David Bar-Jesse sat by his sheep, plucking at his harp. He didn’t play any set song, just let his fingers and mind wander. A lamb crying out brought him back to reality.
His hands immediately went to his pouch and pulled out his sling. Then he saw the cause of the cry. It was just Bartholomew, his father’s hired hand. “Hail!” he called, and Bartholomew returned the greeting.
“Your father wishes to speak to you,” the hand said, taking the staff from where it lay the grass. He laughed. “You know, if you learned how to use this, you wouldn’t need to use that sling of yours!”
David grinned back, then put a stone into the pocket of the sling. He started whipping it around his head. It became a blur to the sight and David let it fly. The stone whistled above the flock, embedding itself in a tree. David allowed himself a smirk in Bartholomew’s direction, then headed up towards the house.
His father met him as he neared the house. “Son,” he started, but David finished for him.
“You need me to take some letters and home-baked food for my brothers, I know.” David grinned halfheartedly. “I’ll get my horse.” He walked off towards the stable.
“Thank you, my son,” Jesse called after him. David turned and bowed slightly in reply.
He found his horse, and an extra donkey, loaded with food. David mounted Gideon, and rode out of the stable, the donkey following. He paused just outside to be kissed farewell by his mother, then rode onward.
David rode several days. The battlefront wasn’t anywhere near his home, for which he was extremely glad. When he finally neared the camp, it was unmistakable. He could see the tents the entire day before he actually arrived.
He rode into camp, and was surprised to find it void of activity. A soldier darted from one tent to another. David dismounted and followed him inside. He didn’t recognize any of the soldiers, but asked them about his brothers anyway.
“Abinadab Bar-Jesse?” one soldier asked. “Yes, I recognize that name. He is a regular at the gambling pit.” The other soldiers laughed. David shook his head in frustration.
“Where is King Saul?” he asked and the others hooted in laughter.
“King Saul? His tent, of course,” the same soldier said. “But he’ll be hiding just like the rest of us.”
“Hiding?” David wondered.
“Yes, hiding. We’re not facing that giant again.”
“Yes, giant. No one’s coming close to him. And for good reason. He’s even taller that King Saul himself!”
A roar from outside made everyone jump. “Get to your feet, lazy layabouts!” a man roared, stepping into the tent.
“Eliab!” David exclaimed, stepping forward.
“Stand down, David,” Eliab snarled. “I’m here for the so-called soldiers.” He grabbed a man and pushed him out of the tent. The others trooped out after him.
David followed them, all the way to the front lines. The men stood in formation, some shaking. David saw Abinadab and Shammah, and ran to them, shouting greetings.
“Hello, my brother,” Abinadab said, rather cheerfully. “How are you?”
“I am extremely well. I brought some food from home.” David was about to continue, when a roar shook the earth.
“Why do you come out and line up for battle?” Goliath bellowed. “Am I not a Philistine,and are you not the servants of Saul? Choose someone to face me. If he’s able to kill me, we will be your servants. If I am able to kill him, you become ours!” Goliath looked to the sky. “This day I defy the ranks of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other!”
David was so surprised by the words, he didn’t notice when everyone else disappeared. Goliath looked up, his face fierce, and laughed. “Once again, they run. Like rabbits, they never show their faces. And neither does their God!” He turned and lumbered back to the other camp.
“Why doesn’t someone do something about this?” David exclaimed, meeting his brothers. “He just insulted both Israel and God!”
Eliab grabbed both his shoulders. “David, what are you doing here?”
“I brought some food-” David was cut off as Eliab shook him.
“You brought food. Cute. Why did you leave your sheep, David? That’s all you’re good for, watching the sheep. But let me guess, you got bored. You decided you wanted to watch the battle. That’s what you’re here for, isn’t it? You just wanted some excitement.”
David felt two emotions: shame and rage. The words of his grandfather, Obed Bar-Boaz, came back to him. “When you feel angry, use that anger for something constructive. It is not wrong to be angry, but do not sin in your anger. When you are angry, do not backtalk to someone in authority.”
So David did not. Instead, he just whispered, “What have I done wrong? Can’t I just state my opinion?” Then he turned to another soldier, and asked him the same question.
“Go back home, little shepherd boy,” he replied, then turned away.
David looked at the ground, and started walking towards Gideon. A hand on his shoulder stopped him. He turned, and saw a boy about his age. “What you said,” the boy asked, “Did you mean it?”
“Yes,” David replied.
“You’re David, right? You played for my father, King Saul.”
Instantly, David dropped to one knee. “My prince,” he said, head bowed.
“Don’t bow to me, David,” Jonathan said, pulling him up. “We’re still friends, aren’t we? Now come, we have to go see my father.”
“You want to do this, David?” King Saul asked.
“Yes, my lord,” David replied.
