Wednesday, February 29, 2012

1 Samuel 17:1-37

1 Now the Philistines gathered their forces for war and assembled at Sokoh in Judah. They pitched camp at Ephes Dammim, between Sokoh and Azekah. 2 Saul and the Israelites assembled and camped in the Valley of Elah and drew up their battle line to meet the Philistines. 3 The Philistines occupied one hill and the Israelites another, with the valley between them.
4 A champion named Goliath, who was from Gath, came out of the Philistine camp. His height was six cubits and a span. 5 He had a bronze helmet on his head and wore a coat of scale armor of bronze weighing five thousand shekels; 6 on his legs he wore bronze greaves, and a bronze javelin was slung on his back. 7 His spear shaft was like a weaver’s rod, and its iron point weighed six hundred shekels. His shield bearer went ahead of him.
8 Goliath stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why do you come out and line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not the servants of Saul? Choose a man and have him come down to me. 9 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.” 10 Then the Philistine said, “This day I defy the armies of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other.” 11 On hearing the Philistine’s words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified.
12 Now David was the son of an Ephrathite named Jesse, who was from Bethlehem in Judah. Jesse had eight sons, and in Saul’s time he was very old. 13 Jesse’s three oldest sons had followed Saul to the war: The firstborn was Eliab; the second, Abinadab; and the third, Shammah. 14 David was the youngest. The three oldest followed Saul,15 but David went back and forth from Saul to tend his father’s sheep at Bethlehem.
16 For forty days the Philistine came forward every morning and evening and took his stand.
17 Now Jesse said to his son David, “Take this ephah of roasted grain and these ten loaves of bread for your brothers and hurry to their camp. 18 Take along these ten cheeses to the commander of their unit. See how your brothers are and bring back some assurance from them. 19 They are with Saul and all the men of Israel in the Valley of Elah, fighting against the Philistines.”
20 Early in the morning David left the flock in the care of a shepherd, loaded up and set out, as Jesse had directed. He reached the camp as the army was going out to its battle positions, shouting the war cry. 21 Israel and the Philistines were drawing up their lines facing each other. 22 David left his things with the keeper of supplies, ran to the battle lines and asked his brothers how they were. 23 As he was talking with them, Goliath, the Philistine champion from Gath, stepped out from his lines and shouted his usual defiance, and David heard it. 24 Whenever the Israelites saw the man, they all fled from him in great fear.
25 Now the Israelites had been saying, “Do you see how this man keeps coming out? He comes out to defy Israel. The king will give great wealth to the man who kills him. He will also give him his daughter in marriage and will exempt his family line from taxes in Israel.”
26 David asked those standing near him, “What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and removes this disgrace from Israel? Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?”
27 They repeated to him what they had been saying and told him, “This is what will be done for the man who kills him.”
28 When Eliab, David’s oldest brother, heard him speaking with the men, he burned with anger at him and asked, “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.”
29 “Now what have I done?” said David. “Can’t I even speak?” 30 He then turned away to someone else and brought up the same matter, and the men answered him as before. 31 What David said was overheard and reported to Saul, and Saul sent for him.
32 David said to Saul, “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him.”
33 Saul replied, “You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are little more than a boy, and he has been a warrior from his youth.”
34 But David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, 35 I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. 36 Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. 37 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.”

Points of interest
  • ‘the Philistines gathered their forces for war’--the Philistines are a federation of city-states of Greek origin; they left the Aegean Sea in the same wave of emigration as caused the famous Trojan War (Walton, John H., et al. The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2000). They landed not long ago in the area between Egypt and Israel, and they’ve been encroaching on Israelite territory. Saul has recently had some success in defending against them, but in general they’ve had the upper hand in their battles with the Israelites.
  • ‘His height was six cubits and a span’--that would be a bit over nine feet tall (a cubit is the length of a forearm, or about a foot-and-a-half, and a span is a hand’s width). I could imagine that the author is being hyperbolic here: ‘He was ten feet tall if he was an inch.’ Regardless of whether he’s exaggerating or not, the point is clear: Goliath is huge and scary.
  • ‘a bronze javelin was slung on his back. His spear shaft was like a weaver’s rod’--not only is he big, but he is practically bristling with state-of-the-art weaponry.
  • ‘Now David was the son of an Ephrathite named Jesse’--we just got David’s family history and a whole story about him in the last few paragraphs, and now the author is introducing us to him as if we’ve never heard of him. That’s why I think it’s quite possible that this passage and the previous two are three different beginnings of the story of David--or maybe two, with Monday’s passage and today‘s passage being from the same source, and yesterday’s a different one. Our author, rather than choosing one, has decided to collect all of them for us and place them side-by-side. There are, indeed, a couple of difficult to reconcile, but ultimately insignificant, differences between the stories: 1) in two of the passages, David is a boy, but in the other he’s a brave warrior (though that could be explained by the Lord’s anointing); and 2) in yesterday’s passage, David is a favorite of Saul’s, but in today’s Saul seems never to have met him before. On the other hand, there is a lot of agreement on who David is and where his story is heading: 1) David is the youngest son of Jesse; 2) he’s a shepherd; 3) he’s despised by his older brothers; and 4) God’s favor is on him.
  • ‘The king will give great wealth to the man who kills him’--they’re all trying to talk one another up: ‘Come on, man. You can do it.’ But it’s never quite enough to get one of them to step into the ring. No matter how much buttering up they give one another, and no matter how alluring the prize, no one is foolish enough to go one-on-one against Goliath, the human tank.
  • ‘Now what have I done?’--you can practically see David and Eliab rolling their eyes at one another. I wonder if this was always a dynamic in their relationship, or if it’s new since David’s anointing. In any case, I appreciate David’s strategy of just getting on with his business. He doesn’t let Eliab’s criticism stop him, and he doesn’t waste too much time defending himself against Eliab. He just moves on.
  • ‘The LORD who rescued me from the paw of the lion’--David is not concerned with how big, strong, or well-armed his opponent is. He’s faced opponents bigger and stronger than him before, and come out on top. The God who is with him is stronger than any bear or lion and bigger than any giant.
  • ‘and the LORD be with you’--again, our story ends on an ironic note. The Lord is already, in fact, with David--and not with Saul. That’s why David is stepping out to face the Philistine challenger when Saul is not.
Taking it home
  • For you: David’s belief that he can face Goliath is based on the things he has learned recently in his sheep-tending. Spend some time today reflecting on the past few months and thinking about what you have been learning. Are there any scenarios that keep coming up? Any lessons that God wants you to learn? Ask God to show you what he has wanted you to learn lately. Talk to God about the things he brings up.
  • For your six: Are your six in any situations that seem like the same old battle day in and day out? Ask God to send people like David to your six who can offer fresh perspective and a new strategy. Pray that God would increase your six’s hope in the middle of whatever challenges they face today.
  • For our church: It’s possible that David and his older brother never really got along (sibling rivalry centuries ago seems remarkably similar to today); however, it does seem like Goliath brings out the worst in Jesse’s family, only increasing their envy, resentment and harshness towards one another. Pray that whatever Goliath that comes against our church, that God would draw us closer together as a church and that we wouldn’t turn against one another with attitudes similar to David’s brothers.
  • For families: David knew God would help him because he remembered how God had helped him before. Take some time as a family to talk about the things you have each seen God do for you recently. Consider putting them on a poster--write them down, or draw pictures, or paste photos--on the wall where you can see them. Add to your list during Lent.