1 Samuel 17 • When Giants Collide


David versus Goliath is one of the most used stories by non-biblical sources in the world. One of the affects of its universal adaptation by even non-Believers is that it becomes something else set apart from the Bible that eventually ceases to communicate the message and lessons originally intended. This is a story that all Christians need to examine word-for-word to recapture God’s intended message for them.

Read verses 1-3

Background: “Socoh” means “a fence or hedge”, “Azekah” means “dug over”, and “Ephes-dammim” means “boundary of blood”. Taken together they describe the forward edge of evil or unrighteousness, if you will, a physical line drawn and held by the forces of the enemy and depicts the forces on each side of the valley facing each other.

Q: Has anything significant ever occurred in this area before?

A: When Joshua led the original conquest of Canaan, Azekah was the place where God intervened during the battle with the five kings of the Amorites, destroying the enemy with large hailstones (Joshua 10:10-11) as a prelude to the day the sun stood still. So this was a site of great, supernatural victory in Israel’s past, a place of God’s direct intervention for victory. It should have been a great reminder of the power of faith in God.

Application: Although God has been faithful in the past, do we sometimes lack trust when facing the future? Do we allow ourselves to begin thinking that maybe the current situation is “different” and that God won’t intervene? How is this in itself probably a test from God?

Read verses 4-11

Q: Using Goliath as an example, how does the enemy present itself before us?

A: In the most menacing, intimidating earthly form possible. Goliath is really a representation that no man on his own strength and ability can overcome Satan and is completely overmatched whether trying to resist his attack or even in undertaking the offensive against him. His weapons, armor, and supporting physical stature are impossible to overcome one-on-one.

Q: What is the nature of Goliath’s first challenge? Why does he initially make no mention of any gods, whether his own or Israel’s?

A: He limits the challenge to the human level. He doesn’t want anyone to think about anything else other than the earthly, physical factors which are overwhelmingly in his favor. This is how he nullifies their faith and causes their dismay as they examine the earthly factors alone.

Application: What problems have you faced/do you face in which the factors are just too big and overwhelming? Do they get you to forget about the power of trusting in God? Do you only consider the earthly possibilities of effecting a resolution, or do you allow for God to work something greater?

Read verses 12-19

Q: Where have we met these 3 brothers of David before? How might it relate to this event?

A: They are the 3 sons of Jesse mentioned by name that were rejected by Samuel as being the next king of Israel before he ultimately anointed David. (1 Samuel 16:6-13) It’s interesting to note that we have the current (and known to be rejected) King Saul accompanied by 3 men who have also been rejected for the office, all in the presence of GOD’S anointed king-to-be.

Q: What is the contradiction in attitude between David and everyone else? How is it shown in his actions?

A: In v.11, “…Saul and all Israel…were dismayed and greatly afraid”. They were frozen in fear opposite the enemy. David “went back and forth from Saul to tend his father’s flock at Bethlehem”. (v.15) He was living out his life normally as if nothing had changed.

Point: The knowledge of God’s calling combined with faith that He will do all things according to His will and timing makes for a spiritual giant.

Q: What is David’s first duty to his brothers?

A: To feed them, to provide the necessities for sustaining life.

Q: How does this have spiritual parallels?

A: Feeding—particularly with grain/bread—is a recurring biblical symbol of teaching God’s Word. One of the spiritual meanings would be that Christ—the very Word of God Himself—first prepares us for the spiritual battles ahead by feeding us God’s Word.

Application: Have you ever been “too” anxious to join in the battle, so to speak? Is it possible that God is first preparing/strengthening you through His Word in order to deal with things to come? If an athlete trains to be ready for the competition, how does a spiritual warrior “train” for battle?

Read verses 20-30

Q: What is the similarity and difference between David and Saul, particularly according to v.22?

A: When Saul was publicly anointed king at Mizpah, his initial reaction was to hide himself in the baggage. (1 Samuel 10:20-22) David is quick to leave the provisions with the baggage and join the people. In other words, one’s tendency is to hide from God, the other’s to embrace Him.

Q: What is the contrast between the way Israel acted before and after Goliath’s challenge?

A: Prior they went “out in battle array shouting the war cry”, (v.20) that is they appeared enthusiastic and/or prepared for war. Afterwards, however, “they fled from him and were greatly afraid”. (v.24)

Q: How did this result in their perception of the right solution for the problem?

A: They knew that Israel needed a deliverer, but they were looking for an earthly one rather than God. They provided an earthly enticement (“…the king will enrich the man who kills him with great riches and will give him his daughter and make his father’s house free in Israel”.) for an earthly deliverer.

Q: How do we know that David was actually focused on the core spiritual issues involved rather than the peripheral earthly ones?

A: It’s first betrayed in David’s identifying the enemy as “this uncircumcised Philistine”. To be uncircumcised represents having no knowledge of God’s ways nor having a personal, covenant relationship with Him. This is someone completely opposed to God, not simply opposed to God’s people.

