The account of David and Goliath is one most often taught to children - Literary Analysis introduction. Many adult believers heard the account while growing up. To move beyond the superficial aspect of the events, an in-depth analysis is needed. The narrative is a complex literary work with deep theological messages. The current paper will record a literary analysis of 1 Samuel 17:1-58 and then discuss the theology and applications that can be useful in the lives of the modern day believer. The nation of Israel had asked God for a king. God had allowed this and Saul was anointed king.
After Saul was disobedient and lost favor with God, God sent Samuel to the house of Jesse to anoint his youngest son, David, to be the next king over Israel. David was a ruddy shepherd boy who had several experiences where God had protected him and his sheep. In chapter 17 of the book of 1 Samuel we find David being sent to take supplies to his older brothers. They were encamped with the army of Saul across from the Philistine army. David arrived to hear the Philistine giant named Goliath taunting the Israelites and their God. It seemed his purpose was to entice Israel to send a warrior out to fight him.
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Goliath made the accusations and enticements twice a day for 40 days. David was appalled at his accusations and was willing to fight the giant. The men of Saul’s army told David about the rewards the king was offering to the man who would kill Goliath. David’s oldest brother ridiculed him. After collecting five stones from the stream, trying on Saul’s armor and refusing it, he ran to meet the giant conversing with him the whole time and hit him with a rock that was hurled from his slingshot. Goliath fell forward. David retrieved the sword of Goliath and beheaded him.
Saul was questioning Abner, the commander of his army, while David was confronting Goliath. Saul’s question was regarding the father of David to which Abner reported he did not know. Once Goliath was defeated, Abner brought David to Saul and David told the king that his father was Jesse. Understanding the setting helps the reader develop the scene. The narrative is set in the Elah valley, which is approximately fifteen miles southwest of Jerusalem. The two armies are each camped on the side of the two mountains, each of which slope down to form the valley. A stream of water runs between these mountains in the valley (1 Samuel 17:40).
The author has a unique design for the characters. The round characters in the narrative are Goliath, a Philistine champion who stood over ten feet tall; Saul, the current king of Israel; and David, a shepherd boy who was the anointed king of Israel. The author told us a lot about Goliath, his height, armor, and tendency to use chiding remarks was some of the information shared. In order to understand the narrative the reader must know things about the characters of Saul and David from previous scripture: Saul’s disobedience and declining favor as king as well as David’s anointing and shepherding experience.
Abner is a flat character in this narrative. He is present so that Saul may have a discussion with him about the father of David and to bring David to Saul after he defeated Goliath. David’s father, Jesse and brothers are agents in this work. David is present at the scene of the battle because he was sent by his father to carry food to his brothers and check on their welfare. Some of the contrasts contained in the narrative include Goliath, the pagan champion warrior fighting David, the child of God shepherd boy. Goliath wore a sword and armor for the battle while David was armed with only a slingshot and stones.
David stated that Goliath came out with a sword, spear and javelin but that he came against Goliath in the name of the Lord Almighty (v. 45). Saul was the current king but David was the one anointed to become king. David trusted Yahweh to defeat the enemy and Saul did not. Saul was terrified but David had confidence in the Lord. David, the child, was on the battlefield facing the giant while Saul, the king, was in a safe place having a discussion with Abner, the commander of his army. The account also contains only a few parallels. Goliath was tall, often considered a giant.
Saul was a head taller than most Israelites (1 Samuel 9:2). Saul, the king and Abner, the commander of the army, two of the top officials in Israel were watching and conversing as David a shepherd boy goes out to meet the Philistine (1Samuel 17:55). The author develops the narrative utilizing various dialogues. David arrives on the scene because of Jesse’s verbal instructions to take supplies to his brothers in Saul’s camp (v. 17-19). It is through the taunting of Goliath that we are introduced to the problem that the author is presenting (v. 8-11).
The conversation David has with the men of Saul’s army reiterates the problem and indicates Saul’s solution was a reward (v. 25-27). Through the communications with Saul, we see David’s reliance on God to overcome the Philistine and an implied lack of reliance on the part of Saul (v. 32-40). The author records the interactions of David and Goliath as they meet each other for the conquest (v. 43-47). The final three conversations were between Saul and Abner, Abner and David, and finally between David and Saul. The name of David’s father was the topic of these conversations (v. 55-58). An intertextual connection is seen with Numbers 13.
