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1 Samuel 17
One leading object of the Word of God is to teach us that great things can be accomplished by small and seemingly inadequate means. In the Old Testament it is a promise to the righteous that one shall chase a thousand, and two shall put ten thousand to flight (Deut 30:10), which was literally fulfilled in some of Israel's extraordinary deliverances; and in the New Testament it is said, that God has chosen the foolish things of this world to confound the wise; and God has chosen the weak things of this world to confound the things that are mighty (1 Cor 1:27). The lesson which this teaching inculcates is an all-important one, that all power belongs to God, and that while to Him all things are possible, all things are likewise possible to him that believes. This truth is strikingly exemplified in the defeat of Goliath, the gigantic and panoplied champion of the Philistines, by the youthful and unarmed shepherd of Bethlehem; and which resulted in the overthrow of the whole Philistine army, and the deliverance of the Israelitish people from the galling yoke of these powerful enemies. But these are more to us than historical facts, extraordinary and interesting as they are, and instructive as evidences of the intervention of a higher than human power on behalf of the chosen nation. The narrative acquires a truly spiritual character and conveys a great practical lesson, when the conflict and victory it relates are seen to represent states of the Church in the course of her history, and of the human mind in the progress of its regeneration. In the Church and in the minds of her members are we to look for the armies of Israel and of Philistia, and for the champion of the Philistines, clothed in his mailed panoply, defying the armies of the living God, and for David, with his shepherd's staff and his sling and his stones, as the seemingly incapable instrument of effecting the deliverance of his people. The army of Israel represents the Church as consisting, not only of the numerous members who unitedly form the body of the faithful, but of the numerous principles which unitedly form the faith itself, by virtue of which the Church, either individually or collectively, exists. When the Israelites are called the armies of the living God, they represent the principles of goodness and truth which constitute the Church, as derived from and connected with Him who is goodness itself and truth itself, and as they are disposed in true order by Him who is order itself. And when this arrangement includes the militant idea which an army suggests, we are to consider the armies of the living God as opposed to a combination of principle opposite and hostile to those of the true Church. The Philistines, we have seen, represent in a general sense the persuasion, and the desire in which it originates, that happiness may be attained by an easier and shorter way than purity of heart and holiness of life, by seeming rather than being, by thinking and believing rather than doing. In religion this takes the form of the doctrine of salvation by faith without the deeds of the moral law; and, when carried to its legitimate consequence, it becomes in practice the form of godliness without the power thereof. This, though found within the Church, is one of its greatest enemies, because it is entirely opposed to vital religion, without which the Church is but a form and a name. But the Philistine principle, as we have had occasion to remark, is not necessarily limited to those who hold the doctrinal opinion, nor is it always acted out by them. Whoever holds it practically holds it actually, whatever his creed may be. The inclination to it is inherent in us all, and the temptation to yield to it is one from which none are exempt. It is an enemy which it is difficult fully and finally to conquer. It returns upon us again and again, and it requires all our watchfulness and courage to prevent it from obtaining complete dominion over us. Those who hold the doctrine both intellectually and morally are themselves Philistines, and are opposed to the armies of the living God. One feature which this condition of mind is exceedingly liable to present is intellectual pride. This arises from the fact that great dialectical skill and training are required to reconcile the doctrine with the teaching of the Word, which insists so much on the necessity of love and charity, and so emphatically declares that every one shall be judged according to his works. The whole theology of one branch of the Church is founded upon a single passage in the writings of St. Paul, misunderstood—that we are justified by faith without the deeds of the law; and this underlies the whole of its systematic teaching. This doctrine is grafted on the idea that Jesus Christ fulfilled the law and died for the breach of it in our stead, so that we are saved by faith in His vicarious life and death. The false theological science by which this is supported is that kind of knowledge which puffs up; for whatever is of man tends to self-exaltation, however unconscious one may be of the nature of his own belief and of the means by which he upholds it. This intellectual pride is the Goliath, the champion of the Philistines, that defies the armies of the living God, and that challenges them to produce a man that can fight with him. And the armour with which he was covered, and the weapons with which he was armed, are the arguments by which the false principle defends itself, and which it employs to overcome the arguments that are opposed to it.
