Valley of Elah: David and Goliath
Places of Interest
Valley of Elah
David & Goliath
1. The Valley of Elah is about 15 miles (23 km.) west of Bethlehem and about 20 miles (32 km.) east of the Mediterranean Sea.
2. It’s located on the western edge of the Judean lower hills and was an important travel route from the coastal cities up to the center of the land of Judah and its main cities of Bethlehem, Jerusalem, and Hebron.
3. It’s an undeveloped site that can be seen in its natural state. It has parking alongside Hwy 38.
4. The Valley of Elah is best known for the epic battle between young David and the giant Goliath, a skilled veteran warrior.
1. The Philistines were a Canaanite people who inhabited Israel before the Israelites arrived.
2. The Israelites were unable to conquer them, and there were battles between the two nations for much of Israel’s history.
3. The Philistine’s stronghold was on the coastal plane in the Gaza area.
4. They were powerful, cultured, and possessed iron. They were the high-tech people of the day and did all they could to prohibit Israel from gaining iron and access to their technology (1 Sam. 13:19).
5. They worshipped many false gods. Among them was the worship of Baal and Dagon.
6. At this time in Israel’s history, the Philistines were attempting to push up through the Valley of Elah towards the heart of Judah. King Saul and his army engaged with the Philistines here to stop them.
7. The battle was one of the most pivotal between the two nations, with the loser agreeing to serve the winner. It was a “winner takes all” kind of battle.
8. Later in King Saul’s life, he would be killed by the Philistines in the Gilboa area.
9. David would eventually subdue the Philistines, and during the time of Solomon, there was peace between the two nations.
10. David was probably around 16–18 years old when he fought Goliath. We'll see why this is so as the story unfolds.
Places of Interest
1. Israelite Camp
2. Philistine Camp at Ephes-dammin
3. Valley of Elah
6. HaEla Stream (where David selected 5 smooth stones)
7. Battle Location
8. King David’s Palace Fortress
It sits on a high hill overlooking the Valley of Elah.
This appears to have been built by David after he became king over all of Israel as a memorial to his victory over Goliath.
It had fortress walls, buildings around the inside of the walls, and a large building in the middle that could have been David's palace when he stayed here on occasion.
It was a small fortress complex which would fit with it being a place for David to contemplate and praise God for his victory over Goliath.
It is not a tel but built on bedrock. That means there was nothing that existed here before it was built.
It was only used for a hundred or so years and then apparently destroyed by enemy forces.
An ostracon with the words inscribed on it: king, judge, widow. Words likely penned by King David as they were common themes he wrote about in the Psalms.
A replica of the temple was also found here. Something David would have likely have had carved out.
Valley of Elah in the Bible
1. The battlefield setting.
1 Samuel 17:1–3: Now the Philistines gathered their armies for battle. And they were gathered at Socoh, which belongs to Judah, and encamped between Socoh and Azekah, in Ephes-dammim. 2 And Saul and the men of Israel were gathered, and encamped in the Valley of Elah, and drew up in line of battle against the Philistines. 3 And the Philistines stood on the mountain on the one side, and Israel stood on the mountain on the other side, with a valley between them.
2. The battle terms defined.
1 Samuel 17:4–10: And there came out from the camp of the Philistines a champion named Goliath of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span [more than 9 feet tall]. 5 He had a helmet of bronze on his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail [bronze scale armor], and the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of bronze [about 125 pounds]. 6 And he had bronze armor on his legs, and a javelin of bronze slung between his shoulders. 7 The shaft of his spear was like a weaver’s beam, and his spear’s head weighed six hundred shekels of iron [15 pounds]. And his shield-bearer went before him. 8 He stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why have you come out to draw up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not 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 be your servants. But if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us.” 10 And the Philistine said, “I defy the ranks of Israel this day. Give me a man, that we may fight together.”
