The Enemy is Always too Powerful
1 Samuel 17:1–11
Samuel Lesson #064
September 20, 2016
“Our Father, as we look at the world around us, often we can focus on so many details that are discouraging and that seem overwhelming. We look at circumstances and situations. We see the trends in the world. We see the things that are taking place in terms of the development and encroachment of radical Islam, especially through unrestrained immigration taking place in Europe, as well as here in the United States. We know that all of this manifests an even greater spiritual conflict and spiritual battle.
Our spiritual life is one small dimension of that battle. We need to learn to walk by faith and to trust in You because we know that this is a long war and that You will be victorious in the end. But in the interim there will be many opportunities to trust You and engage the enemy in individual circumstances. The principles are always the same, to trust You, to walk by the Spirit, to claim promises, and to relax in Your provision and Your protection.
Father, we trust that in this election coming up that we can see a restoration, a movement back. It took many decades to get here. It will take many decades to recover. Even though we do not have a great slate of candidates at the top, there are many at other levels that are important races and need to be won. Father, we pray that You would continue to rear up men and women who know the truth and understand the real issues, and that they can make a difference in the direction of this country. We pray for churches and pastors that You would rear up people who want to know the truth and pastors who want to teach the truth. We pray this in Christ’s Name. Amen.”
We are starting this evening in one of my favorite chapters. For many people this is one of their favorite stories and episodes in the Old Testament. It is 1 Samuel 17, the story of David and Goliath. If you have been a Christian for very long, even if you have not, you have probably heard something about this singular one on one battle that took place in approximately 1030–1040 BC. This is what brings David to prominence.
There are a lot of different lessons and a lot of different things that are going on in this chapter. I want to focus on the first eleven verses, 1 Samuel 17:1–11, which introduces the battle for us, as well as the main antagonist, who is Goliath of Gath. It is interesting how much time is spent in the text telling us about Goliath. The reason is because the writer wants us to understand that this is an overwhelming force, an impossible opponent to defeat other than by the power of God.
Often in our lives we meet similar situations. We think that we face a circumstance or situation where there is no hope. There is nothing that can be done. We can easily yield to depression, defeatism, and discouragement, but as always, we have to understand the principle that is illustrated in this chapter, which is that the “Battle is the Lord’s.”
By way of introduction I want to remind you of a couple of verses and principles in the New Testament that give us a framework of what is going on here in this battle. This is a real battle. It took place in a specific location, which the writer takes great pains to describe. This is not some myth. It is not a legend. It is not some nice story. It is not a parable. It is a real situation that occurred in space-time history. But it is a manifestation of a broader cosmic conflict in the angelic conflict.
In the New Testament Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 10:4 that “the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds.” He goes on to describe what those strongholds are. That ultimately that has to do with the thought life. But these weapons of our warfare deal with the ultimate issue of spiritual conflict. But often when we are involved in a battle we have to recognize that there are things that we also do that are of secondary or tertiary significance.
Let me give you an illustration. If we are going to go into battle, and this is talking about the spiritual life, ultimately we have to understand the spiritual skills that I often teach. We have to understand how to implement them. On Sunday morning I talked about the problems that we have in this country with our political situation. We have political situations. We have social situations. We have elements of our culture that are people in groups that are screaming about being victims of injustice. This is always been true.
There is a vocalization that is going on today that is distressing because the narrative is being recouched and developed within a Marxist framework, which is as anti-biblical as it can be. Part of Marxism is the idea that we can have a utopia, that we can have perfection in this world. That runs completely contrary to what Scripture says. The fact that we live in a corrupt world does not excuse injustice, but it makes us realize that we cannot create a utopia.
That utopia is at the heart of progressive thought, which not only characterizes the left, but characterizes much of the middle. The problem with the Republicans is they are not conservatives, they are progressives. They have all bought into a human viewpoint philosophy. We are engaged in a battle in two levels. We are engaged in a battle at one level where we are to go to the voting booth, and we are to vote. We are to become knowledgeable.
We are involved in the battle at the other levels where it is important to discuss, engage, inform, and educate our representatives, because if we do not do it who will? But that is not the ultimate battle. That is only one lower-level dimension of the battle. The real battle is a spiritual battle. That is the kind of thing that we have to engage a different way. That involves spiritual weapons. It involves using the faith-rest drill, the promises of God, and things of that nature.
When Paul is talking here he is not talking in a mystical sense. He is dealing with the fact that there is a spiritual dimension to the battle. There are also physical dimensions to the battle. He is talking about spiritual dimensions. He says “the weapons of our warfare are not carnal.” The Greek word for “carnal” is the Greek word SARKIKOS, which is based on the word SARX for flesh or the sin nature.
