1 Samuel 17-19
The incident of David and Goliath the giant Philistine is one of the most famous events of Bible History. It took place after the armies of Israel and the Philistines had faced each other in a standoff for many days across the valley of Elah, about 15 miles west of Bethlehem.
"Now the Philistines gathered their armies for battle; and they were gathered at Socoh, which belongs to Judah, and encamped between Socoh and Azekah, in Ephes-dammim. And Saul and the men of Israel were gathered, and encamped in the valley of Elah, and drew up in line of battle against the Philistines. And the Philistines stood on the mountain on the one side, and Israel stood on the mountain on the other side, with a valley between them." (1 Samuel 17:1-3 RSV)
It was hardly a great moment for the army of Israel - no Israelite, including King Saul himself and three of David's older brothers, accepted the challenge.
"When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid." (1 Samuel 17:11 RSV)
"And Jesse said to David his son, "Take for your brothers an ephah of this parched grain, and these ten loaves, and carry them quickly to the camp to your brothers; also take these ten cheeses to the commander of their thousand. See how your brothers fare, and bring some token from them." (1 Samuel 17:17-18 RSV)
When David arrived and heard the Philistine giant (Goliath was about 9 feet tall) not only mocking Israel, but blaspheming The Lord, David volunteered to meet him in battle. Despite the king's lack of confidence in him, at that point, and the jealous rebuke of his three brothers who themselves lacked the courage to do what David was about to do, David killed the Philistine and took his head as a trophy (see the Fact Finder question below). With the giant killed, the Philistine army retreated back toward Gaza (see also The Truth About Israel and the "Palestinians") with Israel in hot pursuit.
"When the Philistine arose and came and drew near to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. And David put his hand in his bag and took out a stone, and slung it, and struck the Philistine on his forehead; the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face to the ground.
1 Samuel Chapter 18
Despite his victory over Goliath, for King Saul, and other victories later, for King Saul, David was sometimes in more danger from Saul than he was from the Philistines. Saul foolishly resented the best player on his own team.
"And David went out and was successful wherever Saul sent him; so that Saul set him over the men of war. And this was good in the sight of all the people and also in the sight of Saul's servants.
Saul's animosity toward David because murderous. Saul's poor judgment ability was full blown by then; instead of appreciating a very loyal young warrior who was winning battles for the king, the king got jealous and tried to kill David himself.
"And on the morrow an evil spirit from God rushed upon Saul, and he raved within his house, while David was playing the Lyre, as he did day by day. Saul had his spear in his hand; and Saul cast the spear, for he thought, "I will pin David to the wall." But David evaded him twice.
Saul then tried to murder David in another way, by sending him to war, hoping that he would be killed. Saul even tried to get David killed by means of an offer of the king's daughter in marriage (see Michal).
"So Saul removed him from his presence, and made him a commander of a thousand; and he went out and came in before the people. And David had success in all his undertakings; for The Lord was with him. And when Saul saw that he had great success, he stood in awe of him." (1 Samuel 18:13-15 RSV)
1 Samuel Chapter 19
David and Saul's son Jonathan had become close friends. Jonathan refused Saul's order to kill David (Jonathan himself had nearly been put to death by his father Saul - see the notes for 1 Samuel Chapter 14). Jonathan pleaded for David's life, and "Saul hearkened to the voice of Jonathan; Saul swore, "As The Lord lives, he shall not be put to death." He didn't keep the promise.
"And Saul spoke to Jonathan his son and to all his servants, that they should kill David. But Jonathan, Saul's son, delighted much in David. And Jonathan told David, "Saul my father seeks to kill you; therefore take heed to yourself in the morning, stay in a secret place and hide yourself; and I will go out and stand beside my father in the field where you are, and I will speak to my father about you; and if I learn anything I will tell you."
David remained loyal to Saul, but Saul broke his word about not harming David. Saul again tried to murder David.
"And there was war again; and David went out and fought with the Philistines, and made a great slaughter among them, so that they fled before him.
With his wife Michal's (Saul's daughter - see the link above) help, David escaped to Samuel.
"That night Saul sent messengers to David's house to watch him, that he might kill him in the morning. But Michal, David's wife, told him, "If you do not save your life tonight, tomorrow you will be killed." 19:12 So Michal let David down through the window; and he fled away and escaped." (1 Samuel 19:11-12 RSV)
Fact Finder: What was the origin of the English word "trophy"?