Tired of seeing ads while studying? Now you can enjoy an "Ads Free" version of the site for as little as 10¢ a day and support a great cause!
Click here to learn more!

Bible Commentaries

Peake's Commentary on the Bible

1 Samuel 17

Verses 1-54

1 Samuel 17:1 to 1 Samuel 18:5 . David and Goliath (E, with additione by R).— In this section two narratives seem to have been interwoven. For the sake of convenience, we may denote one set of passages by (A), and the other by (B), thus:

(A) 1 Samuel 17:1-11, 1 Samuel 17:32-54.

(B) 1 Samuel 17:12-31, 1 Samuel 17:55 to 1 Samuel 18:5.

The (B) passages, together with 1 Samuel 17:41 and 1 Samuel 17:50, are omitted by very many MSS. of the LXX, including the very important Vatican Codex. (A) by itself would form a complete narrative, and would not present any very glaring inconsistencies with the previous chapters ( cf., however, below). (B), even with the addition of 1 Samuel 17:41 and 1 Samuel 17:50, could hardly be read as a complete narrative.

Two explanations have been given of these facts:

(i) Apart from minor textual changes, the whole section, 1 Samuel 17:1 to 1 Samuel 18:5, belongs together and was taken from the same document. The (B) passages were omitted by LXX on account of the contradiction between them and 1 Samuel 16:10

1 Samuel 17:23. In 1 Samuel 16:10 ff., David is a member of the court, in favour with Saul, and known to Saul and his courtiers; in (B) David is introduced as if he had not been mentioned before ( 1 Samuel 17:12-15), and neither Saul nor Abner knows anything about him.

The objection to this view is that such omissions “ imply a critical insight which we cannot suppose in the translators”— their treatment of the text elsewhere does not suggest that they possessed such insight. Moreover, LXX makes similar omissions in the next section, where it seems clear that they are following a Hebrew original and not improving the story to suit their own critical judgment.

We should, therefore, prefer:

(ii) That (B) was added to the Hebrew text from some document other than that from which (A) was taken, and may be classed as R.

It remains to consider the origin of (A) and (B) respectively.

The simplest and most obvious view, is that (A) is from the ancient narrative, and continues 1 Samuel 16:23. The difficulty is that David is spoken of as a youth, and apparently as unaccustomed to armour ( 1 Samuel 17:33; 1 Samuel 17:38; 1 Samuel 17:40; 1 Samuel 17:42), whereas in 1 Samuel 16:18; 1 Samuel 16:21, he is an experienced warrior, and an armourbearer. It may be possible to reconcile these verses, especially if we omit “ a mighty man of valour and a man of war” in 1 Samuel 16:18, but most authorities refer (A) and 1 Samuel 16:10-23 to different sources, (A) being from a secondary source (E) ( cf. p. 273). In 2 Samuel 21:19, it said that Elhanan slew Goliath.

(B), as we have said, is not a complete story. It is probably taken from another independent source, the rest of which is lost; it would probably be of late date.

These facts are important as showing that either the Hebrew text was substantially modified after LXX was made, or that as late as that time different Heb. MSS. presented substantial differences.

1 Samuel 17:41 and 1 Samuel 17:50 should perhaps be included in (B), or they may be independent editorial insertions, as is 1 Samuel 17:54.

1 Samuel 17:1-11 . There was again war with the Philistines; the opposing armies were encamped opposite each other, probably rather more than half-way from Bethlehem to Gath, when Goliath made his challenge.

1 Samuel 17:4 . six cubits and a span: about 9 ft. 6 in.

1 Samuel 17:5 . five thousand shekels: probably about 220 lb.

1 Samuel 17:12-15 . David is introduced in a brief notice.

1 Samuel 17:17-31 . Jesse sends David to the army: he hears Goliath’ s challenge, and learns that if any man kills him, the king will reward the victor by giving him his daughter with a large dowry, and will exempt his kinsfolk from taxes and tithes and forced labour. Eliab, David’ s eldest brother, rebukes his presumption in meddling in these high matters— apparently David’ s manner suggested that he might accept the challenge. David’ s answer is not clear; perhaps it should run, “ What have I now done? Is it not a matter of importance?” David continued his excited talk to all and sundry, and at last they took him to the king (so important LXX MSS., instead of “ and he sent for him” ).

1 Samuel 17:32-39 . David induces Saul to allow him to fight Goliath, and Saul clothes him with his own armour (so better than “ apparel.” The last clause of 1 Samuel 17:38, “ and he clad, etc.,” may be omitted with LXX). But David found that Saul’ s arms and armour embarrassed him, and put them off.

1 Samuel 17:40-51 . So he went to meet Goliath, armed only with a sling and stones. After an interchange of taunts, David brought down Goliath with a shot from his sling, and then cut off his head with his own (Goliath’ s) sword. The Philistines fled.

1 Samuel 17:52-54 . The Israelites pursue as far as Gath (not Gai) and Ekron, and then return and spoil their camp. 1 Samuel 17:54 is apparently a very late addition. Jerusalem was still in the hands of the Jebusites, and as David had only just arrived from Bethlehem, he would have no tent.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 17". "Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". 1919.