David had been out “shepherding of his father’s flocks” (which means symbolically that he was preparing himself for his destiny). When he returned home, the prophet Samuel was there and he anointed him. This did not mean that he immediately became the new king; only that he had been selected by God. And for the moment, this is kept secret from King Saul.
Oil is the fuel of fire, and ‘anointing the head with oil’ is a symbol of Confirmation, which means that the Spirit descends into the Mind so that the ‘fire’ can burn away our ignorance, strengthen our resolve, and clear our vision (The Hebrew word for ‘anointing’ is moshach, from which comes the word Moshiach, which means Messiah). As soon as David (whose name means well-beloved) was anointed, the Bible tells us, “the spirit of the Lord gripped David from that day on.” Samuel’s task is now completed and he departs: “Samuel then set out for Ramah [which means a state of bliss].”
On the other hand, the following sentence then tells us, “Now the spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul.” So Saul, who had earlier been anointed by Samuel, is no longer confirmed as king, the sacrament is reversed, and his vision is no longer clear. In fact, “an evil spirit from the Lord began to terrify him.”
In response to the misery which this ‘evil spirit’ was causing their king, his courtiers suggested that he find a musician who could soothe him with sweet music whenever the black mood struck. Saul agreed, and when one of them suggested that a certain son of Jesse the Bethlehemite was an excellent lyre player, Saul sent for the boy. So David came walking right into the palace of the oblivious Saul and entered his service!
“Whenever the evil spirit of God came upon Saul, David would take the lyre and play it; Saul would find relief and feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him.” Of course David, the great psalmist, was no ordinary musician. Saul “took a strong liking to him” and even made him one of the king’s arms-bearers.
Meanwhile, remembering that the story is really an internal allegory, the negative elements of the human soul rarely leave us in peace for very long, so we are now told that the Philistines [from whom comes our word ‘Palestine’] had once again “assembled their forces for battle.” So Saul and his soldiers “drew up their line of battle against the Philistines, with the Philistines stationed on one hill and Israel stationed on the opposite hill.”
A champion of the Philistine forces stepped forward;his name was Goliath of Gath, and he was six cubits and a span tall [about 9 ft].
Goliath roared at the astonished Israelites, “Why should you come out to engage in battle?”
Choose one of your men and let him come down against me. If he bests me in combat and kills me, we will become your slaves; if I best him and kill him, you shall be our slaves and serve us.
Saul and his soldiers, however, were terror-stricken when they beheld this giant. For forty days, Goliath would come forward morning and night and repeat his challenge, but no one took him up on it.
David’s three older brothers were serving in Saul’s army. David himself was still too young to be a soldier, but one day his father Jesse asked him to bring some food to his brothers who had long been stationed on the hill, and find out how they were doing.
David found his brothers, and while he was speaking to them Goliath came forward and again issued his challenge. David was outraged by this “uncircumcised Philistine” who “dares defy the ranks of the living God.” He was also outraged that no soldier (that is, no courageous passion within the soul) had enough trust and certainty in God to accept the giant’s challenge. So David found Saul and said, “Your servant will go and fight that Philistine.”
Saul objected that David was “only a boy.” But David knew he was fully prepared and had nothing to fear.
Your servant has been tending his father’s sheep, and if a lion or a bear came and carried off an animal from the flock, I would go after it and fight it and rescue it from its mouth. And if it attacked me, I would seize it by the beard and strike it down and kill it. Your servant has killed both lion and bear; and that uncircumcised Philistine shall end up like one of them, for he has defied the ranks of the living God.
In other words, David makes clear, it is not his ownpower that will overcome Goliath. It is his perfect faith in God that will ensure his success. “The Lord,” David went on, “who saved me from the lion and the bear will also save me from that Philistine.” So Saul eventually assented, sent him off, and said, “may the Lord be with you!” Then David, who refused any armor or a sword, put a few stones in his shepherd’s bag, took his slingshot, and “went toward the Philistine.”
Goliath, of course, laughed when he saw him, telling the boy to come closer so he could feed his flesh to the birds and beasts. But David just said, “This very day the Lord will deliver you into my hands.”
We all know the story. “David put his hand into his bag; he took out a stone and slung it. It struck the Philistine in the forehead; the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell face down on the ground.” David then ran up and stood over the giant. Since he had no sword of his own, he took Goliath’s sword and cut off his head.
“When the Philistines saw that their warrior was dead, they ran.” Fittingly, their hero had been destroyed by stone — the very symbol of the low level of matter which the Philistines of the story represent — which now sank into his own forehead and destroyed his mind. “The men of Israel and Judah rose up with a war cry and pursued the Philistines…. [Many] fell mortally wounded along the road…. Then the Israelites returned from chasing the Philistines and looted their camp.” In other words, they retrieved what was valuable from the lower level of Being, and raised it up.
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