1 Samuel 17 COMMENTARY (Pulpit)

1 Samuel 17
Pulpit Commentary
Now the Philistines gathered together their armies to battle, and were gathered together at Shochoh, which belongeth to Judah, and pitched between Shochoh and Azekah, in Ephesdammim.
Verse 1. - The Philistines gathered together their armies. As the object of the historian is not to give us an account of the Philistine wars, but only to record the manner of David's ripening for the kingly office, nothing is said as to the space of time which had elapsed between Saul's victory at Michmash and the present invasion. We are, however, briefly told that "there was sore war against the Philistines all the days of Saul" (1 Samuel 14:52), and apparently this inroad took place very many years after Saul's establishment upon the throne. The Philistine camp was at Ephes-dammim, called Pas-dammim in 1 Chronicles 11:13. The best explanation of the word gives as its meaning the boundary of blood, so called from the continual fighting which took place there upon the borders. Shochoh, spelt more correctly Socoh in Joshua 15:35, was one of fourteen villages enumerated there as lying in the Shephelah, described by Conder ('Tent Work,' 2:156) as a region of "low hills of limestone, frowning a distinct district between the plain and the watershed mountains." In this district Socoh lay northeast of Eleutheropolis (Beth-jibrin), midway between it and Beth-shemesh, from each of which places it was distant about eight or nine miles. It is now called Shuweikeh. For Azekah see Joshua 10:10.
And Saul and the men of Israel were gathered together, and pitched by the valley of Elah, and set the battle in array against the Philistines.
Verses 2, 3. - The valley of Elah. I.e. of the terebinth tree. A valley between them. Conder ('Tent Work,' 2:160) describes the spot from personal observation thus: "Saul, coming down by the highway from the land of Benjamin, encamped by the valley on one of the low hills; and between the two hosts was the gai or ravine." In the A.V. no exactness of rendering is ever attempted, and both the emek, the broad strath or valley of Elah, with gently sloping sides, and the flag, the narrow, precipitous ravine, are equally rendered valley. Really the gai is most remarkable, and fully explains how the two hosts could remain in face of one another so long without fighting; for Conder proceeds, "Two points require to be made clear as to the episode of David's battle with Goliath: one was the meaning of the expression gai or ravine; the other was the source whence David took the 'smooth stones.' A visit to the spot explains both. In the middle of the broad, open valley we found a deep trench with vertical sides, impassable except at certain places - a valley in a valley, and a natural barrier between the two hosts. The sides and bed of this trench are strewn with rounded and waterworn pebbles, which would have been well fitted for David's sling. Here, then, we may picture to ourselves the two hosts, covering the low, rocky hills opposite to each other, and half hidden among the lentisk bushes. Between them was the rich expanse of ripening barley, and the red banks of the torrent, with its white, shingly bed. Behind all were the distant blue hill walls of Judah, whence Saul had just come down. The mail clad champion advanced from the west through the low corn, with his mighty lance perhaps tufted with feathers, his brazen helmet shining in the sun. From the east a ruddy boy in his white shirt and sandals, armed with a goat's hair sling, came down to the brook, and, according to the poetic fancy of the Rabbis, the pebbles were given voices, and cried, 'By us shalt thou overcome the giant.' The champion fell from an unseen cause, and the wild Philistines fled to the mouth of the valley, where Gath stood towering on its white chalk cliff, a frontier fortress, the key to the high road leading to the corn lands of Judah and to the vineyards of Hebron."
And the Philistines stood on a mountain on the one side, and Israel stood on a mountain on the other side: and there was a valley between them.
And there went out a champion out of the camp of the Philistines, named Goliath, of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span.
