David and Goliath
The story of David's victory over the Philistine giant Goliath
is an enacted parable of the promise of Gen 3:15 (the seed of the woman crushing
the head, and power, of the serpent). It is also a powerful and provocative
"picture of redemption".
David's defeat of Goliath typifies the work of Christ in two
different, though related, aspects: (1) Christ's moral victory over the power of
sin in himself, and (2) Christ's coming military victory over sin its political
forms. It was necessary that Christ first conquer the "world" in himself, by
subduing the lusts of the flesh, so that he might be qualified to conquer the
nations and rule over them. Both these victories, the one past, the other yet
future -- are beautifully outlined in the stirring drama on 1Sa 17. In this epic
encounter between faith and force, Holy Spirit and human nature, the heavenly
and the earthly, we see all the redemptive purpose of Almighty God, unfolding
from Eden onward.
"Now the Philistines gathered their forces for war" (1Sa
17:1). The name "Philistine" has found a place in the English language as a
common noun, describing those who are ignorant and uncultured, those who are "of
the earth, and earthy" (1Co 15:47), without the least aspiration toward higher
The Philistines pitched their tents in "Ephes Dammim", which
signifies "the border of blood". This site was a little south of Jerusalem and
halfway over toward the Mediterranean Sea, at the border between the Israelite
hills and the Philistine plain. The "border of blood" marked the crest, or high
point, of human power -- the point where it was to be broken and turned back.
"This far you may come and no farther; here is where your proud waves halt" (Job
38:11). As such, "Ephes Dammim" typifies Golgotha in the past, and Armageddon in
the future: the sites where "sin" reaches its high-water mark and is afterward
repulsed by the Hand of God. (Linguistically, Ephes Dammim is closely related to
"Aceldama" -- the "field of blood", where the traitor Judas met his fate: Acts
"The Philistines occupied one hill and the Israelites another, with the valley
between them" (1Sa 17:3).
Mountains in Scripture often represent military powers (Zec
6:1), while valleys are places of sorrow, humiliation, and trial -- and
sometimes of destruction, such as the valley of Jehoshaphat (Joel 3:12), where
the serpent-power of the Gentiles will be broken. Like David, Jesus had to go
into "the valley of the shadow of death" (Psa 23:4) to conquer the "giant" of
sin. Figuratively, too, Israel will have to go through the "valley of Achor
(trouble)" (Hos 2:15), and the "valley of Baca (tears)" (Psa 84:5-7) before
finally reaching the Kingdom of God.
"Goliath" (1Sa 17:4) means "exile"; he was from "Gath", which
means "winepress". The Philistine giant was, like Cain (Gen 4:14,16), an exile
from God because of sin. He was trodden down by David, even as all human power
and pride will be trodden down by Christ in the great "winepress" of the wrath
of God (Isa 63:3; Rev 14:19). Goliath's height was six cubits (the number of
man: compare the "666" in Rev 13:18). He was covered with bronze -- symbolic of
the flesh. He was the human equivalent of the bronze, or brass, serpent of Num
21 -- the power of sin destroyed by Christ on the cross (John 3:14). He was
arrayed in armor and weapons of the flesh, in contrast to the spiritual arsenal
of Eph 6:13-17, which was David's trust (1Sa 17:45), as well as
This mighty champion of the flesh came out into the valley
between the two armies, every day for forty days, to defy the God of Israel. It
was a sad, shameful spectacle; not a man of Israel , not even King Saul (himself
a giant: 1Sa 10:23!), had the faith and courage to confront this blasphemer (1Sa
Now comes a sudden break in the narrative (v 12), introducing
the second antagonist in this epic struggle: David, a young man, a shepherd of
Bethlehem (v 15), had been sent by his father to take provisions to his three
older brothers serving in Saul's army (vv 17-19).
David, when he came to his brothers, was met with mockery and
derision (v 28). Likewise Jesus, when he came to save his brothers from the
"giant" of sin, met the same ridicule. How much natural man needs salvation; yet
how little he realizes it!
The boy David could not understand the inaction of Saul's men:
"Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the
living God?" (v 26).
The words of the shepherd boy come to the ears of the
distraught king, who is so desperate that he sends for him. And the poor
shepherd boy says to the mighty king: "Let no one lose heart on account of this
Philistine; your servant will go and fight him" (v 32).
Saul reasons according to the flesh, which is fatally obsessed
with size and natural advantage:
"You are not able..." (v 33).