We do not fight the battle based on the tools that come from our sin nature. This is what I was talking about on Sunday morning. You look at a lot of the techniques that are out there. A lot of it is street theater. We see this in athletes who do not want to stand for the National Anthem. That is not a biblical tool. That violates a number of biblical principles. It creates division.
Most people do not even know why these athletes are not standing. They just know that the athletes have created a position. They are not going to stand for the National Anthem. Nobody cares what their real issue is. They only recognize that what they are doing is wrong and a slap in the face for our country. That is the kind of thing that tells you right away that this is a product of the flesh. It is a sin-nature-based tool. There are other ways and other environments, and other venues to do the right thing the right way.
Paul faces the same kind of problem in Galatia in a spiritual sense. They were trying to lead the spiritual life through wrong means. Remember, a right thing has to be done a right way for it to be right. A right thing done a wrong way is wrong. You can be moral without the Spirit, and it is wrong. You can seek justice on a basis that is not on the Word of God, not from the Word of God, and it is wrong. The result of that is going to cause division. That is what Paul gets to in Galatians 5. The works of the flesh become evident.
If you see the characteristics of hatred, enmity, and division, it is not the result of doing the right thing the right way. It is the result of maybe doing the right thing the wrong way or a wrong thing done in the wrong way. This is what the Galatians were doing. That is why Paul said:
Galatians 3:3, “Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?”
You started in the Spirit. You trusted in Christ, faith alone in Christ alone, and now you are trying to grow up and mature by doing it according to the flesh. You are using the weapons of fleshly warfare. You are using the modus operandi of psychology, of sociology, of political theater in order to achieve those ends. That is wrong.
The solution as Christians is Galatians 5:16, “Walk by the Spirit and you will not fulfill the lust of the flesh.”
Spiritual goals must be achieved through spiritual means. When we are a Christian we always have to do it the biblical way. It does not matter what. I remember one time having a conversation where the discussion was on the potential value of humanistic psychology. The comment was made, “Well some of that helps because it gets the people functional.”
My response was that the goal of the Christian life is not to help people function apart from the Word of God. The goal of every Christian is to help people realize they cannot function at all apart from the Word of God. It is only on the basis of the Word of God that we can not only function, but we can have real joy and happiness and peace. For a Christian to opt for second best is to be a friend of the world and at enmity with God. That is part of spiritual conflict.
Ephesians 6 is another key passage:
Ephesians 6:10, “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.”
That is where our strength lies. This is what we are going to see in David. David comes to the battle because he faces it with a divine viewpoint framework. He understands what the real issues are. He does not show without his sling and his stones and his staff.
- The mystic would say, “I am just going to trust God.” They would fold their hands and close their eyes in prayer and expect that somehow God is going to miraculously intervene.
- The rationalist or the empiricist is going to say, “Well I have to figure out a way to use some skill, some technique, and put their trust in the technique, the skill, the psychology, the sociological principle, something like that, rather than in trusting God.
David shows up recognizing there are two issues here. Ultimately there is the spiritual issue. He says the battle is the Lord’s, but he shows up with a sling and five stones and with his staff. You are dealing with two areas of engagement.
- Ultimately what gives significance to the sling and the stones is the understanding that we are doing it in the power of God’s might.
- Ultimately the battle was not against Goliath. The battle was against what Goliath was a part of. He is a human agent within the framework of God’s enemy Satan, who is seeking to destroy His people Israel.
We always have to remember that it is not the people that we are engaged with in the battle. The battle is not with the Muslim who lives next door. It is with Satan, who energizes and empowers Islamic theology and Islamic religion. We have this tension. We have somebody who is a potential national enemy, but we are to love our enemy. We are to engage them with the gospel. If every Muslim in America converted to Christ we would not have a problem. That is the ultimate solution.
We need to understand that what Paul is saying here in Ephesians 6:12–13, “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood.” That is not the ultimate enemy. Sure, it may be an enemy at some point, but it is not the ultimate enemy. That is what Paul is talking about. What we are really wrestling is the power behind them, which are the demons, the principalities, powers, the rulers of the darkness of this age, the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. That is the framework for helping us understand what is going on with this battle with David and Goliath.
1. Goliath was a real flesh-and-blood enemy. He was the representative of the Philistines who were the avowed enemy of God’s people, Israel.
The Philistines were being used by Satan to wipe Israel off the planet and prevent them from living on the basis of God’s promise in terms of the land. Goliath represented all that opposed God, all that opposed His will, His plan, and His people.
2. More often than not, when we face the opposition, whether it is national, corporate, political, or personal, it always appears to be overwhelming. There does not appear to be any hope at all.
