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Bible Commentaries
1 Samuel 17

Haydock's Catholic Bible CommentaryHaydock's Catholic Commentary

Verse 1

Battle. They perhaps had heard of Saul’s malady, (Salien) and bore a constant hatred to the Israelites during his reign, chap. xiv. 52. --- Azeca, about 15 miles south of Jerusalem. --- Dommim, or Phesdommim, 1 Paralipomenon xi. 13.

Verse 2

Terebinth. Hebrew ela, "the oak." (Aquila)

Verse 3

Valley of the Terebinth, which St. Jerome seems to call Magala, ver. 20.

Verse 4

Base-born. Hebrew, "of two sons," or of obscure origin. (Cornelius a Lapide) --- His parents are no where specified, as Arapha is not, as some pretend, the name of his mother, but denotes that he was of the race of the Raphaim, 2 Kings xxi. 16. Some translate, a man who challenges to fight a duel, or one who comes into the midst as "a champion," to decide the cause of all the rest. Thus the Gaul defied the most valiant of the Romans, but was slain by M. Torquatus, Livy vii. Septuagint, "A strong man went out from the station," &c. Chaldean, "There came out from them, out of the camp of the Philistines, a man named Goliath." But many able interpreters adhere to the Vulgate. --- Span, about 12½ feet, so that he was taller than two common men. Those who call in question the existence of giants, will surely have nothing to object to this formal proof from Scripture. (Calmet) --- The Vatican Septuagint and Josephus read, however, "four cubits and a span," or near eight feet. (Kennicott) --- Some reduce his height to 11 feet 3 inches, or even to 9 feet 9 inches, English. (Haydock) --- His helmet weighed 15 pounds, avoirdupois; his collar, or buckler, about 30; the head of his spear (26 feet long) weighed about 38 pounds; his sword 4; his greaves on his legs 30; and his coat of mail 156: total, 273 pounds. (Button.) (Haydock) --- Goliath was a figure of the devil, or of any arch-heretic, who provoketh the Church of God, but is slain by the humble with his own weapons. (Worthington)

Verse 5

Scales, like those of fishes. Septuagint insinuate, that it was armed with things resembling fish-hooks; Greek: alisidoton, hamata. --- Brass, which was used for the armour of the ancients. Plutarch (in Demetrio) speaks of a coat of mail weighing forty pounds: the usual weight was twenty pounds. (Lipsius) --- The strength of the giant must have borne proportion with his size. (Calmet)

Verse 6

Legs, on the forepart, from the knee to the ankle. Vegetius observes, that the infantry wore such greaves of iron, only on one leg. (Calmet) --- Shoulders, when he marched. (Menochius) -- Some understand a dart, &c., but without any proof. (Calmet)

Verse 7

Beam, which was of a very different construction from ours. Hostius concludes, that all the armour of Goliath must have weighed 272 pounds and 13 ounces, including the buckler and spear which his armour-bearer carried before him. Plutarch allows a talent, or 60 pounds, for the usual weight of a soldier’s armour. Alcimus was remarked in the army of Demetrius, for having double that weight. --- Bearer. Hebrew, "one bearing a shield," or whose office it was to carry it, or any other part of the armour, when required. It would appear singular that the giant should have two bucklers, though David seems to specify two sorts, Psalm xxxiv. 2. This attendant might carry a large one, which would cover most part of the body, and was of service when a person had not to remove far from his place of battle. The buckler of Ajax was like a tower, and consisted of seven hides, covered with a plate of brass. (Homer, Iliad Greek: Z) (Calmet)

Verse 8

Out; exulting, Ecclesiasticus xlvii. 5. (Menochius) --- Servants; I am free. (Haydock) --- Hand. Such combats were very common in ancient times. Paris and Menelaus, Hector and Ajax. The Horatii and Curiatii fought to decide the fate of contending nations. (Homer, Iliad Greek: g, and H.) --- (Livy i. 23.) (Calmet)

Verse 9

Us. It does not appear that this proposal was accepted or ratified by either party. The Israelites had still to pursue the enemy. (Estius)