The existence of giants is one of the interesting particulars of sacred history. An indication of their origin and character is afforded in the fact that their first existence is mentioned at a period when mankind had come into a state of great spiritual corruption, which was immediately before the Flood; and that they are never spoken of except as the enemies of God and His people. All the Churches that existed before the Lord's coming were representative. Their inward state was manifested, not only, as with us, in its moral effects, but in its physical representatives. Among these was lofty stature, as the fitting representative of intellectual pride; while the terror which these giants inspired in the minds of others, as fitly represented the power which a pretentious intelligence exercises over those who are unable clearly to discern between the proper function of the intellect, which is to understand and confirm truth, and its perverted use, which is to frame congenial errors and give them the appearance of being true. Within the Church erroneous doctrines on religious subjects are based upon and confirmed by the literal sense of the Word; and it is in consequence of this that they have so great an influence on religious minds, the authority due to the Scriptures being naturally ascribed to that which is supposed to be derived from them. But how is it that the Scriptures of truth should afford the means of framing and confirming error? The literal sense of the Word consists, to a great extent, of apparent truths, in which theological errors, which originate in the human mind, find their chief support. When the apparent truths of Scripture are made the foundation and test of religious doctrine, they invalidate the real truths of the Word, from which all doctrine should be drawn and by which it should be established; and human wisdom is never at a loss to confirm by reasons what it claims to rest upon authority. Those reasons are the armour and weapons, by which the giant prepared himself for the conflict with any champion whom the army of Israel could provide. The minute description of his armour is no doubt intended to convey an idea of the character of instruments of spiritual warfare which the enemies of the Church employ in their assaults upon her principles. The meaning of the several parts of Goliath's armour, which is the most complete suit mentioned in the Bible, may be gathered from the description of Christ's armour by Isaiah, and of the Christian's armour by St. Paul. Speaking of our Lord, the prophet says, "He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and an helmet of salvation upon His head; and He put on the garments of vengeance for clothing, and was clad with zeal as a cloak'' (Isa 59:17); and the Apostle exhorts the Christian disciples "to put on the whole armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take to you the whole armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; and your feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith, with which you shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God" (Eph 6:11-17); and in another place he says, " Let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation" (1 Thes. 5:8). The Lord came on earth as a Man of war as well as the Prince of peace; for He had to conquer the powers of darkness before He could give peace to His people. What is the armour which the Infinite put on when He assumed human nature? The head, the breast, and the feet of the Lord, which are spoken of in the Word, are His Divine celestial, Divine spiritual, and Divine natural; or, His Divine love and wisdom as accommodated to the angels of the three heavens, and to those on earth who are in communion with them. The helmet of salvation which He put on is the Truth by which He defended the celestial, and the righteousness which He put on as a breastplate is the Truth by which He defended the spiritual. No armour for the lower part of the body is mentioned, because truth natural "in the Lord's Humanity lay open to the assaults of the enemy; therefore in the first production of His becoming the seed of the woman, where His conflict with the tempter is spoken of, it is said that whilst the Redeemer should bruise the serpent's head, the serpent should bruise His heel: and David, in describing the Lord's sufferings, makes Him say, "They pierced My hands and My feet." Truth natural, such as it was in the Lord's maternal humanity, and such as it is in the letter of the Word, is truth clothed with appearances, which can be pierced and wounded by false and sinister interpretations, and of which vengeance and zeal are predicated. What, then, is the Christian's armour? It must be analogous to that of the Captain of his salvation. His helmet is the truth that defends the highest of his Christian graces, which is love to the Lord; and his breastplate is the truth that defends that grace which is like it, which is love to the neighbour. Faith is the shield that affords general protection to the Christian virtues from all the assaults that evil can direct against them; and the Word of God, which is the sword of the Spirit, is the weapon by which he overcomes all that opposes itself to the truth and righteousness of the Gospel of Christ.
