Sermon on 1 Samuel 17:38-58 – “The Death of Goliath”

Sermon on 1 Samuel 17:38-58 – “The Death of Goliath”

Sermon for Sunday, April 14, 2024 at First Presbyterian Church at Unionville, NY (BPC)

Old Testament reading:

[Psa 44:4-8 ESV] 4 You are my King, O God; ordain salvation for Jacob! 5 Through you we push down our foes; through your name we tread down those who rise up against us. 6 For not in my bow do I trust, nor can my sword save me. 7 But you have saved us from our foes and have put to shame those who hate us. 8 In God we have boasted continually, and we will give thanks to your name forever. Selah

New Testament reading:

[Rom 8:31-39 ESV] 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died–more than that, who was raised–who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Gospel reading:

[Luk 1:34-37 ESV] 34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” 35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy–the Son of God. 36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.”

Scripture reading:
[1Sa 17:38-58 ESV] 38 Then Saul clothed David with his armor. He put a helmet of bronze on his head and clothed him with a coat of mail, 39 and David strapped his sword over his armor. And he tried in vain to go, for he had not tested them. Then David said to Saul, “I cannot go with these, for I have not tested them.” So David put them off. 40 Then he took his staff in his hand and chose five smooth stones from the brook and put them in his shepherd’s pouch. His sling was in his hand, and he approached the Philistine. 41 And the Philistine moved forward and came near to David, with his shield-bearer in front of him. 42 And when the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him, for he was but a youth, ruddy and handsome in appearance. 43 And the Philistine said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. 44 The Philistine said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the beasts of the field.” 45 Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, 47 and that all this assembly may know that the LORD saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the LORD’s, and he will give you into our hand.” 48 When the Philistine arose and came and drew near to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. 49 And David put his hand in his bag and took out a stone and slung it and struck the Philistine on his forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face to the ground. 50 So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and struck the Philistine and killed him. There was no sword in the hand of David. 51 Then David ran and stood over the Philistine and took his sword and drew it out of its sheath and killed him and cut off his head with it. When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled. 52 And the men of Israel and Judah rose with a shout and pursued the Philistines as far as Gath and the gates of Ekron, so that the wounded Philistines fell on the way from Shaaraim as far as Gath and Ekron. 53 And the people of Israel came back from chasing the Philistines, and they plundered their camp. 54 And David took the head of the Philistine and brought it to Jerusalem, but he put his armor in his tent. 55 As soon as Saul saw David go out against the Philistine, he said to Abner, the commander of the army, “Abner, whose son is this youth?” And Abner said, “As your soul lives, O king, I do not know.” 56 And the king said, “Inquire whose son the boy is.” 57 And as soon as David returned from the striking down of the Philistine, Abner took him, and brought him before Saul with the head of the Philistine in his hand. 58 And Saul said to him, “Whose son are you, young man?” And David answered, “I am the son of your servant Jesse the Bethlehemite.”


We come now to the third of three sermons on this chapter with the account of David and Goliath. We saw the “Giant Problem” that Israel had (historically with giants in the land, and spiritually with a lack of faith in God), and we saw that David had enemies in Israel from his own brother Eliab to the King (Saul). And we’ve seen the “Giant Solution” to the Giant Problem. That solution is Faith in God. Here we now find that faith fulfilled in God’s victory in the death of Goliath.

The story is one of the most well-known in the Scriptures, though there are details of it that perhaps are sometimes overlooked. It is therefore valuable that we review the account as God has given it to us in the Scriptures.

In understanding the text myself, I’ve broken into six sections as we look finally David vs. Goliath and the death of Goliath.

There is:

I. The preparation for battle. (v. 38-39)
II. The approach to battle. (v. 40-42)
III. The verbal battle. (v. 43-47)
IV. The physical battle. (v. 48-51)
V. The aftermath (v. 52-54)
VI. The Son of Jesse (v. 55-58)

We’ll look at each of these. Then we’ll look at a couple applications from the text.

I. The preparation for battle. (v. 38-39)

First we have “the preparation for battle.”

There is in the initial preparation a “failure to launch.” But this is in God’s plan. Saul wants David to wear his armor.

In this we have further evidence of Saul’s lack of faith in God. Upon David’s volunteering to fight Goliath, Saul had said “you’re just a youth,” “you stand no chance.”

