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The Philistine Champion (1 Samuel 17:1-30) October 31

In chapter 17 we will read about David's great courage and faith in facing Goliath, the giant. The Philistines were forever taunting their neighbors the Israelites. The Philistines were in a superior position to the Israelites in trade and technology. One way the Philistines tried to keep the Israelites subservient was by their monopoly on instruments of iron. While the iron age had come to the Philistines, the Israelites were only able to manufacture implements made of the softer bronze. The ability to forge iron weapons gave the Philistines a decided military advantage over the Israelites.

On top of that, here comes Goliath of Gath, a one-man army who, at 9 feet 9 inches, would dwarf even the tallest of today's professional basketball players! It is interesting that Goliath is mentioned as being from Gath. When the Israelites first came to the Promised Land, they encountered giants throughout it: "There we saw the giants (the descendants of Anak came from the giants); and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight" (Numbers 13:33). Most of them, however, were wiped out by Joshua: "And at that time Joshua came and cut off the Anakim from the mountains: from Hebron, from Debir, from Anab, from all the mountains of Judah, and from all the mountains of Israel; Joshua utterly destroyed them with their cities" (Joshua 11:21). But notice the next verse: "None of the Anakim were left in the land of the children of Israel; they remained only in Gaza, in Gath, and in Ashdod" (verse 22). So this unusual lineage remained in these three Philistine cities only—and Goliath, 400 years later, was from Gath. Moreover, he was, we will later find out, not the only giant from that area (see 2 Samuel 21:15-22; 1 Chronicles 20:4-8).

The Hebrew expression translated "champion" in verse 4 literally means "a man who is a go-between." Goliath offered a one-on-one, man-to-man, winner-take-all challenge to the Israelites. There were no takers. Though Saul was head and shoulders above his own people, he was certainly no match for Goliath. This presented seemingly impossible odds that virtually checkmated the king of Israel.

Three of David's oldest brothers were among the fighting men on the battlefront. Young David's responsibilities included keeping the sheep back home with an occasional trip to the front lines to bring supplies to his brothers and their leaders. Every day, morning and evening, for nearly six weeks, Goliath would come out and defy Israel to accept his challenge (verse 16). It frightened the wits out of the Israelite soldiers.

Then, one day, David happened to be there to hear Goliath's challenge. What really got to David was the blasphemous reproach brought on the armies of the living God (verse 26). The word "uncircumcised" was a clear indication that the Philistines were not in a covenant relationship with the living God as the Israelites were. Goliath was the enemy of God's people. David immediately recognized that it was wrong to allow this situation to continue.

David believed it was necessary to intervene at this momentous time. It was not a matter of pride or vainglory on his part. His motives were selfless, yet he had to endure the criticisms of his brothers (verse 28).

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