David looked ahead and saw his opponent and his heart almost failed him. The giant stood well over nine feet, with armor covering most of his body and a helmet set snugly on his head. His sword looked to be half of David’s height from where he stood. David closed his eyes and spoke to his Maker.
“Yahweh, help me…give me strength.”
Goliath spotted him and burst into laughter, his voice booming across the valley and making the ground vibrate. He spat on the ground, his scorn for David evident especially as he spotted him without armor, carrying only his slingshot.
“Am I a dog that you come at me with sticks?” he mocked in heavily accented Hebrew, following that with curses upon David’s head by his gods.
David was struck with righteous indignation. How dare he utter his name in connection with his foul gods? David picked up his stride, courage seeping into his being as provided from on High. Goliath saw the change in his gait and screwed his mouth up in scorn.
“Come here and I’ll give your flesh to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field,” he said, drawing out his large sword.
“You come against me with sword and spear and javelin,” David shouted, his voice loud and clear. “But I come against you in the Name of the LORD Almighty, the GOD of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.”
He stopped in his tracks, his feet planted apart as he faced the giant. Suddenly his mind was filled with images rushing by, images of him slaying the lion and bear with his bare hands, images of times spent on Grandmother Ruth’s lap, hot days and cold nights in the field when he strained to hear the Voice of Yahweh. Inexplicable peace and joy settled over David as he realized that GOD was reassuring him, reminding him that He was and had always been by David’s side, even when David didn’t see it. David understood then that Yahweh would surely hand this giant over to him, for he had been groomed for this day, the day that Yahweh would be glorified and David was humbled and awed at the thought of being used as a tool in Yahweh’s Capable Hands. He gave himself to the Lord, and in turn the Lord would manifest power through his actions.
He felt the power rush through his veins as he continued to speak, “This day the Lord will hand you over to me and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. Today I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and the whole world will know that there is a GOD in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves, for the battle is the LORD’s and He will give all of you into our hands.”
The giant’s eyes widened at David’s words, and he sputtered in disbelief. Then his face reddened as he burst out into booming laughter. He turned towards the Philistine army, and rattled off a few words to them in their native dialect, no doubt giving them a brief translation of what David had said. Soon enough, the entire Philistine army was laughing incredulously. Goliath turned to David, shook his head and swung his sword menacingly, advancing.
David walked slowly towards Goliath, his vision narrowing and his senses fusing together, focusing on nothing but Goliath. He felt the familiar buzzing in his ears, everything slowing down around him, sounds silencing and colours merging. He then ran towards Goliath, picking momentum and feeling in his tunic for the pebble. Goliath in turn ran toward him, his teeth bared and his arms ready for battle. David put the pebble on the sling, swung it round his head three times and with a shout onto Yahweh released it with all his might. It floundered a bit in the air, seeming to lose speed and momentum; David saw this and blew out a pent up breath, his heart nearly failing with disappointment. Almost imperceptibly, the pebble picked up speed and whistled through the air, landing in between the giant’s eyes with a crack, sinking in deep.
For a moment there was silence on both sides of the camps as Goliath ground to a halt, a shocked expression crossing his face. He stood briefly and then began to stumble, choking sounds coming out of his throat as blood began to seep out from the wound. There was no way, humanly possible, that David could have thrown the pebble with enough strength to cause such an injury. It was clearly Yahweh’s doing.
Goliath coughed and flecks of blood appeared on his lips and started to drip out of his nose. He dropped his sword, landing first on his knees then collapsing to the ground in a heap. David ran up and stood above him, watching his muscles begin to spasm. Calmly, David took Goliath’s sword and swung it over his head with great difficulty as it was very heavy. Goliath’s eyes rolled back in death as David brought the sword down. Crimson drops spattered over David’s tunic as he began to sever the head of the giant, with the armies on both sides looking on in disbelief. After a few blows, David reached down and heaved, lifting the head of Goliath with both hands and holding it above his head, blood running down his arms. He then lifted his eyes unto the heavens and let out a mighty roar that echoed through the valley.
Almost immediately, the soldiers in the Israelite army shouted and raised their swords to the sky, their war cry unmistakable. The Philistines looked on in disbelief and a few of them dropped their shields and swords to turn around and beat a hasty retreat.
The commanders of the Israelite army shouted their orders to attack and, almost as if on cue, the army advanced, the sound of their running like thunder across the valley. They came down the valley and started up toward the Philistine side. David stuck Goliath’s sword next to his headless body and dropped the head, waiting for the army to advance. In the haze of dust, he was able to make out Eliab’s disbelieving expression as he ran forward, two swords in his hands. He shouted for David and tossed a sword to him which David deftly caught. David then turned his attention toward the area where the battle lay and ran to join the Israelites.