Verse 12

Now, &c., to ver. 32. And when, is omitted in the Vatican Septuagint, which begins the latter verse thus, "And David said," as the Alexandrian copy does now the 12th, which leads Kennicott to suspect that the intermediate verses are an interpolation, formerly unknown to the Greek version. Houbigant includes these verses between crotchets, "that it may be understood that these are not of the same author as the rest, and that the sacred writer may not be accused of making useless repetitions." It has been observed in the last chapter, that David was the son of Isai, &c. "If, says he, this be omitted, there will be no vacuum in the context," as there is none in the Roman edition: (11) "they were greatly afraid. (32.) And David said to Saul," &c. As he had been appointed Saul’s armour-bearer, it was very natural to suppose that he would be near the king’s person on such an occasion, rather than feeding sheep. We find also, that he had a tent of his own, (ver. 54) which he could not have had, if he had only come to bring provisions to his brethren. The unaccountable conduct of Eliab, the timidity of all Israel for forty days, &c., will thus be avoided. Josephus is supposed to have given occasion to this embellishment, though he takes no notice of many of those particulars which excite the surprise of Pilkington, Kennicott, &c. (Dis. ii. p. 421.) These verses were, however, in the Hebrew before the days of Aquila, &c., and Origen received them from the Jews as genuine. A Hebrew Bible, (1661) with marginal criticisms, by a Jew, includes these verses within parentheses, as interpolated, as well as from ver. 55 to chap. xviii. 6, observing that "the history consists at present of different and inconsistent accounts." The Syriac manuscript of Masius generally confirms the Vatican Septuagint (Morin) so that we conclude, that these verses are there asterisked on the authority of Origen, as not being in the original Greek, nor consequently in Hebrew. (ibid. p. 575.) --- Mentioned. Hebrew, "Juda, whose name....and the man went among men, an old man in the days of Saul." We have already observed that the Alexandrian Septuagint seems to promise a speech, but defers till ver. 32, thus, "And David said, the son of an Ephrathite. He was from," &c. (Haydock) --- Men. Chaldean, "He was an old man, whom they ranked among the young," as still vigorous. Jam senior, sed cruda seni viridisque senectus. (Calmet)

Verse 13

Battle. In these wars, all attended as much as possible, chap. xvi. 10.

Verse 15

Bethlehem, the king being relieved from his malady. "The greatest men formerly kept sheep." Ex antiquis illustrissimus quisque pastor erat. (Varro ii. 1.) In this profession, David found many opportunities of signalizing his courage against wild beasts. (Calmet)

Verse 17

Loaves. The soldiers at that time, and perhaps always among the Hebrews, lived at their own expense, as the tribute which was paid to the king was not sufficient to support large armies, ver. 25. (Calmet) --- St. Paul insinuates, however, that soldiers were paid, 1 Corinthians ix. 7. (Haydock)

Verse 18

Cheeses. Hebrew, "of milk." Septuagint, "pieces of soft cheese:" erts is no where else used to denote cheese. This was a present (Calmet) for (Hebrew) "the Chiliarch." --- Placed, who is their immediate officer. (Haydock) --- Hebrew, "how they are mixed:" their company. Septuagint, &c., "what they stand in need of." Symmachus, "Thou shalt receive their pay." Syriac and Arabic, "what news." Others would translate, "their pledge," or bill of divorce to their wives, that, in case they be made prisoners for three years, the latter may be allowed to marry. (Trad. Heb.[Hebrew tradition?]) (Calmet)

Verse 19

Fighting, or ready to engage. (Haydock)

Verse 20

Magala signifies, "the circle, or chariots." The Arabs still place their waggons and baggage round the camp, or in a circle. (Calmet) --- It may also be a proper name. (Menochius)

Verse 22

Brethren. This inquiry seems rather unseasonable, when all were shouting for battle. (Kennicott)

Verse 23


Up, or proceeding into the vale. (Menochius) --- Camp. Hebrew, "ranks, or armies."

Verse 24

Exceedingly, though they had now heard him twice a-day for so long a time, (Kennicott) and came purposely to engage him and all the Philistine army. Perhaps he proceeded farther than usual. (Haydock)

Verse 25

Tribute, and all public charges, which may be burdensome. (Calmet) --- It does not appear that these words are addressed to any one in particular, nor that the king had authorized such a declaration. (Haydock) --- Yet the people all persisted in the same declaration, so that a promise must have been made. (Menochius) --- It was never at least fulfilled. (Haydock) --- Christ having overcome the devil, receives the Church for his spouse. (Worthington)

Verse 28

Battle. This speech is too insulting, even though David might seem to have given vent to the sentiments of his soul with too much ardour; particularly as Eliab knew that he had received the royal unction, (Calmet) if that were not kept a secret from him, chap. xvi. 13.

Verse 29

Sepak. Literally, "is it not a word" (Haydock) of no farther consequences? May I not speak my sentiments? (Calmet) as all others do. (Menochius) --- Is not the thing enough to excite the indignation even of the coldest person, to hear this monster insulting God’s armies? The repeated inquiries of David, made people conclude that he was ready to fight the giant, (Haydock) though as yet he had made no such proposal, whence it seems more improbable that his words would be reported to the king. (Kennicott) --- Protestants, "Is there not a cause?" (Haydock) --- Have I not an order from my father to come? (Menochius)

Verse 32

Saul. Literally, "to him." But Hebrew and Septuagint have, "And David said to Saul," which makes the connection between this and ver. 11, more clear. (Haydock) --- In him, or on account of Goliath. (Menochius)

Verse 33

Boy, compared with the giant, (Haydock) or Saul, though David might be about 22 years old, (Salien) or near 30. (Tirinus) --- St. Augustine and Theodoret say only 14 or 16. (Menochius) --- He had not yet been in the wars. (Calmet)