I was thinking this last week. Something came up. I was thinking about William Wilberforce. As William Wilberforce worked within the framework of the Parliament in England to end the slave trade, it took him about 30 years. It took a lot of work engaging people, but ultimately it was the prayer support and the work of other believers who supported him and his work in that process. It is some times difficult as believers not to look at those who represent the other side as the real enemy.
3. Though there are things that we do on a personal or a physical level, ultimately we have to subsume everything under the plan of God.
We have to understand that just as David picked up the five stones and the sling, he also avoided the rational and empirical solution that Saul offered, which was to put on Saul’s armor and to take Saul’s weapons and go into battle. He also avoided the other option of mysticism of praying and expecting God to miraculously change the circumstances. He did what he was trained to do at one level, and spiritually he did what he was trained to do at that level.
4. Finally, we must always remember that whether the adversities that we face are small or large, whether they have to do with our own personal health or incapability, or whether they have to do with things that are vastly beyond our control, the battle is always the Lord’s. How we function on the battlefield is always determined by the Word of God.
As we start 1 Samuel 17 I want to mention a couple of things that are usually brought up in reference to this. This is a very long chapter. There are 58 verses in this chapter describing this event. Actually, within the manuscript tradition of the Old Testament, there are a number of different versions. The Septuagint version is much shorter than the Masoretic Text. It is 46% shorter. It is missing 27 out of the 58 verses. That is a very different tradition.
There are critics that come along and say “See, this just shows that the Bible cannot be from God because there are all these contradictions in the story. You have these different manuscripts. Some are longer stories, and some are shorter stories …” The problem here is that they come with a presupposition that it is not the Word of God. As soon as they see something that appears to be a contradiction then they assume that it is without doing the necessary spade work academically to show that ultimately everything fits together.
If you read or listen to some people, you watch something on the History Channel or one of the other channels dealing with David and Goliath, they will point out these discrepancies. But the reality is that all these discrepancies are superficial. They do not really show any inherent problems or contradictions in the text if you are willing to deal with the text just as you would any other piece of literature. There are explanations for every alleged contradiction. The Masoretic Text seems to be the best. It does not have any real inherent problems to it.
Many people, even a number of evangelicals are influenced by liberal critics of the Bible. They argue that there are a lot of contradictions in the account. Some of this seems to be that the things that are said in 1 Samuel 17 almost appear that it is totally disconnected from what we just studied in 1 Samuel 16. That David has been anointed king. He has been brought to the palace. He has a relationship with Saul.
We see at the end of 1 Samuel 16, in 1 Samuel 16:21, “So David came to Saul and stood before him. And he (Saul) loved him (David) greatly, and he (David) became his (Saul’s) armorbearer.”
You would think that Saul and David have this close relationship, but that is not necessarily so when you look at how things were done in the ancient world. David would have been one among a number of servants to Saul. That does not mean that Saul really paid a whole lot of attention to David. David at this stage, I believe, is somewhere in the area of 16–18 years of age. He is not old enough to be in the army, as we will see, but he is not the little kid that cartoons and children’s books often portray.
When Saul asks what kind of credentials do you have to go into battle with Goliath? David says, if you translate it idiomatically, what he did when he was a shepherd. That he protected his father’s sheep from the incursions of the mountain lions and the bears. If you read the account it says that David would grab the mountain lion by the beard and then beat it to death with his rod.
Does anybody want to volunteer for that job? David had real courage, but he had strength and he had skill. That tells us that the musculature that he had was not the musculature of a prepubescent boy. David has a well-developed musculature. He has physical strength. He is not doing that in any kind of miraculous way. It is his background and training. He is fairly strong. David would be with other armorbearers.
1 Samuel 16:22, “Then Saul sent to Jesse, saying, ‘Please let David stand before me, for he has found favor in my sight.’ ” Saul gets David’s father’s permission.
1 Samuel 16:23 gives us a summary of what goes on through this period of time. That whenever this evil spirit that was sent by God, under His permissive will, to bring this fear and anxiety to Saul, that David would play the harp and Saul would become refreshed, and the distressing spirit would depart from him. That is a summary statement. At the same time, it is not denied that this is going on in 1 Samuel 17.
In 1 Samuel 17:15 we are told that “David occasionally went and returned from Saul to feed his father’s sheep at Bethlehem.”
David is going back and forth. During this time, for however long it went on, Saul is not paying a whole lot of attention to this kid. He is not on his radar. David would be taken care of by whoever was in charge of Saul’s servants.
Another thing that we see that is often brought up as a contradiction is that there are discrepancies in the biblical accounts as to who actually killed Goliath.
In 1 Samuel 17:50 we are told “David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone, and struck the Philistine and killed him. But there was no sword in the hand David.”
