Poole on 1 Samuel 17:48-58: Slaying the Giant

Verse 48:[1] 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.


[He hastens to the fight over against the Philistine (similarly Munster, Tigurinus, Castalio), וַיָּ֥רָץ הַמַּעֲרָכָ֖ה לִקְרַ֥את הַפְּלִשְׁתִּֽי׃] And he hastens unto the rank (or, unto the battle line [Syriac, Pagnine, Junius and Tremellius], or, towards the battle line [Piscator, Osiander, Dutch, English]) to meet the Philistine (Jonathan, Munster), that is, to the place determined for the fight between the armies (Dutch).


Verse 49:[2] 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.


[And the stone was thrust into his forehead, and he fell, etc.] I acknowledge that this matter is strange. But God delivered the blow upon him (Martyr). On his forehead, in the defenseless part: for he had lifted the part of his helmet that covers the forehead (Vatablus, thus Menochius, Lapide), since the arrogant giant was fearing nothing from one without weapons and inexperienced in war (Menochius out of Sanchez). This was imprudently done; since it was well-known that among the Israelites were slingers of incredible ability, Judges 20:16 (Menochius). I would rather say that such strength was given by God to the right hand of David, and such hardness and force to the cast stone, so that it might break through Goliath’s helmet (Sanchez, similarly Lapide, Vatablus). The stone was sunk, that is, driven in deeply, and, with Goliath’s helmet and skull completely broken through, buried in his brain, with the ease with which it would have been sunk in water. Neither will that appear strange to anyone that reads those things concerning the inhabitants of the Balearic Islands in Diodorus Siculus’ Historical Library 5:207: They fling much greater stones than others, and that so forcefully that the projectile is thought to be launched from some catapult. In an organized battle line they shatter shields, helmets, and all the armor wherewith bodies are covered. And they direct their hurling so accurately, that generally they err not from the target proposed to them. Virgil’s Æneid concerning Mezentius,[3] who struck down Arcens with a sling:


And with molten led the forehead of his adversary he split

In the middle, and stretch him out full length in the deep sand.


See what things are on Judges 20:16 (Malvenda). A part of the helmet has a certain open ἔποφθάλμιος, from which the one wearing the helmet looks out; the Chaldeans and Syrians call it בֵּית עֵינַיִם, the house of the eyes: Therefore, being driven into this part, the stone struck the forehead of Goliath: Whence the Chaldean, and he struck the Philistine in the house of his eyes, and the stone was plunged into the house of his eyes. The Syriac is not much different. Josephus, in his Antiquities 6:11, and Suidas,[4] on the term καρωθεὶς/stunned, say that the stone, dashed against the forehead, penetrated to the brain, and the giant was καρωθέντα, seized with torpor. Moreover, God no less directed this stone, than the stone wherewith was smitten Abimelech, Judges 9:53; and the dart wherewith Ahab, 1 Kings 22:34; and that iron implement, Exodus 21:13; Deuteronomy 19:5 (Bochart’s A Sacred Catalogue of Animals 1:2:44:460).


The stone sunk into his forehead: 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.


Verse 50:[5] So (1 Sam. 21:9; Ecclus. 47:4;[6] 1 Mac. 4:30;[7] see Judg. 3:31; 15:15; 1 Sam. 23:21) 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.


[And David prevailed against the Philistine, מִן־הַפְּלִשְׁתִּי] More than the Philistine (Montanus). He was stronger than the Philistine (Pagnine, similarly all interpreters).


Verse 51:[8] 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, (Heb. 11:34) they fled.


[He took the sword] Hence I gather that David was a powerful man, who was able to handle the sword of Goliath, etc. See 1 Samuel 21:9 (Sanchez).


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.


[And he killed him] But how does he kill now whom he had already killed previously? Response: By the blow of the stone he had been laid prostrate, yet he had not yet given up the ghost (Menochius, similarly Martyr out of Josephus). Yet Salian and others think that he was killed by the blow of the stone (Menochius). Moreover, Goliath had not yet unsheathed his sword, planning to fight first with his spear, and then, if necessary, with the sword (Menochius out of Sanchez). Or, the ready swiftness of David left him no time to draw his sword (Sanchez).