We may now have some clear idea of the symbolic character of the several pieces of the armour of the gigantic champion of the Philistines. For the means by which the cause of error is maintained, though different in essence, are similar in form to those by which the cause of truth is upheld. Every error claims to be the truth, and draws its weapons of offence and defence from the same armoury which supplies weapons for defending and maintaining the truth. The Scriptures are the common source of all religious evidences, but heresy misinterprets and perverts its true teaching, and thus falsifies its truths, so far as its principles require it. "The warfare of those who are in error is not therefore against the Word itself, for this they call holy and Divine, but it is against the real truths of the Word; for they confirm their falsities from the Word understood as to the letter only, which in some parts is so expressed that it may be interpreted to confirm the most heretical opinions, because in that sense it is according to the apprehension of the young and the simple, who for the most part are sensual, and receive such things as appear before the eyes. The Word in the letter being such, those who are in falsities from evil of life confirm their falsities from the Word, and so falsify the Word. The Word is thus falsified by those who separate faith from charity, as, for example? whenever doing or deeds and works are mentioned, they explain all such passages, of which there are thousands, as if nothing of deeds or works were meant." The helmet, the coat of mail, and the greaves of the giant are the falsities framed or fabricated from the apparent truths of the Word, to resist and invalidate the teaching of its real truths respecting love to the Lord, charity to the neighbour, and good works, these being meant by his armour for the head, the breast, and the legs and feet. The shield is the general means of defence of the false faith, the opposite of and defence against the true. Besides this defensive armour, Goliath had a spear, a javelin, and a sword. The second of these instruments is called a target, but, singularly, in other passages where the word occurs, it is translated spear or lance (as in Josh 8:18, 26; Jer 1. 42). The weapon is understood to have been a heavy javelin. Thus the spear, the javelin, and the sword were three offensive weapons, answering to the three parts of the defensive armour, the helmet, the breastplate, and the greaves. The defensive armour was of brass, and the offensive was no doubt, as the spear-head is said to have been, of iron. Brass and iron correspond to natural good and truth, and in the opposite sense, as they must be taken here, of natural evil and falsity. One other particular is mentioned respecting the spear, that its staff was like a weaver's beam. Literally, this gives an idea of its immense size, but, spiritually, it expresses the nature of that which it represents. "A weaver signifies the celestial principle, or that which relates to the will, because the will flows into the understanding and fashions it, insomuch that the things which are in the understanding are woven out of the will." Wood and iron, which formed the staff and head of the spear, in the genuine sense correspond to good and truth, and therefore in the opposite sense to evil and falsity. The falsity in the understanding which is fashioned and formed out of evil in the will is the head of Goliath's spear, the staff of which was like a weaver's beam. One other particular given respecting the several parts of the armour of the giant is their weight. And as we are here to deal with numbers, we may take into the account the stature of the giant. His stature was six cubits and a span; his coat of mail weighed five thousand shekels, and the head of his spear six hundred shekels. Weight and stature correspond to the state of a thing as to good or evil, and the number by which the weight or stature is expressed signifies the quality of that state. Six is a number expressive of combat, chiefly because, in relation to the regenerate, the six days of labour which precede the Sabbath, signify all the states of labour and conflict through which the Christian has to pass before he enters into a state of rest. As the regenerate fight against evil and falsity, the unregenerate fight against goodness and truth. This is the combat, therefore, which is expressed by the six cubits stature of the giant and the six hundred shekels weight of his spear-head. But the height of the giant was six cubits and a span. The cubit is a measure based upon the length of the forearm, and the span upon the length of the hand. The height of the champion is thus expressive of the pride which says, Mine own arm and my own right hand shall gain me the victory. The weight of the coat of mail was five thousand shekels. Five, as consisting of two and three, is expressive of the union of goodness and truth, which these numbers signify; but as things are here to be taken in their opposite sense, the union of evil and falsity is to be understood. A hundred and a thousand do not alter the meaning of the simple numbers, but only exalt them. How great, then, must be the combined power of the evil and false, which opposes itself to the principle of charity, as one of the partners of faith in the heavenly marriage of goodness and truth, that not only secures but constitutes salvation!
Such, then, as presented in its most distinct and complete representative form, is the gigantic heresy, or rather principle, of Faith alone as the ground and hope of salvation. We wish to be understood as. speaking of the principle, not merely of the doctrine. The doctrine is both the effect and the cause of evil; but only those who are in the principle are really of the army of the uncircumcised, or are represented by its champion.
