Poole on 1 Samuel 17:31-39: David's Faith in Facing Goliath

Verse 31:[1] And when the words were heard which David spake, they rehearsed them before Saul: and he sent for him (Heb. took him[2]).


[And they were reported in the presence of Saul. When he had been brought to him, וַיַּגִּ֥דוּ לִפְנֵֽי־שָׁא֖וּל וַיִּקָּחֵֽהוּ׃] And they revealed towards the face of Saul, and he took him (Montanus); and he brought (led [Jonathan]) him (Munster); he commanded him to be brought (Syriac); sending, he took him (Arabic); who summoned (engaged [Pagnine, Septuagint], took [Piscator]) him (Tigurinus, similarly Junius and Tremellius).


Verse 32:[3] And David said to Saul, (Deut. 20:1, 3) Let no man’s heart fail because of him; (1 Sam. 16:18) thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine.


[Let not the heart of anyone fail in him, עָלָיו] In himself (Kimchi in Munster, Mariana); in him (Pagnine), over him (Montanus, Septuagint), from him (Jonathan), because of him (Syriac, Junius and Tremellius, Dutch, English, Piscator, Munster), that is, the Philistine (Piscator, Mariana), or because of this matter (Piscator, Strigelius), namely, the danger from that Philistine (Piscator). Let no one despair over this (Castalio).


Verse 33:[4] And Saul said to David, (see Num. 13:31; Deut. 9:2) 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.


[Because thou art a youth] He was fourteen or sixteen years of age, according to Augustine and Theodoret; or twenty-two, says Salian[5] (Menochius). He calls him a youth, not in age, but in skill and rawness in the art of war (Tirinus out of Sanchez). A boy, that is, a youth, inexperienced in war (Piscator). This is evident, 1. from the Antithesis; he has been a warrior from his youth; where his skill, and his long experience in the art of war, are set in opposition to the age of David (Tirinus out of Sanchez). A youth, that is, a novice in the art of war. According to usage in Writing, both Sacred and profane, Age is wont to be reckoned, not so much by years, as by quality and merits. For which reason we call an ignorant or foolish old man a child, an infant, etc. (Sanchez). 2. From verse 38, where David puts on the armor of Saul (Tirinus out of Sanchez). [Concerning which, see the things to be said there.] Thou art an adolescent (Tigurinus, Arabic). He is called a youth, both David become older, Luke 1:69;[6] Acts 4:25;[7] and the servant of Abraham, who was older, Genesis 24:52,[8] compared with verse 2; and Christ, above thirty years of age, Acts 4:27[9] (Sanchez).


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.


Verse 34:[10] And David said unto Saul, Thy servant kept his father’s sheep, and there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb (or, kid[11]) out of the flock…


