Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary, 1859 edition.

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1 KINGS - Chapter 17

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1 Kings xvii.

Notes & Commentary:

Ver. 1. Battle. They perhaps had heard of Saul's malady, (Salien) and bore a constant hatred to the Israelites during his reign, chap. xiv. 52. --- Azeca, about 15 miles south of Jerusalem. --- Dommim, or Phesdommim, 1 Paralipomenon xi. 13.

Ver. 2. Terebinth. Hebrew ela, "the oak." (Aquila)

Ver. 3. Valley of the Terebinth, which St. Jerome seems to call Magala, ver. 20.

Ver. 4. Base-born. Hebrew, "of two sons," or of obscure origin. (Cornelius a Lapide) --- His parents are no where specified, as Arapha is not, as some pretend, the name of his mother, but denotes that he was of the race of the Raphaim, 2 Kings xxi. 16. Some translate, a man who challenges to fight a duel, or one who comes into the midst as "a champion," to decide the cause of all the rest. Thus the Gaul defied the most valiant of the Romans, but was slain by M. Torquatus, Livy vii. Septuagint, "A strong man went out from the station," &c. Chaldean, "There came out from among them, out of the camp of the Philistines, a man named Goliath." But many able interpreters adhere to the Vulgate. --- Span, about 12 feet, so that he was taller than two common men. Those who call in question the existence of giants, will surely have nothing to object to this formal proof from Scripture. (Calmet) --- The Vatican Septuagint and Josephus read, however, "four cubits and a span," or near eight feet. (Kennicott) --- Some reduce his height to 11 feet 3 inches, or even to 9 feet 9 inches, English. (Haydock) --- His helmet weighed 15 pounds, avoirdupois; his collar, or buckler, about 30; the head of his spear (26 feet long) weighed about 38 pounds; his sword 4; his greaves on his legs 30; and his coat of mail 156: total, 273 pounds. (Button.) (Haydock) --- Goliath wa a figure of the devil, or of any arch-heretic, who provoketh the Church of God, but is slain by the humble with his own weapons. (Worthington)

Ver. 5. Scales, like those of fishes. Septuagint insinuate, that it was armed with things resembling fish-hooks; alisidoton, hamata. --- Brass, which was used for the armour of the ancients. Plutarch (in Demetrio) speaks of a coat of mail weighing forty pounds: the usual weight was twenty pounds. (Lipsius) --- The strength of the giant must have borne proportion with his size. (Calmet)

Ver. 6. Legs, on the forepart, from the knee to the ankle. Vegetius observes, that the infantry wore such greaves of iron, only on one leg. (Calmet) --- Shoulders, when he marched. (Menochius) -- Some understand a dart, &c., but without any proof. (Calmet)

Ver. 7. Beam, which was of a very different construction from ours. Hostius concludes, that all the armour of Goliath must have weighed 272 pounds and 13 ounces, including the buckler and spear which his armour-bearer carried before him. Plutarch allows a talent, or 60 pounds, for the usual weight of a soldier's armour. Alcimus was remarked in the army of Demetrius, for having double that weight. --- Bearer. Hebrew, "one bearing a shield," or whose office it was to carry it, or any other part of the armour, when required. It would appear singular that the giant should have two bucklers, though David seems to specify two sorts, Psalm xxxiv. 2. This attendant might carry a large one, which would cover most part of the body, and was of service when a person had not to remove far from his place in battle. The buckler of Ajax was like a tower, and consisted of seven hides, covered with a plate of brass. (Homer, Iliad Z) (Calmet)

Ver. 8. Out; exulting, Ecclesiasticus xlvii. 5. (Menochius) --- Servants; I am free. (Haydock) --- Hand. Such combats were very common in ancient times. Paris and Menelaus, Hector and Ajax. The Horatii and Curiatii fought to decide the fate of contending nations. (Homer, Iliad g, and H.) --- (Livy i. 23.) (Calmet)

Ver. 9. Us. It does not appear that this proposal was accepted or ratified by either party. The Israelites had still to pursue the enemy. (Estius)