In 2 Samuel 21:19 the text says, “Again there was war at Gob with the Philistines, where Elhanan the son of Jaare-Oregim the Bethlehemite killed the brother of Goliath the Gittite …” in the New King James Version.
In the Hebrew “the brother of” is not there. It just reads: “killed Goliath the Gittite.” It looks like Elhanan is said to be the one to kill Goliath. The reason they supplied “the brother of” in the New King James Version is because they get this from 1 Chronicles 20:5.
1 Chronicles 20:5 that “there was war with the Philistines, and Elhanan the son of Jair killed Lehmi the brother of Goliath the Gittite.”
There is evidence of a textual corruption in 2 Samuel 21:19. 1 & 2 Samuel has more textual problems then any other book in the Old Testament. It takes a lot of work to go through these particular things, check each one out, and evaluate them. Therefore, based on 1 Chronicles 20:5 there is no contradiction. David killed Goliath, and Elhanan killed his brother Lahmi.
As we get into this episode in this story of David and Goliath, Goliath comes out. He is acting as a champion. This is the same kind of thing you had in the in the Trojan Wars where you have one champion coming out from one army that wants to do one -on-one battle with someone else. For example, in Homer’s Iliad you have Menelaus and Paris coming out to do battle. You have similar kinds of things in the Egyptian history of Sinuhe. You also have it in the battle between Marduk and Tiamat in the Babylonian Enuma Elish.
The point is this was typical of some ways battle was conducted in the ancient world. You had one champion coming out. When Goliath comes out he attacks Israel on a spiritual and theological basis. He insults them by saying that they are going to become servants of the Philistines. The implication is that God cannot protect you. You are going to become our servants, whereas God had promised Israel this land. They are in Judah at the opening of the chapter.
In the opening of 1 Samuel, in 1 Samuel 17:1, we are told, “Now the Philistines gathered their armies together to battle, and were gathered at Sochoh (Socoh), which belongs to Judah.”
This is the land God promised to Israel. That is important to understand. They are on land promised to Abraham in the Abrahamic Covenant. This is Israel’s land that they have a right to own. By claiming that they are going to become servants to Philistines and their gods is an attack on the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Goliath is also attacking Saul. He has completely demoralized Saul. Saul is functioning like a coward. He is not standing up. He is failing in his role as the king of Israel to protect the nation. That is the one role of national government. It is to provide for the security of a nation. That is where our nation is failing us by letting all these immigrants in. That is not a statement that is opposed to immigration. It is a statement that for any nation to survive they have to control the inflow of immigrants.
This is what Israel does. They set up these incredible absorption centers where they train the immigrants over a period of a year. They train the olim, that is the immigrants that come into Israel. They teach them Hebrew. They teach them job skills. They do not have to do that much for olim that come from France or from the United States or some other place in Europe because they have education and skills.
But if you are dealing with the Ethiopians, the Yemenites, some who are coming from the lowest possible levels of poverty in the Ukraine or Russia, then you have to educate them. You have to give them skills. Within a year they will have these olim in a position where they can get a job. They can be productive. They will find work for them, then they will provide places where the immigrants can live initially, and eventually teach then to live on their own. You have to control the immigration; otherwise you are going to destroy yourself as a nation.
It is just like you can be helpful to people who are homeless, but if you open the doors to your house and let every homeless person come in, the next thing you know you will be homeless, and they will have destroyed your house. You just extrapolate that to the national level. It is not that we are against immigrants. We are against uncontrolled immigration that is destructive of our culture.
One thing that we have to understand, I was reading about the Prime Minister of Hungary the other day. He is one of the very few politicians in Europe that recognizes that Islam is completely contradictory and cannot coexist with Christianity at all. To allow Islam to come in this unrestrained manner is a way of committing suicide very quickly, because their religious goal is to destroy western civilization and to destroy Christianity.
This truth cannot be ignored. But we have too many political leaders, who have for a variety of reason, want to deny this or ignore it or act like it is not there. It makes one think that perhaps what they really want to do is simply destroy western civilization as we know it. Thinking that somehow that is going to bring them more money and more power. It is always about money or power.
The Philistines were seeking to keep Israel from expanding and fully exploiting the land that God had given to them, which Israel had failed to do since the conquest. This is an attack on God and on God’s leader, Saul, who is failing to secure the nation.
What we are going to see is that this comes, in terms of the history, right after David is anointed to be the next king. David understands the theology behind this going back to the Abrahamic Covenant and the land promise. David understands that this is the role of the government. It is to protect the nation from its enemies and to prevent the destruction of the nation. That is background.
