David & Goliath

Author John D. Barry

Life is an opportunity to show ourselves durable or frail. We rise or fall. We want to be heroes, but more often than not we are our own worst enemy. Many of us see ourselves somewhere in the story of David—a young underdog who quickly rose to the top, but repeatedly hit rock bottom (2 Sam 12).

DavidGoliath.png

Jealousy, envy and lust often proved to be too tempting for David (2 Sam 11). Long after he had slain Goliath and become king, David was still embroiled in a life-and-death struggle, sometimes brought on by his own flaws. Despite his struggles—or perhaps because he never gave up trying to be what God wanted him to be—David remains a beloved heroic figure, blemishes and all.

God chose David because the young shepherd’s heart was focused on Him (1 Sam 16:7). His first question when he sees Goliath (1 Sam 17:26) illustrates his zeal for God’s reputation and his own success: “What shall be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away this reproach from Israel?”

This is followed by his famous challenge, “For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?”

Just a teenager at the time, David’s words would have seemed brash and arrogant, particularly to the Israelite soldiers who lacked the courage to meet Goliath’s challenge. Zeal for God and a drive for success were just what God wanted in a king for Israel.

When David comes out with no armor and a mere sling, the warrior Goliath sneers, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” (1 Sam 17:43).

Not wanting to play fetch, he then curses David by his gods and threatens, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the beasts of the field” (1 Sam 17:44). But David knows this is no street fight. It is a holy war (1 Sam 17:45–47), pitting the gods of Philistia and their champion against the God of Israel and His weapon of choice. It’s the perfect mismatch to the human eye, one that will leave no doubt about who is God.

We all have opportunities to triumph like David or fall like Goliath. We must decide in whose army of the spiritual war of life we want to serve—the gods of this world, who convince us that victory is achieved by relying on and satisfying ourselves, or the God of eternity, who is the only permanent refuge and source of fulfillment. Rise or fall, the choice is clear.

Read the story of David and Goliath like never before.

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Article courtesy of Bible Study Magazine published by Logos Bible Software. Originally published in print, Vol. 1 No. 4.

A Messiah, A Giant & God’s Favor

Bible Handbooks on David's LifeAuthor James D. Elgin

Bible handbooks are like a roadmap to reading the Bible. Passage summaries, detailed maps, and character sketches provide context for each biblical account. Using Bible handbooks we find that David was called mashiach (“anointed”; “messiah”) and found favor with God before his victory over Goliath.

The Bible Guide

Andrew Knowles, The Bible Guide (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 2001) pg. 138.

A Messiah, A Giant & God’s Favor

In the Valley of Elah, Goliath taunted David’s small stature and feeble weaponry. David’s bravery was unimpeded by Goliath’s words and fierce appearance. He knew Goliath’s defeat would prove to the nations “that there is a God in Israel” (1 Sam 17:46 ESV). David’s pronouncement seems trite to us, but for David and the young nation of Israel, Goliath’s defeat demonstrated the power of the God of Israel over every nation and its god. When David announced these words, he proclaimed the favor and presence of Yahweh, the supreme God of Israel.

Halley’s Bible Handbook

Henry H. Halley, Halley’s Bible Handbook (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007), pg. 209.

Samuel anointed David in secret so that Saul would not know about the young shepherd-king from Bethlehem. God was committed to training David to be Israel’s king. David’s fame as a musician earned him the position of armor-bearer to King Saul. David’s close association with the king’s counselors and his friendship with Saul’s son, Jonathan, prepared him to be King of Israel; but his tangle with the Philistine giant would earn him the people’s favor and support.

This 2007 revision of Halley’s adds a substantial number of archaeological notes (e.g., The Tel Dan Inscription is mentioned in reference to 2 Sam 7 on pg. 125).

Willmington’s Bible Handbook

H. L. Willmington’s Bible Handbook (Wheaton: Tyndale House, 1997), pg. 154. In 1 Sam 16:13, the prophet Samuel publicly anointed Israel’s newest messiah, David. Willmington explores the usage of the Hebrew word for “anointed one” or “christ” (mashiach, משׁיח; English, “messiah”). The word is used to describe Old Testament figures chosen to do God’s work (e.g., Saul in 1 Sam 24:10; David in 2 Sam 19:21; and even the Persian King Cyrus in Isa 45:1). God overlooked seven of Jesse’s sons and selected David to be Saul’s successor. God was not concerned with David’s physical stature, but with his spiritual stability.

Zondervan Handbook to the Bible

David Barton, Zondervan Handbook to the Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999), pgs. 269–71.

A Messiah, A Giant & God's Favor

David Barton’s character sketch illustrates our connection to David. From his battle with Goliath, to his flight from Saul, to the deterioration of his family, David is portrayed as the underdog. Whether he is mourning the loss of Saul and Jonathan or weeping over adulterous sin, we find humanity at the helm of a nation. Each event in David’s life points to his dependence on God and God’s sovereignty over the young nation of Israel.

