Matthew Poole's Commentary
Now the Philistines gathered together their armies to battle, and were gathered together at Shochoh, which belongeth to Judah, and pitched between Shochoh and Azekah, in Ephesdammim.The armies of the Israelites and Philistines ready for battle: Goliath terrifieth the Israelites with his stature, armour, and challenge, 1 Samuel 17:1-11. David sent by his father to visit his brethren; is willing to encounter with him, 1 Samuel 17:12-27; for which Eliab chideth him: he is brought to Saul, and showeth the reason of his confidence, 1 Samuel 17:28-37. He taketh a staff, and sling, with five stones, 1 Samuel 17:38. Goliath curseth and threateneth him, 1 Samuel 17:41-44. David’s faith: he slayeth him, 1 Samuel 17:45-50. The Philistines flee; are smitten and plundered, 1 Samuel 17:51-54. Saul taketh notice of David, 1 Samuel 17:55-58.
To revenge their former great and shameful defeat, 1Sa 14.
And Saul and the men of Israel were gathered together, and pitched by the valley of Elah, and set the battle in array against the Philistines.No text from Poole on this verse.
And the Philistines stood on a mountain on the one side, and Israel stood on a mountain on the other side: and there was a valley between them.On a mountain on the other side, where they had disposed and fortified their cams, that if the one should assault the other, the assailant should have the disadvantage, and be obliged to fight from a lower place.
And there went out a champion out of the camp of the Philistines, named Goliath, of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span.A champion, Heb. a man between two, either because he used to come forth, and stand between the two armies; or because he moved that the business should be decided between two, whereof he would be one.
Whose height was six cubits and a span; which is not strange, for besides the giants mentioned in Scripture, Herodotus, Diodorus Siculus, and Pliny, and others, make mention of persons seven cubits high, which is near double to an ordinary man’s height.
And he had an helmet of brass upon his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail; and the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of brass.The common shekel contained only a fourth part of an ounce; and so 5000 shekels made 1250 ounces, which make exactly 78 pounds; which weight is not unsuitable to a man of such vast greatness and strength, as his height speaks him to be.
And he had greaves of brass upon his legs, and a target of brass between his shoulders.No text from Poole on this verse.
And 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 before him.A weaver’s beam, on which the weavers fasten their web. It was like this for thickness; and for length, that he omits, as easy to be collected by proportion to the rest. And though the whole weight of Goliath’s armour may seem prodigious, yet it is not so much by far as one Athanatus did manage; of whom Pliny relates, that he saw him come into the theatre with arms weighing 12,000 ounces.
And he stood and cried unto the armies of Israel, and said unto them, 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.That the battle may be decided by us two alone. Such offers were frequent in those times. And possibly he thought the valiant Jonathan, who had assaulted a whole army, would never have refused this challenge. But God so ordered the matter, that none should accept it, because he would reserve this honour for David, as a step to his kingdom.
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.No text from Poole on this verse.
And the Philistine said, I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together.No text from Poole on this verse.
When Saul and all Israel heard those words of the Philistine, they were dismayed, and greatly afraid.Which may seem strange, considering the glorious promises, and their late experiences of Divine assistance. But the truth is, all men do so entirely depend upon God in all things, that when he withdraws his help, the most valiant and resolute persons cannot find their hearts nor hands, as daily experience shows.
Now David was the son of that Ephrathite of Bethlehemjudah, whose name was Jesse; and he had eight sons: and the man went among men for an old man in the days of Saul.The son of that Ephrathite, i.e. of the man of Ephratah, or Beth-lehem, Genesis 35:19.
He had eight sons: see on 1 Samuel 16:10.
And the three eldest sons of Jesse went and followed Saul to the battle: and the names of his three sons that went to the battle were Eliab the firstborn, and next unto him Abinadab, and the third Shammah.No text from Poole on this verse.
And David was the youngest: and the three eldest followed Saul.No text from Poole on this verse.
But David went and returned from Saul to feed his father's sheep at Bethlehem.From Saul; either,
1. From Saul’s court; where having been entertained by Saul, to relieve him in his melancholy fits, he was permitted to go to his father’s house, to be sent for again upon occasion. Or,
2. From Saul’s camp, whither he used to come to visit his brethren; as appears from 1 Samuel 17:17.
And the Philistine drew near morning and evening, and presented himself forty days.No text from Poole on this verse.
