1 Samuel 17

David Kills Goliath

The content of 1 Sam 17–18, which includes the David and Goliath story, differs considerably in the LXX as compared to the MT, suggesting that this story circulated in ancient times in more than one form. The LXX for chs. 17–18 is much shorter than the MT, lacking almost half of the material (39 of a total of 88 verses). Many scholars (e.g., McCarter, Klein) think that the shorter text of the LXX is preferable to the MT, which in their view has been expanded by incorporation of later material. Other scholars (e.g., Wellhausen, Driver) conclude that the shorter Greek text (or the Hebrew text that underlies it) reflects an attempt to harmonize certain alleged inconsistencies that appear in the longer version of the story. Given the translation characteristics of the LXX elsewhere in this section, it does not seem likely that these differences are due to deliberate omission of these verses on the part of the translator. It seems more likely that the Greek translator has faithfully rendered here a Hebrew text that itself was much shorter than the MT in these chapters. Whether or not the shorter text represented by the LXX is to be preferred over the MT in 1 Sam 17–18 is a matter over which textual scholars are divided. For a helpful discussion of the major textual issues in this unit see D. Barthélemy, D. W. Gooding, J. Lust, and E. Tov, The Story of David and Goliath (OBO). Overall it seems preferable to stay with the MT, at least for the most part. However, the major textual differences between the LXX and the MT will be mentioned in the notes that accompany the translation so that the reader may be alert to the major problem passages.
The Philistines gathered their troops
Heb “camps.”
for battle. They assembled at Socoh in Judah. They camped in Ephes Dammim, between Socoh and Azekah.
2Saul and the Israelite army
Heb “the men of Israel” (so KJV, NASB); NAB, NIV, NRSV “the Israelites.”
assembled and camped in the valley of Elah, where they arranged their battle lines to fight against
Heb “to meet.”
the Philistines.
3The Philistines were standing on one hill, and the Israelites
Heb “Israel.”
on another hill, with the valley between them.

4 Then a champion
Heb “the man of the space between the two [armies].” See v. 23.
came out from the camp of the Philistines. His name was Goliath; he was from Gath. He was close to seven feet tall.
Heb “his height was six cubits and a span” (cf. KJV, NASB, NRSV). A cubit was approximately eighteen inches, a span nine inches. So, according to the Hebrew tradition, Goliath was about nine feet, nine inches tall (cf. NIV, CEV, NLT “over nine feet”; NCV “nine feet, four inches”; TEV “nearly 3 metres”). However, some Greek witnesses, Josephus, and a manuscript of 1 Samuel from Qumran read “four cubits and a span” here, that is, about six feet, nine inches (cf. NAB “six and a half feet”). This seems more reasonable; it is likely that Goliath’s height was exaggerated as the story was retold. See P. K. McCarter, I Samuel (AB), 286, 291.
5He had a bronze helmet on his head and was wearing scale body armor. The weight of his bronze body armor was five thousand shekels.
Although the exact weight of Goliath’s defensive body armor is difficult to estimate in terms of modern equivalency, it was obviously quite heavy. Driver, following Kennedy, suggests a modern equivalent of about 220 pounds (100 kg); see S. R. Driver, Notes on the Hebrew Text and the Topography of the Books of Samuel, 139. Klein, taking the shekel to be equal to .403 ounces, arrives at a somewhat smaller weight of about 126 pounds (57 kg); see R. W. Klein, 1 Samuel (WBC), 175. But by any estimate it is clear that Goliath presented himself as a formidable foe indeed.
6He had bronze shin guards
Or “greaves.” These were coverings (probably lined for comfort) that extended from about the knee to the ankle, affording protection for the shins of a warrior.
on his legs, and a bronze javelin was slung over his shoulders.
7The shaft
The translation follows the Qere and many medieval Hebrew mss in reading “wood,” rather than the “arrow” (the reading of the Kethib).
of his spear was like a weaver’s beam, and the iron point of his spear weighed six hundred shekels.
That is, about fifteen or sixteen pounds.
His shield bearer was walking before him.

8 Goliath
Heb “he”; the referent (Goliath) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
stood and called to Israel’s troops,
The Hebrew text adds “and said to them.”
“Why do you come out to prepare for battle? Am I not the Philistine, and are you not the servants of Saul? Choose
The translation follows the ancient versions in reading “choose,” (from the root בחר, bkhr), rather than the MT. The verb in MT (ברה, brh) elsewhere means “to eat food”; the sense of “to choose,” required here by the context, is not attested for this root. The MT apparently reflects an early scribal error.
for yourselves a man so he may come down
Following the imperative, the prefixed verbal form (either an imperfect or jussive) with the prefixed conjunction indicates purpose/result here.
to me!
9If he is able to fight with me and strike me down, we will become your servants. But if I prevail against him and strike him down, you will become our servants and will serve us.” 10Then the Philistine said, “I defy Israel’s troops this day! Give me a man so we can fight
Following the imperative, the cohortative verbal form indicates purpose/result here.
each other!”
11When Saul and all the Israelites
Heb “all Israel.”
heard these words of the Philistine, they were upset and very afraid.

