Bible Verse Explanations and Resources


1 Samuel 17:58

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Whose son art thou, thou young man? - That Saul should not know David with whom he had treated a little before, and even armed him for the combat, and that he should not know who his father was, though he had sent to his father for permission to David to reside constantly with him, ( 1 Samuel 16:22;), is exceedingly strange! I fear all Bishop Warburton's attempts to rectify the chronology by assumed anticipations, will not account for this. I must honestly confess they do not satisfy me; and I must refer the reader to what immediately follows on the authenticity of the verses which concern this subject.

On the subject of that large omission in the Septuagint of which I have spoken on 1 Samuel 17:12, I here subjoin the reasons of Mr. Pilkington and Dr. Kennicott for supposing it to be an interpolation of some rabbinical writer, added at a very early period to the Hebrew text.

"Had every version of the Hebrew text," says Mr. Pilkington, "agreed to give a translation of this passage, as we now find, the attempts of clearing it from its embarrassments would have been attended with very great difficulties; but, as in several other cases before mentioned, so here, the providence of God seems to have so far secured the credit of those who were appointed to be the penmen of the oracles of truth, that the defense of their original records may be undertaken upon good grounds, and supported by sufficient evidence. For we are now happily in possession of an ancient version of these two chapters, which appears to have been made from a Hebrew copy, which had none of the thirty-nine verses which are here supposed to have been interpolated, nor was similar to what we have at present in those places which are here supposed to have been altered. This version is found in the Vatican copy of the Seventy, which whoever reads and considers, will find the accounts there given regular, consistent, and probable. It will be proper, therefore, to examine the several parts where such alterations are supposed to have been made in the Hebrew text, in order to produce such other external or internal evidence, as shall be necessary to support the charge of interpolation, which ought not to be laid merely upon the authority of any single version.

"The first passage, which is not translated in the Vatican copy of the Greek version, is from the 11th to the 32d verse of the 17th chapter wherein we have an account:

    1. Of David's being sent to the camp to visit his brethren.

    2. Of his conversation with the men of Israel, relating to Goliath's challenge; and their informing him of the premium Saul had offered to any one that should accept it, and come off victorious.

    3. Of Eliab's remarkable behavior to his brother David, upon his making this inquiry. And,

    4. Of Saul's being made acquainted with what David had said upon this occasion.

"It is obvious to remark upon this passage: -

    "1. That, after David had been of so much service to the king, in causing the evil spirit to depart from him; after its being recorded how greatly Saul loved him, and that he had made him his armor-bearer; after the king had sent to Jesse to signify his intention of keeping his son with him; all of which are particularly mentioned in the latter part of the preceding chapter; the account of his keeping his father's sheep afterwards, and being sent to his brethren upon this occasion, must appear to be somewhat improbable.

    2. That what is here said of the premium that Saul had offered to him who should conquer the Philistine, is not well consistent with the accounts afterwards given, of which we shall have occasion to take particular notice.

    3. That Eliab's behavior, as here represented, is not only remarkable but unaccountable and absurd. And,

    4. That the inquiries of a young man, who is not said to have declared any intentions of accepting the challenge of the Philistine, would scarcely have been related to the king.

But now, if this passage be supposed to have been interpolated, we must see how the connection stands upon its being omitted."

" 1 Samuel 17:11. 'When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed, and greatly afraid.'

" 1 Samuel 17:32. 'Then David said unto Saul, Let no man's heart fail because of him; thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine.'

"No connection can be more proper, and in this view David is represented as being at that time an attendant upon the king; and when we had been told just before, ( 1 Samuel 16:21;), that Saul had made him his armor-bearer, we might justly expect to find him with him when the battle was set in array; 1 Samuel 17:2. In this connection David is also represented as fully answering the character before given of him: 'A mighty valiant man, and a man of war,' 1 Samuel 16:18, and ready to fight with the giant upon the first proposal, (for the account of the Philistine presenting himself forty days is in this passage here supposed to have been interpolated, 1 Samuel 17:16;). I shall leave it to the critical Hebrew reader to make what particular remarks he may think proper in respect to the style and manner of expression in these twenty verses, and let Jesse go for an old man amongst men in the days of Saul, etc." - Pilkington's Remarks upon several Passages of Scripture, p. 62.

