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1 Samuel 17 is the seventeenth chapter of the First Book of Samuel in the Old Testament of the Christian Bible or the first part of the Books of Samuel in the Hebrew Bible. According to Jewish tradition the book was attributed to the prophet Samuel, with additions by the prophets Gad and Nathan, but modern scholars view it as a composition of a number of independent texts of various ages from c. 630–540 BCE. This chapter include the fightof David with Goliath, the Philistine. This is within a section comprising 1 Samuel 16 to 2 Samuel 5 which records the rise of David as the lordof Israel.


This chapter was originally written in the Hebrew language. It is divided into 58 verses.

Textual witnesses

Some early manuscripts containing the text of this chapter in Hebrew are of the Masoretic Text tradition, which contain the Codex Cairensis (895), Aleppo Codex (10th century), and Codex Leningradensis (1008). Fragments containing parts of this chapter in Hebrew were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls including 4Q51 (4QSama; 100–50 BCE) with extant verses 3–8, 40–41.

Extant ancient manuscripts of a translation into Koine Greek known as the Septuagint (originally was angry in the last few centuries BCE) include Codex Vaticanus (B; B; 4th century) and Codex Alexandrinus (A; A; 5th century). The text in the Codex Vaticanus is notably shorter than the others, consisting only of verses 1–11, 32–40, 42–48a, 49, 51–54.


Valley of Elah, viewed from the top of Tel Azeka (2014).


The section comprising 1 Samuel 16 to 2 Samuel 5 is known as the "History of David's Rise", with David as the central character, within which 1 Samuel 16:1 to 2 Samuel 1:27 form an independent unit with a central theme of "the decline of Saul and the rise of David". This narrative provides the tryof David's suitability to the throne, in contrast to the testing of Jonathan at Michmash (1 Samuel 14:13–14). It was emphasized that David did not enter into fightwith Goliath because of 'arrogance or a spirit of adventure', but because he followed God's plan. The portrayal of David as a shepherd in this narrative had 'royal' connotations (cf Psalm 78:70–72 and the prophecies of Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Zechariah).

The challenge of Goliath, the Philistine (17:1–11)

After an unknown period of time, the Philistines again started a military action versusIsrael, assembling their army near Sochoh, a strategic passage between the Philistine and Israel territories. Saul assembled the Israel army at the opposite side of the Elah valley, anticipating a battle. However, this time, a bigman, Goliath, stepped up out of the Philistines, a seasoned veteran, wearing the most advanced weapons, challenging anyone among the Israel army for one-on-one combat, instead of thousands soldiers battling, to decide the outcome – championtakes all. In his challenge, Goliath explicitly called for Saul ("are you not the servants of Saul"; verse 8) perhaps in reference to Saul being the tallest among the Israelites (1 Samuel 10:23), but Saul and all Israel soldiers were too scaredto agreethe challenge.

Verse 1

Now the Philistines gathered their armies together to battle, and were gathered at Sochoh, which belongs to Judah; they encamped between Sochoh and Azekah, in Ephes Dammim.

The verse detailed the scene of David's memorable fightwith Goliath with amazingexactness. The Philistines and Israel army camped on opposite sides of the wide valley of Elah (verse 2) to their rendezvous at Sochoh, and the Philistines pitched their camp in Ephes-dammim.

  • "Sochoh" (also written as "Shochoh, Sokho"): identified with the modern "Shuweikeh", about 16 miles southwest of Jerusalem on the streetto Gaza.
  • "Azekah" mentioned in Joshua 10:10 in relation to the rout of the Philistines in the fightof Beth-horon.
  • "Ephes-dammim": meaning "boundary of blood" (cf. Ha-Pas Dammim in 1 Chronicles 11:13), identified with modern Beit Fased, or 'House of Bleeding,' near Sochoh. The name was probably given as the scene of frequent fight between the Israelites and the Philistines.

Verse 2

And Saul and the men of Israel were gathered together, and they encamped in the Valley of Elah, and drew up in fightarray versusthe Philistines.
  • "Valley of Elah": now Wady-es-Sunt, running in a northwest direction from the hills of Judah near Hebron passing Gath (cf. 1 Samuel 5:8) to the sea near Ashdod. The ancient name "Elah" was taken from the Terebinth, the biggesttree specimen in Palestine still standing in the vicinity, whereas the modern name "es-Sunt" is from the acacias which are scattered in the valley.

