[1-Samuel 17:1] 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 EPHES DAMMIM.
The Philistines came against Israel once more. This was despite their recently having suffered a resounding defeat at the hands of Jonathan and Saul. The Malbim suggests that news of the recent mental aberrations and erratic behavior of Saul emboldened the Philistines to once more try their luck. There are quite a few seeming contradictions between this chapter and the previous one and other chapters of this book. Some of these contradictions will be resolved as we go along and others we will leave for another time or another commentary. "ARMIES": Hebrew "Machanaeihem" i.e. their encampments. The Hebrew Bible mentions the "camps" of the Philistines (see 1-Samuel 17:4 below) in the plural even though the KJ translates it in the singular. Bar-Ephrat points out that the Philistines came from confederated cities and each party to their union sent its own contingent. The Israelites were also composed of confederated tribes but apparently the tribal contingents merged together. Various Biblical passages indicate that each tribe had its own military speciality. An extract on this matter follows taken from our work, "Lost Israelite Identity. The Hebrew Ancestry of Celtic Races" by Yair Davidiy (1996). Some of this is pure speculation but it does show a line of inquiry that may be worth developing and using in historical studies.
ISRAELITE TRIBAL MILITARY SPECIALISATIONS.
The Israeli General and archaeologist, Yigal Yadin, in his book on Biblical Warfare analyzed Scriptural passages concerning warfare in David's time and came to the conclusion that the army system was somewhat parallel to modern forms. Each tribe contributed a portion of its men every month so that every man served one month in a year. At first each tribe had its own military speciality though later this system was modified. Even so, the peculiar tribal specialties teach something about Tribal characteristics and propensities and re appear here and there throughout the course of history. One source for these tribal military traits is the First Book of Chronicles, chapter 12*
Benjamin had archers and slingers, Gad highly-maneuverable infantry, Judah long-spearsmen, Simeon commando-warriors, Ephraim possessed famous war-heroes, Menasseh front-line field commanders, Issachar intelligence services, Zebulon trained war-machine operators, Nephtali - shortspearsmen, Dan all-round experts, and Asher had close-quarter fighters; from Reuben came battle-instrument operators The Ancient Israelites therefore had a citizens' army of experienced, trained, well organized and disciplined participants in which each Tribe knew its place and fulfilled a specialized task. It was a war machine which proved itself and brought Bronze Age Civilization in the Middle East to a close. The different types of soldier supplied by the individual Tribes emphasize the fact that the Israelites were not a homogeneous group but rather entirely different kinds who ideally should have learned to complement to each other.
THE INDIVIDUAL TRIBAL PROPENSITIES
Benjamin: archers and slingers: Suggested modern equivalents: marksmen and area shooters.
"Now these are they that came to David to Ziklag...among the mighty men (giborim), helpers of the war.
"..armed with bows, and could use both the right hand and the left in (slinging) stones and shooting arrows out of a bow, of Saul's brethren, of Benjamin..(1-Chronicles 12:1-2)
cf. "The sons of Benjamin ..mighty men of valour ...fit to go out for war and battle..(1 Chronicles 7:4,7,11).
cf. "And Asa had an army......:.. out of Benjamin that bare shields and drew bows..(2 Chronicles 14:8).
Y.Yadin pointed out that the sling has a straight direct trajectory whereas the bow and arrow has a curved one. The sling would be particularly effective in getting close up to a wall (say, when storming a city) and firing upwards. David felled the 20 foot-tall giant, Goliath, in the same way. Giants did once exist as proven by implements, buildings, stairways, and so on which only they could have used and by the occasional discovery of skeletal material which is always ultimately discounted. It is however admitted that the remains of monkeys (or men in some reports) who must have stood 18 feet high have been found. Since it seems to be scientifically acceptable to compare the physical characteristics of simians to those of human beings, if giant monkeys once existed why not giant men?
Gad : fast moving infantry.
"...of the Gadites...men of might, men of war fit for the battle, that could handle shield and buckler, whose faces were like the faces of lions, and were as swift as the roes upon the mountains" (1-Chronicles 12:8).
"And of Gad he said...he dwelleth as a lion, and teareth the arm with the crown of the head" (Deuteronomy 33:20).
From Judah: long spearsmen: Modern: bombers and tanks.
"... The children of Judah that bare longspear (Hebrew: romach") and shield..ready armed to the war. (1-Chronicles 12:24).
cf. "And Asa had an army that bare targets and longspears out of Judah .....(2 Chronicles 14:8).
