“A Kingdom Provided”: David Was Anointed
The story of David and Goliath is perhaps one of The Gospel Project team’s favorite Pictures of Jesus in the Old Testament. (If you are unfamiliar with what I mean by that, stop reading here and go check out the Seeing Jesus in the Bible portion of our Big Picture Questions & Answers for Kids training resource.) We like to use this well-known account to show how the Bible is not intended to be an instruction manual for living a moral life, but rather to point us to who Jesus is and our need for Him—the gospel. In essence, we don’t read the account of David and Goliath to learn how we are to live with courage, but rather to come to understand better the One who has gone before us to win victory so that we might have courage in Him.
A quick clarification is in order. Often, those who seek to dispel biblical moralism go too far in minimizing what we can learn from people in the Scriptures, such as David here. We at The Gospel Project may have done this at some point. But we need to be careful not to diminish what God wants to teach us through His people’s faithfulness. While David and Goliath is ultimately about Jesus, it is not only about Jesus. There is much we can learn from David. After all, this is why God gave us Hebrews 11, a chapter full of faithful individuals we can learn from as they also, in a greater way, point us to the object of their faith: Jesus.
The Story of David and Goliath
You likely know this story, but permit a quick retelling of it.
Because of Saul’s disobedience right out of the gate, Israel’s first king was rejected by God. David, an unlikely choice, would be Israel’s next king, but his reign would not begin right away. Instead, after David’s selection, we see the young man serving in Saul’s court (1 Sam. 16:14-23), then in battle against Goliath (1 Sam. 17). From a storytelling perspective, the account of David and Goliath is given to show that David was indeed a worthy choice to be Israel’s king. But from a greater storytelling perspective, this account is given to foreshadow a greater king who would come.
The Israelites and Philistines were at a stalemate. Each army was on a hill opposing the other, separated by a valley (1 Sam. 17:3). Tactically, it would have been unwise for either army to leave its position on high ground to enter the valley and attack its opponent, thus the lull in battle. But while there was no fighting between the two armies, there was still hostilities. Each day Goliath, the Philistine nine-foot nine-inch champion would venture into no man’s land to taunt the Israelites and offer them a solution to break the stalemate. If the Israelites would only provide one champion to fight him one-on-one, the waiting could all be over. Whichever warrior won would win the victory for his people (this is a critical detail!). But no Israelite was up to the challenge. Thus the waiting continued.
Then, one day, David showed up to bring some provisions to his brothers serving in the Israelite army. But as soon as David heard Goliath, the young man’s mission changed. That blasphemous heathen had to be stopped. And if no one else would still Goliath’s mocking of God, David would.
At first, Saul was reluctant to grant David permission to fight Goliath. Remember, the challenge was that the winner of that one-on-one fight would win the victory for his people. For Saul to send out a boy, who would surely lose, meant basically surrendering to the Philistines. But for some reason (well, God’s providential work), Saul relented and allowed David to fight Goliath.
While the Israelite soldiers remained in their fortified positions of relative safety, David went out to meet the giant. And then, after declaring that it was God with Him who would win the victory, David struck down the Philistine enemy. When Goliath hit the ground, the Israelites gained victory. The Philistines ran and the Israelites chased after them to finish them off.
The Greater Story of Jesus and Sin and Death
This is an amazing story, full of action with an ending we love. And while we can and should learn from David’s conviction and courage, there is a greater lesson God wants us to take away from this account. David’s victory was great, but it point toward a greater victory that would be provided through Jesus. Jesus is the greater David who defeated the greater enemy of sin and death.
Jesus, too, was an unlikely hero who did not look the part. But onto the battlefield He came as His people trembled in fear, unable to defeat their foe. And then, Jesus defeated our enemy and with His victory, we became victorious. Our champion won the victory for us, and through the victory He provided, we can then charge forward, not for victory, but from victory.
The One Detail I Love Most
Great story. Great gospel lesson. But there is one more detail I want to draw our attention to, a detail I believe beautifully sings the gospel in this story.
We all know that David struck Goliath with a stone. The stone hit the giant in the forehead and he collapsed to the ground. And this is where we find the detail I love most about this account. Notice that verse 50 says that David killed Goliath without a sword. But then verse 51 says that David took Goliath’s sword and used it to kill him, then he cut off Goliath’s head. This may appear to be a contradiction, but it isn’t. Either the writer meant in verse 50 that Goliath was as good as dead from the stone in his forehead. Perhaps he was dying and David merely hastened that death with Goliath’s sword. The other option is that the writer had the entire fight in mind in verse 50. David did not carry a sword out to battle, but he still won.
But it is David’s act of cutting off Goliath’s head that I find most riveting, and not because I am a fan of gore (although I am not squeamish either). One of my rules of thumb in Bible study is to remember that every detail is in the Bible for a reason. God was not on a word count, needing to pad the Bible. And neither was God concerned about making a best-seller list. He didn’t add scintillating details to inflate readership. Rather, every detail is provided for a reason—to teach us something.
So why this gruesome detail of decapitating Goliath? We can remove that without losing anything in the story, right? Wrong. Notice what follows David cutting off Goliath’s head in verse 51: the Philistines saw their hero was dead. Think about it: you are a Philistine safe in your fortified position on your hill. The seats aren’t bad for the fight, but it is not as if you are right there either. And then you see David whipping a sling and the next thing you know, Goliath—the giant you see as unbeatable—falls to the ground. Perhaps you saw the stone fly and hit him; perhaps you didn’t. But even if you did, would you have known he was dead by that alone? Same question for the Israelites. Would they have known their foe was defeated in that moment? OK, what about when David hoisted the giant’s head up in the air? Any doubt and question of David winning the victory would have erased instantly at this overwhelming evidence before you.
Here’s why I love this detail: because when I layer this story of David and Goliath on top of Jesus’ story of victory, I see the decapitation of Goliath as a picture of the empty tomb. Goliath’s head on display confirmed his death; Jesus’ wrappings on display confirmed His life. Each was irrefutable proof to all who looked on that victory had indeed been won.
We must learn to be like David and see things with the eyes of faith. We must hear things with ears tuned to the frequency of heaven.” — Gbile Akanni and Nupanga Weanzana 
Preschool Tip: As you teach preschoolers, remember that not all of the specific details of this account are necessary to share the big idea. You can speak in generalities as you see fit and still be faithful to the Scripture and drive toward the Christ Connection’s heart: that David won the victory for his people and Jesus won a victory for us in a greater way.
Kids Tip: You know your kids best, so gauge how much of the details you believe is appropriate and profitable for them. I would encourage you to stretch yourself and them. If your kids have been in church for a while, they likely know this story. Going deeper will help them see God’s Word in a fresh way and also teach them that we can never rest in what we know of the Bible; we can never exhaust its riches as we mine deeper and deeper.
 Gbile Akanni and Nupanga Weanzana, “1 and 2 Samuel,” in Africa Bible Commentary, gen. ed. Tokunboh Adeyemo (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2006), 355.