The famous story of David and Goliath as presented in 1 Samuel 17, is actually two stories interwoven to make one. Much like modern Christian apologists who try to harmonize the four Gospel accounts of Jesus, the editors of this story probably had similar problems when trying to harmonize two or more revered traditions. There are several problems with the story as presented, and these problems give hints as to how the stories should be separated.
David and his household are introduced in 1 Samuel 16:18-19, and David is brought before Saul as a shepherd and appointed as a armor bearer and court musician (1 Sam 16:21). It is in this way that David obtains permission from King Saul to fight Goliath (1 Sam 17:37). Yet, David is later introduced a second time (1 Sam 17:12-14) as a shepherd whom Saul does not know (1 Sam 17:58).
The settings for the battle are identified twice (1 Sam 17:2, 1 Sam 17:19). Goliath is introduced by name twice (1 Sam 17:4, 1 Sam 17:23).
David’s father Jesse is already well-known to the reader well before the battle with Goliath (1 Sam 16:1 ff.). But Jesse is introduced a second time as if unknown to the reader (1 Sam 17:12-15).
David tended to Saul, and Saul loved David for his service (1 Sam 16:21), yet had no idea who David was after he killed Goliath (1 Sam 17:55-58).
With these hints, it is pretty easy to separate the two accounts from the original larger story. Here I reprint them from the NASB, starting with Chapter 16 for full context. Since the two separate accounts were spliced together, the verse orders are not contiguous. While I don’t think this is perfect, and there is room for uncertainty (there is a slight problem with 1 Sam 17:31 where Saul calls for David right before battle that does not fit very well in that story), this is about the best I could do. Any other ideas, hints or corrections are welcome.
1 Samuel 16
1Now the LORD said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul, since I have rejected him from being king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and go; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have selected a king for Myself among his sons.”
2But Samuel said, “How can I go? When Saul hears of it, he will kill me.” And the LORD said, “Take a heifer with you and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the LORD.’
3“You shall invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; and you shall anoint for Me the one whom I designate to you.”
4So Samuel did what the LORD said, and came to
Bethlehem And the elders of the city came trembling to meet him and said, “Do you come in peace?”
5He said, “In peace; I have come to sacrifice to the LORD. Consecrate yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.” He also consecrated Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.
6When they entered, he looked at Eliab and thought, “Surely the LORD’S anointed is before Him.”
7But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
8Then Jesse called Abinadab and made him pass before Samuel. And he said, “The LORD has not chosen this one either.”
9Next Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “The LORD has not chosen this one either.”
10Thus Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel. But Samuel said to Jesse, “The LORD has not chosen these.”
11And Samuel said to Jesse, “Are these all the children?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, and behold, he is tending the sheep.” Then Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here.”
12So he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, with beautiful eyes and a handsome appearance And the LORD said, “Arise, anoint him; for this is he.”
13Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon David from that day forward. And Samuel arose and went to Ramah.
14Now the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD terrorized him.
15Saul’s servants then said to him, “Behold now, an evil spirit from God is terrorizing you.
16“Let our lord now command your servants who are before you. Let them seek a man who is a skillful player on the harp; and it shall come about when the evil spirit from God is on you, that he shall play the harp with his hand, and you will be well.”
17So Saul said to his servants, “Provide for me now a man who can play well and bring him to me.”
18Then one of the young men said, “Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite who is a skillful musician, a mighty man of valor, a warrior, one prudent in speech, and a handsome man; and the LORD is with him.”
19So Saul sent messengers to Jesse and said, “Send me your son David who is with the flock.”
20Jesse took a donkey loaded with bread and a jug of wine and a young goat, and sent them to Saul by David his son.
21Then David came to Saul and attended him; and Saul loved him greatly, and he became his armor bearer.
22Saul sent to Jesse, saying, “Let David now stand before me, for he has found favor in my sight.”
23So it came about whenever the evil spirit from God came to Saul, David would take the harp and play it with his hand; and Saul would be refreshed and be well, and the evil spirit would depart from him.
1 Samuel 17
1Now the Philistines gathered their armies for battle; and they were gathered at Socoh which belongs to Judah, and they camped between Socoh and Azekah, in Ephes-dammim.
2Saul and the men of Israel were gathered and camped in thevalley of
Elah, and drew up in battle array to encounter the Philistines.
3The Philistines stood on the mountain on one side while Israel stood on the mountain on the other side, with the valley between them.
4Then a champion came out from the armies of the Philistines named Goliath, from Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span.
5He had a bronze helmet on his head, and he was clothed with scale-armor which weighed five thousand shekels of bronze.
6He also had bronze greaves on his legs and a bronze javelin slung between his shoulders.
7The shaft of his spear was like a weaver’s beam, and the head of his spear weighed six hundred shekels of iron; his shield-carrier also walked before him.
8He stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel and said to them, “Why do you come out to draw up in battle array? Am I not the Philistine and you servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves and let him come down to me.
9“If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will become your servants; but if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall become our servants and serve us.”
