1 Samuel 17:1-11

Goliath’s Challenge (1 Samuel 17:1-11)


There are two problems with the story of David and Goliath. First, like the story of “Daniel in the Lion’s Den” and “Jonah and the Whale,” we are too familiar with them. I do not mean that we know these stories too well, for most often we do not. But we think we know them well, and consequently, we have a long list of preconceived ideas. [4]

Secondly, we can get caught up in the trap of not stressing the proper accent of the biblical narrative. If we don’t listen to this text, then we’ll end up bringing in all the junk about being courageous in the face of your “Goliaths” – whether the bully down the street (for youth) or one’s poor self-image (everyone’s preoccupation). [1]

As we approach this text, let us think through this text afresh. To provide us with a structure, I will follow T.A. Boogaart’s observation (as noted by Tremper Longman [2]) of a cycle of confrontation-challenge-consternation that is repeated three times in the chapter.


Confrontation: Philistines & Israelites Face Each Other (vv. 1-7)

The first cycle of confrontation-challenge-consternation is found in verse 1. There are three comments that are worth making associated with the confrontation in this passage.

First, notice that neither side seems to be interested in fighting. The Israelites appear to want to fight a defensive battle. They want the Philistines to attack up the hillside. The Philistines, on the other hand, with their steel, bronze, and chariots (13:5) want to fight the battle on the level plain of the valley floor.

Second, this stalemate enables the writer to introduce the “villain” of our story. Since neither side is eager to fight the battle on the other’s terms, Goliath (as the “champion” of the Philistines, not the commander or the king), takes this opportunity to approach the Israelites and propose a solution to the stalemate between the two armies. This is an easy challenge for Goliath to make. After all, this fellow is a giant!

Third, I do not want you to miss the connection between this description of Goliath and the material in the preceding chapters. That is because we have heard something about impressions, something that applies to giants (Goliath) as well as to kings (Saul). We are to “take no notice of one’s appearance or his tall stature!” [1]


Challenge: Goliath Defies the Ranks of Israel (vv. 8-10)

Twice a day (morning and evening), Goliath approaches the Israelite front lines and challenges any Israelite warrior with the courage to come out and fight him. I can envision that as each day passes, Goliath gets more confident and more taunting in his challenges. As this is taunt speech, and not a negotiation, it is not surprising that the promise was not kept when the Philistine champion is defeated. [3]


Consternation: Saul and Israel Are Dismayed and Terrified (v. 11)

The Israelites do not take Goliath’s challenge lightly. Along with their king, they are terrified by this Philistine giant. They are all so frightened that no one is willing to accept Goliath’s challenge. No one wants to take on this giant. Morning and evening for forty days Goliath tries to provoke someone to fight him, and he terrorizes those who do not. [4]


End Notes

[1] Dale Ralph Davis, “1 Samuel – Looking on the Heart”

[2] Tremper Longman III & Daivd E. Garland, “The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: 1 Samuel – 2 Kings”

[3] David Toshio Tsumura, “The First Book of Samuel”

[4] Robert Deffinbaugh: “David and Goliath” (1 Samuel 17:1-58)

[5] Robert Deffinbaugh: “David Joins Saul’s Family” (1 Samuel 18:1-30)

[6] See — Robert Alter, “The David Story” and David Toshio Tsumura, “The First Book of Samuel”

[7] See — Robert Deffinbaugh: “David Joins Saul’s Family” (1 Samuel 18:1-30), Dale Ralph David, “1 Samuel – Looking on the Heart”, Tremper Longman III & David E. Garland, “The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: 1 Samuel – 2 Kings”, and Robert Alter, “The David Story”

[8] S.G. DeGraff, “Promise and Deliverance”

[9] Robert Deffinbaugh: “David’s Divine Deliverance” (1 Samuel 18:30-19:24)

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