Some mss of the LXX lack vv. 12–31.
Now David was the son of this Ephrathite named Jesse from Bethlehem
For location see Map5-B1; Map7-E2; Map8-E2; Map10-B4.
in Judah. He had eight sons, and in Saul’s days he was old and well advanced in years.
The translation follows the Lucianic recension of the LXX and the Syriac Peshitta in reading “in years,” rather than MT “among men.”
13Jesse’s three oldest sons had followed Saul to war. The names of the
Heb “his.”
three sons who went to war were Eliab, his firstborn, Abinadab, the second oldest, and Shammah, the third oldest.
14Now David was the youngest. While the three oldest sons followed Saul, 15David was going back and forth
Heb “was going and returning.”
from Saul in order to care for his father’s sheep in Bethlehem.

16 Meanwhile for forty days the Philistine approached every morning and evening and took his position. 17Jesse said to his son David, “Take your brothers this ephah of roasted grain and these ten loaves of bread; go quickly
Heb “run.”
to the camp to your brothers.
18Also take these ten portions of cheese to their commanding officer.
Heb “officer of the thousand.”
Find out how your brothers are doing
Heb “and your brothers, observe with respect to welfare.”
and bring back their pledge that they received the goods.
Heb “and their pledge take.” This probably refers to some type of confirmation that the goods arrived safely. See R. W. Klein, 1 Samuel (WBC), 177. Cf. NIV “bring back some assurance”; NCV “some proof to show me they are all right”; NLT “bring me back a letter from them.”
19They are with Saul and the whole Israelite army
Heb “all the men of Israel.”
in the valley of Elah, fighting with the Philistines.”

20 So David got up early in the morning and entrusted the flock to someone else who would watch over it.
Heb “to a guard”; KJV, NASB, NRSV “with a keeper”; NIV “with a shepherd.” Since in contemporary English “guard” sounds like someone at a military installation or a prison, the present translation uses “to someone else who would watch over it.”
After loading up, he went just as Jesse had instructed him. He arrived at the camp
Or “entrenchment.”
as the army was going out to the battle lines shouting its battle cry.
21Israel and the Philistines drew up their battle lines opposite one another. 22After David had entrusted his cargo to the care of the supply officer,
Heb “the guard of the equipment.”
he ran to the battlefront. When he arrived, he asked his brothers how they were doing.
23As he was speaking with them, the champion named Goliath, the Philistine from Gath, was coming up from the battle lines of the Philistines. He spoke the way he usually did,
Heb “according to these words.”
and David heard it.
24When all the men of Israel saw this man, they retreated
Or “fled.”
from his presence and were very afraid.

25 The men of Israel said, “Have you seen this man who is coming up? He does so
Heb “he is coming up.”
to defy Israel. But the king will make the man who can strike him down very wealthy! He will give him his daughter in marriage, and he will make his father’s house exempt from tax obligations in Israel.”

26 David asked the men who were standing near him, “What will be done for the man who strikes down this Philistine and frees Israel from this humiliation?
Heb “and turns aside humiliation from upon Israel.”
For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he defies the armies of the living God?”
27The soldiers
Heb “people.”
told him what had been promised, saying,
Heb “according to this word, saying.”
“This is what will be done for the man who can strike him down.”

28 When David’s
Heb “his”; the referent (David) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
oldest brother Eliab heard him speaking to the men, he became angry
Heb “the anger of Eliab became hot.”
with David and said, “Why have you come down here? To whom did you entrust those few sheep in the desert? I am familiar with your pride and deceit!
Heb “the wickedness of your heart.”
You have come down here to watch the battle!”

29 David replied, “What have I done now? Can’t I say anything?”
Heb “Is it not [just] a word?”
30Then he turned from those who were nearby to someone else and asked the same question,
Heb “and spoke according to this word.”
but they
Heb “the people.”
gave him the same answer as before.
31When David’s words were overheard and reported to Saul, he called for him.
Heb “he took him.”

32 David said to Saul, “Don’t let anyone be discouraged.
Heb “Let not the heart of a man fall upon him.” The LXX reads “my lord,” instead of “a man.”
Your servant will go and fight this Philistine!”
33But Saul replied to David, “You aren’t able to go against this Philistine and fight him! You’re just a boy! He has been a warrior from his youth!”

