1 Samuel 17:1–15. Goliath challenges Israel
- This is part of one of the best known stories in the Bible and it owes
much to the literary skill of the official war correspondent, Jehoshaphat
(2 Samuel 20:24), or one of his predecessors.
- A pitched battle between the Philistines and Israelites
- This was the old method of resolving disputes, unlike modern saturation
bombing. The issue would be settled on a field of battle, without involving
the population at large. On this occasion the battle lines were drawn up on
the foothills, some 14 miles from Bethlehem. Even the opposing infantry
were to be spared hand-to-hand combat, for the battle was to be decided by
2 men, a giant and an inexperienced youth.
- Goliath came from Gath, one of the 5 principal city states of the
Philistines, who occupied the coastal region west of Jerusalem. He was a
celebrity figure, regarded as a national weapon of mass destruction, whose
height, when cubits go metric, was about 3 metres. Seemingly, he was a
member of a family of giants, and 2 Samuel 21:15–22 records four of
his giant-kinsmen killed by the Israelites in battles. Medical speculation
has suggested a genetic link of gigantism with the pituitary gland.
- Goliath’s Armour
- The Philistines were leaders in the technology of iron-smithing and the
working of metal, confirmed in the manufacture of Goliath’s armour.
The Israelites were at a disadvantage – not a blacksmith could be
found in the whole land of Israel (1 Samuel 13:19). Goliath’s whole
armour weighed 57 kg and the head of his bronze javelin alone weighed 7 kg.
One has sympathy for the soldier delegated to carry the shield.
- Though he was a royal musician and armour bearer, he occasionally left
the front line to tend his father’s sheep at home, 14 miles
- A Showcase Encounter
- This passage provides the background for a spectacular incident in the
early life of David, which reinforces the wise choice of David as
Saul’s successor by the prophet Samuel.
- Locate and reflect on the description in the New Testament of the
Christian’s armour (Ephesians 6:10-18). Make this reading into your
prayer for today.