The Armor of Goliath, Saul, and David

Thinking more about armor took me back to the story of David and Goliath. In the Bible, clothing is often an expression of character and status, and nothing exemplifies this more than the passage detailing the defeat of Goliath of Gath.

And there came out from the camp of the Philistines a champion named Goliath of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span.He had a helmet of bronze on his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail, and the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of bronze. (1 Sam 17:4,5)(ESV)

First, it describes Goliath in his armor. The Hebrew word usually translated “coat of mail” literally means “scales.” As in the scales of a snake. David the giant slayer is also David the serpent slayer. This reinforces the Christological readings of Israel’s poet warrior. As a shepherd, David delivered sheep from the lion and the bear, and now he begins his role as shepherd of Israel by delivering it from the serpent. Given that this episode is immediately after David is anointed as king, this makes perfect sense.

Second, when Saul offers his own armor for David to use, armor that is described in similar terms as Goliath’s.

Then Saul clothed David with his armor. He put a helmet of bronze on his head and clothed him with a coat of mail. (1 Sam 17:38)(ESV)

God has already rejected Saul, and so Saul becomes a shell of a king. This great warrior who would lead Israel in her battles, who is himself described as a giant, taller than all of the people, now sits impotent.

David rejects Saul’s armor, going out with only a sling and stones, because David will not be another Saul.  David will be a shepherd. He will use God’s faithfulness as a shield.

Later on in 1 Samuel, the connection with Saul and Goliath is made stronger when Saul is shown repeatedly to be carrying a spear. Saul becomes David’s new Goliath, but instead of facing the new giant head-on, David uses the shoes of peace to flee.

When we put on the armor of God, we are saying we want to be like God.  Like Christ. We want to share in his character and status. We must dress like the king if we want to be like the king. And like David, we must reject the armor of serpents and the worldly wisdom that goes with it.

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