1 Samuel 17:1
Now the Philistines gathered their forces for war at Socoh in Judah, and they camped between Socoh and Azekah in Ephes-dammim.
Israel Smitten with FearB. Dale 1 Samuel 17:1-11
The Battle of ElahT. Kirk.1 Samuel 17:1-27
The PhilistinesW. J. Knox Little, M. A.1 Samuel 17:1-27

1 Samuel 17:1-11. (THE VALLEY OF ELAH.)
They were dismayed, and greatly afraid (ver. 11).

1. The renewed attempt of the Philistines to subjugate Israel shows, in comparison with their former invasion, a decrease of power. They did not penetrate into the heart of the land (1 Samuel 13:5), but advanced only a short distance from their own border, and "pitched between Shochoh and Azekah, in Ephes-dammim," a dozen miles southwest of Bethlehem. They had been driven back and held in check.

2. It could hardly have been possible, but for the rashness of Saul in "the war of Michmash," by which the opportunity of inflicting a fatal blow was lost. Hearing, perhaps, of his condition, and perceiving signs of the laxity of his rule, they sought to repair their defeat.

3. It found the people of Israel, notwithstanding their previous success, ill-prepared to repel the aggression. Although they went to meet the enemy, and encamped opposite to them, they did nothing more. In the spirit of a better time they would have immediately fallen upon them in reliance upon "the Lord of hosts" (Deuteronomy 32:30); but now they were paralysed with fear, especially at the appearance of the gigantic champion who came out against them. The Philistines desired to make the issue depend on a single combat between this man and any Israelitish warrior who might be appointed to meet him; and he "drew near morning and evening, and presented himself forty days" (ver. 16). A similar fear has sometimes pervaded the Christian community in the presence of the enemy.


1. Their number is great. They consist not merely of one or two, 'but of a host of giants.

(1) Within: carnal affections, corrupt tendencies, proud thoughts, evil imaginations, and wrathful passions.

(2) Without: ignorance, error, unbelief, superstition, intemperance, licentiousness, worldliness, and "all ungodliness."

(3) In the background of all "the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience" (Ephesians 2:2).

2. Their appearance is imposing. They seem to be possessed of extraordinary might, and arrayed in terrible armour, and are of great renown. "Am I not that Philistine" (ver. 8), who has exhibited such prowess and slain so many foes? "He arose, and came, and drew nigh, like a stalking mountain, overlaid with brass and iron" (M. Henry).

3. Their attitude is proud, boastful, defiant, contemptuous, and increasingly confident of victory as day after day the challenge is renewed, and no one dares to answer it. "The first challenge to a duel that we ever find came out of the mouth of an uncircumcised Philistine" (Hall). How often has the contemplation of such adversaries filled even good men with dismay! While we measure our natural strength against the forces of evil our case is hopeless. "Who is sufficient for these things?"


1. Distrust of God and alienation from him. Faith prevents fear. It looks to God, judges of the power of the enemy in the light of his omnipotence, unites to him, and inspires with unbounded courage (1 Samuel 14:6; ver. 47); but unbelief is blind and weak and fearful (Matthew 8:26). And dismay in great emergencies reveals the absence or feebleness of faith in the preceding and ordinary course of life.

2. Outward acts of disobedience to the Divine will diminishing moral power, and producing inward distraction and dread.

3. Sympathy with a faithless leader, and participation in the "spirit of fear" (2 Timothy 1:7) which he possesses. Saul had forsaken the Lord. He had not the presence of Samuel with him; nor, apparently, that of the high priest; nor did he seek the Divine counsel as aforetime. He ruled independently of Jehovah; and the people loved too much "to have it so," sharing in his faithlessness and fear. A faithless and fearful leader cannot have faithful and fearless followers.

III. IT INCURS DESERVED REPROACH (vers. 8, 26) - uttered by the enemy, and echoed in the conscience of the people, on account of -

1. The cowardice of their conduct.

2. The inconsistency of their position, as professed servants of the living God: unfaithful to their calling, trembling before the votaries of "gods that were no gods" (ver. 44), and bringing dishonour upon the name of Jehovah. "The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you" (Romans 2:24; Proverbs 25:26).