The challenge which the giant daily uttered in the hearing of the Israelitish army, to give him a man that they might fight together, found no response. Saul, whose great height emulated that of the giant, and who was not deficient either in bravery or skill, perhaps partly regarded the champion as not entitled by rank to be met in single combat by a king. Certain it is that when Saul and all Israel heard the defiant words of the Philistine, they were dismayed, and greatly afraid. The fear of man is present so far as the fear of God is absent. Both the people and the king were to some extent in this condition. But the time of the people's deliverance was not yet come, for he by whom they were to be delivered was not yet made manifest to Israel. But that time is now at hand. David, the anointed but yet uncrowned king of Israel, is about to appear, to accept the challenge and be the conqueror of their otherwise unconquerable enemy.
There follows now a long account, not unattended with difficulties, of David's coming to the Israelitish camp, having been sent by his father with provisions for his three eldest brothers, who had followed Saul to the battle. Seeing the men of Israel flee in terror from the champion, when he uttered his usual challenge, and hearing that "the man who kills him, the king will enrich him with great riches, and will give him his daughter in marriage, and make his father's house free in Israel," David expresses his contempt for the great boaster, "for who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?" These words are rehearsed to Saul, who sends for David. And he from the sheepfold at once says to the king, "Let no man's heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine." Saul might well have his fears, and represent to David the unequal match in which he proposed to engage. "You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him: for you are but a youth, and he a man of war from his youth." But David's experience as a shepherd inspired him with just confidence in his ability to cope with the man of war. "Your servant kept his father's sheep, and there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock: and I went out after him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth: and when he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and smote him, and slew him. Your servant slew both the lion and the bear: and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them, seeing he has defied the armies of the living God." David's occupation, his experience, and his confidence in his own power, were representative of those of David's Lord. He kept His Father's sheep. The sheep were indeed His own, but His Father gave them Him; and no man was able to pluck them out of His hand (John 10:28, 29). David's conflict with the lion and the bear, and his rescue of the lamb, represented the Lord's conflicts with the powers of darkness, and the deliverance of the human race from their devouring jaws; for is not the devil described as a roaring lion, walking about, seeking whom he may devour? The lion and the bear are symbols of the devil and Satan, by whom our Lord was tempted in the wilderness, when, it is said, He was with the wild beasts (Mark 1:13). There is something peculiar in David's account of his encounter with the wild beasts, which he slew. It would seem as if they had both attacked his flock at once, and then he says he slew him. The rescue of the lamb, alive as we infer, out of the mouth of the lion and the bear, is also extraordinary; while his catching him by the beard, and smiting and slaying him, is worthy of Samson. No doubt the particulars relate to one of them, or to each of them singly; but it may be concluded that the appearance is that of one encounter, to make it a more exact representative of the Lord's temptation at the same time by the devil and Satan, which are but different names for the whole powers of hell, but being, like the lion and the bear, expressive of the powers of evil and of falsity. The rescue of the lamb alive was also required to make it the type of the deliverance from death of those whom Satan had made captive, and desired to rend in pieces and devour.
Great as the strength must have been to seize and slay two such powerful beasts of prey, the unarmed shepherd does not claim the merit of his victory. "David said moreover, The Lord that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, He will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine." This was the ground of his confidence. The Lord said, "I can of Mine own self do nothing "(John 5:30), "but the Father that dwells in Me, He does the works" (John 14:10). The Lord's confidence was in the constant presence in Him of the Father; so that He could say, "I and the Father are one" (John 10:30). The Divine in the human was the source of His power and of His victories.
