Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, June 25th, 2024
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12
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Bible Commentaries
1 Samuel 17

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Verses 1-3


In the previous chapter David was anointed in secret. In this chapter the eyes of the whole people are turned to him. Here David stands before the whole people and in the first place before God. In the previous chapter he incidentally appeared at court at Saul’s request in response to Saul’s personal need. So there has been a superficial acquaintance of Saul with David, who has also been limited in the outward renown. Now comes the moment when God brings David to the court, in connection with the needs of all the people. The fame which he thereby acquires is general. In this way he comes also permanently at the court of Saul.

The events in this chapter are intended by God as a trial of David’s faith. He could openly testify of the service that the LORD commands him to do. It is also the touchstone for anyone who wants to serve the Lord. For this it is important to see who the Philistines and Goliath are, and who Saul and David are.

Goliath is the Philistine par excellence. In him is united all the power of the Philistines. He is the personalization of the evil spirit behind all the Philistines, as the dragon is the outward form of Satan. He is a giant, impressive as the dragon. Goliath is from the race of the giants. That race was eradicated by Joshua, but there are still some remaining in Gath (Joshua 11:22). Goliath is a picture of Satan as the dragon about to devour the Son (Revelation 12:4). After this chapter David becomes a fugitive, a picture of the feeing of the remnant in the great tribulation, while the Lord Jesus is in heaven.

Saul does not take up the fight. He should have done that. In a way he resembles Goliath. He is also great, and his spear is also characteristic for him. And he becomes like Goliath a persecutor of David. Saul is a picture of the antichrist; Goliath is a picture of the Roman empire. They are each other’s allies in persecuting David. Goliath actually is a bloated Saul.

Why are they here Philistines? It is that people who are amid God’s people in the land and are always out to deprive the people of God of their blessings. We can make an application of showing their power. Like the enemy does here, so will the enemies do in the great tribulation. They will do all they can to keep the people of God out of the land of promise and to kill those who are in it, thus depriving them of the blessings.

For us, the kingdom of David already exists. In David we recognize the picture of our Lord of Whom we are servants. We also have to do with the power of Satan. Satan also wants to prevent us from occupying ourselves with the blessings of heaven. The nominal Christians (Philistines) are his faithful servants. They do their best to keep the believers away from their blessings. But among God’s people there is the true David in the Spirit. Just as David is in the army, as anointed king, but without being noticed, so the Lord Jesus is also today among of His people which is surrounded by evil powers that fight it and want to frighten it.

The Philistines and the Israelites

Two armies have drawn up in battle array. There is no fight yet. Both armies stand on a mountain slope. A valley separates them. There is no connection between the people of God and those who are not.

Verses 4-7


Goliath shows up. He is a giant belonging to a giant family, which indicates his demonic origin (cf. Genesis 6:4). The race of giants is mentioned again in the account of the wars David waged with the Philistines (2 Samuel 21:15-Song of Solomon :; 1 Chronicles 20:4-Ruth :). Goliath is the leader of the Philistines and he is the Philistine par excellence. He is not only “a” champion, but “the” champion (1 Samuel 17:23), the famous champion. The whole army of the Philistines owes its strength to him.

The description given of him, shows what an impressive stature Goliath is. With his length and armor the number six is connected, which is the number of a man and of the beast (Revelation 13:18). Against those weapons and that greatness, the natural human begins nothing at all. Even Jonathan, who has previously defeated a Philistine section in the power of faith (1 Samuel 14:11-2 Chronicles :), fails here.

Verses 8-11

Goliath Defies Israel

Goliath comes forward and speaks his challenging words. His defiance is that he calls the Israelites “servants of Saul”. With his blasting language he challenges Israel to fight him. It means the destruction of the giant, for he defies, but he has no knowledge of God. If God in Israel has a people on earth, the giant will have to deal with Him, even though there is so little of God to see as far as Israel is concerned. When the Philistine sees Israel, he may think that it has no God, but unbelief never looks beyond what it perceives with the eye. In the same way, the stories from the past that clearly prove the existence of God are rejected by unbelief as fabrications.