3. The likelihood of their defeat, of which it is a virtual acknowledgment, and to which it must infallibly conduct, unless a better spirit be infused into them. "How is it that ye have not faith?" (Mark 4:40). Learn that -

1. The spirit of fear can be expelled only by the spirit of faith.

2. Fearfulness in conflict, difficulty, and danger indicates a lack of faith, and should constrain to renewed trust in God.

3. In their greatest extremity God does not abandon his people to despair, but provides for them "a way of escape." - D.

Now the Philistines gathered together their armies to battle.
While the Philistines were posted on the stony hills covered with brushwood which bounded the valley on the south, Saul and his army were posted on a similar stony ridge on its northern side. The valley, one of the most fertile in Palestine, was, at the scene of the conflict, about half a mile broad, with a torrent bed in the centre, which had been scooped out by the winter floods. This is apparently the gal or valley referred be in verse third. It is about ten feet deep, and twenty to thirty feet wide, and abounds in water-rounded pebbles. Major Conder declares it to be impassable, except at certain places, thus explaining why the two armies faced one another for forty days without coming into actual conflict. Either party was afraid to cross the defile, thereby exposing itself to serious disadvantage; and so they confined themselves to warlike demonstrations. The abject terror of Saul and his mighty men excites within us little or no surprise; but it is otherwise with regard to the brave and lionhearted Jonathan. To encounter Goliath in single combat, was not a more dangerous or formidable undertaking than that which he had once before successfully attempted at Michmash, when he and his armour bearer boldly stormed the garrison of the Philistines, which was but the outpost of an immense army. Why did he not come to the front on this occasion? It might be said that his father would not allow him. And if Jonathan had offered himself as the champion of Israel there can be little doubt that Saul would have been most unwilling to accept him; but there is nothing in the narrative to suggest that Jonathan made such a proposal. The impression made by the narrative is that abject terror reigned throughout the entire army. Neither was it due to any decline in Jonathan's piety and faith. It is gratuitous to suppose that he had become contaminated and lowered in moral tone, by the unbelieving and disobedient spirit of his father. I am inclined to think, from the noble spirit subsequently displayed by Jonathan, that as an individual he was now fitter in every respect, physically, intellectually, morally, and spiritually, for fighting the battles of the Lord, than he was when he wrought his great exploit at Michmash. He still believed, probably with a stronger faith than ever, that the Lord was able to save by many or by few; but he lacked the assurance, which he then had, viz., that the Lord was willing to save through him. Without that conviction he never would have attempted What he did at Michmash. It was only after God had fulfilled the proposed sign that Jonathan said to his armour bearer: "Come up after me, for the Lord hath delivered them into the hand of Israel." But he had not that assurance now. The dark cloud of the Divine rejection, which had fallen upon his father at Gilgal, had encompassed him also, and darkened his spirit with its baleful shadow. It deprived him not, only of the heirship to the kingdom, but also of the golden opportunity of fighting in the name of the Lord of hosts, with the proud giant of Gath. The period during which Goliath was permitted to defy the hosts of Israel was forty days. The frequency with which this period occurs in connection with special incidents in sacred history is remarkable and suggestive. It rained, e.g., forty days at the deluge (Genesis 7:4, 12). Moses on two occasions was forty days with God on Mount Sinai (Exodus 24:18; Exodus 34:28). The intercession of Moses on behalf of the people to avert from them the Divine wrath, on account of their sin in worshipping the golden calf, lasted forty days (Deuteronomy 9:25). The twelve spies were absent forty days during their inspection of the land of Canaan (Numbers 13:25); and because of the rebellion, caused by their evil report, the children of Israel were doomed to wander in the wilderness forty years, corresponding to the forty days spent in the work of inspection (Numbers 14:34). Elijah went, in the strength of the food which he received from the angel in the wilderness of Beersheba, forty days unto Horeb, the mount of God (1 Kings 19:8). The period of respite which was assigned to Nineveh was forty days, as Jonah was commissioned to preach in its streets: "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be destroyed" (John 3:4). The temptation of our Lord in the wilderness lasted forty days (Mark 1:13; Luke 4:2). And the fact that Saul and his army were subjected to the challenge of Goliath for forty days, seems to show that there was a Divine purpose in permitting it to last so long. The forty days seem to suggest the thoroughness or completeness of the trial. The impotence of Saul and his army without God was thereby clearly and conclusively demonstrated. It was only after this humiliating demonstration that the Lord brought into the field His own champion. "Man's extremity is God's opportunity."

(T. Kirk.)

