1 Samuel 17: 1-49 – The faith that slays evil

Updated: May 17

This reading actually covers verses 1a, 4-11, 19-23, and 32-49, with only 32-49 mandatory.

[The Philistines gathered their armies for battle. And there came out from the camp of the Philistines a champion named Goliath, of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. He had a helmet of bronze on his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail; the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of bronze. He had greaves of bronze on his legs and a javelin of bronze slung between his shoulders. The shaft of his spear was like a weaver’s beam, and his spear’s head weighed six hundred shekels of iron; and his shield-bearer went before him. He stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why have you come out to draw up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me. If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants; but if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us.” And the Philistine said, “Today I defy the ranks of Israel! Give me a man, that we may fight together.” When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid.


Now Saul, and they, and all the men of Israel, were in the valley of Elah, fighting with the Philistines. David rose early in the morning, left the sheep with a keeper, took the provisions, and went as Jesse had commanded him. He came to the encampment as the army was going forth to the battle line, shouting the war cry. Israel and the Philistines drew up for battle, army against army. David left the things in charge of the keeper of the baggage, ran to the ranks, and went and greeted his brothers. As he talked with them, the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name, came up out of the ranks of the Philistines, and spoke the same words as before. And David heard him.]


David said to Saul, “Let no one’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.” Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are just a boy, and he has been a warrior from his youth.” But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father; and whenever a lion or a bear came,

and took a lamb from the flock, I went after it and struck it down, rescuing the lamb from its mouth; and if it turned against me, I would catch it by the jaw, strike it down, and kill it. Your servant has killed both lions and bears; and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, since he has defied the armies of the living God.” David said, “The Lord, who saved me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, will save me from the hand of this Philistine.” So Saul said to David, “Go, and may the Lord be with you!” Saul clothed David with his armor; he put a bronze helmet on his head and clothed him with a coat of mail.

David strapped Saul’s sword over the armor, and he tried in vain to walk, for he was not used to them. Then David said to Saul, “I cannot walk with these; for I am not used to them.” So David removed them. Then he took his staff in his hand, and chose five smooth stones from the wadi, and put them in his shepherd’s bag, in the pouch; his sling was in his hand, and he drew near to the Philistine.


The Philistine came on and drew near to David, with his shield-bearer in front of him. When the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him, for he was only a youth, ruddy and handsome in appearance. The Philistine said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. The Philistine said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the field.” But David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with sword and spear and javelin; but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This very day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head; and I will give the dead bodies of the Philistine army this very day to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the earth, so that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the Lord does not save by sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s and he will give you into our hand.”


When the Philistine drew nearer to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. David put his hand in his bag, took out a stone, slung it, and struck the Philistine on his forehead; the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell face down on the ground.


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This is an optional Old Testament selection from the Episcopal Lectionary for the Fifth Sunday after Pentecost, Year B 2018. In the numbering system that lists each Sunday in an ordinal fashion, this Sunday is referred to as Proper 7. If chosen, this will next be read aloud in church by a reader on Sunday, June 24, 2018. This is important as the story of David (and the Israelites) versus Goliath (and the Philistines) is more than history, as this shoe fits on all the nations of the world, where some are giants and powerful and some are small and weak in comparison.  This reading calls the individual to be like David.


All Christian adults know the story of David and Goliath, with most Sunday school children over the age of six also knowledgeable of it. Certainly the details can be clouded over the years; and some churches will opt out of reading verses 1a, 4-11, and 19-23 shown above in brackets. The details of Goliath’s size and the weights of his weaponry and armor are easily forgotten, as well how David left the sheep in the fields and ran to greet his brothers, who were camped in the valley of Elah preparing to fight.


It is easy to remember David having fought lions and bears to rescue lambs, how he could barely walk under the weight of Saul’s armor and weapons given to him, and how he faced Goliath with just a slingshot and five smooth stones from the wadi. Everyone knows the final scene recited here, where David slung a rock into Goliath’s forehead and he fell face down on the ground. We do not read today of David cutting Goliath’s head off, which was the coup degras and Goliath’s death.


While the story might be known, it is easy to get caught up in admiration of David, especially in this modern time when superheroes are all the rage. This turns David into a fictitious character, rather than an example of God’s servants. Perhaps, making superheroes out of real human beings helps children want to believe in God more?