In addition to the Northern Ten Tribes many inhabitants of Judah in the south were also to be taken into captivity by the Assyrians. Exiles from Judah like those from northern Israel were to be employed in the Assyrian armies. It is interesting that the Assyrians appear to have used those of Judah as spearsmen: "Sennacherib's bodyguard at Nineveh includes a group of spearmen..men who presumably belong to the same contingent...appear in Sennacherib's Zagros campaigns..Since the distinctive items of these soldiers' dress are comparable though not identical with those of the inhabitants of Lachish in Palestine.., Barnett has identified them as captives from this city..". J.E. READE, "The Neo-Assyrian Court and Army. Evidence From Scriptures", in Iraq, 34, 1972. Lachish was a city in southern Judah which Sennacherib captured and whose inhabitants he exiled.
The use of the longspear (as distinct from the short one) was suited to phalanx type military drill formations which required disciplined teamwork and group co ordination and in certain conditions at that time was well nigh unbeatable. The advantages of Judah's forces would have showed themselves in quick large scale conquering hits. The disadvantage was in a possible lack of relative staying power. Judah was together with Benjamin whose expert marksmen with bow and sling shot were a good supplement. From Judah also apparently came bowmen, cf.
"...to teach the Sons of Judah, the use of the bow" (2 Samuel 2:18).
Simeon: commando types.
"Of the children of Simeon mighty men of valour...(2 Samuel 12:25).
From Ephraim: renowned warriors probably for personal combat encounters: Modern: fighter pilots and dive bombers, commandos, infantry for crucial encounters.
"And of the children of Ephraim...mightymen of valour, famous throughout the house of their fathers" (1-Chronicles 12:30).
Menasseh: front line field commanders.
"And there fell of Menasseh to David..all mighty men of valour, and were captains in the host. (1-Chronicles 12:19,20,21).
"And of the half tribe of Menasseh ...expressed by name..(1-Chronicles 12:31).
of Issachar: Intelligence and supply. Also special purpose fighters:
"And of the children of Issachar, that had understanding of the times, to know what Israeli ought to do; the heads of them were two hundred; and all their brethren were at their commandment.....(1- Chronicles 12:32). cf."..bands of soldiers for war...Issachar valiant men of might..(1-Chronicles 7:4-5).
of Zebulon: highly disciplined engineers and war machine operators:
"Of Zebulon, such as went forth to battle, expert in war, with all instruments of war, fifty thousand, which could keep rank: they were not of double heart" (1-Chronicles 12:33).
of Nephtali: shortspearsmen for close-quarter encounters..required a higher relative degree of individual prowess, "berserkers": Modern: tanks, infantry, and battle ships.
"And of Nephtali a thousand captains and with them with shield and shortspear [Hebrew: "chanit"] thirty and seven thousand" (1-Chronicles 12:34).
of Dan: all purpose military experts and veteran fighters.
"And of the Danites expert in war..(12:35).
of Asher: close quarter fighters and military experts. Shocktroops.
"And of Asher, such as went out to battle, expert in war...(12:36).
of Reuben (with half Menasseh and Gad): disciplined war machine operators, mechanised battle programmers.
Modern: artillery and fortifications.
Long term occupational troops, long range engagements emphasizing concentration of men and equipment.
"And on the other side of the Jordan, of the Reubenites, and the Gadites, and of the half tribe of Menasseh , with all manner of instruments of war for the battle.....All these men of war, that could keep rank...(12:37 38). cf.:"The sons of Reuben, and the Gadites, and half the tribe of Menasseh , of valiant men, men able to bear buckler and sword, and to shoot with bow, and skilful in war..(1 Chronicles 5;18).
[1-Samuel 17:2] 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.
Shimeon Bar-Ephrat compares this description of the two sides preparing themselves for warfare to that in chapters 13 and 14 where the overwhelming numerical superiority of the Philistines was emphasized. Here the impression is that the two sides were more or less equal apart from the fact that the Philistines had Goliath on their side.
[1-Samuel 17:3] 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.
[1-Samuel 17:4] 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.
"SIX CUBITS AND A SPAN": Anywhere from nine to thirty feet high depending on which equivalent measurement one accepts.
The average heights of people vary throughout history. We once posted an article in this subject. In our time most people in the West are comparatively tall relative to people in the Middle Ages but there were periods in the past when the average height was similar to our own.
