King James Bible
with Catholic Commentary by George Leo Haydock

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1 Samuel 17

Goliath’s challenge. (1-11) David comes to the camp. (12-30) David undertakes to fight Goliath. (31-39) and goes to meet him. (40-47) He kills Goliath. (48-58)

1 Samuel 17 Audio:

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Goliath’s challenge

1 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.

2 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.

3 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.

4 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.

5 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.

6 And he had greaves of brass upon his legs, and a target of brass between his shoulders.

7 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.

8 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.

9 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.

10 And the Philistine said, I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together.

11 When Saul and all Israel heard those words of the Philistine, they were dismayed, and greatly afraid.

David comes to the camp

12 Now David was the son of that Ephrathite of Bethlehemjudah, whose name was Jesse; and he had eight sons: and the man went among men for an old man in the days of Saul.

13 And the three eldest sons of Jesse went and followed Saul to the battle: and the names of his three sons that went to the battle were Eliab the firstborn, and next unto him Abinadab, and the third Shammah.

14 And David was the youngest: and the three eldest followed Saul.

15 But David went and returned from Saul to feed his father’s sheep at Bethlehem.

16 And the Philistine drew near morning and evening, and presented himself forty days.

17 And Jesse said unto David his son, Take now for thy brethren an ephah of this parched corn, and these ten loaves, and run to the camp of thy brethren;

18 And carry these ten cheeses unto the captain of their thousand, and look how thy brethren fare, and take their pledge.

19 Now Saul, and they, and all the men of Israel, were in the valley of Elah, fighting with the Philistines.

20 And David rose up early in the morning, and left the sheep with a keeper, and took, and went, as Jesse had commanded him; and he came to the trench, as the host was going forth to the fight, and shouted for the battle.

21 For Israel and the Philistines had put the battle in array, army against army.

22 And David left his carriage in the hand of the keeper of the carriage, and ran into the army, and came and saluted his brethren.

23 And as he talked with them, behold, there came up the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name, out of the armies of the Philistines, and spake according to the same words: and David heard them.

24 And all the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him, and were sore afraid.

25 And the men of Israel said, Have ye seen this man that is come up? surely to defy Israel is he come up: and it shall be, that the man who killeth him, the king will enrich him with great riches, and will give him his daughter, and make his father’s house free in Israel.

26 And David spake to the men that stood by him, saying, What shall be done to the man that killeth this Philistine, and taketh away the reproach from Israel? for who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?

27 And the people answered him after this manner, saying, So shall it be done to the man that killeth him.

28 And Eliab his eldest brother heard when he spake unto the men; and Eliab’s anger was kindled against David, and he said, Why camest thou down hither? and with whom hast thou left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know thy pride, and the naughtiness of thine heart; for thou art come down that thou mightest see the battle.

29 And David said, What have I now done? Is there not a cause?

30 And he turned from him toward another, and spake after the same manner: and the people answered him again after the former manner.

David undertakes to fight Goliath

31 And when the words were heard which David spake, they rehearsed them before Saul: and he sent for him.

32 And David said to Saul, Let no man’s heart fail because of him; thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine.

33 And Saul said to David, Thou art not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him: for thou art but a youth, and he a man of war from his youth.

34 And David said unto Saul, Thy servant kept his father’s sheep, and there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock:

35 And I went out after him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth: and when he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and smote him, and slew him.

36 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.

37 David said moreover, The LORD that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine. And Saul said unto David, Go, and the LORD be with thee.

38 And Saul armed David with his armour, and he put an helmet of brass upon his head; also he armed him with a coat of mail.

39 And David girded his sword upon his armour, and he assayed to go; for he had not proved it. And David said unto Saul, I cannot go with these; for I have not proved them. And David put them off him.

and goes to meet him

40 And he took his staff in his hand, and chose him five smooth stones out of the brook, and put them in a shepherd’s bag which he had, even in a scrip; and his sling was in his hand: and he drew near to the Philistine.

