David’s story is found in the BIBLE. He was the most important and famous king in Israel, reigning for 40 years (1010-970 BC). Starting as a shepherd, he became a courageous warrior leading Israel’s armies. As King, David made Jerusalem capital of Israel and established Israel as a world power during his time. Also a gifted musician and writer, David penned almost half of the 150 Psalms in the Bible.
You can find more information about David by reading these three books in the Hebrew Scriptures / Old Testament: a) 1 Samuel (chapter 16 onward), b) 2 Samuel, and c) 1 Kings (to chapter 2). Similar information can be found in 1 Chronicles 11-29.
David had a deep confidence in the God of all creation (read Psalms 8, written by David) and knew “the LORD was with him” (1 Samuel 18:14).* David’s confidence in God can be seen in what he said to King Saul, “The LORD who rescued me from the claws of the lion, and the bear, will rescue me from this Philistine” (1 Samuel 17:37), and to Goliath, “You come to me with sword, spear, and javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of Heaven’s Armies—the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. Today the LORD will conquer you and I will kill you” (1 Samuel 17:45-46).
* All Bible quotations from the New Living Translation, 2nd Edition (NLT), Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2004, unless otherwise noted.
NOTE on contemporary “giants”: André the Giant (1946-1993) was over 7 feet tall. According to the Guinness World Records (first annual book published in 1955), Sultan Kösen (b. 1982), of Turkish/Kurdish descent, is the tallest living male at just over 8 feet tall (as of 2019); although American Robert Wadlow (1918-1940) was the tallest teenager ever, at 8 feet tall, and later, the tallest man ever, at just under 9 feet tall.
There was a long history of skirmishes between the Philistines and Israelites before this famous battle between David and Goliath. A few key interactions are mentioned that explicitly show how Israel’s God ridiculed Dagon, the god of the Philistines, indicating how powerful the God of Israel is (See the story of Samson found in Judges 13-16, and the story of the ark in 1 Samuel 4-6).
The battle took place in one section of the Valley of Elah near ancient Socho (1 Samuel 17:1-3), about 16 m/26 km south west of current day Jerusalem. The Philistines invaded the territory of Judah beyond their own cites of Ekron and Gath (Goliath was from Gath) and set up camp on one side of the valley, with the Israelites on the other.
1 Samuel 17:1-54! You can download and read the story here
When the Philistines were arrayed in battle against the Israelites, they sent a champion and giant, Goliath of Gath, who demanded a man-to-man battle with an Israelite champion to determine the victory. But Goliath was over 9 feet tall, wearing protective gear over his whole body, which intimidated the army of Israel with great fear.
For 40 days, Goliath presented this challenge to Israel but no one responded that whole time, until David, the shepherd boy, showed up. David came on the scene bringing food for his 3 brothers in the army. When he learned of the challenge, David was indignant that a Philistine would “defy the armies of the living God” (1 Samuel 17:26). David volunteered to be Israel’s champion and told King Saul that he had killed both lions and bears to protect his sheep and that Goliath would suffer that same fate, because God would deliver David from this Philistine. King Saul offered David his own armor and sword. David tried it on but it didn’t work out, so David declined.
Moving to the battle line to face Goliath, David only carried with him his staff, 5 smooth stones he picked up from the stream, and his sling (1 Samuel 17:40). Goliath was insulted that Israel could only send out a boy, “’Am I a dog… that you come to me with a stick?’ And he cursed David by the names of his gods. ’Come over here, and I’ll give your flesh to the birds and to wild animals!’” (1 Samuel 17: 43-44). David’s amazing confidence in God blazes forth in his bold response to Goliath, perhaps the clearest presentation of faith in God in the whole Old Testament: Today the LORD will conquer you, and I will kill you and cut off your head. And then I will give the dead bodies of your men to the birds and wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel! And everyone assembled here will know that the LORD rescues his people, but not with sword and spear. This is the LORD’s battle, and he will give you to us!” (1 Samuel 17: 45-47).
As Goliath and David drew closer, David loosed a stone from his sling with such force like a bullet that it sunk deep into Goliath’s forehead, the only vulnerable spot. Goliath was killed instantaneously and fell forward on his face to the ground. David then took Goliath’s sword, stood over his dead body, and cut off his head—a symbol of military might and victory (1 Samuel 17: 49-51). When the Philistines saw their champion dead—instead of surrendering to become Israelite slaves as Goliath had promised—they fled for their lives. Israel shouted and pursued them as a far as two Philistine cities of Ekron and Gath to push them back into their own territory.
