Did A Child Really Slay A Giant in the Bible? Is David and Goliath About How YOU Can Slay Giants? #242
Happy Tuesday, friends! We are rejoicing in our city because the two closest fires to the Bible Reading Podcast headquarters are both getting better and better. Shout out to Cal Fire – one of the most impressive organizations I’ve ever seen in action. Great leaders, great communicators, and great work – one of the best examples I’ve ever seen of government in action. We had around 2000 firefighters at one time battling the two fires near us, in addition to all of the other fires burning California at the moment. Coordinating thousands of people successfully is quite the task, and Cal Fire has done a great job at that. Thanks for listening to my Cal Fire is awesome podcast! Today’s Bible readings include one of the most iconic chapters and stories in the entire Bible: David and Goliath in 1 Samuel 17, as well as Lamentations 2, Psalms 33 and Romans 15. How could we not focus on David and Goliath today? Allow me to start with a special tip of the cap to Mythbusters, and we’ll have our own little Bible Mythbusters here
Top FIVE Myths about the Story of David and Goliath
- David was a child who defeated the giant Goliath. You’ve seen the pictures of David battling Goliath, right? Very often – at least in kid’s Sunday school materials, we see a picture of an 11-12 year old David loosing a stone at Goliath, the giant. The fact is that, by the time 1 Samuel 17 rolls around, David is not a child, but a young adult, and quite an accomplished one at that. For one, we know from this passage that he has already killed at least one lion and at least one bear, but the proof that disproves the myth is actually found in 1 Samuel 16:18, “18 One of the young men answered, “I have seen a son of Jesse of Bethlehem who knows how to play the lyre. He is also a valiant man, a warrior, eloquent, handsome, and the Lord is with him.” That valiant man, who is apparently a warrior of some kind already, is tiny little David…only, he isn’t tiny and little, but a somewhat experienced dude. Now, to be fair, people get the idea that David was a boy from vs 42, (“When the Philistine looked and saw David, he despised him because he was just a youth.”) But the Hebrew word there (“נַעַר naʻar“) can also be translated as young adult or servant, and either of those are a better choice than child because of reasons above.
- David killed Goliath with his sling. This one is slightly tricky, because the Hebrews is slightly ambiguous, but I take from 1st Samuel 17:51, (“David ran and stood over him. He grabbed the Philistine’s sword, pulled it from its sheath, and used it to kill him. Then he cut off his head.”) That David knocked Goliath out with a rock to the forehead, and then killed him with his sword. The Hebrew is slightly ambiguous here too, as it could be that David killed Goliath with the sword and THEN cut his head off, or it could be that David killed Goliath BY cutting his head off. Unfortunately, we don’t have an autopsy report, but it would seem that the sling to the head didn’t do the killing.
- David took up 5 stones because Goliath had brothers. You know who is, far and away, the number 1 peddler of Bible myths? PREACHERS! Preachers are the worst ever at making up things about the Bible. Now, don’t get offended, fellow preachers (I’m a preacher too!) but our group can sometimes draw conclusions that the Bible doesn’t, make up stuff and speculate, and then put that speculation into the sermon as a fact, because it sounds clever. Then the people take it as factual, and then spread it to their kids, and low and behold, a myth is born. Thus it was, I’m sure, that the thing about extra stones for Goliath’s brothers started. The fact is that the Bible never even hints that this is a possibility, and there is really no way for David to have known that Goliath had brothers either. As far as we know from the Bible, Goliath only had three brothers (assuming 2nd Samuel 21:22 is speaking of Goliath and his brothers.) Maybe that fifth stone was for Goliath’s dad? Regardless, there is no evidence whatsoever in the Bible that David was intending to slay Goliath’s other brothers.4. David properly disposed of Goliath’s body in a respectful matter, including his head. Well, actually, and maybe a bit surprisingly, David carried Goliath’s head around for quite some time! “54 David took Goliath’s head and brought it to Jerusalem, but he put Goliath’s weapons in his own tent.” and “57 When David returned from killing the Philistine, Abner took him and brought him before Saul with the Philistine’s head still in his hand.”
5. The ultimate application of the story of David and Goliath is that YOU and I are GIANT-Killers because we are on God’s side, and God will allow us to defeat every evil, and every rival sports team or opponent, or whatever. Here’s Tim Keller on the real meaning of Christmas…er, I mean, the real and ultimate meaning of Old Testament stories like David and Goliath:
Let’s look at the story of David and Goliath. Who is that about? If you see it only about David and Goliath, is it good news? Do you remember what the word gospel means? Joy-inflicting news. Is the story of David and Goliath all by itself, just as it is, good news? No. Do you know why?
If you don’t see it pointing as Peter says to the sufferings and glory of Christ, it’s not good news. It’s bad news. Do you know what? What it’s saying is, “You need to be courageous like David. You need to go out there, and you need to face the giants of your life. You need to summon up the faith, summon up the courage. There’s the giant of failure. There’s the giant of criticism. There’s the giant of suffering. You can do it.”
Is that good news? Do you read that story and weep with joy? Is it a gospel? No, it’s bad news if you just say, “Now boys and girls, we’ve studied David and Goliath today in Sunday school. Go home and be like David.” The little kids aren’t smart enough to realize they should sue their teacher for malpractice, and they’re not smart enough to realize it would be better if they didn’t know that story at all, because what they’re going to do is they’re going to say, “Now I can do that,” but they can’t.
Halfway through life or three-quarters of the way through life or somewhere out there, they’re going to find, no, they can’t because it wasn’t good news. It didn’t penetrate. It didn’t melt their heart. Here’s the point. Unless I see David as first of all pointing to my real David, the true David, the true Champion, the One who went up against the ultimate giant of sin and the law and the death … He didn’t go at the risk of his life; he went at the cost of his life.
Because of the victory he procured there, his victory is imputed to me. Why? What’s so important about that? I will never deal with the giant of failure in my life unless I know God is absolutely for me no matter what. I will never deal with the giant of criticism and disapproval unless I know I have the approval of the only One who counts.
How do I know that? I’ll never be like David unless I am melted with the good news, melted with the joy of seeing what the ultimate true and better David did for me. Do you see that? …
“Now, boys and girls, be like David.” It’s the seed on the outside. It’s on the surface, on the ground. It doesn’t come in. But now, boys and girls, now brothers and sisters, now ladies and gentlemen, do you see whom he was really talking about? When Jesus says, “Every part of the Scripture is about me,” until you see the Bible is not a compendium of instruction but it is a true story, then when you read the Bible, it’ll be basically about you, what you must do.
If you see the Bible as basically about him, what he has done, then you’ll be able to do…Instead of the Bible becoming a compendium of instruction which will crush you into the ground, it’s turning into a joy-inflicting story, and you’re being changed by it. You will be able to handle the giant of criticism, and you will be able to handle the giant of suffering if you, first of all, see the ultimate giants, the only giants that could really bring you down, have been handled by Jesus.
Timothy J. Keller, The Timothy Keller Sermon Archive (New York City: Redeemer Presbyterian Church, 2013).