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Bible Commentaries

The Popular Commentary by Paul E. Kretzmann

1 Samuel 17

 

 

Verses 1-11

Goliath's Defiance of Israel

v. 1. Now, the Philistines, the federation of the five city states, gathered together their armies to battle, and were gathered together at Shochoh, which belongeth to Judah, some ten miles southwest of Jerusalem, and pitched between Shochoh and Azekah, in Ephesdammim, in a range of hills which gave their camp a good strategic position.

v. 2. And Saul and the men of Israel were gathered together and pitched by the Valley of Elah, in the Terebinth Valley, northeast of the Philistine position, and set the battle in array against the Philistines.

v. 3. And the Philistines stood on a mountain on the one side, literally, "towards the mountain," on the higher slopes, and Israel stood on a mountain on the other side; and there was a valley between them, the deeper bed of the brook.

v. 4. And there went out a champion out of the camp of the philistines, one of the few descendants of the giant race left by Joshua, Jos_11:22, named Goliath, of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span (about nine feet and nine inches).

v. 5. And he had an helmet of brass upon his head, and he was armed, clothed, with a coat of mail, a scale-corselet made of overlapping metal plates; and the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of brass (a copper shekel being a little less than half an ounce, the total weight probably some 150 pounds).

v. 6. And he had greaves of brass upon his legs, where his coat of mail did not extend, and a target of brass, a copper lance, or javelin, between his shoulders.

v. 7. And the staff of his spear was like a weaver's beam; and his spear's head weighed six hundred shekels of iron (about seventeen pounds); and one bearing a shield went before him, for the great shield was needed only when the soldier was on the defensive.

v. 8. And he stood and cried unto the armies of Israel, the divisions and companies as they were set up in battle array, and said unto them, Why are ye come out to set your battle in array? Am not I a Philistine and ye servants to Saul? Choose you a man for you, and let him come down to me, to the valley beneath the hillside where the Israelites were standing in battle-line.

v. 9. 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 and serve us. So Goliath's proposal was to have the entire matter decided by single combat, since he felt sure that the outcome would be in favor of the Philistines.

v. 10. And the Philistine said, I defy the armies of Israel this day, by issuing his challenge in this manner; give me a man that we may fight together. The contempt lay in the expression "slaves of Saul" and was expressed with all the greater boldness, since there was no answer on the part of Israel.

v. 11. When Saul and all Israel heard those words of the Philistine, they were dismayed, cast down, terrified, and greatly afraid. "Israel is afraid because its king Isaiah They dare not in childlike spirit appropriate the promises of Jehovah. The wings that should bear them up in trustful upsoaring to the Lord of hosts are crippled. "


Verses 1-23

David Plays for Saul

v. 14. But the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, now that his rejection was an established fact, and an evil spirit from the Lord, having been given permission to that effect by the Lord, troubled him, fell upon him and terrified him, filled him with anxious worry and a nameless dread. It was a wicked power, which had a strange control over him.

v. 15. And Saul's servants said unto him, Behold now, an evil spirit from God, sent as a punishment from God, troubleth thee.

v. 16. Let our lord now command thy servants which are before thee to seek out a man who is a cunning player on an harp, a skilful harpist; and it shall come to pass, when the evil spirit from God is upon thee, that he shall play with his hand, and thou shalt be well, for the soothing influence of music was known even at that time.

v. 17. And Saul said unto his servants, Provide me now a man that can play well, and bring him to me, for he was glad to try this method of alleviating his trouble.

v. 18. Then answered one of the servants and said, Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse, the Bethlehemite, that is cunning in playing, a skilful harpist, and a mighty, valiant man, full of bravery and of a warlike spirit, and a man of war, apparently fit to be a good soldier, and prudent in matters, eloquent of speech, and a comely person, strong and handsome, and the Lord is with him. The recommendation shows all the characteristics which later appeared in the history of David.

v. 19. Wherefore Saul sent messengers unto Jesse and said, Send me David, thy son, which is with the sheep, Saul thus making use of his kingly prerogative in pressing men into his personal service.

