The Stone Is Mightier Than The Sword – 1 Samuel 17

One of the most popular narratives in the Bible, the battle between David and Goliath has made its way into pop culture and is often referred to in sports when an underdog beats the defending champion. But what the world does not realize, something that Goliath and the Philistines learned the hard way, David was never the underdog in this fight and he knew the reason for that as well.

The Challenge

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 armies of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other. ”

1 Samuel 17:8-10 (NIV)

The valley of Elah was the battlefield where the Israelites and the Philistines had assembled. the battle lines were not drawn on the border but actually were well into the territory of the Israelites. That itself shows us which army had the upper hand. Adding to this, the Philistine army boasted a secret weapon as well. A nine feet giant name Goliath covered with heavy armour and accompanied only by his shield-bearer was laying down an open challenge for a duel. Day after day he would come down to shout in defiance of God’s people. His challenge was not an ordinary duel as it had huge implications attached to it and the Israelites were dismayed and terrified as a result.

Strangely enough, the Israelites had faced armies greater than the Philistines and had witnessed God’s mighty hand that brought them victory time after time. But the same army was quaking in their boots at the sight of a single man, granted a huge man but still only one man. We too are shaken when we face a big problem and forget the countless times God has delivered us from countless problems. When were are zoned into our problems we are not taking an objective look at our life and can see only the problem standing tall before us. Everything else, all the blessings, grace and deliverance is forgotten in the moment.

Saul valued mighty and valiant warriors and recruited them to his army as he thought these men were the reason for his victories. He trusted in their numbers and in their muscle power but now a mightier warrior was standing tall before him. When we do not acknowledge God as the one who fights our battles, we become arrogant thinking that we have achieved victory on our own. But when a giant stands before us, our faith is shaken as we have not built on God’s foundation. Saul is experiencing this firsthand as his entire reign has been a faithless one as he credited himself for the victories God had won on his behalf.

The Obstacles

Now David, the boy that Samuel had anointed as the next king of Israel had come to the battlefield with food supplies for his brothers. When he heard the insults that the giant laid on God’s people, David could not bear someone defying the army of God. He tried to gather information about the challenge that the giant had laid down from his brothers and those around us. But his elder brother Eliab, the first son of Jesse, saw David talking to his fellow soldiers and was immediately filled with Anger.

“Why have you come down here? And with whom did you leave those few sheep in the wilderness? I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is; you came down only to watch the battle.”

1 Samuel 17:28 (NIV)

Eliab is not mincing his words and it is pretty clear that he does not want David near the battlefield. Being the eldest amongst his brothers, he probably feels that he should have been the one anointed by Samuel and is jealous of David and the attention his little brother seems to be getting. Even though he served in Saul’s army, Eliab probably did not get to meet the king. However, David was a frequent visitor to the palace as he was able to drive out the evil spirit that was within Saul. Now the thought of his brother making acquaintances amongst his fellow soldiers was also troubling him and he lashed out at David.

“Now what have I done?” said David. “Can’t I even speak?”

1 Samuel 17:29 (NIV)

David was sent to the battlefield on his father’s whims but was actually sent by God to carry out His will. If David had taken offence to Eliab’s jab at him, he would not have been able to complete the purpose for which God had sent him to the battlefield that day. Whenever we are working towards accomplishing God’s will, satan will cause a distraction in our lives through our near and dear ones. They will suddenly lash out at us or be very generous to us depending on what stops us from completing the mission that God had assigned to us that day. It is not them but satan who uses people around us to distract us from our real purpose. Eliab feels that he is being overlooked for his little brother, and satan uses this opportunity to make him a stumbling block in David’s path to accomplish God’s will.

When Saul Met David

Somehow David got a meeting with Saul and offered himself to represent Israel on the battlefield against the giant. When he saw that Saul was not convinced, David recounted the incidents when God protected him and strengthened him to take down the wild animals that came after his father’s sheep.

The LORD who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.”
Saul said to David, “Go, and the LORD be with you.”

1 Samuel 17:37 (NIV)

There is no other man in Saul’s army who was willing to go fight the giant. It has already been forty days of waiting and the probability of raising the white flag and calling it a day is increasing for the troops. Saul who himself was akin to God’s powerful hand, maybe understood who was behind the brave escapades of this little shepherd boy. David credited God as the one who strengthened him to take down the wild animals and Saul perhaps could relate to it. Or maybe it was the Spirit of God that resided in David, calming Saul down again. Only this time not from an evil spirit but from the fear of the enemy.

David recounting the incidents of how he saved his father’s sheep from the mouth of the lion and bear is similar to why he was sent to the battlefield that day. He was to save his Father, God’s people from the mouth of the defeat they were facing in the form of a nine feet giant. Maybe Saul understood the purpose of why David was sent to him that day or in his oblivious style, he took for granted the consequences of this battle and was ready to sacrifice the life of a shepherd boy rather than one of his valiant men. He still gave him the best from the royal armoury as his faith was still in man-made weapons even after winning a war without any one of his men carrying weapons. But David did not depend on the royal armoury but simply took five stones and approached the giant with his sling in his hand.

The Bout

“Am I a dog, that you come at me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. “Come here,” he said, “and I’ll give your flesh to the birds and the wild animals! ” 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 the LORD will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head … 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 …”

1 Samuel 17:43-47 (NIV)

Both men talked trash at each other but David’s words had a purpose as they were giving all glory to God. The giant literally did not know what hit him as with one swing of his sling David brought down Goliath. David ran and stood over him. He took hold of the Philistine’s sword and drew it from the sheath and cut off his head with his own sword. When the Philistines saw the giant lying at the feet of David, fear took over them as they turned and ran. The same sight gave courage to Saul’s men as they surged forward and pursued the enemy all the way to the entrance of Gath. David carried the giant’s head back to his tent along with his sword. When Saul saw David walking around with the decapitated head of Goliath, he inquired with his commander Abner, about David’s family.

David served in Saul’s palace every day playing the lyre for him and calming his spirit but when he witnessed David slay the giant is when he actually paid attention to this kid. Maybe it had to do with his vow that whoever slew the Philistine colossus would be married off to Saul’s daughter or to know which family was exempted from paying taxes. But it had more to do with Saul’s desire to amass an army of warriors so that he can wage wars against his neighbours and extend his territories. Samuel had prophesied that God had taken away the kingship from Saul’s family and he was desperate to prove him wrong. However, rather than falling at the feet of God and asking for forgiveness, Saul relies on variant men like David to fight his battles and help him keep the semblance of his kingship.

On the other hand, David depended on God for everything. He could not tolerate someone bad-mouthing God and went to war for it. Do we have that much love for God? Everyone trusted their own gods on the battlefield. The Israelites who knew the God of Heaven and Earth still did not trust Him to deliver them from the mountain of a man that was standing in front of them. Our lips may say that we trust in God and we may follow all the rituals our religion enforces on us but without a personal connection with God, we all will be like the Israelites on the battlefield who were dismayed and terrified. But if we learn to depend on God for every little thing we will be like the kid who in spite of insurmountable odds, delivered victory to Israel and in the process gave all glory to the Author of his faith, Yahweh.

Discussion Questions

  • V11: Why were the Israelites terrified of the giant when God had given them victory over mightier armies?
  • V28: Why was Eliab angry at David?
  • V38: Why is Saul agreeing to send a little boy to fight the giant given that if David lost, the Israelites would become subjects of their enemies?
  • V56: David served in Saul’s palace but why is Saul now curious about his origins?


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