[And was coming a lion, or a bear, וּבָ֤א הָֽאֲרִי֙ וְאֶת־הַדּ֔וֹב] And was coming a lion and a bear (Septuagint, Jonathan, Munster, Pagnine, Tigurinus). [But the Syriac and Arabic have, a lion and a wolf.[12]] In this place, there is an Enallage[13] of cases: for the accusative with the particle אֶת is put in the place of the nominative. Verbatim: et ursum,[14] and a bear, in the place of et ursus,[15] and a bear. Thus in Nehemiah 9:19, אֶת־עַמּוּד, columnum/pillar[16] (that is, columna/pillar[17]), of cloud departed not. In 2 Kings 6:5, and it happened to one felling a beam, וְאֶת־הַבַּרְזֶל, and the iron fell into the water: although others translate the אֶת as with there, and the beam with the iron fell;[18] thus Junius and Kimchi (Glassius’ “Grammar” 100). And came a lion, even indeed with a bear (Piscator); a lion together with a bear (Castalio). But this translation has many disadvantages: 1. It supposes a lion and a bear, as if by compact, to hunt together; while a lion will not even admit a lioness into partnership for hunting, as Ælian in his Various History 4:3 and Damir the Arab[19] testify: whence the lion is called μουνόλεον/ mono-lion, because it is a solitary animal. 2. If it be so, to what wilt thou refer those following words, and it took a lamb, and I went out after it? Why does he not say, they took, and I went after them? And how could both a lion and a bear carry away one little sheep conjointly? or how could David seize both by the beard? Hence, so that these disadvantages might be avoided, it is to be translated a lion or a bear. [Thus Junius and Tremellius translate it.] For, the copulative and is not rarely put in the place of the disjunctive or, as in Exodus 21:15, 17[20] compared with Matthew 15:4.[21] For, if the and were copulative, he would have said בָאוּ, they came. Moreover, since the Hebrews have no imperfect tense,[22] the perfect is to be rendered by the imperfect in Latin, as often as the matter requires. Therefore, I thus render it, and veniebat, was coming, a lion, or a bear, and he auferebat, was carrying off, a sheep of the flock (that is, whether a lion, or a bear, rushing in, was carrying away, etc.), egrediebar, I was going out, after him, and percutiebam, was smiting, him, etc. And so he is not speaking of a single event, but of a thing that had happened more than once: For God, who had destined David for great things, willed him from his youth to be exercised by these dangers; so that he, having often experienced the help of God, might steel himself in adverse matters, and intrepidly undertake whatever might belong to his calling. Now, that this event was not singular, shows the twofold sort of fight described here. For, sometimes he with his crook, etc., was at the first encounter lethally striking the wild beasts fleeing with prey; or David, if they were rushing straight towards the shepherd, seizing them by the jaw or throat with one hand, was piercing them with the other. In addition, David had, besides great resolution, an uncommon strength of body; whence it is that in Psalm 18:34 he asserts that a bow of steel is broken by his arms (Bochart’s A Sacred Catalogue of Animals 1:3:4:754). [Nevertheless, it is to be noted that those that render it, and a bear, with respect to sense closely agree with Bochart.] A lion and a bear; yet at different times: for, of two histories David speaks conjointly out of a desire for brevity (Osiander). This manner of speaking indicates that victories over wild beasts were reported, not once or twice, but often (Sanchez). Lion, or a lion: or some lion. For the article ה, prefixed to a Hebrew noun, is taken indefinitely (Piscator).


There came a lion, and a bear; not both together, but one after another, at several times.


[He was removing a ram from the midst of the flock, שֶׂ֖ה מֵהָעֵֽדֶר׃] A lamb (a sheep [Munster, Tigurinus], a kid [English]) from the flock (Jonathan, Syriac, Arabic, Munster, Pagnine, English). שֶׂה signifies both a lamb and a kid: as it is evident out of Exodus 12:5[23] (Piscator). I translate it, a little sheep, following the Chaldean Paraphrast and two manuscript codices: otherwise in the place this word in the common exemplars it is read, and he was carrying this away from the flock; with one letter changed, by an easy slip (Junius), namely, that זֶה/this was written in the place of שֶׂה/lamb. But the reading of זֶה/this is clearly mutilated, since it has nothing to which it might be referred (Piscator). [In the Plantin Bible it is זֶה/this; in the Bible Polyglot, שֶׂה/lamb.]


Verse 35:[24] 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.



[And I was plucking] Understanding, the sheep (Vatablus, similarly Piscator).


[Their chin, בִּזְקָנוֹ] I caught by its beard (Tigurinus, English, Dutch, similarly the Syriac, Pagnine, Montanus, Osiander, Strigelius, Vatablus). Others: by its chin, or mandible, or jaw (Arabic, Jonathan, certain interpreters in Munster). By the chin with the beard (Kimchi in Munster). The Greeks render it, ἐκράτησα τοῦ φάρυγγος αὐτοῦ, I was grasping its throat. A beard is certainly applicable to a lion. But, since the bear is treated here, as much as the lion, they preferred to make use of that word, which was common to both (Bochart’s A Sacred Catalogue of Animals 1:3:4:754). Moreover, Oppian[25] attributed to the bear a rough and gaping mouth,[26] from which David was plucking the sheep, as snatched from the abyss; and against David the bear was arising; namely, upon its hind legs, so that it might strangle and crush him with the embrace of his forelegs; according to that saying of Statius,[27] bears begin fights with shaggy embraces:[28] But the lion, seized by its jaw or chin, so that it might be restrained from biting, David attacking and fatally wounding with his shepherd’s crook (Bochart’s A Sacred Catalogue of Animals 1:3:8:807).


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.


Verse 36:[29] 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.


[I killed the lion and the bear] Hunting well prepares men for battle (Grotius).


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.


[Therefore, he shall be] Understanding, as I hope; that is, I will kill him as easily, etc. (Vatablus).


