1 Samuel 17:40-54

David Meets Goliath’s Challenge (17:40-54)

The writer now begins his third cycle of confrontation-challenge-consternation in verse 40.

Confrontation: David and Goliath Face Each Other (vv. 40-41)

Goliath is arrogant, proud, and blasphemous. He challenges the Israelites to send him their best warrior, and the winner takes all. Can you imagine the shock to Goliath and his ego when David comes forth? Here is a young man with no defensive armor at all, and seemingly no offensive armor. David does carry a sling, but he has not yet placed a rock in it, so he certainly does not appear threatening.

Challenge: David and Goliath Summon Each Other (vv. 42-51a) [1]

I want to make several comments about this passage. First, observe how the writer allows Goliath to dominate the scene. Starting in verse 41, five times the writer specifically mentions the Philistine. Five times the writer specifies the subject with each verb – the Philistine this, the Philistine that.

Second, notice how much press is given to David’s speech (vv. 45-47) as compared with the combat itself (vv. 48-49). We should not, however, underestimate David’s sling-and-stone routine. Such stones would range from two to three inches in diameter and, when flung by an accomplished warrior, could reach speeds of 100 to 150 miles per hour, all of which would make for a stunning victory.

Third, David’s speech is the third major speech in the chapter, all of which are theologically loaded. David states that all the earth will know from the box score in tomorrow’s papers that there is a God, a real God, in Israel (v. 46). However, David especially stresses that Yahweh saves not by the instruments of human power but through the weakness of his servants.  This theme of “weakness” has been building throughout the chapter. All the important people regard David as weak. But he is the one Yahweh uses to deliver. Nor does David have the right equipment; but he demonstrates that Yahweh brings deliverance without the symbols of man’s strength.

Practical Application — What matters is not whether you have the best weapons but whether you have the real God. In fact, your “inadequacy” may be precisely your qualification for serving God; for his strength shines most brightly behind the foreground of your weakness.

Consternation: Philistines Flee from Israelites (vv. 51b-54)

The Philistines are paralyzed for that one moment, minds racing to take in what has just happened before their eyes as they begin to realize its implications. The same must be true for the Israelite soldiers. And then, after this one moment of paralysis, the Philistines take off on the run. With the loss of their champion, all courage and will to fight are gone. The Israelite soldiers seize the moment and take out after the retreating enemy. There is no better place from which to fight such a foe than from behind, where there is no armor to protect and the sheer weight of their armor hinders their retreat. Armor, swords, anything which slows down the enemy’s escape is cast aside. Bodies of slain Philistines are strewn from the battle site to the very gates of their cities. And on their way back, the Israelite soldiers are laden with the booty they plunder from the Philistine camps.


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