On the other hand, it is shocking to see that the awareness of the people that they are the people of God is not present in the people themselves either. The defiant words of Goliath, as it were his profession of faith, bring fear to Saul and the whole people. The whole scene shows the powerlessness of God’s people and the absolute need for a deliverer. He is found in David, the man whom no one thinks of. We are not reading about Jonathan. He is a hero of faith, but not of the quality of David, he does not reach to his level. David is a picture of the Lord Jesus, Jonathan of a believer.

The fact that Goliath’s language is nothing but cutting, is also apparent when he is defeated. When he was killed, the Philistines did not keep their word and did not submit to Israel as servants.

Verses 12-19

Jesse Sends David to His Brothers

1 Samuel 17:12-Ezra : explain why David is not with Saul. He is back to his father’s sheep. When he was called to be anointed, he was there (1 Samuel 16:11). When he was called to go to Saul, he was there too (1 Samuel 16:19). He can be found there every time. If he is shortly called to go to the army, he is there as well (1 Samuel 17:15). Every time David is called, he is found to be faithful busy in his daily work.

The contrast with his three oldest brothers is great. They are afraid of the work that is expected of them as soldiers. Like Saul, they represent the glory of man. They are only of slightly lower quality than Saul and just as powerless as he is to fight Goliath.

While David faithfully does his work, the Philistine comes forward twice a day on the battlefield to let his cuddly and defiant words run high. With this he demolishes the state of mind of Saul and his army. Forty is the number of trial. Saul, Israel, and the brothers of David are all being tried. Man has always been put to the test whether he can do something against the power under which he suffers as a slave. But nobody can stand up to the dragon.

While God’s people are afraid of the enemy and the enemy boasts of his power, the father speaks to the son that he must go to his brothers in the army (1 Samuel 17:17). In the same way Jacob once spoke to Joseph (Genesis 37:13). It is a beautiful picture of God Who says this to His Son in view of people who are in the power of Satan. David is sent when the situation is hopeless. There is no one who has any courage to fight.

When Jesse sends David, he gives him blessings to distribute. Thus the Lord Jesus came into the world not to judge the world, but with blessing for the people. Jesse also asks him to “bring back news of them”. He wants something shown to him as proof that they are doing well. Jesse wants to know if they live and how they live.

We see here the care that God-fearing parents have for their children when they are no longer at home, for example because of study. They will want to know how they are doing, where they are staying, which places they visit, whether or not they are places of temptation. They are concerned about how they behave and in what company they are. It is good that children behave worthy their upbringing and remember that if they are not under the eye of their parents, they are under God’s eye.

Verses 20-24

David Comes to the Camp

David goes, but not without taking care of the sheep. He goes because he has received a command from his father.

When he comes close to the army, everyone is in turmoil, because the army must draw up in battle array. Yet it is nothing more than an outward display because there is only fear for the enemy. The noise can impress someone who knows nothing about battle, but in reality, it means nothing. It is camouflage of the real impotence that prevails.

God’s providence brings David to the army at the right time, as both armies prepare for battle. On both sides one positions oneself in battle array. When David sees all the movement, he hurries. He is aware that something is going to happen and feels that it is important to be there. In his rush to get there he makes sure his baggage is in safe hands. Before he does anything else, he complies with his father’s request and asks his brothers about their prosperity. While he is speaking with them, Goliath appears and makes his roaring language heard. It is so remarkable that David hears the words of the Philistine. The Lord also hears all the vain words that people speak and will judge them on that basis (Matthew 12:37).

All the men of Israel also see the Philistine and hear what he says. The appearance of the giant frightens the whole army to death, and they run. All the men of Israel are still afraid, even though Goliath has been doing it for so many days. They do not get used to it. This is because they do not trust in God and He must therefore leave them and leave them to themselves (cf. Deuteronomy 32:30).

David is an exception. He is not afraid because he knows that the LORD is with him. He is rightly a man who we can say is skilled in his work and therefore on the way to promotion. He will be put in the service of the king (Proverbs 22:29).