"CAMP": Hebrew plural, i.e. Camps.
[1-Samuel 17:5] 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.
"BRASS": Hebrew "nechoshat" meaning literally today "copper" but in Biblical terms it could also mean either brass or bronze. Brass is an alloy of copper and zinc and other materials in lesser amounts. Bronze is an alloy of mainly copper and tin. From an historical perspective in our case (and probably throughout most of Scripture) the intention is to bronze.
[1-Samuel 17:6] AND HE HAD GREAVES OF BRASS UPON HIS LEGS, AND A TARGET OF BRASS BETWEEN HIS SHOULDERS.
[1-Samuel 17:7] 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.
Bar-Ephrat points out that this description is unique in Scripture. No where else does the Bible dwell upon the details of enemy armour and weapons. The whole style of this incident reminds one of the descriptions of Homer and his account of the war against Troy. The Philistines indeed were part of Mycenean (Ancient Greek) Civilization that Homer described. The style of battle in which a lone hero challenges the other side to produce an adversary meet for him is the style of the Ancient Greek and Early Celts.
[1-Samuel 17:8] 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.
The Malbim makes a political comparison here. The Philistines lived in cities that were confederated with each other under chosen leaders. They apparently had a degree of democracy or relaxed oligarchy (rule of the chosen) whereas the Israelites were ruled by a king.
[1-Samuel 17:9] 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.
[1-Samuel 17:10] AND THE PHILISTINE SAID, I DEFY THE ARMIES OF ISRAEL THIS DAY; GIVE ME A MAN, THAT WE MAY FIGHT TOGETHER.
[1-Samuel 17:11] WHEN SAUL AND ALL ISRAEL HEARD THOSE WORDS OF THE PHILISTINE, THEY WERE DISMAYED, AND GREATLY AFRAID.
This is unlike Saul who up unto now has not been portrayed as afraid despite the fantastically great odds he had been up against. The Sages explain that due to his sin, the Prophecies against him, and his troubled spirit his will to resist had weakened. Samuel and Saul had parted paths and both of them had become lesser men because of it.
[1-Samuel 17:12] 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.
"BETHLEHEM-JUDAH" i.e. Beth-Lehem which is in Judah to distinguish it from another place of the same name to the north of Jerusalem.
"EPHRATHITE": He was given this name after "Ephrath" which was the area of Beth-Lehem his home town. The term could also mean an important person, an aristocrat, or someone from the Tribe of Ephraim. David was not from Ephraim. He was from Judah but it is interesting that due to his place of birth he was given a nickname that could also be applied to someone from the Tribe of Ephraim.
[1-Samuel 17:13] 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.
[1-Samuel 17:14] AND DAVID WAS THE YOUNGEST: AND THE THREE ELDEST FOLLOWED SAUL.
[1-Samuel 17:15] BUT DAVID WENT AND RETURNED FROM SAUL TO FEED HIS FATHER'S SHEEP AT BETHLEHEM.
We hear from this that when war was declared each family had to send a portion of their males to do their share while those who were left had to maintain the national economy. Since going to war was considered a mark of honor the elder sons had the priority.
[1-Samuel 17:16] AND THE PHILISTINE DREW NEAR MORNING AND EVENING, AND PRESENTED HIMSELF FORTY DAYS.
[1-Samuel 17:17] 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 OF THY BRETHREN;
[1-Samuel 17:18] AND CARRY THESE TEN CHEESES UNTO THE CAPTAIN OF THEIR THOUSAND, AND LOOK HOW THY BRETHREN FARE, AND TAKE THEIR PLEDGE.
"THEIR THOUSAND": The Ancient Israelites were divided into groups of thousands and each thousand into hundreds and each hundred into tens with a commander over each unit (Exodus 18:25). The Anglo-Saxons were also divided into units on the same principle.
"THEIR PLEDGE": The sages said that this meant a Conditional Bill of Divorce that would become retroactively effective if they were killed or disappeared in action and their fate remained uncertain. This way their widows would be freed from various legal entanglements or at the least allowed to remarry even if there was no absolute proof of death.
[1-Samuel 17:19] NOW SAUL, AND THEY, AND ALL THE MEN OF ISRAEL, WERE IN THE VALLEY OF ELAH, FIGHTING WITH THE PHILISTINES.
