The Philistines had gathered their armies together on a mountainside in the land of Judah. They had come to do battle with King Saul and his Israelite warriors who had made their camp on a mountain opposite the invaders. The valley of Elah lay between them.
One morning a champion of the Philistines strode out of their ranks to taunt the Israelites. His name was Goliath and he was a giant of a man. The Bible says that his height was “six cubits and a span” or almost ten feet tall. To protect his head Goliath wore a helmet of brass. Heavy armor shielded his body and legs. And a servant went before him carrying his master’s weighty shield.
Holding a gigantic spear like a weaver’s beam, Goliath cried out to the armies of Israel, “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 … and let him come down to me. If he be able to fight with me, and to kill me, then will we be your servants: but if I … kill him, then shall ye be our servants, and serve us.”
And Goliath added, “I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together.”
When Saul and his armies heard the shouts of the boasting giant, they became afraid. Goliath repeated his challenge to the quaking Israelites every morning and every evening for forty days.
Meanwhile, in Bethlehem-judah there lived an elderly man, Jesse, who had eight sons. Jesse’s three oldest sons, Eliab, Abinadab, and Shammah had gone into battle with King Saul against the Philistines, but their youngest brother, David, stayed at home to tend his father’s sheep.
One day when the armies were still fighting, Jesse called David from the fields and asked him to take an ephah (3/5 bushel) of parched corn and ten loaves of bread to his brothers on the battlefield and to see how they were getting along. David was also to carry ten cheeses to the captain of his brothers’ “thousand.”
As soon as David arrived at the trenches and had greeted his brothers, Goliath came forward to frighten the Israelite armies with his daily taunting. When the giant came close, Saul’s men fled in terror. David was surprised at their lack of courage and asked some retreating soldiers, “Who is this … Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?”
When David asked why everybody seemed to be afraid of the giant, the question was relayed to King Saul who sent for the young shepherd boy. And David said to Saul, “Let no man’s heart fail because of [Goliath; I] will go and fight with this Philistine.”
“Thou art not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him,” said Saul, “for thou art but a youth, and he a man of war from his youth.”
David told Saul he had guarded his father’s sheep well and, with the help of the Lord, he had killed a lion and a bear that had taken one of their lambs. Then the brave youth continued, “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 the Philistine.”
Then Saul said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with thee.”
David was fitted with Saul’s own helmet. A heavy coat of mail was fastened around him and a sword placed in his hand. But David felt awkward wearing the heavy and strange equipment. He took off the armor, returned the sword, and, taking his shepherd’s staff, knelt by a brook. With a prayer in his heart he chose five smooth, water-tumbled stones. Putting the stones in his scrip (small shepherd’s bag) and carrying his sling (slingshot) and staff, David went to meet the giant Goliath.
With his shield bearer walking before him, Goliath marched out ready for battle. However, when he saw the shepherd boy who had come to fight him, he felt insulted and bellowed, “Am I a dog, that thou comest to me with staves?” Then the giant “cursed David by his gods,” and shouted cruelly, “Come to me, and I will give thy flesh unto the fowls of the air, and to the beasts of the field.”
But David was unafraid and answered without flinching, “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, who thou has defied. This day will the Lord deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee … that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel.”
As David ran to meet Goliath, he took a stone out of his bag and set it in his sling. Then with a mighty throw he flung the stone at the giant’s head where it sunk deep into his forehead.
Goliath, stunned by the stone’s blow, staggered for a moment and then crashed to the earth on his face—dead. Moments later David kept his vow and beheaded the giant with Goliath’s own sword. When the Philistines saw that their fallen champion no longer lived, they fled for their lives.