For Part 1 click HERE
For Part 2 click HERE
For Part 3 click HERE
Welcome back, Dojo readers! The story of David and Goliath certainly has gotten a major interpretive face-lift over the past three posts, hasn’t it!
So the final question that we should probably address is…what difference does any of this make in reading the actual story??
I would suggest the following in response:
Many Bible stories over the millennia have become nothing but fables in the tellings and retellings by well-meaning teachers, preachers and parents. Thus, one usually reads the David and Goliath account and tries to discover the moralistic meaning or “life application” message in it. Sermons such as “What are the Goliaths in your life?” or “When have you had a David moment?” abound. Children are encouraged to be brave like David when “facing the giants” (i.e. schoolyard bullies…or rival football teams!), etc.
Now, none of these are necessarily wrong in and of themselves…but they do not come from the biblical David and Goliath account as it was originally written. Rather, they are attempts to make the story more like Aesop than Samuel–more palatable and easier to entertain children with. But this story is far more significant than a self-contained fable or heroic tale of bravery and faith!
You see, in Psalm 2–the Israelite worship song celebrating the enthronement of God’s Annointed King (or in Hebrew, “messiah”)–we find the following verses:
“Why do the nations conspire
and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth take their stand
and the rulers gather together
against the LORD
and against his Anointed One.”
This song was likely composed either by David Himself, or by those after him who looked back on this moment in Israel’s history where the strength and might of the nations, embodied in Goliath, took their stand against the LORD and his Annointed One, embodied by David.
This was not merely a battle between a shepherd boy and a fearsome warrior. It was a symbolic battle between the God of Israel and the gods of the nations (in this case, the Philistines), with the fate of Israel hanging in the balance. If Goliath wins, God’s people are destroyed and the promise made to Abram all the way back in Genesis 12 and 15–which were carried through to Isaac, then Jacob, then to the people as a whole through Moses, then through Samuel’s annointing of David as King–would be nullified and God’s redemption of the world through the seed of Abram would never take place. Yet God’s promises do not fail…even when challenged by all the technological might of those arrayed against Him.
The story also contains wonderful imagery and irony. The mighty warrior who had cursed the God of Israel and openly defied Him was made to fall on his face before this same God–at the hands of a teenage shepherd who wasn’t even a member of the army whose God he was defying!
More than that, in the ancient near east, to die by one’s own weapon was a sign of humiliation and disgrace. David’s use of the giant’s sword–rather than the stone–to kill him was a powerful symbol to all who witnessed it, as well as the generations who would read about it in the future. God’s messiah defeated the most powerful enemy with his own weapon…sound familiar??
It gets even more significant when we read what David did with the sword and the head of the giant:
David took the Philistine’s head and brought it to Jerusalem, and he put the Philistine’s weapons in his own tent. 1Samuel 17:54 NIV
The NIV here seems to say that David took the head to Jerusalem and kept Goliath’s weapons in his tent…but once again, this is not what the Hebrew text actually says. It says literally
“And he took David the head of the Philistine and he brought it to Jerusalem and his implements he placed in his tent.“
It’s interesting that at this point Jerusalem had not been captured by David, but was still under the control of the Jebusites. This tells us that this note is a later gloss, written after the events, when Jerusalem was David’s city and the tabernacle was established there (cf. 1Samuel 21:9, where David takes Goliath’s sword which had been stored there in the Tabernacle, presumably along with the skull as commemorating the events of that fateful day).
But what is the significance of Goliath’s weapons and skull being placed in Jerusalem for years after?
Well, almost one thousand years after David the messiah conquered the powerful enemy of God’s people by humiliatingly defeating him with his own weapon, the Son of David, Jesus the Messiah, would come to the very city where this battle was commemorated, and confront the most powerful Enemy of God’s people…and would use that Enemy’s very own weapons–sin, shame, humiliation and even death itself–to defeat him.
And the name of the place where that would happen?
Golgotha…”the place of The Skull”
Interesting, to say the least.
When we step back and look at the whole of the Biblical texts from a 30,000 ft. view, we start to see that all through canonical history, God has been writing a grand story–a “metanarrative” that all points toward a single event on darkest of days in 33 AD, and the ramifications it would have for millennia afterwards.
THAT is the true significance of David’s encounter with Goliath.
And THAT is what makes the study of Scripture something that continues to amaze and enthrall even the most learned of scholars their entire lifetimes…
At least that’s the case for the amateur one writing this article… 🙂
May it be the case for those reading it as well.