10Again the Philistine said, “I defy the ranks of Israel this day; give me a man that we may fight together.”
11When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid.
32David said to Saul, “Let no man’s heart fail on account of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.”
33Then Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are but a youth while he has been a warrior from his youth.”
34But David said to Saul, “Your servant was tending his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and took a lamb from the flock,
35I went out after him and attacked him, and rescued it from his mouth; and when he rose up against me, I seized him by his beard and struck him and killed him.
36“Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, since he has taunted the armies of the living God.”
37And David said, “The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine ” And Saul said to David, “Go, and may the LORD be with you.”
38Then Saul clothed David with his garments and put a bronze helmet on his head, and he clothed him with armor.
39David girded his sword over his armor and tried to walk, for he had not tested them. So David said to Saul, “I cannot go with these, for I have not tested them.” And David took them off.
40He took his stick in his hand and chose for himself five smooth stones from the brook, and put them in the shepherd’s bag which he had, even in his pouch, and his sling was in his hand; and he approached the Philistine.
42When the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him; for he was but a youth, and ruddy, with a handsome appearance.
43The Philistine said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods.
44The Philistine also said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the sky and the beasts of the field.”
45Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have taunted.
46“This day the LORD will deliver you up into my hands, and I will strike you down and remove your head from you. And I will give the dead bodies of the army of the Philistines this day to the birds of the sky and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel,
47and that all this assembly may know that the LORD does not deliver by sword or by spear; for the battle is the LORD’S and He will give you into our hands.”
48Then it happened when the Philistine rose and came and drew near to meet David, that David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine.
49And David put his hand into his bag and took from it a stone and slung it, and struck the Philistine on his forehead. And the stone sank into his forehead, so that he fell on his face to the ground.
51Then David ran and stood over the Philistine and took his sword and drew it out of its sheath and killed him, and cut off his head with it When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled.
52The men of Israel and Judah arose and shouted and pursued the Philistines as far as the valley, and to the gates of Ekron And the slain Philistines lay along the way to Shaaraim, even to Gath and Ekron.
53The sons of Israel returned from chasing the Philistines and plundered their camps.
54Then David took the Philistine’s head and brought it to Jerusalem, but he put his weapons in his tent.
1 Samuel 17
12Now David was the son of the Ephrathite of Bethlehem in Judah, whose name was Jesse, and he had eight sons. And Jesse was old in the days of Saul, advanced in years among men.
13The three older sons of Jesse had gone after Saul to the battle. And the names of his three sons who went to the battle were Eliab the firstborn, and the second to him Abinadab, and the third Shammah.
14David was the youngest. Now the three oldest followed Saul,
15but David went back and forth from Saul to tend his father’s flock at
16The Philistine came forward morning and evening for forty days and took his stand.
17Then Jesse said to David his son, “Take now for your brothers an ephah of this roasted grain and these ten loaves and run to the camp to your brothers.
18“Bring also these ten cuts of cheese to the commander of their thousand, and look into the welfare of your brothers, and bring back news of them.
19“For Saul and they and all the men of Israel are in thevalley of
Elah, fighting with the Philistines.”
20So David arose early in the morning and left the flock with a keeper and took the supplies and went as Jesse had commanded him. And he came to the circle of the camp while the army was going out in battle array shouting the war cry.
21Israel and the Philistines drew up in battle array, army against army.
22Then David left his baggage in the care of the baggage keeper, and ran to the battle line and entered in order to greet his brothers.
23As he was talking with them, behold, the champion, the Philistine from Gath named Goliath, was coming up from the army of the Philistines, and he spoke these same words; and David heard them.
24When all the men of Israel saw the man, they fled from him and were greatly afraid.
25The men of Israel said, “Have you seen this man who is coming up? Surely he is coming up to defy Israel. And it will be that the king will enrich the man who kills him with great riches and will give him his daughter and make his father’s house free in Israel.”
26Then David spoke to the men who were standing by him, saying, “What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should taunt the armies of the living God?”
27The people answered him in accord with this word, saying, “Thus it will be done for the man who kills him.”
28Now Eliab his oldest brother heard when he spoke to the men; and Eliab’s anger burned against David and he said, “Why have you come down? And with whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know your insolence and the wickedness of your heart; for you have come down in order to see the battle.”
29But David said, “What have I done now? Was it not just a question?”
30Then he turned away from him to another and said the same thing; and the people answered the same thing as before.
31When the words which David spoke were heard, they told them to Saul, and he sent for him.
41Then the Philistine came on and approached David, with the shield-bearer in front of him.
50Thus David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone, and he struck the Philistine and killed him; but there was no sword in David’s hand.
55Now when Saul saw David going out against the Philistine, he said to Abner the commander of the army, “Abner, whose son is this young man?” And Abner said, “By your life, O king, I do not know.”
56The king said, “You inquire whose son the youth is.”
57So when David returned from killing the Philistine, Abner took him and brought him before Saul with the Philistine’s head in his hand.
58Saul said to him, “Whose son are you, young man?” And David answered, “I am the son of your servant Jesse the Bethlehemite.”