Verses 4-7. - A champion. Literally, "a man of the two middles," i.e. one who enters the space between the two armies in order to decide the contest by a single combat. Of Gath. In Joshua 11:21 this town is mentioned, together with Gaza and Ashdod, as still having among its inhabitants men of the race of Anak. Whose height was six cubits and a span. In our measure his height was eight feet five and one-third inches; for the cubit is sixteen inches, and the span (really the hand-breadth) is five and one-third inches. A span, sit, is eight inches, but the word used here is zereth. See on these measures, Conder, 'Handbook,' p. 79. This height, though very great, has been attained to in modern times. Armed with a coat of mail. Literally, "clothed in a shirt of scales," i.e. a corselet made of metal scales sewn on cloth so as to overlap one another. It was flexible, and protected the back and sides as well as the kent. Five thousand shekels of brass. Really copper, as brass was then unknown. Conder gives the shekel as equal to two-thirds of an ounce. This would make the corselet weigh at least two hundred weight, an enormous load to carry even for a short time. Goliath's other equipments correspond in heaviness, and largely exceed the weight of medieval suits of armour. Greaves of brass upon his legs. The thighs were protected by the corselet, so that only the legs required defensive armour. This would account for the weight of the corselet, as it was much longer than the cuirass, as worn by the Greeks and Romans. A target. Really, "a javelin." It was carried at the back, ready to be taken in the hand and thrown at the enemy when required. The versions have a different reading - magan, shield, for chidon, javelin. The shield was carried before him by an armour bearer. The staff. The written text has a word which usually signifies shaft, arrow, for which the Kri substitutes wood, the noun actually found in 2 Samuel 21:19; 1 Chronicles 20:5; but most probably the word used here is an archaic name for the handle or staff of a spear. Six hundred shekels. The weight of the iron head of the spear would be about twenty-five pounds. However tall and strong Goliath may have been, yet with all this vast weight of metal his movements must have been slow and unready. He was got up, in bet, more to tell upon the imagination than for real fighting, and though, like a castle, he might have been invincible if attacked with sword and spear, he was much too encumbered with defensive armour to be capable of assuming the offensive against a light armed enemy. To David belongs the credit of seeing that the Philistine champion was a huge imposition.
And he had an helmet of brass upon his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail; and the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of brass.
And he had greaves of brass upon his legs, and a target of brass between his shoulders.
And the staff of his spear was like a weaver's beam; and his spear's head weighed six hundred shekels of iron: and one bearing a shield went before him.
And he stood and cried unto the armies of Israel, 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.
Verses 8-11. - He stood and cried unto the armies. Literally, "the ranks," the word being the noun formed from the verb translated set in array, just below. The same word is used throughout (see vers. 10, 20, 21, 22, 26, 45). Am not I a Philistine? Hebrew, "the Philistine," the champion on their side. I defy the armies. Hebrew, "I have cast scorn or insult upon the ranks of Israel this day." The sense is not so much that he defied them as that they were dishonoured by not accepting his challenge. They were dismayed. That is, terrified, and made uncertain what to do (comp. Jeremiah 1:36). We have seen from Mr. Condor's account that each army held an impregnable position on the two sides of the ravine, which neither could cross without the certainty of being defeated in the attempt by the other side. Under such circumstances there seemed no way of deciding the contest except by a single combat. But though Saul and his warriors were too terrified at Goliath's appearance to venture to meet him, still they held their ground for forty days, inasmuch as it was evidently impossible for him to cross the ravine clad in such cumbrous armour, nor did the Philistines venture to make the attempt, us the Israelites would have taken them at a manifest disadvantage. DAVID'S VISIT TO THE CAMP (vers. 12-31). The Vatican codex of the Septuagint omits the whole of this section, and it was inserted in the Alexandrian copy by Origen. It is found, however, in the other versions; and possibly this treatment of David's history as of a person unknown, just after the account given of him in ch. 16, did not seem so strange to readers in old time as it does to us, with whom reading is so much more easy an accomplishment. It is, nevertheless, one of the many indications that the Books of Samuel, though compiled from contemporaneous documents, were not arranged in their present form till long afterwards. It was only gradually that Samuel's schools dispersed throughout the country men trained in reading and writing, and trained up scholars capable of keeping the annals of each king's reign. The Books of Kings were, as we know, compiled from these annals; but probably at each prophetic school there would be stored up copies of Psalms written for their religious services, ballads such as those in the Book of Jashar, and in the Book of the Wars of Jehovah, narratives of stirring events like this before us, and histories both of their own chiefs, such as was Samuel, and afterwards Elijah and Elisha, and also of the kings. There is nothing remarkable, therefore, at finding information repeated; and having had in the previous narrative an account of a passing introduction of David to Saul as a musician, which led to little at the time, though subsequently David stood high in Saul's favour because of his skill upon the harp, we here have David's introduction to Saul as a warrior.
