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1Sa 17:1-3. THE ISRAELITES AND PHILISTINES BEING READY TO BATTLE.
1. the Philistines gathered together their armies--twenty-seven years
after their overthrow at Michmash. Having now recovered their spirits
and strength, they sought an opportunity of wiping out the infamy of
that national disaster, as well as to regain their lost ascendency over
2. valley of Elah--that is, "the Terebinth," now Wady Er-Sumt [ROBINSON]. Another valley somewhat to the north, now called Wady Beit Hanina, has been fixed on by the tradition of ages.
1Sa 17:4-11. GOLIATH CHALLENGES A COMBAT.
4-11. a champion--Hebrew, a "man between two"; that is, a person who, on the part of his own people, undertook to determine the national quarrel by engaging in single combat with a chosen warrior in the hostile army.
5. helmet of brass--The Philistine helmet had the appearance of a
row of feathers set in a tiara, or metal band, to which were attached
scales of the same material, for the defense of the neck and the sides
of the face [OSBORN].
6. greaves of brass--boots, terminating at the ankle, made in one
plate of metal, but round to the shape of the leg, and often lined with
felt or sponge. They were useful in guarding the legs, not only against
the spikes of the enemy, but in making way among thorns and briers.
7. staff of his spear--rather under five feet long, and capable of
being used as a javelin
It had an iron head.
8-11. I defy the armies of Israel . . .; give me a man, that we may fight together--In cases of single combat, a warrior used to go out in front of his party, and advancing towards the opposite ranks, challenge someone to fight with him. If his formidable appearance, or great reputation for physical strength and heroism, deterred any from accepting the challenge, he used to parade himself within hearing of the enemy's lines, specify in a loud, boastful, bravado style, defying them, and pouring out torrents of abuse and insolence to provoke their resentment.
1Sa 17:12-58. DAVID ACCEPTS THE CHALLENGE, AND SLAYS HIM.
17. Take now for thy brethren an ephah of this parched corn, and these ten loaves--In those times campaigns seldom lasted above a few days at a time. The soldiers were volunteers or militia, who were supplied with provisions from time to time by their friends at home.
18. carry these ten cheeses to the captain--to enlist his kind
attention. Oriental cheeses are very small; and although they are
frequently made of so soft a consistence as to resemble curds, those
which David carried seem to have been fully formed, pressed, and
sufficiently dried to admit of their being carried.
20. David left the sheep with a keeper--This is the only instance in
which the hired shepherd is distinguished from the master or one of his
34-36. a lion, and a bear--There were two different rencontres, for those animals prowl alone. The bear must have been a Syrian bear, which is believed to be a distinct species, or perhaps a variety, of the brown bear. The beard applies to the lion alone. Those feats seem to have been performed with no weapons more effective than the rude staves and stones of the field, or his shepherd's crook.
37. The Lord that delivered me--It would have been natural for a
youth, and especially an Oriental youth, to make a parade of his
gallantry. But David's piety sank all consideration of his own prowess
and ascribed the success of those achievements to the divine aid, which
he felt assured would not be withheld from him in a cause which so
intimately concerned the safety and honor of His people.
38, 39. Saul armed David with his armour--The ancient Hebrews were particularly attentive to the personal safety of their warriors, and hence Saul equipped the youthful champion with his own defensive accoutrements, which would be of the best style. It is probable that Saul's coat of mail, or corslet, was a loose shirt, otherwise it could not have fitted both a stripling and a man of the colossal stature of the king.
42-47. the Philistine said . . . said David to the Philistine--When the two champions met, they generally made each of them a speech, and sometimes recited some verses, filled with allusions and epithets of the most opprobrious kind, hurling contempt and defiance at one another. This kind of abusive dialogue is common among the Arab combatants still. David's speech, however, presents a striking contrast to the usual strain of these invectives. It was full of pious trust, and to God he ascribed all the glory of the triumph he anticipated.
49. smote the Philistine in his forehead--At the opening for the eyes--that was the only exposed part of his body.
51. cut off his head--not as an evidence of the giant's death, for his slaughter had been effected in presence of the whole army, but as a trophy to be borne to Saul. The heads of slain enemies are always regarded in the East as the most welcome tokens of victory.
52. Shaaraim--(See Jos 15:36).
55-58. Saul . . . said unto Abner . . . whose son is this youth?--A young man is more spoken of in many Eastern countries by his father's name than his own. The growth of the beard, and other changes on a now full-grown youth, prevented the king from recognizing his former favorite minstrel [1Sa 16:23].