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John Wesley's Explanatory Notes
on the Whole Bible

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Chapter 17

Chapter Overview

Goliath challenges the armies of Israel, verse 1-11.
David coming into the camp, hears his challenge, verse 12-27.
Eliab chides David, whose words are related to Saul, verse 28-31.
David undertakes to fight Goliath, verse 32-37.
He rejects Saul's armour, and goes with his sling, verse 38-40.
He attacks and slays Goliath, verse 41-51.
The Israelites pursue the Philistines, verse 52-53.
David returns: the notice taken of him by Saul, verse 54-58.

Verse 1
Gathered, &c. - 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.

Verse 4
Six cubits - At least, nine feet, nine inches high. And this is not strange; for besides the giants mentioned in Scripture, Herodotus, Diodorus Siculus, and Pliny, make mention of persons seven cubits high.

Verse 5
Coat of mail - Made of brass plates laid over one another, like the scales of a fish. The weight, &c. - The common shekel contained a fourth part of an ounce; and so five thousand shekels made one thousand two hundred and fifty ounces, or seventy-eight pounds: which weight is not unsuitable to a man of such vast strength as his height speaks him to be.

Verse 6
Greaves - Boots.

Verse 7
Beam - On which the weavers fasten their web. It was like this for thickness. And though the whole weight of Goliath's armour may seem prodigious; yet it is not so much by far as one Athanatus did manage: of whom Pliny relates, That he saw him come into the theatre with arms weighing twelve thousand ounces. A shield - Probably for state: for he that was clad in brass, little needed a shield.

Verse 8
Come down - That the battle may be decided by us two alone.

Verse 11
Afraid - This may seem strange, considering the glorious promises, and their late experience of divine assistance. And where was Jonathan, who in the last war had so bravely engaged an whole army of the Philistines? Doubtless he did not feel himself so stirred up of God as he did at that time. As the best, so the bravest of men, are no more than what God makes them. Jonathan must sit still now, because this honour is reserved for David.

Verse 12
Old man - Therefore he went not himself to the camp.

Verse 15
Went - From Saul's court: where having relieved Saul, he was permitted to go to his father's house, to be sent for again upon occasion.

Verse 18
Pledge - That is, bring me some token of their welfare.

Verse 19
Fighting - That is, in a posture and readiness to fight with them; as it is explained, verse 20,21.

Verse 20
Went, &c. - Jesse little thought of sending his son to the camp, just at that critical juncture. But the wise God orders the time and all the circumstances of affairs, so as to serve the designs of his own glory.

Verse 24
Fled - One Philistine could never have thus put ten thousand Israelites to flight, unless their rock, being forsaken by them, had justly sold them and shut them up.

Verse 25
Free - Free from all those tributes and charges which either the court or the camp required.

Verse 28
Naughtiness - Thy false-confidence, and vain gloried curiosity. See the folly and wickedness of envy! How groundless its jealousies are, how unjust its censures, how unfair it representations? God preserve us from such a spirit!

Verse 29
A cause - Of my thus speaking? Is this giant invincible? Is our God unable to oppose him, and subdue him? However David is not deterred from his undertaking, by the hard words of Eliab. They that undertake public services must not think it strange, if they be opposed by those from whom they had reason to expect assistance, but must humbly go on with their work, in the face, not only of their enemies threats, but of their friends slights, suspicions, and censures.

Verse 30
He tarried - For being secretly moved by God's spirit to undertake the combat. He speaks with divers persons about it, that it might come to the king's ear.

Verse 32
Let no man's heart, &c. - It would have reflected upon his prince to say, Let not thy heart fail: therefore he speaks in general terms, Let no man's heart fail. A little shepherd, come but this morning from keeping sheep, has more courage than all the mighty men of Israel! Thus doth God often do great things for his people by the weak things of the world.

Verse 33
A youth - Not above 20 years old; and a novice, a raw and unexperienced soldier. V.37. The Lord, &c. - The lion and the bear were only enemies to me and my sheep, and it was in defence of them I attacked them. But this Philistine is an enemy to my God and his people, and it is for their honour that I attack him.

Verse 38
Armour - With armour taken out of his armoury. He seems to speak of some military vestments which were then used in war, and were contrived for defence; such as buff-coats are now.

Verse 39
Proved them - I have no skill or experience in the managements of this kind of arms.

Verse 40
Staff - His shepherd's staff. These arms in themselves were contemptible, yet chosen by David; because he had no skill to use other arms; because he had inward assurance of the victory, even by these weapons; and because such a conquest would be more honourable to God, and most shameful, and discouraging to the Philistines.

Verse 41
Drew near - Probably a signal was made, that his challenge was accepted.

Verse 42
Fair - Not having so much as the countenance of a martial person.

Verse 43
Dog - Dost thou think to beat me as easily as thou wouldst thy dog?

Verse 46
A God - Heb. that God, the only true God, is for Israel; or on Israel's side, and against you. Or, that Israel hath a God, a God indeed, one who is able to help them; and not such an impotent idol as you serve.

Verse 47
Saveth - That is, that he can save without these arms, and with the most contemptible weapons. The battle - That is, the events of war are wholly in his power. He will - David speaks thus confidently, because he was assured of it by a particular inspiration.

Verse 48
Drew nigh - Like a stalking mountain. Ran - So far was he from fear!

Verse 49
Forehead - Probably the proud giant had lift up that part of his helmet which covered his fore-head; in contempt of David and his weapons, and by the singular direction of providence.

Verse 51
David took - 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. The stone threw him down to the earth, and bereaved him of sense and motion; but there remained some life in him, which the sword took away, and so compleated the work. God is greatly glorified, when his proud enemies are cut off with their own sword.

Verse 55
Whose son - David had been some considerable time dismissed from Saul's court, and was returned home. And therefore it is not strange, if Saul for the present had forgot David. Besides the distemper of Saul's mind might make him forgetful; and that David might be now much changed, both in his countenance and in his habit. I cannot tell - Abner's 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.


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.

Bibliography Information
Wesley, John. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 17". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes
on the Whole Bible". <http://classic.studylight.org/com/wen/view.cgi?book=1sa&chapter=017>. 1765.  

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