In the VeggieTales retelling of David and Goliath, "Dave" sings a song about how little guys can do big things too. Undoubtedly, little guys can do big things, but this article is about David. Was he really a little guy when he fought Goliath as is commonly believed? If we based our answer to this question on popular culture, Sunday school curricula, and children's songs, we would conclude that David was a little boy or small young man when he fought against a giant. Is this how the Bible describes David? Once again, please remember the purpose of this series on misconceptions is to provide a closer look at the text so that we are not guilty of misrepresenting the Word of God by repeating popular versions of the actual events.
First Glimpse of David
The Bible provides detailed biographical information about David. Although he is first mentioned in the book of Ruth as the son of Jesse, we find our first description of him in 1 Samuel 16 where he is anointed by Samuel to be the next king of Israel. David was the youngest of eight brothers, and his appearance was "ruddy, with bright eyes, and good-looking" (1 Samuel 16:12).
Prior to seeing David, Samuel was impressed by the physical stature of David's brother Eliab and thought that he was the one God would choose. However, the Lord told Samuel, "Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7).
Perhaps this passage is where some people get the notion that David was small. He was the youngest, and his oldest and quite impressive brother was rejected. Since Samuel was told not to look at the outside, maybe David was small, but the text does not reveal this. In fact, there are several clues that David, although young, may have actually been a rather large man by the time he fought Goliath.
David the Armor Bearer
Sometime after David was anointed, King Saul was being troubled by a "distressing spirit" (1 Samuel 16:14). The king was advised to call for a skilled harpist to play for him, because the music might bring him relief. One of Saul's servants suggested David because he was "skillful in playing, a mighty man of valor, a man of war, prudent in speech, and a handsome person; and the Lord is with him" (1 Samuel 16:18, emphasis added). David played for Saul and was successful in comforting the king. As a result, the king made David his armor bearer (1 Samuel 16:21).