"The authorities," says Dr. Kennicott, "here brought to prove this great interpolation are the internal evidence arising from the context, and the external arising from the Vatican copy of the Greek version. But how then reads the Alexandrian MS.? The remarks acknowledge that this MS. agrees here with the corrupted Hebrew; and therefore was probably translated, in this part, from some late Hebrew copy which had thus been interpolated; see pages 72, 75. Now that these two MSS. do contain different readings in some places, I observed in pages 398-404, and 414. And in this 17th chapter of Samuel, 1 Samuel 17:4, the Alexandrian MS. says, agreeably to the present Hebrew, that the height of Goliath was six cubits and a span, i.e., above eleven feet; but the Vatican MS., agreeably to Josephus, that it was four cubits and a span, i.e., near eight feet. And in 1 Samuel 17:43, what the Vatican renders he cursed David by his gods, the Alexandrian renders by his idols. But though the Hebrew text might be consulted and a few words differently rendered by the transcriber of one of these MSS., or by the transcribers of the MSS. from which these MSS. were taken; yet, as these MSS. do contain, in this chapter, such Greek as is almost universally the same, (in verb, noun, and particle), I presume that they contain here the same translation with the designed alteration of a few words, and with the difference of the interpolated verses found in the Alexandrian MS.

"But, after all, what if the Alexandrian MS., which now has these verses should itself prove them interpolated? What if the very words of this very MS. demonstrate that these verses were not in some former Greek MS.? Certainly if the Alexandrian MS. should be thus found, at last, not to contradict, but to confirm the Vatican in its omission of these twenty verses, the concurrence of these authorities will render the argument much more forcible and convincing.

"Let us then state the present question; which is, Whether the twenty verses between 1 Samuel 17:11; and 1 Samuel 17:32, which are now in the Hebrew text, are interpolated? The Vatican MS. goes on immediately from the end of the 11th verse (και εφοβηθησαν σφοδρα ) to 1 Samuel 17:32, which begins και ειπε Δαυιδ : whereas the 12th verse in the Hebrew begins, not with a speech, but with David's birth and parentage. If then the Alexandrian MS. begins its present 12th verse as the 32d verse begins, and as the 12th verse could not begin properly, I appeal to any man of judgment whether the transcriber was not certainly copying from a ME. in which the 32d verse succeeded the 11th verse; and if so, then from a MS. which had not these intermediate verses? Now that this is the fact, the case will at once appear upon examining the Alexandrian copy, where the 12th verse begins with ΚΑΙ ΕΙΠΕ ΔΑΥΙΔ ; as the 32d verse begins, and as the 12th verse could not begin properly.

"The case seems clearly to be, that the transcriber, having wrote what is now in the 11th verse, was beginning what is now the 32d verse; when, after writing και ειπε Δαυιδ, he perceived that either the Hebrew, or some other Greek copy, or the margin of his own copy, had several intermediate verses: upon which, without blotting out the significant word ΕΙΠΕ, he goes on to write the addition: thus fortunately leaving a decisive proof of his own great interpolation. if this addition was in the margin of that MS. from which the Alexandrian was transcribed, it might be inserted by that transcriber; but if it was inserted either from the Hebrew, or from any other Greek copy, the transcriber of this MS. seems to have had too little learning for such a proceeding. If it was done by the writer of that former MS., then the interpolation may be a hundred or a hundred and fifty years older than the Alexandrian MS. Perhaps the earliest Christian writer who enlarges upon the strong circumstance of David's coming from the sheep to the army, is Chrysostom, in his homily upon David and Saul; so that it had then been long in some copies of the Greek version. The truth seems to be, that the addition of these twenty verses took its first rise from what Josephus had inserted in his variation and embellishment of this history; but that many circumstances were afterwards added to his additions.

