1 Samuel 17: (1a, 4-11, 19-23), 32-49 - Felling Goliath

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[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 the track 1 (a) Old Testament optional reading for the fourth Sunday after Pentecost, Year B, according to the lectionary for the Episcopal Church. It will be accompanied by a reading from Psalm 9, which sings: “The ungodly have fallen into the pit they dug, and in the snare they set is their own foot caught.” Those readings will precede the Epistle selection from Second Corinthians, where Paul wrote: “See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation!” All will accompany the Gospel choice from Mark, where we read, “[Jesus] woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm.”


This is the story of young David coming to face Goliath, as the small versus the giant. It reflects upon all times in human lives when overwhelming odds seem to make defeat imminent, such that one is forced by circumstances to want to surrender, simply to avoid being utterly destroyed. Therefore, the root message in this reading must be seen as trust, confidence and faith being mightier weapons than fear.


There seems to be interest in figuring out if this event is true, by looking for evidence that this battle ever truly took place. While there seems to be a consensus opinion that everything lines up as truth, the fact that there is doubt shines a spotlight at the fear and doubt the army under Saul experienced. The faith that comes from reading divine text as truth, without any need to prove it otherwise, is equivalent of David’s attitude when he arrived and heard the fear in people who claimed to be Israelites. There was never any doubt in David’s soul that Yahweh would prevail over an enemy of His people [all priests of Him, regardless of one's occupation], as Yahweh was a greater giant that Goliath.


While the dimensions of Goliath are detailed, all we know about David is he was “a boy.” David lived seventy years. He was king for forty years. That means that he was less than thirty when Saul died. While there is no exact time known for Saul’s reign, scholars believe he reigned for at least twenty years. Saul’s son was made king after him, lasting two years. Given the years that David spent living with Saul and then hiding from his wrath, I see David anointed by Samuel when he was eight years of age. I then see his defeat of Goliath taking place when he was ten years old, roughly three years into Saul’s reign. Still, as a ten-year old [which is prepubescent and prior to normal growth spurts in males], one can see that David was physically no match for the size of Goliath.


When David told Saul about his feats as a shepherd, saving lambs from the mouths of lions and bears, both animals being symbols of great strength and ferociousness, one should not jump to a conclusion that David was unusually muscular and strong as a boy [which would have been when he was eight or nine years old]. The only description of David is when Goliath sets eyes on him: “for he is only a youth, ruddy and handsome in appearance.” That is the same description given when Samuel saw David. It says nothing about his being strong and muscular, as “ruddy” means his skin was reddened by the sun [as well as possibly having red hair] and he looked effeminate, rather than manly. That appearance must be seen as at the root for why foreign language [not English] assigning children of both sexes to the neuter gender: they are neither man nor woman until puberty. Therefore, the beauty of a child reflects more on is still be a growth from its mother.


This makes David have the appearance of Jacob, who was much unlike his brother Esau in appearance. Jacob was a 'momma's boy.' This should cause one to reflect back to what Yahweh told Samuel, when Samuel saw Jesse’s eldest [Eliab] and thought surely he must be the one, because he looked kingly. Yahweh told Samuel, “the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” It is in the same way Goliath looked upon David, leading him to refer to David as a “stick.” David must be seen as completely incapable of defeat his own shadow, by looks alone. Still, his “heart” was married to Yahweh [and a “heart” means the “inner man,” or a soul].


In the verses read, David is found wearing heavy armor and trying to carrying heavy weapons, finding out that weight and bulk made it impossible to walk. All of that represents the outer wears reflecting inner fears; even, while the heaviness of armor and weapons shows David did not possess a strong manlike body. It was David's heart that had others attempt to make him look strong, because of their fears.


When one is afraid of death, one tries everything humanly possible to prevent death. Here, it should be noted that Goliath was no different than any other warrior, where all warriors know death is the name of the game played. The object of warfare is to kill or be killed. Thus, the wearing of armor says Goliath, as large as he was, was still afraid within his soul, unwilling to enter battle without outer protection and carrying weapons that would visibly strike fear in any soldier likewise fearing the loss of life in battle.


We read that David “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 Hebrew word translated as “his staff” is “maq·lōw,” which equally says “rod,” but is usually read as a shepherd’s “staff” or “crook.” That is an instrument for stability when walking, while also an instrument for reaching out beyond one’s normal reach. Everything David was 'armed' with was the tools of a shepherd; and, it must be realized he entered battle as a shepherd protecting the frightened flock of Saul's army. He carried a "staff" just like he wrote in Psalm 23: "Your rod and staff they comfort me." Still, the same word can mean “stick,” which says Goliath saw a boy with a shepherd’s crook coming to meet him in battle. Goliath then reflects a lion or bear, as a threat to the flock. However, it was the lack of readily visible weaponry that led Goliath to curse David, using the names of his “elohim.”


