One of the best known “Bible stories” is David and Goliath, the giant from Gath, of the Philistines. When we were at “the Jerusalem Dig” in Israel in 1973, our group made a trip to the Valley of Elah, where the David vs. Goliath battle happened. I was surprised by how far it was between the 2 sides, the 2 hills where each army had gathered, opposing each other.
You probably know this story well. David carefully selected five smooth stones from a brook. As a watcher over his flock, David knew which stones would “fly” the best and have the greatest impact. He knew God would guide this, but he did his part.
But why FIVE stones? Did he think he’d miss? I’ll post the story of the battle later from 1 Samuel 17:1-11 so you can re-read the account if you wish or need to.
The Bible does not tell us why David took five stones with him. Let’s start with that. So whatever the full reason is, any answer is an educated guess, but you will find it interesting.
There are normally two theories for explaining why David selected 5 stones. First of all, remember that five is the number of God’s grace – and even that is significant to me.
--- The First Theory is David was just being prepared for whatever could happen. David gives no hint of fearing he would miss or that God wouldn’t give him success. So I don’t think he took five stones in case he missed. But what if the Philistines sent more soldiers out to fight David? So the first theory is that David simply wanted to be prepared for other contingencies that could happen. Besides, though he knew God would fight his battle for him, neither had God said that one stone would be enough. So David took 4 additional stones just in case he needed more.
Remember that God wants us to be prepared. Proverbs 27:12 says, “A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.”
So if a hurricane is heading our way, long before it’s too late – we’ve prepared. You trust in God, yes, but you also prepare. You see danger coming and you take prudent steps. So you have spare batteries, spare gas (petrol), food, water, pet food, medicines are ready, first aid kits, and more. You might even board up the windows. This means buying plywood well ahead of time and cut to the proper sizes ahead of time. It always amazes me how so many people wait until it’s too late to “be ready” or seem unaware of other contingencies.
BUT… watch for my upcoming sermon on whether we should speak up and act in times of apostasy and danger against God’s children – or whether we should remain silent and be “invisible”. In this particular case, David showed up in the face of danger, DID speak up, and did face the giant danger head on! But he did take precautions and carefully selected FIVE stones.
--- The Second Theory is that 2 Samuel 21:15-21 shows that there could have been a literal giant in Philistia named “Rapha” who had four giant sons besides Goliath. FOUR more giants!
The name “Rapha” can actually be translated “the giant” as well, or Rephaim – plural for “giants”. Some translations even translate Rapha as “giants” – or “a son of the giants” – plural.
So whether this was the name of one man who had 4 fearsome giant sons or whether they were simply descendants of the giants generally – the point is: there were FOUR additional giants. Some translations read this as these four were either sons of Goliath himself or a brother of Goliath. Without getting into the nitty-gritty on this, just know there were FOUR additional giants who were fearsome combatants.
So the second theory is that David was not just eager to fight Goliath from Gath – but ALL the giants at that time, all FIVE giant warriors. This theory is plausible, though we have no indication that David was even aware there were an additional four other giants besides Goliath. But it’s an interesting possible explanation for 5 stones, or is this just coincidence?
You can read 2 Samuel 21:15-22 that explains all about the four other giant warriors – but let’s read the summary for now in verse 22:
2 SAMUEL 21:22 –“These FOUR were born to the giant [Hebrew: Rapha] in Gath, and fell by the hand of David and by the hand of his servants.”
So if you ask me why David took 5 stones, I’d say he was being prepared for any contingency, whether he needed more than one, or whether the Philistines sent others to help Goliath, or whether the giant’s 4 other warrior sons would show up.
I’ll end the blog with the scriptures of the fight and also about the additional 4 giants, but first this: David’s trust was not in his sling and stone – but in YHVH to fight for him and win.
Here’s the battle scene:
1 Samuel 17:40-51 NCV – (David) He took his stick in his hand and chose five smooth stones from a stream. He put them in his shepherd's bag and grabbed his sling. Then he went to meet the Philistine.
41 At the same time, the Philistine was coming closer to David. The man who held his shield walked in front of him. 42 When Goliath looked at David and saw that he was only a boy, tanned and handsome, he looked down on David with disgust. 43 He said, "Do you think I am a dog, that you come at me with a stick?" He used his gods' names to curse David. 44 He said to David, "Come here. I'll feed your body to the birds of the air and the wild animals!"
45 But David said to him, "You come to me using a sword and two spears. But I come to you in the name of the Lord All-Powerful, the God of the armies of Israel! You have spoken against him. 46 Today the LORD will hand you over to me, and I'll kill you and cut off your head. Today I'll feed the bodies of the Philistine soldiers to the birds of the air and the wild animals. Then all the world will know there is a God in Israel!
47 Everyone gathered here will know YHVH does not need swords or spears to save people. The battle belongs to him, and he will hand you over to us."
48 As Goliath came near to attack him, David ran quickly to meet him. 49 He took a stone from his bag, put it into his sling, and slung it. The stone hit the Philistine and went deep into his forehead, and Goliath fell face down on the ground.
50 So David defeated the Philistine with only a sling and a stone. He hit him and killed him. He did not even have a sword in his hand. 51 Then David ran and stood beside him. He took Goliath's sword out of its holder and killed him by cutting off his head.”
Now here’s the account of the additional four giant warriors:
2 Samuel 21:15-22 “When the Philistines were at war again with Israel, David and his servants with him went down and fought against the Philistines; and David grew faint. 16 Then Ishbi-Benob, who was one of the sons of the giant [Rapha}, the weight of whose bronze spear was three hundred shekels, who was bearing a new sword, thought he could kill David. 17 But Abishai the son of Zeruiah came to his aid and struck the Philistine and killed him. Then the men of David swore to him, saying, "You shall go out no more with us to battle, lest you quench the lamp of Israel."
18 Now it happened afterward that there was again a battle with the Philistines at Gob. Then Sibbechai the Hushathite killed Saph, who was one of the sons of the giant. 19 Again there was war at Gob with the Philistines, where Elhanan the son of Jaare-Oregim the Bethlehemite killed the brother of Goliath the Gittite, the shaft of whose spear was like a weaver's beam.
20 Yet again there was war at Gath, where there was a man of great stature, who had six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot, twenty-four in number; and he also was born to the giant. 21 So when he defied Israel, Jonathan the son of Shimea, David's brother, killed him.
22 These FOUR were born to the giant [Hebrew: Rapha] in Gath, and fell by the hand of David and by the hand of his servants.”
The main thing: David trusted in Yehovah to fight for him, to guide him, and give him the victory. But he certainly was willing to face additional issues – whether from other giants or other soldiers from the Philistines. A great example of faith from such a young man, probably no older than 17 at this point (1 Samuel 17:42).