Saul, satisfied with these proofs of David's courage and prowess, not the less that he relied on God for strength, said to him, "Go, and the Lord be with you." But the king was not disposed to allow his youthful champion to encounter the giant, as he had encountered the lion and the bear, unarmed. "Saul armed David with his armour, and he put. an helmet of brass upon his head; and he also armed him with a coat of mail. And David girded his sword upon his armour." But Saul's armour did not suit David. "He assayed to go; for he had not proved it. And David said to Saul, I cannot go with these; for I have not proved them. And David put them off." This is one of those Scripture incidents which, though not supposed to have a spiritual meaning, are used in a figurative sense. The spiritual sense is not accidental but inherent, and is the teaching, as it is of the inspiration, of the Spirit itself. We may first consider it with reference to Saul and David in their highest representative character. Divine truth could not go into the battle with the armour of truth Divine. As truth Divine, the Lord fought against the enemies of the Church and of heaven with the apparent truths of the Word; as Divine truth He fought against them with the real or genuine truths of the Word. He even led His disciples at times by apparent truth, as when He promised them that, in the regeneration, they should sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. The armour of Saul represented the apparent truths of the Word, but in their pure and simple state, as opposed to the same truths in their corrupted and perverted state, as represented by the armour of Goliath. This armour would have been suitable on the person of Saul, but it was not suitable on the person of David. David had, indeed, put on the armour of Saul, or rather Saul had put his armour upon David, and David himself put it off. All that was imperfect, even the appearances of truth, came to him from without, but he put it off by his own will and power from within. David, however, did not go with Saul's armour, but put it off, because he had not proved them. The Lord, as Divine truth, had not proved apparent truth as armour to be trusted in the day of battle; but it was because He saw that no proving would make it a fit instrument for Him in those conflicts in which, as truth Divine, He could not have conquered. Saul, with all his armour, did not venture to engage with the Philistines; and David, who had undertaken to meet their champion, would not fight with him in Saul's armour, but chose instruments less warlike, but, in his hands, more effective. "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, even in a bag, and his sling in his hand." How simple his equipment for engaging in a conflict with such an opponent, and on the result of which hangs so great an issue! But his means, he knew, were sufficient for the end. So knew the Lord, in His conflicts with a far more powerful enemy, and on the issues of which depended, not the freedom or servitude of Israel, but of the whole human race. And so knows, or at least confides, the Christian, when he has to encounter the foes that would bring him again into bondage to error or sin, from which the truth has made him free. The shepherd's staff is that of which David afterwards sung, "The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want. Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: Your rod and Your staff they comfort me." He leans on and confides in the power of the Divinity and not in his own—on the Lord's goodness and wisdom, not on his will and prudence. But David had to provide himself with the means of active resistance; and he chose five smooth stones out of the brook. The word here translated brook sometimes means a valley, as the bed of a stream; but as a brook is its primitive meaning, we may take this as the basis of the spiritual sense, supposing there be any uncertainty as to whether David took his stones from the mountain torrent or its dry bed. Those which David chose were at least the water-worn stones of the brook. These smooth stones out of the brook represented plain truths out of the Holy Word. Brooks, streams, and rivers—like fountains and wells, pools, lakes, and seas—are symbols of the Holy Word, not only as revealed in a book, but as received in the mind. There the distinction exists between running, sometimes called living water, which signifies truth in the understanding and the life, and standing water, which signifies truth in the memory. The brook out of which David chose his five smooth stones is the Word, as the origin of an intelligent and living faith, and therefore opposed to a traditional and dead faith.
There are some particulars respecting these stones that deserve attention. They were smooth stones. An intelligent and practical faith does for truths, even for those that are to be employed in defence of the faith, what the waters of the brook do for the stones over which they run—it takes off their angles and asperities, and makes them round and smooth, imparting to truth the form and quality of goodness. The stones were five in number, to indicate that such truths unite in themselves the qualities of goodness and truth. They were chosen, to teach us that truths are to be discriminated and selected, so as to be suitable for the use to which they are to be applied. They were put into a shepherd's bag, or a bag, to indicate to us that truths must be laid up into doctrine until they are required for the uses of life.