v. 20. And Jesse took an ass laden with bread, and a bottle, a skin, of wine, and a kid, as presents to the king, and sent them by David, his son, unto Saul, presents of this kind being a sign of obedience and subjection.

v. 21. And David came to Saul and stood before him, as his servant; and he, Saul, loved him greatly; and he became his armorbearer, being trained for military service.

v. 22. And Saul sent to Jesse, saying, Let David, I pray thee, stand before me, continue in the king's service; for he hath found favor in my sight.

v. 23. And it came to pass, when the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, when he had special attacks of his affliction, when the gloomy moods were upon him, that David took an harp and played with his hand; so Saul was refreshed and was well, he found relief, and the evil spirit departed from him. David's story shows that the Lord leads His children in marvelous ways. Those who are intended for servants in His kingdom are so guided by Him that all they see, hear, learn, and experience is of value to them for their future calling.


Verses 12-31

David Sent to the Camp

v. 12. Now, David was the son of that Ephrathite of Bethlehem-judah whose name was Jesse; and he had eight sons; and the man went among men for an old man in the days of Saul, he was advanced in years and consequently felt the weakness of old age.

v. 13. And the three eldest sons of Jesse went and followed Saul to the battle, they were in the army which had been summoned to repel the invaders; and the names of his three sons that went to battle were Eliab, the first-born, and next unto him Abinadab, and the third Shammah, 1Sa_16:6-9.

v. 14. And David was the youngest; and the three eldest followed Saul.

v. 15. But David went and returned from Saul, he went back and forth between his home and the king's court, just as Saul had need of him, to feed his father's sheep at Bethlehem, he helped out at home as much as possible, especially now that Saul had gone forth on the campaign against the Philistines. He had indeed been enrolled among Saul's armor-bearers, but he had not yet been drilled in the art of warfare as it was then practiced.

v. 16. And the Philistine drew near morning and evening and presented himself forty days.

v. 17. And Jesse said unto David, his son, during these forty days, Take now for thy brethren an ephah (about 26 quarts) of this parched corn, roasted peas or grain, and these ten loaves, and run to the camp to thy brethren;

v. 18. and carry these ten cheeses, portions of curds, probably on the order of cottage-cheese, unto the captain of their thousand, under whose command his brothers were, and look how thy brethren fare, inquiring after their welfare; and take their pledge, some personal. token which would assure the father that they were indeed well.

v. 19. Now, Saul and they, the eons of Jesse, and all the men of Israel were in the Valley of Elah, fighting with the Philistines. This remark belongs to the instructions which Jesse addressed to David.

v. 20. And David rose up early in the morning, and left the sheep with a keeper, faithful to his charge also in this, and took, and went as Jesse had commanded him; and be came to the trench, the wagon rampart which served for a fortification of the camp, as the host was going forth to the fight, to be set up in battle array, and shouted for the battle, raised their war-cry, to encourage their own ranks and to terrify the enemies in case they should contemplate an attack.

v. 21. For Israel and the Philistines had put the battle in array, army against army, in readiness for the battle which was expected every day.

v. 22. And David left his carriage, the load which he had come to deliver, in the hand of the keeper of the carriage, the officer in charge of the army's baggage, and ran into the army, and came and saluted his brethren, asking for his brothers, inquiring after their well-being.

v. 23. And as he talked with them, behold, there came up the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name, out of the armies of the Philistines, and spake according to the same words, as he usually did; and David heard them.

v. 24. And all the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him, and were sore afraid, the very sight of the man filled them with such fear and trembling that they were unable to give battle.

v. 25. And the men of Israel said, after the manner of men discussing a great calamity, Have ye seen this man that is come up? Surely to defy Israel is he come up, to challenge them to single combat with a contemptuous sneer; and it shall be that 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, exempt from taxes and every form of public service. This was the promise of Saul in a public proclamation, intended to inspire some man with the courage to risk his life in battle.

