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6. David

Chapter 6: DAVID

6.1 David And Goliath

David must be one of the greatest types of Christ. At this time of the David and Goliath conflict he was a shepherd, despised by his brethren, trying to save Israel at a time of dire physical suffering and spiritual apostasy. These connections alone should make us scan this record for deeper Messianic allusions. The giant strongman falling to the earth because of a stone suggests Nebuchadnezzar's image of Dan.2, where the stone refers to Christ. Note how lion and bear (17:34 cp. Dan.7:4,5) and brass and iron (17:5-7 cp. Dan.2:32,33) are all mentioned in the record. Goliath's death by a fatal wound in the head (1 Sam.17:49) must look back to Gen.3:15, again connecting David and the stone with the seed of the woman (Christ) and equating Goliath with the seed of the serpent. This is confirmed by the repetitious description of Goliath in battle with David four times as covered in " brass" from head to foot (17:5,6); which is the same word translated " serpent" and is a symbol of sin. According to some etymologists, " Philistine" fundamentally means 'one who rolls in the dust', i.e. a serpent; and significantly, Goliath is several times described as " the Philistine" . Six being the number of the flesh it is significant that his " height was six cubits and a span...his spear's head weighed six hundred shekels" (17:4,7). It is even possible that the " man of sin" of 2 Thess.2 refers back to Goliath as his prototype, in which case the image of Dan.2 and the man of sin are equated. 

Goliath, representing the seed of the serpent, a personification of sin (i.e. the Biblical devil), needed a man to fight him (17:8,9). The men of Israel cowered in fear, wishing they could only have the strength and courage necessary, but looking one on another helplessly as the invincible giant made his boast. How to overcome him and the evil intent of this man against God's people was what the men's conversation revolved around: " Have ye seen this man that is come up? Surely to defy Israel is he come up" . They also discussed the glorious reward being offered: " It shall be, that the man who killeth him, the king will enrich him with great riches, and make his father's house free in Israel" - and throw in his daughter for good measure too (17:25). But " all the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him, and were sore afraid" (17:24). This may well refer to those who thought about being Israel's " champion" in fighting Goliath, rather than speaking about the Israelite army as a whole. Now what more precise description could we wish for of our feelings in the struggle against sin? There seems a similarity here with men and Angels weeping because no man was found worthy to look upon or pen the book of life (Rev.5:3-5)- until our Lord prevailed on the cross.  'Golgotha' meaning 'The place of the skull' may well be the place near Jerusalem where David buried Goliath's skull (17:54), greatly strengthening this connection. Whilst speaking of words, " Ephes-Dammim" meaning 'border of blood' suggests 'Aceldama', the " field of blood" . Goliath coming out to make his challenges at morning and evening  (1 Sam.17:16) coincided with the daily sacrifices which should have been offered at those times, with their reminder of sin and the need for dedication to God. The thoughtful Israelite must surely have seen in Goliath a personification of sin which the daily sacrifices could do nothing to overcome. 

The ultimate wager

If David represents Jesus and Goliath represents sin personified, then his supporting Philistines must be the armies of our individual sins, depending for their strength and power on this principle of the devil (cp. Goliath). The Israelites were effectively the servants of the Philistines before this battle, although with a theoretical chance of freedom; and similarly with mankind before Christ's death. However, this relationship between Israel and the Philistines was now to be formalized and made permanent: " Choose you a man for you...if he be able to fight with me, and to kill me, then will we be your servants: but if I prevail against him, and kill him, then shall ye be our servants" (17:8,9). This was exactly the contest between sin and our Lord; if He had failed in His mission, we would have permanently been in bondage to sin, as we were effectively even before the cross. Something of the same wager is implied in Gen. 3:`5, another prophecy of the cross- either the man kills the snake by hitting it on the head, or the snake will bite the man’s heel. He has to kill it outright, first time. Yet thanks to His victory we are now free from sin- and more than that, our sins (cp. the Philistines) should now be subservient to us; Rom.6:17,18 may even be referring back to this passage: " Ye were the servants of sin, but (by baptism into Christ's death)...being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness" . This sheds more light on the immense pressure on our Lord, knowing that just one slip would result in the permanent servitude of man to the sin which he hated. No wonder he appeared a man of sorrows. With that weight on him was he ever jovial, light hearted, off hand? Surely the growing flippancy and laid back, humorous atmosphere in our meetings is alien to this spirit of Christ? " Wherefore...let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run (not stroll) with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus; who for the joy that was set before him (not now!) endured the cross...consider him...lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. Ye have not yet resisted unto blood (in your) striving against sin" (Heb.12:1-4). There is no doubt that these verses teach that Christ's personal struggle against sin in Gethsemane, prefigured by the pressure on David as he ran towards Goliath, is meant to be imitated by us. 