The symbolism of David picking out “five smooth stones” can seem to imply that he took more than one, in case he missed or if one didn’t do the trick. That should not be seen as the deeper reason the number “five” is stated. The number “five” is symbolic of the human realm, where the “elohim” made man in their image, with two arms, two legs, and a head. This becomes the symbol of the five-pointed star, or a pentagram, which would later become the symbol of Jerusalem. The fifth stone is then symbolic of the one stone David loaded into his sling, as it was the fifth stone [taking it out left four] that would target the head [the fifth point of a human] and kill the beast.


The "head" of a human would be destroyed; and, that was where the “elohim” [those named in the curses of David] symbolized the gods of the earth the Philistines worshiped. They were possessed by demonic spirits ["elohim"] that had control over their souls, reigning over their bodies through their brains. Thus, before David slung the fifth stone and struck Goliath between the eyes, sinking it into his head, he said: “I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.”


In that, it is most important to realize the truth of what David said. The Hebrew written is this: “wə·’ā·nō·ḵî ḇā-’ê·le·ḵā , bə·šêm Yah-weh ṣə·ḇā·’ō·wṯ,” which says, “but I come , in the name of Yahweh hosts”. When David spoke in the first person, as “I come,” this is not a statement of self – the boy named David – but a statement of Yahweh coming forth, in that physical form on earth. With that said, David specifically named “Yahweh” as the God having “come” to face the ‘midget’ Goliath, who was miniscule before Him.


This was the truth being stated because Yahweh had married the soul of David, when Samuel anointed him privately. The Hebrew word translated as “hosts” can also mean “army” or “angels,” but the use here says it was in Yahweh’s name that all the “elohim” were created [in Genesis 1]. That certainly including the names of the “elohim” that Goliath had used to curse David by, who was Yahweh incarnate. As Yahweh incarnate, David was an “elohim” warrior presence in human form, as a soul married to Yahweh's Spirit. It was that holy union that made David be greater than any monstrous thing the “elohim” of the Philistines could create. Therefore, David speaking those words, became the truth of Goliath’s coming demise, as justice for one who cursed Yahweh, having not been warned by his “elohim” that David was God incarnate.


[Here, one should recall how Jesus' entrance into Gerasenes had him come upon a man possessed by many demons, led by Legion. That demon spirit called out to Jesus, saying, "What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!" He begged Jesus not to destroy them, "because there were many," who were all "elohim" of Satan. Jesus cast them out into pigs, which then ran and jumped off a cliff into the sea, drowning them with the demon spirits. Had Goliath be led by knowing "elohim," he would have been warned to fear David in the same way.]


This is confirmed when the NRSV translates David as having added, “the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.” In actuality, the Hebrew written states: “’ĕ·lō·hê ma·‘ar·ḵōṯ yiś·rā·’êl , ’ ă·šer ḥê·rap̄·tā”. This literally translates to say, “elohim ranks of Israel , which you have reproached”. This relates the name “Israel” as all who have married their souls to Yahweh [the “ĕ·lō·hê”] and been transformed to “He Retains God” or “God Is Upright.” While Saul led soldiers who paraded around claiming to be the armies of Israel, under a human king named Saul, they shook in their battle sandals from fear of facing a monster creation by the “elohim” of the world, filling Goliath with a demonic spirit or seraph. Goliath had made the fatal mistake of sensing the fear of Saul’s army and then thinking David was a reflection of how small a threat even their greatest warrior [certainly not Saul] would be, coming before his beastly figure. Goliath was totally wrong in his assessment of David.


When David spoke to Goliath, it was not a shepherd boy speaking. It was Yahweh speaking through one of His wives [a divine “elohim”]. When the NRSV shows David saying, “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,” the translations of “God” and “Lord” are mistranslation. In reality, the words spoken are written, “’ĕ·lō·hîm lə·yiś·rā·’êl,” which defines the truth as being “elohim in Israel.”


Without that marriage of souls to Yahweh, there is no “elohim in Israel.” David stood to prove he was the “elohim in Israel.” The words then spoken say, “not by sword or with spear does save Yahweh , for Yahweh the battle is”. That says weaponry and the instruments of fear does not make Yahweh submissive to one, as the battle is for oneself [a self = a soul] to submit to Yahweh by the release of all fear. Such release of all fear which can only be done through spiritual marriage. The marriage gift is then the faith that comes from knowing one's soul is saved, as one in union with the divine. The battle is not facing giant brutes in mail with huge spears and shield bearers, as the battle is like that Jacob fought in his darkness, alone with his "elohim." The daybreak meant when his soul had married Yahweh and he had become an “elohim in Israel.”