Ver. 12. Now, &c., to ver. 32. And when, is omitted in the Vatican Septuagint, which begins the latter verse thus, "And David said," as the Alexandrian copy does now the 12th, which leads Kennicott to suspect that the intermediate verses are an interpolation, formerly unknown to the Greek version. Houbigant includes these verses between crotchets, "that it may be understood that these are not of the same author as the rest, and that the sacred writer may not be accused of making useless repetitions." It has been observed in the last chapter, that David was the son of Isai, &c. "If, says he, this be omitted, there will be no vacuum in the context," as there is none in the Roman edition: (11) "they were greatly afraid. (32.) And David said to Saul," &c. As he had been appointed Saul's armour-bearer, it was very natural to suppose that he would be near the king's person on such an occasion, rather than feeding sheep. We find also, that he had a tent of his own, (ver. 54) which he could not have had, if he had only come to bring provisions to his brethren. The unaccountable conduct of Eliab, the timidity of all Israel for forty days, &c., will thus be avoided. Josephus is supposed to have given occasion to this embellishment, though he takes no notice of many of those particulars which excite the surprise of Pilkington, Kennicott, Aquila, &c., and Origen received them from the Jews as genuine. A Hebrew Bible, (1661) with marginal criticisms, by a Jew, includes these verses within parentheses, as interpolated, as well as from ver. 55 to chap. xviii. 6, observing that, "the history consists at present of different and inconsistent accounts." The Syriac manuscript of Masius generally confirms the Vatican Septuagint (Morin) so that we conclude, that these verses are there asterisked on the authority of Origen, as not being in the original Greek, nor consequently in Hebrew. (ibid. p. 575.) --- Mentioned. Hebrew, "Juda, whose name....and the man went among men, an old man in the days of Saul." We have already observed that the Alexandrian Septuagint seems to promise a speech, but defers till ver. 32, thus, "And David said, the son of an Ephrathite. He was from," &c. (Haydock) --- Men. Chaldean, "He was an old man, whom they ranked among the young," as still vigorous. Jam senior, sed cruda seni viridisque senectus. (Calmet)

Ver. 13. Battle. In these wars, all attended as much as possible, chap. xvi. 10.

Ver. 15. Bethlehem, the king being relieved from his malady. "The greatest men formerly kept sheep." Ex antiquis illustrissimus quisque pastor erat. (Varro ii. 1.) In this profession, David found many opportunities of signalizing his courage against wild beasts. (Calmet)

Ver. 17. Loaves. The soldiers at that time, and perhaps always among the Hebrews, lived at their own expense, as the tribute which was paid to the king was not sufficient to support large armies, ver. 25. (Calmet) --- St. Paul insinuates, however, that soldiers were paid, 1 Corinthians ix. 7. (Haydock)

Ver. 18. Cheeses. Hebrew, "of milk." Septuagint, "pieces of soft cheese:" rts is no where else used to denote cheese. This was a present (Calmet) for (Hebrew) "the Chiliarch." --- Placed, who is their immediate officer. (Haydock) --- Hebrew, "how they are mixed:" their company. Septuagint, &c., "what they stand in need of." Symmachus, "Thou shalt receive their pay." Syriac and Arabic, "what news." Others would translate, "their pledge," or bill of divorce to their wives, that, in case they be made prisoners for three years, the latter may be allowed to marry. (Trad. Heb.[Hebrew tradition?]) (Calmet)

Ver. 19. Fighting, or ready to engage. (Haydock)

Ver. 20. Magala signifies, "the circle, or chariots." The Arabs still place their waggons and baggage round the camp, or in a circle. (Calmet) --- It may also be a proper name. (Menochius)

Ver. 22. Brethren. This inquiry seems rather unseasonable, when all were shouting for battle. (Kennicott)

Ver. 23. Up, or proceeding into the vale. (Menochius) --- Camp. Hebrew, "ranks, or armies."

Ver. 24. Exceedingly, though they had now heard him twice a-day for so long a time, (Kennicott) and came purposely to engage him and all the Philistine army. Perhaps he proceeded farther than usual. (Haydock)

Ver. 25. Tribute, and all public charges, which may be burdensome. (Calmet) --- It does not appear that these words are addressed to any one in particular, nor that the king had authorized such a declaration. (Haydock) --- Yet the people all persisted in the same declaration, so that a promise must have been made. (Menochius) --- It was never at least fulfilled. (Haydock) --- Christ having overcome the devil, receives the Church for his spouse. (Worthington)

Ver. 28. Battle. This speech is too insulting, even though David might seem to have given vent to the sentiments of his soul with too much ardour; particularly as Eliab knew that he had received the royal unction, (Calmet) if that were not kept a secret from him, chap. xvi. 13.

