Saturday, May 19, 2007

Bible Story: David and Goliath

This week's Bible story is "David and Goliath." The story of David and Goliath has become proverbial for a struggle between two mismatched opponents. Even though David was small and the odds seemed to be entirely against him, he was able to able to defeat the mighty giant, Goliath. Here is the story as recounted in the Book of Samuel.

Goliath was a giant warrior fighting for the Philistines against the army led by King Saul:
A champion named Goliath, who was from Gath, came out of the Philistine camp. He was over nine feet tall. He had a bronze helmet on his head and wore a coat of scale armor of bronze weighing five thousand shekels; on his legs he wore bronze greaves, and a bronze javelin was slung on his back. His spear shaft was like a weaver's rod, and its iron point weighed six hundred shekels.
Goliath challenged King Saul's army to send someone to fight him in single combat:
Goliath stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, "Why do you come out and line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not the servants of Saul? Choose a man and have him come down to me. If he is able to fight and kill me, we will become your subjects; but if I overcome him and kill him, you will become our subjects and serve us." Then the Philistine said, "This day I defy the ranks of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other." On hearing the Philistine's words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified.
Although none of the soldiers would fight Goliath, David, a shepherd boy, accepted the challenge. King Saul was dubious, seeing that David was no warrior. David, however, insisted that he could fight the giant:
David said to Saul, "Your servant has been keeping his father's sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine." Saul said to David, "Go, and the Lord be with you."
Saul tried to dress David in a suit of armor to prepare him for battle, but David put aside the armor and instead armed himself with stones to use in his slingshot:
Then Saul dressed David in his own tunic. He put a coat of armor on him and a bronze helmet on his head. David fastened on his sword over the tunic and tried walking around, because he was not used to them. "I cannot go in these," he said to Saul, "because I am not used to them." So he took them off. Then he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd's bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine.
Goliath taunted David when he came out onto the battlefied, because he saw that David was a mere boy. David, however, was undeterred.
David said to the Philistine, "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 Lord will hand you over to me, and I'll strike you down and cut off your head. Today I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, 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."
Events unfolded just as David said they would:
As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him. Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell facedown on the ground. So David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone; without a sword in his hand he struck down the Philistine and killed him. David ran and stood over him. He took hold of the Philistine's sword and drew it from the scabbard. After he killed him, he cut off his head with the sword. When the Philistines saw that their hero was dead, they turned and ran. Then the men of Israel and Judah surged forward with a shout and pursued the Philistines to the entrance of Gath and to the gates of Ekron.
That is the end of Goliath, but it is not the last we will see of Goliath's weapons. Later, when David is fleeing from Saul, he will go to the priest Ahimelech for supplies, and Ahimelech will give to him the sword of Goliath the Philistine.

There are many wonderful images of David's defeat of Goliath, and the one I chose here is an early 12th-century mural from Catalonia.

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