In the book of Samuel, which can be found in the Old Testament, the story of David and Goliath unfolds. It is about a Philistine man called Goliath who, according to Samuel 17:4 in the King James Version, was “six cubits and one span,” which is nine feet and four inches. Though there are discrepancies as to how tall he really was, with some claiming he was shorter than that, the point of the story is how one who possesses mental strength can overcome one who seems to be dominant in physical strength.
Goliath’s apparel consisted of a brass helmet and a coat of mail that weighed five thousand shekels. One shekel is equivalent to 0.396832 ounces, which makes the total weight of Goliath’s armor of mail 125.0021 pounds!
That’s intimidating in and of itself!
Add to that “…greaves of brass upon his legs, and a target of brass between his shoulders. And the staff of his spear was like a weaver’s beam; and his spear’s head weighed six hundred shekels of iron: [that’s 240 pounds!] and one bearing a shield went before him.”
When one weighs this (no pun intended!) along with how tall he was, if in fact he was over nine feet tall, that explains why the Philistines were almost impossible to defeat. However, according to how the story continues, a shepherd boy, note the word “boy” here, by the name of David enters the scene.
David was sent by his father to bring food for his brothers, who were part of the Israelite army of King Saul, to where the battle between the Israelites and the Philistines was supposed to occur. By the time David arrived, King Saul was trying to figure out how to defeat Goliath and the rest of the Philistines, but no one wanted to go up against the giant, Goliath.
David overheard from other men in the camp what Saul the king will give to any man who defeats Goliath. The rewards were “great riches” and marriage to King Saul’s daughter. David expressed an interest in taking on Goliath, which may seem at first his motivation, but in the following chapter, Samuel 18:18, we read, “And David said unto Saul, who am I? and what is my life, or my father’s family in Israel, that I should be son-in-law to the king?” This seems to indicate David’s humility rather than pride and ego.
David’s brothers were angry with David at the suggestion that he fight against Goliath and rebuked him. However, David remained both inspired and compelled to fight. He reassured King Saul by saying, “32 And David said to Saul, let no man’s heart fail because of him; thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine.”
King Saul reminded David that he was just a boy, “a youth,” who would not be able to go up against such a man as Goliath, yet David had it in his heart that he could not only fight Goliath, but he could also beat him.
He explained to Saul that he fought a bear and a lion and defeated them when they tried to attack his flock. In fact, he says that he grabbed the lion by the beard and then killed him. He further elucidated that “this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them, seeing he hath defied the armies of the living God…The Lord that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, He will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine. And Saul said unto David, Go, and the Lord be with thee.”
This suggests that David wanted to fight Goliath as he had fought the bear and the lion to protect his flock, which may symbolize how fighting the giant was to protect God’s flock, His children of Israel.
So Saul dressed David in the traditional armor and handed him the weapons used in battle, but David told Saul that he couldn’t fight like the Philistine Goliath but rather the way he knew. So David disrobed the armor, left the weapons behind, and chose five smooth stones out of a nearby brook along with his sling shot as weapons.
Before he approached Goliath, he said out loud, “46 This day will the Lord deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcasses of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. 47 And all this assembly shall know that the Lord saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hands.”
David took one stone, placed it in his sling shot, and fired it off, hitting Goliath right on his forehead thereby knocking him unconscious. David then ran to the giant, slayed him with a sword, then cut off Goliath’s head.
The rest of the Philistines ran off. The victory belonged to the Israelites.
Physical stature can be intimidating and threatening and impose mental restrictions that inhibit a successful outcome. However, mental strength can overtake and subdue giant challenges.
In the book of Samuel 16:7, God speaks to his servant and prophet Samuel by saying, “But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart’” (ESV).
Matthew Henry, a nonconformist minister, added a commentary that sums it all up regarding the story of David and Goliath, “We can tell how men look, but God can tell what they are.”
David and Goliath are not the first nor the last symbols of how the underdog, to the material sense, demonstrates victory. The heart of person can open the way to triumph even in a seemingly hopeless situation.
David had great faith in the God of Abraham that propelled him to forge ahead without doubt, without fear, and without fail. David demonstrated the strength of integrity, confidence, and honor that won him the victory over evil threats.
As we fight our battles against the Goliath challenges that try and stand in our way of peace, love, and freedom, let us recall how the mental strength of a boy defeated the physical strength of a giant man and move ahead as we claim our victories in God.
KJV-King James Version
ESV-English Standard Version