Verse 37:[30] David said moreover, (Ps. 18:16, 17; 63:7; 77:11; 2 Cor. 1:10; 2 Tim. 4:17, 18) 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 (1 Sam. 20:13; 1 Chron. 22:11, 16) the LORD be with thee.


[From the hand of the lion] That is, from the lion; the יָד/hand is often superfluous. Thus in 1 Kings 8:53, as thou spakest בְּיַד, by the hand, of Moses; that is, by Moses. Thus in Psalm 22:20;[31] 49:15;[32] etc. (Glassius’ “Grammar” 148).


He will deliver me; his good will is the same to me that it then was, and his power is not diminished.


[And Saul said, Go, etc.] Saul would not, I think, have believed these things (since he knew that many things are proudly proclaimed by young men concerning their affairs), unless the testimonies of others concerning these deeds had been added, which were able easily to be had. For Beth-lehem was not far away; and matters of this sort would spread through even remote provinces (Sanchez). Moreover, these things were done by David after the anointing, when more abundant gifts of the Holy Spirit had been conferred upon him from heaven (Osiander).


And Saul said unto David, Go: 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.


Verse 38:[33] And Saul armed David with his armour (Heb. clothed David with his clothes[34]), and he put an helmet of brass upon his head; also he armed him with a coat of mail.


[And Saul dressed David in his garments, מַדָּיו[35]] It signifies garments measured, proportioned, upon which armor could be snugly and comfortably placed; as it is wont to be done in the case of armed men (Malvenda). [Some understand this of the arms accommodated to the body of Saul (thus Tirinus, Lapide, Sanchez out of Tostatus and Hugo[36] and Dionysius[37]).] From this passage I gather that David was tall, to whom the garments of so tall a man might be fitted. Neither was David, when he was putting them off, denying that they fit his body, but only that he was not accustomed to such, and was weighed down by them (Tirinus almost out of Sanchez). Then, the same is gathered from this, that David made adroit use of the sword of Goliath, very long and heavy, and was not girded clumsily, 1 Samuel 21:9 (Tirinus out of Tostatus). [To others this opinion is not satisfying:] Because Saul was higher than all the people from his shoulders and upward, 1 Samuel 10:23. Therefore, what things were fetched from the armory of King Saul are here called the armor of Saul (Estius out of Lyra, thus Serarius, Osiander, Martyr). [To others this is not pleasing either:] I do not think that the armory of Saul was in that camp, and in that arma that were not distributed, especially in such a dearth of arms. Add that the manner of speaking is too harsh for this explanation (Sanchez). I would prefer to translate it, his garments, rather than arms; yet it was not the common garment of Saul, but his military one; which, nevertheless, I do not understand of arms hard and rigid, but of other military trappings, of which sort apparently Jonathan conferred upon david, 1 Samuel 18:4.[38] So Josephus thinks, namely, that Saule clothed him with his own coat of mail, which perhaps, after the likeness of Goliath’s mail (concerning which verse 5), was scaled, and was able to be adjusted to a body smaller than Saul’s (Willet[39]).


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.


Verse 39:[40] 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.


[He began to test if he were able to advance armed, etc.,וַיֹּ֣אֶל לָלֶכֶת֮ כִּ֣י לֹֽא־נִסָּה֒ וַיֹּ֙אמֶר דָּוִ֜ד אֶל־שָׁא֗וּל לֹ֥א אוּכַ֛ל וגו״] And he wished to go; because he was not experienced; and David said, I am not able, etc. (Montanus). And he attempted to go, for he had not tested; but he said, etc. (Pagnine). And he attempted to advance, seeing that he had never tested; and he said, etc. (Tigurinus, Vatablus, similarly the English). While he wished to advance, because he was not experienced, he said, etc. (Junius and Tremellius). He wished to depart, but, because he was not accustomed, he said, etc. (Munster). But, attempting to advance (for he had not accustomed), he denied that he was able to advance with them, etc. (Castalio). And he began to proceed, but, because he was not used to these, he said, etc. (Strigelius).


[I have not the use (thus the Septuagint), כִּ֣י לֹ֣א נִסִּ֑יתִי] Because I have not exercised myself (Munster). I have not, or never, tested (Pagnine, Montanus, Tigurinus). I am not accustomed to bear such (Vatablus). For, although Saul had at some point appointed him as his armor bearer, David himself does not appear to have dressed in armor; for he had not yet ever proceeded with Saul into battle; and so he said, I have not the use, that is, that I might go forth armed (Osiander).