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.
And the Philistine said, I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together.
When Saul and all Israel heard those words of the Philistine, they were dismayed, and greatly afraid.
Now David was the son of that Ephrathite of Bethlehemjudah, whose name was Jesse; and he had eight sons: and the man went among men for an old man in the days of Saul.
Verses 12-14. - Jesse... went among men for an old man in the days of Saul. This translation is taken from the Vulgate; but the Hebrew is, "And the man in the days of Saul was old, gone among men." Some explain this as meaning "placed," i.e. "reckoned among men of rank;" but probably an aleph has dropped out in the word rendered men, and we should read "gone," i.e. "advanced in years." Old is used in a very indefinite way in the Books of Samuel; but as Jesse had eight sons, of whom the youngest was now grown up, he must have been nearly sixty. Went and followed. Hebrew, "And there went the three elder sons of Jesse went after Saul to the war." Some grammarians consider that this repetition of the verb is intended to give it the force of a pluperfect, - they had gone,-but it is more probably an error, and one of the two verbs should be omitted.
And the three eldest sons of Jesse went and followed Saul to the battle: and the names of his three sons that went to the battle were Eliab the firstborn, and next unto him Abinadab, and the third Shammah.
And David was the youngest: and the three eldest followed Saul.
But David went and returned from Saul to feed his father's sheep at Bethlehem.
Verse 15. - David went and returned from Saul. This is a very important statement, as it shows that the writer, in spite of what is said in vers. 55-58, knew that David had visited Saul at his court, and become personally known to him. Apparently it had been but a short visit, possibly because after the fit of melancholy had passed away there was no return of it for the present; and if David had been back at Bethlehem for two or three years, a young man changes so much in appearance at David's time of life that it is no wonder that neither Saul nor Abner recognised him in his shepherd's dress. For some reason, then, or other David had not remained with Saul at Gibeah, but had resumed his pastoral life at Bethlehem, and the statements made in 1 Samuel 16:21-23 belong to the time immediately after the combat with Goliath, and not before.
And the Philistine drew near morning and evening, and presented himself forty days.
Verses 16-19. - The Philistine .... presented himself. I.e. took his stand (see on 1 Samuel 10:23; 12:7, 16). This verse takes up the narrative, disturbed by the inserted explanation about David's family relations. The extraordinary formation of the ground, as described in ver. 3, shows how it was possible for this challenge to go on for forty days without either army advancing or retiring. During this long time it seems to have been the business of the friends at home to supply the combatants with food, and so Jesse sends David with an ephah, about three pecks, of parched corn - as the word is spelt in the Hebrew it means "parched pease." Also ten loaves, and, for the captain of their thousand, ten cheeses - rather, "ten slices of fresh curd." David was also to take their pledge. Apparently neither Eliab nor his brethren could write, and therefore they would send back to their father some token previously agreed upon to show that they were in good health, and had received the supplies sent them. Now Saul, etc. This is a part of Jesse's speech, telling David where he would find his brethren. For were, the right translation is, "They are in the terebinth valley, fighting with the Philistines."

CHAPTER 17:20-58
And Jesse said unto David his son, Take now for thy brethren an ephah of this parched corn, and these ten loaves, and run to the camp to thy brethren;
And carry these ten cheeses unto the captain of their thousand, and look how thy brethren fare, and take their pledge.
Now Saul, and they, and all the men of Israel, were in the valley of Elah, fighting with the Philistines.
And David rose up early in the morning, and left the sheep with a keeper, and took, and went, as Jesse had commanded him; and he came to the trench, as the host was going forth to the fight, and shouted for the battle.
Verses 20-22. - He came to the trench. More probably the barricade, or outer circle of defence for their camp, made of their wagons (see on ch. 10:22). Strictly the word means a wagon track, but the primary meaning of the verb is to be round. This was the shape of camps in old time, and they were protected against surprise by having the wagons and baggage placed round them. The word occurs again in 1 Samuel 26:5, 7. The latter part of the verse is literally, "And he came to the circle of the wagons, and to the host that was going forth to the array; and they shouted for the battle." If the article be omitted before "going forth," for which there is some authority, the rendering of the A.V. would be right. David left his carriage. I.e. that which he was carrying. The word is rendered stuff in 1 Samuel 10:22; 1 Samuel 25:13; 1 Samuel 30:24. Literally the word means utensils, and so whatever he had with him for any purpose (comp. Acts 21:15). Ran into the army. Literally, "to the array," "to the ranks," the place where the troops were drawn up (see ver. 10).