But after David gave a speech about the Lord having given him success over bears and lions in the protecting of his father’s sheep, Saul relents and says “Go, and the Lord be with you.”

But it is as if Saul didn’t hear the speech at all. David won the victory over lions and bear (there were no tigers in Israel) without any armor. You almost wonder if Saul is wanting David the lose the battle, saddling him with heavy armor that will restrict his movement and fighting ability. And armor hardly matter against a giant like Goliath. A blow from his sword or spear will either go through the armor or, if blocked, simply David knock over.

So David is better without armor. Modern armies have understood this importance as well. It is better to be agile than to be encumbered. Ancient armies sometimes employed this approach as well, with horse archers, men on horseback with bow and arrow making quick strike without getting hit. This too is the best approach in boxing; hit without being hit.

But the point of the text is not so much that “here is a better approach to fighting” but rather that the Lord is on David’s side.

How does David know this? How does know that the Lord is on his side?

I think there are two major reasons.

First, Samuel, the prophet of the Lord, has anointed David to be king. (By the way, David’s brothers seem to know this, but King Saul does not). The anointing gives confidence to David that the Lord has chosen him. And the king is to lead in battle. Unlike Saul, David is going straight into battle FOR the people of Israel. A servant King, not a King to be served.

Then there is a second reason why David knows the Lord is on his side. Experience has told him so. How many people survive battles with multiple bears and multiple lions? The Lord has delivered him from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear. That gives him great confidence in now going to fight Goliath.

Goliath is said to be 9’9” and over 500 lbs plus his armor.

BUT, the Syrian Brown Bear – the species then inhabiting Israel – weighs up to 1,100 lbs. TWICE the size of Goliath.

The Asiatic lions were a MERE 400 lbs — and therefore smaller than Goliath — but surely faster, stronger, and fiercer than any man, however large.

And God has given David victory over these animals. The Lord is on his side. And so he goes into battle with confidence, and without armor.

II. The approach. (v. 40-42)

Then we have the approach to battle.

Goliath comes in full armor with a shield bearer in front of him.

But David takes five smooth stones from the brook, puts them in his shepherd’s pouch, and takes his sling with him.

He’s going for the pinpoint approach. The greatest baseball pitchers have thrown 100 mph. (the record is 105.1 mph) A sling gives an extension of the arm and therefore even greater speed.

And the accuracy of a person trained with a slingshot can be pretty good. David would have had a lot of practice.

There is a Star Wars reference that I must make here. And I have to apologize for Star Wars references, because I don’t really them myself. Sometimes pastors sounds like they are preaching FROM Star Wars or Tolkien or CS Lewis.

But I see a strong parallel here with David and Luke Skywalker. It is a parallel of youth, of confidence, and of accuracy in the important battle.

Luke Skywalker, before going to make a precise shot for the destruction of the Death Star, refers to his youth and the more difficult things that he has already done. “It’s not impossible. I used to bull’s-eye womp rats in my T-sixteen back home. They’re not much bigger than two meters.”

So that’s what David needs against Goliath: a bullseye with his sling. And David says, “I’ve had precise shots on other targets in my youth.”

III. The verbal battle. (v. 43-47)

Now, before the physical battle, there is the verbal battle.
And this reaffirms the idea of the “reproach” that Goliath had; his defying of Israel and Israel’s God.

“He cursed David by his Gods.”

We think often of curse words as just bad words that we shouldn’t say. But curse words are originally just that – curses. They are wishing evil or trying to call down evil upon one’s enemy. So Goliath isn’t a very nice guy. We don’t say “poor Goliath” but rather we’ll say “he had it coming.” He deserved the defeat that he gets.

David doesn’t respond with curses. He responds with declarations; statements of fact. Whereas Goliath had said “I will give your body to the birds of the air and beasts of the field,” David says he will give the bodies of MANY (a host) of Philistines (including Goliath) to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field. If Goliath is confident in himself to have victory over David, David is even more confident in his God to have victory over not only Goliath but over the army of the Philistines.

And the purpose of all of this, David says, is so that “all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel.” This is really the central point in the text. “That all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel” and “that all this assembly may know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear” “for the battle is the Lord’s.”

The Lord can win the battle however he wants. And he decides to do it through David with a single small stone. This is the striking contrast of the story of David and Goliath. A Giant Man killed by a tiny stone. And that is possible — even guaranteed – because behind that tiny stone is an omnipotent God.