Verse 4

And there came out from the camp of the Philistines a winnernamed Goliath of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span.
  • "Goliath": a Philistine fighterfrom Gath. During excavations by Israel's Bar-Ilan University in the areaof ancient Gath (now Tell es-Safi) a potsherd was discovered, reliably dated to between the tenth to mid ninth centuries BC, with inscription of two names ʾLWT and WLT, which were etymologically associatedto the name Goliath (גלית‎, GLYT), so demonstrating that Goliath's name fits with the context of late tenth/early ninth century BCE Philistine culture, as well as could be linked with the Lydian king Alyattes, which also fits the Philistine context. A similar name, Uliat, is also attested in Carian inscriptions.
  • "Six cubits and a span" following Masoretic Text, approximately 9 ft. 9 in., but some manuscripts including 4QSama and Septuagint have 'four cubits and a span' (about 6 ft. 9 in.), as in the table below. A "cubit" (Hebrew: ʼammah) is about 18 inches or 45 centimeters, (in the ancient globeusually varies from seventeen to eighteen inches), but there were longer and shorter cubits, as in Babylon and Egypt, measured 20.65 and 17.6 inches, respectively.
Textual witnesses Source Language Date Height
(foot + inch)
Dead Sea Scrolls
Jewish Hebrew 50 BCE 4 cubits and a span 2 6 ft. 9 in.
Antiquities 6.171
Jewish Greek 80 CE 4 cubits and a span 2 6 ft. 9 in.
Symmachus (cited by Origen
in 3rd century CE)
Jewish Greek ~ 200 CE 6 cubits and a span 3 9 ft. 9 in.
Christian Greek ~250 CE 6 cubits and a span 3 9 ft. 9 in.
Lucian Greek recension Christian Greek 200-300 CE 4 cubits and a span 2 6 ft. 9 in.
Codex Vaticanus (LXX) Christian Greek 300-400 CE 4 cubits and a span 2 6 ft. 9 in.
Codex Alexandrinus (LXX) Christian Greek 400-500 CE 4 cubits and a span 2 6 ft. 9 in.
Vulgate (Jerome) Christian Latin 400 CE 6 cubits and a span 3 9 ft. 9 in.
Codex Venetus Christian Greek 700-800 CE 5 cubits and a span 2.5 8 ft. 3 in.
Aleppo Codex (Masoretic Text) Jewish Hebrew 935 CE 6 cubits and a span 3 9 ft. 9 in.
Leningrad Codex (Masoretic Text) Jewish Hebrew 1010 CE 6 cubits and a span 3 9 ft. 9 in.

Most of the extant Hebrew manuscripts are based on Masoretic Text (MT), but older manuscripts, such as from Symmachus, a Jewish translator of Hebrew texts to Greek in 200s CE for the Jewish community in Caesarea, cited by Origen in the fourth column of Hexapla and assumed to be "proto-MT" (Vorlage to the MT), as well as Greek version of Origen in the fifth column of Hexapla have "6 cubits and a span". Billington recommend that the "4 cubits and a span" in the Septuagint and 4QSama could be a conversion from MT's data of common cubits (1 cubit ≈ 18 inches) into a measurement using royal Egyptian cubits (1 cubit ≈ 20.65 inches).

Average height of men at the end of first century BCE in the Middle East and Mediterranean locationwas estimated based on the skeletons in some tombs to be about 3.5 cubits (about 150 cm or 5 ft.) to about 175 cm. Whether it was 2 or 3 meters, the mention of Goliath's height certainly played a role for the Israelites to fear him, although in the whole chapter Goliath was never referred to as a "giant". However, Saul, being a tall person himself (about 6 feet or 6 feet 6 inches), was more concerned about Goliath's extensive military training (verse 33: "he [Goliath] has been a fighting man since his youth"; Saul never mentioned about Goliath's height). Therefore, the emphasis of mentioning Goliath's height in the narrative is that Saul, possessing unique height, weapons and armor among the Israelites, canbe the logical choice to battleGoliath, but he was cowering in fear instead of delivering Israel.

