The Elah Valley
This is one of the most famous Bible stories, and it has thrilled countless Sunday School children; but it is not a children’s fairy tale. It is the true story of a young man who was zealous for the living God and who, by faith, overcame a giant warrior with a slingshot. It is not just an interesting children’s story; it is a challenge for God’s people of every age to win victories over the devil by exercising faith.
The valley of Elah is east of Gath and west of Bethlehem. The Israelis camped on the north hill and the Philistines camped on the south hill. Goliath walked out into the valley to challenge Israel. The brook where David got the five stones was near the north hill, so David picked up the stones as he was walking out into the valley to meet Goliath.
For an illustrated study of this place and event, see Bible Times and Ancient Kingdoms, PowerPoint 11 “David and His Palace.”
He was about 9.5 feet high (one cubit was about 18 inches) (1 Sa. 17:4).
He was protected by armor. He had a brass helmet, brass greaves that covered the lower parts of his legs, a brass shield that covered his upper back, a long spear with a 15 pound tip, and a coat of mail (made of brass plates arranged like the scales of a fish) that weighed about 125 pounds. A shield bearer walked before him to protect him from arrows.
The issue at stake (1 Sa. 17:10)
The giant defied the armies of Israel and cursed them in the name of his false gods (1 Sa. 17:43). It was God’s name and testimony that was at stake.
The young man
David was not a child. He was old enough to wear Saul’s armor (1 Sa. 17:38), though he decided not to use it. David was made a general over the army immediately after this (1 Sa. 18:5). Earlier Saul’s men had called David “a mighty valiant man, and a man of war” (1 Sa. 16:18).
David’s eldest brother envied him (1 Sa. 17:28). Jesus said that oftentimes a prophet has no honor among his own people (Mark 6:2-6). Abel was hated by his brother Cain because of his love of God and his prophesying. Joseph had the same problem with his brothers (Ge. 37:5-11).
David was wise in the face of his brother’s envy and his false accusations (1 Sa. 17:26-30). He did not get angry at him; he did not argue with him; he simply stated his view and continued with his work for the Lord. Sometimes we should answer false accusations, and sometimes we should ignore them. For example, Paul answered the accusations of the false teachers before the church at Corinth (2 Co. 11:5 - 12:13). We must seek wisdom from the Lord for each situation (Pr. 3:5-6).
David was zealous for the name of the Lord and for His glory (1 Sa. 17:31, 45-47). This was his motivation in the battle and this is what gave him the victory. David knew that God would be known and glorified by this event.
David had already fought battles and had proven himself in the Lord’s work. He had shown that he knew how to walk by faith (1 Sa. 17:37). Before we can run spiritually, we must learn to walk. There must be spiritual growth (1 Pe. 2:2; 1 Jo. 2:13).
David walked with God in private, and he was exalted to a great public ministry.
David refused to trust the arm of the flesh (1 Sa. 17:38-39). Compare 2 Corinthians 10:4.
The giant was proud and boastful and trusted in himself and in his false gods, the chief of which was Dagon (1 Sa. 17:42-44). Compare Ps. 135:15-18; Pr. 16:18; Jer. 17:5.
David trusted only in the true and living God and boasted only in God (1 Sa. 17:45-47).
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