09 January 2010

In the Valley of Elah: Did God help David kill Goliath?

After Samuel cried all night and tore his skirt over Saul's incomplete genocide, he finished the job the next day by hacking Agag to pieces before the Lord.

But God and Samuel were still upset by the whole thing. It broke their little hearts. After all, God told Saul to kill all the Amalekites, and Saul saved one guy alive, along with some animals he planned to sacrifice to God later on. (How would you feel if you told someone to commit genocide and then they went and left one person alive?)

Samuel never saw Saul again (not with his clothes on anyway -- see 1 Samuel 19:24), but he "mourned" for him. And God repented of making Saul king.

And Samuel came no more to see Saul until the day of his death: nevertheless Samuel mourned for Saul: and the LORD repented that he had made Saul king over Israel. 1 Samuel 15:35

So God and Saul found another king, someone who would gladly kill anyone at any time for any reason, a man after God's own heart: David.

I'm going to skip the details about how God and Samuel selected David so I can get on with the story at hand. (But be sure to read the Brick Testament story.) But since the same pair (God and Samuel) that conspired to produce the Amalekite massacre selected David as king, you know it was a good selection!

When Samuel anointed David as king, the Spirit of the Lord came on David and it was with him for the rest of his life. At the same time, of course, the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul and was replaced by an evil spirit from God, as required by the first law of spiritual thermodynamics.

Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him ... and the Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward. ...
But the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD troubled him. 1 Samuel 16:13-14

This dastardly evil spirit from God caused Saul lots of problems. And only one thing seemed to help: David and his harp.

I guess Saul was too busy with God's evil spirit to notice that David had replaced him as king. In any case he seems to have fallen in love with him.

David came to Saul, and stood before him: and he loved him greatly ... And Saul sent to Jesse, saying, Let David, I pray thee, stand before me; for he hath found favour in my sight. And it came to pass, when the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, that David took an harp, and played with his hand: so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him. 1 Samuel 16:19-23

And now we finally get the the story I'm supposed to be telling. The one you already know. David and Goliath.

It begins with a Philistine named Goliath, who was a big guy, even by NBA standards. At 6 cubits and a span, he would have been about 3 meters (nearly 10 feet) tall. His armor weighed 5000 shekels (57.5 kg, 126 lb) and he threw a spear with at iron tip that weighed 600 shekels (6.9 kg, 15 lb).

Goliath had a plan to limit the smiting that was always going on between the Philistines and the Israelites -- a fair fight between two guys: him and whoever the Israelites chose.

David heard about it and volunteered for the job. It might have had something to do with the reward.

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? 1 Samuel 17:26
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. 1 Samuel 17:25

(OK, the verses are out of order, but hey, this is the Bible.)

Then Eliab, David's oldest brother, said that David was just doing it because he had a proud, naughty heart and wanted to get out of watching the sheep.

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. 1 Samuel 17:28

But David ignored Eliab and went to talk to king Saul.

[It's getting a bit confusing, isn't it? In the last chapter David was anointed king by Samuel and then did a harp-playing gig to help get rid of Saul's evil spirit from God. But let's forget about all that (let the believers sort it all out) and get back to the story.]

David finds Saul and offers his services as giant killer but Saul is skeptical. So David tells him a confusing story about how once, while tending sheep, he killed a lion (and a bear?) with his bare hands. God helped him kill the lion (and the bear?); he'll do the same with the 10 foot giant.

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: 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. 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. 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. 1 Samuel 17:34-37

So Saul gives David the job, putting his own sword, helmet, and coat of mail on him. But David wasn't used to it, so he decided to go with just his staff, a sling, and five stones instead.

As he was leaving, Saul said to his captain Abner, "Who's son is that boy?"

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. And the king said, Enquire thou whose son the stripling is. 1 Samuel 17:55-56

(In the previous chapter, Saul sent a messenger to tell Jesse to send his son David, David came and played his harp for Saul to get rid of God's evil spirit, and Saul "loved him greatly" for it. Yet now he doesn't even know who David is.)

So David goes off and confronts Goliath, after making a little speech.

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. 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. 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. 1 Samuel 17:45-47

And you know the rest of the story: David killed Goliath, cut off his head and brought it to Jerusalem.

(There is a completely different Bible story about Goliath's death, but I'm going to ignore that for now. 2 Samuel 21:19 says that Elhanan killed Goliath.)

The question I have is this: does God deserve credit for this killing?

David said that God would deliver Goliath into his hand, but maybe he was wrong about that. What do you think? Should I include this in God's killings?


skanksta said...

I think you need to be clearer about what happened to the other Philistines, Steve.

Jonathan obviously believed he had some sort of god on his side, but all believers think that. Jonathan might have won the battle anyway and just attributed it to a god -as believers do. If all the philistines were 'delivered' as predicted, it would add weight of circumstantial evidence to the Yahweh helping theory.

If not, I say not enough evidence for Yahweh being involved...

Steve Wells said...

I agree, skanksta (although I'm not sure what you mean about the other Philistines). It isn't clear enough, to me anyway, that God was directly involved -- even though David claimed that he was. That's why I didn't include it in the original list.

But I think it is a close one and I'm interested in what others might think. That's why I'm asking.

busterggi said...

I think anyone that brings a sword to a gunfight is at a serious disadvantage & that's what Goliath supposedly did.

Of course another part of the bible says someone else killed Goliath so maybe he got better after David killed him.

skanksta said...

What I meant by 'what happened to the other Philistines?' is...

the (pleasant) bit where Samuel says,
"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. 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." 1 Samuel 17:45-47

Where the hosts of the philistines REALLY given to the fowls of the air as carcasses ?

If so, then I think Yahweh get the nod for Goliath AND the other philistines (1,000?), because Sam's god did what he predicted exactly and it makes it too much of a coincidence.
If not, then it's just a believer attributing random events to the will of his god.

Matthew Blanchette said...

"If not, then it's just a believer attributing random events to the will of his god."

...and we all know that's never happened before. ;-)

Also, Steve, I liked your "first law of spiritual thermodynamics"; it applies science to the absurdities of the Bible to show how ridiculous they are. Nice turn of phrase.

Steve Wells said...

I think I'll just call this a "God approved killing" and move on.

Ritchie Annand said...

Apologists say that 1 Chronicles 20:5 sorts out the Goliath/brother of Goliath thing.

It seems fair enough. Doesn't make the story any nicer, but it seems fair enough.

Ritchie Annand said...

Buster - No, the text is reasonable:

"And there was war again with the Philistines; and Elhanan the son of Jair slew Lahmi the brother of Goliath the Gittite, whose spear staff was like a weaver's beam."

What it DOES mean, though, from what I have read, is that the KJV corrected an error in the original text. That was also noted in one of the sites that I found the explanation.

Steve even has the note in the SAB (http://skepticsannotatedbible.com/2sam/21.html#19):

(The editors of the King James Version added the words "the brother of" to avoid the obvious contradiction. This is shown by the italics in the KJV.)

...but now I'm giving away parts of his future posts :)

busterggi said...

Yes, Ritchie, the KJV translators sure knew more than the folks that wrote the original versions!

I like the RKJV where David calls in an airstrike against the Philistines. The origianl writers left that out too.

skanksta said...

An error in the original text !?


Hurry up with the 'moving on' Steve - I'm getting dwindlinginunbelief
withdrawal pretty bad...