Slew him. Question: How could this be, when he slew him before with the stone? verse 50. Answer: 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.


Verse 52:[9] 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 (Josh. 15:36) Shaaraim, even unto Gath, and unto Ekron.


[Until they come into the valley] Hebrew: all the way to thy coming into the valley;[10] that is, along the path of that whole valley, of which mention was made in verse 3 (Malvenda out of Junius).

[By the way of Shaaraim] It was a town on the borders of Judah. Concerning which see Joshua 15:36 (Malvenda out of Junius).


Verse 53:[11] And the children of Israel returned from chasing after the Philistines, and they spoiled their tents.


Their tents: Hebrew, their camps,[12] that is, their camp; but he speaks of it in the plural number, because of the great extent and various quarters of their camp.


Verse 54:[13] And David took the head of the Philistine, and brought it to Jerusalem; but he put his armour in his tent.


[Taking up the head] The Gentiles did the like afterwards, so that they might triumph over their enemies. Thus was carried the head of Ptolemy, Justinus’[14]Of Phillipic Histories[15] 14; likewise of Piso and Galba,[16] Tacitus’[17]Annals 17. See below, 1 Samuel 31 (Sanchez).


[He brought it to Jerusalem] It is no obstacle that the Jebusites were holding the citadel of Zion; indeed, this triumph of David was making for their terror (Menochius, similarly Sanchez, Tirinus). He also carried about the same head through other cities, through which the victorious army was passing, as it is evident from 1 Samuel 18:6. For women are said to have come forth from the cities, to sing the song of victory of Saul, and of David (Mencohius out of Sanchez).


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.


[But his arms he placed in his tent, וְאֶת־כֵּלָיו] And his instruments (Septuagint, Montanus), arms (Jonathan, Syriac, Munster, Pagnine, Tigurinus, Junius and Tremellius), garments (Arabic). But in 1 Samuel 21 the sword of Goliath was in Nob; how then does David here place it in his tent? Responses: 1. Distinguish the sword from the (rest of the) arms: The arms were in the tent of David; the sword was in Nob (Kimchi in Martyr, similarly Lapide). 2. David first placed the arms in his tent. For, that he had his own tent, in which after military custom he was living in the camp, since he was now held as noble, and as a prince, no one, I believe, will doubt. They were there while the celebration of triumph was continuing, so that the people might regard them; afterwards they were transmitted to the Tabernacle, so that by that gift he might acknowledge that the victory was of divine power (Sanchez). 3. Others thus: in his tent; that is, which he had pitched for the Ark of God, 2 Samuel 6:17; 1 Chronicles 15:1, etc. It is a prolepsis, as in Exodus 16:33. For it does not appear that this was done immediately after the victory, but some time afterwards: perhaps at that time, when the Ark of God, with him now made king, was translated to Jerusalem, and there a tent was erected, 2 Samuel 6:17 (Junius, Piscator and most interpreters as Malvenda testifies). 4. Others: in his tent; that is, in his house (or in the house of his father [Lapide]), which was in Beth-lehem (Vatablus).


In his tent, that is, 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, 1 Samuel 21, and it is not unlikely the rest of his armour was there also.


Verse 55:[18] And when Saul saw David go forth against the Philistine, he said unto Abner, the captain of the host, Abner, (see 1 Sam. 16:21, 22) whose son is this youth? And Abner said, As thy soul liveth, O king, I cannot tell.


[From what family descends this youth?] Question: How was Saul able to be ignorant of this, since he had David as Psalmist and Armor Bearer not so long ago? They respond: 1. David was not sufficiently well known to Saul, because he frequently returned to feed the sheep (Vatablus). 2. He had seen him, and had heard his ancestry, already previously in 1 Samuel 16:18; but forgetfulness of such easily overtakes Kings in such business, in such a multitude of those addressing them, especially if sicknesses also be added (Grotius, similarly Lapide, Vatablus). Kings are not wont to look closely, attentively, or leisurely; and consequently, not to know their servants, nor to forget anything more easily than service yielded to them (Tirinus out of Sanchez). 3. Others refer this to the perturbation of Saul’s soul (Vatablus). His imagination was deranged, and hence his memory was lost (Tirinus out of Lyra and Procopius[19]). 4. This happened by a change of his countenance (for David, maturing, was not clothed with a beard [Lapide]), and his demeanor and clothes; who was previously clothed in the habit of a courtier, but now of a shepherd (Tirinus out of Tostatus, Lapide). 5. The person of David was not unknown to Saul, but only the lineage, tribe, and family: for he now inquires concerning these only. And it truly concerned Saul greatly to know these things, since by agreement he was going to give his daughter to him to wife (Tirinus out of Sanchez, similarly Menochius, Vatablus, Lapide, Estius). 6. But it is much more likely that Saul had not hitherto known David: for what things are related in 1 Samuel 16:18, etc., were proleptic, and happened after these tims, as we were noting on that place (Malvenda). [See what things we noted on that place.]