Despised and rejected

Plenty of other details now appear relevant to the Lord's crucifixion. Both his family and the men of Israel generally rejected David's claims to be able to save Israel (1 Sam.17:28-30). Eliab's " Why camest thou down hither?" matches Christ's brothers telling him " depart hence" (Jn.7:3). The crucifixion psalms emphasize how Jesus felt rejected by both Israel and His family as he fought his Goliath then (e.g. Ps.69:8). Arguing back from the experience of his Lord, it would seem that David was really hurt and cut by the discouragement he received. 'Eliab' meaning 'God of my father' invites comparison with the Jews who despised our Lord's claims at the time of his death. The alternative rendering 'God is my Father' would connect with Israel being God's son (Ex.4:22). It is twice stressed that David's brothers " followed Saul" (1 Sam.17:13,14); is it possible to argue back from this that Christ's brothers were strong Judaists? His family appear to have later disowned him during Saul’s persecution (Ps. 31:11), fleeing from him, as the Lord’s friends also did (Ps. 31:11 = Mt. 26:56). David's being sent by his father to see his brethren has echoes of Joseph's experience- which was also highly typical of the Lord Jesus. Joseph's problems with his brothers may well indicate a great barrier between Jesus and his natural brothers (who surely would have always resented the fact he was the firstborn in the eyes of their mother, whilst they were most likely convinced he was illegitimate). 

David's other brothers also have names which have connections with an apostate Israel. Abinadab means " The Father is willing" ; cp. " All day long have I stretched forth mine hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people" (Rom.10:21). Shammah means 'desolation, astonishment, ruin'. God would " make thy land desolate (shammah)" (Jer.4:7), and Israel were to be an astonishment to the world after their rejection. Similarly, Saul too represented the Jewish system, as the one who appeared superficially to Israel to be the one who could overcome all enemies, i.e. sin in the parable (1 Sam.8:20). Doubtless one of the reasons they were attracted to Saul was because his large warrior physique made him seem a match for the giant Philistines in these man to man duels that often decided whole battles in those days. And the men of Israel should have learnt at the time of the crucifixion that the Law which appeared so powerful to save was unable to do so. By contrast we are specifically told that David was not of unduly great height (so 1 Sam.16:7 implies), but was chosen because of the spiritual state of his heart. We have seen how Goliath was a 'man of sin'; the New Testament concept of Satan can describe both the Jewish system and also sin, because " the strength of sin is the (Jewish) law" (1) . The great height of both Saul and Goliath would inevitably have been noticed; as if to imply that Saul (representing the Law) was as superficially powerful as Goliath was. There seems to be a verbal connection at least between the Jews' mocking question of Christ " Where is thy father?" (Jn.8:19) and Saul's " whose son is this youth" (17:55)- or was Saul's question also a subtle accusation of illegitimacy? Ps.106:13 also seems to describe Israel's rebellions in language relevant to Saul, as if he represented them: " They sang his praise (cp. Saul prophesying). They soon forgat his works; they waited not for his counsel" - cp. Saul in 1 Sam.13:8. Note how Saul lost the animals (asses) he was given to look after; while David preserved his father's sheep, maybe looking forward to the Jewish system's inability to save its people compared to Christ's keeping of us. 

Of sheep and shepherds

We can now attempt a more chronological analysis of the confrontation between David and Goliath: " And David rose up early in the morning, and left the sheep with a keeper, and went, as Jesse commanded him" (17:20). There being no human reason for David to leave his shepherding (17:28), there may be the implication that Jesse knew more about David's mission than appears on the surface. Thus David could say to Eliab concerning his coming to the battle " Is there not a cause" (17:29)- i.e. 'I'm not just here to bring provisions- but for something far more important'. It would be fitting if Jesse represented God, in which case the commandment to go and see the brethren would correspond to Joseph being told by Jacob (cp. God) to go and see his brethren (Gen.37:13) resulting in his figurative death and resurrection in the pit, and the Son being sent by the Father to inspect the Jewish vineyard, with the subsequent murder of him by the husbandmen (Lk.20:14). " As the Father gave me commandment, even so I do. Arise..." (Jn.14:31) in the context of Christ's going to fight sin on the cross connects very nicely with David receiving the father's command and arising to go.  

