As we examine the exceptionally famous story of young David defeating Goliath with five smooth stones, the possibility exists that we could get so involved in the drama of the story that we miss Christ. We must ask, ‘How is David’s work in the narrative of 1 Samuel 17 providing a foreshadowing of a greater Son yet to come?’ We know Christ made it clear to His disciples that the words of the Old Testament, the law, the prophets, and the Psalms spoke of Him (see Luke 24:44); therefore, we may rightly look for Jesus on the pages of this great story. And we should not be surprised to find David foreshadowing Christ; Matthew presents Jesus as the “son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matthew 1:1). Furthermore, as the life of Christ unfolds in the synoptic gospels, we see Jesus being referred to as the ‘Son of David’ numerous times by Jews (Mark 10:47-48). All this assures us that we are not going out on a limb or chasing a rabbit trail when we look for the person and work of Christ in the story of David and Goliath. Consider the following:
1. David was a shepherd (17:15); Jesus presents Himself as the great shepherd in John 10.
2. Jesse, David’s father, sent him to his brothers (17:17). Similarly, Jesus often mentions that he was sent by his Father (see John 5:36, 6:57, 8:42); Jesus said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:24).
3. David brought bread to his brothers (17:17); Jesus is the bread of life (see John 6:35, 48, 51).
4. The champion that defeats Goliath will be given a bride by the king (17:25); Jesus too will receive a bride, the church (Revelation 19:7-9; 21:1-2).
5. The man who kills Goliath takes away the reproach from Israel (17:26). In Joshua 5:9, the LORD said to Joshua, and by extension all of Israel, “Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.” Through the power of Christ’s finished work on the cross, He has made atonement for our sin. He has rolled away the disgrace, displeasure, and feelings of distance sin creates between God and man. The reproach Israel felt was immediately removed when the giant was defeated, and Christ has made the removal of reproach possible through His defeat of our enemy, the devil.
6. David’s brothers, Eliab in particular, reject him (17:28); Christ’s brothers also reject Him. John writes, “For not even his brothers believed in him” (7:5). (See also 1 Peter 2:7).
7. David presents himself as a servant of the king (17:32). Isaiah the prophet calls Jesus the LORD’s servant (Isaiah 53:11). The very action of washing the disciples’ feet serves to show us just how much Christ views Himself as a servant of the LORD (John 13). In addition, both Peter and Paul refer to Christ as a servant (see Acts 3:13, 4:30, Phil 2:7).
8. There is nothing about David’s physical appearance that would give anyone confidence that he could defeat a giant (17:33). David is a most unlikely candidate to topple Goliath. Likewise, Isaiah 53:2 indicates that there wasn’t anything about Jesus’ physical appearance that would give one the idea that He was the warrior sent from God to defeat Satan.
9. David learned to have confidence in God’s ability to defeat the enemy from past experiences prior to the ultimate battle (17:37). In a similar manner, the writer of Hebrews states that Christ learned obedience from the things He has suffered (5:8). David’s past victories gave him confidence that God was able to deliver the giant into his hands on that day. We too must have confidence in the power of God to defeat our enemies. David, like Jonah, knew “salvation belongs to the LORD” (2:9).
10. David serves as the sole representative for Israel on the battlefield; he alone will fight this battle against Goliath, the representative of Satan and all that is evil (17:40-41). Christ alone died for the sins of the world; Christ alone was buried and rose from the grave; He is the one mediator between God and man (1 Tim 2:5).
11. David was passionate about the glory (the reputation, the name) of the LORD. David said “This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hand.” (17:46-47). In John 12:27-28, Jesus expressed with sorrow and anguish that the purpose of His death on the cross (the reason He came into world) was to bring glory to the Father.
12. David inflicts a fatal head injury upon the enemy of God and ultimately cuts off the head of Goliath (17:49-51). In what is sometimes described as the first promise of the gospel, the protoevangelium, Genesis 3:15 promises that the serpent (the devil) will receive a similarly mortal injury to the head.
13. When David defeated Goliath, the enemy of God, all of Israel participated in the victory. Goliath’s defeat led to an onslaught against the Philistines (17:52-53). Through David, the entire army became conquerors. Paul communicates this same idea in Romans 8:37 where he said, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” The reason you can defeat the giants in your life is that Christ has already won the victory. Again, Paul teaches us that God gives us the victory “through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57). Think about it. Prior to the conquest of Goliath, the Israelites were seemingly defeated with no hope of victory. This provides a wonderful picture of the change that the new believer experiences through salvific faith in the gospel. Ten minutes ago, you were hopelessly defeated by the only giant that truly matters—your own sin, and the death and hell that comes with it—and now look at you. You are a new creature in Christ. You live as a victor. You share in the spoils. It is finished! Does it take effort and a little courage to stand up and go after the remaining sin in our lives? Sure. But it's a guaranteed victory—because of "Christ in you, the hope of glory. It is finished!" (Colossians 1:27).
14. After David defeated Goliath, David was clothed in a robe, given a sword, and set over the men of war (1 Samuel 18:4). Notice how the Apostle John describes Jesus in Revelation 19.
“He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. 14 And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. 15 From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.”
15. The defeat of Goliath leads to the eventual receiving of a kingdom (2 Samuel 3:10, 5:12). David will be the king who expands the borders of the land and truly establishes the legitimate and united kingdom of Israel. But all of this is just a foreshadowing of the kingdom God ultimately gives his Son—the Kingdom of Christ. In fulfillment of the Davidic covenant, Christ possesses an eternal kingdom (2 Peter 1:11); Jesus told Pilate “my kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). (See also Ephesians 5:5 and Revelation 11:15).
With fifteen specific examples of pictures, types, and foreshadowing of the person and work of Christ in the story of David killing the giant, Goliath, one might be tempted to skip the story altogether and run to Christ, but that too would be a mistake in teaching (or preaching) the text. First and foremost, the chapter is an historical record of God granting a boy victory over a giant who dared to question the sovereign reign and power of the God of Israel. Goliath was an uncircumcised dog who had to be judged and deserved to die for his sin. Like a terrorist, he taunted Israel for 40 days and 40 nights. It was time to put an end to the continual provocation aimed at the existence and power of the God of Israel, as well as the fear he created in the Israelite camp. David had it right when he asked, “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?” (v. 26). The reader should not lose sight of what the glorious victory over Goliath and the Philistines accomplished on that day! This story is not an allegory. David is not a fictional character fighting another fictional character, so boys and girls can learn about defeating giants in their life from a flannel graph board or a PowerPoint slide. Young David, the son of Jesse, spoke actual words to Goliath of Gath, an uncircumcised Philistine and a fearsome champion, with a backdrop of armies on both sides of the valley Elah. Divinely preserved for our instruction and edification, David said:
“You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the LORD saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the LORD’s, and he will give you into our hand.”
Yes, the teacher needs to show the student of the Word our Lord Jesus Christ on the pages of the Old Testament, but it must never be done at the expense of the primary truths found in the historical record of God’s interaction with His covenant people, Israel, in a glorious picture of redemption from the Garden of Eden to the Garden of Gethsemane.