David, Goliath and Representative Warfare

It never ceases to amaze me how the various accounts of David’s life stand in a typical relationship to that of Christ, the Son of David–and the greater David. While the Bible explicitly draws out some of the ways that David typified Jesus (e.g. Matt. 12:3), the details of the life of David unfolded in covenantal history reveal it magnificently. One such account is the battle between David and Goliath. Far from merely being an exciting children’s story from which we may teach our little ones how to be courageous in the LORD, the record of this battle comes at the half-way mark in redemptive history–reminding us of the battle promise of Gen. 3:15 and urging us to look forward to the fulfillment of it when our Lord Jesus Christ defeated the evil one at the cross. The points of comparison are striking:

1. The Battle is a representative battle. Two individuals represent their people and face off in battle. Whoever wins this battle wins it for those he represents. (This is the only battle of its kind recorded in Scripture, other than the battle between Christ and the devil.)

2. David is the only one able to face the Philistine. Jesus is the only one able to face the evil one.

3. David is sent by his father to his brothers. Jesus is sent by His Father to His brothers.

4. David’s brother’s reject him, mocking him and accusing him of having evil motives. Jesus’ brothers (both biological and national) reject Him, mocking Him and accusing Him of having evil motives.

5. David is meek and God-fearing, in the face of the battle and his brother’s rejection. Jesus is meek and God-fearing in the face of the battle and his brother’s rejection.

6. David does not trust in human strength, rather he trusts in the name of the LORD. Jesus does not trust in human strength, rather he trust in the name of the LORD.

7. David is not first and foremost concerned about men; he is most concerned that God’s glory has been slighted. So it is with Jesus.

8. David goes forth to war as a Shepherd (i.e. with a Shepherd’s staff and a Shepherd’s bag). Jesus goes forth to war as the Good Shepherd (John 10).

9. David defeats his enemy with his own weapon (i.e. Goliath’s sword). Jesus defeats Satan with his own weapon (i.e. the cross). Jonathan Edwards made this point repeatedly. In one place he suggested: “The devil had been the instrument of Christ’s being put to death. He put it into the heart of Judas to [betray Christ], and he stirred up anger and malice in the chief priests and leaders and elders of the people to offer cruelty to him, so that their cruelty and the cross they used as the instrument of his death was, as it were, the devil’s sword he used in battle against Christ;”1 and in another, “God preserved [David] from [Goliath], and gave him the victory over him, so that he cut off his head with his own sword and made him therein the deliverer of his people, as Christ slew the spiritual Goliath with his own weapon, the cross, and so delivered his people.”2

10. David swore that God would give the Philistine’s flesh to the birds of the air and the beast of the field. Edwards again noted, “As David, when he fought with Goliath, said that he would give the carcasses of the hosts of the Philistines unto the fowls of the air, etc., so Christ, the true David, now calls on the fowls of the air to come to devour the carcasses of the enemies of his church.” [see Revelation 11:7–9]

11. David carried Goliath’s head into Jerusalem in triumph. Edwards carried the parallel out when he wrote, “Christ ascended into heaven in triumph, as it were with the head of Satan in his hand, as David, after he had slain Goliath, went up to Jerusalem with the head of this Philistine in his hand.”

1. Jonathan Edwards, excerpt from Sermon on Psalm 24:7-10

2. Jonathan Edwards, excerpt from A History of the Work of Redemption 

3. Jonathan Edwards, excerpt from The Blank Bible 

9 Responses

  1. Mark Grassman

    I heard a sermon series that approached Psalms as prayers of Christ. It is interesting to read through them with that in mind. The other thing that is striking is the points of contrast between David (adulterer, murderer, etc.) and Christ. And yet David is truly humble and repentant. It seems few of us are as bad or as Christlike as David. I guess it goes to show the power, goodness and mercy of God in the lives of sinful men.

    1. Good assessment Mark. It is of course necessary to point out the differences between David who was a man and Jesus who was God incarnate. Even though David was a man after God’s own heart, he was still a sinner whose sins separated him from God and needed God’s redemptive grace to reestablish the relationship that his sin caused him to lose. David’s repentant heart that we see in his prayer to God in Psalm 51 brought about the restoration of his relationship with God but not without consequences. Like David’s sin all sin comes with consequences, some that touch more lives than our own.

  2. Andy Wortman

    Nick, do you have the references for Edwards? Are they from History of Redemption or one of his sermons? I would like to see what exhortations he gives.

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