When we look at the text itself in 1 Samuel 17:1 it gives us the setting, “Now the Philistines gathered their armies together to battle.” This is an invasion of the territory that is controlled by Israel. The Philistines want to take it over again. We have already seen this before under Samuel. We saw the defeat at the battle of Aphek. Now this is happening again. The Philistines are Israel’s consistent enemy. In a typological way the Philistines represent Satan. They are empowered by Satan. They understand that it is their gods against the God of Israel, that this is a religious conflict.
In the same way, to make another obvious application, Islam understands the same thing. That it is their god Allah against the God of the Christians and the Jews. Whether anybody here in this nation or in Europe understands that is irrelevant. That is how the Islamist look at it. The Islamist understands a spiritual dimension to the conflict. When they say “Allahu Akbar” that does not mean “god is great”. It means “Allah is greater.”
Greater than who? Greater than your God. It is a theological claim. They are constantly asserting these kinds of things. If we could go into the Dome of the Rock, you can look this up on the Internet, which is the mosque that is built over what is considered to be the foundation stone on the Temple Mount, where the Holy of Holies was.
If you stand across the Kidron Valley and you get at a level and look west, you can see that the Dome of the Rock is higher than the domes on the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. It is a physical statement that Islam is superior to the Cross. If you go inside the Dome of the Rock you will find that all of the Arabic that is written inside are the verses of the Koran that state that Jesus is a creature. Jesus is just a prophet. Jesus is not the Son of God. That entire dome is a theological statement that Islam is superior to Christianity.
Yet because people are relatively ignorant or because they do not want to create a problem, it just stays there. But it is an affront, a blasphemy against the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that that sits there. It is a theological statement.
The Philistines understand this. They gather together for battle. The writer takes pains to identify the location. He gives us the setting. What I want to do now is take you through a couple of different maps to help you orient. I know some folks are not map oriented. I could sit and look at maps all day long. Maps are important to understand what is taking place here in a broader sense and a narrow sense. I am going to use a couple of different maps because they summarize and point out what is going on. Then I want to show you some pictures of this particular area.
We are told that the Philistines gather at a place called Socoh. This is Socoh Ridge, which is on the southeast of the Valley of Elah. This valley runs east to west. The Philistines encamp between Socoh and Azekah at Ephes-dammim.
The first map is a broader map. To the northwest we have Jerusalem, which, of course, is still in the hands of the Jebusites. South of Jerusalem, only about 2½ to 3 miles, is Bethlehem. This gives you a scale. It is very close. This is Bethlehem. This is where David is from. Jesse has his flocks out somewhere in this area. All this area would be very familiar to David. They are not that far from home. They are probably about 15–20 miles away from Bethlehem at that, probably about 15 miles.
The valley runs west here between Azekah and Socoh Ridge on the south. The battle is going to take place in the valley. The purple arrows show with the defeat of the Philistines that they flee to their cities of Gath and Ekron. Gath is Goliath’s hometown. All this is very close as you can see from the pictures.
This is another map, a topographical map. It zooms in a little closer. The red circle on the far right shows the location of Bethlehem, which is due east of the valley. If you look closely you can see a light blue line that runs along here from east to west. This is the Elah Valley. Where the red star is it does a dog leg. That is Azekah, which is mentioned in the text, and then it continues its easterly run to just north of Socoh. Gath is due west, then Khirbet Qeiyafa is a tell. That is probably part of the area where the Israelites were encamped.
This map shows the modern highways. This is a highway that goes back to Bethlehem, just above that the Valley of Elah in the lower right hand corner of the slide. The red tent represents the Philistine camp. The blue tent to the north represents the Israelite camp. Azekah is to the west. When we are looking at it in the pictures we will be standing in the stream bed that runs through the Valley of Elah. You will be looking from the stream bed between the two camps directly toward Azekah to the northwest.
Socoh is located near Azekah. There is a remains there. There is a vineyard there. It was an ancient settlement. It is a great location because you are up on the ridge near the location where the Philistines encamped. You can overlook the valley.
Here is a good aerial shot. We are looking north from the lower right. This is Socoh Ridge. Along this highway there is a gas station and other buildings. That is where Ephes-dammim was located. That is where the Philistines would have encamped on this Socoh Ridge.
Below that, just to the north, is the Elah Valley. You follow it with the white line. To the northwest is Azekah. This is a large hill, actually a tell, because there was a settlement there. The ridge line north of the valley is where the Israelite armies would have encamped. This white area here is the area of the archeological find that is located there. That gives you a good aerial overview.
This is another look looking back toward where we were in the previous map. Here is Ephes-dammim (northeast center of slide). This is Socoh Ridge to the northwest. Elah Valley in between. This center hill is where the Israelite army was. The Philistines were to the northeast of the Elah Valley. The Israelites were to the west on the center ridge. The photo was taken on Azekah looking toward the southeast.