Ver. 29. Sepak. Literally, "is it not a word" (Haydock) of no farther consequences? May I not speak my sentiments? (Calmet) as all others do. (Menochius) --- Is not the thing enough to excite the indignation even of the coldest person, to hear this monster insulting God's armies? The repeated inquiries of David, made people conclude that he was ready to fight the giant, (Haydock) though as yet he had made no such proposal, whence it seems more improbable that his words would be reported to the king. (Kennicott) --- Protestants, "Is there not a cause?" (Haydock) --- Have I not an order from my father to come? (Menochius)

Ver. 32. Saul. Literally, "to him." But Hebrew and Septuagint have, "And David said to Saul," which makes the connection between this and ver. 11, more clear. (Haydock) --- In him, or on account of Goliath. (Menochius)

Ver. 33. Boy, compared with the giant, (Haydock) or Saul, though David might be about 22 years old, (Salien) or near 30. (Tirinus) --- St. Augustine and Theodoret say only 14 or 16. (Menochius) --- He had not yet been in the wars. (Calmet)

Ver. 35. Them. He refers to two events, shewing his fortitude (Calmet) and generous disposition, which rendered him fit for command, as he was not afraid to expose his life to protect his charge. (Haydock) --- The pastoral care is an apprenticeship for the throne to him who is designed to be at the head of the mild flock of men, as hunting with dogs conducts to martial exploits. (Philo in Vita Mosis.) --- He who has overcome the spirit of pride and of carnal pleasures, signified by the lion and the bear, is able also to gain a victory over the devil. (Worthington)

Ver. 36. I will....Philistine. This is not in Hebrew or the Septuagint, and it is marked as an addition in the ancient manuscripts. (Calmet) --- Single combats, to prevent the spilling of more blood, may sometimes be authorized by public authority. (Grotius)

Ver. 39. Armour. Hebrew, "he tried to go." Symmachus, "he went lame." Septuagint, "he laboured in walking once and twice." (Calmet) --- Salien supposes that the armour was not made for Saul, as he was much more bulky than young David. Yet we find that the latter could use the sword of the giant without difficulty. (St. Chrysostom, &c.) (Haydock)

Ver. 40. Smooth. Louis de Dieu translates broken "pieces of stones," as he pretends, contrary to the common opinion, that rough stones are more suitable for the sling. (Calmet) --- The learned Jew, whom we have cited above, (ver. 12,) and several others, have inferred from this verse, that David seems to have just come from the flock. But Kennicott justly observes, that slingers were of great service in the army; and the "vessel of shepherds," the bag or scrip, might well be used to obtain the stones; as the staff, makel, denotes a military weapon. (Taylor, Conc.) (Diss. ii. p. 555.) David was very expert in using these weapons, and the ordinary armour was encumbering to him. (Haydock) --- "Valour depends more on its own efforts than on armour," tegumentis. (St. Ambrose, Off. i.)

Ver. 43. Gods. Dagon or Baalim. (Menochius) -- Septuagint Alexandrian has, "idols." The beauty and accoutrements of David, made the rough warrior suppose that he was not coming to fight, but only to laugh at him and run away. (Haydock)

Ver. 44. Earth. The heroes of modern days refrain from such compliments. Homer frequently describes his champions making long speeches in praise of their former exploits. David displays his piety and confidence in God. (Calmet)

Ver. 47. Battle, whose armies thou hast defied, (ver. 45.; Haydock) or in general, He is the God of war, who grants victory to whom He pleases. (Calmet)

Ver. 48. Arose. The Roman Triarii and the Gauls expected the hour of battle sitting. (Calmet)

Ver. 49. Forehead. "The soul....more probably resides in the callous body of the brain," (Eyre, Thesis 1797,) between the eyes. (Haydock) --- Earth, quite lifeless, (Salien) or unable to resist. (Menochius) --- The Balearic slingers scarcely ever missed their mark. (Livy, viii. 4.) The Chaldean supposes that David hit the eye, which was not covered with brass: but the stone might penetrate or kill Goliath through his helmet. Even a buckler is not capable of withstanding their violence. (Diodorus, v. 207.) See Judges xx. 16. (Calmet) --- Pride sits on the forehead, and manifests itself by impudent behaviour. We must destroy it by humility, and by the cross of Christ. (St. Augustine) (Worthington)

