The Story of Patriarchs and Prophets
by Ellen G. White
Chapter 63: David and Goliath
When King Saul realized that he had been rejected by
God, and when he felt the force of the words of denunciation
that had been addressed to him by the prophet, he was
filled with bitter rebellion and despair. It was not true repentance
that had bowed the proud head of the king. He had no
clear perception of the offensive character of his sin, and did not
arouse to the work of reforming his life, but brooded over what
he thought was the injustice of God in depriving him of the
throne of Israel and in taking the succession away from his
posterity. He was ever occupied in the anticipating the ruin that had
been brought upon his house. He felt that the valor which he
had displayed in encountering his enemies should offset his sin
of disobedience. He did not accept with meekness the chastisement
of God; but his haughty spirit became desperate, until he
was on the verge of losing his reason. His counselors advised
him to seek for the services of a skillful musician, in the hope
that the soothing notes of a sweet instrument might calm his
troubled spirit. In the providence of God, David, as a skillful
performer upon the harp, was brought before the king. His lofty
and heaven-inspired strains had the desired effect. The brooding
melancholy that had settled like a dark cloud over the mind of
Saul was charmed away.
When his services were not required at the court of Saul,
David returned to his flocks among the hills and continued to
maintain his simplicity of spirit and demeanor. Whenever it was
necessary, he was recalled to minister before the king, to soothe
the mind of the troubled monarch till the evil spirit should
depart from him. But although Saul expressed delight in David and
his music, the young shepherd went from the king's house to the
fields and hills of his pasture with a sense of relief and gladness.
David was growing in favor with God and a man. He had
been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he now set his heart [p. 644] more fully to do the will of God than every before. He had new
themes for thought. He had been in the court of the king and
had seen the responsibilities of royalty. He had discovered some
of the temptations that beset the soul of Saul and had penetrated
some of the mysteries in the character and dealings of Israel's
first king. He had seen the glory of royalty shadowed with a dark
cloud of sorrow, and he knew that the household of Saul, in their
private life, were far from happy. All these things served to bring
troubled thoughts to him who had been anointed to be king
over Israel. But while he was absorbed in deep meditation, and
harassed by thoughts of anxiety, he turned to his harp, and
called forth strains that elevated his mind to the Author of every
good, and the dark clouds that seemed to shadow the horizon of
the future were dispelled.
God was teaching David lessons of trust. As Moses was
trained for his work, so the Lord was fitting the son of Jesse to
become the guide of His chosen people. In his watchcare for his
flocks, he was gaining an appreciation of the care that the Great
Shepherd has for the sheep of His pasture.
The lonely hills and the wild ravines where David wandered
with his flocks were the lurking place of beasts of prey. Not
infrequently the lion from the thickets by the Jordan, or the bear
from his lair among the hills, came, fierce with hunger, to attack
the flocks. According to the custom of his time, David was
armed only with his sling and shepherd's staff; yet he early gave
proof of his strength and courage in protecting his charge. Afterward
describing these encounters, he said: "When there came a
lion, or a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock, I went out after
him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth: and
when he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and smote
him, and slew him." 1 Samuel 17:34, 35, R.V. His experience in
these matters proved the heart of David and developed in him
courage and fortitude and faith.
Even before he was summoned to the court of Saul, David
had distinguished himself by deeds of valor. The officer who
brought him to the notice of the king declared him to be "a
mighty valiant man, and a man of war, and prudent in matters,"
and he said, "The Lord is with him."
When war was declared by Israel against the Philistines, three
of the sons of Jesse joined the army under Saul; but David [p. 645] remained at home. After a time, however, he went to visit the camp
of Saul. By his father's direction he was to carry a message and a
gift to his elder brothers and to learn if they were still in safety
and health. But, unknown to Jesse, the youthful shepherd had
been entrusted with a higher mission. The armies of Israel were
in peril, and David had been directed by an angel to save his
As David drew near to the army, he heard the sound of
commotion, as if an engagement was about to begin. And "the host
was going forth to the fight, and shouted for the battle." Israel
and the Philistines were drawn up in array, army against army.
David ran to the army, and came and saluted his brothers. While
he was talking with them, Goliath, the champion of the Philistines,
came forth, and with insulting language defied Israel and
challenged them to provide a man from their ranks who would
meet him in single combat. He repeated his challenge, and when
David saw that all Israel were filled with fear, and learned that
the Philistine's defiance was hurled at them day after day, without
arousing a champion to silence the boaster, his spirit was
stirred within him. He was fired with zeal to preserve the honor
of the living God and the credit of His people.
The armies of Israel were depressed. Their courage failed.
They said one to another, "Have ye seen this man that is come
up? surely to defy Israel is he come up." In shame and indignation,
David exclaimed, "Who is this uncircumcised Philistine,
that he should defy the armies of the living God?"
Eliab, David's eldest brother, when he heard these words,
knew well the feelings that were stirring the young man's soul.
Even as a shepherd, David had manifested daring, courage, and
strength but rarely witnessed; and the mysterious visit of Samuel
to their father's house, and his silent departure, had awakened in
the minds of the brothers suspicions of the real object of his visit.
Their jealousy had been aroused as they saw David honored above
them, and they did not regard him with the respect and love due
to his integrity and brotherly tenderness. They looked upon him
as merely a stripling shepherd, and now the question which he
asked was regarded by Eliab as a censure upon his own cowardice
in making no attempt to silence the giant of the Philistines. The
elder brother exclaimed angrily, "Why camest thou down hither? [p. 646] and with whom hast thou left those few sheep in the wilderness?
I know thy pride, and the naughtiness of thine heart; for thou
art come down that thou mightest see the battle." David's answer
was respectful but decided: "What have I now done? Is there
not a cause?"
