine in his hand. 58 Saul said to him, “Whose son are you, young man?” And David answered, “I am the son of your servant Jesse the Bethlehemite.”

David defeats Goliath, and Saul says to his commander, “Who is this kid?” And his commander is like “Yo know I really don’t know.” But they find out, that he is the son of Jesse from Bethlehem.

At this point, David has impressed all of Israel, including Saul. We’ll see next week that David will be brought into court, trusted by Saul, and becomes best friends with Saul’s son Jonathan.

But it doesn’t last, because it turns out, Saul doesn’t like when his people view someone other than him as the hero of Israel. Especially when Saul knows God no longer supports his position to king. Saul doesn’t see that David is a threat to him yet, but he quickly will. And that will not be an easy time for anyone in Israel.