The unfortunate aspect of teaching superheroes coming from God is it misses the point of miracle that had David slay the giant Goliath. The name Goliath actually means “Exposer,” which is associated with circumcision, with it an aspect of the Philistines that the ancient Israelites obsession with transforming their enemies into obedient co-inhaibiters of Canaan.


According to the Abarim Publications website, the name Goliath means Exposer, and Israel’s occupation with the male foreskin and the mammalian reproductive cycle — with God as the rightful husband of His bridal humanity, see our article on כבד, kabad — certainly stimulates an association of Goliath with a sexual antagonist. The Creator is Israel’s true husband, but every now and then, a not-godly culture imposes its lustful will upon Israel.” The site then goes on to relate the beheading of Goliath as the figurative circumcision of the Philistine nation.


In this regard, this name meaning sheds light on the marriage the Israelite people had with God, as we read that the presence of Goliath exposed how weak this relationship was under Saul, after Goliath challenged Israel to send one man in single combat. The exposure states, “When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid.”


This is an exposure of the Israelites’ failure to live up to Moses’ decree, found in Deuteronomy 6:13. The Israelites were exposed as having failed God, because it is written, “Fear the Lord your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name.” Twice in the book of 1 Samuel (prior to the battle with the Philistines and Goliath), the prophet told the Israelites, “If you are returning to the Lord with all your hearts, then rid yourselves of the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths and commit yourselves to the Lord and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.’” (1 Samuel 7:3) Samuel then followed this up later, stating: “But be sure to fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you.” (1 Samuel 12:24)


Instead, the Israelites had demanded Samuel appoint them a king, with Saul their chosen “superhero.” Saul failed to comply with the instructions from God, through Samuel, and they then faced the Philistines with Goliath being so far turned away from God that “they were dismayed and greatly afraid.” The exposure was that a nation claimed to have the powers of God behind it, when that claim was as empty as those challenging that claim.

The Philistines claimed to have the power of some lesser god(s), who had given them a giant as their “judge.” Goliath was like a counter-balance to Samson; and in superhero terms, the Philistines were archvillains or supervillains. Israel found itself without a faithful marriage to God, which made it as powerless as Superman in chains of kryptonite.


The story of Israel versus the Philistines becomes more lastingly important over time in seeing how it reflects the age-old repetition of nations parading their right to dominate the world (or large parts of it) through some self-proclaimed righteousness of purpose, as holy empires, as God’s chosen warriors. Their simple self-promotions always had the effect of motivating unholy competitors, those who were always set on encountering those who claim superiority, wishing to test the validity of those claim.


In that constant way history has been a steady flow of rulers, tyrants, dynasties and empires, such that the character Goliath becomes synonymous with the secret development of advanced weaponry that has enhanced the rise of nations. Saul then becomes a parallel to all of the kings of Israel (and Judah), as well as any leader of a nation professing to be either Christian or Jewish, where there was no true commitment to God before self or nation. It was the realization of a self-fulfilling prophecy, when the elders told Samuel they wanted “to be like other nations.”  Other nations were like Philistia.


The armor of Goliath represents the arms races of history, where secrecy has beget spying, with everyone always attempting to place shock and awe in an enemy, unveiling its newest giant on the battlefield. All of this development throughout history has done more to elicit the fear of the world’s citizens, while also divorcing believers from their marriage to God.  Who can fear only God when the USA and the USSR are building Doomsday weapons?


This view that applies one Biblical event to all events in history where faith in God produces no fear of the worldly can then make David be seen as a reflection of the individual who is totally devoted to serving God. No nation led by a king, president, prime minister, fuhrer, dictator, or political tyrant can ever be led by an individual who is totally devoted to serving only God.  When this perspective is realized, Goliath then becomes a reflection of all who serve Satan and thereby seeks to destroy anyone who claims to have more faith in God than faith in man.


In this way, one can grasp how the words of Goliath called out the Israelites – those who claimed to be God’s chosen people – by asking, “Are you not servants of Saul?” Saul was no more than a man, regardless of how strong he was in battle, or how ruthless he was when facing enemies. Saul, no matter what superhero title he had been bestowed, was no Samson, who slew a thousand Philistines with the jawbone of an ass.  Saul was not sent by God to save the Israelites.  He was as self-promoted as any politician is today.


Samson holding his donkey jawbone high.


