Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
1. the Philistines gathered together their armies--twenty-seven years
after their overthrow at Michmash. Having now recovered their spirits
and strength, they sought an opportunity of wiping out the infamy of
that national disaster, as well as to regain their lost ascendency over
Shocoh--now Shuweikeh, a town in the western plains of Judah
nine Roman miles from Eleutheropolis, toward Jerusalem
Azekah--a small place in the neighborhood.
"the portion" or "effusion of blood," situated between the other
2. valley of Elah--that is, "the Terebinth," now Wady Er-Sumt
Another valley somewhat to the north, now called Wady Beit
Hanina, has been fixed on by the tradition of ages.
4-11. a champion--Hebrew, a "man between two"; that is, a
person who, on the part of his own people, undertook to determine the
national quarrel by engaging in single combat with a chosen warrior in
the hostile army.
5. helmet of brass--The Philistine helmet had the appearance of a
row of feathers set in a tiara, or metal band, to which were attached
scales of the same material, for the defense of the neck and the sides
of the face [OSBORN].
a coat of mail--a kind of corslet, quilted with leather or plates of
metal, reaching only to the chest, and supported by shoulder straps,
leaving the shoulders and arms at full liberty.
6. greaves of brass--boots, terminating at the ankle, made in one
plate of metal, but round to the shape of the leg, and often lined with
felt or sponge. They were useful in guarding the legs, not only against
the spikes of the enemy, but in making way among thorns and briers.
a target of brass--a circular frame, carried at the back, suspended
by a long belt which crossed the breast from the shoulders to the
7. staff of his spear--rather under five feet long, and capable of
being used as a javelin
It had an iron head.
one bearing a shield--In consequence of their great size and weight,
the Oriental warrior had a trusty and skilful friend, whose office it
was to bear the large shield behind which he avoided the missile
weapons of the enemy. He was covered, cap-a-pie, with defensive armor,
while he had only two offensive weapons--a sword by his side and a
spear in his hand.
8-11. I defy the armies of Israel . . .; give me a man, that we may
fight together--In cases of single combat, a warrior used to go out
in front of his party, and advancing towards the opposite ranks,
challenge someone to fight with him. If his formidable appearance, or
great reputation for physical strength and heroism, deterred any from
accepting the challenge, he used to parade himself within hearing of
the enemy's lines, specify in a loud, boastful, bravado style, defying
them, and pouring out torrents of abuse and insolence to provoke their
17. Take now for thy brethren an ephah of this parched corn, and these
ten loaves--In those times campaigns seldom lasted above a few days
at a time. The soldiers were volunteers or militia, who were supplied
with provisions from time to time by their friends at home.
18. carry these ten cheeses to the captain--to enlist his kind
attention. Oriental cheeses are very small; and although they are
frequently made of so soft a consistence as to resemble curds, those
which David carried seem to have been fully formed, pressed, and
sufficiently dried to admit of their being carried.
take their pledge--Tokens of the soldiers' health and safety were
sent home in the convenient form of a lock of their hair, or piece of
their nail, or such like.
20. David left the sheep with a keeper--This is the only instance in
which the hired shepherd is distinguished from the master or one of his
trench--some feeble attempt at a rampart. It appears (see Margin)
to have been formed by a line of carts or chariots, which, from the
earliest times, was the practice of nomad people.
22. left his carriage in the hand of the keeper of the carriage--to
make his way to the standard of Judah.
25. make his father's house free in Israel--His family should be
exempted from the impositions and services to which the general body of
the Israelites were subjected.
34-36. a lion, and a bear--There were two different rencontres, for
those animals prowl alone. The bear must have been a Syrian bear, which
is believed to be a distinct species, or perhaps a variety, of the
brown bear. The beard applies to the lion alone. Those feats seem to
have been performed with no weapons more effective than the rude staves
and stones of the field, or his shepherd's crook.
37. The Lord that delivered me--It would have been natural for a
youth, and especially an Oriental youth, to make a parade of his
gallantry. But David's piety sank all consideration of his own prowess
and ascribed the success of those achievements to the divine aid, which
he felt assured would not be withheld from him in a cause which so
intimately concerned the safety and honor of His people.
Saul said unto David, Go, and the Lord be with thee--The pious language
of the modest but valiant youth impressed the monarch's heart. He felt
that it indicated the true military confidence for Israel, and,
therefore, made up his mind, without any demur, to sanction a combat on
which the fate of his kingdom depended, and with a champion supporting
his interests apparently so unequal to the task.
38, 39. Saul armed David with his armour--The ancient Hebrews were
particularly attentive to the personal safety of their warriors, and
hence Saul equipped the youthful champion with his own defensive
accoutrements, which would be of the best style. It is probable that
Saul's coat of mail, or corslet, was a loose shirt, otherwise it could
not have fitted both a stripling and a man of the colossal stature of
bag--or scrip for containing his daily food.
sling--The sling consisted of a double rope with a thong, probably of
leather, to receive the stone. The slinger held a second stone in his
left hand. David chose five stones, as a reserve, in case the first
should fail. Shepherds in the East carry a sling and stones still, for
the purpose of driving away, or killing, the enemies that prowl about
42-47. the Philistine said . . . said David to the Philistine--When
the two champions met, they generally made each of them a speech, and
sometimes recited some verses, filled with allusions and epithets of
the most opprobrious kind, hurling contempt and defiance at one
another. This kind of abusive dialogue is common among the Arab
combatants still. David's speech, however, presents a striking contrast
to the usual strain of these invectives. It was full of pious trust,
and to God he ascribed all the glory of the triumph he anticipated.
49. smote the Philistine in his forehead--At the opening for the
eyes--that was the only exposed part of his body.
51. cut off his head--not as an evidence of the giant's death, for
his slaughter had been effected in presence of the whole army, but as a
trophy to be borne to Saul. The heads of slain enemies are always
regarded in the East as the most welcome tokens of victory.
54. tent--the sacred tabernacle. David dedicated the sword of Goliath
as a votive offering to the Lord.
55-58. Saul . . . said unto Abner . . . whose son is this youth?--A
young man is more spoken of in many Eastern countries by his father's
name than his own. The growth of the beard, and other changes on a now
full-grown youth, prevented the king from recognizing his former