“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. 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. 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. 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. 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. And he had greaves of brass upon his legs, and a target of brass between his shoulders. 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. 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. 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 together. When Saul and all Israel heard those words of the Philistine, they were dismayed, and greatly afraid” (1 Samuel 17:1-11).
The Philistines were a constant thorn in Israel’s side, especially since they had never completely driven them out of the land as God commanded. In this section of the Life of David we are presented with a giant named Goliath and his challenge to the army of King Saul. Instead of faith in God on the part of Saul, there is fear. “When thou goest out to battle against thine enemies, and seest horses, and chariots, and a people more than thou, be not afraid of them: for the LORD thy God is with thee, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. And it shall be, when ye are come nigh unto the battle, that the priest shall approach and speak unto the people, And shall say unto them, Hear, O Israel, ye approach this day unto battle against your enemies: let not your hearts faint, fear not, and do not tremble, neither be ye terrified because of them; For the LORD your God is he that goeth with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you” (Deuteronomy 20:1-4). The problem was that the Lord was not with Saul. “Probably they had heard, that Samuel had forsaken Saul, and that Saul himself was unfit for business. The enemies of the church are watchful to take all advantages, and they never have greater advantage, than when her protectors have provoked God’s Spirit and prophets to leave them” (John Wesley).
The champion from Gath
It is interesting that though the word “champion” appears several times in the Bible it is only used here with a specific meaning; it literally means “the one who stands between.” The Philistine’s champion was their ‘trump card’ for the destruction of Israel once and for all. All of their hopes and dreams were in the giant Goliath. They believed that not even the combined might of Israel’s army could defeat them now. Saul believed this too.
Goliath, the superman of the Philistines, was from a family of giants which descended from the Anakites of Joshua’s day. Though Joshua destroyed many of them, some remained in Gath, Ashdod and Gaza (Joshua 11:22). Goliath stood nearly ten feet tall. His appearance intimidated Saul and his army. He reduced them to a quivering band of cowards. His highly polished bronze battledress would have shone like flashes of lightening in the sunlight. The size of his spear, sword and shield terrified them. If only they had known the proverb which says, “The bigger they are, the harder they fall.”
Goliath taunted Israel with a proposition. If their bravest warrior could defeat him then every Philistine would become Israel’s servant, if not then they would serve Philistia. Since the army knew they could not defeat Goliath all hope had gone. The giant came out day after day and repeated his challenge, but not once did anyone from the Israelite camp step forward.
Why was not Saul at the front of the queue to wage war against the infidel who defied God and His people? Saul, who was “from his shoulders and upward he was higher than any of the people” (1 Samuel 9:2), had lost his faith in the Lord. Was he not a brave warrior and therefore the obvious candidate to go out to face Goliath? But Saul was cowering in his tent “dismayed, and greatly afraid.” He knew that he would instantly die if he did accept Goliath’s challenge. He could have turned to God in prayer, but that was the furthest thing from his mind. His fear was as contagious as a virus and quickly spread throughout the camp. King Saul was no longer a viable leader of Israel.
Sin brings fear, and fear replaces faith once a person trust in his own or another person’s abilities rather than in God. “The wicked flee when no man pursueth: but the righteous are bold as a lion” (Proverbs 28:1). Once fear has taken root, Satan will be soon on the scene with his Goliath to bring him into total bondage. King Saul was not a man of faith, but was of an unsound mind, which resulted in debilitating fear. Paul states that such biographical accounts are recorded as warnings for all believers. “Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:11-12) … “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). No wonder then he encourages us to “put on the whole armour of God” (Ephesians 6:11) lest Satan find us defenceless.