When Goliath then said to the Israelites drawn for battle, “Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me,” his call was for “ish” – “a man as an individual or a male person; a (good-, great, mighty) man,” as one “worthy.” (Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance)


Goliath called for two in single combat, challenging the Israelite’s faith (as individuals) in their God. Goliath then said, “If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants; but if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us.”  That was testing the commitment to God the Israelites claimed. If they were indeed a nation of priests, then any true man would willingly accept that challenge, regardless of how superhuman Goliath was.  At that point, there should have formed a line of Israelites willing to prove the power of God to Goliath and the Philistines; but instead there were none lining up. They all stood there and trembled – including the brothers of David, the sons of Jesse.


David was still the youngest son of Jesse, given the task of tending the flock. David had to make arrangements for another child to watch his father’s sheep, as “Saul, and they, and all the men of Israel, were in the valley of Elah, fighting with the Philistines.” In this fractured reading, we read how David “went as Jesse had commanded him,” making it possible to think that Jesse saw some power in David, knowing Samuel had anointed him with oil as blessed. However, in some of the verses not read, it is written that Jesse sent David to the front line with loaves of bread and blocks of cheese, to give to his brothers and their commanders; Jesse wanted David to bring back word of how the battle was shaping up. This shows that not only were the men of war “dismayed and greatly afraid,” but the old men left behind were also dependent on the strength of their army, not the power of God.


The reader needs to be able to see the child that David was as reflective of their personal inner child, which is where the roots of faith take shape. David did as his father instructed him, as an obedient son. He did not go to the valley of Elah expecting to see a giant. When we read how David arrived and gave the food supplies to the men, “the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name, came up out of the ranks of the Philistines, and spoke the same words as before. And David heard him.”


David heard evil speaking and responded as a child who had been taught never to fear evil, because only God Almighty should deserve one’s fear.  David responded as all the Israelites should have.


When we read, “David said to Saul, “Let no one’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine,”’ this is very similar to what Jesus said to his disciples after his arrest in Gethsemane. Jesus told them, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.” (John 14:1)


What David said to Saul was the words of a boy of pure innocence and complete faith in what religious lessons he had been taught.  David was not a full-grown adult then, but he spoke as one who fully believed in God and whose heart was full of courage. David spoke as a child might today, after putting on a Halloween superhero costume … or even if a bath towel is penned to his shirt, like a cape, by his mother.  David did not see the world through the tired, worried eyes of adult men.


Saul, on the other hand, represented (and David sensed it) weakness of heart. Prior to David’s volunteering before Saul (unread in this selection), Saul had offered great wealth, honor, and his daughter’s hand in marriage to any man who would kill Goliath. Offering things to someone who can keep one still living and still king over a nation of people, people who all fear giants (evil), is a sign of one’s heart failing.


Saul the cowardly lion king


After David proved his capabilities to Saul, telling him how, as a shepherd, he had rescued lambs from the mouths of lions and bears, ripping their mouths apart if they resisted him.  Saul, seeing no other volunteers present, tried to convert this boy shepherd into a man soldier by placing his personal armor on the little boy that David was. For as brave as David was, and as physically fit his youth made him, his inability to walk under the weight of heavy armor shows that the human body surrounding young David’s soul was not an outward sign of the physical strength a soldier would need to have even a slim chance of defeating the giant Goliath.


By taking off the armor, David was refusing to be commanded by the King of Israel.  Not long before clothing David in his armor, Saul had told David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are just a boy, and he has been a warrior from his youth.”  David then symbolically told Saul, “I will fight Goliath, but not on your terms.”


That removal of armor means David went to fight Goliath on the orders of God, not from a human king with a history of failing God and trembling with fear before a giant warrior. Seeing that inner call, realizing it was coming from the heart (and not a big brain), David went and gathered “five smooth stones from the wadi.” This is symbolism that should be noted, as no numbers appear in Scripture that is insignificant.


The translation of “wadi” can give the impression of dry gulch, one that is formed during the rainy season, but then becomes dry when the rains cease. This does depict a place where running water becomes the factor that makes stones smooth; but the Hebrew word written is “han-na-ḥal,” where the root word is “nachal,” meaning “brook.” By seeing a place that has constant water moving through it, whereby the stones are slowly rolled to smoothness, the symbolism of water becomes important to grasp.


