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Bible Commentaries

Matthew Poole's English Annotations
on the Holy Bible

1 Samuel 17

 

 

Verse 1

1 SAMUEL CHAPTER 17

The armies of the Israelites and Philistines ready for battle: Goliath terrifieth the Israelites with his stature, armour, and challenge, 1 Samuel 17:1-11. David sent by his father to visit his brethren; is willing to encounter with him, 1 Samuel 17:12-27; for which Eliab chideth him: he is brought to Saul, and showeth the reason of his confidence, 1 Samuel 17:28-37. He taketh a staff, and sling, with five stones, 1 Samuel 17:38. Goliath curseth and threateneth him, 1 Samuel 17:41-44. David’s faith: he slayeth him, 1 Samuel 17:45-50. The Philistines flee; are smitten and plundered, 1 Samuel 17:51-54. Saul taketh notice of David, 1 Samuel 17:55-58.

To revenge their former great and shameful defeat, 1Sa 14.


Verse 3

On a mountain on the other side, where they had disposed and fortified their cams, that if the one should assault the other, the assailant should have the disadvantage, and be obliged to fight from a lower place.


Verse 4

A champion, Heb. a man between two, either because he used to come forth, and stand between the two armies; or because he moved that the business should be decided between two, whereof he would be one.

Whose height was six cubits and a span; which is not strange, for besides the giants mentioned in Scripture, Herodotus, Diodorus Siculus, and Pliny, and others, make mention of persons seven cubits high, which is near double to an ordinary man’s height.


Verse 5

The common shekel contained only a fourth part of an ounce; and so 5000 shekels made 1250 ounces, which make exactly 78 pounds; which weight is not unsuitable to a man of such vast greatness and strength, as his height speaks him to be.


Verse 7

A weaver’s beam, on which the weavers fasten their web. It was like this for thickness; and for length, that he omits, as easy to be collected by proportion to the rest. And though the whole weight of Goliath’s armour may seem prodigious, yet it is not so much by far as one Athanatus did manage; of whom Pliny relates, that he saw him come into the theatre with arms weighing 12,000 ounces.


Verse 8

That the battle may be decided by us two alone. Such offers were frequent in those times. And possibly he thought the valiant Jonathan, who had assaulted a whole army, would never have refused this challenge. But God so ordered the matter, that none should accept it, because he would reserve this honour for David, as a step to his kingdom.


Verse 11

Which may seem strange, considering the glorious promises, and their late experiences of Divine assistance. But the truth is, all men do so entirely depend upon God in all things, that when he withdraws his help, the most valiant and resolute persons cannot find their hearts nor hands, as daily experience shows.


Verse 12

The son of that Ephrathite, i.e. of the man of Ephratah, or Beth-lehem, Genesis 35:19.

He had eight sons: see on 1 Samuel 16:10.


Verse 15

From Saul; either,

1. From Saul’s court; where having been entertained by Saul, to relieve him in his melancholy fits, he was permitted to go to his father’s house, to be sent for again upon occasion. Or,

2. From Saul’s camp, whither he used to come to visit his brethren; as appears from 1 Samuel 17:17.


Verse 17

Parched corn; a food then much in use, which they used to mix with water, or milk, or oil, &c.


Verse 18

Unto the captain of their thousand; in whose power it was in a great measure, either to preserve them, or to expose them to utmost hazards.

Take their pledge, i.e. bring me some token of their welfare from them.


Verse 19

i.e. In a posture and readiness to fight with them; as it is explained, 1 Samuel 17:20,21. Men are oft said in Scripture to do what they intend and are prepared to do, as hath been showed formerly by instances.


Verse 20

To the trench, i.e. to the camp or army which was there intrenched.

Shouted for the battle; as the manner was, both to animate themselves, and to terrify their enemies.


Verse 22

His carriage; the provisions which he had brought to his brethren.


Verse 25

It is observable, that Saul in his great distress doth not encourage himself in God, nor seek his counsel or favour by prayers and sacrifices, but expects relief from men only. This was one effect and sign of the departure of God’s Spirit from him.

