One of the most famous chapters in the Bible begins with the Philistines camped at Socoh and Saul and his army gathered at the Valley of Elah. Defeating them here was crucial, as control of this valley would give the Philistines an entrance into the hill country of Judah. Goliath of Gath was their champion. A champion is a man comes forward to fight between the two enemy’s battle lines. Here Goliath challenges on behalf of the Philistines any champion that Israel will dare to confront him. The survivor’s army would share the victory with him. The actual size of this “giant” of a man is much debated, depending on the standard of the cubit one chooses to use (and the poor fellow that . But it is sufficient to say that a warrior, whether approaching either 8 feet or 9 feet tall, would be most intimidating – then and now.
The Israel army is taunted daily by him (verse 16) as the actual battle continued (verses 19-21). David arrives, and though his brother Eliab chastises him for leaving the sheep (verse 28), he continues inquiring about the champion. Where Saul shows fear and a lack of confidence (verses 11, 33), David shows defiance and certainty that he will prevail because of God. Even when relating his own killing of lions and bears (verses 34, 36), David points out that it was God who delivered him, just as he would do with “this uncircumcised Philistine” because “he has defied the armies of the living God.”
Saul consents to let David go and outfits him with his armor, but it was not accustomed to it (verse 39) and sheds it. Armed with his staff, a sling and stones he chose from the brook, he defiantly confronts Goliath, who is insulted by being challenged by such an unimposing enemy and , over-confident, curses David. David tells him he will defeat him because the Lord will deliver him – and that he will cut off his head. David does strike him to the ground with a stone embedded in his forehead. The Lord was indeed with him.
(Side Note: There is an article at BiblePlaces.com on excavation at the site of Gath (Tel es-Safi) that has discovered a shard of pottery with the name Goliath inscribed, showing, at the least, that names similar to “Goliath” were used around the 9th – 10th century BCE in that area)
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some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers
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