Bible Notes Online - 1-Samuel 17 - ESV
Commentary

A chapter of Defiance and Reliance

v1: The Philistines invaded Judah, in an attempt to take land belonging to the people of God.

v2-3: The scene is set, with the two armies facing each other over the valley. There were evidently skirmishes, see v19, although not a full-scale battle.

v4-7: The Philistines had a 'champion', Goliath. He was a fearful sight, bringing terror upon the Israelites, v11.

v8-10: Goliath spoke of man defying man; David saw a deeper reality, of defiance against God, v26.

v11: The rest of the Israelites were ignorant of the spiritual reality, and were afraid.

v12-16: Jesse's three oldest sons were in Saul's army. David visited them, and served Saul, and also came home to Bethlehem during the forty days.

v17-19: Jesse sent food to his sons, and asked David to find out how they were.

v20: David was obedient to Jesse. He left the flock with a shepherd (keeper), a simple, practical provision.

v21-24: David was eager to see his brothers and ran up to them. Later, he was eager in battle, v48, running up to challenge Goliath. At the same time, Goliath himself appeared, and the Israelites ran in fear.

v25: Saul and the army of Israel saw only a physical threat; hence the promise of a physical reward.

v26: David's attitude saw the spiritual reality; and this set him apart from the rest of the people. Goliath was uncircumcised, and had defied the armies of God. Size and training was not at issue. David maintained this same attitude before Saul, v32-33.

v27: Saul’s troops all knew what reward would come to the one who killed Goliath, but of course none would dare challenge him.

v28-30: Eliab led the criticism of David, attacking his "conceited" attitude, and demeaning his work, "those few sheep". David did not despise in return. It may have been that Eliab has jealous of David, since Samuel passed over him (16.6).

v31: David's words were reported to Saul.

v32-33: David had clear confidence in God. God had protected him in private battles, and would protect him in public battles also. Saul spoke of Goliath's prowess and strength, and David's clear disadvantage.

v34-37: David testified of the Lord's help in his life. He had fought with lions and bears, probably on several occasions. But the Lord had always protected His own. Fighting Goliath was, essentially, no different. The Lord God would honour His Name.

v38-39: Saul tried to equip David, in his own armour, making him like Goliath. The weapons of spiritual warfare are not carnal or physical. David rightly decided that the armour would actually be a hindrance in the battle.

v40: God chose the weak and foolish things of the world to bring down the great and powerful. David had five smooth stones in a shepherd's bag; his sling was in his hand, ready for action.

v41-44: Goliath approached David, and mocked him. In a similar way, unbelievers mock true Christians. Goliath's confidence was in the arm of the flesh, physical strength.

v45: David's confidence was in the Lord of hosts; He can never be defeated. David’s testimony was clear and bold; friend and enemy alike knew in Whom he trusted.

v46: David spoke of the carcasses of the Philistines being given to the birds of the air, contrast v44.

David's motivation was the glory of God; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. He had no thought of personal glory.

v47: Victory would also be an encouragement for the people of God. The army of Israel would learn that God will give victory.

v48-51: The narrative briefly describes David's victory, with a sling and a stone. In victory he cut off Goliath's head, so both sides would see the giant's defeat.

v52-53: Israel, no longer fearful, pursued the Philistines to their own cities, Gath and Ekron.

v54-58: Saul did not know who David was. This seems strange, if David was serving the king; however, there was an evil spirit upon Saul. Perhaps Saul was so bound up in his own feelings, that he took little interest in others.

It has to be said that the sequence of events here (chapters 16-18) can be difficult to reconcile. But more important is the spiritual character of David, and the lack of spiritual attitude in Saul, and this is clearly described.