The impression given by the NRSV translation that says, “When the Philistine drew nearer to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine,” is that of two charging one another. That is not what happened, as the Hebrew written about David says, “way·ma·hêr dā·wiḏ , way·yā·rāṣ ham·ma·‘ă·rā·ḵāh liq·raṯ hap·pə·liš·tî,” which literally says, “and hastened David , and moved quickly the ranks [of Israel] to encounter the Philistine.” This does not say David began running, as the implication and intent is to state that as Goliath began moving towards David, while David was calmly allowing Yahweh to hasten his movements [physically and mentally].


David had previously stated that he, as Yahweh incarnate, represented the "ranks of Israel" [from "’ĕ·lō·hê ma·‘ar·ḵōṯ yiś·rā·’êl"], when he said Goliath had "reproached Yahweh." This David's mind moved as the “ranks in Israel,” quickly preparing to act in response to Goliath’s first move. One should expect the ‘mountain must come to Yahweh,” because as big as Goliath was, he wanted to get closer to his enemy before striking. Still, the giant did not move that fast, especially when it was convinced it would win this battle with ease.


When the NRSV translates the final element of this encounter as saying: “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,” the repetition here is significant. The stone struck the Philistine in the “forehead” [“miṣ·ḥōw”] and it sank into the “forehead” [“bə·miṣ·ḥōw”], such that the “forehead” is symbolic of where one’s brain is the organ of flesh leads a body of flesh to go. The “fifth stone” was one designed to stop the brain from leading the body, in the same way as the saying goes, “where the mind goes the body will follow.” Thus, the symbolism of “he fell face down on the ground” says the “face” worn by Goliath was one led by the “gods” [“elohim”] of the physical realm ["ground"], not the spiritual realm ruled by Yahweh. With the brain of Goliath incapacitated, the truth of the realm he served came forth: the death brought to all born of the material universe - "face down on the ground."


As a primary Old Testament reading option [track 1a], this speaks loudly of how all who serve Yahweh do so by their hearts [souls] married to Him, in obedient commitment based on total faith and trust. We are all called to have the trust of a boy [a young child] in his Father, where it is not about how strong one appears outwardly, but how deep one’s love is for Yahweh. The fear felt by those who followed Saul, including the three oldest brothers of David, said they were committed to following a human king, rather than Yahweh; and, Samuel had warned the elders that their sons would be sacrificed in wars, for the laurels of that king. The brothers of David were prepared to die – expecting to die – but because they knew their fathers had made that promise. They were not prepared to die for Yahweh as their king.


This is reflective of how patriotism, faith and commitment to a government or principle of philosophy is wearing a face to the ground. It is not he same as a soul’s marriage to Yahweh, because the brain leads the body, even if the body shakes with fear of death. Not read today, but written in the omitted text, is how David’s eldest brother [whom Samuel thought, “surely this is the one”] became angered [a human emotion like fear], when David was asking others what the reward was for killing Goliath. David was asking, thinking surely someone – anyone married to Yahweh, thus an “elohim in Israel” – would jump at the chance to reap the rewards of faith in Yahweh’s greatness. His brother scolded David for asking such a question, saying David was only there to watch the coming battle and watch men die. Patriotism has that expectation as faith. Being an "elohim in Israel" does not, as Yahweh is one's King.


As a reading choice for the fourth Sunday after Pentecost, when all should be like David and bravely be ready to begin a ministry for Yahweh, the message to receive here speaks of the fear that keeps one from making that commitment to the true God. The vast majority of Christians in the world are trembling with fear of death, even though they all know fear of death means they have committed to serve lesser kings, rather than marry a soul to Yahweh, the One true King. Many Christians become the Philistines, as they attack those who claim to be “He Retains God,” as true Christians only make the fakers be exposed as the enemies of Yahweh. The giants of religion – Judaism and Islam and others – and the giants of philosophy – Communism and Democracy – all stand at the front lines calling out to the cowards who profess to believe in the unseen, while trembling with fear because they know in their hearts [souls] they do not know Yahweh [they fear even saying His name].


The challenge of this reading is to slay oneself, because one’s own ego is the Goliath that forces one to be a slave to sin. Goliath lay face down in the dirt from which his body was made, after a holy stone [the Covenant] was sunk deep into his brain, incapacitating him. Egos grow so huge when left alone, so they are easy prey to be influenced by the whispers of Satan’s “elohim” – the seraphim or fiery serpents of demonic possession. The child within each of our souls needs to pick out the fifth stone that will fell one’s ego, so the ugly head of Satan’s possession can be chopped off, allowing one’s soul to be free to marry Yahweh and begin ministry.