It’s further revealed by David’s labeling of Israel as “the armies of the living God”. David draws a clear connection to the fact that this is more of a spiritual battle than a simple earthly one by defining Goliath’s “reproach” of Israel coming from God’s enemies, ignorant of His Word and ways, against God’s very own.

Q: In the example of Eliab’s rebuke of David, what can we be assured of when we attempt to rally God’s people to overcome evil?

A: There’s always somebody that will tell us, “It can’t be done.”

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.

— Ephesians 3:20-21

Point: David never allowed the distractions of earthly things or even their appearance to diminish being grounded in the things of God. This is a practical example of faith beyond the circumstances. He did this not only for himself personally, but for all those around him as well.

Read verses 31-37

Background: Consider the following commandment in God’s Law with which Saul and all Israel would have been familiar and how it might relate:

When you go out to battle against your enemies and see horses and chariots and people more numerous than you, do not be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, who brought you up from the land of Egypt, is with you.

— Deuteronomy 20:1

Q: How might Saul’s concerns be characterized—were they more earthly or spiritual in nature?

A: Saul, seeking a human solution, had human concerns and excuses.

Q: How might David’s response be likewise characterized?

A: David responds with real-world examples of being able to overcome as a human, but he attributes those successes to actually being spiritual successes by summarizing, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.”

Q: How did God prepare David for the “big” things?

A: God tested David privately with a lion and a bear before testing him publicly with a giant. Faithful in the private battles, God saw him through public trials.

If you have run with footmen and they have tired you out,

Then how can you compete with horses?

If you fall down in a land of peace,

How will you do in the thicket of the Jordan?

— Jeremiah 12:5

Point: In his own way, David is a spiritual reminder of what Saul and company should have known through Deuteronomy 20:1 to begin with, that God is greater than the circumstances. But their lack of faith was in direct proportion to their lack of faithfulness.

Read verses 38-40

Q: What was the people’s request when they originally asked Samuel to appoint a king over them, which turned out to be Saul?

Nevertheless, the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel, and they said, “No, but there shall be a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.”

— 1 Samuel 8:19-20

Q: Who was actually the king of Israel at this time?

A: Although Saul formerly sat on the throne, David had been anointed king by God. Therefore the true king of Israel, in taking on this fight, will “go out before us and fight our battles”.

Q: Is there a possible ploy that Saul is attempting in providing David with his garments and armor?

A: Dressed in this manner, David would appear to everyone as Saul, even to the point that many might think it was Saul himself that was going out to fight Goliath.

Q: What is significant about David’s decision not to use the weapons offered by Saul but to trust in his own, simpler weapons and resources?

A: David’s trust is not in man but God, that trust further grounded in the belief that God’s preparation and provision is enough to get the job done. David is actually a contrast of the true king of God that trusts in God’s ways versus Saul the earthly king whose trust is in material things.

Q: Is it by chance that David selected FIVE stones? What is the point?

A: Goliath had 4 brothers, all of whom by the laws of the times might claim the right to exact revenge on their brother’s killer. If necessary, David was prepared to finish the job completely, even if it should continue beyond just the immediate fight with Goliath.

Point: God provided all the preparation necessary; David did not need to be supplemented by things that men perceived as necessary.

Application: Have you ever received advice—or offered it—that you need “this or that” to spiritually succeed? Have you noticed that most of the time such suggestions are almost always a list of earthly resources? When carrying out God’s work, what happens when we fail to rely on God’s provision and rely on man’s?

Read verses 41-47

Q: How is Goliath’s response now different from that previously offered over each of the past 40 days?

A: Whereas Goliath previously refrained from introducing anything “spiritual” and wanted everyone to remain focused on the daunting, physical factors of the situation, for the first time he betrays the spiritual basis for the conflict by cursing David “by his gods”. The outward battle has spilled out from the inward spiritual conflict.

Q: How does David turn the whole argument upside down? How does this contrast with the way that Saul and Israel had sought a deliverer?

A: David plainly refutes all earthly factors and declares his faith in the things of God. Whereas Saul and company had offered an earthly reward to entice an earthly deliverer, David invokes God as Deliverer. David’s goal is to bring glory not to himself but to the One True God in the eyes of BOTH sides.

Q: How does David identify God?

A: “The Lord of hosts”. This is a description of God not just merely commanding the people of Israel, but in command of the entire universe. It’s an allusion not only to God’s sovereignty over both sides but to His power and authority beyond the confines of either side.

Application: How often during conflicts with friends, family, co-workers, etc. do you stop to consider the greater spiritual issues at stake? Do you seek to win the earthly argument at the expense of the greater spiritual victory?

Read verses 48-54

Q: How is David a “type” or picture of the Messiah?

“When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are undisturbed. But when someone stronger than he attacks him and overpowers him, he takes away from him all his armor on which he had relied and distributes his plunder. He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me, scatters.

— Luke 11:21-23

Application: How does the following apply to your approach to the battles of your life: “Christians do not simply fight FOR victory, but fight FROM victory, the victory won at the cross”?