Ver. 54. Tent, or the tabernacle of the Lord, which David erected in his honour, at Jerusalem, many years afterwards. (Jun. Piscator, &c.) The lower part of Jerusalem was already in the hands of the Israelites. He might place the armour for the present in the tent of his brethren. We find that the sword was deposited in the tabernacle, at Nobe. (Calmet) See ver. 12. (Haydock) --- The head was carried about to various cities. It would serve to strike terror into the Jebusites, at Jerusalem, and others. (Menochius) --- The Vatican Septuagint, &c., immediately subjoin, chap. xviii. 6. Now, &c. Literally, "And the women dancing, came to meet David." (Haydock) --- These three last verses occur only in the Alexandrian manuscript, though Theodoret (q. 43,) seems to have read them. In some other Greek copies, there is a long addition respecting David's combat. See the New Hexapla. These verses are found, however, in Hebrew, Chaldean, &c. It is astonishing that Saul should not have known David. He was now more interested to be acquainted with his family, as he had engaged to give him his daughter in marriage. We must reflect that his malady might have impaired his memory, and David was still growing, so that a few months absence might produce a wonderful alteration, &c. (Calmet) --- Know not. Literally, "if I know." The different dress, in which David now appeared, gave rise to this ignorance. (Menochius) --- Abner was not surely affected with the same malady as the king, who was obliged to ask David who was his father. But courtiers easily forget those from whom they have no expectations. (Haydock) --- These strange proceedings make others conclude that this history is interpolated. (Kennicott) --- Huet maintains the contrary. (Du Hamel) --- Saul only enquires about David's parentage. (Mariana) (Tirinus)


Bible Text & Cross-references:

War with the Philistines. Goliath challengeth Israel. He is slain by David.

1 Now *the Philistines gathering together their troops to battle, assembled at Socho of Juda: and camped between Socho and Azeca, in the borders of Dommim.

2 And Saul and the children of Israel being gathered together, came to the valley of Terebinth, and they set the army in array to fight against the Philistines.

3 And the Philistines stood on a mountain on the one side, and Israel stood on a mountain on the other side: and there was a valley between them.

4 And there went out a man base-born from the camp of the Philistines, named Goliath, of Geth, whose height was six cubits and a span:

5 And he had a helmet of brass upon his head, and he was clothed with a coat of mail with scales, and the weight of his coat of mail was five thousand sicles of brass:

6 And he had greaves of brass on his legs, and a buckler of brass covered his shoulders.

7 And the staff of his spear was like a weaver's beam, and the head of his spear weighed six hundred sicles of iron: and his armour-bearer went before him.

8 And standing, he cried out to the bands of Israel, and said to them: Why are you come out prepared to fight? am not I a Philistine, and you the servants of Saul? Choose out a man of you, and let him come down and fight hand to hand.

9 If he be able to fight with me, and kill me, we will be servants to you: but if I prevail against him, and kill him, you shall be servants, and shall serve us.

10 And the Philistine said: I have defied the bands of Israel this day: give me a man, and let him fight with me hand to hand.

11 And Saul and all the Israelites hearing these words of the Philistine, were dismayed, and greatly afraid.

12 Now David was the son of that Ephrathite, of Bethlehem Juda, before mentioned, *whose name was Isai, who had eight sons, and was an old man in the days of Saul, and of great age among men.

13 And his three eldest sons followed Saul to the battle: and the names of his three sons that went to the battle, were Eliab, the first-born, and the second, Abinadab, and the third, Samma:

14 But David was the youngest. So the three eldest having followed Saul,

15 David went, and returned from Saul, to feed his father's flock at Bethlehem.

16 Now the Philistine came out morning and evening, and presented himself forty days.

17 And Isai said to David, his son: Take for thy brethren an ephi of frumenty, and these ten loaves, and run to the camp to thy brethren,

18 And carry these ten little cheeses to the tribune: and go see thy brethren, if they are well: and learn with whom they are placed.

19 But Saul, and they, and all the children of Israel, were in the valley of Terebinth, fighting against the Philistines.

20 David, therefore, arose in the morning, and gave the charge of the flock to the keeper: and went away loaded, as Isai had commanded him. And he came to the place of Magala, and to the army, which was going out to fight, and shouted for the battle.

21 For Israel had put themselves in array, and the Philistines who stood against them were prepared.

22 And David leaving the vessels which he had brought, under the care of the keeper of the baggage, ran to the place of the battle, and asked if all things went well with his brethren.

23 And as he talked with them, that base-born man, whose name was Goliath, the Philistine, of Geth, shewed himself coming up from the camp of the Philistines: and he spoke according to the same words, and David heard them.

24 And all the Israelites, when they saw the man, fled from his face, fearing him exceedingly.

25 And some one of Israel said: Have you seen this man that is come up, for he is come up to defy Israel. And the man that shall slay him, the king will enrich with great riches, and will give him his daughter, and will make his father's house free from tribute in Israel.