I have not proved them; I have no skill nor experience in the management of this kind of arms.

[1] Hebrew: וַיְּשָּֽׁמְעוּ֙ הַדְּבָרִ֔ים אֲשֶׁ֖ר דִּבֶּ֣ר דָּוִ֑ד וַיַּגִּ֥דוּ לִפְנֵֽי־שָׁא֖וּל וַיִּקָּחֵֽהוּ׃ [2] Hebrew: וַיִּקָּחֵהוּ. [3] Hebrew: וַיֹּ֤אמֶר דָּוִד֙ אֶל־שָׁא֔וּל אַל־יִפֹּ֥ל לֵב־אָדָ֖ם עָלָ֑יו עַבְדְּךָ֣ יֵלֵ֔ךְ וְנִלְחַ֖ם עִם־הַפְּלִשְׁתִּ֥י הַזֶּֽה׃ [4] Hebrew: וַיֹּ֙אמֶר שָׁא֜וּל אֶל־דָּוִ֗ד לֹ֤א תוּכַל֙ לָלֶ֙כֶת֙ אֶל־הַפְּלִשְׁתִּ֣י הַזֶּ֔ה לְהִלָּחֵ֖ם עִמּ֑וֹ כִּֽי־נַ֣עַר אַ֔תָּה וְה֛וּא אִ֥ישׁ מִלְחָמָ֖ה מִנְּעֻרָֽיו׃ [5] Jacques Salian (1557-1640) was a French Jesuit. He wrote Annales Ecclesiastici Veteris Testamenti, quibus Connexi Sunt Annales Imperii Assyriorum, Babyloniorum, Persarum, Græcorum, atque Romanorum. [6] Luke 1:69: “And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant (παιδὸς/servant/child; pueri/youth, in the Vulgate) David…” [7] Acts 4:25: “Who by the mouth of thy servant (παιδὸς/servant/child; pueri/youth, in the Vulgate) David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things?” [8] Genesis 24:52: “And it came to pass, that, when Abraham’s servant (עֶבֶד; puer/youth, in the Vulgate) heard their words, he worshipped the Lord, bowing himself to the earth.” [9] Acts 4:27: “For of a truth against thy holy child (παῖδά; puerum/youth, in the Vulgate) Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together…” [10] Hebrew: וַיֹּ֤אמֶר דָּוִד֙ אֶל־שָׁא֔וּל רֹעֶ֙ה הָיָ֧ה עַבְדְּךָ֛ לְאָבִ֖יו בַּצֹּ֑אן וּבָ֤א הָֽאֲרִי֙ וְאֶת־הַדּ֔וֹב וְנָשָׂ֥א שֶׂ֖ה מֵהָעֵֽדֶר׃ [11] Hebrew: שֶׂה. [12]דָּבַב signifies to glide, a form of motion applying to the wolf, as well as the bear. [13] That is, substitution. [14] In the Accusative case. [15] In the Nominative case. [16] In the Accusative case. [17] In the Nominative case. [18] 2 Kings 6:5: “But as one was felling a beam, the axe head fell into the waterוַיְהִ֤י) הָֽאֶחָד֙ מַפִּ֣יל הַקּוֹרָ֔ה וְאֶת־הַבַּרְזֶ֖ל נָפַ֣ל אֶל־הַמָּ֑יִם): and he cried, and said, Alas, master! for it was borrowed.” [19] Ad-Damir, or Mohammed Ibn Mura Iban Ita Ibn Abdi-l-kadir (flourished c. 1350), an Arabian naturalist, was born at Demir, near Damietta, in Egypt. He wrote several works of natural history, and a history of the khalifs. [20] Exodus 21:15, 17: “And he that smiteth his father, or his mother (אָבִ֛יו וְאִמּ֖וֹ, his father and his mother), shall be surely put to death…. And he that curseth his father, and his mother (אָבִ֛יו וְאִמּ֖וֹ, his father and his mother), shall surely be put to death.” [21] Matthew 15:4: “For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother (πατέρα ἢ μητέρα), let him die the death.” [22] What modern Hebrew grammars call the Imperfect Tense, used to be called the