It is in connection with the rejection of Saul as king of Israel, and of the evil spirit that comes upon him in the wake of that rejection, that we first meet up with the man who would become king of Israel, that being David. The introduction is made when Samuel goes to Bethlehem, to a man named Jesse, to find and to anoint the one that God has designated as king over his people. When Samuel encounters Jesse and his sons, David is not even counted among them. After the sons of Jesse are presented to Samuel and then eliminated from contention one by one, Samuel, perplexed by this, inquires if perhaps there might be another son that has not yet been presented before him. He is told, “There is still the youngest one, but he’s taking care of the flock” (1 Samuel 16:11b). At that time, David was off in the field, with no idea about what was going on or about what God had purposed for him. Figuratively, he was in exile.
When David is brought before Samuel, “The Lord said, ‘Go and anoint him. This is the one!’ So Samuel took the horn full of olive oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers” (16:12b-13a). This was David’s exodus. He has now entered into God’s purposes for him and for God’s people, and to that end, “The Spirit of the Lord rushed upon David from that day onward” (16:13b). We can see something of a duplication of this scene in the life of Jesus, as after He was baptized, which represented His own exodus, it was said that the Spirit of God descended like a dove and came on Him (Matthew 3:16).
The story of Goliath follows quickly on the heels of David’s introduction, and in many ways, as do so many other Scriptural stories, it embodies exile and exodus. The story, of course, forms part of the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Philistines, which represent, for Israel, that constant tension between living lives of exile or exodus, depending on their response to their God and to His righteousness. When Goliath steps out each day to challenge Israel, he threatens them with exile (subjugation), saying “Choose for yourselves a man so he may come down to me! If he is able to fight with me and strike me down, we will become your servants. But if I prevail against him and strike him down, you will become our servants and serve us” (17:8b-9). Repeatedly, “all the men of Israel… retreated from his presence and were very afraid” (17:24). David, however, did not. He seized on the words of Goliath, and, if you will, accentuated the positive. Where the men of Israel heard the threat of exile from Goliath, David heard the words of exodus. Not only did Goliath speak of Israel being subjugated to the Philistines, but he was also proposing the reverse, which spoke to God’s promises to Israel to cause their enemies to flee from before them (Deuteronomy 28:7) and that they would be the head rather than the tail (28:13). This was connected to God’s promises to bless for the obedience of His people.
So, with God’s faithfulness to His promises in mind, David hears the men of Israel say “the king will make the man who can strike him down very wealthy! He will give him his daughter in marriage, and he will make his father’s house exempt from tax obligations in Israel” (17:25b). Because David has God’s faithfulness clearly in mind, we can attempt to imagine his response as he hears these words. Not having to pay taxes is always a good thing, but what else does David hear? Perhaps he hears more of Moses’ words as reported in Deuteronomy in connection with the promises that the king is making, in which Israel is told “the Lord your God will elevate you above all the nations of the earth… You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the field. Your children will be blessed… You will be blessed when you come in and blessed when you go out… The Lord will open for you His good treasure house” (28:1b,3,4a,6,12a). All around him fear exile while David grasps on to the continued promise of exodus. He goes on to inform Saul that he has experienced dangerous threats before, and that this threat was no different. David goes on to speak of “The Lord Who delivered me” (17:37), thereby using the very language of exodus, trusting in the God that had delivered Israel out of Egypt.
After first attempting to use Saul’s armor and sword, and finding that he was not comfortable with their use and that they would prove to be a disadvantage to him in his fight, David went out to encounter Goliath with his slingshot, some stones, and apparently a shepherd staff in his hand. Goliath said to him, “Am I a dog, that you are coming after me with sticks?” (17:43) With this, the unity of Scripture and Israel’s history once again leaps to the forefront, as we are reminded of Moses coming before Pharaoh, in his role of deliverer of Israel, and doing so with a staff in hand. Pharaoh was as dismissive of Moses as Goliath was of David, to their detriment.