Verses 25-27

The Reward That Saul Promises

The Israelites talk to each other about whether they have seen the giant. There is no thought of God in them. They also talk about Goliath defying Israel. They do not think of the fact that he defies God. Another topic of conversation is Saul’s promise that whoever will defeat the Philistine will receive a reward. In fact, three rewards are involved: great wealth, becoming his daughter to wife and thus becoming son-in-law of the king and being free from all charges, like taxes and conscription, for all who belong to him.

Here we see a picture of the reward the Lord Jesus received for defeating the enemy, the devil. What Saul promises, the Lord Jesus received from God: great riches, i.e. all power in heaven and on earth and a bride, the church. Also, all His family are free from all charges: they are in the freedom of God’s children, they are free from the law.

David asks once more about the reward for defeating the Philistine. He is, as it were, surprised at such a great reward for one in his eyes, the eyes of faith, so simple thing. The reason for David’s calm is clear. He does not measure the giant against himself, but he understands that it is a matter between the Philistine and God.

His words about the Philistine show that he speaks of him with contempt. David’s concern is not with the reward, but with the reproach that is done to the LORD. He speaks of the army of Israel as “the armies of the living God”. It is also the struggle of “the living God”, an expression that contrasts God with the false and dead idols (1 Thessalonians 1:9). Faith does not see the enemy against the insignificant man, but against the almighty God.

Verses 28-30

David Arouses the Anger of Eliab

When Eliab hears what his youngest brother says, his anger burns. He accuses David of sensationalism, that he only comes to see the battle. That is a bit exaggerated, because there is no battle at all. That is why Eliab’s reaction is also very unfair. The reaction can be explained logically because David’s words are an accusation of the whole army. Then the only reaction is to start to skim, to grumble on the remarks made.

This leads to false statements and accusations. Eliab skims about the flock and doubts that David has made sure that the sheep are safe during his absence. He is not aware that he treats the deliverer despicable

The herd does not seem to have been large. Eliab talks about “those few sheep”. This makes it clear that David is faithful in the small and insignificant and that therefore the LORD can entrust him more. Faith that relies on God cannot prove to unbelief that nothing of the accusations is true. Therefore David does not defend himself. He resembles the Lord Jesus Who also reacted like that on accusations of the leaders (1 Peter 2:23).

The anointing of David will not have made much of an impression on Eliab. Little was said and he will not have understood its meaning. For him at least David is not the future king, but a younger little brother who is curious. The outburst of anger of David’s brother does not make David give up. He quietly goes through the army and informs everywhere. This is how it becomes known that there is a man of faith walking around in the army who, in simple confidence, testifies that there is a God in Israel.

Verses 31-37

David Says He Will Defeat Goliath

The words David speaks also reach Saul’s ear. David has made himself known through his words. They are words of faith. This is how the news becomes known that there is someone who is not affected by what the Philistine blares. When David has come to Saul, he repeats the language of faith. David does not yet speak directly about the LORD. He has the right characteristics to be able to speak in this way, without mentioning the Name of the LORD. It will be clear from his actions that he only relies on the LORD.

David is not satisfied with not having any personal fear but wants to encourage everyone to have the same security. He wants to fill all with the same trust he possesses. In this is expressed his deep connection both with the LORD and with His people.

Saul’s reaction is the language of sober perception, without faith. Therefore Saul does not understand what David says. He has no eye for the power source available to David. David not only says what he intends, but also that he has already proven to fight and defeat enemies. It is not the first time he is fighting the enemy. He knows what it is like to put his life at risk for the defenseless. The people are the flock of God and David will put his life at risk for them.

The Lord Jesus not only promised to give His life, but He also gave it. He also first overcame Satan in the secret of temptation in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-1 Kings :). Then He gained the open victory over him over and through the cross (Colossians 2:15). David is a picture of the Lord Jesus Who could say that He kept the sheep in the Name of the Father (John 17:12). Therefore, when they come to take him prisoner, he says: “if you seek Me, let these go their way” (John 18:8).

