BIBLE STUDY: DAVID AND GOLIATH (One of the 1980's Broadcast Series)

January 8, 1989


By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

In the last Bible study in this series called God's Great Plan, we were contemplating the manner by which God had prepared David as a young shepherd boy, for his astonishing climactic confrontation with Goliath. We had read the account in I Samuel 17 wherein David, bearing food for his brothers, and having arrived among the Israelite troops of Saul on the fortieth day of Goliath's strutting challenge to Israel and Israel's God, has heard that challenge and made answer to it. The significant number, the period of forty days, was the period of Israel's testing, as has been previously shown in other places in scripture. Affirming to Saul his capability despite his obvious youth, to meet the giant in single combat, David, we are told, was then dressed in Saul's armour, a rare tribute to David's courage, because armour, even at that point, was probably not a common commodity among Israel's troops. However, having tried on Saul's heavy and encumbering armour, David put it off, choosing rather to rely upon those light shepherd's weapons, a staff and a sling, to which his years had trained him.

Stone was the symbolic material witness to God's covenant with the Patriarch Jacob who had appointed the pillow stone at Bethel upon which his head had rested when he dreamed the vision of the ladder and heard divine promises. Stone tablets, written by the finger of God, bore the divine Laws of Sinai, the basis of the national organization of Israel. The Twelve Tribes were borne in symbol as stones on the breastplate of the high Priest, and again in stone on his shoulders. Stone was later to stand, in Daniel's time, as a visionary symbol for the nation of Israel and the prophetic vision of Christ's Kingdom.

As a youth practiced in the use of a sling, David had, probably from his youngest days, been garnering knowledge concerning the best variety of stone material, the best weight and the best shape and surface polish to choose for the purpose of slinging. Now God is about to place those years of accumulated knowledge to use in one of the most dramatic and significant confrontations of all history; one, the account of which has entered literature as the common heritage of mankind.

David goes to the brook, and from its water washed rivulets he plucks and inspects stone pebbles polished smooth with time and abrasion. Choosing five, he deposits them in his shepherd's scrip. Perhaps thus, God inspects those whom He will select and use, abraded with trials and experience, and polished smooth to His purpose.

The natural ampitheatre formed by the hollow of the valley between the two high banks upon which stood arrayed the opposing armies of Israel and the Philistines, formed the perfect setting to allow the massed troops from each side to observe the outcome without obstruction. One might say that more than David's own life was in the balance this day. This confrontation would impel all the subsequent history of God's people, and the world beyond, into a new direction which it would not otherwise have taken.

How often throughout history, and yes, indeed, in our own experience of life, there has come a particular day and hour of decision by which the whole subsequent unfolding of events has been directed into new channels which would not otherwise have been followed. How often does one simple choice make the whole of life into a "whole new ballgame" as the expression goes!

The choice does not always emerge as one pre-meditated, because the circumstance of the challenge is not always foreknown ahead of time. It emerges directly out of the circumstances of the moment. Such is often the manner by which an individual decides to open first place in his or her own life's priorities to the controlling hand of Jesus as King, with the resultant emergence of one's totally new experience as a Christian from that time onward.

Yet there is something, some preparation, which must be "in place" ahead of time, in order that the particular decision should fall on the right side rather than the wrong, when the moment arrives. God's Holy Spirit must be working. It is as though the whole of our previous life, our experiences, our previous habitual choices, our character, was building to this moment of decision.

And so we must thus view this emerging confrontation between Goliath and the youthful shepherd, David, in the same light. Let us consider how David's previous experience of life had made his resolute and glorious decision to face the challenger of Israel and Israel's God in one sense inevitable. In making that decision, he had to be true to himself and to his God. He HAD to make the answer to Goliath's derisive challenges that he did. We may now ask ourselves, "Why"?

There are several aspects of David's former life intertwined here, and all are to emerge together in his confrontation this day.

The first is David's zeal to offer Praise to Yahweh, the God of Israel. David's zealous commitment to Yahweh's service must be seen as the decisive requirement in facing Yahweh's enemies. It provided the motivation to meet the requirements of his priorities.

The second is the courage built of youth under God's hand. The successes which attended his decisions, as a true shepherd, to defend his sheep against fierce beasts must have provided a certain confidence in his ability under God's protection. His practiced physical abilities when employed in God's service, prepared him for the actual conflict. They prepared him to stand up when all others quavered.

And the third is his years of lonely practice to meet the demands of his instrument, the kinnor, or harp. The preparation of David through his acquisition of musical precision, the skill which had become a mark of his harping, was no doubt accomplished in the years of youth. His zeal to glorify the Lord must have built and maintained an enthusiastic persistence in his striving after musical excellence which was to be crucial in war!

We have now arrived at that moment when David had taken his staff in his hand, chosen five smooth stones out of the brook, placing them in a shepherd's bag, and with his sling in his hand had drawn near to the Philistine.

Let us now turn to the scriptural record, beginning at I Samuel 17:41:

41. And the Philistine came on and drew near unto David; and the man that bare the shield went before him.
42. And when the Philistine looked about, and saw David, he disdained him: for he was but a youth, and ruddy, and of a fair countenance.

