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Creation – Initiation – Genesis
(1 Samuel 17:1-11)
The gathered armies not only remind the reader of Ebal and Gerizim, but also of the very reason that Israel was established (Creation), set apart from the other nations by the circumcision (Division) and given the ministry of a new “Edenic” Sanctuary (Ascension). The intermarriage of the priestly and kingly lines before the flood silenced the witness of the first evangelists and blotted out the sacrifices. There was nobody to stand in the gap between the heavens and the earth until Noah offered the first “ascension” by fire after the flood. The new world was heading down the same track when the nations gathered in false worship at Babel, so the Lord established a bloody “veil” between the Jews and the Gentiles to prevent that intermarriage from happening again. This did not stop Satan from making numerous attempts to co-opt the bride and slay her offspring throughout Israel’s history, from beginning to end.
The two mountains also relate to the division on the Day of Atonement, allowing the people of God to pass through into blessing (Zechariah 14:1-5), while a substitute bears the curses. The Lord told Abraham that those who blessed Israel would be blessed, and those who cursed Israel would be cursed. Through Jesus, this promise was inherited by the New Covenant Church (Matthew 10:40-42; 25:31-46). It is not wise to curse those who mediate for you before God.
What we have here in a horizontal sense is the divided waters poised to reunite in a bloody battle that would wipe out the Land and thus end, once again, the sacrifices for sin. Goliath, the “kingly” (wild, uncircumcised) Gentile stands in the gap as a “satan,” a legal accuser who, like a shining, fiery Lampstand, calls down the curses of the Law upon the people of God. Yahweh brings forth David, a “priestly” (cultivated, circumcised) representative as a legal advocate to challenge him. The irony is that the Philistines were highly cultivated in a worldly sense, but not in the affairs of the heart before God. But the accusations must be answered. The Law must be satisfied. In the mercy of God, this will be achieved through the offering of a blameless substitute, just as it was in Eden.
Observing how the passage works through the elements of the Tabernacle allows us to notice the correspondence between Goliath, the giant who is clad in bronze and scales and bears a wooden pole, and the bronze serpent made by Moses that was now kept in the Sanctuary. This was later destroyed by faithful King Hezekiah because people were bowing down to it instead of to the one true God. It should also be noted that the Ark, having been stolen by the Philistines, was still separated from the Tent, the legal “head” severed from the robed “body.” We must look backward and remember the fate of the statue of the fish god, Dagon, and forwards to the tragic beheading of the spear-wielding Israelite king, the “head” of Israel who was currently cowering in his own tent. It is also worth noting that Saul’s first regal victory was the defeat of “Nahash,” the Ammonite raider whose moniker means “serpent.”
Division – Delegation – Exodus
(1 Samuel 17:12-18)
The Division cycle pictures David as a pillar of fire, an angel of the Lord who ascends and descends upon Israel, from the cherubim-flanked throne of the Father to the four-cornered Land, providing food to the hosts camped in the wilderness. The ten loaves and ten cheeses are clever allusions to the promises of the fruit of the land and the womb that were obtained through faithful obedience to the Law. The mention of Bethlehem (“house of bread”) and Ephrathah (“fruitful”) are related to this ministry of “sacramental” food from heaven. Ten is also a military number, the double witness of the “hosts” in the sky and the sea.
The contrast between Jesse’s oldest sons (the firstborn and two successive heirs) and David, the lastborn, is another allusion to the Lord’s claim upon the nation of Israel as His firstborn, despite the sons of Ham (Egypt) and Esau (Amalek) being the older brothers. Those “mighty men” brothers followed Saul but David was a free agent, moving to-and-fro like the Spirit of God, a flaming sword between heaven and earth that not only sustained the armies of God but would soon deliver them with the two-edged Sanctions of the covenant: vengeance and redemption are a single word in Hebrew.
Ascension – Presentation – Leviticus
(1 Samuel 17:19-27)
Ascension brings us to the offering of the firstfruits, the immature “natural” representatives of the Bronze Altar (grain and fruit) lifted up to the Golden Table as mature “spiritual” food (bread and wine). Here we have the uncultivated (natural) giant challenging the cultivated (supernatural) giant, like Esau and Jacob wrestling in the womb to inherit the Land, or Herod and Jesus wrestling to inherit dominion over the nations of the World. The grain and fruit bearing plants of Day 3 (Presentation on earth) are a promise of the bread and wine in God’s presence on Day 7 (Re-presentation in heaven), just as the giant haul of grapes from Eshcol was a promise of the vineyards and cities of Canaan. David heard the promise and rushed to the winepress to trample upon the necks of giants.
In the book of Revelation, this step concerns the opening of the seven-sealed “inheritance” scroll by the Firstfruits Lamb. Just as John wept until the only Man worthy to open the scroll appeared, so Israel cowered until David appeared. Without the priest-king Lamb-Lion, the end of the world is always nigh. The role of the priest-king is the reverse of that of the High Priest. Aaron ascended symbolically from the court (World) via the Holy Place (Land) into the Most Holy Place (Garden) and came out again with the blessing of God. In contrast, David “descended” from the house of the Father, as did the devil, and as did Jesus, to the earth to bring about a judgment, and then ascended again to the court of God. A baptism with fire makes one wise as a serpent.
