Who Are David and Goliath? The Powerful Bible Story Explained
- Hope Bolinger Author
- 2019 3 Oct
This story from the Bible has been used in countless sports analogies and anything that points to an underdog overcoming a giant. But where does the original story of David and Goliath in the Bible come from? Found in 1 Samuel 17, the youngest and lowliest of Jesse’s sons takes on the number one enemy of the Israelite people: the Philistine giant Goliath.
The Story of David and Goliath
The Israelites were at war with the Philistines, one of the most intimidating enemies to challenge the people of God. The Philistines sent for their greatest challenger to battle the mightiest soldier from Israel. Whichever champion won would subject the other peoples.
For 40 days, Goliath repeats this challenge, but when the Israelites observe his stature, they refuse to challenge him.
David, a young shepherd boy, is sent by his father to bring his solider brothers food. When he spots Goliath challenging the Israelites, and realizes no one has challenged him, he offers himself.
After some hemming and hawing from the King of Israel, Saul, he sends David on his way to defeat Goliath. David plucks some stones from a river, slings one right into Goliath’s forehead, and cuts Goliath’s head off with Goliath’s sword.
Israel triumphs over the Philistines.
Find a more in-depth summary of the story of David and Goliath here.
Who Was David in the Bible & What Was He Best Known For?
Anointed as king by Samuel (the last judge of Israel) when he was just in his teens (1 Samuel 16:13), David was the underdog no one expected. The youngest of seven brothers, he had a lot to live up to (1 Chronicles 2:13-15).
Although he spent some time shepherding the family sheep, he did some part-time work playing the harp for King Saul and being the King’s armor bearer (1 Samuel 16:21).
But, most of all, David, throughout his life was known as a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22). From having the faith to take on Goliath to trusting God throughout a tumultuous life, he exemplified faith and obedience.
Why Was it Remarkable that David Beat Goliath?
Although David’s age was disputed as to when he defeated Goliath, a guess in his mid-teens would be logical, as argued on this hermeneutics site. Not only had he not reached the age of manhood, but the youngest (and at that time, considered the least) of a family to challenge Israel’s number one enemy would’ve been unheard of.
Furthermore, although King Saul attempted to give David some armor pre-fight, none of it would fit. Instead, David chooses his weapon, a slingshot and five smooth stones. Even Goliath mocks this when he sees who Israel chose as their champion and what they chose to give him as a weapon (1 Samuel 17:43).
What Does the Bible Say about David and Goliath?
Let's take a look at Scripture and contrast what the Bible has to say about both of these men. First, we'll tackle David:
1 Samuel 16:11-13: "Samuel said to him, “The Lord has not chosen these.” So he asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?” “There is still the youngest,” Jesse answered. “He is tending the sheep.” Samuel said, “Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives.” So he sent for him and had him brought in. He was glowing with health and had a fine appearance and handsome features. Then the Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; this is the one.” So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David. Samuel then went to Ramah."
David starts with humble origins. He's the youngest in his family, and had no inheritance, and couldn't even fight in the war. Still, Samuel anoints him as the next king of Israel. God has a way of choosing the least likely characters to bring him glory. Let's take a look at what the Bible says about Goliath.
1 Samuel 17:4-6: "A champion named Goliath, who was from Gath, came out of the Philistine camp. His height was six cubits and a span. 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. His shield bearer went ahead of him."
Goliath flexes here, literally. He carries enormous weight on his back just from armor. But as the story goes, he doesn't win the ultimate victory.
Who Was Goliath in the Bible & Was He Really That Scary?
Now, we have to take a look at this challenger the Philistines set forth. We often hear about his height, but just how tall was he?
Different interpretations of the text have lent to different heights: anything from six feet six inches to nine feet six inches. No matter what his height, we have to keep in mind he wore armor that weighed 125 pounds (1 Samuel 17:5). Some have linked his heritage from the Nephilim, a group of people who had demon DNA, and who were known to be gigantic. This man was big.
Also, we have to look at the Philistines themselves to understand why the Israelites cowered. Although the Philistines might have hired Goliath as a mercenary from Gath, the Philistines themselves likely had links to the Sea Peoples who wreaked havoc in the Mediterranean and brought about the first Dark Age, as stated in this article.
This wasn’t the typical army (or challenger) to confront Israel. They were ruthless, warmongering, and continued to plague Israel throughout their history.
In short, yes, he was that scary, and probably scarier than we can imagine today.
What Does the Story of David and Goliath Teach Christians Today?
First, we can derive the application that God can help us confront any giant he sets before us, often with the tools he has previously given us. David had used that sling before Goliath. He slung rocks at wolves and any other beasts that attempted to take away part of the flock he shepherded.
No matter what giant we have before us, God can work through us.
Second, we can see how this story points to Jesus. Jesus wasn’t what the Israelites expected in a champion. They thought they would receive a warrior who would topple the Romans. Instead, he takes on the true number one enemy of Israel (and the world): sin.
And he defeated it in an unexpected way, through dying for our sins on the cross.
This story is still relevant because we face giants every day. Whether financial strain is tearing our family apart, or we don’t know how our marriages will stay together, obstacles confront us that we don’t see ourselves capable of overcoming.
Nevertheless, God is able. When we put our trust in him, he is able to do immeasurably more than we think or ask.
Third, God can use anyone. David was the youngest in his family and the least likely contender to take on the number one enemy of Israel, but God worked through him to save the Israelite people.
Jesus can do the same. No matter what giants confront us, we can place our trust in the Lord, knowing that he overcome the biggest giant of them all.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/raksybH
This article is part of our People from the Bible Series featuring the most well-known historical names and figures from Scripture. We have compiled these articles to help you study those whom God chose to set before us as examples in His Word. May their lives and walks with God strengthen your faith and encourage your soul.
4 Things You May Not Know About Abraham in the Bible
20 Facts You May Not Know About Moses from the Bible
Who Was Mary Magdalene in the Bible?
Who Were the 12 Disciples of Jesus?
Who Was Isaiah & Why Was He Important?