[1-Samuel 17:20] 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.
[1-Samuel 17:21] FOR ISRAEL AND THE PHILISTINES HAD PUT THE BATTLE IN ARRAY, ARMY AGAINST ARMY.
[1-Samuel 17:22] 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.
[1-Samuel 17:23] 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: AND DAVID HEARD THEM.
[1-Samuel 17:24] AND ALL THE MEN OF ISRAEL, WHEN THEY SAW THE MAN, FLED FROM HIM, AND WERE SORE AFRAID.
[1-Samuel 17:25] 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.
[1-Samuel 17:26] 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? FOR WHO IS THIS UNCIRCUMCISED PHILISTINE, THAT HE SHOULD DEFY THE ARMIES OF THE LIVING GOD?
David as we can see from the Book of Psalms had internalized his closeness to God to such a degree that God was the only thing he feared. David did not distinguish between the honor of the People of Israel and the honor of the God of Israel. Whoever offended one offended the other.
[1-Samuel 17:27] AND THE PEOPLE ANSWERED HIM AFTER THIS MANNER, SAYING, SO SHALL IT BE DONE TO THE MAN THAT KILLETH HIM.
David was not so young chronologically as it would appear. At this time he may have been close to 25 (?). He was not yet married nor had he ever been with a woman as far as we know. He was a warrior, strong, sensitive, and used to living in the open with the flocks. This meant that people like David had a greater vitality than we are accustomed to today. Even at an age of close to seventy David and his septuagenarian peers from the "Old Days" were feared for their prowess by the leading young men of the realm (2-Samuel 17:10). At that time the impression is that many of the Israelites may not have known how to read and those who did know did not necessarily do so often. Written material was rare. A lot of the learning was done orally with memorizing and logical deduction being verbalized. This made for exceptionally strong intellects amongst those who used their intellect alongside a great deal of ignorance and potential gullibility. This is one of the reasons why even people like David could fall down from their high levels quite suddenly and the whole nation quickly revert to idolatry and superstition. This was not the case everywhere. In Ur of Sumer in Mesopotamia (Southern Iraq) there was universal literacy, compulsory schooling, and a level of mathematical and other knowledge was achieved far beyond that known in the west today. The presentday people of Iraq could even forget about "modernization". If they just would copy the irrigation and agricultural methods of the Sumerians who went before them about 3500 years ago they might become one of the leading farming entities of the present age.
Anyway the point we were trying to make is that to get married to the daughter of the king, to bestow on the house of your father unique and valuable privileges and prestige and also to receive personal wealth oneself (1-Samuel 17:25) may well have seemed a highly attractive proposition to a young buck like David apart from the obvious patriotic obligations entailed in the matter .
[1-Samuel 17:28] 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? 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.
"I KNOW THY PRIDE, AND THE NAUGHTINESS": There are people who are proud and are presumptuous. There is a kind of young (in age or attitude) perpetual newcomer who after half an hour on the job presumes to know better than the veteran Chief Engineer. Most people dislike such personages.
There are also people who really are born to greatness and know it but nobody else does until they achieve it.
Benjamin Disraeli was one of the greatest Prime Ministers Britain ever had. When he first entered the House of Parliament and made his first speech using somewhat flowery language and elaborate means of expression everyone burst out laughing. Disraeli was forced to sit down.
"The day will come when you will hear me" he defiantly declared.
The day did come.
"FOR THOU ART COME DOWN"
What kind of words are these? Had not Eliab and the other brothers been witness to the fact that Samuel had anointed David and thus demonstrated that David was Chosen by the Almighty, as we saw in the previous chapter?
"THEN SAMUEL TOOK THE HORN OF OIL, AND ANOINTED HIM IN THE MIDST OF HIS BRETHREN" [1-Samuel 16:13]. One answer is that even though it says the deed was done in the midst of his brothers, it took place in a separate room, as one Commentator suggests. Alternately it was done in such a way that the significance was not apparent. It may also be that the other brothers were so assured of themselves and so belittling of David that they did not care. Potential that had not yet borne fruit remained no more than something that might become actual or might never eventuate. Until the time came, if it ever would, they were going to remain as antagonistic as apparently they always had been, cf.
"THE STONE WHICH THE BUILDERS [Hebrew: "Bonim" similar to "Banim" meaning "sons" and the two words in Ashkenazic and Yemenite Hebrew can be pronounced the same way] REFUSED [Hebrew: "Ma-asu" i.e. Despised] IS BECOME THE HEAD STONE OF THE CORNER" [Psalms 118:22]. David was despised by his brothers.