Whose son is this youth? Question: How could David be unknown to Saul, with whom he had lived? 1 Samuel 16:21. Answer: 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 in verse 15, though it be placed after it; but that is confuted by comparing 1 Samuel 18:1-3.


[As thy soul lives, O King, I know not] For Abner, as the commander of the military, was more frequently absent from the court, and was dwelling in the camp; whence he was hardly able to see and to know David (Lapide, similarly Lyra).


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.


Verse 56:[20] And the king said, Enquire thou whose son the stripling is.


Verse 57:[21] And as David returned from the slaughter of the Philistine, Abner took him, and brought him before Saul (1 Sam. 17:54) with the head of the Philistine in his hand.


Verse 58:[22] And Saul said to him, Whose son art thou, thou young man? And David answered, (1 Sam. 17:12) I am the son of thy servant Jesse the Beth-lehemite.

[1] Hebrew: וְהָיָה֙ כִּֽי־קָ֣ם הַפְּלִשְׁתִּ֔י וַיֵּ֥לֶךְ וַיִּקְרַ֖ב לִקְרַ֣את דָּוִ֑ד וַיְמַהֵ֣ר דָּוִ֔ד וַיָּ֥רָץ הַמַּעֲרָכָ֖ה לִקְרַ֥את הַפְּלִשְׁתִּֽי׃ [2] Hebrew: וַיִּשְׁלַח֩ דָּוִ֙ד אֶת־יָד֜וֹ אֶל־הַכֶּ֗לִי וַיִּקַּ֙ח מִשָּׁ֥ם אֶ֙בֶן֙ וַיְקַלַּ֔ע וַיַּ֥ךְ אֶת־הַפְּלִשְׁתִּ֖י אֶל־מִצְח֑וֹ וַתִּטְבַּ֤ע הָאֶ֙בֶן֙ בְּמִצְח֔וֹ וַיִּפֹּ֥ל עַל־פָּנָ֖יו אָֽרְצָה׃ [3] In Roman mythology, Mezentius was an Etruscan king, exiled because of his cruelty, reveling in bloodshed and cruelty. He sided with Turnus in the war against the Trojans. [4] Suidas was the compiler of the Suda, an encyclopedia containing more than thirty thousand entries concerning the ancient Mediterranean world. It was probably composed in tenth-century Byzantium. [5] Hebrew: וַיֶּחֱזַ֙ק דָּוִ֤ד מִן־הַפְּלִשְׁתִּי֙ בַּקֶּ֣לַע וּבָאֶ֔בֶן וַיַּ֥ךְ אֶת־הַפְּלִשְׁתִּ֖י וַיְמִיתֵ֑הוּ וְחֶ֖רֶב אֵ֥ין בְּיַד־דָּוִֽד׃ [6] Ecclesiasticus: “Slew he not a giant, when he was yet but young? and did he not take away reproach from the people, when he lifted up his hand with the stone in the sling, and beat down the boasting of Goliath?” [7] 1 Maccabees 4:30: “And when he saw that mighty army, he prayed and said, Blessed art thou, O Saviour