The words of David were repeated to the king, who summoned the
youth before him. Saul listened with astonishment to
the words of the shepherd, as he said, "Let no man's heart fail
because of him; thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine."
Saul strove to turn David from his purpose, but the young man
was not to be moved. He replied in a simple, unassuming way,
relating his experiences while guarding his father's flocks. And
he said, "The Lord that delivered me out of the paw of the lion,
and out of the paw of the bear, He will deliver me out of the
hand of this Philistine. And Saul said unto David, Go, and the
Lord be with thee."
For forty days the host of Israel had trembled before the
haughty challenge of the Philistine giant. Their hearts failed
within them as they looked upon his massive form, in height
measuring six cubits and a span. Upon his head was a helmet
of brass, he was clothed with a coat of mail that weighed five
thousand shekels, and he had greaves of brass upon his legs. The
coat was made of plates of brass that overlaid one another, like
the scales of a fish, and they were so closely joined that no dart or
arrow could possibly penetrate the armor. At his back the giant
bore a huge javelin, or lance, also of brass. "The staff of his
spear was like a weaver's beam; and his spear's head weighed
six hundred shekels of iron; and one bearing a shield went
Morning and evening Goliath had approached the camp of
Israel, saying with a loud voice, "Why are ye come out to set your
battle in array? am not I a Philistine, and ye servants to Saul?
choose you a man for you, and let him come down to me. If he be
able to fight with me, and to kill me, then will we be your servants:
but if I prevail against him, and kill him, then shall ye be
our servants, and serve us. And the Philistine said, I defy the
armies of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight
Though Saul had given David permission to accept Goliath's
challenge, the king had small hope that David would be successful [p. 647] in his courageous undertaking. Command was given to clothe
the youth in the king's own armor. The heavy helmet of brass
was put upon his head, and the coat of mail was placed upon
his body; the monarch's sword was at his side. Thus equipped,
he started upon his errand, but erelong began to retrace his steps.
The first thought in the minds of the anxious spectators was that
David had decided not to risk his life in meeting an antagonist
in so unequal an encounter. But this was far from the thought
of the brave young man. When he returned to Saul he begged
permission to lay aside the heavy armor, saying, "I cannot go
with these; for I have not proved them." He laid off the king's
armor, and in its stead took only his staff in his hand, with his
shepherd's scrip and a simple sling. Choosing five smooth stones
out of the brook, he put them in his bag, and, with his sling in
his hand, drew near to the Philistine. The giant strode boldly
forward, expecting to meet the mightiest of the warriors of
Israel. His armor-bearer walked before him, and he looked as if
nothing could withstand him. As he came nearer to David he saw
but a stripling, called a boy because of his youth. David's countenance
was ruddy with health, and his well-knit form, unprotected
by armor, was displayed to advantage; yet between its youthful
outline and the massive proportions of the Philistine, there was
a marked contrast.
Goliath was filled with amazement and anger. "Am I a dog,"
he exclaimed, "that thou comest to me with staves?" Then he
poured upon David the most terrible curses by all the gods of his
knowledge. He cried in derision, "Come to me, and I will give
thy flesh unto the fowls of the air, and to the beasts of the field."
David did not weaken before the champion of the Philistines.
Stepping forward, he said to his antagonist: "Thou comest to me
with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to
thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of
Israel, whom thou hast defied. This day will the Lord deliver
thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee, and take thine head
from thee; and I will give the carcasses of the host of the Philistines
this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of
the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in
Israel. And all this assembly shall know that the Lord saveth not
with sword and spear: for the battle is the Lord's, and He will
give you into our hands." [p. 648]
There was a ring of fearlessness in his tone, a look of triumph
and rejoicing upon his fair countenance. This speech, given in
a clear, musical voice, rang out on the air, and was distinctly
heard by the listening thousands marshaled for war. The anger
of Goliath was roused to the very highest heat. In his rage he
pushed up the helmet that protected his forehead and rushed
forward to wreak vengeance upon his opponent. The son of
Jesse was preparing for his foe. "And it came to pass, when the
Philistine arose, and came and drew nigh to meet David, that
David hasted, and ran toward the army to meet the Philistine.
And David put his hand in his bag, and took thence a stone, and
slang it, and smote the Philistine in the forehead, that the stone
sunk into his forehead; and he fell upon his face to the earth."
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Amazement spread along the lines of the two armies. They
had been confident that David would be slain; but when the
stone went whizzing through the air, straight to the mark, they
saw the mighty warrior tremble, and reach forth his hands, as if
he were struck with sudden blindness. The giant reeled, and
staggered, and like a smitten oak, fell to the ground. David did
not wait an instant. He sprang upon the prostrate form of the
Philistine, and with both hands laid hold of Goliath's heavy
sword. A moment before, the giant had boasted that with it he
would sever the youth's head from his shoulders and give his
body to the fowls of the air. Now it was lifted in the air, and
then the head of the boaster rolled from his trunk, and a shout
of exultation went up from the camp of Israel.
The Philistines were smitten with terror, and the conclusion
which ensued resulted in a precipitate retreat. The shouts of
the triumphant Hebrews echoed along the summits of the mountains,
as they rushed after their fleeing enemies; and they
"pursued the Philistines, until thou come to the valley, and to the
gates of Ekron. And the wounded of the Philistines fell down by
the way to Shaaraim, even unto Gath, and unto Ekron. And the
children of Israel returned from chasing after the Philistines, and
they spoiled their tents. And David took the head of the Philistine,
and brought it to Jerusalem; but he put his armor in his
tent." [p. 649]
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"David a Fugitive"