And Jesse said unto David his son, Take now for thy brethren an ephah of this parched corn, and these ten loaves, and run to the camp to thy brethren;Parched corn; a food then much in use, which they used to mix with water, or milk, or oil, &c.
And carry these ten cheeses unto the captain of their thousand, and look how thy brethren fare, and take their pledge.Unto the captain of their thousand; in whose power it was in a great measure, either to preserve them, or to expose them to utmost hazards.
Take their pledge, i.e. bring me some token of their welfare from them.
Now Saul, and they, and all the men of Israel, were in the valley of Elah, fighting with the Philistines.i.e. In a posture and readiness to fight with them; as it is explained, 1 Samuel 17:20,21. Men are oft said in Scripture to do what they intend and are prepared to do, as hath been showed formerly by instances.
And David rose up early in the morning, and left the sheep with a keeper, and took, and went, as Jesse had commanded him; and he came to the trench, as the host was going forth to the fight, and shouted for the battle.To the trench, i.e. to the camp or army which was there intrenched.
Shouted for the battle; as the manner was, both to animate themselves, and to terrify their enemies.
For Israel and the Philistines had put the battle in array, army against army.No text from Poole on this verse.
And David left his carriage in the hand of the keeper of the carriage, and ran into the army, and came and saluted his brethren.His carriage; the provisions which he had brought to his brethren.
And as he talked with them, behold, there came up the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name, out of the armies of the Philistines, and spake according to the same words: and David heard them.No text from Poole on this verse.
And all the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him, and were sore afraid.No text from Poole on this verse.
And the men of Israel said, Have ye seen this man that is come up? surely to defy Israel is he come up: and it shall be, that the man who killeth him, the king will enrich him with great riches, and will give him his daughter, and make his father's house free in Israel.It is observable, that Saul in his great distress doth not encourage himself in God, nor seek his counsel or favour by prayers and sacrifices, but expects relief from men only. This was one effect and sign of the departure of God’s Spirit from him.
Make his father’s house free; free from all those tributes and charges which either the court or the camp required.
And David spake to the men that stood by him, saying, What shall be done to the man that killeth this Philistine, and taketh away the reproach from Israel? for who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?Why should you all be thus dismayed at him? he is but a man, and that of an accursed race, a stranger and enemy to God, and no way able to stand before them who have the living and almighty God for their strength and refuge.
And the people answered him after this manner, saying, So shall it be done to the man that killeth him.No text from Poole on this verse.
And Eliab his eldest brother heard when he spake unto the men; and Eliab's anger was kindled against David, and he said, Why camest thou down hither? 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.Eliab’s anger was kindled, either because he thought him guilty of intolerable folly, and pride, and presumption, in pretending to such an attempt; or because he feared and concluded he would be certainly ruined in the enterprise; or rather, because he envied him the glory of so great an undertaking; and took this proffer of David’s to be, what indeed it was, a reproach to himself, and to all the rest, that having the great God on their side, had not the faith or courage to fight with him.
With whom hast thou left those few sheep? thou art much fitter to tend sheep, than to appear in an army, or to fight with a giant.
Thy pride, and the naughtiness of thine heart; thy self-confidence, and vain-glory, and curiosity.
And David said, What have I now done? Is there not a cause?Either,
1. Of my coming; my father sent me on an errand. Or rather,
2. Of my thus speaking: is there not reason in what I say? Is this giant invincible? is our God unable to oppose him, and subdue him?
And he turned from him toward another, and spake after the same manner: and the people answered him again after the former manner.For being secretly moved by God’s Spirit to undertake the combat, he speaks with divers persons about it, that so it might come to the king’s ear.
And when the words were heard which David spake, they rehearsed them before Saul: and he sent for him.No text from Poole on this verse.
And David said to Saul, Let no man's heart fail because of him; thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine.No text from Poole on this verse.
And Saul said to David, Thou art not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him: for thou art but a youth, and he a man of war from his youth.But a youth; either,
1. For age, to wit, comparatively to Goliath, being now not much above twenty years old, as is supposed. Or rather,
2. For military skill, as the words following explain it; as if he should say, Thou art but a novice, a raw and unexperienced soldier, and therefore unable to fight with him.