v. 26. And David spake to the men that stood by him, saying, What shall be done to the man that killeth this Philistine and taketh away the reproach from Israel, which was daily heaped upon the entire people by this contemptuous challenge? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, a man outside of the covenant with Jehovah, that he should defy the armies of the living God? The main thought in David's mind was this, that the insult offered to Israel, the people of Jehovah, must be wiped out at all costs.

v. 27. And the people answered him after this manner, in agreement with the proclamation of the king, as before, saying, So shall it be done to the man that killeth him.

v. 28. And Eliab, his eldest brother, heard when he spake unto the men, and Eliab's anger was kindled against David, and he said, Why camest thou down hither, from the higher ranges near Bethlehem? And with whom hast thou left those few sheep in the wilderness? He intimated that their family could ill afford to lose the few heads of small cattle which they owned. His zeal was blinded by envy and jealousy. I know thy pride and the naughtiness of thine heart; for thou art come down that thou mightest see the battle. The intimation was that David was not satisfied with his lowly calling, that he wished to rise above his station and take part in the war, since his wickedness enjoyed the brutality of the battle. Eliab's is a type of a small soul, incapable of great thoughts and deeds.

v. 29. And David said, in a quiet, but very decided denial of the wrong charged to him, What have I now done? Is there not a cause? He surely had a right to ask a simple question.

v. 30. And he turned from him, letting his oldest brother stand in his pitiful smallness, toward another and spake after the same manner; and the people answered him again after the former manner.

v. 31. And when the words were heard which David spake, they rehearsed them before Saul, in a respectful announcement; and he sent for him, he had David brought before him. David is a type of a simple believer, who performs his work in all simplicity, showing himself faithful even in the smallest details which are entrusted to him.


Verses 32-58

David Slays Goliath

v. 32. And David said to Saul, Let no man's heart fail because of him, Goliath, no man's courage must fail on his account, the entire army should lay aside its fear; thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine. It was a simple, modest offer to undertake that single combat to which Goliath had been challenging.

v. 33. And Saul, who was decidedly lacking in the divine courage needed for Jehovah's battles, said to David, Thou art not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for thou art but a youth, a young man, and not versed in the arts of war, and he a man of war from his youth, trained in the use of arms from early childhood.

v. 34. And David said unto Saul, Thy servant kept his father's sheep, and there came a lion and a bear, the reference being to two different occasions, and took a lamb out of the flock;

v. 35. and I went out after him, in either case, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth; and when he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, this applying to the lion, and smote him, probably with his shepherd's staff, and slew him.

v. 36. Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them, shall share the fate of these two ravenous beasts, seeing he hath defied the armies of the living God, that being David's chief reason for believing that the covenant God would not abandon His people's cause, since it was really His honor which was at stake.

v. 37. David said, moreover, The Lord, that delivered me out of the paw of the lion and out of the paw of the bear, He will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine. David's courage thus rested on his faith and trust in the mighty help of the Lord, for whose honor he intended to battle. And Saul said unto David, Go, and the Lord be with thee.

v. 38. And Saul armed David with his armor, had him try on special garments intended to be worn with the armor, and he put an helmet of brass upon his head; also he armed him with a coat of mail.

v. 39. And David girded his sword upon his armor, and he assayed to go; for he had not proved it, he had never made an attempt to move about in heavy armor of this kind, but found it too unwieldy for his inexperienced arms and body. And David said unto Saul, I cannot go with these, for I have not proved them, he did not possess the skill to handle them. And David put them off him.

v. 40. And he took his staff in his hand, and chose him five smooth stones out of the brook, down in the valley, and put them in a shepherd's bag which he had, in a special kit which he carried with him, even in a scrip, a pouch or pocket; and his sling was in his hand; and he drew near to the Philistine, equipped only with his shepherd's implements.

v. 41. And the Philistine came on and drew near unto David; and the man that bare the shield went before him.

v. 42. And when the Philistine looked about and saw David, took note of him for the first time, he disdained him, gave him only a contemptuous glance; for he was but a youth, still a young man, and ruddy, and of a fair countenance.