I have written many times on these articles about the esoteric meaning of water, such that is relates to the emotions of human beings. Emotions are all heart-centered, running the full gamut of love, fear, hate, compassion, and all points felt in between. As such, for the Israelites who stood in fear of Goliath, a wadi makes good sense, as their emotions for God had run dry. However, for young David, whose faith never waned, he put his hands into the living waters of a brook, which states an experience that enhanced his faith (perhaps to superhero status?).


The number five has been analyzed by others, with the evidence of such analysis easily found in an Internet search for “five smooth stones of David.” One can be found here, published by the Grace in Torah website, which says, “Five is the number of strength and power as the fifth manifestation of the Holy Spirit. (Is. 11:2).” The author (K. Gallagher) also asks the question in that article, “Why did David choose five stones when it only took ONE stone to defeat the great giant?”


I do not believe that David was acting by any intellectual acumen that his short years of life had taught him (14 or 15?), as if five were the right amount of stones needed to kill a powerful enemy. While all thought as to the metaphor and symbolism of “Why five smooth stones?” can be argued and valid points made from many different angles, I sense the Ten Commandments plays a role in this case.


There were two tablets of stone brought down from the mountain by Moses. Five Commandments were on each tablet, which is again of symbolic meaning. Still, the holy tablets were to be placed within an ark, which was where God would reside and great power would be emitted. As a smooth stone has two smooth sides, the five stones taken by David represented ten sides (of smooth, flat, skip stones), which together acted as David placing the Covenant into his shepherd’s pouch, so that God would go before him into battle. None of the specific laws had any greater significance than the others; just as the Ark of the Covenant did not have high-energy powers because of the Laws written on tablets. The power came from the presence of God within the Ark.  As such, David’s symbolic act (without forethought or plan), means he went to the brook to affirm his commitment to the Covenant, and thereby take with him the simple truth of having no fear.  He went into battle with God by his side.


“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.” (Psalm 23, KJV)


This song of David sings the glory of his stooping beside the quiet waters, when his soul was restored through the Spiritual baptism of the Holy Spirit. His table was set by the collection of five smooth stones. Adherence to the Law became more than lip service to an unseen deity. David became a reproduction of the Ark of the Covenant because he believed wholeheartedly in the LORD.


When we read, “David put his hand in his bag, took out a stone, slung it, and struck the Philistine on his forehead; the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell face down on the ground,” there was no looking into the bag, as if he needed to get one specific stone from the five. Any stone would become the hand of God. The symbolism of slinging, it sinking into the forehead, and Goliath then going into a prostrate position must be grasped as more than the scene of battle between a little guy and a huge behemoth.


The lasting effect of this history (believed or disbelieved) can be seen in the logical arguments over belief in God. The atheists are the giants who roar with the power of science and observational “facts” that challenge the faith of the ignorant masses, who know less about the rules of logic than they do about the tenets of their religion that confesses faith in YAHWEH, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of Israel. That big brained beast raises fear in those who are too lazy to have total faith in God; and Goliath therefore represents the anti-religions that stand before the believers in the One God seeking a one-on-one matchup that can prove Jesus was a better prophet than Mohammad (Islam versus Judeo-Christianity).


Goliath represents the monstrosity that is behind faith in a concept that God is not a deity that cares more for anyone, as it is simply a Universal Mind or a Superconsciousness, where reincarnation is a desired ideal, rather than an admission of failure. Goliath represents all forms of polytheism, where one needs a scorecard to calculate what are the characteristics of the Supreme Deity, versus the characteristics of those in subordinate positions.


Thus, the Valley of Elah is representative of where philosophical thoughts come to challenge those who say they believe in God and Jesus Christ.


The stone that then is slung is the argument that comes from the Christ Mind, through the Holy Spirit. While the story of David and Goliath tells of a physical encounter, where the least likely to win a battle wins, the symbolism is found repeated in the lessons of the Apostles, who slung stones of Scriptural meaning that sank into the foreheads of Jewish pilgrims in Jerusalem. Three thousand pilgrims became prostrate before the LORD on Pentecost, because the stones of truth sank into their foreheads.


It is the “superhero powers” of God that transforms disciples into Apostles and Saints.  It is the Christ Mind that makes Galilean rubes speak the truth of Scripture in the tongues of of places never been, in foreign languages never heard before. The slingshot becomes the Holy Spirit, which has been placed in the hands of an empowered devotee.  The smooth stone slung are then the truth that is the wisdom of God, which comes complete with logical support that mutes the tongues of disbelievers. Words of truth sinks into the foreheads of arguers, which is where conscious though is seated.