26 And David spoke to the men that stood by him, saying: What shall be given to the man that shall kill this Philistine, and shall take away the reproach from Israel? for who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?

27 And the people answered him the same words, saying: These things shall be given to the man that shall slay him.

28 Now when Eliab, his eldest brother, heard this, when he was speaking with others, he was angry with David, and said: Why camest thou hither? and why didst thou leave those few sheep in the desert? I know thy pride, and the wickedness of thy heart: that thou art come down to see the battle.

29 And David said: What have I done? is there not cause to speak?

30 And he turned a little aside from him to another: and said the same word. And the people answered him as before.

31 And the words which David spoke were heard, and were rehearsed before Saul.

32 And when he was brought to Saul, he said to him: Let not any man's heart be dismayed in him: I thy servant will go, and will fight against the Philistine.

33 And Saul said to David: Thou art not able to withstand this Philistine, nor to fight against him: for thou art but a boy, but he is a warrior from his youth.

34 And David said to Saul: *Thy servant kept his father's sheep, and there came a lion, **or a bear, and took a ram out of the midst of the flock:

35 And I pursued after them, and struck them, and delivered it out of their mouth: and they rose up against me, and I caught them by the throat, and I strangled, and killed them.

36 For I thy servant have killed both a lion and a bear: and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be also as one of them. I will go now, and take away the reproach of the people: for who is this uncircumcised Philistine, who hath dared to curse the army of the living God?

37 And David said: The Lord who delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine. And Saul said to David: Go, and the Lord be with thee.

38 And Saul clothed David with his garments, and put a helmet of brass upon his head, and armed him with a coat of mail.

39 And David having girded his sword upon his armour, began to try if he could walk in armour: for he was not accustomed to it. And David said to Saul: I cannot go thus, for I am not used to it. And he laid them off,

40 And he took his staff, which he had always in his hands: and chose him five smooth stones out of the brook, and put them into the shepherd's scrip, which he had with him, and he took a sling in his hand, and went forth against the Philistine.

41 And the Philistine came on, and drew nigh against David, and his armour-bearer went before him.

42 And when the Philistine looked, and beheld David, he despised him. For he was a young man, ruddy, and of a comely countenance.

43 And the Philistine said to David: Am I a dog, that thou comest to me with a staff? And the Philistine cursed David by his gods.

44 And he said to David: Come to me, and I will give thy flesh to the birds of the air, and to the beasts of the earth.

45 And David said to the Philistine: Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, which thou hast defied.

46 This day, and the Lord will deliver thee into my hand, and I will slay thee, and take away thy head from thee: and I will give the carcasses of the army of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air, and to the beasts of the earth: that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel.

47 And all this assembly shall know, that the Lord saveth not with sword and spear: for it is his battle, and he will deliver you into our hands.

48 And when the Philistine arose, and was coming, and drew nigh to meet David, David made haste, and ran to the fight to meet the Philistine.

49 And he put his hand into his scrip, and took a stone, and cast it with the sling, and fetching it about, struck the Philistine in the forehead, and he fell on his face upon the earth.

50 *And David prevailed over the Philistine, with a sling and a stone, and he struck, and slew the Philistine. And as David had no sword in his hand,

51 He ran, and stood over the Philistine, and took his sword, and drew it out of the sheath, and slew him, and cut off his head. And the Philistines seeing that their champion was dead, fled away.

52 And the men of Israel and Juda rising up shouted, and pursued after the Philistines till they came to the valley and to the gates of Accaron, and there fell many wounded of the Philistines in the way of Saraim, and as far as Geth, and as far as Accaron.

53 And the children of Israel returning, after they had pursued the Philistines, fell upon their camp.

54 And David taking the head of the Philistine, brought it to Jerusalem: but his armour he put in his tent.

55 Now at the time that Saul saw David going out against the Philistines, he said to Abner, the captain of the army: Of what family is this young man descended, Abner? And Abner said: As thy soul liveth, O king, I know not.

56 And the king said: Inquire thou, whose son this young man is.

57 And when David was returned, after the Philistine was slain, Abner took him, and brought him in before Saul, with the head of the Philistine in his hand.

58 And Saul said to him: Young man, of what family art thou? And David said: I am the son of thy servant Isai, the Bethlehemite.



1: Year of the World about 2942, Year before Christ 1062.

12: 1 Kings xvi. 1.

34: Ecclesiasticus xlvii. 3. --- ** or, for and.

50: Ecclesiasticus xlvii. 4.; 1 Machabees iv. 30.