David & Goliath
Bible Passage: 1 Samuel 17
The giant Philistine Goliath challenged the armies of Israel to send out their greatest warrior to fight him in single combat. Filled with fear, the Israelites cowered in their tents–until an unlikely representative came forward. His name was David, the son of Jesse. With a stone from his slingshot, he crushed Goliath’s head, and then ran over to cut off Goliath’s head with the giant’s own sword! But the story doesn’t end there. After the great battle, David took Goliath’s head and buried it on a hill outside of the future Jerusalem–a hill that came to be known as “Golgatha,” the place of the skull. David recognized that his victory over Goliath was a preview the even greater victory that Jesus, the Son of David, would have on that hill! Find out why in this lesson!
Listen to Dr. Warren Gage & Dr. Robey Barnes discuss the story of David & Goliath, and how it teaches the gospel by pointing us to the suffering and resurrection glory of Jesus!
The Gospel Connections
In Luke 24, Jesus taught his disciples that every story in the Bible points directly to him! He explained that we simply need to look for the gospel pattern of “suffering followed by glory.” That is, we need to look for something that points to his suffering on the cross, followed by something that points to the glory of his resurrection! Use the gospel chart below to help you find “the story within the story!”
The great battle between David and Goliath is a dramatic enactment of the struggle that characterizes the history of redemption as foretold in the Oracle of Destiny in Genesis 3:15. Goliath represents the seed of the serpent. David, in his youth, represents the seed of the woman. David must go forth to battle with the draconic giant and is destined to triumph over him. He crushes the head of the serpentine giant, and stands victorious on the field of battle. Anticipating Christ and his single combat against the great red Dragon, David goes forth against Goliath with the destiny of the people of God depending upon his success alone.
Goliath as the Seed of the Serpent
David as the Seed of the Woman
1. Goliath comes forth to challenge Israel to single combat. He is covered in bronze (Heb nehoshet) armor, wearing a bronze helmet, bronze greaves and bronze corselets of scaled armor (coat of mail), giving him the appearance of a “serpent” (Heb nahash) (1 Sam 17:5).
1. David answers Goliath’s challenge. He is merely a boy, the eighth son of Jesse and too young to serve in Saul’s army like his three oldest brothers (1 Sam 17:33). David is unable to wear the armor of a man (1 Sam 17:38-39). He goes into battle dressed as a shepherd (1 Sam 17:40).
2. Goliath speaks great blasphemy against the God of Israel, defying her armies (1 Sam 17:10). He challenges Israel to produce a hero to answer his call to combat. The hero will represent the entire people of the Lord God in a battle of life and death. The champion who is defeated will consign his people to perpetual servitude (1 Sam 17:9).
2. David asks what reward the hero who answers Goliath on behalf of Israel will receive. King Saul pledges to make the hero who prevails over Goliath his son-in-law. So David will fight to win a royal bride as well as to save his people (1 Sam 17:25). David secretly knows by faith he cannot die until he becomes king of Israel (1 Sam 16:1, 11-13).
3. Goliath goes into battle trusting in his sword, spear, and javelin (1 Sam 17:45). Goliath is insulted at a boy sent as a champion to answer his challenge, saying, “Am I a dog?” (1 Sam 17:42-43).
3. David goes into battle trusting in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel (1 Sam 17:45). David knows that God has called man to rule over the beast, whether “dog” or “serpent” (Gen 1:28).
4. The battle begins when Goliath takes to the field with his shield bearer (1 Sam 17:41). David comes alone upon the field to answer the Giant. The serpentine Goliath is defeated, his head crushed by the hero, just as the prophecy foretold (Gen 3:15).
4. David takes a stone for his sling and strikes the Giant, and the stone crushes his skull, lodging in his forehead. David runs to Goliath and taking the Philistine’s own sword, he beheads the Giant (1 Sam 17:50-51).
5. The Philistines flee the field of battle before the advance of the armies of Israel. Many of Israel’s enemies die, and Israel is delivered from the threat of bondage. The army of Saul plunders the camp of the Philistines (1 Sam 17:51-53).
5. David takes the plunder of Goliath. He takes the Giant’s armor and sword and puts it in his tent (1 Sam 17:54).
6. Goliath’s head becomes a part of the plunder of David. David takes the skull (Heb gulgolet) of Goliath with him (1 Sam 17:54).
6. David takes the skull (Heb gulgolet) of Goliath of Gath to Jerusalem and buries it outside the gate1, almost certainly at the hill later known as Golgotha (Heb “the place of the skull”) (Matt 27:33).
7. King Saul grows jealous of David after his victory over Goliath, and yet he must keep his promise to give a royal bride to him. He offers Merab, but withdraws his offer, offering David his daughter Mikal instead, hoping David will find his bride a snare (1 Sam 18:21). David will have to overcome the jealousy of his brothers (1 Sam 17:28) and the king (1 Sam 18:6-9) before he wins the crown promised to him by Samuel the prophet (1 Sam 16:1).
7. King Saul takes David into battle against the Philistines again. As they return from battle, the women come out with tambourines to celebrate their heroes. They sing, “Saul has slain his thousands, and David, his tens of thousands” (1 Sam 18:6-7). Saul gives his daughter Mikal to David (1 Sam 18:21). David receives his royal bride in humility and gratitude (1 Sam 18: 23).