Testing – Purification – Numbers
(1 Samuel 17:28-37)
The Testing cycle concerns the refining of the sacrifice by fire. David is now Israel in the wilderness. The world hates mavericks because mavericks change the world, and David’s first detractor is his oldest brother, who berates him for failing to care for the sheep of Jesse. In truth, it was precisely because David had been faithful with little in the day of small things that God was now bestowing a greater office upon his shoulders. Authority flows naturally to those who take responsibility. Of course, we will learn that it was the despised role of wilderness shepherd, like Moses, that prepared David for true kingdom in a world predatory tyrants. “Who do you think you are?” is a taunt from the devil, but David chooses to put this particular “satan” behind him. The certainty that Eliab mistook for pride and arrogance was actually the outworking of an unassuming meekness before God.
At the Ascension/Firstfruits step in this cycle, Saul contrasts David’s “firstfruits” youth (Priesthood) with the Testing might of Goliath (Kingdom). But at Maturity (Prophecy), David testifies of his success in killing beasts to protect his father’s flock. His education in the Garden led to his ministry in the Land, and that ministry would now be applied to a great beast in the World. God is also a hunter of men when they come to destroy the sheep of Israel, even when all Israel is bowing before a metal image of a beast. David’s correspondence of the paws of beasts with the armed hand of the Philistine is a clue to the meaning of the five stones with which he will arm himself. As a liturgy-in-microcosm, this pericope ends with Saul commissioning David with God’s blessing.
Now, having been vindicated in the Garden (in the “court” of Eliab) and in the Land (in the “court” of Saul), David goes forth to be vindicated in the “court” of the World.
Maturity – Transformation – Deuteronomy
(1 Samuel 17:38-47)
Maturity concerns the covenant body, the “host” of Israel and the cloud of glory that “clothes” the Lord. In the first stanza, Saul covers David in “kingly” armor similar to that worn by Goliath, but David complains that he has not tested it. Instead, he resorts to the “priestly” armour that he had tested, and approaches the Philistine dressed for holy war. Like the Ark of the Covenant, David would arise and scatter God’s enemies in the field (Numbers 10:35-36).
The second stanza corresponds to the Veil and the exodus, but the elements here combine the sanctification of Division with the “bridal” nature of Maturity. The stones are smooth, relating them to the worked stones of the Temple (culture) rather than the unhewn stones of the altars of the patriarchs (nature). They come from a brook, an Edenic spring representing the waters above rather than the wild seas “under the land.” Various theories have been proposed to explain the number of stones. Were the four unused stones intended for the other four mighty Philistines listed in 2 Samuel 21:15-22? Or did the five stones represent the five cities of the Philistines (Ashkelon, Ashdod, Gaza, Ekron, and Gath) situated on the southern coastal plain of Canaan? The numbers five and ten are military numbers, and the hosts at Maturity are often, but not always, Gentile “swarms.” Due to the prevalence of Tabernacle symbolism, the primary meaning is likely that they will comprise the hand of God, from which a single fiery finger would engrave “Holy to the Lord” upon the forehead of the accuser. “For the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hand.” As with the human hand, which is comprised of a thumb as the “head” and four fingers as a “body,” the other stones probably were intended for the other four noteworthy giants from Gath.
Just as the Egyptians despised shepherds, Goliath disdains David’s appearance. But he is a youth (Priesthood/Firstfruits/Table), red-faced (Kingdom/Pentecost/Lampstand), and handsome as a bridegroom (Prophecy/Trumpets/Incense). David’s physical appearance is mentioned only because it images the beauty of holiness by imaging the furniture of the Holy Place. But it also implies that David has been conferred with the Triune Office for this particular mission. When he opens his mouth, his words will be the words of God, and he will devour this serpent with the staff of Moses.
The overarching theme at Maturity is prophetic legal testimony, so, taking a step back to view in macrocosm what David is in microcosm, David is the bread and wine on the Table of Facebread, Goliath is the false lampstand that shines like the serpent in Eden, and the curses are the imprecatory words that rise up like smoke to heaven, invoking an act from rival gods in the same way that Elijah would challenge Baal on Mount Carmel. David’s task is to expose this phony “furniture.” Because he “faces” heaven with a submissive heart (as a willing sacrifice), the true Lampstand shines upon him. Heaven will vindicate his fragrant obedience and judge Goliath’s flagrant rebellion.