3. The hearts of the Israelites were jolted to their core, and they became terrified.
1 Samuel 17:11: When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid.
4. David arrived at the Valley of Elah and accepted the challenge to fight Goliath.
1 Samuel 17:20–27: And David rose early in the morning and left the sheep with a keeper and took the provisions and went, as Jesse had commanded him. And he came to the encampment as the host was going out to the battle line, shouting the war cry. 21 And Israel and the Philistines drew up for battle, army against army. 22 And David left the things in charge of the keeper of the baggage and ran to the ranks and went and greeted his brothers. 23 As he talked with them, behold, the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name, came up out of the ranks of the Philistines and spoke the same words as before. And David heard him. 24 All the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him and were much afraid. 25 And the men of Israel said, “Have you seen this man who has come up? Surely he has come up to defy Israel. And 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.” 26 And David said to the men who stood by him, “What shall 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 defy the armies of the living God?” 27 And the people answered him in the same way, “So shall it be done to the man who kills him.”
5. King Saul reluctantly agreed to allow David to fight Goliath.
1 Samuel 17:31–37: When the words that David spoke were heard, they repeated them before Saul, and he sent for him. 32 And David said to Saul, “Let no man’s heart fail because of him. Your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.” 33 And Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him, for you are but a youth, and he has been a man of war from his youth.” 34 But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, 35 I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him. 36 Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God.” 37 And David said, “The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” And Saul said to David, “Go, and the LORD be with you!”
6. David chose not to use King Saul’s armor in the battle with Goliath.
1 Samuel 17:38–39: Then Saul clothed David with his armor. He put a helmet of bronze on his head and clothed him with a coat of mail, 39 and David strapped his sword over his armor. And he tried in vain to go, for he had not tested them. Then David said to Saul, “I cannot go with these, for I have not tested them.” So David put them off.
7. David, with just 5 smooth stones and a sling, went into battle against a heavily armed, experienced fighting machine, who was a giant of a man and had his armor bearer with him.
1 Samuel 17:40–47: Then he took his staff in his hand and chose five smooth stones from the brook and put them in his shepherd’s pouch. His sling was in his hand, and he approached the Philistine. 41 And the Philistine moved forward and came near to David, with his shield-bearer in front of him. 42 And when the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him, for he was but a youth, ruddy and handsome in appearance. 43 And the Philistine said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. 44 The Philistine said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the beasts of the field.” 45 Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with 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 defied. 46 This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, 47 and that all this assembly may know that the LORD saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the LORD’s, and he will give you into our hand.”
8. The outcome of the epic battle showdown.
1 Samuel 17:48–51: When the Philistine arose and came and drew near to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. 49 And David put his hand in his bag and took out a stone and slung it and struck the Philistine on his forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face to the ground. 50 So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and struck the Philistine and killed him. There was no sword in the hand of David. 51 Then 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.
9. David’s defeat of Goliath led to a great victory over the Philistines.
1 Samuel 17:51–52: When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled. 52 And the men of Israel and Judah rose with a shout and pursued the Philistines as far as Gath and the gates of Ekron, so that the wounded Philistines fell on the way from Shaaraim as far as Gath and Ekron.
Faith Lesson from the Valley of Elah
1. The outcome of the battle was far more significant than we might realize. If the Israelites lost, they would become the servants of the Philistines. It was a “winner takes all” battle.
2. David’s motivation in the battle was the glory of God and the protection of His name: “So that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel” (1 Sam. 17:46).
3. During David’s youth as a shepherd, he developed many skills. He learned music, how to write, use a sling, how to fight to protect his sheep, and how to love the Lord and obey Him.
4. God used David’s skill of using a sling, along with his love for the Lord, to defeat Goliath.
5. The skills David developed as a youth he used throughout his life. He faithfully led the nation Israel, instilled a love for the Lord in his kingdom, and wrote many psalms that were used in his time and throughout history to this day.
6. David knew that it’s not the size of our weapons but the size of our faith in God that matters. So he went into the battle full of faith, and confident God would give him the victory.
7. Do I understand that it’s my responsibility to develop my abilities and it’s God’s responsibility to direct me in how I use them?
8. Do I realize that the most important skill I possess is my love for the Lord and my heart to obey Him?
9. What miracles might God want to do in my life that would show the whole earth that there is a God in the land?
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