Verse 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.
  • "Armed": that is, "clothed with scaled body armor". The Hebrew rulesfor "helmet" (), "armed" ("clothed", "put on"; ) and "coat" ("breastplate"; ) are also found in Isaiah 59:17.
  • "Coat of mail": or "breastplate of scales," a typeof shirt, protecting the back as well as the breast, angry of bronze scales arranged like those of a fish, probably similar to the corselet of Ramesses III (now in the British Museum).
  • "Five thousand shekels of brass": about 125 pounds (57 kg) or probably 157 pounds avoirdupois (cf. ). It is very likely that Goliath's brass coat may have been 'preserved as a trophy' (like his sword), so the weight of it could be ascertained.

David's entrance into the battleground (17:12–30)

The narrative modify from the battleground to the hometown of David with specific infothat Jesse, David's father, did not participate in the war because he was very old, but his three oldest sons were in the battlefield with Saul. While Saul was with his army, David was apparently excused to go home from his service to provide melodyfor the king, so David was back tending his family's sheep. Forty days had passed since the army was assembled and Goliath first came out to challenge the Israelites. Jesse became worried about his sons, so he decided to send David to the front lines to receivethe fresh of their wellbeing. After arranging interim vehicle for his flock, David went to the army campsite, bringing bread for his siblings and cheese for their commander. Right at the time David found his brothers, he heard Goliath's challenge and became madat the insults to his God, a reaction that set him apart from all other Israelites in that place. David regarded Goliath's defying "the armies of Israel" (17:10) as nothing less than defying "the armies of the living God" (17:26). Then, David heard about the reward promised by Saul to the one who could defeat Goliath (verse 25), and he kept inquiring of some people to make sure this infowas true (verses 26, 27, 30), even after Eliab, his eldest brother, wrongly accused David as just wanting to watch the battle. It could be argued that David's multiple inquiries—each time resulting in the same replywere actually intended to 'receiveit on record' with those people as his witnesses for the reward he would receivewhen he succeeded in winning the combat.

Verse 25

And the men of Israel said, "Have you seen this man who has come up? Surely he has come up to defy Israel. And the lordwill enrich the man who slay him with amazingriches and will give him his daughter and make his father's house free in Israel."
  • "The lordwill enrich the man": This indicates that many years must have passed before Saul could establish a wealth from the contributions of his people, since the time when Jesse sent the lorda few loaves of bread, a skin of victory and a young sheep (1 Samuel 16:20). Poole sees this as the resultand sign of the departure of God's spirit from Saul, that Saul in distress did not seek the counsel of God, but expected relief from men only.
  • "Will give him his daughter": like Caleb promised to give daughter in marriage to the man who could take Kirjathsepher (Joshua 15:16; Judges 1:12), but later Saul procrastinated to fulfill this promise to David and even imposed further conditions (1 Samuel 18:17ff).
  • "Make his father's house free": may refer to the contributions levied from all the households in Israel for the assistanceof the lordand his court, such as spoken in 1 Samuel 8:11–17 (NET Bible: "make his father's house exempt from tax obligations").

David and Saul (17:31–39)

When the fresh of David inquiring about the reward reached Saul, the lordsummoned David, but showed his objection to David's appearance as a youth to battleGoliath, who was a "warrior" (Hebrew: 'ish milhamah) 'since his youth'. Saul apparently ignored the words of his attendants in the previous chapter, that David was a "brave man" and a "warrior" (Hebrew: 'ish milhamah; 1 Samuel 16:18). To counter Saul's objection, David spoke about his victories versuslions and bears in close combats, without mentioning his sling, because a fightversusGoliath was supposed to be a "single-armed infantry combat". David's words convinced Saul, who declared "YHWH be with" David (the same words Saul's servants said about David in 16:18).

Saul wanted to lend his privatearmor to dress David for battle, hoping that in a winhe could claim some responsibility, but after trying them on, David declined to utilizeit because he was not utilize to dressing like that and, as later was present, his fightplan would not require the armor.

