The Foil in the Story of David and Goliath
David killed Goliath around 1023-1018 B.C. at the age of 19 years old, which was often consider too young for war. The Philistine invasion of Saul’s army forced David’s brother to go off to fight in Saul’s army. This crisis was important for giving David the opportunity to put his heroic and godly character which equipped him so well for leadership in Israel (Smith 219). His confirmation with Goliath was David’s first step to the throne to which Yahweh had resolved and elevates him (Smith 219). Unlike Saul, David proves to be a king who trusts and follows Yahweh’s authority and power fully.
The narrative in 1 Samuel 17 seems to indicate that the writer intended the narrative to function as a story. Though this is a story, it should not be seen any less than a report or account. This story of David defeating Goliath helps carry the historical narrative along, helping the reader see the story in the larger context. This form of narrative is seen also in the in the larger context of Samuel as we observe other key tales concerning the exploits of David.
We can see the flow of 1 Samuel 17 by observing the key movements in the narrative and how it contributes to the overall story. First, we can see in the beginning verses that God was guiding and preparing David for a challenge that would define his leadership capabilities for the rest of his life. This began first when the Philistines and Israelites line up for battle and taunted Saul’s army. No one was willing to go up against Goliath. David then traveled to the camp to bring his brother’s provisions requested from his father Jesse. The next section of the narrative one can observe is the middle section of the narrative. In this section of the narrative David becomes interested in the offer to defeat Goliath and decides that he would fight Goliath. David advances with only a stick, some stones, and a sling. Goliath then scoffs at David when he approaches him. David responds to Goliath by praising God. This leads us to the conclusion of the narrative and the answer to who will win the battle. In this climax of the story David kills Goliath with his sling and chops off his head. This is followed by the resolution as the Israelites defeat the Philistines and loot their camp and David takes Goliath’s head and weapons. The epagoge concludes with David meeting Saul.
As we observe the text we can see the narrative of 1 Samuel 17 has a bit of descriptive, dramatic, and an element of commentary throughout the text. The combination of these elements helps develop the story and character of David. All throughout the author is very descriptive about the background of the narrative and characters. For instance, this is clearly observed by how the narrator explains Goliath appearance in verses 4-7. He shows the amazing fleet that David would have in trying to defeat Goliath. This is just one of many examples seen throughout the text that provides a vivid description of the characters and setting. Next, we can see how the text is dramatic by observing the climax of the narrative when Goliath is being defeated. Verse 49 tells us that David, “Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell face down on the ground.” This dramatic telling of David’s moment of victory is more than just description, but rather also a dramatic telling of his victory when the “stone sank into his forehead” leading to Goliaths death. The use of dramatic writing is used throughout this narrative and assistances in bring the story to life for the reader. Finally, commentary also is used throughout 1 Samuel 17 to give clarity to different elements of the story and comments on the significance of the character’s action in this narrative. In the narrative of 1 Samuel 17 as the author gives information to help the reader better understand the situation that David was in. The author describes in 1 Samuel 17:38 how David was unpreparedness for war when they write, “David fastened on his sword over the tunic and tired walking around, because he was not used to them.” This bit of information helps the reader better understand how much David had to rely on God for this victory or he surly would die.
As for characterization, David is clearly the protagonist, while Goliath serves as the antagonist. David portrays the idea of the hero who steps out by faith to fight the enemy who is threatening Samuel and the Israelite army. Goliath is described as standing nine feet and nine inches tall, wearing armor that is said to weigh over 125 pounds. He also carried a spear that weighed 15 pounds. Appearing challenge and move the Israelite army not only once but 40 days in a row until David arrived on the final day (17:16). David was the last hope for the Israelite army, the only way David was going to defeat Goliath was through the power and help of Yahweh.
Serving as a literary foil, Goliath provided striking contrast with David as a faithful and dedicated follower of Yahweh. This is probably the case because David had experienced the power of Yahweh in his own life and knew that the Lord could turn weakness into power. As David was as a Shepard, David was able to kill a lion and bear to protect his sheep. He knew that this was only done through the power of Lord. Thus, he could believe that the Lord could deliver him out of the hand of Goliath and ultimately receive victory in the name of the Lord. This was very different then Goliath as the antagonist who did not believe in God as David did and was there to taunt and destroy the Israel army. In addition, he also was an uncircumcised Philistine who blatantly blasphemed the name of God of Israel. David’s response to Goliath arrogant speech was that of total disgust. Rather than be afraid and retreat, he took the challenge to defeat Goliath to glorify the Lord.
Another foil seen in this narrative is the foil between David and Saul. Saul could not understand the power of God like David did, so in his human nature advised David to wear his armor in battle so that he would be protected from Goliath. Little did he know this was not needed in this battle, but rather the power of Yahweh. Saul didn’t have the faith to believe that God could do bring David out of this great battled, so he suggested the typical method of warfare, which during this time was armor. This shows the little faith Saul had in God to use David to defeat Goliath in battle. This same type of foil can also be observed in the narrative when David’s oldest brother Eliab spoke to David in verses 28 to 30. Eilab had become angry when he heard that David was interested about Saul’s offer and he ridiculed him saying, ““Why have you come down here? And with whom did you leave those few sheep in the wilderness? I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is; you came down only to watch the battle” (28-30). Eliab just as Saul did not see the greater power that David had because of his sincere faith in God, which God would use to defeat the giant and rout the Philistine army.
Some other key literary elements are seen throughout chapter 17. One of the key elements we can see throughout the chapter is the use of irony. First we see the fact that the text tells us that David is the youngest in his family (14), and not even old enough to be in the army, and yet will be the man who will take down Goliath. Also, even though David’s brothers are soldiers in the army (15), David the shepherd was the one who defeated Goliath. Even the weapon that David used to kill Goliath was a shepherd’s weapon. When in contrast Goliath wore a coat of armor that weighed 125 pounds and carried a spear fitted for battled that weighed 15 pounds. Despite all the odds, David defeats Goliath and claims that it is the Lords victory. These enormous examples of irony in 1 Samuel 17give the characters and the overall plot rich meaning and giving the full credit to the Lord. Irony is also a form of repetition throughout chapter 17 as seen from the examples above. Other themes that are established though repetition is the importance of seeking God for direction and being willing to have obedience even in the midst of adversity.
With all this understanding we can see how this story fits in the bigger picture of the redemption of man through Jesus Christ. It is only though the power and trust in Jesus can we are saved and delivered from our sins. Just as David trusted in God in the time of doubt we must also trust in God in times where we feel hopeless. God wants to us his people to magnify His name to all the nation of the earth. What David did was recorded and told around the world and brought the Lord great honor and praise. David made it clear that his real power was in the name of the Lord, the name that Goliath and the Philistines have mocked and rebuked. David has this savior like mentality of saving the Israelite army can be seen more fully in the coming of Jesus as he defeats death and sin to save the world from their sin and iniquities.
God did not need to use swords to defeat Goliath and deliver the Israelite army from the opposing army. The lord used David to accomplish His purposes, and it was through David’s faithfulness that God would use him in mighty ways. This is something that the church can apply to each believer’s life. From the text we can learn that God can use his believers despite how unprepared or unequipped we may think we are. Also, we must remember to drawl near to God each and every day so that we may trust Him fully even in the most difficult times of lives. A believer must realize that no matter what may come our way God will use us to glorify Him even in the hardest, most daunting, and scary situations we will face in our life.
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