When that truth has sunk into the big brains of giants who boldly boast of supremacy, with talk of destroying the people who claim to be chosen by God (the God of Israel), the bold talk immediately ceases. All offensive movement stops in its tracks. The truth dawns like the light at the end of the tunnel calling, “Come here you soul that challenges Me and let me show you more of this truth.”


The evil giants fall on their faces in fear of the One God, YAHWEH, in the same way that Muslims prostrate themselves before a lesser God, one who sends them out into the world to draw lines of battle and threaten to kill anyone who believes in the God of Israel. While standing erect they are embolden to speak against the Law that says, “Thou shall not kill [murder],” yet their leaders order the murders of many innocents, all because they fear a human being who wrote the word of Satan, while hidden in the darkness of a cave.  Even the Jews, who tried to kill Jesus the shepherd, are Goliath reincarnated when they deny God’s promised Messiah has been delivered.


This reading does not include the beheading of Goliath, where David took Goliath’s sword and removed his head [which some Jews see as the circumcising of the “Palestine National Schlong.”] His falling prostrate on the ground says Goliath was still alive, alone with his thoughts of the true God, while asking himself, “What evil have I done!”


Goliath exposed the presence of God in Israel, even if it was only found in one young shepherd that day, one who wore no armor into battle.  Instead of armor, he carried a man purse, while holding something like a bra.


David was like the rebirth of Gideon and his defeat of the Midianites, using an “army” of three hundred completely untrained men (Judges 6). That story also ended with the beheading of kings, which means the end of brains, whose thoughts leads humanity away from the truth of God. A beheading, after all, is only a temporary setback in the grand reincarnation scheme of thing.


David is reflective of all the times when God has sent a Savior to the Israelites. David is a reflection of Jesus of Nazareth, and all who have gone to the living waters and become the smooth stones of the LORD.


Twenty-two thousands soldiers were sent home because they were too many to defeat the Midianites. Three hundred were retained, who lapped the water of the brook like dogs.


As a reading selection on the fifth Sunday after Pentecost, when one’s personal ministry should be underway, the questions one should ask himself or herself are: “Am I filled with the fear of the Israelites? Or, am I afraid only of not serving God?”


Ministry is not about standing on the field of battle with a leader who has failed God. In modern terms of American life, there have been no Presidents of the United States of America that have not been exactly like Saul, in his lack of faith. Our founding fathers were more subservient to the philosophies of Freemasonry than to the LORD. The problems America faces today are due to the “rights” written into the U.S. Constitution in 1776, which have been twisted and turned to meet the needs of an ever-changing nation that has always been filled with fears – fears of religious controls, fears of being disarmed, fears of injustice, fears of cruel and unusual punishment, and all the fears added then and later. Therefore, a minister of the Lord does not preach politics of fear in a house dedicated to God.


The element of young David’s faith should tell us that true ministry begins in the home, where the parents both serve God, and thereby serve God as ministers to their own children. David did not learn what he deeply believed by osmosis. The flock did not teach him how to be a shepherd. Jesse instilled the values of Israel within David, where Jesse was a priest in a nation supposedly of priests. Thus ministry to children needs to be one of many acts of service to God.


When our children are seen to represent the future, with the parents the present, the lack of ministry to children is the explanation as to why the future of Christianity looks so bleak. The Goliaths of evil are leading everywhere, in enemy nations and in subversive elements pretending to be American. Ministry calls for standing up to evil, just as David did, regardless of how many stand with knees knocking in fear.


It is easy to see a problem that is too big for one man to tackle, because inaction requires no effort but fear. The difficulty is being able to see just how easy true faith makes standing up to evil.  It is as simple a matter as picking up the smooth stones of commitment and then running towards the evil with absolute faith that you are incapable of stopping the flow of God within you. Ministry is a leap of faith with eyes wide open and a smile generated by the awe of God working through you.


Blind eyes love to get lost in the fantasy of superheroes. They are the sleep of death that comes from being mortal, accepting one’s destiny of reincarnation, refusing to change that cycle and be reborn as Jesus Christ. This lesson cries, “Wake up!” It supports a Gospel reading that has Jesus ask his fearful disciples, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?”


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