David R. Hayes
Introduction to the Bible RELS311, Section B001 Win 13
Mark D. Wessner
February 10, 2013
The Message within the Message
Even though some may say that there is nothing more to a narrative than what one may see and read on the pages before them, I believe that some stories are more than just historical narratives. For example, in the story of David and Goliath I believe that the example David sets by his faith and trust in God to give both him and Israel the victory against this ominous foe as well as David's words of wisdom to combat the menacing taunts from Goliath are more than meets the eye. In this paper, I intend to dissect this passage from the Bible by explaining where it is located, I will analyze the literary style and characteristics of this passage, and I will give a detailed and thoughtful interpretation of this passage by using the appropriate exegetical approach.
The story of David and Goliath is found in the first book of Samuel which is located between the book of Ruth and the second book of Samuel in the Old Testament. This narrative encompasses the entire 17th chapter of this book and is made up of fifty-eight verses. The first book of Samuel is one of thirty-nine books that make up “the canon of the Old Testament”, taken from the Greek word kanon which “means a rule—[or] a standard for measurement”, and is part of the Christian “authoritative list of the books belonging to the Old Testament or New Testament (Comfort, 2003, p. 51). In this case, it is part of the Old Testament canon. This narrative is just one of many that make up “over 40 percent of the Old Testament...[which] constitutes three-quarters of the bulk of the Bible” (Fee, 2003, p. 89). Besides the writings of Moses, a major prophet and author of the first five books of the Bible, also known as the Pentateuch, it is believed that after Moses and the other prophets and prophetesses during his lifetime:
the great outbursts of prophetic activity began with Samuel...and the earliest kind of writing in which they seem to have engaged extensively was history, which afterwards became the basis of the books of Chronicles...and probably of Samuel and Kings too, which have so much material in common with Chronicles. (Comfort, 2003, p. 53)
Additionally, “[i]t is noteworthy [to point out] that in Jewish tradition Samuel, Kings, the Minor Prophets, Ezra-Nehemiah, and Chronicles are each reckoned as a single book” (Comfort, 2003, p. 57).
The narrative begins with the gathering of two armies: the Philistines in Ephes-dammim and Israel on the other side of the Valley of Elah, which was between them, both on mountains separated by this valley (1 Samuel 17:1-3). Ephes-dammim, which is called “Pas-dammin” in the first book of Chronicles (1 Chronicles 11:13), meaning “boundary of blood” which is believed to possibly have come from “[t]he deep red color of the newly plowed earth in this [location]...and may have given origin to the idea of "blood"”, but the location is not absolutely certain (Masterman, n.d.). The Valley of Elah, on the other hand, is located just north of where the Philistine armies are believed to have gathered with, which most likely was, the dry creek bed of the Wadi es-Sant dividing them from Saul's armies in the Judean mountains, though a more accurate description would be hills (Wilson, n.d.). The valley between them “is a triangle-shaped flat valley, located on the western edge of the Judean low hills or Shepelah...[o]nly in the rainy season does water flow in the creek bed...from the hills to the east to the Mediterranean on the west” (Wilson, n.d.).This narrative ends with the devastating loss of the Philistines' champion, Goliath, followed by the massacre of the Philistine armies, and the victory of God's chosen people, the Israelites.
This narrative, like all narratives, is a story which retells us a historical event which was written by the inspiration of the Holy...