41 And the Philistine came on and drew near unto David; and the man that bare the shield went before him.

42 And when the Philistine looked about, and saw David, he disdained him: for he was but a youth, and ruddy, and of a fair countenance.

43 And the Philistine said unto David, Am I a dog, that thou comest to me with staves? And the Philistine cursed David by his gods.

44 And the Philistine said to David, Come to me, and I will give thy flesh unto the fowls of the air, and to the beasts of the field.

45 Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied.

46 This day will the LORD deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcases of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls 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 all this assembly shall know that the LORD saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the LORD’s, and he will give you into our hands.

He kills Goliath

48 And it came to pass, when the Philistine arose, and came, and drew nigh to meet David, that David hastened, and ran toward the army to meet the Philistine.

49 And David put his hand in his bag, and took thence a stone, and slang it, and smote the Philistine in his forehead, that the stone sunk into his forehead; and he fell upon his face to the earth.

50 So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and smote the Philistine, and slew him; but there was no sword in the hand of David.

51 Therefore David ran, and stood upon the Philistine, and took his sword, and drew it out of the sheath thereof, and slew him, and cut off his head therewith. And when the Philistines saw their champion was dead, they fled.

52 And the men of Israel and of Judah arose, and shouted, and pursued the Philistines, until thou come to the valley, and to the gates of Ekron. And the wounded of the Philistines fell down by the way to Shaaraim, even unto Gath, and unto Ekron.

53 And the children of Israel returned from chasing after the Philistines, and they spoiled their tents.

54 And David took the head of the Philistine, and brought it to Jerusalem; but he put his armour in his tent.

55 And when Saul saw David go forth against the Philistine, he said unto Abner, the captain of the host, Abner, whose son is this youth? And Abner said, As thy soul liveth, O king, I cannot tell.

56 And the king said, Enquire thou whose son the stripling is.

57 And as David returned from the slaughter 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 art thou, thou young man? And David answered, I am the son of thy servant Jesse the Bethlehemite.

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G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 1. Battle. They perhaps had heard of Saul’s malady, (Salien) and bore a constant hatred to the Israelites during his reign. C. xiv. 52. — Azeca, about 15 miles south of Jerusalem. — Dommim, or Phesdommim, 1 Par. xi. 13.

Ver. 2. Terebinth. Heb. ela, “the oak.” Aquila.

Ver. 3. Valley of the Terebinth, which S. Jerom seems to call Magala, v. 20.

Ver. 4. Base-born. Heb. “of two sons,” or of obscure origin. A. Lapide. — His parents are no where specified, as Arapha is not, as some pretend, the name of his mother, but denotes that he was of the race of the Raphaim. 2 K. xxi. 16. Some translate, a man who challenges to fight a duel, or one who comes into the midst as “a champion,” to decide the cause of all the rest. Thus the Gaul defied the most valiant of the Romans, but was slain by M. Torquatus, Livy vii. Sept. “A strong man went out from the station,” &c. Chal. “There came out from them, out of the camp of the Philistines, a man named Goliath.” But many able interpreters adhere to the Vulg. — Span, about 12½ feet, so that he was taller than two common men. Those who call in question the existence of giants, will surely have nothing to object to this formal proof from Scripture. C. — The Vat. Sept. and Josephus read, however, “four cubits and a span,” or near eight feet. Ken. — Some reduce his height to 11 feet 3 inches, or even to 9 feet 9 inches, English. H. — His helmet weighed 15 pounds, avoirdupois; his collar, or buckler, about 30; the head of his spear (26 feet long) weighed about 38 pounds; his sword 4; his greaves on his legs 30; and his coat of mail 156: total, 273 pounds. Button. H. — Goliath was a figure of the devil, or of any arch-heretic, who provoketh the Church of God, but is slain by the humble with his own weapons. W.