For Israel and the Philistines had put the battle in array, army against army.
And David left his carriage in the hand of the keeper of the carriage, and ran into the army, and came and saluted his brethren.
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: and David heard them.
Verses 23, 24. - The champion, the Philistine of Oath, Goliath by name. The Hebrew is, "The champion (see on ver. 4), Goliath the Philistine his name, of Gath," probably the very words of the original record. Out of the armies, or ranks. This is a very probable correction of the Kri, made by restoring a letter which has apparently dropped out. The word in the written text might mean "the open space between the two armies;" but it occurs nowhere else, and this space was chiefly occupied by the ravine. The men of Israel... fled from him. I.e. they drew back in haste from the edge of the ravine, which Goliath could no more have crossed, encased in armour weighing two and a half hundred-weight, than a knight could have done in the middle ages. In ver. 40 we read that it was out of this ravine that David selected his pebbles, and, being encumbered with no armour, it was easy for him to climb up the other side and attack his heavily armed opponent.
And all the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him, and were sore afraid.
And the men of Israel said, Have ye seen this man that is come up? surely to defy Israel is he come up: 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.
Verses 25-27. - To defy Israel. Rather, "to cast scorn on," "to dishonour Israel" (see on ver. 10). The king will enrich him with great riches,... and make his father's house free in Israel. Many years must have elapsed before Saul could thus have developed the powers of the crown, and the last words show that contributions were levied from all the households in Israel for the support of the king and his retinue. There had manifestly been a great advance since the day when Jesse sent the king a few loaves of bread, a skin of wine, and a kid (1 Samuel 16:20). Still we cannot imagine that Saul had introduced taxes, nor was the political organisation of the State ripe enough for so advanced a state of things. The words more probably refer to freedom from personal service in the army and elsewhere; though it is quite possible that on special occasions contributions may have been levied, and presents, no doubt, were constantly being made to the king, though on no regular system. Taketh away the reproach. The noun formed from the verb rendered defy in ver. 10, where see note. Uncircumcised. See on 1 Samuel 14:6. David, like Jonathan, sees a ground of confidence in the uncovenanted relation of the Philistine towards God. The living God. A second ground of confidence. The god of the Philistines was a lifeless idol; Jehovah a Being who proved his existence by his acts. So shall it be done. As the people all answer David's inquiries in the same way, Saul had evidently made a proclamation to this effect, which we may suppose he fulfilled, though not in the frankest manner (1 Samuel 18:17, 27).
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? for who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?
And the people answered him after this manner, saying, So shall it be done to the man that killeth him.
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? and with whom hast thou left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know thy pride, and the naughtiness of thine heart; for thou art come down that thou mightest see the battle.
Verses 28, 29. - Eliab's anger was kindled against David. As David, with growing indignation at an uncovenanted heathen thus dishonouring the subjects of the living God, puts eager questions to all around, his ehier brother angrily reproaches him with words full of contempt. Between the eldest and youngest of eight sons was a vast interval, and Eliab regards David's talk as mere pride, or, rather, "presumption," "impertinence;" and also as naughtiness, or badness, of heart, probably because he imagined that David's object was to provoke some one else to fight, that he might see the battle. David's answer is gentle and forbearing, but the last words are difficult. Is there not a cause? Have not those whom we are ready to condemn a reason and justification for their conduct? Such a question put to ourselves might stop much slander and fault finding. But the Hebrew literally has, Is it not word? And the ancient versions and the best modern commentators understand by this, "It was but a mere word;" "I was only talking about this challenge, and was doing no wrong.
And David said, What have I now done? Is there not a cause?
And he turned from him toward another, and spake after the same manner: and the people answered him again after the former manner.