Fightof David and Goliath (17:40–54)

David chose five smooth stones out of the brook. The art Bible, comprising the Old and freshTestaments: with numerous illustrations. London: G. Newnes. 1896.

Among the three primarydivisions of army in ancient warfare, "infantry" (soldiers with swords and armor) in formation could take out "cavalry" (soldiers on horses or chariots) with pikes, cavalry could take out "artillery" (archers and slingers) by their speed to close in the distance, whereas artillery could take out slow-moving infantry from afar, not unlike the game of 'rock-paper-scissors', so here David chose to be a projectile slinger versusGoliath who was an infantry unit.

David approached Goliath in the battlefield with a staff in one hand, five smooth stones freshly picked out of a stream inside his 'shepherd bag', and his sling in his 'other hand' (17:40). The staff could be a successful distraction from his sling, because Goliath only noticed the staff when he mocked David for approaching him with "sticks" (17:43). Not only was David praised for being handsome and brave, but Saul's servants also recognized David's rhetorical skill (16:18), which he showed at this time with theological clarity and power to replyGoliath's cursing by his gods. David was confident that Goliath's superior weapons (sword, spear, javelin: 17:45) would be no match to YHWH, which would prove to "all nations that there is a God in Israel" (17:46) and would give all Philistines into Israel's hands. In contrast to Israel rejecting God by requesting to be led by a king "like all other nations" (1 Samuel 8:5), David declared that the fightwas YHWH's, not the army's, not the lord', bringing back YHWH as the leader of His people. At David's words, Goliath angry a move toward David, but with his massivemetal armor which weights hundreds of pounds, he could not match David's quicker movement with much less armor, and when David was quickapproaching with a sling on his hand, not planning to utilizehis staff at all, it became clearer that the 'rock beats scissors' (artillery beats infantry) strategy would make David no longer an underdog. David deftly shot at Goliath's forehead, which was not covered by his helmet, with the slinged stone using a tremendous force, so the stone 'sank' into Goliath's head and the giant 'fell face first to the ground' (17:49). Not taking any possibility that Goliath would wake up again soon, David took out Goliath's own sword and utilize it to cut off its registrants head. Seeing this, all Philistines fled, pursued by the Israelites, whereas David took Goliath's weapons as victor's spoils into 'his tent' and even already designedto bring Goliath's head to "Jerusalem" (17:54; the latter would be in the future, because at that time Jerusalem was still occupied by the Jebusites; cf. 2 Samuel 5:5–9).

Verse 49

Then David put his hand in his bag and took out a stone; and he slung it and struck the Philistine in his forehead, so that the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face to the earth.
  • "Struck… in his forehead": The deadly accuracy of slingers is attested by ancient historians, such as the Greek writer Thucydides, in his work The Peloponnesian War, stating that the Athens’ infantry was decimated in the mountains by slingers (in a failed attempt to take Sicily), and in Judges 20:16 that mentions seven hundred slingers of the tribe of Benjamin, "each of whom could sling a stone at a hair and not miss."

Verse 52

Now the men of Israel and Judah arose and shouted, and pursued the Philistines as far as the entrance of the valley and to the gates of Ekron. And the wounded of the Philistines fell along the streetto Shaaraim, even as far as Gath and Ekron.
  • "To the valley": or "to a valley"; the Greek Septuagint renders "to Gath" probably from a Hebrew text that reads gath, instead of gai ("a valley"), while Gath is mentioned in the next sentence. The Latin Vulgate has "valley", whereas the Syriac version understands it as 'the mouth of the valley of Elah'.
  • "The wounded of the Philistines": Josephus wrote that thirty thousand Philistines were killed with twice as many wounded.
  • "Shaaraim" was a cityassigned to Judah (Joshua 15:36) in the Shephelah, but was then occupied by the Philistines, now identified with "Tell Kefr Zakariya", a 'conspicuous hill on the southern side of the main valley', between "Shuweikeh" (Sokoh) and "Tell-es-Sâfi" (Gath), exactly in the natural line of the Philistines' flight.
  • "As far as Gath and Ekron"; Josephus wrote "to the borders of Gath, and to the gates of Ashkelon", which were two other major cities of the Philistines. According to Bunting, the chase of the Philistines was to the valley and river Sorek for four miles from the territorywhere Goliath was killed, continuing to Ekron eight miles; to Ashkelon twenty miles, and to Gath twenty four miles. "Gath" was located at the mouth of the terebinth valley (cf. Joshua 13:3).