Ver. 5. Scales, like those of fishes. Sept. insinuate, that it was armed with things resembling fish-hooks; alisidonton, hamata.Brass, which was used for the armour of the ancients. Plutarch (in Demetrio) speaks of a coat of mail weighing forty pounds: the usual weight was twenty pounds. Lipsius. — The strength of the giant must have borne proportion with his size. C.

Ver. 6. Legs, on the forepart, from the knee to the ankle. Vegetius observes, that the infantry wore such greaves of iron, only on one leg. C. — Shoulders, when he marched. M. — Some understand a dart, &c. but without any proof. C.

Ver. 7. Beam, which was of a very different construction from ours. Hostius concludes, that all the armour of Goliath must have weighed 272 pounds and 13 ounces, including the buckler and spear which his armour-bearer carried before him. Plutarch allows a talent, or 60 pounds, for the usual weight of a soldier’s armour. Alcimus was remarked in the army of Demetrius, for having double that weight. — Bearer. Heb. “one bearing a shield,” or whose office it was to carry it, or any other part of the armour, when required. It would appear singular that the giant should have two bucklers, though David seems to specify two sorts. Ps. xxxiv. 2. This attendant might carry a large one, which would cover most part of the body, and was of service when a person had not to remove far from his place of battle. The buckler of Ajax was like a tower, and consisted of seven hides, covered with a plate of brass. Homer, Iliad Z. C.

Ver. 8. Out; exulting. Eccli. xlvii. 5. M. — Servants; I am free. H. — Hand. Such combats were very common in ancient times. Paris and Menelaus, Hector and Ajax. The Horatii and Curiatii fought to decide the fate of contending nations. Iliad g, and H. — Livy i. 23. C.

Ver. 9. Us. It does not appear that this proposal was accepted or ratified by either party. The Israelites had still to pursue the enemy. E.

Ver. 12. Now, &c. to v. 32. And when, is omitted in the Vatican Sept. which begins the latter verse thus, “And David said,” as the Alex. copy does now the 12th, which leads Kennicott to suspect that the intermediate verses are an interpolation, formerly unknown to the Greek version. Houbigant includes these verses between crotchets, “that it may be understood that these are not of the same author as the rest, and that the sacred writer may not be accused of making useless repetitions.” It has been observed in the last chapter, that David was the son of Isai, &c. “If, says he, this be omitted, there will be no vacuum in the context,” as there is none in the Roman edition: (11) “they were greatly afraid. (32.) And David said to Saul,” &c. As he had been appointed Saul’s armour-bearer, it was very natural to suppose that he would be near the king’s person on such an occasion, rather than feeding sheep. We find also, that he had a tent of his own, (v. 54) which he could not have had, if he had only come to bring provisions to his brethren. The unaccountable conduct of Eliab, the timidity of all Israel for forty days, &c. will thus be avoided. Josephus is supposed to have given occasion to this embellishment, though he takes no notice of many of those particulars which excite the surprise of Pilkington, Kennicott, &c. Dis. ii. p. 421. These verses were, however, in the Heb. before the days of Aquila, &c. and Origen received them from the Jews as genuine. A Hebrew Bible, (1661) with marginal criticisms, by a Jew, includes these verses within parentheses, as interpolated, as well as from v. 55 to C. xviii. 6, observing that “the history consists at present of different and inconsistent accounts.” The Syriac MS. of Masius generally confirms the Vatican Sept. (Morin) so that we conclude, that these verses are there asterisked on the authority of Origen, as not being in the original Greek, nor consequently in Hebrew. ib. p. 575. — Mentioned. Heb. “Juda, whose name…and the man went among men, an old man in the days of Saul.” We have already observed that the Alex. Sept. seems to promise a speech, but defers till v. 32, thus, “And David said, the son of an Ephrathite. He was from,” &c. H. — Men. Chal. “He was an old man, whom they ranked among the young,” as still vigorous. Jam senior, sed cruda seni viridisque senectus. C.

