David said, “The Lord, who saved me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, will save me from the hand of this Philistine.” –1 Samuel 17:37
Dear members and friends of the SF Swedenborgian Church,
The Philistines is one of the most mentioned people in the Bible. Their origin is unclear as is the case for many other tribes in the Bible. The word philistines in Hebrew means immigrants. Yet, the first time their name appears in the Bible is in Genesis 10 as a descendant of Egypt who was named as a son of Ham. To refresh your biblical knowledge, Ham was one of Noah’s three sons who was cursed for seeing Noah’s nakedness. According to Genesis, Ham had four sons: Cush, Egypt, Put, and Canaan. And, Abraham was a direct descendant of Shem, another son of Noah and brother to Ham. It is somewhat ambiguous, but interesting enough to note: the children of Ham were ancestors (especially Egypt, Canaan, and the Philistines) of settlers who built cities, while the children of Shem were ancestors of nomads. So, the struggle between the Philistines and Israelites began long before the time of King David!
The intensity of the struggles between the Philistines and the Israelites are very vivid in the Bible, especially in Judges, Samuel, and Kings. One of their ongoing struggles is highlighted in 1 Samuel 17 as the introduction of King David. As the champion of the Philistine army, the giant-looking Goliath stood before the army of Israel mocking them day after day, but there was no one among the Israelites who could bravely face and battle against this seemingly undefeatable giant Philistine. The morale of the Israelite army was getting lower daily. This is when the young David appears in the scene. He was a mere shepherd, not a soldier or warrior yet. However, he had one thing that no one among the entire Israelite army including King Saul seemed to have: complete faith in the power and presence of his God. David was not even big enough to wear the armor offered by Saul. So David confronted Goliath without any armor or even a weapon; he had only his sling and five smooth stones from a nearby river. And, with one shot of the sling, David killed Goliath and became the hero of the Israelites right then and there!
What does this story mean? Some may believe that if you believe in your God completely, God will give you whatever you desire. Others may believe that if you have complete faith in your God, He will help you accomplish whatever you are working on. Yet, would that be the lesson God, with all His divine wisdom, intends to teach us with this story? According to Swedenborg, the battle between David and Goliath symbolizes the battle within us, especially the one between truth and falsity. As the Philistines and Israelites were immediate neighbors from the very beginning, truth and falsity within us are not far from each other. As a matter of fact, falsity is another name for truth, when a certain truth is twisted to serve one’s selfish desire and to justify the pleasure of it.
There are many lessons we can learn from the story of David battling against Goliath. One lesson that I would like to emphasize this time is about truly living what you believe to be right. If you are not willing to live a life that you believe is righteous, then what are you really living for?
Blessings, Rev. Junchol Lee