34 David replied to Saul, “Your servant has been a shepherd for his father’s flock. Whenever a lion or bear would come and carry off a sheep from the flock, 35I would go out after it, strike it down, and rescue the sheep from its mouth. If it rose up against me, I would grab it by its jaw, strike it, and kill it. 36Your servant has struck down both the lion and the bear. This uncircumcised Philistine will be just like one of them.
The LXX includes here the following words not found in the MT: “Should I not go and smite him, and remove today reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised one?”
For he has defied the armies of the living God!”
37David went on to say, “The Lord who delivered me from the lion and the bear will also deliver me from the hand of this Philistine!” Then Saul said to David, “Go! The Lord will be with you.”
Or “Go, and may the Lord be with you” (so NASB, NCV, NRSV).

38 Then Saul clothed David with his own fighting attire and put a bronze helmet on his head. He also put body armor on him. 39David strapped on his sword over his fighting attire and tried to walk around, but he was not used to them.
Heb “he had not tested.”
David said to Saul, “I can’t walk in these things, for I’m not used to them.” So David removed them.
40He took his staff in his hand, picked out five smooth stones from the stream, placed them in the pouch
This Hebrew word occurs only here and its exact meaning is not entirely clear. It refers to a receptacle of some sort and apparently was a common part of a shepherd’s equipment. Here it serves as a depository for the stones that David will use in his sling.
of his shepherd’s bag, took his sling in hand, and approached the Philistine.

Most LXX mss lack v. 41.
The Philistine kept coming closer to David, with his shield bearer walking in front of him.
42When the Philistine looked carefully at David, he despised him, for he was only a ruddy and handsome boy. 43The Philistine said to David, “Am I a dog, that you are coming after me with sticks?”
Sticks is a pejorative reference to David’s staff (v. 40); the same Hebrew word (מַקֵּל, maqqel) is used for both.
Then the Philistine cursed David by his gods.
44The Philistine said to David, “Come here to me, so I can give your flesh to the birds of the sky and the wild animals of the field!”
Many medieval Hebrew mss have “the earth” here, instead of the MT’s “the field.”

45 But David replied to the Philistine, “You are coming against me with sword and spear and javelin. But I am coming against you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel’s armies, whom you have defied! 46This very day the Lord will deliver you into my hand! I will strike you down and cut off your head. This day I will give the corpses of the Philistine army to the birds of the sky and the wild animals of the land. Then all the land will realize that Israel has a God 47and all this assembly will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves! For the battle is the Lord’s, and he will deliver you into our hand.”

48 The Philistine drew steadily closer to David to attack him, while David quickly ran toward the battle line to attack the Philistine.
Most LXX mss lack the second half of v. 48.
49David reached his hand into the bag and took out a stone. He slung it, striking the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank deeply into his forehead, and he fell down with his face to the ground.

Most LXX mss lack v. 50.
David prevailed over the Philistine with just the sling and the stone. He struck down the Philistine and killed him. David did not even have a sword in his hand.
Verse 50 is a summary statement; v. 51 gives a more detailed account of how David killed the Philistine.
51David ran and stood over the Philistine. He grabbed Goliath’s
Heb “his”; the referent (Goliath) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
sword, drew it from its sheath,
Most LXX mss lack the words “drew it from its sheath.”
killed him, and cut off his head with it. When the Philistines saw their champion was dead, they ran away.

52 Then the men of Israel and Judah charged forward, shouting a battle cry.
Heb “arose and cried out.”
They chased the Philistines to the valley
Most of the LXX ms tradition has here “Gath.”
and to the very gates of Ekron. The Philistine corpses lay fallen along the Shaaraim road to Gath and Ekron.
53When the Israelites returned from their hot pursuit of the Philistines, they looted their camp. 54David took the head of the Philistine and brought it to Jerusalem, and he put Goliath’s
Heb “his”; the referent (Goliath) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
weapons in his tent.

Most LXX mss lack 17:55–18:5.
Now as Saul watched David going out to fight the Philistine, he asked Abner, the general in command of the army, “Whose son is this young man, Abner?” Abner replied, “As surely as you live, O king, I don’t know.”
56The king said, “Find out whose son this boy is!”

57 So when David returned from striking down the Philistine, Abner took him and brought him before Saul. He still had the head of the Philistine in his hand. 58Saul said to him, “Whose son are you, young man?” David replied, “I am the son of your servant Jesse in Bethlehem.”
For location see Map5-B1; Map7-E2; Map8-E2; Map10-B4.

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