Ver. 13. Battle. In these wars, all attended as much as possible. C. xvi. 10.

Ver. 15. Bethlehem, the king being relieved from his malady. “The greatest men formerly kept sheep.” Ex antiquis illustrissimus quisque pastor erat. Varro ii. 1. In this profession, David found many opportunities of signalizing his courage against wild beasts. C.

Ver. 17. Loaves. The soldiers at that time, and perhaps always among the Hebrews, lived at their own expense, as the tribute which was paid to the king was not sufficient to support large armies, v. 25. C. — S. Paul insinuates, however, that soldiers were paid. 1 Cor. ix. 7. H.

Ver. 18. Cheeses. Heb. “of milk.” Sept. “pieces of soft cheese:” erts is no where else used to denote cheese. This was a present (C.) for (Heb.) “the Chiliarch.” — Placed, who is their immediate officer. H. — Heb. “how they are mixed:” their company. Sept. &c. “what they stand in need of.” Sym. “Thou shalt receive their pay.” Syr. and Arab. “what news.” Others would translate, “their pledge,” or bill of divorce to their wives, that, in case they be made prisoners for three years, the latter may be allowed to marry. Trad. Heb. C.

Ver. 19. Fighting, or ready to engage. H.

Ver. 20. Magala signifies, “the circle, or chariots.” The Arabs still place their waggons and baggage round the camp, or in a circle. C. — It may also be a proper name. M.

Ver. 22. Brethren. This inquiry seems rather unseasonable, when all were shouting for battle. Ken.

Ver. 23. Up, or proceeding into the vale. M. — Camp. Heb. “ranks, or armies.”

Ver. 24. Exceedingly, though they had now heard him twice a-day for so long a time, (Ken.) and came purposely to engage him and all the Philistine army. Perhaps he proceeded farther than usual. H.

Ver. 25. Tribute, and all public charges, which may be burdensome. C. — It does not appear that these words are addressed to any one in particular, nor that the king had authorized such a declaration. H. — Yet the people all persisted in the same declaration, so that a promise must have been made. M. — It was never at least fulfilled. H. — Christ having overcome the devil, receives the Church for his spouse. W.

Ver. 28. Battle. This speech is too insulting, even though David might seem to have given vent to the sentiments of his soul with too much ardour; particularly as Eliab knew that he had received the royal unction, (C.) if that were not kept a secret from him. C. xvi. 13.

Ver. 29. Sepak. Lit. “is it not a word” (H.) of no farther consequences? May I not speak my sentiments? (C.) as all others do. M. — Is not the thing enough to excite the indignation even of the coldest person, to hear this monster insulting God’s armies? The repeated inquiries of David, made people conclude that he was ready to fight the giant, (H.) though as yet he had made no such proposal, whence it seems more improbable that his words would be reported to the king. Kennicott. — Prot. “Is there not a cause?” H. — Have I not an order from my father to come? M.

Ver. 32. Saul. Lit. “to him.” But Heb. and Sept. have, “And David said to Saul,” which makes the connection between this and v. 11, more clear. H. — In him, or on account of Goliath. M.

Ver. 33. Boy, compared with the giant, (H.) or Saul, though David might be about 22 years old, (Salien) or near 30. T. — S. Aug. and Theodoret say only 14 or 16. M. — He had not yet been in the wars. C.

Ver. 35. Them. He refers to two events, shewing his fortitude (C.) and generous disposition, which rendered him fit for command, as he was not afraid to expose his life to protect his charge. H. — The pastoral care is an apprenticeship for the throne to him who is designed to be at the head of the mild flock of men, as hunting with dogs conducts to martial exploits. Philo in Vita Mosis. — He who has overcome the spirit of pride and of carnal pleasures, signified by the lion and the bear, is able also to gain a victory over the devil. W.