And David said unto Saul, Thy servant kept his father's sheep, and there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock:There came a lion, and a bear; not both together, but one after another, at several times.
And 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.Smote him, to wit, the lion, as appears by his beard; which having particularly mentioned, it was easily understood and believed, that he did the same to the bear; which therefore it was needless to express.
Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear: and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them, seeing he hath defied the armies of the living God.Slew both the lion and the bear: this he is probably thought to have done after he was anointed; when he was endowed with singular gifts of God’s Spirit; and, among others, with extraordinary courage of heart and strength of body.
David said moreover, 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.He will deliver me; his good will is the same to me that it then was, and his power is not diminished. It is not strange that Saul consents to the combat, considering David’s pious and convincing discourse, grounded upon sensible experience; and withal, the dangerous condition of the Israelitish affairs, and the absolute refusal of all other persons.
And Saul armed David with his armour, and he put an helmet of brass upon his head; also he armed him with a coat of mail.With his armour; either,
1. With Saul’s own armour which he used to wear in battle; which seems not to agree with the extraordinary height of Saul’s stature, 1 Samuel 10:23; nor is it like that Saul would disarm himself, when he was going forth to the battle, 1 Samuel 17:20,21. Or,
2. With armour taken out of his armoury. Not that the whole armory of Saul was brought into the field; but that some chosen arms were taken out thence, and brought for any emergent occasion. Or rather,
3. With his vestments, or garments. For,
1. So the Hebrew word properly and usually signifies; and so this same word is translated, 1 Samuel 18:4.
2. His armour is distinguished from this, and is particularly described in the following words. He seems therefore to speak of some military vestments which were then used in war, and were contrived for defence; such as buff-coats now are.
And David girded his sword upon his armour, and he assayed to go; for he had not proved it. And David said unto Saul, I cannot go with these; for I have not proved them. And David put them off him.I have not proved them; I have no skill nor experience in the management of this kind of arms.
And he took his staff in his hand, and chose him five smooth stones out of the brook, and put them in a shepherd's bag which he had, even in a scrip; and his sling was in his hand: and he drew near to the Philistine.His staff; his shepherd’s staff. These arms were in themselves contemptible, yet chosen by David; partly, because he had no skill to use other arms; partly, because he had inward assurance of the victory, even by these weapons; and partly, because such a conquest would be most honourable to God, and most shameful and discouraging to the Philistines.
Chose him five smooth stones, that if one should fail him, he might make use of another.
Smooth stones, because such stones would go most freely out of the sling; and consequently, with more force and certainty, directly to the mark which he aimed at. The sling was a sort of weapon not unusual in the fights of ancient times, and many arrived at great dexterity of slinging stones with great certainty; of which we have instances both in Scripture, as Judges 20:16, and in Diodorus Siculus, and Livy, and other authors.
And the Philistine came on and drew near unto David; and the man that bare the shield went before him.No text from Poole on this verse.
And when the Philistine looked about, and saw David, he disdained him: for he was but a youth, and ruddy, and of a fair countenance.Not having so much as the countenance of a martial person.
And the Philistine said unto David, Am I a dog, that thou comest to me with staves? And the Philistine cursed David by his gods.With staves, i.e. with a staff; the plural number for the singular; as Genesis 21:7 46:7.
The Philistine cursed David; he prayed that his god Dagon, and Ashtaroth, &c., would destroy him.
And the Philistine said to David, Come to me, and I will give thy flesh unto the fowls of the air, and to the beasts of the field.No text from Poole on this verse.
Then said David to the Philistine, 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.In the name of the Lord of hosts, i.e. by a commission from him, with confidence in him, and assurance of his help, and for the vindication of his honour.
Whom thou hast defied, in defying that army and people whereof he is the Lord and Protector.
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 carcases 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.Heb. that God, the only true God, is for Israel; or on Israel’s side, and against you. Or, that Israel hath a God, a God indeed, one who is able to help them, and not such an impotent idol as you serve.
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.That the Lord saveth not with sword and spear, i.e. that he can save without these arms, and with the most contemptible weapons, such as mine seem to thee.
The battle is the Lord’s, i.e. the events of war are wholly in his power, to give success to whom and by what means he pleaseth.
He will give you into our hands: David speaks thus confidently, because he was assured of it by a particular inspiration from God.