The spies who scouted Canaan reported that if Israel were to enter the land of Canaan they would face “giants” or those of great size. Caleb confidently said that they should enter the land and take possession of it but the others were frightened. The account is similar to the men of Israel being terrified of Goliath and David being confident of God’s ability to defeat him. The account of Dagon, the pagan god, in 1 Samuel 5:4 fallen on his face before the ark of the Lord is perhaps connected intertextually with Goliath, the pagan warrior, fallen on his face at the hand of David, God’s servant.
A couple of interpretative problems were identified. Why would Saul call David to play for him and settle his nerves in chapter 16 and then in chapter 17 not know David’s father? Many explanations have been offered. Some of the more plausible ones include that Saul was mentally tormented and thus may not have recognized David. It should be pointed out that Saul did not ask David’s name but the name of his father. Jesse was old and advanced in years at this time (1 Samuel 17:12). It is possible that Saul had never met Jesse. Saul had a reason to be interested in Jesse at
this point because David killed Goliath and now his family would be exempt from taxes (v. 25). Another possibility is that this narrative originally may have been a separate account that the editor incorporated while compiling the books of Samuel. In essence, it does not follow in chronological order. The fact that the author deemed it necessary to record that David took five stones when he only needed one could be considered an in terpretive issue. It has been said that David was not confident one stone would be enough. The reasoning does not seem accurate. David was willing to face the giant.
He knew his God was capable to deliver the victory and he said as much to Saul (v. 34-37). It would seem that David was accustom to being ready to take on a challenge so he took five stones to prepare himself. It could be likened to a Bible teacher reading and studying the materials to be taught. The teacher is confident in God to bring the message to those seeking in the class yet the teacher would not presume to attend class unprepared. The account of David and Goliath has many life applications for the believer. David’s obedience to his elder put him in position to do a mighty thing for his fellow man.
David did not let the criticism of others, such as his brother, deter him from what God was calling him to do. David called on his past experiences to encourage his confidence. A believer will have uncertain times and instead of facing them with confidence, remembering how God had met their needs in the past, the believer may be tempted to shriek back. David used his experiences with the lion and the bear to build his courage and possibly to convince Saul (v. 34-38. ) David refused the armor of Saul but took what he was accustomed to into battle (v. 38-40). As a believer, we are who God created us to be.
If he called us to the task, then what we have is sufficient or he will equip us. David ran to meet his giant. What a statement to his confidence in God. Believers should be bold in their stand for the Lord. The narrative has much to say about leadership. Because Saul was terrified, his men were terrified (v. 11). David acted like a king. Where did David get his courage? His courage grew out of his understanding of God. Kingdom leaders can find their strength, courage, and leadership ability in God. A final application to draw from this narrative is about giants in our lives.
Every believer will face multiple giants in their lifetime often referred to as trials or tribulations. Some giants are tangible, such as loss of a job, investments, or a loved one. Other giants are not so easy to grasp such as cancer, abuse, or low self-esteem. Giants can be intimidating but we do not have to face them alone. A precious peace can come from scripture. Verse 47 of 1 Samuel 17 tells us that the battle is the Lord’s. Concluding thoughts point to a careful study of the narrative, this study will revel the character of David. A believer can learn a lot from these character traits.
David trusted God to fight his battles (v. 47). He gave God credit for the victory (v. 37). He remembered his past experiences and drew confidence from how God had protected him (v. 34-37). It is no wonder he is known as a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22). BIBLIOGRAPHY Deffinbaugh, Bob. “Bible. org. ” http://bible. org/seriespage/david-and-goliath-1-samuel-171-58 (accessed December 1, 2011). LaSor, William Sanford, David Allan Hubbard, and Frederic Wm. Bush. Old Testament Survey: The Message, Form, and Background of the Old Testament.
Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1996. ——————————————– [ 1 ]. Bob Deffinbaugh. “Bible. org. ” http://bible. org/seriespage/david-and-goliath-1-samuel-171-58 (accessed December 1, 2011). [ 2 ]. Bob Deffinbaugh. “Bible. org. ” http://bible. org/seriespage/david-and-goliath-1-samuel-171-58 (accessed December 1, 2011). [ 3 ]. William Sanford LaSor, David Allen Hubbard, and Frederic Wm. Bush, Old Testament Survey: The Message, Form, and Background of the Old Testament, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996), 176-177.