Ver. 36. I will…Philistine. This is not in Heb. or the Sept. and it is marked as an addition in the ancient MSS. C. — Single combats, to prevent the spilling of more blood, may sometimes be authorized by public authority. Grotius.

Ver. 39. Armour. Heb. “he tried to go.” Sym. “he went lame.” Sept. “he laboured in walking once and twice.” C. — Salien supposes that the armour was not made for Saul, as he was much more bulky than young David. Yet we find that the latter could use the sword of the giant without difficulty. S. Chrys. &c. H.

Ver. 40. Smooth. Louis de Dieu translates broken “pieces of stones,” as he pretends, contrary to the common opinion, that rough stones are more suitable for the sling. C. — The learned Jew, whom we have cited above, (v. 12,) and several others, have inferred from this verse, that David seems to have just come from the flock. But Kennicott justly observes, that slingers were of great service in the army; and the “vessel of shepherds,” the bag or scrip, might well be used to obtain the stones; as the staff, makel, denotes a military weapon. (Taylor, Conc.) Diss. ii. p. 555. David was very expert in using these weapons, and the ordinary armour was encumbering to him. H. — “Valour depends more on its own efforts than on armour,” tegumentis. S. Amb. Off. i.

Ver. 43. Gods. Dagon or Baalim. M. — Sept. Alex. has, “idols.” The beauty and accoutrements of David, made the rough warrior suppose that he was not coming to fight, but only to laugh at him and run away. H.

Ver. 44. Earth. The heroes of modern days refrain from such compliments. Homer frequently describes his champions making long speeches in praise of their former exploits. David displays his piety and confidence in God. C.

Ver. 47. Battle, whose armies thou hast defied, (v. 45. H.) or in general, He is the God of war, who grants victory to whom He pleases. C.

Ver. 48. Arose. The Roman Triarii and the Gauls expected the hour of battle sitting. C.

Ver. 49. Forehead. “The soul…more probably resides in the callous body of the brain,” (Eyre, Thesis 1797,) between the eyes. H. — Earth, quite lifeless, (Salien) or unable to resist. M. — The Balearic slingers scarcely ever missed their mark. Livy, viii. 4. The Chaldee supposes that David hit the eye, which was not covered with brass: but the stone might penetrate or kill Goliath through his helmet. Even a buckler is not capable of withstanding their violence. Diodorus, v. 207. See Judg. xx. 16. C. — Pride sits on the forehead, and manifests itself by impudent behaviour. We must destroy it by humility, and by the cross of Christ. S. Aug. W.

Ver. 54. Tent, or tabernacle of the Lord, which David erected in his honour, at Jerusalem, many years afterwards. Jun. Piscator, &c. The lower part of Jerusalem was already in the hands of the Israelites. He might place the armour for the present in the tent of his brethren. We find that the sword was deposited in the tabernacle, at Nobe. C. See v. 12. H. — The head was carried about to various cities. It would serve to strike terror into the Jebusites, at Jerusalem, and others. M. — The Vat. Sept. &c. immediately subjoin, C. xviii. 6. Now, &c. Lit. “And the women dancing, came to meet David.” H. — These three last verses occur only in the Alex. MS. though Theodoret (q. 43,) seems to have read them. In some other Greek copies, there is a long addition respecting David’s combat. See the New Hexapla. These verses are found, however, in Heb. Chal. &c. It is astonishing that Saul should not have known David. He was now more interested to be acquainted with his family, as he had engaged to give him his daughter in marriage. We must reflect that his malady might have impaired his memory, and David was still growing, so that a few months absence might produce a wonderful alteration, &c. C. — Know not. Lit. “if I know.” The different dress, in which David now appeared, gave rise to this ignorance. M. — Abner was not surely affected with the same malady as the king, who was obliged to ask David who was his father. But courtiers easily forget those from whom they have no expectations. H. — These strange proceedings make others conclude that this history is interpolated. Kennicott. — Huet maintains the contrary. D. — Saul only enquires about David’s parentage. Mariana. T.