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.No text from Poole on this verse.
And David put his hand in his bag, and took thence a stone, and slang it, and smote the Philistine in his forehead, that the stone sunk into his forehead; and he fell upon his face to the earth.Either,
1. The stone pierced through his helmet; which such stones being slung would not seldom do; as even Diodorus Siculus relates. Or,
2. The stone might get in through one of those holes which are left in helmets, that he that wears it may see his way, and how to direct his blows. Or rather,
3. The proud giant had lift up that part of his helmet which covered his forehead; and that in contempt of David and his weapons, and by the singular direction of God’s providence.
So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and smote the Philistine, and slew him; but there was no sword in the hand of David.No text from Poole on this verse.
No text from Poole on this verse.
Therefore David ran, and stood upon the Philistine, and took his sword, and drew it out of the sheath thereof, and slew him, and cut off his head therewith. And when the Philistines saw their champion was dead, they fled.David took his sword; hence it appears that David was not a little man, as many fancy; but a man of considerable bulk and strength, because he was able to manage a giant’s sword; which also he did, both here and below, 1 Samuel 21:9.
Quest. How could this be, when he slew him before with the stone? 1 Samuel 17:50.
Answ. There he gives a general account of the event of the battle, and of the giant’s death; but here he gives a particular relation of the manner and instrument of his death. The stone threw him down to the earth, and bereaved him of the use of his sense and motion; but there remained some life in him, (as frequently doth in such cases,) which the sword took away, and so completed the work.
And the men of Israel and of Judah arose, and shouted, and 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.No text from Poole on this verse.
And the children of Israel returned from chasing after the Philistines, and they spoiled their tents.Heb. their camps, i.e. their camp; but he speaks of it in the plural number, because of the great extent and various quarters of their camp.
And David took the head of the Philistine, and brought it to Jerusalem; but he put his armour in his tent.Brought it to Jerusalem; either to terrify the Jebusites, who yet held the fort of Zion, 2 Samuel 5:7; or for some other reason not recorded, nor now known.
In his tent, i.e. in the tent which was erected for him in the camp, upon this occasion. There it was kept for the present, though afterwards it seems to have been translated to the tabernacle, where we find his sword, 1Sa 21, and it is not unlikely the rest of his armour was there also.
And when Saul saw David go forth against the Philistine, he said unto Abner, the captain of the host, Abner, whose son is this youth? And Abner said, As thy soul liveth, O king, I cannot tell.Whose son is this youth?
Quest. How could David be unknown to Saul, with whom he had lived? 1 Samuel 16:21.
Answ. That might well be, for divers reasons, because David was not constantly with him, nor, as it seems, used by him, but upon extraordinary occasions, and desperate fits of melancholy; from which possibly he had been free for a good while, by God’s special providence and care for his people Israel, that so he might be capable of governing and protecting them against the Philistines, who watched all opportunities against them, and at last broke forth into an open war. Thus David had been for some considerable time dismissed from Saul’s court, and was returned home; and therefore it is not strange, if Saul had for the present forgotten David; for kings, because of the encumbrance of public business, and the multitude of persons who come to them on several occasions, may easily forget some persons; yea, such as have frequently been with them, especially their servants, whom they do not use to observe with so much attention and care as they do others. Add to this, that the distemper of Saul’s mind might make him forgetful; and that David might now be much changed, both in his countenance and in his habit, from what he had before; and it is apparent, that the change of habits makes so great a difference, that it oft keeps us from the knowledge of those persons whom in other habits we very well know. Some give this answer, That this was the first time that Saul had seen David; and that David’s exploit here recorded was performed before that which is recorded 1 Samuel 17:15, though it be placed after it; but that is confuted by comparing 1 Samuel 18:1-3.
I cannot tell; which is not strange, because Abner’s conversation and employment was generally in the camp, when David was at the court; and when Abner was there, he took little notice of a person so much inferior to him as David was.
And the king said, Inquire thou whose son the stripling is.No text from Poole on this verse.
And as David returned from the slaughter of the Philistine, Abner took him, and brought him before Saul with the head of the Philistine in his hand.No text from Poole on this verse.
And Saul said to him, Whose son art thou, thou young man? And David answered, I am the son of thy servant Jesse the Bethlehemite.No text from Poole on this verse.