The story of David is not a fairy tale or a bedtime story. David’s life reminds us of God’s faithfulness to His cause and His people. Through David’s struggles and victories, we learn how to mourn in the presence of our Heavenly Father and praise Him for His providence.

Bible Study Magazine delivers tools and methods for Bible study, as well as insights from respected Bible teachers, professors, historians, and archaeologists. Take over 30% off the cover price—subscribe now!

Article courtesy of Bible Study Magazine published by Logos Bible Software. Originally published in print, Vol. 1 No. 4.

Sanctified Dirt

SanctifiedDirt

Author Michael S. Heiser

Elisha’s healing of Naaman the leper, commander of the army of the king of Syria, is a familiar story to many (2 Kgs 5:1–27). Naaman hears that Elisha, the prophet of Israel, can heal him, so he makes the trip. When the two meet, Elisha tells him rather dismissively that he needs to take a bath in the Jordan River. Naaman doesn’t take this well and prepares to go home. At the behest of some servants, he consents to dip himself in the Jordan. He is miraculously healed by the simple act. The display of power, so transparently without sacrifice or incantation, awakens Naaman to the fact that Yahweh of Israel is the true God. Here’s where the story usually ends in our telling, but that would result in the omission of one very odd detail—what Naaman asks to take back home.

In 2 Kgs 5:15–19 the elated Naaman returns to Elisha and begs him to take payment for healing him. Elisha repeatedly refuses. Finally, before embarking for Syria, Naaman makes a strange request: to load two mules with dirt to take back with him.

Dirt? I can think of a few favors I would ask of a prophet in a receptive mood, but dirt certainly isn’t one of them. The request is so odd that it’s hard to avoid wondering if Naaman needed some other kind of therapy. Why would he ask for dirt?

But Naaman was completely in his right mind. In 2 Kgs 5:17, Naaman follows the request with an explanation: “for from now on your servant will not offer burnt offering or sacrifice to any god but the Lord” (ESV). The dirt and Naaman’s new allegiance to the God of Israel are related. Naaman was a man with significant duties in his home country. He couldn’t stay in Israel, but he could take Israel with him. Why would he want to?

Naaman’s unusual request stems from the ancient—and biblical—conception that the earth is the locale for a cosmic turf war. Naaman wanted dirt from Israel because Israel was Yahweh’s territory. The dirt which is Yahweh’s domain is holy ground.

The idea of “holy ground” is an important element of Israelite theology. This phrase is used when Moses is in the presence of the Angel of the Lord and the God of Israel at the burning bush (Exod 3:1–5), and when Joshua meets the Angel of the Lord (Josh 5:15).[1] More broadly, the idea derives from Deut 32:8–9 (compare, Deut 4:19–20) where we learn that when God divided up the nations at the Tower of Babel, they were allotted to “the sons of God.”[2] The nations of the world were, in effect, disinherited by Yahweh as His own earthly family. Immediately after Babel, Yahweh called Abraham and the nation of Israel was created. Israel was therefore “Yahweh’s portion” (Deut 32:9), whereas all the other nations belong to the sons of God whom Israel was forbidden to worship. As a result, Israel was holy ground; the territory of every other nation was not. The rest of the Old Testament is the story of God’s intention to reclaim every nation on earth.

Elisha understood Naaman’s request and granted it without hesitation. He knew the request came from a sincere theological change of heart. Naaman believed that “There [was] no God in all the earth but in Israel” (5:15) and wanted to return to his homeland with holy ground. Even though he would still have to help his aged king bow before Rimmon, Naaman wanted Elisha to know his heart belonged only to the God of Elisha.

Notes:

[1] The “captain of the Lord’s army” in Josh 5:13–15 can be identified with the Angel of the LORD on the basis of two observations: (1) The parallel with Exod 3:1–5; and (2) The description of the Captain standing before Joshua “with his sword drawn in his hand.” The Hebrew phrase behind this description is found in only two other places in the Old Testament: Num 22:23 and 1 Chr 21:16, both of which explicitly apply the phrase to the Angel of the LORD.

[2] This translation is based upon a correction of the Hebrew text in Deut 32:8 with material from the Dead Sea Scrolls. Most English bibles read “sons of Israel” in Deut 32:8, a reading that makes no sense, since Israel did not exist at the time of the tower of Babel, nor is Israel listed in the Table of Nations that resulted from the judgment at Babel. The ESV correctly incorporates the Dead Sea Scroll reading into Deut 32:8. For more information, see MichaelSHeiser.com/DT32.pdf

Bible Study Magazine delivers tools and methods for Bible study, as well as insights from respected Bible teachers, professors, historians, and archaeologists. Take over 30% off the cover price—subscribe now!