There is something remarkable in our Lord's teaching respecting the bag. When He sent forth His disciples on the peaceful mission of preaching the Gospel, He told them to take no bag; but when, on the night of the passover, He warned them of the approaching conflict with the powers of the world, He says to them, "He that has a purse let him take it, and likewise his bag; and he that has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one." The bag is thus associated with a state of warfare; and in David's conflict with Goliath it must signify the doctrinal form which is suited to accompany and contain truths destructive of falsities and evils. But David had, as he-required, an instrument for projecting the stones he had chosen out of the brook. A sling has the same meaning as a bow; and a bow signifies doctrine combating, as a quiver, like a bag, signifies doctrine-containing. Doctrine has two main uses. It gathers up and combines the various truths relating to one subject that lie scattered throughout the Scriptures. Doctrine for this use is the bag into which the stones are gathered, the quiver in which the arrows are placed. But doctrine has a further use; it gives direction and force to truths when they are to be employed in combating error and evil; and then it is the sling and the bow.
Thus armed, David goes forth to the conflict. He drew near to the Philistine, and the Philistine came and drew near to David. And the-Philistine said to David, "Am I a dog, that you come to me with staves?" Sometimes men in asserting their dignity describe their own character, and this the Philistine does, for the uncircumcised represent the sensual, and this is the Scripture meaning of a dog. The Philistine displays his representative character further by cursing David by his gods, which is to blaspheme the truth from the falsity to which the heart and mind are devoted. He also utters the seemingly reasonable but falsified boast, "Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air, and to the beasts of the field;" which is an expressed intention of giving the good of truth to be torn and devoured by the thoughts and lusts of the carnal mind. David's answer to the gigantic boaster is one of noble simplicity, but of unreserved trust in God, to whom he ascribes the glory of the confidently expected victory. "You come to me," says the shepherd youth, "with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day will the Lord deliver you into mine hand; and I will smite you, and take your head from you; and I will give the carcases of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. And all this assembly shall know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear: for the battle is the Lord's, and He will give you into our hands." This was not the language of confidence merely, but of prophecy. No one could speak in this manner but to whom it had been revealed. It reminds us of the Lord's saying to Peter, "Flesh and blood has not revealed it to you, but My Father which is in heaven." It was also prophetic in a higher sense; for David speaks as a worthy type of the coming Redeemer, whose name was the Lord of hosts. We shall see the meaning of David's language in the event itself.
When the Philistine arose and came and drew near to meet David, David hastened and ran toward the army to meet the Philistine. "And David put his hand in his bag, and took thence a stone, and slung it, and smote the Philistine in his forehead, that the stone sank into his forehead; and he fell upon his face to the earth." The result of this stroke is extraordinary, but it is not, we believe, incredible. At the same time we must not forget that such feats of strength and skill, in that representative dispensation, had both a supernatural cause and a supernatural meaning. The spiritual world, which is the world of causes, is also the world whence comes the light which reveals those causes. In the light of the spiritual sense of the Word we are enabled to see that David's easy victory by such simple means represented the Christian's victory over opposing error and evil. However formidable in itself, and rendered seemingly invulnerable by reasonings and perversions of Scripture, the plain and simple truths of the Word, applied by pure doctrine, can overcome them. To the complexity of error nothing can be so successfully opposed as the simplicity of truth. The essential principles of religion are so plainly revealed in the Scriptures that the simplest mind can understand them; and if the Christian disciple can only rest in the conviction that the battle is the Lord's, and that error can only be overcome by Divine truth, as revealed in God's Word. We could find as many essential truths opposed to the error of faith alone as there were stones in the bag of David, any one of which would be sufficient to condemn it. "Love the Lord above all things; love your neighbour as yourself; he that has My commandments and keeps them, he it is that loves Me; if you would enter into life keep the commandments; for we must all appear before the judgement-seat of Christ, to receive every one according to the deeds done in the body, whether they be good or whether they be evil." Any one of these truths is capable of penetrating the head and front of its opposite and opposing error. The forehead corresponds to the highest and inmost of the mind, and therefore to any truth or error in its first principles. The beast in the vision of St. John, which symbolized the same false persuasion that the Philistine represented, caused his followers to receive his mark in their right hand and in their forehead (Rev 13:16); that is, inwardly in their minds, and outwardly in their lives. The forehead of the giant is, therefore, the interior of the falsity he represented, and to cause the stone to sink into his forehead, is to cause the truth to penetrate into the inmost of falsity, and destroy its dominion over us. And we do this in ourselves when we apply the truths of the Lord's Word, not only to the words and actions of our lives, but to the thoughts and intentions of our hearts.