When David tells Saul of his victories, he does not speak of the power of the LORD. Yet he understands he has been given the power of the LORD for it and he says so now. He counts on God’s faithfulness to Israel in all circumstances. He knows that he is God’s object of care, for that is how faith always reason. He is God’s object of interest, even more so because his only desire is to maintain the glory of the LORD. Saul reacts with a pious wish that the LORD will be with David. Unfortunately, this desire is not the language of his heart.

Verses 38-40

The Armor of Saul and of David

Saul said, “may the LORD be with you”, but he does the opposite by providing David with his armor. This is a great trial for David, but he appears to be able to withstand it. If David had won the victory in Saul’s armor, the honor would have gone to Saul. The victory would have been attributed to his armor. However, the victory must be entirely the victory of the LORD.

When David has put on the armor, it turns out he cannot go in it. What did the armor mean for Saul himself? He did not gain the victory over Goliath either, did he? Saul’s armor is no more than a variant of Goliath’s armor.

We can compare David’s taking off Saul’s armor with the means Paul used to put the Corinthians on the right track. Paul did not use persuasive language of human wisdom when he came to the Corinthians. He renounced it, that their faith might not be in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. Thus David abandons all human means to go alone in trust in God. All human additions to spiritual power would, in the event of a result, only be fame for the flesh.

That does not mean that David will fight with his bare hands. He is looking for tools. Only he does this in dependence on the LORD. He knows that his aids only benefit if the LORD blesses their use. David’s tools in this battle are no different than those he used as shepherd. A shepherd goes to war.

He is looking for five smooth stones from the brook. Smooth stones have become smooth because of the flowing water. The flowing water is a picture of the Word of God that is applied by the Spirit to heart and conscience. The stones are a picture of the words from the Word of God. If we occupy ourselves with the living water of the Word of God, so that we may know it, the Spirit of God will be able to give us verses from it that we can use in the battle against the enemy.

David takes five stones with him, even though he needs only one. This shows that he is aware of his responsibility. Five is the number of responsibility. Nor does he sway in the wild, he aims well (cf. Judges 20:16), while at the same time he knows that the victory is from the LORD.

Verses 41-44

The Philistine Despises David

Goliath’s amazement is great when he sees David. He experiences it as a great insult that a boy, without armor and weapons, seemingly helpless, comes up to him to fight against him. The curses descend upon David, swung from the great mouth of a demonic man.

The weakness of the cross of the Lord Jesus is the victory over Satan. Satan is overcome by His humiliation to death. To be defeated by the cross has been unthinkable for the devil and it is still for many today. Yet the foolishness of the cross is the only way to salvation.

Verses 45-47

The Creed of David

David is not impressed by the giant’s roaring language. He goes down to him because this Philistine has taunted the living God. In full certainty of the faith, in full trust in God, David goes down to Goliath. He lists all the mighty weapons the giant has. He is not blind to that, but he does not concentrate exclusively at it, for he knows in Whose Name he meets the giant. Against the LORD, Goliath’s weapons are completely insignificant. What Goliath expects from his weapons, David expects from the inexpressible glorious Name of the LORD.

In the most powerful language of faith, David accuses Goliath of taunting the LORD. That is the ground of his condemnation, and David shall execute the sentence. The LORD shall deliver him into the hand of David, that David may remove the head of the enemy. That means the complete settlement of the enemy, so that every force is vanished and irreversible lost. And not only Goliath will become a dead body, the same will happen to all who have taken his side. They will all become food of the animals. A dignified burial will not be there.

Faith has no difficulties and sees clearly in the hour of danger in accordance with God. It sees from the beginning the end. There is faith, a faith that gives strength and forgets itself. David is a young man, but a greater veteran on the path and in the battle of faith than anyone else in the army of Israel.

“That all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel” and not that such a great guy as David has achieved a great victory. This goes beyond personal faith, although this first must be present. He knows that the battle he fights is the battle of God. He does not fight for himself, but for the people. Therefore he says that God gives Goliath in “our” hands.