Gospel Study Notes
The chronicler gives much attention to Goliath’s armor to show us the ground of the Philistine’s confidence. The description of the giant, with his bronze and scaled coat of mail, depicts him as serpentine.2 He represents “the seed of the serpent.” Meanwhile, David is too young for the battle. While his eldest brothers are in the militia of Saul, David still lives with his mother and father. He represents “the seed of the woman.”
The two champions are juxtaposed in a manner consistent with classical comedy. Goliath is the braggart (Gk alazon). David is the underdog (Gk eiron).3 The reader knows that David has been anointed to be king in Israel by the prophet Samuel (1 Sam 16:1, 11-13). We therefore know that our hero, David, in spite of his apparent weakness, is invincible until he is crowned king. Against this background, Goliath’s raging boasting is highly comedic.
Goliath trusts in his armor (1 Sam 16:4-7). Instructively, King Saul likewise trusts in his armor (1 Sam 17:38-39), which betrays his lack of faith. We have been told already that Saul was the tallest man in Israel (1 Sam 9:1-2). As such the king was the most likely champion to answer the giant’s challenge. The chronicler is deliberately comparing Saul to Goliath to show the contrast with David’s courageous faith. Saul is further likened to Goliath in that he hurls a javelin against David, trying to kill him (1 Sam 18:10-11). Saul’s death, too, by beheading, recalls the death of Goliath (1 Sam 31:8-9).
Goliath is described as a serpent. He expresses contempt of the boyish David, asking if they esteemed him as only a “dog” (1 Sam 17:42-43). The bestial imagery recalls the blessing of God upon man in the beginning to rule over the beast (Gen 1:28). David is a better Adam, for he will rule over the “serpent” Goliath.
The decisive moment in the battle is the single shot of David’s sling that crushes the head of the giant. The Oracle had foretold that the seed of the woman would crush the head of the seed of the serpent (Gen 3:15). The nature of David’s victory satisfies the prophecy of the hero’s victory, ironically by means of the giant’s own sword which David uses against him. Irony is one of the devices characteristic of comedy. Comedy, we should recall, is the genre of redemption.
David’s victory secures Israel’s liberty from the Philistines. Israel plunders her enemies and David plunders the giant, securing his armor and sword (1 Sam 17:54).
David also takes the disembodied head of Goliath as booty (1 Sam 17:54). He takes the skull of Goliath to Jerusalem, where the text implies that he buries it. Why does he do this? David clearly understands that his victory is emblematic of the victory of the Seed of the Woman. He also understands that Moriah is the place where God revealed to Abraham that the Lord’s redemption would be provided (Gen 22:2, 14). To anticipate that victory of the Seed of the Woman over the Serpent, David buries the skull of Goliath on Moriah, outside the gate of the Jebusite city. This trophy of David memorializes the victory of David over the beast. The skull (Heb golgolet) and the homonymic name Goliath of Gath, contribute to the name later given to Golgotha, the “place of the skull” (Matt 27:33). Golgotha is the decisive battle where the Serpent would be finally defeated by the Seed of the Woman, where the sting of sin would be broken and death would be swallowed up in victory (1 Cor 15:54-55).
The promise of a royal bride encourages David in the battle (1 Sam 17:25). The same promise of a bride will encourage the Seed of the Woman in his great battle (Heb 12:2; cf. Matt 22:2).
It is interesting to compare the song of the women of Israel, which they sang to celebrate Saul and David, with the song of heaven recorded in Revelation, which celebrates the Lord Jesus. In ancient Israel, the women sing that “Saul has slain his thousands and David has slain his tens of thousands (1 Sam 18:6-7). But in heaven, the redeemed will sing that “Jesus has saved his tens of thousands of tens of thousands and thousands of thousands, even all who sing ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain!’” (Rev 5:11-12). What a Savior!
- The “gospel” means “good news” (Gk euangelion). In the classical world a herald (Gk preacher) brought the word of victory in the battle to the city.4 The good news of the Christian faith is that the suffering of Christ has won the glory of victory for us!
- There is a cosmic war underway between the Lord God and Satan. We were born into the bondage of sin and death to the enemy. But God had promised the world a Redeemer, who would come as the Seed of the Woman (Gen 3:15). The history of redemption taught us that Israel was also promised a Redeemer, who would be the Messiah or the Christ. In David, the two Redeemer expectations converge. David’s role is to anticipate the Messiah (Psa 2:1-2, 9). His royal line will beget the virgin-born Seed of the Woman (Psalm 110:1; Matt 1:1; Rev 12:4-5).
- Christ’s victory over the Seed of the Serpent on Golgotha delivered the world and Israel from bondage to sin and death. That is good news indeed! Jesus suffered death in order to reveal the glory of his resurrection. By these sacred and mysterious means, the Lord delivered us from death to life, from disfiguring sin to the beauty and virtue of our destiny to be a royal bride! This great story is our story! It is good news indeed!
Dr. Warren A. Gage © 2022
1The Jebusite city is still in the hands of the Amorites.
2Pheideppiddes ran the 26 miles from Marathon to Athens to announce the good news of the victory of the Greeks over the Persians in 490 BC.
3The Hebrew word for “bronze” is a homonym for the word for “serpent.” Both bronze and serpent recall the bronze serpent Moses raised in the wilderness (Numb 21:4-9). The English equivalent would be “copper” and “copperhead.”
4See the lesson “Peter Released from Prison” based on Acts 12, where Peter is the eiron and Herod is the alazon.