Lesson 87: 1 Samuel 17
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“Lesson 87: 1 Samuel 17,” Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual (2014)

“Lesson 87,” Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual

Lesson 87

1 Samuel 17


The Philistines again came to battle against the Israelites. Goliath, a giant, challenged the army of Israel to send a soldier to face him in combat. David, a young shepherd, accepted the challenge, and King Saul sent him to fight Goliath. With the Lord’s help, David slew Goliath.

Suggestions for Teaching

1 Samuel 17:1–40

David is chosen to fight Goliath

Before class, prepare the following visual aids:

  1. To help students visualize Goliath’s actual size, make a life-size drawing of him in the classroom or put a mark on the wall at nine feet, nine inches (three meters).

    Old Testament teacher resource manual
  2. To help students understand what David used to defeat Goliath, draw a picture of a sling or construct one by using any sturdy fabric or soft leather for the pouch (an oval of about 3 x 5 inches [8 x 13 centimeters]) and something like shoelaces for the strings (any length from 18 to 24 inches [46 to 60 centimeters]). Tie a knot in the end of one string and a small loop in the end of the other.

    Old Testament teacher resource manual

Begin class by asking students what they think are the biggest challenges youths face in our day. Write their responses on the board. Then ask them to think about a challenge they are currently facing.

Invite students to look for principles that can help them know how to endure or overcome the challenges they are facing as they study the account of David and Goliath in 1 Samuel 17.

Summarize 1 Samuel 17:1–3 by explaining that the Philistines came again to battle against the Israelites. Draw on the board a simple picture depicting two mountains with a valley between them. Explain that the Philistines stood on one mountain and the Israelites stood on the other mountain.

Old Testament teacher resource manual

Invite several students to take turns reading aloud from 1 Samuel 17:4–7. Ask the class to follow along, looking for how Goliath and his armor and weapons were described.

  • How tall was Goliath? (Explain that he could have been approximately nine feet, nine inches [three meters] tall.)

Invite several students to come to the front of the class and compare their height to the picture of Goliath or to the mark of Goliath’s height on the wall.

Explain that Goliath’s coat of mail (the armor over his upper body) weighed approximately 150 pounds (68 kilograms), and the iron tip of his spear weighed between 12 and 26 pounds (5 and 12 kilograms). Explain that greaves are pieces of armor protecting the shins, and a target is armor protecting the neck (see 1 Samuel 17:6, footnotes a and b).

Invite a student to read 1 Samuel 17:8–11 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for the challenge Goliath gave to the Israelites.

  • What challenge did Goliath give to the Israelites?

  • How might you have responded to Goliath’s challenge if you had been in the camp of the Israelites?

  • According to verse 11, how did the Israelite soldiers respond to Goliath’s challenge? (Explain that the word dismayed implies that the Israelites were distressed and frightened by the challenge.)

Summarize 1 Samuel 17:12–18 by explaining that while the army of Israel was encamped against the army of the Philistines, David was at home tending his father’s sheep. David’s father gave him food to take to his brothers, who were soldiers in the army of Israel, with instructions to see how they were doing at the battlefront.

Invite several students to take turns reading aloud from 1 Samuel 17:19–26. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what happened when David arrived at the Israelite camp.

  • How was David’s reaction to Goliath’s challenge different from the reaction of the Israelite soldiers? (David was not afraid.)

Summarize 1 Samuel 17:27–31 by explaining that David’s oldest brother, Eliab, was angry and questioned David’s intentions when he heard how David reacted to Goliath’s challenge. Despite his brother’s anger, David continued to tell the Israelites that they should not be afraid of Goliath. Some of the soldiers told King Saul what David said, and the king asked to see him.

Invite a student to read 1 Samuel 17:32–37 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what happened when King Saul and David met.

  • How might Saul’s response to David in verse 33 be similar to what we sometimes feel when we face challenges?

  • According to verses 34–36, what did David say when Saul told him that he was too young to fight with Goliath?

  • According to verse 37, why did David believe he could defeat Goliath?

Write the following phrase on the board: Remembering how the Lord has helped us in the past will …

Ask students how they would complete this statement based on what they learned from David’s response. Students may identify a variety of principles, but be sure to emphasize that remembering how the Lord has helped us in the past will strengthen our faith to endure or overcome our present challenges.

  • Why do you think remembering how the Lord has helped us in the past will help us with our present challenges?

Invite students to think about a time when the Lord helped them (or someone they know) endure or overcome a challenge. Invite a few students to share their experiences with the class. After they share, ask them how that experience has helped them with other challenges or how that experience could help them with other challenges in the future.

Encourage students to remember what the Lord has done for them in the past as they seek to endure and overcome the challenges they are facing now and the challenges they will face in the future.

Invite a student to read 1 Samuel 17:38–40 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what was done to prepare David for battle against Goliath.

  • Why did David decide not to use King Saul’s armor? (Explain that the phrase “he had not proved it” in verse 39 means that David was not used to wearing armor.)

  • What did David do to prepare for the battle?

Show students the sling you drew or constructed. Explain that slings were commonly used as weapons in David’s day. To become accurate with the sling, a person had to spend a considerable amount of time using it. David had used a sling to protect his father’s sheep. If you constructed a sling, illustrate the difficulty of using a sling effectively by inviting a few students to attempt to hit a target while using a sling and a marshmallow or another small, round, and soft object.