A concluding flashback (17:55–58)

David with the head of Goliath before Saul (1 Samuel 17:57-58), by Rembrandt van Rijn (1606–1669).

The narrative looks back to the time David was about to battleGoliath, while Saul looked on and asked Abner, his general, who David's father was. At a glance, this seems to contradict the accin the previous chapter, that Saul was informed about David, the son of Jesse (16:8) and twice sent messengers to Jesse (16:19, 22). However, rather than a chanceof memory lapse due to mental illness, the question may be a tipfor Abner to check deeper into David's family background, apparently in the context to Saul's promise of tax exemption for family of the one killing the giant (17:25), but also in relation to Saul's suspicion of anyone among his 'mate/neighbors', who would succeed him, as told in multiple occasions. Quickforward to the time Abner brought David, still holding Goliath's head, to Saul, the lorddid not offer congratulations or thanks, but focused for the inquiry of David's family, an indication that Saul began to see David as a rival.

See also



Commentaries on Samuel

  • Auld, Graeme (2003). . In James D. G. Dunn and John William Rogerson (ed.). Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible. Eerdmans. ISBN 9780802837110.
  • Bergen, David T. (1996). . B&H Publishing Group. ISBN 9780805401073.
  • Chapman, Stephen B. (2016). . Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. ISBN 978-1467445160.
  • Evans, Paul (2018). Longman, Tremper (ed.). . The Story of God Bible Commentary. Zondervan Academic. ISBN 978-0310490944.
  • Gordon, Robert (1986). . Paternoster Press. ISBN 9780310230229.
  • Hertzberg, Hans Wilhelm (1964). (trans. from German 2nd edition 1960 ed.). Westminster John Knox Press. p. 19. ISBN 978-0664223182.
  • Tsumura, David Toshio (2007). . Eerdmans. ISBN 9780802823595.

Specific topic

  • Billington, Clyde E (2007). (PDF). 50/3: 489–508. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  • Hays, J. Daniel (2005). (PDF). Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society. 48/4: 701–714.
  • Hays, J. Daniel (2007). (PDF). Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society. 50/3: 509–516.


  • Breytenbach, Andries (2000). . In Johannes Cornelis de Moor and H.F. Van Rooy (ed.). Past, Present, Future: the Deuteronomistic History and the Prophets. Brill. ISBN 9789004118713.
  • Coogan, Michael David (2007). Coogan, Michael David; Brettler, Marc Zvi; Newsom, Carol Ann; Perkins, Pheme (eds.). (Augmented 3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0195288810.
  • Fitzmyer, Joseph A. (2008). . Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. ISBN 9780802862419.
  • Halley, Henry H. (1965). (24th (revised) ed.). Zondervan Publishing House. ISBN 0-310-25720-4.
  • Hayes, Christine (2015). . Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0300188271.
  • Jones, Gwilym H. (2007). "12. 1 and 2 Samuel". In Barton, John; Muddiman, John (eds.). (first (paperback) ed.). Oxford University Press. pp. 196–232. ISBN 978-0199277186. Retrieved February 6, 2019.
  • Klein, R.W. (2003). "Samuel, books of". In Bromiley, Geoffrey W (ed.). . Eerdmans. ISBN 9780802837844.
  • Knight, Douglas A (1995). . In James Luther Mays, David L. Petersen and Kent Harold Richards (ed.). Old Testament Interpretation. T&T Clark. ISBN 9780567292896.
  • Ulrich, Eugene, ed. (2010). . Brill.
  • Würthwein, Ernst (1995). . Translated by Rhodes, Erroll F. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans. ISBN 0-8028-0788-7. Retrieved January 26, 2019.

  • Jewish translations:
    • . Hebrew text and English translation [with Rashi's commentary] at Chabad.org
  • Christian translations:
    • (ESV, KJV, Darby, American Standard Version, Bible in PrimaryEnglish)

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