The first mention of Goliath in the Bible is in 1 Samuel chapter 17. To the reader, he seems like a new enemy for Israel. However, Saul already knew him. The two men, Saul and Goliath, had been personal enemies for many years.
During Saul’s rule, there were constant battles between the armies of Philistia and Israel (14:52). We have records of only a few of those battles. However, the two nations fought each other bitterly.
Saul would have first seen Goliath during one of those early battles against Philistia. Goliath’s great height would make him easy to see among Philistia’s soldiers. Then Goliath was young: bold, cruel and strong, but he lacked experience. Israel’s soldiers would have tried to avoid him. If they attacked other men in Philistia’s army, the young Goliath might run away. However, we are sure that Goliath still managed to kill several of Israel’s men, even then.
Saul too was extremely tall (10:23), and very strong. Still, Goliath was much bigger than Saul. Saul would have admired Goliath’s immense strength and also his bold attitudes. Saul wanted to be as cruel and fierce as any of his enemies.
As Goliath’s experience increased, the commanders of Philistia’s army were able to use his strength in a new way. They put him in front of their other soldiers. Then Israel’s soldiers would see Goliath first, and they would be too afraid to attack. That gave Goliath an opportunity to insult them. He laughed at the soldiers who were afraid to fight him.
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© 2014, Keith Simons.