The Bible presents David and Goliath, the Philistines and the Israelites as historical persons and nations. Archeological evidence demonstrates that David was an historical person:
A. Tel Dan stele -- The words, “house of David” (i.e., the line of kings from David’s royal dynasty), appear on an inscription in the Tel Dan stele [upright pillar or slab of stone with an inscription] discovered in 1993 and 1994 in northern Israel.*
B. A Palace from KIng David discovered near the site of the famous battle -- In 2013, Israeli archaeologists found a royal residence of King David and a large storeroom, within a fortified administrative center located by the Valley of Elah, near the site of the famous battle between David and Goliath. The current name of the site, Khirbet Qeifaya, could be the ancient city of Sha'arayim mentioned in 1 Samuel 17:52:
"Then the men of Israel and Judah gave a great shout of triumph and rushed after the Philistines, chasing them as far as Gath and the gates of Ekron. The bodies of the dead and wounded Philistines were strewn all along the road from Shaaraim, as far as Gath and Ekron "(NLT).
This site offered a good viewpoint for sending and receiving fire signal messages that could be seen to the west, even to the Mediterranean Sea, and toward the east, to the city of Jerusalem.
Various points of evidence and argument have been presented by many scholars as to the historical reliability and trustworthiness of the Hebrew Scriptures/Old Testament.**
* Eric Cline, Biblical Archaeology: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009, 60.
** K. A. Kitchen, On the Reliability of the Old Testament, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2003/2006, 684 pages.
We see two lessons in this story:
- David learned how to have a different perspective about the particulars of a situation by considering God’s point of view. The Israelite army responded with great fear due to Goliath’s great physical prowess, but David responded with great courage to face Goliath. David was confident in God’s protection and deliverance based on past experiences (facing and killing lions and bears to rescue his sheep). How do you react to challenging situations? With fear, or faith in something greater - a God beyond yourself who gives you hope and courage to move forward.
- David’s faith and confidence in God grew and increased over time through his life experiences. David could not have faced Goliath with courage when he first started tending sheep. David’s growth took place over a period of many years as he protected his sheep from lions and bears. As we trust God with lesser challenges, we can later trust God with greater challenges. Growing in confidence in God today can help us with greater challenges tomorrow.
Both Jewish and Christian people highly regard David whom God called “a man after his own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14) and “my servant David” (2 Samuel 3:18 KJV), and to whom God promised a royal dynasty, “Your house and your kingdom will continue before me for all time, and your throne will be secure forever” (2 Samuel 7:16). Christians believe this promise made by God was fulfilled in the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Three early documents of Judaism, written during the second century BC, refer to this event as one key touchstone in their history: a) Ben Sirach/Ecclesiasticus 47:4-5; b) 1 Maccabees 4:29-30, and c) Psalm 151:6-7 (which appeared in the Septuagint, the Greek version of the Hebrew Scriptures / Old Testament, translated by Jewish scholars).*
* These three documents can be read either on the web or in English Bible versions that include additional readings of what are called “Apocryphal” books. These documents were included in the Greek Septuagint of the Hebrew Scriptures/Old Testament not as accepted parts of the historical Jewish canon of the Bible, but as important historical records of early Judaism.
For small children: Christin Ditchfield, David and Goliath (Little Golden Book), NY: Random House, 2019, 24 pages.
For general reading of the life of David:
Charles Swindoll, Great Lives: David: A Man of Passion and Destiny, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1997, 320 pages.
Peterson, Eugene, Leap Over a Wall: Earthy Spirituality for Everyday Christians, NY: Harper Collins, 1998, 238 pages.
In each book Chapter 4 focuses on lessons learned from David facing Goliath. Also each book weaves in particular Psalms that David wrote in relation to certain of his life events.
For further study with a detailed commentary on the Bible books that cover David’s life and takeaways for life application: Bill T. Arnold, 1 and 2 Samuel (The NIV Application Commentary, Vol 19), Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014, 688 pages.
Before the battle when talking to King Saul, David explained: “The LORD who rescued me from the claws of the lion and the bear will rescue me from this Philistine!” (1 Samuel 17:37). Although David does not explicitly mention wolves, the prophet Jeremiah mentions both lions and wolves (and leopards) as dangerous predatory animals in Israel (Jeremiah 5:6).