Future Tense. [23] Exodus 12:5: “Your lamb (שֶׂה) shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: ye shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats…” [24] Hebrew: וְיָצָ֧אתִי אַחֲרָ֛יו וְהִכִּתִ֖יו וְהִצַּ֣לְתִּי מִפִּ֑יו וַיָּ֣קָם עָלַ֔י וְהֶחֱזַ֙קְתִּי֙ בִּזְקָנ֔וֹ וְהִכִּתִ֖יו וַהֲמִיתִּֽיו׃ [25] Oppian of Apamea wrote his poem on hunting (Cynegetica) in the early second century. [26]Cynegetica 3. [27] Publius Papinius Statius (c. 45-96) was a Roman poet. [28]Thebaid 6:869. [29] Hebrew: גַּ֧ם אֶֽת־הָאֲרִ֛י גַּם־הַדּ֖וֹב הִכָּ֣ה עַבְדֶּ֑ךָ וְֽ֠הָיָה הַפְּלִשְׁתִּ֙י הֶעָרֵ֤ל הַזֶּה֙ כְּאַחַ֣ד מֵהֶ֔ם כִּ֣י חֵרֵ֔ף מַעַרְכֹ֖ת אֱלֹהִ֥ים חַיִּֽים׃ [30] Hebrew: וַיֹּאמֶר֮ דָּוִד֒ יְהוָ֗ה אֲשֶׁ֙ר הִצִּלַ֜נִי מִיַּ֤ד הָֽאֲרִי֙ וּמִיַּ֣ד הַדֹּ֔ב ה֣וּא יַצִּילֵ֔נִי מִיַּ֥ד הַפְּלִשְׁתִּ֖י הַזֶּ֑ה ס וַיֹּ֙אמֶר שָׁא֤וּל אֶל־דָּוִד֙ לֵ֔ךְ וַֽיהוָ֖ה יִהְיֶ֥ה עִמָּֽךְ׃ [31] Psalm 22:20: “Deliver my soul from the sword; my darling from the power of the dog (מִיַּד־כֶּלֶב, from the hand of the dog).” [32] Psalm 49:15: “But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave (מִיַּד־שְׁאוֹל, from the hand of the grave): for he shall receive me. Selah.” [33] Hebrew: וַיַּלְבֵּ֙שׁ שָׁא֤וּל אֶת־דָּוִד֙ מַדָּ֔יו וְנָתַ֛ן ק֥וֹבַע נְחֹ֖שֶׁת עַל־רֹאשׁ֑וֹ וַיַּלְבֵּ֥שׁ אֹת֖וֹ שִׁרְיֽוֹן׃ [34] Hebrew: וַיַּלְבֵּ֙שׁ שָׁא֤וּל אֶת־דָּוִד֙ מַדָּ֔יו. [35]מַד/garment is related to the verbal root מָדַד, to measure. [36] Hugh of St. Cher, also known as Hugo Cardinalis because he was the first Dominican to achieve the office of cardinal (c. 1200-1263), was a French Dominican Biblical scholar. His exegetical works, covering the entire canon, have been gathered into eight substantial volumes. [37] Denis the Carthusian (1402-1471) was a Carthusian monk, theologian, and mystic, considered by some to be the last of the Schoolmen. He commented on the entire Bible. [38] 1 Samuel 18:4: “And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was upon him, and gave it to David, and his garments (וּמַדָּיו), even to his sword, and to his bow, and to his girdle.” [39] Andrew Willet (1562-1621) was a product of Christ’s College, and he went on to serve the Anglican Church in various ministerial posts. He is noteable for his abilities in Greek and Hebrew, and his familiarity with the literature necessary for the right interpretation of Scripture. He wrote large commentaries on several books of the Bible, including 1 Samuel. [40] Hebrew: וַיַּחְגֹּ֣ר דָּוִ֣ד אֶת־חַ֠רְבּוֹ מֵעַ֙ל לְמַדָּ֜יו וַיֹּ֣אֶל לָלֶכֶת֮ כִּ֣י לֹֽא־נִסָּה֒ וַיֹּ֙אמֶר דָּוִ֜ד אֶל־שָׁא֗וּל לֹ֥א אוּכַ֛ל לָלֶ֥כֶת בָּאֵ֖לֶּה כִּ֣י לֹ֣א נִסִּ֑יתִי וַיְסִרֵ֥ם דָּוִ֖ד מֵעָלָֽיו׃

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