David leaving the sheep and going to fight Goliath recalls the parable of Christ as the good shepherd leaving the flock and going to save the lost sheep (Lk.15:4-6). The shepherd goes alone at night up into the hills (cp. Isaac going to be sacrificed in the hills), and carries the lamb on his shoulder- as Christ carried the cross of our sins on his shoulder to redeem the lost sheep of mankind (Is.53:6). This lost sheep parable is also picked up in 1 Peter 2:25: " For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the shepherd and bishop of your souls" (i.e. Christ the shepherd). But this in turn is quoting Is.53:5,6: " All we like sheep have gone astray...but he was wounded (on the cross) for our transgressions" , which is thus the parallel to the saving of the lost sheep. This interpretation of the lost sheep parable- i.e. that the shepherd going to save the sheep represents Christ going to die on the cross- was first prompted by David leaving the sheep with the keeper to go and fight Goliath, representing Christ's saving us from sin on the cross. The leaving of the sheep with the keeper perhaps looks forward to Christ's entrusting the disciples to the Father's care in those agonizing days while death parted him from them, as David's encounter with Goliath did. David's subsequent leaving of them altogether to go and live in the King's court clearly looks forward to our Lord's ascension to Heaven after his victory over the real Goliath. 

Note how in the fight with Goliath, David progressively shed all human distractions; he left the sheep with a keeper, then on arrival at the battlefield he " left his carriage in the hand of the keeper of the carriage" (17:22), and finally left Saul's armour behind, representing the Law as a means of overcoming sin. And there must also have been progressive stages in our Lord's coming towards that state of total faith necessary for his final victory. Notice too how David " ran into the army" after leaving behind " his carriage" , and also ran towards the Philistine. The eagerness of our Lord to fight sin, despite knowing the supreme difficulty and seriousness of failure, sets us a matchless example of the enthusiasm we should have in our striving against sin. 

Revving up the faith

" He came to the trench as the host was going forth to the fight, and shouted for the battle" (17:20). What a terrifying sight and sound that must have been; and similarly the strength of sin and man's inability to overcome must have struck fear into our Lord's heart as he came closer to the cross. David as a newcomer and onlooker would especially have noticed the obvious weakness of Israel. His seeing the weak knees of all the warriors of Israel must have made him feel like his Lord did on contemplating the fact that he personally would have to overcome sin: " He saw that there was no man, and wondered (2) that there was no intercessor: therefore his own arm brought salvation...for he put on righteousness as a breastplate, and an helmet of salvation...the garments of vengeance" (Is.59:16,17- cp. David's shunning of such physical armour for its spiritual counterpart. Is there a conscious allusion to David and Goliath here?). 

David asked about the promised reward for killing Goliath as if it was a genuine motivation for him to rev up his faith and go ahead. " The man who killeth him, the King will enrich him with great riches, and will give him his daughter, and make his father's house free in Israel" (17:25). Our victorious Lord received these rewards in the form of the spiritual riches of greater understanding of the Father, being given us, God's spiritual daughter, in marriage, and us being made free from the legal requirements of the Law. This again suggests that Saul in his heavy duty taxation system represented the demands of the Mosaic law, from which the victory of the cross made us free. Amazingly, it was the beauty which our Lord saw in us which inspired him to take a deep breath of faith and step forward. 

Angelic help

" Who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?" (17:26). At least three times David stresses that he will overcome Goliath with the help of the Angelic armies: " This...Philistine shall be as (the lion and bear I killed with Angelic help), seeing he (also, like them) hath defied the armies of the living God ('God of the living ones'?- i.e. the Angel cherubim, 17:36). Thus David says to Goliath " I come to thee in the name of the Lord of Hosts (invariably an Angelic title of God), the God of the (Angelic) armies of Israel" (17:45). The Messianic parable is so complete that this triple emphasis on David's Angelic help must have relevance to Christ's overcoming of sin on the cross. It seems highly likely that it is through the Angels that Christ and us in our crosses receive power to overcome sin (cp. Goliath), over and above any human strength which we can muster. One can therefore better understand the spiritual panic of our Lord when he felt this Angelic presence and help withdrawn on the cross: " My God (Angel), Why hast Thou forsaken me?" (Mt.27:46). 

