LONG TIME ago, there was a boy named David, who lived in a country in the Far East. He was good to look upon, for he had fair hair and a ruddy skin; and he was very strong and brave and modest. He was shepherd-boy for his father, and all day-often all night-he was out in the fields, far from home, watching over the sheep. He had to guard them from wild animals, and lead them to the right pastures, and care for them.
By and by, war broke out between the people of David's country and a people that lived near at hand; these men were called Philistines, and the people of David's country were named Israelites. All the strong men of Israel went up to the battle, to fight for their king. David's three older brothers went, but he was only a boy, so he was left behind to care for the sheep.
After the brothers had been gone some time, David's father longed very much to hear from them, and to know if they were safe; so he sent for David, from the fields, and said to him, "Take now for thy brothers an ephah of this parched corn, and these ten loaves, and run to the camp, where thy brothers are; and carry these ten cheeses to the captain of their thousand, and see how thy brothers fare, and bring me word again." (An ephah is about three pecks.)
David rose early in the morning, and left the sheep with a keeper, and took the corn and the loaves and the cheeses, as his father had commanded him, and went to the camp of the Israelites.
The camp stood on a mountain on the one side, and the Philistines stood on a mountain on the other side; and there was a valley between. David came to the place where the Israelites were, just as the host was going forth to the fight, shouting for the battle. So he left his gifts in the hands of the keeper of the baggage, and ran into the army, amongst the soldiers, to find his brothers. When he found them, he saluted them and began to talk with them.
But while he was asking them the questions his father had commanded, there arose a great shouting and tumult among the Israelites, and men came running back from the front line of battle; everything became confusion. David looked to see what the trouble was, and he saw a strange sight: down the slope of the opposite mountain came striding a Philistine warrior, calling out something in a taunting voice; he was a gigantic man, the largest David had ever seen, and he was covered with armour, that shone in the sun: he had a helmet of brass upon his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail, and he had greaves of brass upon his legs, and a target of brass between his shoulders; his spear was so tremendous that the staff of it was like a weaver's beam, and his shield so great that a man went before him, to carry it.
"Who is that?" asked David.
"It is Goliath, of Gath, champion of the Philistines," said the soldiers about. "Every day, for forty days, he has come forth, so, and challenged us to send a man against him, in single combat; and since no one dares to go out against him alone, the armies cannot fight." (That was one of the laws of warfare in those times.)
"What!" said David, "does none dare go out against him?"
As he spoke, the giant stood still, on the hillside opposite the host of Israel, and shouted his challenge, scornfully. He said, "Why are ye come out to set your battle in array? Am I not a Philistine, and ye servants of Saul? Choose you a man, and let him come down to me. If he be able to fight with me, and to kill me, then will we be your servants; but if I prevail against him, and kill him, then shall ye be our servants, and serve us. I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together!"
When King Saul heard these words, he was dismayed, and all the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him and were sore afraid. David heard them talking among themselves, whispering and murmuring. They were saying, "Have ye seen this man that is come up? Surely if anyone killeth him that man will the king make rich; perhaps he will give him his daughter in marriage, and make his family free in Israel!"
David heard this, and he asked the men if it were so. It was surely so, they said.
"But," said David, "who is this Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?" And he was stirred with anger.
Very soon, some of the officers told the king about the youth who was asking so many questions, and who said that it was shame upon Israel that a mere Philistine should defy the armies of the living God. Immediately Saul sent for him. When David came before Saul, he said to the king, "Let no man's heart fail because of him; thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine."
But Saul looked at David, and said, "Thou art not able to go against this Philistine, to fight with him, for thou art but a youth, and he has been a man of war from his youth."
Then David said to Saul, "Once I was keeping my father's sheep, and there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock; and I went out after the lion, and struck him; and delivered the lamb out of his mouth, and when he arose against me, I caught him by the beard, and struck him, and slew him! Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear; and this Philistine shall be as one of them, for he hath defied the armies of the living God. The Lord, who delivered me out of the paw of the lion and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine."
"Go," said Saul, "and the Lord be with thee!"
And he armed David with his own armour,-he put a helmet of brass upon his head, and armed him with a coat of mail. But when David girded his sword upon his armour, and tried to walk, he said to Saul, "I cannot go with these, for I am not used to them." And he put them off.
Then he took his staff in his hand and went and chose five smooth stones out of the brook, and put them in a shepherd's bag which he had; and his sling was in his hand; and he went out and drew near to the Philistine.
And the Philistine came on and drew near to David; and the man that bore his shield went before him. And when the Philistine looked about and saw David, he disdained him, for David was but a boy, and ruddy, and of a fair countenance. And he said to David, "Am I a dog, that thou comest to me with a cudgel?" And with curses he cried out again, "Come to me, and I will give thy flesh unto the fowls of the air, and to the beasts of the field."
But David looked at him, and answered, "Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield; but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied. This day will the Lord deliver thee into my hand, and I will smite thee, and take thy head from thee, and I will give the carcasses of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel! And all this assembly shall know that the Lord saveth not with sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord's, and he will give you into our hands."
And then, when the Philistine arose, and came, and drew nigh to meet David, David made haste and ran toward the army to meet the Philistine. And when he was a little way from him, he put his hand in his bag, and took from thence a stone, and put it in his sling, and slung it, and smote the Philistine in the forehead, so that the stone sank into his forehead; and he fell on his face to the earth.
And David ran, and stood upon the Philistine, and took his sword, and drew it out of its sheath, and slew him with it.
Then, when the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled. But the army of Israel pursued them, and victory was with the men of Israel.
And after the battle, David was taken to the king's tent, and made a captain over many men; and he went no more to his father's house, to herd the sheep, but became a man, in the king's service.