Verses 30, 31. - Manner. Literally, word, the noun translated cause in ver. 29, and meaning in both verses "conversation." It occurs here thrice, the Hebrew being, "And he spake according to this word: and the people returned him a word according to the former word." And as David thus persisted in his indignant remonstrances at the ranks of the living God being thus dishonoured by no man accepting the challenge, they rehearsed them before Saul, who thereupon sent for him. And thus David a second time, and under very different circumstances, found himself again standing in the king's presence. DAVID UNDERTAKES THE COMBAT WITH GOLIATH, AND PREPARES FOR THE ENCOUNTER (vers. 32-40).
And when the words were heard which David spake, they rehearsed them before Saul: and he sent for him.
And David said to Saul, Let no man's heart fail because of him; thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine.
Verses 32, 33. - On being brought before the king, David says, Let no man's heart fail because of him, i.e. "on account of this Philistine." Literally it is "upon him," and some therefore translate "within him." The Septuagint forman reads "my lord" - "Let not my lord's heart fail within him." Probably "within him" is the best rendering of the phrase. Thou art but a youth. I.e. "a lad" (see on 1 Samuel 1:24; 2:18). It is the word applied to David's brethren in 1 Samuel 16:11, and his friend must have been very enthusiastic when, in 1 Samuel 16:18, he described him as a "hero of valour and a man of war."
And Saul said to David, Thou art not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him: for thou art but a youth, and he a man of war from his youth.
And David said unto Saul, Thy servant kept his father's sheep, and there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock:
Verses 34-36. - David does not appeal to any feat of arms. He may have served with credit in repelling some Philistine foray, but these combats with wild beasts, fought without the presence of spectators, and with no regent necessity (as most shepherds would have been too glad to compound with such enemies by letting them take a lamb without molestation), still more clearly proved David's fearless nature. Lions and bears were both common in ancient times in Palestine, when the country was more densely covered with wood; and bears are numerous in the mountainous districts now. Lions seem to have been less feared than bears (Amos 5:19); but Canon Tristram thinks there were two species of the lion in Palestine - one short-maned, which was not very formidable, the other long maned, which was more fierce and dangerous ('Nat. Hist. of Bible,' p. 117). The Hebrew literally is, "There came the lion and even the bear," the articles implying that they were the well known foes of the shepherd. The written text has zeh, "this," for seh, "a lamb," probably a mere variety of spelling. There can be little doubt that David refers to two different occasions, especially as bears and lions never hunt in company. By his beard. Neither the bear nor the lion has a beard, and the word really means "the chin," "the place where the beard grows." The Chaldee translates the lower jaw, and the Septuagint the throat. It is plain from this description that David slew the beast with his staff. He arose against me. This shows that the combat thus particularly described was with the bear, which does thus rise on its hind legs to grapple with its foe, while the lion crouches and then springs. Pliny also says that the weakest part of a bear is its head, and that it can be killed by a smart blow there. The manner in which David killed the lion is not described. Defied. See on ver. 10.
And I went out after him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth: and when he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and smote him, and slew him.
Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear: and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them, seeing he hath defied the armies of the living God.
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. And Saul said unto David, Go, and the LORD be with thee.
Verse 37. - Saul said unto David, Go. The king's consent was necessary before David could act as the champion of the Israelites. It was a courageous act in Saul to give his permission, considering the conditions of the combat (see ver. 9), but the two arguments here given persuaded him: the first, David's strong confidence in Jehovah, insuring his courage; and, secondly, the coolness and bravery he had shown in these dangerous encounters with savage animals.
And Saul armed David with his armour, and he put an helmet of brass upon his head; also he armed him with a coat of mail.
Verses 38-40. - Saul armed David with his armour. Rather, "Saul clad David in his war dress." The word does not mean arms, either offensive or defensive; for in 1 Samuel 4:12, where it is rendered "clothes," we read of its being rent. It occurs again in 1 Samuel 18:4, and is there rendered "garments." Strictly it was the soldier's coat, worn under his armour, and girt close to the body by the sword belt. It does not follow that David was as tall as Saul because he thus put on his military coat; for it would be adjusted to the body by the belt, and its length was not a matter of much consequence. When, then, it is said that David girded his sword upon his armour, it means upon this coat, though the corselet of mail would also be worn over it. He assayed to go. I.e. he made an attempt at going, took a short walk thus arrayed, making trial all the while of his equipments; and he found them so cumbrous that he felt that he would have no chance against the Philistine except as a light-armed soldier. The agility of his movements would then make him a match for one so heavily overweighted as Goliath. Wearing, therefore, only his shepherd's dress, armed only with a sling, David descended into the ravine which separated the two armies, chose there five pebbles, and, clambering up the other side, advanced towards the Philistine. For brook the Hebrew has "torrent bed." Condor speaks of a torrent flowing through the ravine (see on ver. 2). COMBAT OF DAVID AND GOLIATH (vers. 41-54).