Make his father’s house free; free from all those tributes and charges which either the court or the camp required.


Verse 26

Why should you all be thus dismayed at him? he is but a man, and that of an accursed race, a stranger and enemy to God, and no way able to stand before them who have the living and almighty God for their strength and refuge.


Verse 28

Eliab’s anger was kindled, either because he thought him guilty of intolerable folly, and pride, and presumption, in pretending to such an attempt; or because he feared and concluded he would be certainly ruined in the enterprise; or rather, because he envied him the glory of so great an undertaking; and took this proffer of David’s to be, what indeed it was, a reproach to himself, and to all the rest, that having the great God on their side, had not the faith or courage to fight with him.

With whom hast thou left those few sheep? thou art much fitter to tend sheep, than to appear in an army, or to fight with a giant.

Thy pride, and the naughtiness of thine heart; thy self-confidence, and vain-glory, and curiosity.


Verse 29

Either,

1. Of my coming; my father sent me on an errand. Or rather,

2. Of my thus speaking: is there not reason in what I say? Is this giant invincible? is our God unable to oppose him, and subdue him?


Verse 30

For being secretly moved by God’s Spirit to undertake the combat, he speaks with divers persons about it, that so it might come to the king’s ear.


Verse 33

But a youth; either,

1. For age, to wit, comparatively to Goliath, being now not much above twenty years old, as is supposed. Or rather,

2. For military skill, as the words following explain it; as if he should say, Thou art but a novice, a raw and unexperienced soldier, and therefore unable to fight with him.


Verse 34

There came a lion, and a bear; not both together, but one after another, at several times.


Verse 35

Smote him, to wit, the lion, as appears by his beard; which having particularly mentioned, it was easily understood and believed, that he did the same to the bear; which therefore it was needless to express.


Verse 36

Slew both the lion and the bear: this he is probably thought to have done after he was anointed; when he was endowed with singular gifts of God’s Spirit; and, among others, with extraordinary courage of heart and strength of body.


Verse 37

He will deliver me; his good will is the same to me that it then was, and his power is not diminished. It is not strange that Saul consents to the combat, considering David’s pious and convincing discourse, grounded upon sensible experience; and withal, the dangerous condition of the Israelitish affairs, and the absolute refusal of all other persons.


Verse 38

With his armour; either,

1. With Saul’s own armour which he used to wear in battle; which seems not to agree with the extraordinary height of Saul’s stature, 1 Samuel 10:23; nor is it like that Saul would disarm himself, when he was going forth to the battle, 1 Samuel 17:20,21. Or,

2. With armour taken out of his armoury. Not that the whole armory of Saul was brought into the field; but that some chosen arms were taken out thence, and brought for any emergent occasion. Or rather,

3. With his vestments, or garments. For,

1. So the Hebrew word properly and usually signifies; and so this same word is translated, 1 Samuel 18:4.

2. His armour is distinguished from this, and is particularly described in the following words. He seems therefore to speak of some military vestments which were then used in war, and were contrived for defence; such as buff-coats now are.


Verse 39

I have not proved them; I have no skill nor experience in the management of this kind of arms.


Verse 40

His staff; his shepherd’s staff. These arms were in themselves contemptible, yet chosen by David; partly, because he had no skill to use other arms; partly, because he had inward assurance of the victory, even by these weapons; and partly, because such a conquest would be most honourable to God, and most shameful and discouraging to the Philistines.

Chose him five smooth stones, that if one should fail him, he might make use of another.

Smooth stones, because such stones would go most freely out of the sling; and consequently, with more force and certainty, directly to the mark which he aimed at. The sling was a sort of weapon not unusual in the fights of ancient times, and many arrived at great dexterity of slinging stones with great certainty; of which we have instances both in Scripture, as Jude 20:16, and in Diodorus Siculus, and Livy, and other authors.


Verse 42

Not having so much as the countenance of a martial person.


Verse 43

With staves, i.e. with a staff; the plural number for the singular; as Genesis 21:7 46:7.