The Philistines, indeed, were the hereditary enemies of Israel. They represented brute force and insolent pride and heathen worship, as opposed to higher thoughts of duty and justice, and the presence and power of God with His people. The name "Philistine" has been used in modern times, accordingly, to represent stupidity and opposition to light and knowledge and advancement and "sweet reasonableness."

(W. J. Knox Little, M. A.)

Abinadab, Abner, David, Elah, Eliab, Ephah, Goliath, Israelites, Jesse, Saul, Shammah
Azekah, Bethlehem, Ekron, Ephes-dammim, Gath, Jerusalem, Shaaraim, Socoh, Valley of Elah
Armies, Assembled, Azekah, Aze'kah, Battle, Belongeth, Belongs, Camp, Camped, Camps, Collected, Dammim, Encamp, Encamped, Ephes, Ephesdammim, Ephes-dammim, E'phes-dam'mim, Forces, Gather, Gathered, Got, Judah, Philistines, Pitched, Position, Shochoh, Sochoh, Socoh, War
1. The armies of the Israelites and Philistines being ready to battle
4. Goliath challenges a combat
12. David, sent by his father to visit his brothers, takes the challenge
28. Eliab chides him
30. He is brought to Saul
32. shows the reason of his confidence
38. and slays the giant
55. Saul takes notice of David

Dictionary of Bible Themes
1 Samuel 17:1

     5244   camp
     7266   tribes of Israel

1 Samuel 17:1-2

     4207   land, divine gift
     8728   enemies, of Israel and Judah

1 Samuel 17:1-3

     4290   valleys
     5208   armies

The victory of Unarmed Faith
'And David said to Saul, Let no man's heart fail because of him; thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine. 33. And Saul said to David, Thou art not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him: for thou art but a youth, and he a man of war from his youth. 34. And David said unto Saul, Thy servant kept his father's sheep, and there came a lion and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock; 35. And I went out after him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth: and when he
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture

April the Thirtieth the Test of victory
"David behaveth himself wisely." --1 SAMUEL xvii. 55--xviii. 5. The hour of victory is a more severe moral test than the hour of defeat. Many a man can brave the perils of adversity who succumbs to the seductions of prosperity. He can stand the cold better than the heat! He is enriched by failure, but "spoilt by success." To test the real quality of a man, let us regard him just when he has slain Goliath! "David behaved himself wisely"! He was not "eaten up with pride." He developed no "side."
John Henry Jowett—My Daily Meditation for the Circling Year

April the Twenty-Ninth the Mood of Triumph
"I come to thee in the name of the Lord of Hosts." --1 SAMUEL xvii. 38-54. The man who comes up to his foes with this assurance will fight and win. Reasonable confidence is one of the most important weapons in the warrior's armoury. Fear is always wasteful. The man who calmly expects to win has already begun to conquer. Our mood has so much to do with our might. And therefore does the Word of God counsel us to attend to our dispositions, lest, having carefully collected our material implements,
John Henry Jowett—My Daily Meditation for the Circling Year

The Call of David.
"So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone."--1 Samuel xvii. 50. These words, which are taken from the chapter which you heard read just now in the course of the Service[1], declare the victory which David, the man after God's own heart, gained over Goliath, who came out of the army of the Philistines to defy the Living God; and they declare the manner of his gaining it. He gained it with a sling and with a stone; that is, by means, which to man might seem weak and
John Henry Newman—Parochial and Plain Sermons, Vol. VIII

How David Prevailed.
"So David prevailed over the Philistine!"--1 SAMUEL xvii. 50. Yes, he did, but he would not have done so if he had remained as quiet as the other Israelites. David was one of those who could not be easy so long as the enemies of his country were in the ascendant. To see a Philistine strutting about, defying the armies of the living God, was more than he could bear. Is not this the spirit which should animate Christians to-day? It is not one GOLIATH merely, there are many. DRUNKENNESS, PROFANITY,
Thomas Champness—Broken Bread

Knox -- the First Temptation of Christ
John Knox, the great Scottish reformer, was born at Giffordgate, four miles from Haddington, Scotland, in 1505. He first made his appearance as a preacher in Edinburgh, where he thundered against popery, but was imprisoned and sent to the galleys in 1546. In 1547 Edward VI secured his release and made him a royal chaplain, when he acquired the friendship of Cranmer and other reformers. On the accession of Mary (1553) he took refuge on the Continent. In 1556 he accepted the charge of a church in Geneva,
Various—The World's Great Sermons, Volume I