BUT WHY NOT, IF GOD IS WITH HIM? "If God is for us, who can be
against us?" (Rom 8:31). How often do we forget the strength of faith, and make
the same mistake -- tentative, timid, and even afraid? How often do we forget
that, if God is on our side, then nothing can stand in our way!
David wisely refuses Saul's offer of armor. The children of
the Spirit are no match for the children of the flesh if they attempt to meet
them on their own ground and do battle with their own weapons. The "seed of the
woman" will always be outclassed by the "seed of the serpent" in numbers,
experience, prestige, and learning. Their defense -- and offense -- must be in
the "shield" of faith and the "sword" of the Spirit (Eph 6:16,17)!
For his weapon, David took his sling and then chose five
smooth stones out of the brook (1Sa 17:40). (Why five? was it because Goliath
had four brothers -- 2Sa 21:15-21 -- also giants?) The sling, made of animal
skin, would require a death for its preparation. Like the garments that God
prepared to cover Adam and Eve's nakedness after their sin, the sling also
typified a sacrificial death. The sling (suggesting a sacrificial death) gave
all the power to the stone which David hurled against the giant. The stone which
brought down Goliath typifies Christ: he is the stone rejected by the builders,
but later made the cornerstone of God's building (Psa 118:22). He is also the
stone cut out of the mountain of human flesh WITHOUT HANDS (ie, born of a woman
without human father: Gen 3:15), which smote and destroyed Nebuchadnezzar's
image (Dan 2:34), and then filled the whole earth.
The smiting of the "dream" image in Daniel 2 is parallel to
David's smiting of Goliath, with one significant difference : one stone smote
Goliath in the HEAD (cp Gen 3:15), which symbolizes the vital life center. The
other strikes the image on the FEET, symbolizing the time when destruction is
accomplished -- the end of the age. But, each time, the end result is the same:
the Image of "Sin" destroyed, and Israel saved.
The Nebuchadnezzar image represents the accumulated history of
the four great empires that collectively make up the "serpent-power" of the
Kingdom of Men, which oppressed God's kingdom of Israel. David's selection of
FIVE smooth stones relates his victory to the FIFTH great Kingdom: the Kingdom
of God that will finally conquer all and fill the earth with His
"Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and
struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he
fell facedown on the ground" (1Sa 17:49). On this verse the old Bible
commentator, Matthew Henry, quaintly writes: "See how frail and uncertain life
is, even when it thinks itself best fortified, and how quickly, how easily, and
with how small a matter, the passage may be opened for life to go out and death
This was the typical fulfillment of the Edenic promise that
the woman's seed should crush the serpent's head. The antitype stretches from
the cross to the military destruction of the last vestiges of human misrule and
oppression, when Christ returns.
"David ran and stood over him. He took hold of the
Philistine's sword and drew it from the scabbard. After he killed him, he cut
off his head with the sword" (v 51). And he brought the head to Jerusalem (v
54). Jerusalem proper was still in the hands of the Jebusites (2Sa 5:6-10). We
know that Goliath's sword was kept at Nob (1Sa 21:9), very near Jerusalem (cp
Isa 10:32; Neh 11:32). So probably Goliath's head was buried there too. Nob may
be identical with Golgotha ('the place of a skull'). David's act symbolized the
destruction of the head of sin, accomplished by Jesus in his own body on the
cross, and finalized at Golgotha just outside the walls of Jerusalem. (Ancient
Hebrew tradition suggests that Golgotha was so named because it was the burial
place of Goliath's head.)
David's act also prefigures the cutting off of all mortal
ruling power, and the transferring of all the world's headship to Jerusalem,
"the city of the great king" (Mat 5:35).
"Then the men of Israel and Judah surged forward with a shout
and pursued the Philistines to the entrance of Gath and to the gates of Ekron.
Their dead were strewn along the Shaaraim road to Gath and Ekron" (1Sa
David's wonderful feat revitalized the army of Israel, which
then went on to rout the Philistines. Those who were powerless and afraid to
face Goliath received new strength and courage in the victory of David. Like
David, Jesus was the only one capable of winning the special victory over the
"serpent". Yet his victory over that "devil" -- like David's over Goliath --
delivered his brethren who -- previously -- "all their lives were held in
slavery by their fear of death" (Heb 2:15).
"Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your
sting?... The sting of death is sin... But thanks be to God! He gives us the
victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1Co 15:55-57).