Incidentally, I might just interject that I find it curious that David's fair appearance should be mentioned as one cause of disdain by the Philistine. Was the Philistine not so fair, I wonder? We, of the British-Israel-World Federation hold that modern Anglo-Celto-Saxondom descend in the main from those same Israelites of David's day, and this description of David is in accord with our contention. But let us now continue, reading from verse 43:

43. And the Philistine said unto David, Am I a dog, that thou comest to me with staves? And the Philistine cursed David by his gods.
44. And the Philistine said to David, Come to me, and I will give thy flesh unto the fowls of the air, and to the beasts of the field.

That scornful derision appears to be in accordance with protocol, if one may use the term, laid down for such encounters. But David amplifies his reply with one of the most stirring proclamations to be found in the Old Testament.

45. Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied.
46. This day will the Lord deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcasses of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel.
47. And all this assembly shall know that the Lord saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the Lord's and he will give you into our hands.
48. And it came to pass, when the Philistine arose, and came and drew nigh to meet David, that David hasted, and ran toward the army to meet the Philistine.

David does not hang back. There is no fear where love for his Lord overwhelms his spirit. He is on a mission for Yahweh, the God of Israel, and undeterred by the Philistine's dangerous appearance as the encounter begins. It is over almost before it starts. Now there come into action those muscled fingers, prepared during the years of tightening and tying strings on the kinnor, and the perfect cadence, the result of precise practice in offering rhythmic musical praise to Yahweh, that musical perfection to which we have previously made reference. The stone swings and whirls in the sling with the rhythm of musical exactitude. The brief 49th verse states the climax thus:

49. And David put his hand in his bag, and took thence a stone, and slang it, and smote the Philistine in his forehead, that the stone sunk into his forehead; and he fell upon his face to the earth.

Accompanying the praise of the Lord was that same practiced rhythmic plucking of strong fingers in perfect cadence which permitted the sling to be whirled and the thong to be slipped, releasing the stone to perfect timing in the arc of its motion about the wrist. The years of praise have been used by God to defend His people in the day of conflict. May it always be so.

As we offer praise to God in song and Psalm, may we likewise realize that, in the sense of spiritual conflict, we are also acquiring the practice which leads to perfection in our spiritual encounters. How often have we recalled words of spiritual uplift from music; Handel's Messiah, or the plainsong of a Psalm of David himself, perhaps, at the precise instant when most needed. Let us see in our present study of the encounter between David and Goliath, along with those other lessons which come to mind, the conjoining of music and song with the transmission of the word of God, to the defeat of the enemy, and the salvation of souls.

We shall continue our studies next week.

January 15, 1989


by Douglas C. Nesbit

Last week we were considering one of the most dramatic occurrences recorded in the Old Testament, the stirring confrontation between the giant Philistine, Goliath of Gath, and the young shepherd boy, David of Israel. We saw that three strands of David's past experience had contributes to his victory. First, there was his whole-hearted commitment to Yahweh, the God of Israel. Second, there was his resolute willingness to confront danger in God's power when defending the flock. Third, David's musical skills had been an excellent preparation for his perfect precision in use of the sling.

Today, we will pick up the account in I Samuel 17, at the point when David has just let fly the smooth stone from his sling, hitting Goliath in the forehead. We may envision the situation as Goliath staggers, losing his last sight of the world about him. He is stunned into unconsciousness and falls on his face to the ground. Reading at verse 50:

50. So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and smote the Philistine, and slew him; but there was no sword in the hand of David.
51. Therefore David ran, and stood upon the Philistine, and took his sword, and drew it out of the sheath thereof, and slew him, and cut off his head therewith. And when the Philistines saw their champion was dead, they fled.

I wonder if Goliath, as he proudly handled and girded on that great, heavy sword on that fortieth morning of his derisive challenges to Israel and to Israel's God, ever even considered the faintest possibility that it would be the means of his own death before the day was done? From David's standpoint, as he met the challenge that day, we might say that it was the moment of truth for David.

But it was also the day and moment of truth for Goliath. Those forty days had not only represented the significant timespan of forty units of time, a period characterising trial or testing, for Israel. they had also been forty days of trial and testing of the character of the Philistines and of Goliath. That Philistine's brass armour formed a massive array, and no doubt even its glittering appearance and the sound of it, jangling and clanking as he strode the valley hollow between those armies day after day and thundered out his challenge, radiated an ominous sense of defeat to any would-be challenger. His spear was ponderous and its piercing point deadly; his sword, sizeable and sharp to slit a foe, and his confidence, no doubt secure in the belief of his invulnerability, would lend a belicose flourish to his every sentence.

For forty days, he had challenged the Israelites, and no champion had come forward to uphold their honour. The very fact that forty days had passed in this manner would surely have increased the confidence of all those in the Philistine ranks, and depressed the trembling Israelite forces.

But now the hour of judgment, which was to terminate those forty days, had arrived. The God of Israel, apparently helpless and silent throughout that time, was, in fact, making a statement of His own omnipotence in the complete control of events through the timing of their climactic conclusion. He was about to send a deliverer whose victory would echo down the centuries and into the millennia.