The battle took a few hours with the Israelite army pursuing the Philistines all the way to the entrance of Gath. They stopped along the way to plunder the Philistine camp, finding items such as armor, gold and food rations. Finally, after an exhausting fight, the soldiers trudged back to camp, spoils in tow. David had gone back to the Valley of Elah to retrieve Goliath’s head and weapons. Upon reaching camp, he discovered that the commander of Eliab’s unit had cleared a tent for him which he entered and collapsed on a pallet in deep sleep.
A few hours later, when it was dark, David woke to the sound of the King’s Bodyguard rousing him, telling him the King wished to see him. David rubbed his eyes, his mouth gritty with dust and hunger and rose sleepily. He begged the chance to at least wash the blood and dirt off himself quickly in the brook before being presented to the King and the Bodyguard agreed with the proviso that he would do so quickly.
Once again David found himself at the brook for the second time that day, this time staring at it in the moonlight as hues of blue and purple bounced off the surface, shimmering. There was little sound around, most of the camp deep in sleep with only a few soldiers talking and laughing loudly in the distance. David quickly stripped himself and waded into the frigid water up to his waist. The cold water woke him up fully as he rinsed off the grime of the day. He looked up into the sky, taking note of the bright full moon and smiled.
“Thou art indeed a worthy cover in battle…praise be to you, Yahweh,” he said, the words coming out easily for he had said them many times before. However this day they had taken on new meaning.
“David, son of Jesse, the King waits!” The Bodyguard shouted from a distance and he quickly came out of the brook, shaking the water from his head as he donned his soiled tunic and ran up.
As he entered the royal tent he bowed low and faced the King. Saul looked at him as though he was trying to remember who he was and David worried again for his sanity and spiritual state. For Saul to exhibit such a level of confusion as King was a sure sign that Yahweh had left him.
“Rise, young man. You look like you could do with a meal…and a change of clothing,” Saul said.
Two servants appeared noiselessly by David’s left and right simultaneously, one carrying a fresh tunic and the other a tray laden with meat, roasted grain and a goblet of wine. Saul nodded to David as he went into a corner and changed his tunic, coming back to face him.
“Well, what are you standing there for? Eat.”
David needed no more prompting as he took a piece of meat and, mindful of the presence of the king, forced himself to bite and chew slowly even though everything in him wanted to snatch the tray and gulp down its contents.
“Whose son are you, young man?” Saul asked.
David looked at him in surprise. He had spent almost two months in Saul’s company, soothing his spirit with songs and psalms and he still didn’t know who he was? He swallowed and answered, “I am the son of your servant Jesse of Bethlehem.”
Saul nodded and said something in the ear of his advisor who had been standing by him. He looked back at David and waved his hand, dismissing him. David bowed and walked out, heading to his tent.
The next day, at dawn, David emerged from his tent to face cheering soldiers. He flushed, unaccustomed to such attention and tried to make his way through the throng, being back-slapped and his hair tousled along the way. He met his brothers, all of whom were smiling broadly and pointing at him. Shimea ran up to him and embraced him.
“You absolute fool! What were you thinking?” he said, laughing. “I thought you were done for when you faced that giant but…well, Yahweh is really on your side.”
David laughed. “I don’t know if I was thinking at all, brother. I was just…doing as I felt led to do.”
“Well, you were certainly led well,” Eliab said, smiling and walking up to David. “You have brought great pride to the house of our father and I am proud to call you brother.” He reached out with his hand and David clasped it, feeling the bitterness of the years begin to melt away.
Suddenly the crowd began to part, forming a pathway and David looked up to see Jonathan smiling at him, with Ammiel behind him.
“My friend, you have indeed proven yourself mighty,” Jonathan said, bowing his head, an honour that David didn’t take lightly, for royalty bowed to no one.
“My lord, it was the Hand of Yahweh,” David said humbly.
“Nonetheless, He chose you as His worthy instrument. I salute you for you are what the army of Israel is made of.” As Jonathan walked toward David, he unclasped his purple wool robe and stripped off his tunic, leaving his linen under garments on. Then he removed his scabbard and sword. David’s eyes widened.
Jonathan stopped in front of him and held the items out to him, gesturing that he receive them. “From today, you and I are one in spirit, David. And you are to me closer than a brother. Take these as a symbol of lifelong friendship.”
David was awed and bowed as he took the gifts, knowing the significance of such a gesture. He and Jonathan then clasped hands as the army cheered.
“My friend,” Jonathan said, “you are likely to remain in service to the King from now on and unable to go to your family. But I am sure we can make it comfortable for you. Besides, if I am not mistaken, you will soon have a wedding feast to prepare for.”
David nodded, thinking about Michal and trying to swallow his disappointment because he was likely to be given Merab, as she was the eldest. Still it would be an honour to be Saul’s son-in-law.
As the soldiers cheered David looked up and saw Saul standing outside his tent with a forced smile pasted on his face, the smile never reaching his eyes. However, what David saw in Saul’s eyes caused an involuntary shiver to run up his spine. The king’s eyes glimmered with what could be described as jealousy…and something else; something sinister that David couldn’t quite put his finger on.