This picture is Azekah with Gath to the northwest of Azekah. That gives you an idea of how close we are talking about here. Probably about five miles away. Goliath is from Gath. Again another good overview.
Here is another aerial of Ephes-dammim, Socoh Ridge along the upper north center. This was the area where the Philistines encamped. To the south was where the Israelites encamped. Probably back to the north is Bethlehem, then Jerusalem.
This is another good overview. The area to the south is where the Israelites were. To the north is where the Philistines were. The Elah Valley is in between. Now we are going to go down into the valley and look toward Socoh.
This is what it would look like. This is a field that has been planted and harvested. This is looking at Socoh Ridge in the north.
In this photo we are looking straight down the valley. Socoh Ridge is on the north (right). The Israelite encampment would have been in the south (left). We always have a script and have everyone act out the whole scene with David and Goliath [on our Israel trips]. It is always fun to do that.
This is the hill on the where the Israelites would have encamped on the north side of Elah.
This is looking at Azekah on the northwest side of Elah.
This is a stream bed. Everybody is out there looking for their five little round stones. These are not small. I have seen the ones in the Israel Museum. They are almost as big as a golf ball. Think about that. They are very large. These were stones that were found in the Assyrian encampments where the Assyrians fought the Israelites around Lachish and other areas. These were actually slinger stones from the Assyrian army. These are quite heavy.
Again, more photos of Socoh to give you a sense of the land and what it looks like when you are thinking about it.
We are told in 1 Samuel 17:2 that “Saul and the men of Israel were gathered together, and they encamped in the Valley of Elah ...” The Israelites are encamping along that ridgeline. “… and they drew up in battle array against the Philistines.” You have the Israelites on one side, the valley in between, and then the Philistines on the other side on Socoh Ridge at Ephes-dammim.
1 Samuel 17:3, “The Philistines stood on a mountain on one side, and Israel stood on a mountain on the other side, with a valley between them.” That is repeated. The Holy Spirit really wants us, in these three verses, to make sure we understand the topography, the geography. Why is this important? It is important because this is an east-to-west valley. If Israel loses control of that valley, then it is just like the valley of the Shenandoah in Virginia.
In the early part of the War Between the States Stonewall Jackson controlled that valley, because if he lost control, the federal forces could have driven all the way into the heart of the south. That is exactly what would have happened to Israel. If Israel loses this battle then the Philistines are going to be able to drive all the way to Jerusalem. They will seize complete control of everything in the south. This is a crucial strategic location. It is a crucial battle.
Then the writer takes four verses to describe Goliath. He could have just said that this is one really big bad guy, but he takes painstaking detail in order to help us understand how bad Goliath was, and that he was an impossible obstacle to victory. This is why this goes on for so long before they get a champion.
In 1 Samuel 17:4 we are told that there was “a champion that went out from the camp of the Philistines, named Goliath from Gath.” He is close to his hometown. That is going to become important later on to understand his background. His “height is six cubits and a span”, which is about 9½ feet, maybe a little more.
1 Samuel 17:5, “He had a bronze helmet on his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail, and the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of bronze.” That is extremely heavy.
1 Samuel 17:6, “And he had bronze armor on his legs and a bronze javelin between his shoulders.” He had a javelin hanging over his back between his shoulders.
1 Samuel 17:7, “Now the staff of his spear (that is the javelin) was like a weaver’s beam, and his iron spearhead weighed six hundred shekels; and a shieldbearer went before him.”
I have underlined this (see above). It emphasizes his height, that he is huge! It emphasizes the weight of the bronze armor that he is wearing, the armor that is on his legs, and the bronze javelin that is between his shoulders. This is all extremely heavy. The spearhead alone weighs 600 shekels.
Let’s break this down. His “height is six cubits and a span.” I have read that it depends on how you understand “span”, but the cubit was 18 inches. If you work it out it is between 9 feet 6 inches and 9 feet 9 inches. But when you are that tall who is going to quibble about three inches? Especially considering the fact that we can guess that David was average size, which for an Israelite at that period was about 5 feet 6 inches.
There are a lot of skeletons that have been dug up. You can measure the femurs. You can measure the other bones. You can extrapolate their height based upon a known formula. David was around 5’5” to 5’7”. Nothing is ever mentioned about David’s height. Saul is the one who would go up against this guy because Saul is a head and shoulder above everybody else. He is about 6’2” to 6’4”. It would be assumed that Saul would do it, but Saul does not have the spiritual fortitude to go into the battle.
