Page images
PDF
EPUB

DAVID AND GOLIATH.

(1 SAMUEL XVII.) DAVID, “the man after God's own heart,” and “ the sweet psalmist of Israel,” was the youngest son of Jesse, and the great-grandson of Boaz and Ruth. His early days were spent in the rural occupation of a shepherd. Thus, indeed, was he employed when Samuel the prophet came to Bethlehem, by the Divine command, to anoint one of the sons of Jesse king over Israel in the room of Saul, who had disobeyed the commands of Jehovah.

The shepherd with his crook appears a very unlikely person to be chosen to wield a sceptre. But the Almighty seeth not as man seeth, nor worketh as man worketh. In the psalmist's own words, which are the fruits of his experience

He raiseth up the poor out of the dust,
And lifteth the needy out of the dunghill ;
That he may set him with princes,
Even with the princes of his people.

Psa. cxiii. 7, 8.

Eliab, the eldest son of Jesse, stood before the prophet, and observing his noble bearing, Samuel exclaimed, “Surely the Lord's anointed is before him.” He was soon undeceived. The Spirit of inspiration taught him that God looks not on the countenance or the stature of a man, but on the heart. So Eliab was rejected, and Jesse causing six other warlike sons to pass before the prophet, they were rejected likewise. Apparently perplexed, the prophet inquired whether these were all the sons of Jesse. Being informed that the youngest was with the sheep, he sent for him, and when the youth appeared, at the command of God, Samuel took the horn of oil, and poured it upon his head in the sight of all his brethren.

After this act, significant of his future greatness, David returned to the plains of Bethlehem to tend his father's sheep, and to sing the high praises of his God, as he swept the chords of the life-cheering harp, according to his usual wont. But David did not long continue in retirement. Those inveterate foes of Israel, the Philistines, invaded his country, and Saul collected his forces and marched against them. The two armies encamped over against each other on the sides of opposite hills, leaving the valley of Elah, signifying an oak, or terebinth tree, between them.* While they thus lay, a Philistine of great stature, named Goliath, marched out morning and evening for forty days, into the plain that divided their forces, demanding a champion to combat with him, on condition that the nation to whom the vanquished belonged should become tributary to that of the victor.

Goliath did not readily find any Israelite to accept his challenge. The appearance of this mighty warrior filled the hosts of Israel with consternation. Not one dared to measure his prowess with that of the giant, though Saul promised riches and honours, and even his own daughter in marriage, to the man who should successfully combat with him.

How well calculated the giant was to excite terror, may be seen from the sacred historian's description of his appearance. His height was six cubits and a span, or nearly ten feet; he had an helmet of brass upon his head; he was armed with a coat of mail, the weight of which was five thousand shekels of brass, (about one hundred and sixty pounds weight;) he had greaves of brass upon his legs; he had a target of brass between his shoulders; the staff of his spearf was like a weaver's beam; and the head of his spear weighed six hundred shekels, or about twenty pounds. Thus formidable in height, and armed at all points, he seemed invincible to the hosts of Israel, and no one ventured to accept his challenge.

Thus matters stood when David arrived in the camp with provisions for his warrior brothers. While talking with them, Goliath came forth, as was his wont, on his errand of defiance, and a thrill of fear ran through the hosts of Israel. The heart of the youthful shepherd alone was unmoved. Hearing both Israel and his God insulted, his zeal was enkindled, and he expressed his willingness to meet the daring foe, and was brought before the monarch to obtain his approbation. Saul at first rejected this offer, telling him that he was but a youth, while the Philistine was a man of war from his youth. But David knew in whom he

* Sandys, who says that he passed through this valley four miles from Ramah, on the road from Jerusalem to Joppa, thus describes it :-“ After four miles' riding, we descended into the valley of Terebinth, famous, though little, for the slaughter of Goliath. A bridge here crossed the torrent, near which are the ruins of an ancient monastery, more worthy the observing for the greatness of the stones than fineness of the workmanship."

† For a description of the various parts of armour and arms here mentioned, the reader is referred to “ Eastern Arts and Antiquities,” published by the Religious Tract Society.

DAVID AND GOLIATH.

66

trusted. In order, therefore, to remove the monarch's objection, he related, with touching simplicity, the circumstance of his having slain a lion and a bear, which at two different times had taken a lamb out of the flock; he added, with emphasis, 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.”

Such a noble display of trust in God seems to have given the monarch of Israel an assurance that his youthful champion would prove victorious, and he gave his consent. Saul, moreover, caused his own armour to be put upon the hero, and girded him with his own sword. With these David assayed to meet the Philistine, but being unaccustomed to the cumbrous load, he put them off, and went down into the valley dressed in the habit of an oriental shepherd, and armed only with a sling and stone.

Michael Angelo, in his painting of David and Goliath, has dressed the former in a Greek panoply, while the giant is represented without armour, and with naked limbs, thus opposing the sacred text. In the accompanying engraving, David is represented in the blue tunic of a youthful shepherd, similar to that worn by the Bedouins.

At length David stood before the giant as he drew near, in all the pride of strength and pomp of war, again to give his haughty challenge. As he approached, the Philistine warrior, supposing him far too contemptible for contest, sneeringly asked, whether he imagined him a dog, that he should come forth to meet him thus. Then waxing wroth, and cursing him by his gods, he bade him approach, and he would give him to the fowls of the air, and the beasts of the field. Undaunted by his threats and fierce appearance, the stripling hero replied in strains expressive of his confidence in God. He then took a stone from his scrip, slung it with all his might and skill: God directed it, and it smote the giant in the forehead, through the opening of his helmet, so that the stone sank into his forehead, and his ponderous form fell prone upon the earth.

“ The gorgeous panoply, the glittering sword,

Served but to decorate the mighty dead,
And in the dust their vanity record ;-

The instructive scene, by hosts assembled read,
Still throws its splendours o'er the sacred page,
To teach proud man ambition's heritage."

« PreviousContinue »