Has that confident stance of a derisive enemy against God and God's Kingdom, displayed by Goliath, not also been the attitude of those all through history down to our own times who likewise confronted God's people, challenging them and their apparently helpless God. The moral equivalent of Goliath's attitude, I believe, might be found in that of the secular humanist, the atheistic scientist, or the Communistic university professor who likewise flings God's apparent helplessness or non-existence in the face of a less sophisticated student or a troubled believer.

Up to that final moment of truth, everything will appear to be going their way. The word of such sophisticates is accepted within the intellectual community in academic halls. They have all the intellectual armour and bluster of Goliath. Proud, sometimes condescending, often scathing, they manifest human wisdom, but not the meek submissive acknowledgment of deity in Christ.

But one polished stone of truth carefully chosen, weighed and targeted, can bring the whole procession to a sudden halt.

Such a stone was that of which Jesus spoke in Matthew 21:42-44 and it may repay us to detour for a brief consideration of that reference. In order to grasp the context I shall remind you that these words form part of the parable of the householder who carefully planted a vineyard and let it out to husbandmen before leaving for a far country. Those husbandmen decided that they need not return the fruit to the owner, but slew his servants and even the son and heir. It is obvious that the lord of the vineyard will slay those wicked servants upon his return. Jesus concluded with the words:

42. ...Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?
43 Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.
44 And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder. (Matthew 21:42-44 )

Mark 12:10 and Luke 20:18, record this same parable, while Peter, in Acts 4:11, states to the priests and rulers in Jerusalem that the stone "set at naught of you builders" is Jesus Christ of Nazareth. In I Peter 2:6-8, we see that this Apostle, when addressing those he calls "strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father...", not only speaks of the Lord as a living stone, but tells those he addresses that they also "as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house." Immediately, Peter then quotes this same reference, speaking of the chief corner stone as "a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed."

The equivalent of the stone in David's sling, then, may be taken to be the stone of stumbling to the proud who rebel from God. The day of reckoning and the moment of truth will come suddenly upon all such persons. It will be to their horror, as they discover their utter foolishness in choosing to appoint themselves to a station to which they were not called by God.

At Jesus' Second Advent, the proud will fall, and a great shout of joy will rise from the lips of all in the ranks of His Kingdom, just as it rose from those Israelitish troops who beheld Goliath's fall on the field of battle. The stone which was "set at naught" of the builders can be taken as a symbol, I believe, of not only Jesus Christ, the King of His nation of Israel, but also of that nation of Christian Israelites under His control. For a set period of time, both will be rejected by the intellectual "leaders of the people." But for both there will come a time of established recognition.

But now let us return to that scene, to see David the handsome youth, draw Goliath's own huge sword and slice downward, parting the massive head from the prone body. The scriptures continue at verse 52:

52. And the men of Israel and of Judah arose, and shouted, and pursued the Philistines, until thou come to the valley, and to the gates of Ekron. And the wounded of the Philistines fell down by the way to Shaaraim, even unto Gath, and unto Ekron.
53. And the children of Israel returned from chasing after the Philistines, and they spoiled their tents.
54 And David took the head of the Philistine, and brought it to Jerusalem; but he put his armour in his tent. (I Sam. 17:54)

I should not end this broadcast without making some brief comment regarding one point which is sometimes thrown up at Bible believing Christians regarding the scriptural records of this conflict between David and Goliath. When we compare scripture with scripture we sometimes find seeming inconsistencies, and one such is sometimes stated to occur when we compare II Samuel 21:19 with our present account. That verse reads "And there was again a battle in Gob with the Philistines, where Elhanan the son of Jaareoregim, a Bethlehemite, slew the brother of Goliath the Gittite, the staff of whose spear was like a weaver's beam." In that account, the words "the brother of" are italicised, being an interpolation in the A.V., but not in the original.

However these italicised words are justified when we realize that they are so placed to accord with the parallel account in I Chronicles 20:5 which reads: "And there was war again with the Philistines; and Elhanan the son of Jair slew Lahmi the brother of Goliath the Gittite, whose spear staff was like a weaver's beam. "

To clarify the matter further, I might list those sons of the Philistine giant, and their Israelitish slayers, as recorded in II Samuel which states them thus:

1. Ishbibenob was slain by Abishai the son of Zeruiah, defending David.
2. Saph was slain by Sibbe-chai the Hushath-ite.
3. (The brother of ) Goliath, slain by Elhanan the son of Jaare-ore-gim.
4. An un-named son of the giant, having six fingers on each hand, and six toes on each foot, slain by Jonathan, son of Shime-ah, David's brother.

The account concludes by re-iterating "These four were born to the giant ... ." The account in I Chronicles 20 mentions the last three of these, in the same order. There is no mistaking them. Here Lahmi, the one slain by Elhanan, is specifically stated to be the brother of Goliath.

If we count Goliath himself, there were, then, five brothers born to the giant. We might remember that the Philistines had five major cities and Judges 3:3 tells us that there were five lords of the Philistines. Were these sets of five in David's mind when he chose out those five stones from the brook? He only used one to kill Goliath.

We shall continue our study next week.