v. 43. And the Philistine said unto David, Am I a dog that thou comest to me with staves? the exaggeration purposely expressing his contempt. And the Philistine cursed David by his gods, adding blasphemy to his contempt.

v. 44. And the Philistine said to David, Come to me, let him but dare to undertake an attack, and I will give thy flesh unto the fowls of the air and to the beasts of the field. To his scornful defiance he added a bloodthirsty threat.

v. 45. Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword and with a spear and with a shield, on these the Philistine relied to give him the victory; but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied. David's courage was based entirely upon his faith in the covenant God and His almighty power.

v. 46. This day will the Lord deliver thee into mine hand, in an utterly helpless state; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcasses of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, namely, the one true God, Jehovah, who alone has the outcome of the battle in His hand.

v. 47. And all this assembly, the entire army of Israel, shall know that the Lord saveth not with sword and spear, that He is not dependent upon external mighty means to gain the victory; for the battle is the Lord's, the decision rests with Him alone, and He will give you into our hands.

v. 48. And it came to pass, when the Philistine arose and came and drew nigh to meet David, that David hasted and ran toward the army, where it was drawn up in battle-line, to meet the Philistine.

v. 49. And David put his hand in his bag, and took thence a stone, and slang it, and smote the Philistine in his forehead that the stone sunk into his forehead, breaking open the strong frontal bone; and he fell upon his face to the earth, stunned, if not killed, by the missile.

v. 50. So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and smote the Philistine and slew him; but there was no sword in the hand of David, he had no regular weapons of war.

v. 51. Therefore David ran and stood upon the Philistine, stepping on the trunk of the fallen giant, and took his sword, and drew it out of the sheath thereof, and slew him, and cut off his head therewith, thus making sure of his death. And when the Philistines saw their champion was dead, they fled.

v. 52. And the men of Israel and of Judah arose, suddenly inspired with a mighty courage by the deed of David, and shouted, and pursued the Philistines until thou come to the valley, into the lowlands, and to the gates of Ekron, one of the chief Philistine cities. And the wounded of the Philistines fell down by the way to Shaaraim, a city in the western lowlands of Judah, even unto Gath and unto Ekron.

v. 53. And the children of Israel returned from chasing after the Philistines, and they spoiled their tents, taking all the booty in the form of food, clothing, and money out of their abandoned camp.

v. 54. And David took the head of the Philistine, and brought it to Jerusalem, for the city itself was in the hands of the Israelites, only the fortress of Jebus on Mount Zion had not yet been conquered; but he put his armor in his tent, as his own part of the spoil.

v. 55. And when Saul saw David go forth against the Philistine, he said unto Abner, the captain of the host, Abner, whose son is this youth? He wanted to know about his parentage, where he hailed from And Abner said, As thy soul liveth, O king, I cannot tell.

v. 56. And the king said, Inquire thou whose son the stripling Isaiah So far as this strange question is concerned, there are two explanations. Either Saul was seeking information about the family of David, in order to carry out his promise of freeing the family from taxation, or Saul's memory had been affected by his affliction, especially since he rarely saw David except at the times when the madness was upon him.

v. 57. And as David returned from the slaughter of the Philistine, Abner took him and brought him before Saul, with the head of the Philistine in his hand.

v. 58. And Saul said to him, Whose son art thou, thou young man? And David answered, I am the son of thy servant Jesse, the Bethlehemite. With this information Saul could now carry out his promise of which the soldiers had spoken. David's battle with Goliath is a picture of the battle which is the lot of all Christians in overcoming the attacks of Satan and of the sneering unbelievers. Although the odds often seem decidedly unfavorable to the Christians, they always have the Lord of hosts on their side and therefore must finally obtain the victory. At the same time we are here reminded of the great Son of David, who also, in a most singular manner, conquered the prince of this world and has given us the victory.

 


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Bibliography Information
Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 17:4". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/kpc/1-samuel-17.html. 1921-23.

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