Hwochow Women's Bible Training School
COURSE OF STUDY FIRST TERM Book of Genesis. Gospel according to St. Luke or St. Mark. Acts of the Apostles, chapters i. to ix. "A Synopsis of the Central Themes of the Holy Bible." Reading Lessons, with necessary Explanation and Writing of Chinese Character. Arithmetic. Singing and Memorisation of Hymns. SECOND TERM Book of Exodus, Numbers, and 1 Samuel i. to xvi. The Gospel according to St. John. The Epistle of St James. "A Synopsis of the Central Themes of the Holy Bible"--(continued). Reading
A. Mildred Cable—The Fulfilment of a Dream of Pastor Hsi's

He Does Battle for the Faith; He Restores Peace among those who were at Variance; He Takes in Hand to Build a Stone Church.
57. (32). There was a certain clerk in Lismore whose life, as it is said, was good, but his faith not so. He was a man of some knowledge in his own eyes, and dared to say that in the Eucharist there is only a sacrament and not the fact[718] of the sacrament, that is, mere sanctification and not the truth of the Body. On this subject he was often addressed by Malachy in secret, but in vain; and finally he was called before a public assembly, the laity however being excluded, in order that if it were
H. J. Lawlor—St. Bernard of Clairvaux's Life of St. Malachy of Armagh

The Shepherd-King
'And the Lord said unto Samuel, How long wilt them mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel! fill thine horn with oil, and go, I will send thee to Jesse the Beth-lehemite: for I have provided Me a king among his sons. 2. And Samuel said, How can I go? If Saul hear it, he will kill me. And the Lord said, Take an heifer with thee, and say, I am come to sacrifice to the Lord. 3. And call Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show thee what thou shalt do: and thou shalt anoint
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture

Temporal Advantages.
"We brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content."--1 Tim. vi. 7, 8. Every age has its own special sins and temptations. Impatience with their lot, murmuring, grudging, unthankfulness, discontent, are sins common to men at all times, but I suppose one of those sins which belongs to our age more than to another, is desire of a greater portion of worldly goods than God has given us,--ambition and covetousness
John Henry Newman—Parochial and Plain Sermons, Vol. VII

The Quotation in Matt. Ii. 6.
Several interpreters, Paulus especially, have asserted that the interpretation of Micah which is here given, was that of the Sanhedrim only, and not of the Evangelist, who merely recorded what happened and was said. But this assertion is at once refuted when we consider the object which Matthew has in view in his entire representation of the early life of Jesus. His object in recording the early life of Jesus is not like that of Luke, viz., to communicate historical information to his readers.
Ernst Wilhelm Hengstenberg—Christology of the Old Testament

The Blessing of Jacob Upon Judah. (Gen. Xlix. 8-10. )
Ver. 8. "Judah, thou, thy brethren shall praise thee; thy hand shall be on the neck of thine enemies; before thee shall bow down the sons of thy father. Ver. 9. A lion's whelp is Judah; from the prey, my son, thou goest up; he stoopeth down, he coucheth as a lion, and as a full-grown lion, who shall rouse him up? Ver. 10. The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come, and unto Him the people shall adhere." Thus does dying Jacob, in announcing
Ernst Wilhelm Hengstenberg—Christology of the Old Testament

Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners:
John Bunyan—The Works of John Bunyan Volumes 1-3

Man's Chief End
Q-I: WHAT IS THE CHIEF END OF MAN? A: Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever. Here are two ends of life specified. 1: The glorifying of God. 2: The enjoying of God. I. The glorifying of God, I Pet 4:4: That God in all things may be glorified.' The glory of God is a silver thread which must run through all our actions. I Cor 10:01. Whether therefore ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.' Everything works to some end in things natural and artificial;
Thomas Watson—A Body of Divinity

Alike from the literary and the historical point of view, the book[1] of Samuel stands midway between the book of Judges and the book of Kings. As we have already seen, the Deuteronomic book of Judges in all probability ran into Samuel and ended in ch. xii.; while the story of David, begun in Samuel, embraces the first two chapters of the first book of Kings. The book of Samuel is not very happily named, as much of it is devoted to Saul and the greater part to David; yet it is not altogether inappropriate,
John Edgar McFadyen—Introduction to the Old Testament

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