“In that case, we must get you suited for battle!” With that, King Saul went over to the rack that held his armor. He pulled off a helmet, and stuck it over David’s head, then helped him with the breastplate. David took the sword and attached it himself.
He waddled around, nearly tipping over, then shook his head. “There’s not a chance I’ll survive if I wear these. I’ll tip over and be squashed before I even get a chance to pull out the sword. Let me fight my own way.”
“Your own way?” King Saul asked suspiciously.
“With your majesty’s permission, I’ll show you.” David took off the heavy armor, then pulled out his sling. Around and around it spun, then he let it fly. It buzzed off, smashing into the rack of armor.
“Then go, and be killed if you want!” King Saul said, dismissing David. “But let it be on your own head.”
“Thank you my king,” David said. He left the tent and walked to a little stream by the camp. Dipping his hand in the cool water, he pulled out a stone. He fingered the smooth surface, then put it into his bag. Four times more he dipped into the stream, each time taking another stone. Then he stood and walked back to the camp.
That night, he bunked with his horse and donkey, as they were the only ones who held no criticism of him. He slept well, considering he was about to face a giant who everyone else was terrified of. He awoke at dawn, joining the soldiers at their cook fire. All of them turned away when he approached.
“Are you still here?” Eliab asked, rising from his place and pushing his fist into David. “I’m not taking bad news back to Father,” Eliab said, pushing his brother into the ground and stalking off.
The rest of the day followed the same pattern. The soldiers all shunned David, pushing him into tents when the passed, or tripping him up. David suffered through it without a word. Finally, the time came when the giant would call forth the army.
As Goliath shouted his challenge once more, David remembered why he was so angry. As the blasphemy poured forth, David’s hands started shaking. Finally, he pushed his way through the soldiers.
“Silence!” he yelled, and the giant was so startled, he actually quieted. Then he started laughing. David’s anger grew. But once again, the voice of Grandfather Obed rang through his ears: “Use your anger for something constructive.”
“What am I, a dog?” Goliath chuckled. “You come at me with sticks?” Once again he laughed, but David’s voice cut through it.
“You come against me with a sword, a spear and a javelin. I come in the name of the LORD. You blasphemed both him and his people. I’m going to kill you, and leave your carcass for the birds of the air.”
Goliath let loose a string of curses so obscene that David’s anger doubled, then tripled. As he cursed the boy and the army he stood in front of, the giant pulled out his sword and started moving towards David.
“God is going to use me, just like he used Gideon, to prove that it is Him who wins the battles, not mere men!” With that, David started swinging his sling, running forward to meet the huge man.
As before, it became a blur, and as the army of Saul watched, the little shepherd boy let the stone fly. It soared directly into Goliath’s forehead, and the force of it snapped his head back. It wasn’t strong enough, however, to stop the giant from falling forward. Down the Philistine hero fell, right in front of David.
David let the sling wrap around his hand, running to the giant’s side. Quickly, he pulled out Goliath’s sword, then, with one smooth motion, chopped off the giant’s head. He lifted it up above his head, and the Philistines stared in horror as they realized that Goliath was dead. Their horror was so great that they turned and ran off.
“For the Lord!” A soldier shouted, pulling out his sword and running after them. Soon, a tide of soldiers poured forth from the camp, chasing the Philistines down. Within a few hours, everything was over. They had chased the Philistines as far as Gath, then returned and plundered the camp.
David was sitting by himself, the giant’s head and weapons beside him, night approaching. Jonathan, the king’s son, came and sat down beside him. “That was crazy,” Jonathan said.
“You’re telling me?” David asked, turning to look at him.
“Yes. My armor bearer and me killed twenty Philistines by ourselves, remember.”
David laughed softly. “Yes, I remember. Everyone in Israel heard about that.” Jonathan laughed at the memory. Then he stood.
“David, stand, will you?” David did so, and Jonathan took off the robe he was wearing. “David, what you did out there was stupidly brave. Only a few people would do that. I’m not one of them. I would be honored if you would take this robe as a sign of my eternal friendship.” David took the robe with eyes shining, then looked back. Jonathan was holding out his tunic, sword, bow and his belt.
“I can’t take all of this,” David said, pushing it back.
“You can, and you will. All I want in return is your friendship.”
David laughed, accepting the gifts. “You can’t buy friendship, you know.”
“Yes,” Jonathan said, “I know.” Then he put an arm around David. “But I’m hoping you’ll be my friend anyway.” With that, he let the arm drop and walked off towards his father’s tent. Just before he disappeared into the tent, he turned back. “You’re going to be one of the greatest men in the world, David. And I can’t wait to see what the LORD does with you next.” Then he was gone, David once again left alone with his thoughts.
Note from the Author: This was produced when my book club asked for a short story from each of the participants. It has become one of my favorite works, and I hope you enjoyed reading it.