The Philistine cursed David; he prayed that his god Dagon, and Ashtaroth, &c., would destroy him.


Verse 45

In the name of the Lord of hosts, i.e. by a commission from him, with confidence in him, and assurance of his help, and for the vindication of his honour.

Whom thou hast defied, in defying that army and people whereof he is the Lord and Protector.


Verse 46

Heb. that God, the only true God, is for Israel; or on Israel’s side, and against you. Or, that Israel hath a God, a God indeed, one who is able to help them, and not such an impotent idol as you serve.


Verse 47

That the Lord saveth not with sword and spear, i.e. that he can save without these arms, and with the most contemptible weapons, such as mine seem to thee.

The battle is the Lord’s, i.e. the events of war are wholly in his power, to give success to whom and by what means he pleaseth.

He will give you into our hands: David speaks thus confidently, because he was assured of it by a particular inspiration from God.


Verse 49

Either,

1. The stone pierced through his helmet; which such stones being slung would not seldom do; as even Diodorus Siculus relates. Or,

2. The stone might get in through one of those holes which are left in helmets, that he that wears it may see his way, and how to direct his blows. Or rather,

3. The proud giant had lift up that part of his helmet which covered his forehead; and that in contempt of David and his weapons, and by the singular direction of God’s providence.


Verse 51

David took his sword; hence it appears that David was not a little man, as many fancy; but a man of considerable bulk and strength, because he was able to manage a giant’s sword; which also he did, both here and below, 1 Samuel 21:9.

Slew him.

Quest. How could this be, when he slew him before with the stone? 1 Samuel 17:50.

Answ. There he gives a general account of the event of the battle, and of the giant’s death; but here he gives a particular relation of the manner and instrument of his death. The stone threw him down to the earth, and bereaved him of the use of his sense and motion; but there remained some life in him, (as frequently doth in such cases,) which the sword took away, and so completed the work.


Verse 53

Heb. their camps, i.e. their camp; but he speaks of it in the plural number, because of the great extent and various quarters of their camp.


Verse 54

Brought it to Jerusalem; either to terrify the Jebusites, who yet held the fort of Zion, 2 Samuel 5:7; or for some other reason not recorded, nor now known.

In his tent, i.e. in the tent which was erected for him in the camp, upon this occasion. There it was kept for the present, though afterwards it seems to have been translated to the tabernacle, where we find his sword, 1Sa 21, and it is not unlikely the rest of his armour was there also.


Verse 55

Whose son is this youth?

Quest. How could David be unknown to Saul, with whom he had lived? 1 Samuel 16:21.

Answ. That might well be, for divers reasons, because David was not constantly with him, nor, as it seems, used by him, but upon extraordinary occasions, and desperate fits of melancholy; from which possibly he had been free for a good while, by God’s special providence and care for his people Israel, that so he might be capable of governing and protecting them against the Philistines, who watched all opportunities against them, and at last broke forth into an open war. Thus David had been for some considerable time dismissed from Saul’s court, and was returned home; and therefore it is not strange, if Saul had for the present forgotten David; for kings, because of the encumbrance of public business, and the multitude of persons who come to them on several occasions, may easily forget some persons; yea, such as have frequently been with them, especially their servants, whom they do not use to observe with so much attention and care as they do others. Add to this, that the distemper of Saul’s mind might make him forgetful; and that David might now be much changed, both in his countenance and in his habit, from what he had before; and it is apparent, that the change of habits makes so great a difference, that it oft keeps us from the knowledge of those persons whom in other habits we very well know. Some give this answer, That this was the first time that Saul had seen David; and that David’s exploit here recorded was performed before that which is recorded 1 Samuel 17:15, though it be placed after it; but that is confuted by comparing 1 Samuel 18:1-3.

I cannot tell; which is not strange, because Abner’s conversation and employment was generally in the camp, when David was at the court; and when Abner was there, he took little notice of a person so much inferior to him as David was.

 


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Bibliography Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on 1 Samuel 17:4". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/1-samuel-17.html. 1685.

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