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them.* While they thus lay, a Philistine of great stature, named Goliath, marched out morning and evening for forty days, into the plain that divided their forces, demanding a champion to combat with him, on condition that the nation to whom the vanquished belonged should become tributary to that of the victor.
Goliath did not readily find any Israelite to accept his challenge. The appearance of this mighty warrior filled the hosts of Israel with consternation. Not one dared to measure his prowess with that of the giant, though Saul promised riches and honours, and even his own daughter in marriage, to the man who should successfully combat with him.
How well calculated the giant was to excite terror, may be seen from the sacred historian's description of his appearance. His height was six cubits and a span, or nearly ten feet; he had an helmet of brass upon his head; he was armed with a coat of mail, the weight of which was five thousand shekels of brass, (about one hundred and sixty pounds weight;) he had greaves of brass upon his legs; he had a target of brass between his shoulders; the staff of his spearf was like a weaver's beam; and the head of his spear weighed six hundred shekels, or about twenty pounds. Thus formidable in height, and armed at all points, he seemed invincible to the hosts of Israel, and no one ventured to accept his challenge.
Thus matters stood when David arrived in the camp with provisions for his warrior brothers. While talking with them, Goliath came forth, as was his wont, on his errand of defiance, and a thrill of fear ran through the hosts of Israel. The heart of the youthful shepherd alone was unmoved. Hearing both Israel and his God insulted, his zeal was enkindled, and he expressed his willingness to meet the daring foe, and was brought before the monarch to obtain his approbation. Saul at first rejected this offer, telling him that he was but a youth, while the Philistine was a man of war from his youth. But David knew in whom he trusted. In order, therefore, to remove the monarch's objection, he related, with touching simplicity, the circumstance of his having slain a lion and a bear, which at two different times had taken a lamb out of the flock; he added, with emphasis, " 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."
* Sandys, who says that he passed through this valley four miles from Ramah, on the road from Jerusalem to Joppa, thus describes it:—" After four miles' riding, we descended into the valley of Terebinth, famous, though little, for the slaughter of Goliath. A bridge here crossed the torrent, near which are the ruins of an ancient monastery, more worthy the observing for the greatness of the stones than fineness of the workmanship."
f For a description of the various parts of armour and arms here mentioned, the reader is referred to " Eastern Arts and Antiquities," published by the Religious Tract Society.
Such a noble display of trust in God seems to have given the monarch of Israel an assurance that his youthful champion would prove victorious, and he gave his consent. Saul, moreover, caused his own armour to be put upon the hero, and girded him with his own sword. With these David assayed to meet the Philistine, but being unaccustomed to the cumbrous load, he put them off, and went down into the valley dressed in the habit of an oriental shepherd, and armed only with a sling and stone.
Michael Angelo, in his painting of David and Goliath, has dressed the former in a Greek panoply, while the giant is represented without armour, and with naked limbs, thus opposing the sacred text. In the accompanying engraving, David is represented in the blue tunic of a youthful shepherd, similar to that worn by the Bedouins.
At length David stood before the giant as he drew near, in all the pride of strength and pomp of war, again to give his haughty challenge. As he approached, the Philistine warrior, supposing him far too contemptible for contest, sneeringly asked, whether he imagined him a dog, that he should come forth to meet him thus. Then waxing wroth, and cursing him by his gods, he bade him approach, and he would give him to the fowls of the air, and the beasts of the field. Undaunted by his threats and fierce appearance, the stripling hero replied in strains expressive of his confidence in God. He then took a stone from his scrip, slung it with all his might and skill: God directed it, and it smote the giant in the forehead, through the opening of his helmet, so that the stone sank into his forehead, and his ponderous form fell prone upon the earth.
"The gorgeous panoply, the glittering sword,
Served but to decorate the mighty dead,
The instructive scene, by hosts assembled read,
Through this victory David became connected with the court of Saul, and by a series of events, in which the hand of God is clearly traced, he at length ascended the throne of Israel.
He chose David also his servant,
And took him from the sheepfolds:
From following the ewes great with young
He brought him to feed Jacob his people,
And Israel his inheritance.
So he fed them according to the integrity of his heart;
And guided them by the skilfulness of his hands.
Psa. lxxviii. 70—72.
So marvellous and gracious are the ways of Providence! Truly God worketh his pleasure in the armies of heaven, and among the sons of men, and none can say unto him, "What doest thou?"
The history of the contest between David and Goliath unfolds to man a Divine Providence in human events, and is calculated to make him confess that human might, wisdom, and contrivance, are nothing, when God is determined to level the haughty, and to exalt the meek of the earth. It is true that the ancients were very skilful in the use of the sling, and it is probable that David had practised the art; but it was the Almighty that nerved his arm, and directed the stone to the only vulnerable place in the giant's well-accoutred form. The bravery of David had failed to serve the cause of Israel, had not his God crowned his efforts with success. The stripling hero, in all his movements, showed that he was well acquainted with this truth, and it is pleasing to observe in the narrative, that his thoughts were constantly directed upwards for a blessing. So should the Christian act as he passes through the world, assailed by a foe more formidable than Goliath, a foe who is ever challenging him to the unequal combat, and against whom he must fight, ever depending on the aid of the Captain of his salvation. And he should be incited to vigilance from a consideration of the magnitude of the interests he has at stake. David fought for the salvation of his country; but he fights for the salvation of his immortal soul: that salvation which his great Captain purchased for him with his own precious blood. If he falls, therefore, oh, what a fall will he endure! Let him remember this, and adopt the wise resolve of the psalmist:—
I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills
Psa. cxxi. 1.