1 Samuel 17:40
And he took his staff in his hand, and chose him five smooth stones out of the brook, and put them in a shepherd's bag which he had, even in a money; and his sling was in his hand: and he drew near to the Philistine.
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(40) And he took his staff in his hand.—It was a true stroke of military genius in David, this determination of his to fight only with the weapons, weak and unimportant though they seemed, with which he was familiar, and in the use of which he was so skilful; nor was the issue of the combat, now he had resolved to use the sling, even doubtful. It has been well said he was like one armed with a rifle, while his enemy had only a spear and a sword, and if only he could take sure aim the result was absolutely certain.

Wordsworth, again, on the words “chose him five smooth stones out of the brook,” refers to Augustine’s Commentary, who finds here a deep mystical signification. It is an admirable specimen of the Patristic School of Exposition, which, although quaint, and not unfrequently “far-fetched,” will always, and with good reason, possess great power over the minds of the earnest and devout student. “So our Divine David, the Good Shepherd of Bethlehem, when He went forth at the temptation to meet Satan—our ghostly Goliath—chose five stones out of the brook. He took the five books of Moses out of the flowing stream of Judaism. He took what was solid out of what was fluid. He took what was permanent out of what was transitory. He took what was moral and perpetual out of what was ceremonial and temporary. He took stones out of a brook, and with one of these He overthrew Satan. All Christ’s answers to the tempter are moral precepts, taken from one Book of the Law (Deuteronomy), and He prefaced His replies with the same words, ‘It is written;’ and with this sling and stone of Scripture He laid our Goliath low, and He has taught us by His example how we may also vanquish the tempter.” (See St. Augustine, Sermon 32)

1 Samuel 17:40-41. He took his staff — His shepherd’s staff. These arms in themselves were contemptible, yet chosen by David, because he had no skill to use other arms; because he had inward assurance of the victory, even by these weapons; and because such a conquest would be more honourable to God, and most shameful and discouraging to the Philistines. He drew near — Probably a signal was made that the Philistine’s challenge was accepted. David, however, it seems, made the first motion toward him, to show he did not fear him.17:40-47 The security and presumption of fools destroy them. Nothing can excel the humility, faith, and piety which appear in David's words. He expressed his assured expectation of success; he gloried in his mean appearance and arms, that the victory might be ascribed to the Lord alone.His beard - Put here for his throat, or under jaw; neither lion nor bear has a beard properly speaking. 40. brook—wady.

bag—or scrip for containing his daily food.

sling—The sling consisted of a double rope with a thong, probably of leather, to receive the stone. The slinger held a second stone in his left hand. David chose five stones, as a reserve, in case the first should fail. Shepherds in the East carry a sling and stones still, for the purpose of driving away, or killing, the enemies that prowl about the flock.

His staff; his shepherd’s staff. These arms were in themselves contemptible, yet chosen by David; partly, because he had no skill to use other arms; partly, because he had inward assurance of the victory, even by these weapons; and partly, because such a conquest would be most honourable to God, and most shameful and discouraging to the Philistines.

Chose him five smooth stones, that if one should fail him, he might make use of another.

Smooth stones, because such stones would go most freely out of the sling; and consequently, with more force and certainty, directly to the mark which he aimed at. The sling was a sort of weapon not unusual in the fights of ancient times, and many arrived at great dexterity of slinging stones with great certainty; of which we have instances both in Scripture, as Judges 20:16, and in Diodorus Siculus, and Livy, and other authors. And he took his staff in his hand,.... His shepherd's staff, which he used in keeping his father's sheep, and chose rather to appear in the habit of a shepherd than of a soldier:

and chose him five smooth stones out of the brook; which ran in the valley, which became smooth by lying in the water running over them; and which being smooth were fitter for his purpose, being the more easily cast out of the sling; though De Dieu is of opinion that these were parts or pieces of stones, cleft ones, which were rough and rugged, and which would more easily and firmly be fixed in the forehead of the Philistine:

and put them in a shepherd's bag which he had, even in a scrip; in which he had been wont to put things he needed for the good of the flock, and was such as travellers put their food in; and this might also be the use of it with shepherds; but, according to the Ethiopic interpreters (k), it was that piece of the leather in the midst of the sling, in which the slingers used to put the stones, that they might stick the more firmly:

and his sling was in his hand; which he intended to use in slinging the stone or stones he had in his scrip; and which was an exercise he had been accustomed to in all likelihood, and for which the Benjaminites his neighbours, of the next tribe, were very famous:

and he drew near to the Philistine; marched towards him, thereby signifying that he accepted his challenge, and would enter the list with him.

(k) Apud Ludolf. Lexic. Ethiop. p. 84.

And he took his {n} staff in his hand, and chose him five smooth stones out of the brook, and put them in a shepherd's bag which he had, even in a scrip; and his sling was in his hand: and he drew near to the Philistine.

(n) So that by these weak means, It might be known that only God was the author of this victory.

40. five smooth stones out of the brook] “The sides and bed of this trench [see above on 1 Samuel 17:3] are strewn with rounded and water-worn pebbles, which would have been well fitted for David’s sling.” Conder, II. 161.

scrip] A small bag, especially a traveller’s wallet. Cp. Matthew 10:10; and Milton, Comus, 1. 626,

“And in requital ope his leathern scrip.”

his sling] “The sling has been in ail ages the favourite weapon of the shepherds of Syria. The Benjamites were especially expert In their use of it: even the left-handed could sling stones at an hair and not miss (Jdg 20:16).”To Saul's objection that he, a mere youth, could not fight with this Philistine, a man of war from his youth up, David replied, that as a shepherd he had taken a sheep out of the jaws of a lion and a bear, and had also slain them both. The article before ארי and דּוב points out these animals as the well-known beasts of prey. By the expression ואת־הדּוב the bear is subordinated to the lion, or rather placed afterwards, as something which came in addition to it; so that את is to be taken as a nota accus. (vid., Ewald, 277, a), though it is not to be understood as implying that the lion and the bear went together in search of prey. The subordination or addition is merely a logical one: not only the lion, but also the bear, which seized the sheep, did David slay. זה, which we find in most of the editions since the time of Jac. Chayim, 1525, is an error in writing, or more correctly in hearing, for שׂה, a sheep. "And I went out after it; and when it rose up against me, I seized it by its beard, and smote it, and killed it." זקן, beard and chin, signifies the bearded chin. Thenius proposes, though without any necessity, to alter בּזקנו into בּגרונו, for the simple but weak reason, that neither lions nor bears have any actual beard. We have only to think, for example, of the λῖς ἠυγένειος in Homer (Il. xv. 275, xvii. 109), or the barbam vellere mortuo leoni of Martial (x. 9). Even in modern times we read of lions having been killed by Arabs with a stick (see Rosenmller, Bibl. Althk. iv. 2, pp. 132-3). The constant use of the singular suffix is sufficient to show, that when David speaks of the lion and the bear, he connects together two different events, which took place at different times, and then proceeds to state how he smote both the one and the other of the two beasts of prey.
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