Conquest – Vindication – Joshua
(1 Samuel 17:48-54)
The battle between David and Goliath, in terms of the Day of Atonement, is quite literally a face-off. David’s face is already a kingly red, but contained within a priestly obedience. As bread and wine before God, he could face God before he faced the giant. Goliath’s face will soon be red, but on the outside. He falls face down, just like the face of Cain that fell when his offering was rejected by God. There is priestly redness (being a willing sacrifice) and kingly redness (being a dragon, like Cain, Lamech, Nimrod, Esau, and the Herods). One is the blood of the sacrifice and the other is the blood of God’s sheep on the face of a wolf. Jesus was transfigured in white before He was dressed in scarlet as the Servant King.
Judgment was “engraved” upon Goliath’s forehead, an inversion of the words upon the crown of the High Priest. Goliath was “devoted” in the same way that Jericho was “devoted.” The Revelation uses the same image to describe the holiness of the saints and the unholiness of the rulers of harlot Jerusalem.
Like the serpent in Eden, Goliath had exalted himself and was thrown down upon his belly. Goliath was the “head” that spoke for the Philistine “body,” so decapitating him was a liturgical act that resulted in the scattering of that body.
The fact that David killed Goliath without a sword but then used Goliath’s own sword to decapitate him is a common modus operandi for God. The Jews handed Jesus over to the Romans for crucifixion, so Jesus handed the Jews who rejected the apostolic testimony over to the Romans for crucifixion. The city and surrounds were unrecognizable because all of the trees had been cut down to provide crosses, and the crucifixions numbered up to 500 in a single day. This is described in liturgical terms in Revelation 19, where the Edomites are slain under the very Law that they had used to condemn Christ.
The death of Goliath and the scattering of the Philistines also ought to remind us of the two approaches of the High Priest on the Day of Atonement—firstly with the blood of a bull as the servant king “head,” and again with the blood of the first goat for the bridal “body.” The same pattern can be observed in the lifting up of the bronze serpent to scatter the fiery snakes that tormented Israel, fulfilled in the lifting up of Christ on the cross to scatter the “seed of the serpent” nest of snakes that the Pharisees had become. It can also be seen in the conquest of Jericho: the armies of Israel were circumcised “a second time” (Adam – head) before the entire city of the harlot was circumcised (Eve – body) and all flesh was cut off. The book of Revelation describes the ascension of Christ as sacrificial head and the offering of the Apostolic (Firstfruits) Church as the sacrificial body. The “Garden” atonement of Christ was extrapolated into the Land, and it is now being measured out upon the World.
Perhaps the careful mention of David drawing Goliath’s sword from its sheath is a phallic image, an ironic reference to his foreskin. After all, the Tabernacle is humaniform, and this step corresponds to the belly and the genitals (see diagram above). In that sense, David was holy in the same way that Phinehas was holy, and, like Phinehas, he would be chosen by God for the Covenant Succession. That brings us to the final step of the pattern: inheritance and historical continuity.
Glorification – Representation – Judges
(1 Samuel 17:55-58)
By representing all Israel, David presented himself as a holy firstfruits, which made the entire lump holy. The accuser had been silenced and an advocate now stood in his place. This would be fulfilled in the ascension of Christ (as firstborn from the dead, appearing as the Firstfruits Lamb in Revelation 5), and the casting of Satan from heaven to earth to demonize the post-Pentecost Jews in the same way that Saul was troubled by an evil spirit after the anointing of David.
The same “courtroom” Tabernacle architecture is found in Zechariah 3, where Satan disputes over the “body” of Moses, that is, the nation of Israel.5 All of these events prefigured Christ who offered Himself to become our priestly advocate, a man who was anointed for kingdom but would only take it from God’s hand. David refused not only to take kingdom from his “father” Saul, but also from his rebellious son, Absalom.
The final cycle is brimming with the images of legal representation: the conferring of the office of judge and executioner by God, a fresh mention of Jesse and Bethlehem (the fruitfulness of Covenant Succession), and the question of whose son David is, relating to the imaging of the Father by the Son.
David kept Goliath’s armor in his tent as a trophy, representing the shining skin of the serpent, alluding to the pattern of seed, flesh, and skin in the Garden of Eden, in both the fruit of the land and the fruit of the womb. But the most astounding takeaway might be that David took the head of this human dragon to Jerusalem. Jesus was crucified at “the place of the skull,” Golgotha, a name most likely derived from “Goliath of Gath.” The cross of Jesus was an act of dominion, the first tent peg hammered through the skull of history’s Sisera by the Seed of the Woman. The text of this story and every stanza within it is “Tabernacle-shaped,” and the furniture of the Tabernacle was a giant cross measured out upon the ground. In Jesus, that cross would finally be lifted up from the ground, like Adam, to mediate between heaven and earth. But the one who had given Adam breath would breathe His last. Satan had offered Him all the kingdoms of the world but, like David, He would only take them from the hand of His Father.
In Galatians 3:13, Paul says, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.” If Golgotha was indeed the burial site of the head of Goliath, it is fitting that, unlike all other men who were crucified, the body of the son of David was not left to the birds and the beasts. In the end, the meek always inherit the Land.
Mike Bull is a graphic designer in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney in Australia, and author, most recently, of Schema: A Journal of Systematic Typology, Vol. 2.
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