1 Samuel 17:34
And David said to Saul, Your servant kept his father's sheep, and there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock:
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(34) Thy servant kept his father’s sheep.—Here follows in the colloquy between the king and the boy that simple brave narrative which children listen to with glowing cheeks—that simple story, bearing the stamp of truth on every word—of what had happened to him in past days. Fierce wild animals, the terror of the Hebrew shepherds, had attacked his flock: these he had met and slain, almost without arms. Another had helped him when he did his brave duty then; and he felt that the same invisible Guardian would give him nerve and strength now in this more dangerous encounter. Only let him try. There was nothing to fear; he must succeed, he and his Divine Helper!

1 Samuel 17:34-35. There came a lion and a bear — Not both together, but at different times. I went out after him — I pursued the beast. When he arose against me — Turned again upon me; I caught him by his beard — I had resolution and strength enough given me to close with him, and, catching him by the hair of his beard, smote and killed him on the spot. David does not say with what instrument he did this; but probably it was with a sword or spear. It is not improbable but in that age, and in those countries, it was usual to pursue, with proper arms, those wild beasts that came to devour their flocks. And travellers tell us, that, at this day, a single Arab, that is properly instructed and armed, will pursue a lion, and, if he overtakes him, will overcome him. But that such a youth as David should have such extraordinary courage and strength cannot be accounted for but by supposing, as the Scriptures inform us, that the Spirit of the Lord was upon him, and that God intended by these things to train him up and fit him for the greater things he was to be called to perform.17:31-39 A shepherd lad, come the same morning from keeping sheep, had more courage than all the mighty men of Israel. Thus God often sends good words to his Israel, and does great things for them, by the weak and foolish things of the world. As he had answered his brother's passion with meekness, so David answered Saul's fear with faith. When David kept sheep, he proved himself very careful and tender of his flock. This reminds us of Christ, the good Shepherd, who not only ventured, but laid down his life for the sheep. Our experience ought to encourage us to trust in God, and be bold in the way of duty. He that has delivered, does and will continue to do so. David gained leave to fight the Philistine. Not being used to such armour as Saul put upon him, he was not satisfied to go in that manner; this was from the Lord, that it might more plainly appear he fought and conquered in faith, and that the victory was from Him who works by the feeblest and most despised means and instruments. It is not to be inquired how excellent any thing is, but how proper. Let Saul's coat be ever so rich, and his armour ever so strong, what is David the better if they fit him not? But faith, prayer, truth, and righteousness; the whole armour of God, and the mind that was in Christ; are equally needful for all the servants of the Lord, whatever may be their work.The narrative does not make it certain whether the lion and the bear came on one and the same, or on two different occasions. If it was on one occasion, the probability would be that the bear, having seized a lamb and carrying it off, a lion appeared to dispute the prize with the bear, or with David after he had taken it from the bear, and that David killed first one and then the other. 34-36. a lion, and a bear—There were two different rencontres, for those animals prowl alone. The bear must have been a Syrian bear, which is believed to be a distinct species, or perhaps a variety, of the brown bear. The beard applies to the lion alone. Those feats seem to have been performed with no weapons more effective than the rude staves and stones of the field, or his shepherd's crook. There came a lion, and a bear; not both together, but one after another, at several times. And David said unto Saul,.... In answer to his objection of inability to encounter with one so superior to him; and this answer is founded on experience and facts, and shows that he was not so weak and inexpert as Saul took him to be:

thy servant kept his father's sheep; which he was not ashamed to own, and especially as it furnished him with an stance of his courage, bravery, and success, and which would be convincing to Saul:

and there came a lion and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock; not that they came together; though Kimchi so interprets it, "a lion with a bear"; but these are creatures that do not use to go together; and besides, both could not be said with propriety to take one and the same lamb out of the flock: to which may be added, that David in 1 Samuel 17:35 speaks only of one, out of whose mouth he took the lamb; wherefore the words may be rendered, "a lion or a bear" (f); and if the copulative "and" is retained, the meaning can only be, that at different times they would come and take a lamb, a lion at one time, and a bear at another.

(f) "leo vel ursus", V. L. "leo aut ursus", Junius & Tremellius, Bochart. Noldius, p. 271.

And David said unto Saul, Thy servant kept his father's sheep, and there came a {l} lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock:

(l) David, because of previous experience with God's help, did not doubt to overcome this danger, seeing as he was zealous for God's honour.

34. and there came a lion, &c.] And when a lion came or even a bear (or, and that too with a bear) … I went out after him, &c. “In those early days, when the forests of Southern Palestine had not been cleared, it was the habit of the wild animals which usually frequented the heights of Lebanon or the thickets of the Jordan, to make incursions into the pastures of Judaea. From the Lebanon at times descended the bears. From the Jordan ascended the lion, at that time infesting the whole of Western Asia.” Stanley, Lect. II. 43. The Syrian bear is said to be especially ferocious, and appears to have been more dreaded than the lion. See Amos 5:19. Lions are not now found in Palestine, but the traveller Thevenot says that the Arabs are not afraid of them, and will attack and kill them, with no better arms than a stick. Cp. Amos 3:12.Verses 34-36. - David does not appeal to any feat of arms. He may have served with credit in repelling some Philistine foray, but these combats with wild beasts, fought without the presence of spectators, and with no regent necessity (as most shepherds would have been too glad to compound with such enemies by letting them take a lamb without molestation), still more clearly proved David's fearless nature. Lions and bears were both common in ancient times in Palestine, when the country was more densely covered with wood; and bears are numerous in the mountainous districts now. Lions seem to have been less feared than bears (Amos 5:19); but Canon Tristram thinks there were two species of the lion in Palestine - one short-maned, which was not very formidable, the other long maned, which was more fierce and dangerous ('Nat. Hist. of Bible,' p. 117). The Hebrew literally is, "There came the lion and even the bear," the articles implying that they were the well known foes of the shepherd. The written text has zeh, "this," for seh, "a lamb," probably a mere variety of spelling. There can be little doubt that David refers to two different occasions, especially as bears and lions never hunt in company. By his beard. Neither the bear nor the lion has a beard, and the word really means "the chin," "the place where the beard grows." The Chaldee translates the lower jaw, and the Septuagint the throat. It is plain from this description that David slew the beast with his staff. He arose against me. This shows that the combat thus particularly described was with the bear, which does thus rise on its hind legs to grapple with its foe, while the lion crouches and then springs. Pliny also says that the weakest part of a bear is its head, and that it can be killed by a smart blow there. The manner in which David killed the lion is not described. Defied. See on ver. 10. David's eldest brother was greatly enraged at his talking thus with the men, and reproved David: "Why hast thou come down (from Bethlehem, which stood upon high ground, to the scene of the war), and with whom hast thou left those few sheep in the desert?" "Those few sheep," the loss of only one of which would be a very great loss to our family. "I know thy presumption, and the wickedness of thy heart; for thou hast come down to look at the war;" i.e., thou art not contented with thy lowly calling, but aspirest to lofty things; it gives thee pleasure to look upon bloodshed. Eliab sought for the splinter in his brother's eye, and was not aware of the beam in his own. The very things with which he charged his brother - presumption and wickedness of heart - were most apparent in his scornful reproof.
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