But David's triumph was not yet complete. When he had slain the giant, he ran and stood upon him, as a mark of subjugation, like placing the foot upon the neck of an enemy. And he took the giant's sword, and cut off his head. His turning the giant's sword against himself exemplified the Lord's words, "He that takes the sword shall perish by the sword." It is a spiritual law, invariable in its operation, that he who takes the word of falsity to fight against the truth, shall perish by it. Though not more certain, yet more terrible is the death, when the falsity is a direct perversion of the truth. The literal sense of the Word is a sword that turns every way to guard the way of the tree of life ; and any doctrinal error that is founded upon the appearances of truth in the letter, and held in simplicity and sincerity, does not of necessity destroy spiritual life; but when elaborate reasonings are employed to confirm error and invalidate the truth, because error favours evil and truth condemns it, then those who maintain the unholy conflict shall be as the wicked who have drawn out the sword, and "their sword shall enter into their own heart" (Ps 37:15).
David's victory over Goliath had its natural effect upon the two hostile armies, who had been spectators of the unequal contest. "When the Philistines saw their champion was dead, they fled. And the men of Israel and of Judah arose, and shouted, and pursued the Philistines." The Israelites chased the Philistines to the gates of Ekron; and the wounded of the Philistines fell down by the way of Shaaraim, even to Gath, and to Ekron. Shaaraim was a city of Judah, and means two gates; Gath was the birthplace of Goliath, and means a wine-press; and Ekron was the chief city of one of the Philistine gods, and means uprooting. From all these particulars we learn that when the leading principle fails or succeeds, the common principles give way or acquire new vigour. In this instance truth and good are elevated in the thoughts and affections, and go forth in word's and deeds, which result in the expulsion of falsity and evil from the interior which they had invaded, and forced back to the uttermost part of the exterior which they still possessed, and where their idol gods still maintained their dominion; for Ekron had been given by lot to Judah (Josh 15:11, 46), although the Philistines still held it, representing a state in which evil is not yet removed from the external man, though destined to be uprooted even there, by means of passing through the gates of knowledge and the wine-press of temptation. It is in the way to these that the evils and falsities, which the avenging sword of truth has disabled, fall down powerless to oppose the progress of righteousness.
While the army of Israel was pursuing the panic-stricken hosts of Philistia, David was on his way to Jerusalem with the head of Goliath. It has been asked why David should take his trophy to a city of which the Jebusites still held possession. David was to be the conqueror of Jerusalem; and it may well be that he should carry the head of the champion of the arch-enemy of Israel to the city which was to be the capital of the kingdom over which he was to rule. The armour of the giant he put in his tent. The armour of Goliath represented things in themselves good and true, because obtained from the armoury of the Word, but perverted by being applied to an evil use. When these become the spoil of the good they return to their original state of being true, because they are to be used for the defence of good and not of evil; they can therefore be laid up in the mind, as David put the armour of which he had stripped Goliath in his tent.
Saul, who had seen David go forth against the Philistine, was anxious to know, and sent Abner the captain of his host to inquire, whose son the stripling was. "As David was returning from the slaughter of the Philistine, Abner took him, and brought him before Saul with the head of the Philistine in his hand. And Saul said to him, Whose son are you, young man? And David answered, I am the son of your servant Jesse, the Bethlehemite." It is considered difficult to understand how David, who had born Saul's armour-bearer, and had been accustomed to play before him on his harp, should now be entirely unknown to him. It has, therefore, been proposed to omit or transpose a part of the chapter. As there is no critical ground for objecting to any part of the narrative but its seeming inconsistency, there can be no sufficient reason for rejecting a part of Holy Writ; but there may be other and higher reasons for retaining it. There may be a spiritual cause why David should now seemingly for the first time become known to Saul. David was now a new man. He was no longer the armour-bearer of the king, but the hero of a great conflict. He had slain the terrible warrior and scattered the hosts of the enemy; and he came into Saul's presence with the head of the giant in his hand as a sign of his irresistible power, which was soon to shake the heart of the king himself.10 previous - next - BM Home - Full Page