Once the world will see it and know that there is a God Who has everything in His hands. This is a word for “all this assembly”, for all who are witnesses of the battle. Proof is shown that God does not deliver by sword and spear, but by weakness relying on Him. Therefore, only to Him can be attributed the full victory. These are lessons of trust in God and of mistrust of ourselves (1 Samuel 14:6; Exodus 14:13-Job :; Judges 7:2; Judges 7:4Judges 7:7; Psalms 44:6).

Verses 48-51

David Defeats and Kills Goliath

The fight between the two champions burns loose. To the Philistine it seems like he must fight a dwarf. Like an advancing mountain, covered with copper and iron, he draws near to meet David. David, however, goes faster toward Goliath than Goliath comes to him. The Spirit of God describes David’s actions in detail when he runs quickly to the enemy. He goes to “the battle line”, because in the Philistine the whole army of the Philistines unites.

One of the stones is enough to prevail over the giant. God loves to achieve great results by small, simple means. In fact, there is no fight. Even in the struggle in the end time, when the Lord Jesus comes, there is no struggle, no back and forth moving scenes, as if the devil could also have a chance of victory.

David conquers with a sling and a stone, nothing more. By using it correctly, all the power of Goliath and all the Philistines is completely broken in one stroke. The stone has felled the giant. The sword makes a definitive end to the giant. David kills the giant with his own sword. Thus, by dying, the Lord Jesus conquered death.

The description of the victory has in the original the form of a song. The consequence of the victory over the giant extends to all those who has joined the giant. Both David and Goliath represent a people. In defeating Goliath, the entire army of the Philistines is defeated. The defeated enemies are all fleeing. They do not keep word and do not become willing slaves of the overcomer, as Goliath has provocatively suggested in 1 Samuel 17:9.

Verses 52-54

Consequences of the Victory

The people of Satan are now persecuted by the people of God. The roles are reversed. The victory is great. This will happen for the remnant when the Lord Jesus returns. As an application to us, we can keep the enemy under when we stand in the victory of the Lord Jesus.

The whole power of the clergy is broken for those who have seen the giant fall. The understanding of what the true church is and our personal place in it in the presence of God and in His joy necessarily means the overthrowing of the false church with all its confessors. The impressive armies then suddenly become a scattered troop that proclaim in their confession their ignorance of God and Christ.

In 1 Samuel 17:54, the Spirit of God seizes forward again. Jerusalem is currently still in the hands of the enemy, the Jebusites, but the victory over Goliath also guarantees the conquest of the city. The city is later conquered by David. The tent is not David’s either, but here it is the tabernacle. There he lays the sword of Goliath (1 Samuel 21:9). He thus indicates that the honor of victory is for the Lord.

Verses 55-58

Saul Asks Who David Is

Saul’s question to Abner, whose son David is, suggests that Saul does not know David, even though David has been at Saul’s court several times already. Also Abner does not know (anymore) who David is and cannot answer the question. Probably because they only know David as a harp player (1 Samuel 16:23).

Now the young man comes in a special way for Saul's attention. He looks at him in a new way. If a young man can achieve such a victory, he must be a special person. The question of his father is more than just getting to know his father’s name. It is more about the character of the man who has a son like David with a courage that is special. Then the question arises as to which family he belongs to, what his descendancy is. In this way people can also come under the impression of Who the Lord Jesus is, as we read in the Gospels.

Abner brings David to Saul and he asks himself the question of who David is the son of. The question shows what there is in Saul. Saul has no insight into the thoughts of God. His thoughts do not rise above the earth. He has no eye for David as God sees him. For Saul he must come from a family of violent men, a generation of gods. It is like with the Lord Jesus about Whom the question was asked: “How has this man become learned, having never been educated” (John 7:15)?

David answers in humility. His answer is beautiful: “the son of your servant Jesse”. Jesse means ‘Yahweh exists’ and of Him he is the servant. This makes me think of the question whether God is a concrete reality for me, if to me He is the existing God.

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op 1 Samuel 17". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/1-samuel-17.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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