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Q&A: 1 Samuel 17

Questions and Answers on 1 Samuel 17

Bruce Stanley

July 4, 2022


Here are some brief answers to our questions from our Sunday evening service. If you would like to discuss more, please call me or email at bruces@stphils.org.au.

Why does David point out that Goliath is uncircumcised? (Verse 26)

The note of Goliath being uncircumcised is basically pointing out that he is not an Israelite. He is not one of God's people. Circumcision was a sign for Israel.

Saul knew David (verse 32) but in verse 58, he asked David who he was. Please explain.

Saul only met David in verse 32. In verse 58 he is seeking to know from which family line he has come.

Was Goliath a real person? Was he really that tall?

There is no reason to think that he is not. Scholarship has often wavered on things like this. Was he real of fictional? Was he really a giant? Was it just an expression of how big he was? (Like saying he was the size of a tank). Was Goliath actually his name? Or was it a reference name - not his actual name? We don't need to get too fixated on his actual height, but there is certainly evidence that there were giant people in civilisations of the past. However, we do trust that he was a real person, and this was a real battle. I do note that some scholarship reports I've read on this who doubted Goliath ever existed, also doubt King David existed! That does not offer them much credibility in my opinion.

Why were David's brothers so mean to him?

Like many Bible families of note in the Bible, (for example Joseph and his brothers, Jacob and Esau) God often chooses the youngest of the children and not the oldest who was traditionally the future leader of the clan. In most cases, the Bible tells us that they were angry and resentful that their younger brother might be chosen over them for an important role. Hence Joseph's brothers try to sell him as a slave!

Do you think there’s a deliberate parallel between the back end of this chapter (David wins battle, Israelites chase) and ch 7(God wins, Israelites chase)?

Yes, this is a usual battle tactic in the ancient near east. Chase down the enemy until they are all dead - but in Israel's case, it is always God who wins the battle. Even David recognises that God had given him victory over Goliath. But yes, there is a pattern here of God always being the one who gives victory.

God commands not to murder. Why should we celebrate David killing someone?

Yes, the commandments say "Do not murder". But killing is not always murder. God calls on Israel to destroy other evil nations. They have been marked by God as evil and disobedient, and the Israelites killing them is part of God's judgment. It was very clear when God gave direct instructions. Unfortunately, people have often throughout history claimed to have killed in the name of God, but what they have done is really murder. John Dickson's recent book "Bullies and Saints" is a great read on this aspect of Holy War. Or the article posted in last week's Q&A is also helpful.

Why do you think they hung around for 40 days to have a surrogate war? I'd have thought they'd get sick of waiting, and just start lobbing arrows.

40 years or 40 days was an often-quoted length of time. It really is symbolic of "a very long time". The Israelites were 40 years in the desert. Jesus was 40 days in the wilderness being tempted. Often it refers to a time of wandering - or treading water (to mix metaphors with the desert image!) I would say the 40 days reference actually means the Israelites had no idea what to do. They were just standing there, waiting, with no plan and no way forward. Saul as King had failed.

In verse 26, David thought Goliath insulted the army of Living God, putting the human fight between Israel and Philistines into a spiritual level. Right?

Yes - this is much more than just a physical battle. The story keeps giving us hints that this is more than just two men fighting. This battle symbolises a much greater battle. This is Israel's battle against every enemy and continues to show their lack of trust in God. David fought their greatest enemy with the strength of God. He points forward to Jesus who fought the greatest battle against our greatest enemies on the cross - sin, the devil, and death. This is a battle of God's kingdom against the kingdoms of the world.

Do you have any comments on the recent roe VS wade (abortion) ruling?

I would encourage Christians to really think about what this issue actually means in the United States. Understanding how their government works is key to understanding this recent matter. Many have misunderstood what this is about. But on the ethics of abortion alone, I would suggest we consider the next teaching series on ethics from the book of Titus (over the next 3 weeks). I hope that this series will help us think about this matter Biblically.

How can we distinguish a human fight from a spiritual fight when looking at the fights in the present world?

There is a spiritual dimension to everything we do. We can't separate our spiritual and physical beings and we cannot separate the spiritual realm from the physical realm. God has made us both spiritually and physically as human beings. in other words, everything we do has a spiritual aspect. But that doesn't change too much in the way we deal with the world. We will look at the book of Daniel in term 3 which opens up this issue further. Daniel shows us that God is always fighting for us in the spiritual and physical realms, but it also shows us that he is already the champion of these battles because of Jesus' victory on the cross over sin, death and Satan.

Every day we battle the world spiritually as we seek to keep Jesus as Lord and King - that involves a lot of physical battles each day. The physical battle people have each day against things like greed, envy, pride, pornography, selfishness, power - these are all spiritual battles against God being Lord of our lives.

Click here to watch the questions answered during our live Q&A after the sermon at night church last Sunday.

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