of Israel, who didst quell the violence of the mighty man by the hand of thy servant David, and gavest the host of strangers into the hands of Jonathan the son of Saul, and his armourbearer…” [8] Hebrew: וַיָּ֣רָץ דָּ֠וִד וַיַּעֲמֹ֙ד אֶל־הַפְּלִשְׁתִּ֜י וַיִּקַּ֣ח אֶת־חַ֠רְבּוֹ וַֽיִּשְׁלְפָ֤הּ מִתַּעְרָהּ֙ וַיְמֹ֣תְתֵ֔הוּ וַיִּכְרָת־בָּ֖הּ אֶת־רֹאשׁ֑וֹ וַיִּרְא֧וּ הַפְּלִשְׁתִּ֛ים כִּֽי־מֵ֥ת גִּבּוֹרָ֖ם וַיָּנֻֽסוּ׃ [9] Hebrew: וַיָּקֻ֣מוּ אַנְשֵׁי֩ יִשְׂרָאֵ֙ל וִיהוּדָ֜ה וַיָּרִ֗עוּ וַֽיִּרְדְּפוּ֙ אֶת־הַפְּלִשְׁתִּ֔ים עַד־בּוֹאֲךָ֣ גַ֔יְא וְעַ֖ד שַׁעֲרֵ֣י עֶקְר֑וֹן וַֽיִּפְּל֞וּ חַֽלְלֵ֤י פְלִשְׁתִּים֙ בְּדֶ֣רֶךְ שַׁעֲרַ֔יִם וְעַד־גַּ֖ת וְעַד־עֶקְרֽוֹן׃ [10] Hebrew: עַד־בּוֹאֲךָ֣ גַ֔יְא. [11] Hebrew: וַיָּשֻׁ֙בוּ֙ בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל מִדְּלֹ֖ק אַחֲרֵ֣י פְלִשְׁתִּ֑ים וַיָּשֹׁ֖סּוּ אֶת־מַחֲנֵיהֶֽם׃ [12] Hebrew: מַחֲנֵיהֶם. [13] Hebrew: וַיִּקַּ֤ח דָּוִד֙ אֶת־רֹ֣אשׁ הַפְּלִשְׁתִּ֔י וַיְבִאֵ֖הוּ יְרוּשָׁלִָ֑ם וְאֶת־כֵּלָ֖יו שָׂ֥ם בְּאָהֳלֽוֹ׃ [14] Junianus Justinus was a Roman historian of the third century. [15]Historiarum Philippicarum. [16] Galba was Roman Emperor from 68 to 69 AD. Lucius Calpurnius Piso Frugi Licinianus, a Roman nobleman, was adopted by Galba as his heir. Both men were assassinated by Otho, and their heads displayed on poles. [17] Publius Cornelius Tacitus (c. 56-c. 117) was a Roman historian. The information that he preserves about his era and its emperors is invaluable. [18] Hebrew: וְכִרְא֙וֹת שָׁא֜וּל אֶת־דָּוִ֗ד יֹצֵא֙ לִקְרַ֣את הַפְּלִשְׁתִּ֔י אָמַ֗ר אֶל־אַבְנֵר֙ שַׂ֣ר הַצָּבָ֔א בֶּן־מִי־זֶ֥ה הַנַּ֖עַר אַבְנֵ֑ר וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אַבְנֵ֔ר חֵֽי־נַפְשְׁךָ֥ הַמֶּ֖לֶךְ אִם־יָדָֽעְתִּי׃ [19] Procopius (c. 500-c. 560) was a Byzantine historian. [20] Hebrew: וַיֹּ֖אמֶר הַמֶּ֑לֶךְ שְׁאַ֣ל אַתָּ֔ה בֶּן־מִי־זֶ֖ה הָעָֽלֶם׃ [21] Hebrew: וּכְשׁ֣וּב דָּוִ֗ד מֵֽהַכּוֹת֙ אֶת־הַפְּלִשְׁתִּ֔י וַיִּקַּ֤ח אֹתוֹ֙ אַבְנֵ֔ר וַיְבִאֵ֖הוּ לִפְנֵ֣י שָׁא֑וּל וְרֹ֥אשׁ הַפְּלִשְׁתִּ֖י בְּיָדֽוֹ׃ [22] Hebrew: וַיֹּ֤אמֶר אֵלָיו֙ שָׁא֔וּל בֶּן־מִ֥י אַתָּ֖ה הַנָּ֑עַר וַיֹּ֣אמֶר דָּוִ֔ד בֶּֽן־עַבְדְּךָ֥ יִשַׁ֖י בֵּ֥ית הַלַּחְמִֽי׃

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