[1-Samuel 17:29] AND DAVID SAID, WHAT HAVE I NOW DONE? IS THERE NOT A CAUSE?
[1-Samuel 17:30] AND HE TURNED FROM HIM TOWARD ANOTHER, AND SPAKE AFTER THE SAME MANNER: AND THE PEOPLE ANSWERED HIM AGAIN AFTER THE FORMER MANNER.
[1-Samuel 17:31] AND WHEN THE WORDS WERE HEARD WHICH DAVID SPAKE, THEY REHEARSED THEM BEFORE SAUL: AND HE SENT FOR HIM.
[1-Samuel 17:32] AND DAVID SAID TO SAUL, LET NO MAN'S HEART FAIL BECAUSE OF HIM; THY SERVANT WILL GO AND FIGHT WITH THIS PHILISTINE.
[1-Samuel 17:33] 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.
"A YOUTH": Hebrew "Naar". This word can also mean "an appretnice, someone still in the learning process". Joshua was referred to as a "naar" (Exodus 33:11) even though he must have been in his eighties at the time. We saw previously that David had been introduced to Saul as, among other things, A MIGHTY VALIANT MAN, AND A MAN OF WAR [1-Samuel 16:18]. Even so these qualities as exhibited by David must have been considered more as "natural talents" when compared to the professional preparation that Goliath had undergone.
[1-Samuel 17:34] 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:
According to popular legend Daniel Boone also had a fight with a bear and won.
[1-Samuel 17:35] 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.
The description is given in the past continuous tense. These were not necessarily one time actions but a repeated pattern of behavior.
The verse may be interpreted to say that when a lion or a bear would come to attack the flock I would go out and inspired by the Almighty I would seize hold of his chin hair (beard) and kill him. Maybe King David was a prototype for both Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett? Yehudah Kiel ("Safer Shmuel", Daat Mikra) points out that these deeds of David were well-known in Beth-Lehem the hometown of David.
Remember what was said about David:
"THEN ANSWERED ONE OF THE SERVANTS, AND SAID, BEHOLD, I HAVE SEEN A SON OF JESSE THE BETHLEHEMITE, THAT IS CUNNING IN PLAYING, AND A MIGHTY VALIANT MAN, AND A MAN OF WAR, AND PRUDENT IN MATTERS, AND A COMELY PERSON, AND THE LORD IS WITH HIM" [1-Samuel 16:18].
Remember also that David was well-known to Saul:
"AND DAVID CAME TO SAUL, AND STOOD BEFORE HIM: AND HE LOVED HIM GREATLY; AND HE BECAME HIS ARMOUR BEARER" [1-Samuel 16:21].
By offering to go and fight Goliath David was also making a play for the daughter of the king upon whom he may well have already set his eye. The love-hate relationship between the Household of Saul and David and the urge both sides felt for some kind of merger was to become an important factor in the History of Israel.
[1-Samuel 17:36] 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.
The Malbim points out that Goliath had blasphemed consciously and deliberately against the God of Israel. Therefore as far as David was concerned Goliath was no longer a human being since he had rejected the mark of Divinity that divides man from an animal. Goliath was on the same level as an animal. Goliath had offered to fight a duel in which the winning side would be able to set the terms for the whole nation: If Goliath won the Philistines would rule over Israel, if the Israelite champion was the victor then the Philistines would be subject to the Israelites. The Commentators (Abarbanel, Malbim) point out however that these terms presupposed certain rules of combat. The Israelites did not accept the terms and David fought his fight with methods that would not likely have been agreed upon in advance. Goliath had shamed the forces of Israel and in doing so had blasphemed against the God of Israel. David wished to go out and take his chances on behalf of the national honor and the glory of the Almighty. The Israelites had not responded immediately and already felt in "disgrace". Saul was not actually risking much. David did have a reputation as a warrior and strategist and a person on "close terms" with the Almighty and from whom miracles could conceivably be expected.