The sling and stone were common weapons in the ancient world used for both battle and hunting. Bible references concerning their use are listed below. As an example of use outside of the Bible, in a stone relief from the Palace at Nineveh of Assyrian King Sennacherib (704-681 BC), military slingers with copper helmets and coats of mail are depicted from the siege of Lachish (about 701 BC).+
Video clips of what slinging a stone looks like are located on YouTube (“slinging stones”). For example: “The Sling: Deadly Weapon” (1 minute) and “Balearic slinger in competition (slo mo)” (1 minute, slow motion slinging, in Spain).
References to slinging stones in the Bible: Among Benjamin’s elite troops, 700 were left-handed, and each of them could sling a rock and hit a target within a hairsbreadth without missing. Judges 20:16
All of them were expert archers, and they could shoot arrows or sling stones with their left hand as well as their right. 1 Chronicles 12:2 (also see 2 Chronicles 26:14)
Even when you are chased by those who seek to kill you, your life is safe in the care of the LORD your God, secure in his treasure pouch! But the lives of your enemies will disappear like stones shot from a sling! 1 Samuel 25:29 (also see Jeremiah 10:18)
+ J. Hoffmeier, “Weapons of War,” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, ed. Geoffrey Bromiley, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1988; vol. 4:1040.
The game developers took creative liberties to adapt Biblical content into the DVG game play. The Bible is clear that David, the shepherd, protected his sheep from lions, bears, and other dangers. The game adaptation explores the possibilities within the game storyline. The DVG game is an imaginative twist on the classic story of David and Goliath - one of the greatest faith stories ever recorded.
In your strength I can crush an army; with my God I can scale any wall. Psalm 18:29*
The LORD is my shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name. Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings. Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the LORD forever. Psalm 23: 1-6*
So be strong and courageous, all you who put your hope in the LORD! Psalm 31: 24*
Then call on me when you are in trouble, and I will rescue you, and you will give me glory. Psalm 50:15
Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. Proverbs 3:5-6
He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. . . . But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:29, 31
O Lord, please hear my prayer! Listen to the prayers of those of us who delight in honoring you. Please grant me success today by making the king favorable to me. Put it into his heart to be kind to me. Nehemiah 1:11
It is not by force nor by strength, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. Zechariah 4:6
Give thanks to the LORD and proclaim his greatness. Let the whole world know what he has done. Sing to him; yes, sing his praises. Tell everyone about his wonderful deeds. Exult in his holy name; rejoice, you who worship the LORD. Search for the LORD and for his strength; continually seek him. Remember the wonders he has performed. I Chronicles 16:8-12
You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people. Genesis 50:20
* Psalms written by David
New Testament Verses
And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. Romans 8:28
My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness. 2 Corinthians 12:9
For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13
But the Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one. 2 Thessalonians 3:3
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. 2 We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. 3 Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. Hebrews 12:1-3
Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. 3 For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 4 So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. James 1:2-4
So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the LORD your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you. Deuteronomy 31: 6
Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9
Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Don’t be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. 1 Chronicles 28: 20 (David’s charge to Solomon)
Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. Psalm 23:4*
The LORD is my light and my salvation—so why should I be afraid? The LORD is my fortress, protecting me from danger, so why should I tremble? Psalms 27:1*
I prayed to the LORD, and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears. Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy; no shadow of shame will darken their faces. In my desperation I prayed, and the LORD listened; he saved me from all my troubles. Psalms 34:4*
God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. So we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea. Psalms 46:1-2
But when I am afraid, I will put my trust in you. I praise God for what he has promised. I trust in God, so why should I be afraid? What can mere mortals do to me? Psalms 56:3-4
See, God has come to save me. I will trust in him and not be afraid. The LORD GOD is my strength and my song; he has given me victory. Isaiah 12:2
Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.... For I hold you by your right hand—I, the LORD your God. And I say to you, Don’t be afraid. I am here to help you. Isaiah 41:10, 13
* Psalms written by David
New Testament Verses
I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid. John 14:27
And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7
For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7
So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor. 7 Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. 9 Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. 1 Peter 5:6-9
Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. 19 We love each other because he loved us first. 1 John 4:18-19
All Bible quotations from the New Living Translation, 2nd Edition (NLT, Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2004), unless otherwise noted.