By Kerwin Holmes, Jr.
Fight the fight that no one else wants to fight, and you will soon find yourself standing alone.
So, Israel and Philistia are at it in warfare again. It seems that this scruffle that had been between their ancestors Abimelech and Abraham had come to a head once again in the history of the Hebrews. But…this time the Philistines have the advantage of better warfare instruments, and a human trump card known as Goliath.
Goliath was a massive 9’9″ human tank who hailed from a family of larger than life humans. In today’s standards, Goliath would be one of the athletes to be banned just because he’d stand to injure even the best of the best on a whim.
David had only been employed part-time by Saul as a bodyguard/musician even though he was employed for Saul’s benefit. And in this marvelous story (which reads as if it had been retold time and again by David himself to his friends and whoever else would have listened) begins with a privileged look into David’s relationships. The main story is found in 1 Samuel 17.
David arrives at the edge of the camp with the food that his dad Jesse sent him to give to his brothers, and he arrives just when the army of Israel is advancing for battle with their war chants. He soon finds his brothers and greets them while the Israelites are all chanting their furor. It must have been a pretty uplifting occasion for David to walk into.
Then things turned sour quickly.
Even while he was still talking with his brothers amidst the hoopla, Goliath the Gittite came out and challenged the Israelites once again as he had been doing for 40 days. Immediately, the Israelite shouts of valor and furious courage, grew to timid silence and dismal fear. Nobody wanted to be made un-alive in single combat with the human tank that was Goliath. And nobody certainly wanted to lose the entire battle and risk losing the war for Israel, even if Saul’s daughter Michal looked that good, tax exemption, riches, and all. Some of the men closest to Goliath as he came up to meet them even ran away in fear.
Talk about a downer.
Of course, David was curious about this man and so he turned from his brothers and began to ask the Israelite men around him about this guy. They not only replied by telling David exactly who Goliath was, but they also told David about Saul’s offer to anyone who would fight and be victorious over Goliath (because Saul was the model for his army…). They even added that Saul would use his wealth to make the victor’s father’s house free in all Israel, which very likely meant that if any of the family members of the victor from his father’s household were poor and had sold themselves to slavery, then Saul would use his massive wealth to free him.
Now, big brothers often have a nose for their younger siblings. Indeed, Eliab, David’s eldest brother, most likely was the first to receive the household chore of tending Jesse’s flock and fighting off the lions and the bears from the sheep. So, Eliab sniffed his brother’s warlike spirit and began to berate him basically by saying, “Hey, just why did you come up here? You wanted to get into another fight, huh? You’re just up here to get a bit of the action, and now here you are ready to kill yourself for a little bit of vainglory huh? What about our father’s sheep, David, who is taking care of them right now?”
And of course David responds in typical younger sibling fashion, “Oye chacho, tranquilo, c’mon I haven’t even done anything wrong. It was just a question.” And just in case Eliab didn’t know David’s intentions (or just to spite him because…siblings) David turns and repeats his question to the warriors who are then more than happy to repeat all of their embellished response.
Of course, some men heard David’s questioning and even blatant bemusement at Goliath, and it traveled through the grapevine to King Saul, who then sent for David. Eliab was now as concerned as he was mad, I am sure. David of course rises to the challenge, but Saul says to David that he is still a young warrior, and Goliath has been fighting battles since he was David’s age and now he is a much older and seasoned veteran.
David then responds with how he has fought off lions and bears. You know, because lions and bears wear 125 pound state-of-the-art bronze mail armor too, with years of wartime battlefield wisdom. But…David’s confidence actually isn’t in his feats as a shepherd…no…David is confident because he believes that it was God who saved him from the lion and the bear. Notice, David didn’t even take credit for saving his father’s sheep, rather, he gave God the credit for saving him.
Well, Saul wanted David prepared anyway, so he, being a wealthy man, gave David his own state-of-the-art armor. And David, being not as adept at using this armor yet, just didn’t feel comfortable going to what could have been the most dangerous event in his life without his A-game. He declines Saul’s armor because he has never worn it into battle before.
Instead, David just goes with what he is most comfortable with: a slingshot, five smooth stones, and a sturdy combat staff.
You will notice that he didn’t even carry a sword, which he alluded to using in his testimony about the bears and lions. David was all in with hasty preparation…no doubt the adrenaline rush had affected his thinking, though his faith was secure. David only took short time to get some rocks from a brook nearby. We can clearly see why Eliab was worried about his younger brother’s fighting spirit. Oy vey.
So then, as a young warrior off to fight the fight that no one else wants, David takes to the field without any armor or protection (because he was only there to deliver food) and without a sword of any kind because David is far too excited and confident in God to think that far ahead.
Oh boy, is this accurate for the youths of war.