Here is a chart showing height comparison. The first image (left) is David’s height as a young man. I think they have undercut his height. They are making him a little short. I would think he was more like about 5’5”. There is a discrepancy in the description of Goliath. In the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Septuagint he is about 6’6”. But for somebody who is 5’5” going against 6’6”, why do you make a big deal about this?
In fact, there was an article that came out in the Evangelical Theological Society Journal about ten years ago. The author was arguing why this was better superior data. One of the problems with that is that when you look at the weight of the armor and the weaponry that is described here, it fits somebody who is 9½ feet tall, not somebody who is 6’6” tall.
By comparison you have the middle figure that is 7’1”. That is Shaquille O’Neil, the National Basketball Association star. The world’s tallest man in known medical history was 8’11”. His name was Robert Wadlow. He is not quite as tall as Goliath who is about 9½ feet tall.
This slide gives you an idea of their relative foot size.
- The foot on the left is Goliath. Goliath’s foot would be almost 20 inches long. Then you have the shorter version, according to the Dead Sea Scrolls it would be about 12 inches long. Frankly, that is about the size of my feet. That is not that big a deal.
- Robert Wadlow, who was the tallest known human being, had feet that were 18½ inches long, not much different from Goliath’s.
- David’s feet would have been about 9 and three tenths of an inch long, just over 9 inches based upon the Masoretic Text. Whereas Shaquille O’Neil is about 14 and five-sixteenth inches long. Goliath had an enormous foot.
What is the background? What is Goliath’s genealogy? We need to look at ancestry.com and figure out where Goliath came from. How did this happen that we get this big guy? Is this some anomaly? No, not at all.
First, we have to recognize that there are other giants mentioned in the Scripture. In Deuteronomy 3:11, “For only Og king of Bashan remained of the remnant of the giants [Rephaim]. Indeed his bedstead was an iron bedstead. (Is it not in Rabbah of the people of Ammon?) Nine cubits is its length and four cubits its width, according to the standard cubit.”
These giants are not the Nephilim. Nephilim is not a technical term. It was a complete mistake to ever identify Nephilim. Nephilim is a term that means big guys or giants or monsters. Go back and listen to my studies in Genesis 6. They were not a specific race. The term originally applied to the offspring of the sons of God and the daughters of men in Genesis 6.
When the Nephilim were talked about in later times, after the flood, Moses writes after the flood. He uses vocabulary from that era that these guys were monsters. It was not a specific race. That same term was also applied to the Rephaim, and the Anakim because they were very tall, and they were very large, so that term was applied to them as well.
The Bible is not making a claim that the Nephilim, Rephaim, and Anakim are related. I have read numerous commentaries that make that claim. I want to say, “Wake up, scholars! Everybody, but Noah and his family, all of the Nephilim are killed in the flood. It is a worldwide flood! What part of that don’t you understand?” Nothing of them would survive the flood to have a race of descendants sometime later. It is modern liberal idiocy that does not believe the biblical text.
You have this guy who is a Rephaim, another term meaning he is from these giants. He is the king of Bashan. When he dies they bury him in his bed. There is not a casket big enough. They bury him in his bed. His bed is described as nine cubits in length and four cubits in width, which means it is about thirteen feet long and six feet wide. That is a pretty good size. He would not be quite that big. He is probably somewhere around 11–12 feet tall. He was bigger than Goliath.
Then we have this other group that is mentioned, the sons of Anak, the Anakim:
Numbers 13:22, “And they went up through the South and came to Hebron; Ahiman, Sheshai, and Talmai, the descendants of Anak, were there. (Now Hebron was built seven years before Zoan in Egypt.)”
Remember when the Israelites sent the twelve spies into the land. They came back and ten of them were shaking in their boots. They said that they could not take the land because there are too many people. They have walled fortified cities, and there are giants in the land. They were the sons of Anak. They are living in the land of Canaan. They were part of that Canaanite population. In Numbers 13:22 they are in the area of Hebron.
Numbers 13:28, “Nevertheless the people who dwell in the land are strong; the cities are fortified and very large; moreover we saw the descendants of Anak there.”
Numbers 13:33, “There we saw the giants (the descendants of Anak came from the giants); and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.”
The fact that these men were giants was the spies’ complaint.
In Joshua 11, after the Israelites have taken Hebron, we are told:
Joshua 11:21, “And at that time Joshua came and cut off the Anakim from the mountains from Hebron, from Debir, from Anab, from all the mountains of Judah, and from all the mountains of Israel; Joshua utterly destroyed them with their cities.”
“Cut off” means that Joshua pretty much decimated them, although there were a few survivors. He did not wipe them all out.
Joshua 11:22, “None of the Anakim were left in the land of the children of Israel; they remained only in Gaza, in Gath, and in Ashdod.”
