Chapter 16 has a great start:
How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way 1 Samuel 16:1
Samuel was moping about, so God shakes him up and sends him on a mission. Samuel is concerned that Saul will kill him, so the plan is to take a heifer to make a sacrifice, but the real objective is to meet Jesse.
When Samuel arrives at Bethlehem the people start to panic. He assures them he comes in peace and takes Jesse with him to offer a sacrifice. Samuel saw Eliab and was impressed with his size and stature. The Lord was not so moved!
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7
I’m grateful the Lord looks at the heart! Samuel has Jesse call each of his sons until they get to the last one, the least one: David.
So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David. Samuel then went to Ramah.1 Samuel 16:13
“In the presence of his brothers…” reminds me of Joseph and makes me wonder if they remembered the story. It had to be one of the favorite stories to tell until it came to be their story. Samuel departs and David returns to the sheep.
In the last few chapters we see how this dance was set up. The Israelites are trembling because of the massive Philistines army, that army is sent into confusion by Jonathan’s brave tactical strike, then they regroup and the Israelites begin to fear again. It’s a very tense time. Both sides are afraid to a great extent. The Philistines enlist their giant. In modern times, size has little to do with fighting ability–weapons have changed all of that. But in ancient times (not that I’m that old!) it seems like a man the size of Goliath with the strength and agility, along with military training, could clear a swath of Israelites with a single sweeping blow. Also recall, the Israelites have few weapons of any consequence. The Philistine leaders decide this is the time to make their stand, so the dance begins.
Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified.1 Samuel 17:11
The older brothers were following Saul, members of the army, while David was back tending sheep. Jesse sends David to take some food to his brothers. When David hears the taunts of Goliath, he asks,
“What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and removes this disgrace from Israel? Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?” 1 Samuel 17:26
Eliab, the oldest brother hears David and calls him out:
I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is; you came down only to watch the battle. 1 Samuel 17:28
Now it really does sound like Jacob’s sons in Genesis 37, but the situation is much different. The armies are poised at each other, a single catalytic interaction is all that’s need to set off an explosion. Eliab is infuriated! Don’t poke the bear! Stop trying to agitate people baby brother!!
David gets an audience with Saul, but since he’s young, Saul essentially tells him to go away and let the grown-ups handle these matters. David, however, has lived with the power of the Lord within him and done some mighty acts in the wilderness where he explains how he has killed a lion and a bear–Goliath will be no different. Saul is convinced!
Saul’s men outfit David in armor and accoutrements of a soldier, but David takes them off explaining that he is not used to them and will be unable to fight. The physical aspect of taking on unfamiliar armor makes sense, but I wonder if this is also a metaphor. David needs nothing from Saul. It seems it would be better if David has no help from Saul at all, nothing that Saul can turn around and suggest that he helped in the battle. No. This is God with David against Goliath.
David and Goliath
Armed with a sling and five stones, David approaches Goliath. The taunting begins. First Goliath has a mouth full of curses from his gods, then David provides his rebuttal,
“You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.” 1 Samuel 17:45-47
I didn’t want to include that much text in this blog, but it’s difficult to decide what to take out. The comparison of David’s words versus Goliath’s is significant. The bolded text shows how David gives all the honor to God while Goliath claims his personal victory by his own strength. Yes, “I’ll strike you down and cut off your head” is pretty personal, but it is surrounded by statements of honor and glory to God, not David.
David’s sling and stone skills would have won gold in the Olympics. He knocks Goliath to the ground, then decapitates him with his own oversized sword. The fuse ignited, the men of Israel pursued the fleeing Philistines.
The battle is always the Lord’s whether we recognize it or not. God help us to remember!