IV. The Physical Battle

Following the verbal battle between David and Goliath, we have the physical battle.

It’s what we’ve all been waiting for.

What I love most about this battle is that when Goliath drew near, what did David do? He “ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine.” He ran quickly into battle. That is not a tentative faith; that is a FULL faith in the Lord.

We should learn from that. FULL faith.

We shouldn’t say “I’ll go to church and give this Jesus thing a try, but I can back out if I want to.” No, following Christ is a lifetime commitment. We go in not tentatively, but wholeheartedly.

So David rushes in, grabs ONE stone out of his bag (I don’t know why he carried FIVE!) and slung it and STRUCK the Philistine on his forehead. So forceful was the blow that the stone “sank into his forehead.” That’s no glancing blow. It is a direct hit. Full force. Bullseye.

And the demise, the death of Goliath, was sudden. “He fell on his face to the ground.” If the stone didn’t kill the ground probably did. And if those two blows only stunned him, David finished the job cutting off Goliath’s head with his own sword.

Such was the death of Goliath. Even the mightiest man, by measure of the world’s standards, is quickly dispatched and meets his end when the Lord decides it shall be.

And that’s the last we hear about Goliath. There is only a reference in 2 Samuel and 1 Chronicles to the death of the brother of Goliath. These types of references show how historically true these stories are.

V. The aftermath (v. 52-54)

Well our text that goes on to note the aftermath of the battle, after David has killed Goliath.
What happens?
The Philistines see that their champion is dead.
So they flee.
And the men of Israel and Judah chase them down, killing them for some distance and plundering the camp of the Philistines.

Therefore, David’s statement come true. Not only is Goliath killed, but a host of the Philistines. A considerable number are killed. We don’t have the tally, but it was clearly a victory for Israel. A victory of the Lord.

So David takes two things. Goliath’s head to Jerusalem and Goliath’s armor to his tent.

The head and the amour are “trophies of war” as some call them.

But better understanding is that these are “some enduring reminders of God’s great work.”

These would also satisfy Jesse’s request for some token of the welfare of his sons. Not a token FROM the sons, but something even more assuring, Goliath’s own head! The enemy is defeated, so your sons are safe.

VI. The Son of Jesse (v. 55-58)

There is a final section then in the chapter. After the aftermath.

Saul wants to know who the father of David is.

There was the promise earlier that the house of the father of the one who kills Goliath will be free.

So Saul asks Abner, the commander of his army, “who sons is this youth?” He doesn’t know, but goes and gets David, and David tells Saul “I am the son of your servant Jesse the Bethlehemite.”

There is no record of whether Saul fulfilled the promise of freedom to Jesse’s house.


I. Do not respond to curses with curses.

This clearly isn’t the main thrust of the passage, but it is a smaller point that we should see. When Goliath cursed David and the God of Israel, David did not respond in kind.

That is an important point not only for our language, but our actions as well. Don’t escalate trouble with others. Let the evil die on its own. You don’t need to defend your pride with a response.

As Christians we are often called to suffer. When wrongs are done against you, don’t respond with wrongs against others.

Don’t slight others when you’ve been slighted.
Don’t raise your voice when others raise theirs.
Don’t “get back at people” who have harmed you.
Don’t curse those who curse you.

Ultimately, justice will be the Lord’s. He will set all thing right.

And that’s what we see as the main point of our text: the battle is the Lords.

II. The Battle is the Lord’s

There is an old trick question: who won the French and Indian War? Well, it wasn’t the French and it wasn’t Indians. (not the Indians who sided with the French anyways.) The answer is the British.

So we can ask, granted without a great parallel, who won the battle of David vs. Goliath? Who was the victory. It certainly wasn’t Goliath. But even David is not credited for the win. The battle is the Lord’s and the victory belongs to God.

We have a story, not of man’s great feats, but of the victory of God over evil.
It is not about the great things we can accomplishment, but the great things that God does accomplish.

God is raising up a new king. A man after his own heart. This king, David, has been anointed by Samuel. And now he has killed Goliath setting him up for the promised reward – marriage into the King’s family, and freedom for his father’s house. But there is no evidence of lust for the reward of marriage or freedom; David’s primary motivation is to end the defiance against God and so to bring Glory to God.

And the victory is the Lords. All glory goes to God. He will get glory in the salvation of his people and the justice against evil. Great is the Lord. Amen. Let us pray.