Goliath is remembered in history for losing, but until he came up against a slingshot-bearing shepherd boy named David, he had been a lifelong winner, at least a foot taller than most men and an expert armor-wearing swordsman and spear-wielder who had mown down the enemies of his people, the Philistines from the south coast of Canaan, like a chainsaw through soft wood.
Ministers Leslie Boone, James Archie and Taylor Robles say the entire Israelite army had refused to face Goliath when David approached King Saul of the United Monarchy of Israel and Judah and volunteered to fight him.
“David knew he would be victorious not because he was special but because God would take care of him,” said Boone, minister of Andrews Church of Christ. “The contrast was that everyone else was afraid and standing back instead of trusting God to give them the victory.
“David wasn’t a warrior and Goliath was a professional. He was the Philistines’ champion. He had experience and knew he couldn’t be beaten. He was the undefeated champion, so they felt comfortable putting him out there. He was at least 6 foot 9 and I wouldn’t be surprised if he was seven feet tall.”
Boone said David’s knocking Goliath down with a stone from his slingshot and beheading him with his own sword began a series of successes that saw him follow Saul as king and lead Israel to conquer Jerusalem, take the Arc of the Covenant into the city to be the center of worship and beat all of his nation’s enemies.
“When you have a bunch of folks who are 5 feet 5 to 5-7, Goliath is gigantic,” the minister said. “You don’t send a young man out to fight the veteran. You send somebody with the same kind of skills.
“It’s part of David’s back story, explaining how he got where he did. When he was older and his men said, ‘You don’t need to be out there anymore,’ it was probably a hard transition for him to lay that down and stop being involved in it.”
The Rev. Archie, pastor of Freedom Missionary Baptist Church, said the story of David and Goliath in First Samuel 17 “shows me that Goliath was like a problem or an obstacle that no one had been able to solve or defeat.
“Even with the great Hebrew army, no one could come up with a plan to defeat him because they weren’t looking at it in the way they needed to,” Archie said. “It took David to see that God puts power in everyone who believes in him and sees him as who he is. He knew God would make a way out of no way.
“It was not the size of the dog in the fight, it was the size of the fight in the dog.”
Archie said racism, immorality, drug addiction and alcoholism and other dilemmas are all conquerable with faith in God. “Many people deal with these problems in their lives and they haven’t come up with a solution because they are looking in the wrong areas for the answer,” he said.
“If you put your belief and trust in God, who will never leave you or forsake you, you can have the same power that David did. You can throw a stone at a mountain of a man and knock him down so you can go and cut his head off with his own sword. With God you can cut the head off that problem. There is no situation that God will not help you through if you believe in him and put him first.”
Robles, minister of Sherwood Church of Christ, said Goliath “was a bully and an enemy of God.
“The Philistines were opposed to the reign of God and his authority,” Robles said. “They were their own gods. Goliath was a giant among men who had this ego about him, understandably, that he could not be defeated, but David knew he couldn’t miss.
“Summing it up, the story means that we are able to go to the power and presence of God to overcome major trials, major situations and those sorts of things.”
Robles said Saul told David that he could not fight Goliath “because you are young and he has been a warrior since his youth.
“But David said he had been tending his father’s sheep when a lion or bear came and took a lamb from the flock,” he said. “He said, ‘I went after it and attacked it and rescued the lamb from its mouth and when it rose up against me, I seized it by its hair and struck and killed it. I have won the smaller battles, so I know I’m prepared to take care of the bigger battles.’”
Robles said David was in his late teens or early 20s when he killed Goliath and that he was 30 when he became king, starting a 40-year reign. “I see this as a story of smaller victories preparing us for bigger battles and bigger victories,” he said.