I Samuel 17
In the Mediterranean world the late Bronze Age, 1500-1200 BCE, was, according to one historian, a brilliant, sophisticated, cosmopolitan era. It was a time of great wealth and unprecedented international contacts and exchange. Throughout the eastern Mediterranean, people, goods, and ideas flowed freely, by sea and by land, to an extent unparalleled in earlier times. It was also an age of empire, superpower politics, and an international way of life.
The greatest palace economy of the Late Bronze Age was Egypt and the Egyptian Empire. It was toward the end of the Late Bronze Age that the Egyptian Empire began to weaken. An early sign, maybe, is when a group of slaves in Egypt managed to escape and make their way just outside the territory controlled by Egypt into the hills of Canaan.
About this time, a new coalition of peoples emerged called “the Sea Peoples.” They traveled in ships, were militaristic, were at the forefront of the development of weaponry of their time, and they were ruthless. When they conquered a territory, they destroyed the cities they found there and crushed them and burned them to the ground. Then they built new cities on top of the ruins of the cities they had destroyed, cities several times larger than the cities they had destroyed. They were good urban planners, designing their new cities to be both commercially viable and livable. Their goal was to make money and to live well, to eat and drink well, and to conquer new lands. One group within this coalition of Sea Peoples was called Philistines.
Settling into the territory, formerly controlled by Egypt, just east of Canaan, made the Philistines the nearest neighbors of the former slaves from Egypt, who had migrated a generation or two earlier to the foothills of Canaan - the Israelites. The Israelites disdained and feared the Philistines, although they sometimes fraternized with them.
It was because the Israelites wanted a stronger army to defend themselves against the Philistines that they decided to have a centralized government and a king. According to the book of I Samuel, God did not want the Israelites to have a king. God warned them that if they had a king, they would surely eventually have income taxes and a military draft and a federal bureaucracy.
All of this is the context of the story of David and Goliath, which I am going to be talking about in worship beginning this Sunday morning and during the month of August.
The story of David and Goliath is about when the Late Bronze Age ends and the early Iron Age begins. We just figured out how to survive the Egyptians in the late Bronze Age, but now the early Iron Age has come and brought the Philistines with it. We can’t win.
The story about David and Goliath is about what you do when you know you are facing an enemy, an obstacle, an issue, a problem, that you cannot defeat.