"For (and it is extremely remarkable) though Josephus has some, he has not half the improbabilities which are found at present in the sacred history: as for instance: Nothing of the armies being fighting in the valley, or fighting at all, when David was sent by his father, as in 1 Samuel 17:19. Nothing of the host going forth, and shouting for the battle, at the time of David's arrival, as in 1 Samuel 17:20. Nothing of all the men of Israel fleeing from Goliath, as in 1 Samuel 17:24; on the contrary, the two armies, (it should seem), continued upon their two mountains. Nothing of David's long conversation with the soldiers, 1 Samuel 17:25-27, in seasons so very improper, as, whilst they were shouting for the battle, or whilst they were fleeing from Goliath; and fleeing from a man after they had seen him and heard him twice in every day for forty days together, 1 Samuel 17:16, the two armies, all this long while, leaning upon their arms, and looking very peaceably at one another. Nothing of Goliath's repeating his challenge every morning and every evening, as in 1 Samuel 17:16. David, (it is said, 1 Samuel 17:23;), happened to hear one of these challenges; but if he heard the evening challenge, it would have been then too late for the several transactions before, and the long pursuit after, Goliath's death; and David could not well hear the morning challenge, because he could scarce have arrived so early, after travelling from Beth-lehem to the army, (about fifteen miles), and bringing with him an ephah of parched corn, and ten loaves, and ten cheeses, as in 1 Samuel 17:17, 1 Samuel 17:18. Nothing of encouraging any man to fight Goliath, by an offer of the kinds daughter, 1 Samuel 17:25; which, as it seems from the subsequent history, had never been thought of; and which, had it been offered, would probably have been accepted by some man or other out of the whole army. Nothing of Eliab's reprimanding David for coming to see the battle, as in 1 Samuel 17:28; but for a very different reason; and, indeed, it is highly improbable that Eliab should treat him at all with contempt and scurrility, after having seen Samuel anoint him for the future king of Israel, see 1 Samuel 16:1-13. Nothing of a second conversation between David and the soldiers, as in 1 Samuel 17:30, 1 Samuel 17:31. Nothing of Saul and Abner's not knowing who was David's father, at the time of his going forth against the Philistine, as in 1 Samuel 17:55. Nothing of David's being introduced to the king by Abner, in form, after killing the Philistine, 1 Samuel 17:57, at a time when the king and the captain of the host had no leisure for complemental ceremony; but were set out, 1 Samuel 17:57, in immediate and full pursuit of the Philistines. Nor, lastly, is any notice taken here by Josephus of what now begins the 18th chapter, Jonathan's friendship for David, which is related elsewhere, and in a different manner; on the contrary, as soon as Josephus has mentioned Goliath's death, and told us that Saul and all Israel shouted, and fell at once upon the Philistines, and that, when the pursuit was ended, the head of Goliath was carried by David into his own tent, (and he could have then no tent of his own if he had not been then an officer in the army): I say, as soon as Josephus has recorded these circumstances, he goes on to Saul's envy and hatred of David, arising from the women's songs of congratulation; exactly as these capital parts of the history are connected in the Vatican MS. And with this circumstance I shall conclude these remarks; earnestly recommending the whole to the learned reader's attentive examination.

"It must not however be forgot, that the learned F. Houbigant has, in his Bible, placed these twenty verses (from the 11th to the 32d) between hooks, as containing a passage which comes in very improperly.

"If it be inquired as to this interpolation in Samuel, when it could possibly be introduced into the text? It may be observed that, about the time of Josephus, the Jews seem to have been fond of enlarging and, as they vainly thought, embellishing the sacred history, by inventing speeches, and prayers, and hymns, and also new articles of history, and these of considerable length; witness the several additions to the book of Esther; witness the long story concerning wine, women, and truth, inserted amidst parts of the genuine history of Ezra and Nehemiah, and worked up into what is now called the First Book of Esdras; witness the hymn of the three children in the fiery furnace, added to Daniel; and witness also the many additions in Josephus. Certainly, then, some few remarks might be noted by the Jews, and some few of their historical additions might be inserted in the margin of their Hebrew copies; which might afterwards be taken into the text itself by injudicious transcribers.

"The history of David's conquest of the mighty and insulting Philistine is certainly very engaging; and it gives a most amiable description of a brave young man, relying with firm confidence upon the aid of the God of battle against the blaspheming enemy. It is not therefore very strange that some fanciful rabbin should be particularly struck with the strange circumstances of the Philistines daring to challenge all Israel; and David's cutting off the giant's head with the giant's own sword. And then, finding that Josephus had said that David came from the sheep to the camp, and happened to hear the challenge, the rabbin might think it very natural that David should be indignant against the giant, and talk valorously to the soldiers, and that the soldiers should mightily encourage David; and then, to be sure, this was the most lucky season to introduce the celebrated friendship of Jonathan for David; particularly when, according to these additions, Jonathan had seen Abner leading David in triumph to the king's presence; every one admiring the young hero, as he proudly advanced with the grim head of the Philistine in his hand. So that this multiform addition and fanciful embellishment of the rabbin reminds one of the motley absurdity described by the poet in the famous lines: -

Humano capiti cervicem pictor equinam

Jungere si velit, et varias inducere plasmas, etc.

