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Bible Commentaries

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

1 Samuel 17

 

 

Verses 1-58

1 Samuel 17:4. There went out a champion, Goliath of Gath; a military character well known to the Hebrews. More than thirty years before he had scattered the army of Israel, slain the sons of Eli, and captured the ark, so that even heroes trembled at his name. His height was six cubits and a span; that is, nine feet six inches. Genesis 6:4. Numbers 13:28.

1 Samuel 17:5. A coat of mail; made of plates of foliated brass, with joints to admit of muscular motion in the arms and the body. Budeus in Paris, and more recently bishop Cumberland in England, have given an estimate of the whole of his armour as exceeding three hundred pounds weight.

1 Samuel 17:7. His spear was like a weaver’s beam in thickness, and twelve feet or more in length. Homer, Iliad 6., says that Hector’s spear was eleven feet in length. When he met Achilles in front of the Greek and Trojan armies, the soldiers suspended the battle to see the single combat. Hector threw his spear, which glided off Achilles’ coat of mail; then Achilles putting his spear between Hector’s legs, threw him on his back, and pierced the side of his throat, which was the signal of victory to the Greeks.

1 Samuel 17:16. The Philistine—presented himself, at the time of morning and evening parade, for forty days. He defied the army, and execrated the God of Israel. This was conformable to the ancient usages. Balak sent for Balaam to curse Jacob, and defy Israel. When the Romans attacked the Druids in the Isle of Anglesey, women were seen with torches, cursing and defying them. It was frequently the case for armies to encamp against each other for a long time, particularly in the wars between the Nabobs of India.

1 Samuel 17:26. David spake to the men that stood by—What shall be done for the man that killeth this Philistine? Prompted by the Spirit of God, he had come with bread for his brothers in his simplicity, not knowing the insults offered daily to JEHOVAH. He who had anointed David for the throne, opened his way by illustrious means for elevation.

1 Samuel 17:32. David said to Saul—thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine. Had it not been for the heroism of slaying a lion one day, and a bear on another, Saul would not have confided the honour of the field to a youth, but twenty three years of age. Killing a lion placed Hercules in the list of heroes. The king perceived that David had a soul equal to the fight, and prayed the Lord to be with him: 1 Samuel 17:37.

1 Samuel 17:35. I caught by the beard, which includes his nostrils. The LXX read throat, which associates best with the idea of suffocation.

1 Samuel 17:40. He took his staff, the rod of his sling used as a staff, and chose five smooth stones out of the brook which ran between the two armies. David perceived that Goliath, like the massy Memnon, was heavily armed for close fight, and resolved to attack him by missiles, which would render his strength and his armour of no avail. Bethlehem was adjacent to the children of Benjamin, many of whom could sling a stone to a hair’s breadth and not miss. David had perfected himself in the use of the sling, a weapon which gentiles also had carried to perfection.

1 Samuel 17:43. The Philistine cursed David, באלהיו ba-Elohaiv, by his gods. It is difficult to say whether he understood this Hebrew word. Menochius gives us here a Roman form of execration. Dii te, Deaeque perdant, may the gods and goddesses destroy thee. David’s God requited these curses on Goliath’s head, by covering his eyes with a vapour, as it would seem, so that he repelled not the stone.

1 Samuel 17:49. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell upon his face to the earth: he fell to rise no more. The prostration of this monster reminds us of Virgil’s description of the fall of Entellus.

Entellus vires in ventum effudit, et ultrò Ipse gravis graviterque ad terram pondere vasto Concidit: ut quondam cava concidit, aut Erymantho, Aut Idâ in magnâ, radicibus eruta pious, ÆN. lib. 5. 50:446.

Entellus wastes his forces on the wind; And thus deluded of the stroke design’d, Headlong and heavy fell; his ample breast, And weighty limbs, his ancient mother press’d. So falls a hollow pine, that long had stood On Ida’s height, or Erymanthus wood, Torn from the roots, — DRYDEN.

REFLECTIONS.

The Philistines, after the late war, having learned the particulars of their shameful flight from the sword of Jonathan, now seem anxious to recover their tarnished honour, and to excel the Hebrews in single combat, as well as in pitched battles. Thus private passions often occasion war; but God permits it for the punishment of wicked nations. The hero they had trained and armed in a coat of mail for this purpose, was Goliath of the ancient race of giants. His armour being highly polished, shed a terrific lustre on the trembling Hebrews. So the infidel age, by principle and by practice, bids defiance to the judgments of heaven, and ridicules the sanctifying fears of holy men.

At this juncture of time, when Saul had lost his courage, and when all his host were assailed with fear, David arrived at the camp. He heard the monster on the fortieth day, and the fortieth time blaspheme the name of his God; and his soul rose high in proportion as others feared. He heard the vast rewards of the king till his courage reached the royal ear. When Eliab, impelled by passion, severely accused him of pride, he proceeded with his enquiries; and when Saul discouraged him on the consideration of his youth, he mentioned the lion and the bear, deeds he could not have named with modesty, but in his present situation. Saul at last, hardly persuaded, armed him like Goliath; but this armour David laid aside, as ill according with his faith. So our blessed Lord, not believed on by his brethren, forsaken of his disciples, encountered death in single combat; and by the redemption of man, and his resurrection from the dead, he has laid the boasting of hell prostrate in the dust.

Behold now this stripling, despised on all sides, and apparently unarmed, approach the insulting foe. But he approaches in the name and strength of the Lord, and gives him a deadly wound in the height of all his pride, and in the last day of his contempt of God. Herod also, insulting heaven, fell by the angel, in the highest splendour of glory; so the Lord often overthrows his foes when they have attained the summit of wickedness and pride.

In Goliath’s fall we see the end of infidel and blaspheming men, who despise the name, and deride the judgments of the Lord. What a humiliation to Philistia which trusted in an arm of flesh: what a joy to Israel, to see the monster fall before a stripling, whose coat of mail was faith in God, and whose weapons were simply a stone and a sling. Well might the alien fly, and Israel pursue. It is God who giveth the victory, and encreaseth strength to them that have no might.

In David’s triumphant return to Saul, we see that he paid due homage to his king, and ascribed salvation to the Lord. He regarded this victory as the peculiar gift of heaven. Feeling his soul animated by a divine impetus, he had hurled back the boasting sneer of the heathen; and in the power of faith, laid him prostrate by the first effort of his arm. Thus the proud boaster had not power to raise his shield and repel a stone; the defier of the living God fell by the smallest touch of divine indignation. Israel’s tears were now turned to joy; all their confessions of fear and discouragement were at once changed to shouts; and Philistia could never more bring a champion into the field. In all this we cannot but be reminded of what Christ has done for us. Yea, the Holy Spirit seems to have alluded to our redemption by David’s victory. I wept much, says St. John, when no man was found worthy to open the book. But the angel said weep not, for behold the lion of the tribe of Judah hath prevailed to take the book, and to unloose the seals thereof. David, descended from Judah, having rent a lion, and slain Goliath, did the more strikingly prefigure our Saviour, who by a single stroke, not in Saul’s armour, hath vanquished death, and triumphed over all the powers of darkness on the cross. Rise, christian Israel; “turn the battle to the gates of the enemy.” Isaiah 9:4. Rise and spoil the alien. Rise and give glory to God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

 


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Bibliography Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 17:4". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jsc/1-samuel-17.html. 1835.

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