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Bible Commentaries
1 Samuel 17

F.B. Meyer's 'Through the Bible' CommentaryMeyer's Commentary

Verses 1-16

Israel Defied by the Philistine Champion

1 Samuel 17:1-16

When their king lost the special consciousness of God’s presence and power, the whole kingdom became demoralized, and the Hebrews had the humiliation of hearing in silence a defiant challenge to “the armies of the living God.” It looked as if the answer would have to go by default-that Jehovah was a God that could not save. The impotence of the Israelites made Goliath still more defiant. At first he came down from the ranks of his own camp on the southern side of the valley and walked vaingloriously through the level plain between the two hosts; but after forty days had passed, he became bolder and came up the slopes where Israel stood. At his approach they fled in terror. Measuring nine feet, nine inches, covered with mail, and carrying a spear, the head of which weighed eighteen pounds, the giant must have seemed very formidable to the men of Israel. And are there not giants equally determined and terrible that threaten us, in national and individual experience, and find us unable to cope with them? We need David’s God and David’s faith!

Verses 17-30

David Unawed by the Giant

1 Samuel 17:17-30

At this juncture David arrived in the camp, sent by Jesse to inquire after the welfare of his three elder sons, who had followed Saul to the war. He also brought them provisions, and a present for the captain of their troop. On arriving at the trenches, he found the army in battle-array but not daring to advance. When the whole story was detailed to the young shepherd, he looked at the incident and challenge from the spiritual side. This event, therefore, marked a turning-point not only in his own history, but in that of his people. One, at least, was found in their ranks who looked at things from God’s standpoint, counted on the God of the ancient Covenant, and was prepared to venture all on faith, 1 Samuel 17:26 ; 1 Samuel 17:36-37 .

His brother imputed to him a restless ambition, an unworthy curiosity. Much in the same way the kinsfolk of our Savior misunderstood His motives and sought to interrupt His work. But David was undaunted and, answering his brother kindly and gently, he pressed on with his inquiries and protests, until the tidings of the young champion reached the king. The victory over himself when Eliab reproached him was part of his preparation for the coming conflict.

Verses 31-40

David Trusts His Former Deliverer

1 Samuel 17:31-40

David was conducted into Saul’s presence-his soul aglow with heroic faith-avowing that he was willing to go alone to fight the Philistine. Saul, however, had no thought of power save that which comes from long practice, 1 Samuel 17:33 , or from helmets and coats of mail, 1 Samuel 17:38-39 ; so he endeavored to dissuade the stripling. It was no small temptation to David to take a lower ground and retreat from his offer. Let us never listen to flesh and blood! They always say to us, after the manner of Peter at Caesarea Philippi, when our Lord spoke of His crucifixion and death, “This shall not be unto thee; spare thyself.” See Matthew 16:22 .

The point of David’s narrative of his encounter with the lion and the bear was entirely lost on Saul. The king regarded these exploits as solely the result of superior agility and sinewy strength. He did not fathom David’s meaning when the lad ascribed his success to the direct interposition of Jehovah, 1 Samuel 17:37 . Already the underlying note of Psalms 27:1-14 may have been haunting the young psalmist’s soul. Saul had no idea that faith opens new sources of power, touches new stops in the great organ, and accomplishes alliance with the Almighty. See Psalms 20:7-8 .

Verses 41-54

He Wins the Lord’s Battle

1 Samuel 17:41-54

David did not wait until his enemy had crossed the valley, but hastened to the streamlet to select the pebbles needed for his sling. Goliath scouted such a champion and cursed him. To this boasting and blaspheming, David opposed the name of Jehovah of Hosts-the unseen hosts of heaven, the twelve legions of angels, of which our Lord spoke. That God-the God of Israel-would assuredly take up the challenge, and vindicate His servant’s faith. Thus all Gentile nations would see that the God of Israel was a living reality, while Israel also would learn the too-long-forgotten lesson that Jehovah saveth not by sword nor spear.

So confident was the Philistine that he did not trouble to draw his sword nor let down the visor of his helmet. One thrust of his heavy spear, he reckoned, was all that would be required. But in a moment more Goliath was lying helpless on the ground. It is thus that God’s champions, in every age, have gone out against giant wrongs, as Luther against Tetzel, or Garrison against slavery; and it is thus that we may confidently over-throw the inbred sins that claim supremacy over our lives.

Verses 55-58

a Loyal Friend and a Jealous Enemy

1 Samuel 17:55-58 ; 1 Samuel 18:1-9

These verses make very good reading. They present the one ray of light in a story which, from this point on, becomes more and more somber. David’s bearing in the hour of victory was so modest and unaffected that Jonathan’s heart leaped out to greet him as a kindred soul; while his advances awoke in David a love almost womanly in its tenderness. When we see Jonathan arraying his newfound friend in his own raiment, we are reminded of our Lord’s great exchange with us. He was made sin, that we might become the righteousness of God in him, 2 Corinthians 5:21 .

David’s harp was now, for the most part, exchanged for the sword, and he became a popular hero. It was the refrain of the women’s ode of victory that opened Saul’s soul to the envenomed dart of jealousy. The milk of human kindness suddenly turned sour. “He eyed David from that day,” not with affectionate admiration, but always with desire to place a malicious construction on every act and word and look. With terrible accuracy James shows the certain progress and development of such an attitude, James 1:14-15 .

Bibliographical Information
Meyer, Frederick Brotherton. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 17". "F. B. Meyer's 'Through the Bible' Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/fbm/1-samuel-17.html. 1914.
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