Useful Bible Studies > 1 Samuel Commentary > chapter 17

The head of Goliath

1 Samuel 17:51-54

After the death of Goliath, the battle began immediately.

Philistia’s soldiers were very afraid. They started to run back in the direction of their own country. They were trying to get back inside two of their principal towns: Gath and Ekron. Those towns had strong walls, so they would be safe there. Israel’s soldiers were chasing them all the way back. They caught and they killed many of Philistia’s soldiers along the road.

It seems, however, that David did not join in the fight against Philistia’s army. Instead, he remained with Goliath’s body. Slowly and carefully, he dealt with the body in the manner that he considered right.

First, David would have allowed the blood to drain out of Goliath’s huge body. Then he began to cut off Goliath’s head. That would be a long and difficult task. Finally he took away Goliath’s military equipment and he stripped the body. It was an ancient custom of war that David had a right to these things.

David clearly considered it important to take away Goliath’s head. Soon, wild birds and wild animals would eat up Goliath’s body, and nothing would remain (1 Samuel 17:46; see also 2 Kings 9:30-37). David took the head as evidence, both of Goliath’s great size, and of the fact that this famous enemy was dead. Saul’s enemies would later do the same thing to Saul’s head (31:9).

It surprises us that David took the head to Jerusalem. Jerusalem was not under Israel’s control then (2 Samuel 5:6). Perhaps the meaning is that David kept the head until the events in 2 Samuel 5:6-9.

However, 1 Samuel 21:8-9 gives another possible explanation. David did not keep Goliath’s sword for himself. He handed it to the priests at Nob, to put in God’s house. Perhaps he also took Goliath’s head there; Nob was very near to Jerusalem. David did not want to keep these things as prizes for himself; he handed them over to God.

Next part: Saul asks the name of David’s father (1 Samuel 17:55-58)


Please use the links at the top of the page to find our other articles in this series. You can download all our articles if you go to the download page for our free 450 page course book.


© 2014, Keith Simons.