Effective Bible study requires spending enough time and doing enough work and study to accurately represent what a certain passage, theme or topic of Scripture is about, how it was understood by its original audience, and then what the Holy Spirit intended in it for our edification today.
We are going to do a study of the story of David and Goliath to illustrate how I typically go about doing this. The original story is found in I Samuel 17. It has become a favorite for teaching children, and used to illustrate how we can be victorious against overwhelming odds if God is on our side. The expression “David and Goliath” has become a part of our English language. According to the online Oxford Dictionaries, it is “used to describe a situation in which a small or weak person or organization tries to defeat another much larger or stronger opponent.” But, to paraphrase an expression of former radio commentator Paul Harvey, let’s find out “the rest of the story!”
We will begin by simply reading I Samuel 17, paying attention to subjects and questions that arise which ought to be explored to fully grasp the background, situation, and outcome of this narrative. Here are the subjects and questions we want to answer as we do our research:
- Who are the Philistines?
- Who are the Israelites?
- What is the historical situation?
- Does geography play a role in the story?
- What do we know about King Saul?
- What do we know about the shepherd, David?
- Can we know if this really was a “giant?”
- What can we reasonably know about the warfare and weaponry described?
- Would a detailed study of slings and slingers improve our understanding of the events?
- Notice the contrast in the method of fighting used by Goliath and by David.
- What was the immediate result of the conflict?
- What indications do we have of why this story is told by the writer?
Whew! This is hardly a quick 30 minute study. Further, to do justice in a class lesson or sermon, more than one session will be needed to properly present the material. But now we are ready to launch into a 12-part examination of the story of David and Goliath.
Watch for our next post on David & Goliath.
Our image is Michelangelo’s “David and Goliath” painted on the ceiling of the Sistene Chapel. Available for use from Wikipedia.com’s online article on “Goliath.”