I find myself reflecting on the story of David and Goliath this week. It is a story that captivated me as a young child, as I think it does most children. In this story, we find David, a young shepherd, thrust into a situation much bigger than himself, both literally and figuratively. It is not a situation he thought he’d be in, and yet, here he is, taking a stand for his beliefs and his people against a giant.
The Bible, like any other history book, is written by the victors. As such, I find myself wondering about Goliath, the defeated. But let’s talk about David first. We know David was chosen by God. He wasn’t the biggest, the fastest, or the strongest. He wasn’t well-known or even well-liked among his brothers (1 Samuel 17:28), and yet he was chosen and he received God’s blessing.
David knew he held God’s favor, and it was with this assurance that he went out and fought Goliath. He didn’t even fight Goliath. He threw a stone, one stone, and took down a giant.
I think about this story and I think about Goliath. The Bible is full of stories of heroes and villains and it’s easy to look at individuals we don’t agree with, whether in Bible times or today, and strip them of their humanity. “They don’t agree with me, they don’t hold the same beliefs that I do, they don’t share the same lifestyle, they don’t look or talk or act the same way as me,” and we vilify them. They become less than human in our minds, and so it’s easy when we proclaim they are wrong.
And so, I keep thinking back to Goliath. He went into that war and he was just as sure of his beliefs and his faith and his rightness as David was. He walked out there and challenged the Israelite army day after day, fully believing that he had the blessing of his gods, and that he was going to win that war.
Then he sees David, this young man, this youth (1 Samuel 17:42), walking toward him and he didn’t give David any credit. He didn’t take David seriously. And can we blame him? Goliath was a giant among men, fully confident in his own abilities, his own power, and his own rightness. What can a little boy do against a giant? Quite a lot, as it turns out.
It’s easy to vilify Goliath. It doesn’t take much work to strip him of his humanity; to say he is the villain of this story. But I think it’s important to remember, he was not the villain of his story. Goliath fully believed he was in the right. And he was just as human; he contained just as much humanity, as David did.
I think that’s what we forget in any of these stories of the Bible: whether hero or villain, they were all human. There was humanity on both sides and on both sides, there was the fervent belief in the power of one’s own rightness. Yet, there was only one winner in the battle of David and Goliath. Only one received the blessing of God. And that blessing went to the small. To the overlooked. To the lesser. It went to the least of these. It went to David. And he brought a giant to his knees.
“So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and struck the Philistine and killed him. There was no sword in the hand of David.” (1 Samuel 17:50)
The Bible says that Saul did not know who David was; he did not recognize him. (1 Samuel 17:55-58). But we know who David was. He was a young man, a youth, chosen and blessed by God to lead his people to victory.
It can be hard to tell as a story’s unfolding who is in the right; who has received God’s blessing. And in the process of drawing battle lines, we do our best to showcase our own humanity and rightness, while minimizing that of our perceived opponent. Is it any wonder then, that we are so often surprised to look back and realize (or even admit) when we discover we’re wrong? That while we were blinded by our confidence in our own rightness, God was quietly working behind the scenes, bestowing His blessing upon an unlikely hero.
As I read the story of David and Goliath today, as an adult, I see it as more than a story of the Israelite army triumphing over the Philistines. More even than a story of a young man defeating a giant. It is a reminder that it is not always clear as the story’s unfolding who holds God’s blessing within their hearts, and so it would be wise for us to remember each other’s humanity even in our disagreements, even in our fervent belief in our own rightness.