And David girded his sword upon his armour, and he assayed to go; for he had not proved it. And David said unto Saul, I cannot go with these; for I have not proved them. And David put them off him.
And he took his staff in his hand, and chose him five smooth stones out of the brook, and put them in a shepherd's bag which he had, even in a scrip; and his sling was in his hand: and he drew near to the Philistine.
And the Philistine came on and drew near unto David; and the man that bare the shield went before him.
Verses 41-44. - When David had crossed the ravine, Goliath and his armour bearer advanced towards him; and when he saw that the Israelite champion was but a lad (see ver. 33), with red hair, which added to his youthful appearance, and handsome, but with nothing more than a staff in his hand, he regarded this light equipment as an insult, and asks, Am I a dog, - an animal held in great aversion in the East, - that thou comest to me with staves? The plural is used as a contemptuous generalisation, but the Septuagint is offended at it, and with amusing matter of fact exactness translates, "With a staff and stones." And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. The Hebrew is singular, "by his god," i.e. the deity whom he had selected to be his especial patron.
And when the Philistine looked about, and saw David, he disdained him: for he was but a youth, and ruddy, and of a fair countenance.
And the Philistine said unto David, Am I a dog, that thou comest to me with staves? And the Philistine cursed David by his gods.
And the Philistine said to David, Come to me, and I will give thy flesh unto the fowls of the air, and to the beasts of the field.
Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied.
Verses 45-47. - And with a shield. Really, "a javelin" (see on ver. 6). David of course menitions only his arms of offence. As Goliath had reviled David by his god, so David now expresses his trust in the God of Israel, even Jehovah of hosts, whom the Philistine was dishonouring. This day. I.e. immediately (see 1 Samuel 14:33). Carcases is singular in the Hebrew, but is rightly translated plural, as it is used collectively. That all the earth may know, etc. As we saw on ver. 37, it was David's strong faith in Jehovah, and his conviction that God was fighting for him in proof of his covenant relation to Israel, that not only nerved him to the battle, but made Saul see in him one fit to be Israel's representative in so hazardous a duel.
This day will the LORD deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcases 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.
And all this assembly shall know that the LORD saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the LORD'S, and he will give you into our hands.
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 to meet the Philistine.
Verses 48, 49. - When the Philistine arose. Apparently he was seated, as was the rule with armies in ancient times when not engaged in conflict (comp. ver. 52). When, then, he saw David emerge from the ravine, he rose, and, carrying his vast load of armour, moved slowly towards his enemy, trying to frighten him by his curses. David, meanwhile, in his light equipment, ran towards the army, Hebrew, "the rank," i.e. the Philistine line, in front of which Goliath had been sitting. As the giant's helmet had no visor, that protection not having as yet been invented, and his shield was still carried by his armour bearer, his face was exposed to David's missiles. And in those days, before firearms were invented, men by constant practice "could sling stones at a hair-breadth, and not miss" (Judges 20:16). And even if David were not quite as skilful as those Benjamites, yet, as the giant could move only very slowly, the chances were that he would hit him with one or more of his five pebbles. As it was, he struck him at his first attempt upon the forehead with such force that Goliath was stunned, and fell down upon his face to the ground.
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; and he fell upon his face to the earth.
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.