"The passage supposed to be interpolated here, was in the Hebrew text before the time of Aquila; because there are preserved a few of the differences in those translations of it which were made by Aquila, Theodotion, and Symmachus. These verses, being thus acknowledged at that time, would doubtless be found in such copies as the Jews then declared to be genuine, and which they delivered afterwards to Origen as such. And that Origen did refer to the Jews for such copies as they held genuine, he allows in his epistle to Africanus; for there he speaks of soothing the Jews, in order to get pure copies from them." - Kennicott's Second Dissertation on the Hebrew Text, p. 419.

In the general dissertation which Dr. Kennicott has prefixed to his edition of the Hebrew Bible, he gives additional evidence that the verses in question were not found originally in the Septuagint, and consequently not in the Hebrew copy used for that version. Several MSS. in the royal library at Paris either omit these verses or have them with asterisks or notes of dubiousness. And the collation by Dr. Holmes and his continuators has brought farther proof of the fact. From the whole, there is considerable evidence that these verses were not in the Septuagint in the time of Origen; and if they were not in the MSS. used by Origen, it is very probable they were not in that version at first; and if they were not in the Septuagint at first, it is very probable that they were not in the Hebrew text one hundred and fifty years before Christ; and if not then in the Hebrew text, it is very probable they were not in that text originally. See Dissertation on Gen., p. 9; and Remarks on Select Passages, p. 104.

I have only to remark here, that the historical books of the Old Testament have suffered more by the carelessness or infidelity of transcribers than any other parts of the sacred volume; and of this the two books of Samuel, the two books of Kings, and the two books of Chronicles, give the most decided and unequivocal proofs. Of this also the reader has already had considerable evidence; and he will find this greatly increased as he proceeds.

It seems to me that the Jewish copyists had not the same opinion of the Divine inspiration of those books as they had of those of the law and the prophets; and have therefore made no scruple to insert some of their own traditions, or the glosses of their doctors, in different parts; for as the whole must evidently appear to them as a compilation from their public records, they thought it no harm to make different alterations and additions from popular statements of the same facts, which they found in general circulation. This is notoriously the case in Josephus; this will account, and it does to me very satisfactorily, for many of the various readings now found in the Hebrew text of the historical books. They were held in less reverence, and they were copied with less care, and emended with less critical skill, than the pentateuch and the prophets; and on them the hands of careless, ignorant, and temerarious scribes, have too frequently been laid. To deny this, only betrays a portion of the same ignorance which was the parent of those disorders; and attempts to blink the question, though they may with some be an argument of zeal, yet with all the sincere and truly enlightened friends of Divine revelation, will be considered to be as dangerous as they are absurd.

Where the rash or ignorant hand of man has fixed a blot on the Divine records, let them who in the providence of God are qualified for the task wipe it off; and while they have the thanks of all honest men, God will have the glory.

There have been many who have affected to deny the existence of giants. There is no doubt that the accounts given of several are either fabulous or greatly exaggerated. But men of an extraordinary size are not uncommon even in our own day: I knew two brothers of the name of Knight, who were born in the same township with myself, who were seven feet six inches high; and another, in the same place, Charles Burns who was eight feet six! These men were well and proportionately made. I have known others of this height, whose limbs were out of all proportion; their knees bent in, and joints rickety.

Ireland, properly speaking, is the only nation on the earth that produces Giants; and let me tell the poor, that this is the only nation in the world that may be said to live on potatoes; with little bread, and less flesh-meat.

I have seen and entertained in my house the famous Polish dwarf, the Count Boruwlaski, who was about thirty-six inches high, every part of whose person was formed with the most perfect and delicate symmetry. The prodigious height and bulk of Charles Burns, and the astonishing diminutiveness of Count Boruwlaski, could not be properly estimated but by comparing both together. Each was a perfect man; and yet, in quantum, how disproportionate! Man is the only creature in whom the extremes of minuteness and magnitude are so apparent, and yet the proportion of the parts in each strictly correlative.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
See how frail and uncertain life is, even when a man thinks himself best fortified; how quickly, how easily, and by how small a matter, the passage may be opened for life to go out, and death to enter! Let not the strong man glory in his strength, nor the armed man in his armour. God resists the proud, and pours contempt on those who defy him and his people. No one ever hardened his heart against God and prospered. The history is recorded, that all may exert themselves for the honour of God, and the support of his cause, with bold and unshaken reliance on him. There is one conflict in which all the followers of the Lamb are, and must be engaged; one enemy, more formidable than Goliath, still challenges the armies of Israel. But "resist the devil, and he will flee from you." Go forth to battle with the faith of David, and the powers of darkness shall not stand against you. But how often is the Christian foiled through an evil heart of unbelief!
Cross References
The Ministry of Samuel and Anointment of Saul
Saul, 1000 BCE