Verse 35

Them. He refers to two events, shewing his fortitude (Calmet) and generous disposition, which rendered him fit for command, as he was not afraid to expose his life to protect his charge. (Haydock) --- The pastoral care is an apprenticeship for the throne to him who is designed to be at the head of the mild flock of men, as hunting with dogs conducts to martial exploits. (Philo in Vita Mosis.) --- He who has overcome the spirit of pride and of carnal pleasures, signified by the lion and the bear, is able also to gain a victory over the devil. (Worthington)

Verse 36

I will....Philistine. This is not in Hebrew or the Septuagint, and it is marked as an addition in the ancient manuscripts. (Calmet) --- Single combats, to prevent the spilling of more blood, may sometimes be authorized by public authority. (Grotius)

Verse 39

Armour. Hebrew, "he tried to go." Symmachus, "he went lame." Septuagint, "he laboured in walking once and twice." (Calmet) --- Salien supposes that the armour was not made for Saul, as he was much more bulky than young David. Yet we find that the latter could use the sword of the giant without difficulty. (St. Chrysostom, &c.) (Haydock)

Verse 40

Smooth. Louis de Dieu translates broken "pieces of stones," as he pretends, contrary to the common opinion, that rough stones are more suitable for the sling. (Calmet) --- The learned Jew, whom we have cited above, (ver. 12,) and several others, have inferred from this verse, that David seems to have just come from the flock. But Kennicott justly observes, that slingers were of great service in the army; and the "vessel of shepherds," the bag or scrip, might well be used to obtain the stones; as the staff, makel, denotes a military weapon. (Taylor, Conc.) (Diss. ii. p. 555.) David was very expert in using these weapons, and the ordinary armour was encumbering to him. (Haydock) --- "Valour depends more on its own efforts than on armour," tegumentis. (St. Ambrose, Off. i.)

Verse 43

Gods. Dagon or Baalim. (Menochius) -- Septuagint (Alexandrian) has, "idols." The beauty and accoutrements of David, made the rough warrior suppose that he was not coming to fight, but only to laugh at him and run away. (Haydock)

Verse 44

Earth. The heroes of modern days refrain from such compliments. Homer frequently describes his champions making long speeches in praise of their former exploits. David displays his piety and confidence in God. (Calmet)

Verse 47

Battle, whose armies thou hast defied, (ver. 45.; Haydock) or in general, He is the God of war, who grants victory to whom He pleases. (Calmet)

Verse 48

Arose. The Roman Triarii and the Gauls expected the hour of battle sitting. (Calmet)

Verse 49

Forehead. "The soul....more probably resides in the callous body of the brain," (Eyre, Thesis 1797,) between the eyes. (Haydock) --- Earth, quite lifeless, (Salien) or unable to resist. (Menochius) --- The Balearic slingers scarcely ever missed their mark. (Livy, viii. 4.) The Chaldean supposes that David hit the eye, which was not covered with brass: but the stone might penetrate or kill Goliath through his helmet. Even a buckler is not capable of withstanding their violence. (Diodorus, v. 207.) See Judges xx. 16. (Calmet) --- Pride sits on the forehead, and manifests itself by impudent behaviour. We must destroy it by humility, and by the cross of Christ. (St. Augustine) (Worthington)

Verse 54

Tent, or tabernacle of the Lord, which David erected in his honour, at Jerusalem, many years afterwards. (Jun. Piscator, &c.) The lower part of Jerusalem was already in the hands of the Israelites. He might place the armour for the present in the tent of his brethren. We find that the sword was deposited in the tabernacle, at Nobe. (Calmet) See ver. 12. (Haydock) --- The head was carried about to various cities. It would serve to strike terror into the Jebusites, at Jerusalem, and others. (Menochius) --- The Vatican Septuagint, &c., immediately subjoin, chap. xviii. 6. Now, &c. Literally, "And the women dancing, came to meet David." (Haydock) --- These three last verses occur only in the Alexandrian manuscript, though Theodoret (q. 43,) seems to have read them. In some other Greek copies, there is a long addition respecting David’s combat. See the New Hexapla. These verses are found, however, in Hebrew, Chaldean, &c. It is astonishing that Saul should not have known David. He was now more interested to be acquainted with his family, as he had engaged to give him his daughter in marriage. We must reflect that his malady might have impaired his memory, and David was still growing, so that a few months absence might produce a wonderful alteration, &c. (Calmet) --- Know not. Literally, "if I know." The different dress, in which David now appeared, gave rise to this ignorance. (Menochius) --- Abner was not surely affected with the same malady as the king, who was obliged to ask David who was his father. But courtiers easily forget those from whom they have no expectations. (Haydock) --- These strange proceedings make others conclude that this history is interpolated. (Kennicott) --- Huet maintains the contrary. (Du Hamel) --- Saul only enquires about David’s parentage. (Mariana; Tirinus)

Bibliographical Information
Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 17". "Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/hcc/1-samuel-17.html. 1859.
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