Verses 50, 51. - So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone. It is evident that the narrator regarded David's victory as extraordinary; and no doubt it required not only great courage, but also perfect skill, as only the lower portion of the forehead would be exposed, and on no other part of the giant's body would a blow have been of any avail. The narrator also calls attention to the fact that David relied upon his sling alone, for there was no sword in the hand of David. Slings probably were regarded as useful only to harass an enemy, while swords, which they had only lately been able to procure (1 Samuel 13:22), were regarded as the real weapons of offence. David, therefore, completes his victory by killing Goliath with his own sword as he lay stunned upon the ground. As Ahimelech considered it fit for David's own use (1 Samuel 21:9), it was probably not so monstrous in size as Goliath's other weapons. Champion is not the word so rendered in vers. 4, 23, but that used in 1 Samuel 16:18 for "a hero of valour."
Therefore David ran, and stood upon the Philistine, and took his sword, and drew it out of the sheath thereof, and slew him, and cut off his head therewith. And when the Philistines saw their champion was dead, they fled.
And the men of Israel and of Judah arose, and shouted, and pursued the Philistines, until thou come to the valley, and to the gates of Ekron. And the wounded of the Philistines fell down by the way to Shaaraim, even unto Gath, and unto Ekron.
Verses 52, 53. - To the valley. Hebrew, gai. As we have seen, there was a gai or ravine between the two armies, but in the Hebrew there is no article, and the Israelites must also cross this before any fighting began. The panic which struck the Philistines when they saw their champion fall enabled the Israelites to do so, but the pursuit only then commenced. The Septuagint reads Gath, a very probable emendation, for, as we saw in the passage quoted from Condor on ver. 2, Gath was situated at the mouth of the terebinth valley. The Syriac and Vulgate retain valley, but the former understands it of the mouth of the valley of Elah. Shaaraim was a town assigned to Judah (Joshua 15:36) in the Shephelah (see on ver. 1), but was now held by the Philistines. They spoiled their tents. More correctly, "their camp."
And the children of Israel returned from chasing after the Philistines, and they spoiled their tents.
And David took the head of the Philistine, and brought it to Jerusalem; but he put his armour in his tent.
Verse 54. - David...brought it to Jerusalem. This is an anticipation of later history. The Jebusites at this time held Jerusalem; but when David had taken it from them, he removed the head of Goliath thither, and the narrator, following the usual custom of Hebrew historians, mentions the ultimate fate of this trophy here (see on 1 Samuel 16:21). He put his armour in his tent. I.e. he carried it to his home (see on 1 Samuel 2:35; 4:10; 13:2, etc.), where it became his private property. The mistranslation of camp by tents in ver. 53 might lead an English reader to suppose that it meant a tent in the camp of Israel; but most probably the men all slept under their wagons. Abravanel supposes that by David's tent was meant the tabernacle of Jehovah, but this would surely have been stated more fully. Either, however, now, or at some later period, David must have presented the sword as an offering to the tabernacle, as it was laid up at Nob, whence he took it with him in his flight (see 1 Samuel 21:9). SAUL'S INQUIRY CONCERNING DAVID'S PARENTAGE (vers. 55-58).
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? And Abner said, As thy soul liveth, O king, I cannot tell.
Verses 55-58. - Abner, whose son is this youth? Hebrew, "lad," na'ar. We have seen that the narrative in 1 Samuel 16:21-23 carries the history of David's relations with Saul down to a much later period, and that in ver. 15 of this chapter David is represented as not dwelling continuously at Saul's court, but as having returned to Bethlehem and resumed his pastoral occupations there, whence he would be summoned back in case of the recurrence of Saul's malady. It is plain from what is stated here that David had not thus far spent time enough at Gibeah to be personally well known either to Saul or his officers (see note on ver. 15). Stripling. Not na'ar, but alem, the masculine of the word almah, used in Isaiah 7:14. It means a young man fully grown, and arrived at the age to marry, and so is more definite than na'ar, which Saul uses in ver. 58. As David returned, etc. Abner, as captain of the host, would naturally watch the combat, and as soon as it was possible would bring the young warrior into the king's presence. But what is recorded here could have taken place only after the pursuit of the Philistines was over, and really these five verses should be united with ch. 17, as their object is to introduce the account of the love. of Jonathan for David. Starting then with the inquiry made by the king of Abner, asking for fuller information as to the young man's parentage, the historian then tells how after the chase he was brought before Saul, and then, in 1 Samuel 18:1, that the result of their conversation was the warm love that henceforward knit together these two kindred souls.

And the king said, Inquire thou whose son the stripling is.
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.
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.
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