If you do encounter a bear
Remain calm and dont run. Like dogs, bears will often chase fleeing animals. You can't outrun a bear. They have been clocked at speeds up to 35 mph! Let the bear know you are human. Talk to it in a normal voice and wave your arms. If a bear cannot tell what you are, it may come closer or stand on its hind legs to get a better look or smell. A standing bear is usually curious not threatening. Move away slowly, but dont turn your back. If the bear follows, stop and hold your ground. If the bear gets too close, raise your voice and be more aggressive. Make louder noise by banging pots and pans or using other noisemakers, but never imitate bear sounds or make a high-pitched squeal. If a bear charges Dont run! Bears often make bluff charges, sometimes to within 10 feet of their adversary, without making contact. Usually if you hold your ground they will back off. If a bear actually makes contact In rare instances black bears perceive humans as prey if you are attacked by a black bear fight back. Try to focus your attack on the bears eyes and nose. If you are attacked by a brown bear, surrender! Chances are it is only trying to neutralize a perceived threat. Fall to the ground and play dead. Lie flat on your stomach, or curl up in a ball with your hands behind your neck. Typically, a brown bear will break off its attack once it feels the threat has been eliminated. If possible, remain motionless until the bear has left the area. If the bear sees you move or hears you, it may return and renew its attack. If the bear continues biting you long after you assume a defensive posture, fight back vigorously.
[1-Samuel 17:37] 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. AND SAUL SAID UNTO DAVID, GO, AND THE LORD BE WITH THEE.
God extends his Divine Providence over those who give themselves up to HIM to the degree that they trust in him while doing what they can and must on the natural level. David had achieved a level whereby he could be confident that God would watch over him and direct his actions.
[1-Samuel 17:38] 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.
[1-Samuel 17:39] 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.
The Sages and Commentators say that their was a Divine Purpose behind this. By not being able to wear the armour of Saul he was allaying any suspicion Saul might have that David was about to replace him.
[1-Samuel 17:40] 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.
[1-Samuel 17:41] AND THE PHILISTINE CAME ON AND DREW NEAR UNTO DAVID; AND THE MAN THAT BARE THE SHIELD WENT BEFORE HIM.
Goliath was a giant. Giants once existed. For an article on the subject see:
after the verse and commentary [Joshua 11:22] "ANAKIMS"
[1-Samuel 17:42] 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.
He was good looking and red-haired and sensitive with a high degree of spiritual introspection and it showed. King William Rufus (son of William the Conqueror) of England, Frederick Barbarossa of Germany, and Winston Churchill were all warrior types and red-haired. Nevertheless they were all exceptions. So was David.
[1-Samuel 17:43] 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.
[1-Samuel 17:44] 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.
[1-Samuel 17:45] 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.
The God of Israel is the Almighty and He is represented in this world by the Israelite people including both Judah and Joseph. We need to be more aware of this.
[1-Samuel 17:46] 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.
[1-Samuel 17:47] 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.
[1-Samuel 17:48] AND IT CAME TO PASS, WHEN THE PHILISTINE AROSE, AND CAME, AND DREW NIGH TO MEET DAVID, THAT DAVID HASTENED, AND RAN TOWARD THE ARMY TO MEET THE PHILISTINE. Goliath was limited by the weight of his armour and could only move cumbersomely.
[1-Samuel 17:49] 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; AND HE FELL UPON HIS FACE TO THE EARTH.
A sling-shot has a straight trajectory, as pointed out by Yigal Yadin, and when used properly is as accurate as a rifle and can be almost as potent. Having myself having once been struck by a sling shot fired at great distance and also witnessed its usage by friendly forces.
I can testify that as a weapon it is not to be dismissed.
[1-Samuel 17:50] 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.
[1-Samuel 17:51] 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.
[1-Samuel 17:52] 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.
When David killed Goliath the Philistines panicked and fled and the Israelites pursued after them.
[1-Samuel 17:53] AND THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL RETURNED FROM CHASING AFTER THE PHILISTINES, AND THEY SPOILED THEIR TENTS.
[1-Samuel 17:54] AND DAVID TOOK THE HEAD OF THE PHILISTINE, AND BROUGHT IT TO JERUSALEM; BUT HE PUT HIS ARMOUR IN HIS TENT.
Part of Jerusalem was in Israelite hands and another part in that of the Jebusites. We see here that David was drawn to Jerusalem from the beginning.
[1-Samuel 17:55] 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? AND ABNER SAID, AS THY SOUL LIVETH, O KING, I CANNOT TELL.
