The Philistines were Israel’s neighbors to the west. A group of people who traveled the waters of the Mediterranean Sea, they had earned themselves the nickname, “The Sea Peoples.” The Philistines lived in cities near the coast, but as they traveled further inland, they felt like the Israelites were in their way and challenged them to fight.
The most impressive soldier in the Philistine army was, by far, Goliath. He was over nine feet tall and his bronze armor, helmet, shield, spear and sword had to be specially made to match his extra-large size.
The two armies faced one another in the valley, and Goliath walked up to the front of the battle line.
“Let’s not waste time having everyone from both of our armies fight each other!” Goliath challenged them. “Instead, choose your top soldier to fight me alone. Whoever wins, it will be a win for the entire nation.”
This was a common practice in ancient times, but who in all of Israel could possibly compare to this giant of a man? Saul, the tall, strong fighter that had led Israel’s army when he was younger, no longer had God’s blessing after being disobedient so many times. His courage was all gone, and rather than lead his people, he hid in his tent, waiting to see what would happen.
Meanwhile, in the little town of Bethlehem, David had once again come home to care for his father’s sheep. Of his seven older brothers, the three oldest were in Saul’s army, listening daily to Goliath’s taunts.
“Come!” his father Jesse called him over. “Take this bread and cheese to your brothers in the army. And try to get some information about how things are going. I’m so worried about them!”
When David arrived, he heard how Goliath had offered the same challenge to the Israelite army day after day, and how Goliath had insulted God as well, declaring that He could not protect His people.
David was angry at hearing this.
“Who does this Philistine think he is?” David cried out. “I volunteer to fight him myself. We won’t let him turn our whole army into a bunch of cowards!”
Saul sent for David to come to his tent.
“You’re just a boy!” Saul declared, not even recognizing his former child musician, now in his teens. “How can you possibly fight Goliath, who’s been a soldier all his life?”
But David persisted. “I have killed a lion and a bear while protecting my father’s sheep. If God helped me to do that, He will help me to fight Goliath.”
So Saul agreed to let him go, giving David his own armor to wear.
“I can’t even walk in this,” David told the king, “let alone fight in it.”
So David took off the armor and gave it back to Saul. He picked up his shepherd’s staff and his slingshot. David walked down to the river and gathered five smooth stones.
When Goliath saw the young, unprotected teenager the Israelite army was sending to challenge him, he thought it must be a joke.
“What is this?” he laughed out. “You’ve sent a boy to fight me with a stick? Perhaps you think I’m a dog?” Then Goliath went on to curse all the Israelites in the names of the Philistine gods. “When I’m finished with you, you’ll be food for vultures!”
But David bravely answered, “You may be fighting with a sword and spear, but I am fighting in the name of the Lord All-Powerful! You have insulted Him and He is in charge of this battle.”
Goliath and David began to run toward each other. David put a rock in his slingshot and swung it in circles over his head. As they came near to each other, David flung the stone right toward Goliath’s forehead. It hit him just between the eyes, cracking his skull.
Goliath stopped in his tracks. The stone had dealt a fatal blow. He fell facedown onto the ground below David’s feet.
David was a champion! He had rescued the Israelite army and was now recognized by the people as a great leader. Everyone else finally saw in him what God always had.