Explain that the loop goes over the index or third finger while the knot is held between the thumb and index finger; the object is slung by swinging the sling over the head and releasing the knotted string as the pouch begins its arc toward the target. Timing is critical. (You may consider allowing other students to try this activity at the end of the lesson. Make sure not to let this object lesson overshadow the truths taught in 1 Samuel 17.)

1 Samuel 17:41–58

With the strength of the Lord, David slays Goliath

Invite two students to come to the front of the class to represent David and Goliath. Ask the student who represents Goliath to read 1 Samuel 17:41–44 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for phrases that show what Goliath thought of David. Explain that the word stave in verse 43 is referring to a staff or pole.

  • What did Goliath think of David?

  • If you were David, how might you have responded to Goliath’s insults?

Ask the student representing David to read 1 Samuel 17:45–47 aloud. Invite the class to follow along, looking for how David responded to Goliath.

  • How would you summarize David’s response to Goliath?

  • According to verse 47, what did David say the assembly would know after he defeated Goliath?

  • What does David’s response reveal about him?

Invite a student to read 1 Samuel 17:48–51 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what happened to Goliath.

  • How did David exercise his faith in the Lord?

  • What principles can we learn from this story? (As students share the principles they have identified, emphasize the following truth: As we exercise faith in the Lord, He will help us with our challenges.)

  • What are some ways we can exercise our faith in the Lord when we experience challenges?

Invite a student to read aloud the following statement from True to the Faith:

“Faith is much more than passive belief. You express your faith through action—by the way you live. … Your faith can lead you to do good works, obey the commandments, and repent of your sins” (True to the Faith: A Gospel Reference [2004], 54–55).

Read the following scenarios to the class, and ask students to explain how someone with these challenges could exercise faith in the Lord to receive His help:

  1. A young man’s parents decide to get a divorce.

  2. A young woman is struggling to overcome some addictions.

  3. A young woman knows she needs to forgive someone who caused her harm.

  4. A young man has health problems that limit the activities he can participate in.

Invite students to ponder what they can do to exercise faith so they can receive the Lord’s help to face their own challenges. Consider sharing an experience you have had when you exercised faith in the Lord and received His help with a challenge.

Summarize 1 Samuel 17:52–57 by explaining that after David defeated Goliath, the Philistine army fled, and the army of the Israelites chased after them. David took Goliath’s head to Jerusalem, and King Saul marveled at David’s bravery.

To help students apply the truths they have learned, invite them to think again about a challenge they are currently facing. Invite them to answer the following question in their class notebooks or scripture study journals:

  • What will you do to better exercise your faith as you face your challenges?

After sufficient time, invite several students to share with the class what they wrote, if it is not too personal. Conclude by testifying of the principles you have discussed.

Commentary and Background Information

1 Samuel 17. The Goliaths in our lives

President Thomas S. Monson explained that we must face our challenges in order to overcome them:

“Is there a Goliath in your life? Is there one in mine? Does he stand squarely between you and your desired happiness? Your Goliath may not carry a sword or hurl a verbal challenge of insult that all may hear and force you to decision. He may not be ten feet tall, but he likely will appear equally as formidable, and his silent challenge may shame and embarrass. …

“The giant you face will not diminish in size nor in power or strength by your vain hoping, wishing, or waiting for him to do so. Rather, he increases in power as his hold upon you tightens” (“Meeting Your Goliath,” New Era, June 2008, 5).

1 Samuel 17:4–8. “A champion … named Goliath”

“According to [1 Samuel 17:4], Goliath’s height was six cubits and a span. The most widely accepted opinion of the length of a cubit is about eighteen inches or, roughly, the distance from the elbow to the tip of the extended middle finger. A span is said to be the distance from the thumb to the end of the little finger when the fingers are spread as wide as possible. These measurements would make the height of Goliath approximately nine feet, nine inches [three meters]! It is not too surprising that the Philistines would have picked such a champion or that no man in Israel wanted to be Saul’s champion. …

“Experts have estimated the weight of Goliath’s armor to be about 150 pounds [68 kilograms] (see [Adam Clarke, The Holy Bible … with Commentary and Critical Notes, 6 vols. (n.d.)], 2:261). A weaver’s beam is a strong, thick piece of wood on which thread is strung in preparation for weaving. The weight of Goliath’s spearhead has been estimated from twelve to twenty-six pounds, depending on which authority is consulted and what weight he selects for a shekel. … A greave is a protective piece of armor that fits on the front of the leg and extends from just below the knee to the ankle” (Old Testament Student Manual: Genesis–2 Samuel, 3rd ed. [Church Educational System manual, 2003], 278).

1 Samuel 17:43–47. The courage of David

Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught that we should have courage and faith when we face challenges:

“At times all of us must stand against those who mock and revile. Some of us, sometime, will face some earthly power as mighty as Goliath. When that happens, we should emulate the courage of David, who was mighty because he had faith and he went forth in a righteous cause in the name of the Lord of Hosts” (“Bible Stories and Personal Protection,” Ensign, Nov. 1992, 38).