We saw that David was the armor-bearer of Saul, that he would play the harp to soothe the troubled spirit of Saul and that Saul loved him. Saul had sent to Jesse the father of David requesting that David be allowed to stay in his court and minister to the king (1-Samuel 16:18-23). Why then was he now asking who the father was? Also why ask in such a manner?
[1-Samuel 17:56] AND THE KING SAID, ENQUIRE THOU WHOSE SON THE STRIPLING IS.
The Sages (Talmud Yebamot 76;b), Malbim and others answer that the King was inquiring about the blood line. From a provincial newcomer to the court with the status of "Naar" (newcomer, apprentice, "youth") David had advanced with one sudden step to become the major claimant for the hand of the daughter of the King. Saul had taken the Israelites from the point of near total disintegration and elevated them to a power that ruled over large portions of the Middle East and cast the shadow of its authority and military might over the rest:
"SO SAUL TOOK THE KINGDOM OVER ISRAEL, AND FOUGHT AGAINST ALL HIS ENEMIES ON EVERY SIDE, AGAINST MOAB, AND AGAINST THE CHILDREN OF AMMON, AND AGAINST EDOM, AND AGAINST THE KINGS OF ZOBAH, AND AGAINST THE PHILISTINES: AND WHITHERSOEVER HE TURNED HIMSELF, HE VEXED THEM" [1-Samuel 14:47].
All this was despite the temporary resurgence of Philistine aggression that thanks to David had just been suppressed. This too, in the way of human nature, could retroactively be reinterpreted to be as much due to the Israelites pursuing the fleeing Philistines as David killing the giant. I am not saying that this is what happened then but it is what would be likely to happen if it took place today. Peoples memories are short. The danger was past and so the obligations and promises that had been made at the time of peril could be reconsidered, as indeed they were to be. Different Commentators and traditions pointing to one aspect or other of the reign of Saul return with an impression of the aristocratic concept, of "blue-blood".
Even Michal the daughter of Saul who was to marry David and defy her father later criticised David for not respecting the royalty of his office:
" MICHAL SAUL'S DAUGHTER LOOKED THROUGH A WINDOW, AND SAW KING DAVID LEAPING AND DANCING BEFORE THE LORD; AND SHE DESPISED HIM IN HER HEART [2-Samuel 6:16].
"THEN DAVID RETURNED TO BLESS HIS HOUSEHOLD. AND MICHAL THE DAUGHTER OF SAUL CAME OUT TO MEET DAVID, AND SAID, HOW GLORIOUS WAS THE KING OF ISRAEL TO DAY, WHO UNCOVERED HIMSELF TO DAY IN THE EYES OF THE HANDMAIDS OF HIS SERVANTS, AS ONE OF THE VAIN FELLOWS SHAMELESSLY UNCOVERETH HIMSELF! [2-Samuel 6:20].
David was descended from Boaz and Ruth the Moabitess and there was a problem at that time with this.
"AN AMMONITE OR MOABITE SHALL NOT ENTER INTO THE CONGREGATION OF THE LORD; EVEN TO THEIR TENTH GENERATION SHALL THEY NOT ENTER INTO THE CONGREGATION OF THE LORD FOR EVER:
BECAUSE THEY MET YOU NOT WITH BREAD AND WITH WATER IN THE WAY, WHEN YE CAME FORTH OUT OF EGYPT; AND BECAUSE THEY HIRED AGAINST THEE BALAAM THE SON OF BEOR OF PETHOR OF MESOPOTAMIA, TO CURSE THEE" [Deuteronomy 23:3-4] .
It was not certain at that time just what the status of David was. This problem was later resolved, as explained later, but for someone as conscious of his royalty as Saul was a match with a candidate of uncertain (at the time) legality must have seemed problematic to say the least.
[1-Samuel 17:57] 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.
[1-Samuel 17:58] 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.
Saul; could have claimed that the promises made to whoever would defeat Goliath pertained to whoever undertook the combat according to the terms of the Philistines (see the explanation above: 1-Samuel 17:36) , i.e. winner take all. David had not fought under those terms as we explained and therefore the promises were not binding. Nevertheless Saul in the eyes of his people and the probable justified expectations of David did owe David something. This is the explanation of the question (as explained by the Malbim), "Whose son are you?" What do you want? What claim do you have?
The answer was: "I am the son of Jesse your servant from Beth-Lehem", i.e. "Whatever status I have through my father in your eyes is acceptable to me. If you decide that due to the rank of my father I am not as worthy as you would desire I accept it".
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