So Saul clothed David with his armor, and he put a bronze helmet on his head; he also clothed him with a coat of mail. David fastened his sword to his armor and tried to walk, for he had not tested them. And David said to Saul, “I cannot walk with these, for I have not tested them.” So David took them off. 1 Samuel 17:38-39
Pretty much every sermon I have ever heard regarding this story of David and Goliath assumes that because David was a boy (or at least a young man), Saul’s armor and sword were too big for him to handle. Personally, I don’t suppose that’s the issue at all. I believe that when David said he wouldn’t wear the equipment because he hadn’t tested it, he was really just politely turning down King Saul’s offer.
Why would I put forward such a notion? Because we know a little bit about Saul’s history and how he pridefully likes to steal other people’s thunder. We would remember the 1 Samuel 13 account of how he stole his own son’s glory after he (Jonathan) won a victory over the Philistines.
And Jonathan attacked the garrison of the Philistines that was in Geba, and the Philistines heard of it. Then Saul blew the trumpet throughout all the land, saying, “Let the Hebrews hear!”
The truth of the matter is that if King Saul was truly concerned for David’s welfare, he could have requisitioned some suitable armor for him. In actuality Saul was more interested in putting on appearances—he desired to dress David up in his garb (with that big ol’ bronze helmet covering his head) so the people would think that it was he who was going into battle against Goliath. Saul was after all the most logical choice to fight the giant because he was a full head taller than any other Israeli man—but he was dreadfully afraid of Goliath. I contend that David would have none of this charade. The basis for the argument is found later on in 1 Samuel 17:50-51…
So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone, and struck the Philistine and killed him. But there was no sword in the hand of David. Therefore David ran and stood over the Philistine, took his sword and drew it out of its sheath and killed him, and cut off his head with it. And when the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled.
Amazingly, David takes the untested sword of Goliath and cuts his head off with it—a sword by the way that was likely twice the size (if not more) than Saul’s weapon. Makes you wonder doesn’t it?
But having said that, I believe the scope of this picture is much larger than David not wanting to be duped by Saul. The reality is all of Saul’s armor rightly belonged to David anyway—the Lord (in the previous two chapters) had rejected Saul as king and had anointed David! So what is this event really illustrating?
First we need to recognize that David is a type; that is a picture of Jesus Christ in this story—the parallels are amazing. David and Jesus were both shepherds sent by their fathers. David was sent to his brothers with the bread. Jesus would say in John 6:48 and John 10:11, “I am the bread of life…I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.”
David sought the treasure Saul offered: great riches, the daughter in marriage, liberty for the family and Jesus seeks the prize of His saints; His rich inheritance (Ephesians 1:18), His bride (Revelation 21 and 22), and our freedom (John 8:32). David was scorned by his brothers. Jesus was scorned by His brothers and the entire nation.
There are many more, but most importantly (and as it relates to this event), David laid aside the armor of King Saul, essentially striping himself of that which was rightly his and in so doing illustrated what Jesus would do when He came to earth as a man.
(Jesus) who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. Philippians 2:6-7
Whether David realized it at the time or not, his purpose of rejecting Saul’s armor was not because it was ill-fitting or even because it was untested; the reason was because the deed pointed directly to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and the singular victory He would have for all humanity.