The descendants of these giants, a few are able to escape, and they go to Gath. Where is Goliath from? Goliath is from Gath. He is the result, probably, of intermarriage between some of these Anakim and Philistines. That is why he is so big.
1 Samuel 17:5, “He had a bronze helmet on his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail, and the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of bronze.”
Goliath is armed with a coat of mail. The weight of the coat is 5,000 shekels of bronze. His bronze helmet would have weighed about 30 pounds. The way the helmet is described, the terminology that is used, it probably resembled the helmets of the Assyrians, as seen in the slide. In the slide there is also a depiction from Sennacherib back in Nineveh, where the battle was memorialized over Lachish. You can see the helmets in the slide lower right. These helmets were worn by the slingshot warriors.
The bronze coat would have weighed 5,000 shekels, which is about 150 pounds. You can imagine walking around with 150 pounds. I have had as much as a 75 pound backpack on, but to be walking around with 150 pounds on, and then you are going to fight somebody? You put a 75 pound backpack on, bend over, and then try to stand up. You drop something. You have to pick up your water bottle or something. That is pretty difficult.
1 Samuel 17:6, “And he had bronze armor on his legs and a bronze javelin between his shoulders.”
We do not know how much the greaves on Goliath’s legs would have weighed, but it would probably have been between 20–30 pounds.
1 Samuel 17:7, “Now the staff of his spear was like a weaver’s beam, and his iron spearhead weighed six hundred shekels; and a shield-bearer went before him.”
- A spear shaft resembling a weaver’s beam (about 15 pounds)
- A spear point weighing 600 shekels of iron (about 15 pounds).
Goliath has some heavy armor that is available. He is extremely large. It fits with a 9½ foot tall giant.
We see Goliath’s challenge:
1 Samuel 17:8, “Then he stood and cried out to the armies of Israel, and said to them, ‘Why have you come out to line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and you the servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me.’ ”
Notice the language here. “Choose a man ...” Everyone proves that they are not a man. A man in this passage is revealed to be someone who is not just a good athlete or a good warrior, but someone who understands the spiritual dimensions. What makes a man a man is ultimately his spiritual orientation.
Goliath goes on to say, 1 Samuel 17:9, “‘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.’ ”
1 Samuel 17:10, “And the Philistine said, ‘I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together.’ ”
Goliath wants a real man, not some metro-sexual 21st century American. He wants a real man that they can fight together. What is the reaction? No men.
1 Samuel 17:11, “When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid.”
That word, the Hebrew word for dismayed there shows up every time in the Old Testament that you see a population group who is being overwhelmed by superior enemy forces, and they are scarred to death. It says that they were dismayed and greatly afraid. But David is not going to be afraid.
Next time we get into 1 Samuel 17:12 we introduce David, and we see the contrast between David’s mentality and everybody else’s mentality. What fixes David’s mentality? What makes David, the boy, a real man, and everybody else a real coward, is that David is trusting in God. He is prepared. He has been consistent in his responsibilities to protect the flock, so God is going to advance him. There are some great promises that we see in the Psalms that emphasize this.
The heading says that this is when David fled Absalom when he was much older. He learned his lessons early. David says:
Psalm 3:6, “I will not be afraid of ten thousand of people who have set themselves against me all around.”
If God is going to give him victory over Goliath, God is going to give him victory over all the people that follow Absalom in his rebellion. “I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people.”
This is a great Psalm of trust. It is written when David is captured by the Philistines in Gath, which is later on in 1 Samuel. He writes:
Psalm 56:3, “Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You.”
That’s what makes a man a man and a woman a woman. It is their trust in God instead of giving into fear, discouragement, depression, sorrow, and sadness. They trust in God instead. “Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You.”
Psalm 56:4, “In God (I will praise His word), in God I have put my trust; I will not fear. What can flesh do to me?”
Then David closes by saying in Psalm 56:11, “In God I have put my trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”
We always have to remember that. It does not matter whether it is somebody you are having conflict with at the office, somebody in your family, somebody in your neighborhood, what can they do to me? I am backed by the power of God in Heaven.
David says in Psalm 27:3, “Though an army may encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war may rise against me, in this I will be confident.”
These are great promises for us to memorize and claim when we are facing fear.
“Father, thank You for this opportunity to study these things, and to focus on Your Word, to realize that often we face overwhelming circumstances and odds that are completely against us, but we know that the battle is Yours. We have to learn, like David, to trust You, to trust You in the small battles, trust You in the minor issues, and that builds character and strength that when the large battles occur we can trust You without missing a beat.
Father, we pray that You would encourage us from what we studied this evening, and as we go into this study that we will gain great encouragement and a desire to emulate David in every area. We pray this in Christ’s Name. Amen.”