Total faith

" And David said to Saul, Let no man's heart fail because of him; thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine" (17:32). This must be another John 14 allusion- this time to " Let not your heart be troubled" (Jn.14:1), spoken by Jesus as he was about to go forth to the cross, as David was about to fight Goliath. His subsequent references to his earlier delivering of sheep out of the mouth of the lion and bear indicate that Israel were in the same situation as those lambs had been; again, as if the good shepherd David/ Jesus had left the sheep safely (17:20) and gone to save the lost- and almost killed- sheep of Israel, both natural and spiritual. And on another level our Lord's previous triumphs of faith, not least in the wilderness temptations, would have given him courage for the ultimate spiritual test of the cross. 

Such was his totality of faith that David could calmly call out " I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee" (17:46). David's emphasis on cutting off Goliath's head (cp.v.54) and the stone hitting the forehead perhaps indicates that the significance of Christ's victory over the devil was that men now have the possibility of sharing his victory over the mind of the flesh, which is where the real David and Goliath battle is worked out so many times each day. David continued: " That all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel" , which seems to be referred to in Jn.14:31: " That the world may know" that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself through Christ's loving obedience to the Father (cp. Jn.17:23). 

Brief battle

David crossed the brook and then cast the stone at Goliath (17:49). This connects with our Lord crossing the brook Kidron, and maybe echoes him being a stone's cast distant from the disciples  (Lk.22:41). There is a continued emphasis on David's zeal to fight Goliath- as the Lord had to fight sin: " David ran, and stood upon the Philistine, and" disarmed him (17:51). There is a possibility that this is consciously referred to in Col.2:15, where we read that Christ on the cross " disarmed (NIV) principalities and powers, making a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them" - as if Goliath represented the Law and the sin engendered by it which our Lord conquered on the cross. 

Triumph over every sin

" And the men of Israel and Judah arose, and shouted, and pursued the Philistines" (17:52). That shout of glee and triumph should be ours on considering Christ's victory- and because the devil has been destroyed by his death, we should enthusiastically pursue our sins right back to their source, confident we will have the victory- as the Philistines were chased back to their home towns, such as Sharaim, meaning 'two gates'- as if hinting at the promise that Abraham's seed, both Christ and us, would inherit the gate of our enemies. Note that the enemies that the seed of Abraham would conquer are our sins (Gen.22:18 cp. Lk.1:73-75; Acts 3:25-27; Mic.7:19). David seemed to have anticipated that his victory would be pressed home by the Israelites attacking the individual Philistines: " The Lord...will give you into our hands" (17:47). And no doubt our Lord hoped that he eventually would see that the travail of his soul had produced the same effect in us. The " reproach" was taken away from Israel by David's victory (1 Sam.17:26), as Christ carried away the reproach of our sins on the cross (Ps.69:9; Rom.15:3); therefore we can stand unreproachable before God at judgment, with no sin at all against us- due to Christ's victory (Col.1:22). 

As a final inspiration- David took five stones but used only one. Was he faithless and doubting that the first one would hit home? Do those five stones represent the five books of Moses which Ps.119 tells us was Christ's study all the day, it being through the word that Jesus overcame the mind of sin? Or did he aim to use the other four on Goliath's four giant sons (2 Sam. 21:16-22)? That shows supreme spiritual ambition. In reality those four were killed later by David's closest followers- and they must have their counterparts amongst us. So let us too arise, shout, and pursue those sins which appear so triumphant. 

Additional homework for the enthusiast would be a study of Psalms 8 and 144, both of which appear to be about the David and Goliath struggle, and are therefore a description of our Lord's feelings after his resurrection. Ps.144:3 is amazing: " What is...the son of man (Jesus) that Thou takest account of him?" , showing our Lord's humility is such that even now He is amazed that God bothered to help him, so low is his estimation of the flesh he had. 

