David and Goliath (2) (1 Samuel 17)

David and Goliath will meet in the valley of Elah. There will be a descent into battle from which only one will return. As he advances on the giant, David stops by the brook that invariably winds its way through a valley to choose some smooth stones. The big, in every way, Philistine leads with his mouth. But it will be stopped (compare Romans 3:19) – David’s God is very much alive!

David and Goliath (2)

The Saviour – David’s Attack

As Goliath curses David by his gods (Dagon), usurping the authority of God, David corrects to the created order. All the earth would know that the true God is in Israel when the animals are feeding on the Philistine corpse. Man would have dominion over the Beast. The proof would be in the fact that victory would come without sword or spear. The battle is the LORD’s, not David’s. A single slung stone fells the giant. A “seed of the woman” bruises a head of the “seed of the serpent” (Genesis 3:15). In this case, he cuts its head off with its own sword! All of this is reminiscent of the giant [statue] in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream (Daniel 2). The kingdoms and empires of this world are toppled by a single stone (vv.44-45). Dagon had seen it coming. He had already bowed, and lost his head, to the LORD, the God of Israel (1 Samuel 5:4). 

The Sovereign – David’s Ascension

The story ends curiously. What is David doing with Goliath’s head in Jerusalem? After all, Jerusalem is still under Jebusite control (see Judges 19:10-12 and 2 Samuel 5:6)! I suggest that he ended up devoting the spoils of war – the sword – to the LORD at Nob, the priestly centre that had developed just outside Jerusalem. There may also be a link, at least typologically, with Golgotha, the place of the head, literally the place of the skull. The New Testament teaches us about the One who destroyed “the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil” (Hebrews 2:14). The headship of death over humanity was destroyed at Golgotha – its Head was severed. Freedom was proclaimed to all associated with the victor (cp. Jesse’s family being set free from taxes, with deliverance from bondage to fear and death for those who are flesh and blood with the Saviour, as recorded in Hebrews 2).

This victory was accomplished by the king who is not yet seen with all in subjection to him (Psalm 8, Hebrews 2). David was not yet recognized as king, yet he seems to ascend in a kingly way to Jerusalem. Further, I wonder if Psalm 110 has some relevance here, as we see the victor coming up, it would seem, from a valley (i.e., in David’s case from Elah, in the Psalm 110 reference the victor is drinking from the brook) and lifting up the head in victory (literally or figuratively, it doesn’t really matter which, but the picture of David raising the head of Goliath from the heights of Jerusalem would assert the indisputable reality of his sovereignty). The anointed, yet unrecognized, king was declaring vividly to the yet unyielding city that would be the centre of his rule, that the reality of his kingdom’s advance was inexorable. Was he prophetically demanding the gates to lift up their heads? He was surely declaring the LORD to be strong in battle (Psalm 24:7,8)!

David’s victory over Goliath surely qualified his claim to the throne, but the intervening years were marked by rejection and alienation. The Serpent may have lost the war, but he was still devoted to the destruction of the “seed of the woman”. The parallels to the rejection and alienation of Jesus are too vivid and clear to miss. The cross may have seemed to be defeat at first glance, but the subsequent resurrection and ascension of the Christ, the Anointed (Acts 2:35, Hebrews 1:9), indicate that the cross was an overwhelming victory. The Head of Death and the serpent has been waved over the ramparts of Jerusalem! Even though it is “not yet”, the King of Glory must enter Jerusalem (Psalm 24:8-10). 

The imagery is continued in Isaiah’s prophecy (Isaiah 10:28-11:10). The Assyrian (another seed of the serpent) is on the march. No one and no thing can stop his advance. Israel is in flight, its cities are falling. Israel trembles as the Assyrian halts at Nob (remember, Goliath’s sword was here) and raises his fist at Jerusalem. Will this be the end of the great city? No – this is the city of the great King. The LORD reaches out and chops the Assyrian down as a woodsman chops down a tree. And from the stump of Jesse comes forth the Branch (Christ). The King comes with equity and righteousness. The beasts of the field are under His dominion. There is no hurt in His domain and the knowledge of the LORD covers the earth as the waters cover the sea. The seed of the woman will have His way. The snakes will be subdued. All will be put right. As it should be. “The nursing child will play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den” (Isaiah 11:8). “The last enemy to be destroyed is death” (1 Corinthians 15:28). And then all will be in subjection – in its proper order.

The little guy has lost.