Article courtesy of Bible Study Magazine published by Logos Bible Software. Originally published in print, Vol. 1 No. 3.

A Fat King and a Left-Handed Man

Author Leonard Greenspoon

Again the Israelites cried out to the Lord, and he gave them a deliverer—Ehud, a left-handed man, the son of Gera the Benjamite. The Israelites sent him with tribute to Eglon king of Moab. Now Ehud had made a double-edged sword about a foot and a half long, which he strapped to his right thigh under his clothing. He presented the tribute to Eglon king of Moab, who was a very fat man. After Ehud had presented the tribute, he sent on their way the men who had carried it.

At the idols near Gilgal he himself turned back and said, “I have a secret message for you, O king.” The king said, “Quiet!” And all his attendants left him. Ehud then approached him while he was sitting alone in the upper room of his summer palace and said, “I have a message from God for you.” As the king rose from his seat, Ehud reached with his left hand, drew the sword from his right thigh and plunged it into the king’s belly. Even the handle sank in after the blade, which came out his back. Ehud did not pull the sword out, and the fat closed in over it. Then Ehud went out to the porch; he shut the doors of the upper room behind him and locked them.

After he had gone, the servants came and found the doors of the upper room locked. They said, “He must be relieving himself in the inner room of the house.” 25 They waited to the point of embarrassment, but when he did not open the doors of the room, they took a key and unlocked them. There they saw their lord fallen to the floor, dead. While they waited, Ehud got away. He passed by the idols and escaped to Seirah.

When he arrived there, he blew a trumpet in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites went down with him from the hills, with him leading them. “Follow me,” he ordered, “for the Lord has given Moab, your enemy, into your hands.” So they followed him down and, taking possession of the fords of the Jordan that led to Moab, they allowed no one to cross over. At that time they struck down about ten thousand Moabites, all vigorous and strong; not a man escaped. That day Moab was made subject to Israel, and the land had peace for eighty years.—Judges 3:15–30 NIV

 At first glance—and probably, at second—this passage from chapter three of the book of Judges does not seem like a promising source of humor. And yet ancient Israelites would have found this very funny indeed.

Before turning to this specific passage, let us consider that we are separated from the world of biblical Israel by several millennia, thousands of miles, and vast linguistic and cultural differences. Many aspects of their comedy may therefore elude us. Moreover, those who wrote in biblical Hebrew were without most of the means by which we today transmit humor in a written medium—they had no marks of punctuation (no explanation points and no quotation marks), no capital or small letters, no highlighting or underlining, no italicizing, or bracketing. And think about how much humor today is conveyed through oral presentation. This was undoubtedly the case in antiquity—perhaps even more so then.

AFatKingLeftHandedManThis does not mean that we are without any resources to detect what would have been funny to an ancient Israelite. Far from it! Plays on words (frequently the most difficult feature to convey in a translation) and context will serve the intrepid interpreter well in this endeavor. Thus, for example, we observe how unusual it is that the Bible regularly describes an individual as right-handed or left-handed. Such a description serves two functions here: First, as a play on words, the hero Ehud’s tribe is Benjamin, which in Hebrew literally means “son of the South” or “right.” (Ancient Israelites oriented themselves with the Mediterranean Sea behind them, making East straight ahead and South to their right). Thus, it would not escape the notice of the reader that here was a Son of the South, or the right hand, who was left-handed (literally in Hebrew, “constricted as to his right hand”).

Moreover, because he was left-handed, Ehud strapped his sword to his right thigh. A minor detail, we might think. However, we can easily imagine that the Moabite king’s bodyguards, who would certainly have checked-out anyone seeking admittance to their monarch, performed only a perfunctory check on Ehud, never thinking that the weapon would be on his right, rather than the expected left, thigh. Alas, the need for security—and the means to outwit it—is nothing new.

The name of the Moabite king would have immediately attracted the attention of an ancient reader. Eglon comes from the same Hebrew root as the word for a fattened calf, often one prepared for sacrifice. And, of course, sacrifice is exactly what Eglon becomes at the hand of Ehud. The extended, rather gruesome description of Ehud plunging his sword through layers of Eglon’s fat could not have failed to make the comparison clear: Indeed, Ehud did have a “secret message” for the king, but not the one the Moabite ruler expected! Making the king a “sacrifice” weakened the resolve of the Moabite army; allowing for Israel to destroy them and subsequently enjoy a period of peace and prosperity.

Our analysis invites us to appreciate, as an ancient Israelite would, the re-telling (initially in oral form) of an incident that united a people in a shared memory and a good story.

 

Article courtesy of Bible Study Magazine published by Logos Bible Software. Originally published in print, Vol. 1 No. 2.