Political aspects

The political aspects of this passage have not been considered; the following points are to stimulate thought along this equally fruitful line. The different metals which feature in the description of Goliath all find their place in the beasts of Daniel 7, which are destroyed by the coming of Christ. This implies that the nations of the world are confederate under one charismatic, seemingly invincible leader; the latter day Goliath. Hit by David's stone, Goliath keeled over " upon his face to the earth" (1 Sam.17:49), just as Dagon his god had done earlier. Thus Goliath was treated like his gods, as the lives of people of this world consist  in the idols of materialism they possess. Perhaps this " man of sin" will likewise be an Arab? We have mentioned the evident similarity between Daniel's image and the Goliath man of sin. The place of the conflict was a little South of Jerusalem, halfway between Jerusalem and the Mediterranean. This sounds suspiciously like the king of the north planting his tents (cp. the Philistine's) " between the seas (Dead and Mediterranean) in the glorious holy mountain" (Dan.11:45). The Philistines making their constant painful incursions into an apostate Israel may well have links with the P.L.O. activities today. Goliath was from Gath (1 Sam.17:4), meaning " winepress" , with its Armageddon and judgement hints. Similarly the conflict lasted for 40 days (1 Sam.17:16)- another link with the coming Divine judgements. David's mocking " Who is this uncircumcised Philistine?" matches " Who art thou, O great mountain?" which was to be destroyed " not by might..but by My spirit" (Zech.4:6,7), as Goliath was killed by David without a sword in his hand, i.e. not by human might. Note that the Philistines were pitched on a mountain, comparing with the description of Babylon as " O great mountain" . Thus the king of the North, the man of sin, Babylon, Daniel's image of the last days are all subtly alluded to, implying that Christ will destroy all of them during one conflict. It is worth questioning whether all these various systems in opposition to Christ will be separate at the time of His return; present developments suggest there may be one huge opposing system (the beast) which incorporates all these others. But now the possibilities are opened up to the reader to work through 1 Sam.17 again from this political/ latter day prophecy perspective. 

Matchless Jonathan

It must be significant that straight after the fight between David and Goliath, representing Christ's conquest of sin on the cross, " the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul...then Jonathan and David made a covenant" (1 Sam.18:1,3). After the cross, a new covenant was made between Jesus and us, making Jonathan representative of us. The extraordinary bond between David and Jonathan then becomes a type of our relationship with Jesus after his victory on the cross. To confirm the covenant, " Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was upon him, and gave it to David, and his garments, even to his sword, and to his bow, and to his girdle" , pointing forward to our total divesting of human strength and giving it to our Lord when we appreciate the greatness of his victory without those things (cp.1 Sam.17:39).  

Jonathan  lived in an environment which was bitterly opposed to David; yet he stuck up for him, at the risk of embarrassment and opposition, and certain damage to his own prospects (1 Sam.20:31); as we should in this wicked world. As Saul cast a javelin at David, so he did at Jonathan (1 Sam.20:33); as we should fellowship the sufferings of David's greater son. Saul's hate of David resulted in Jonathan being " grieved for David, because his father had done him shame" (1 Sam.20:34). Is this not our response to our world in its' ceaseless blasphemy of Christ? 

Only occasionally could Jonathan and David meet, brief moments of intense fellowship away from the rest of the world, strengthening each other's hand in the Lord (1 Sam.23:16), re-confirming their covenant together (1 Sam.18:3; 20:8,16; 23:18). No wonder their goodbyes were so hard: " they kissed one another, and wept one with another, until David exceeded" (1 Sam.20:41). Not surprisingly, they looked forward to the promised day of David's Kingdom: " Thou shalt be king over Israel, and I shall be next unto thee" (1 Sam.23:17). Our communion meetings with the Lord during our wilderness journey must surely mirror those meetings.  

The depth of the David/Jonathan relationship introduces to the pages of Scripture the idea of 'agape' love- a love higher than normal human experience. " The beauty of Israel is (singular- re.Jonathan,v.25) slain upon thy high places...I am distressed for thee, my brother Jonathan: very pleasant hast thou been unto me: thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women" (2 Sam.1:19,26). Such love should typify our relationship with Jesus. But does it? 

Our Inspiration

The David and Goliath conflict was not only inspirational to Jonathan, but to the men of Israel generally. It seems from 1 Chron. 11:13,14 that soon after the fight with Goliath, there was another skirmish with the Philistines at Pas-Dammim [RVmg. ‘Ephes-Dammim’- the same place where David fought Goliath]. Again, the men of Israel fled, but those who held fast were given a “great deliverance” [“salvation”, RVmg.], just as David is described as achieving. Those men who stayed and fought were doubtless inspired by David; just as we should be, time and again, by the matchless victory of our Lord on Golgotha.  


(1) See 'In Search Of Satan'.

(2) Remember the Lord's great respect for John the Baptist.