Israelite David versus Philistine Goliath
(The Valley of Elah and Tel Azekah)

Overview of the Elah Valley area

A number of places are mentioned or implied in the account of David and Goliath. The opening verse of 1 Samuel 17 tells us that the Philistines had gathered their forces for war having first assembled at Socoh in Judean territory and subsequently camping at Ephes Dammim - a point between Socoh and Azekah (alt. Azeka). The focal point of the subsequent battle was the Valley of Elah, with the Philistines on one hill and Israel on another hill, each overlooking the battlefield.

1 Samuel 17:1-3 Now the Philistines gathered their forces for war and assembled at Socoh in Judah. They pitched camp at Ephes Dammim, between Socoh and Azekah. 2 Saul and the Israelites assembled and camped in the Valley of Elah and drew up their battle line to meet the Philistines. 3 The Philistines occupied one hill and the Israelites another, with the valley between them.

Enlarged section showing area with brook in the Elah Valley.
Refer to earlier key, or look for curved brook in upper right area
as it passes directly under the road.

To understand where the Philistines had come from, it is necessary to examine a passage found a few chapters earlier in 1 Samuel, where five prominent cities of the Philistines are mentioned.

1 Samuel 6:17-18 These are the gold tumors the Philistines sent as a guilt offering to the LORD-one each for Ashdod, Gaza, Ashkelon, Gath and Ekron. 18 And the number of the gold rats was according to the number of Philistine towns belonging to the five rulers - the fortified towns with their country villages. The large rock, on which they set the ark of the LORD, is a witness to this day in the field of Joshua of Beth Shemesh. (NIV)

These cities controlled the southern coastal region of Israel and were obviously part of the territory that the Israelites failed to conquer during the time of the Judges. Israel's failure to eradicate these people from the land, as God had commanded, bore consequences for generations following as the Philistines were an almost continual source of problems for God's people. Notice that Goliath was a resident of Gath (1 Samuel 17:4).

Click here for a panarama of the Valley of Elah from Tel Azeka

The Valley of Elah was a natural battleground on the route between the Philistine coastal area and Jerusalem which was much further inland in the Judean hills. It is not improbable that the Israelites were actually encamped at Azekah, as it was on one of the hills overlooking the valley. If they were not, the residents of Azekah certainly would have had a ring-side view of the events - also having a vested interest in the outcome as their town would have been next to be raided by the Philistines should the Israeli forces be defeated.

 We'd show you more of Tel Azeka but there's not much to see.
It's mostly a great view of the Valley of Elah

The events that followed have become legendary...

1 Samuel 17:4-24 A champion named Goliath, who was from Gath, came out of the Philistine camp. He was over nine feet tall. 5 He had a bronze helmet on his head and wore a coat of scale armor of bronze weighing five thousand shekels; 6 on his legs he wore bronze greaves, and a bronze javelin was slung on his back. 7 His spear shaft was like a weaver's rod, and its iron point weighed six hundred shekels. His shield bearer went ahead of him.

8 Goliath stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, "Why do you come out and line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not the servants of Saul? Choose a man and have him come down to me. 9 If he is able to fight and kill me, we will become your subjects; but if I overcome him and kill him, you will become our subjects and serve us." 10 Then the Philistine said, "This day I defy the ranks of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other." 11 On hearing the Philistine's words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified.

12 Now David was the son of an Ephrathite named Jesse, who was from Bethlehem in Judah. Jesse had eight sons, and in Saul's time he was old and well advanced in years. 13 Jesse's three oldest sons had followed Saul to the war: The firstborn was Eliab; the second, Abinadab; and the third, Shammah. 14 David was the youngest. The three oldest followed Saul, 15 but David went back and forth from Saul to tend his father's sheep at Bethlehem.

16 For forty days the Philistine came forward every morning and evening and took his stand.

17 Now Jesse said to his son David, "Take this ephah of roasted grain and these ten loaves of bread for your brothers and hurry to their camp. 18 Take along these ten cheeses to the commander of their unit. See how your brothers are and bring back some assurance from them. 19 They are with Saul and all the men of Israel in the Valley of Elah, fighting against the Philistines."

20 Early in the morning David left the flock with a shepherd, loaded up and set out, as Jesse had directed. He reached the camp as the army was going out to its battle positions, shouting the war cry. 21 Israel and the Philistines were drawing up their lines facing each other. 22 David left his things with the keeper of supplies, ran to the battle lines and greeted his brothers. 23 As he was talking with them, Goliath, the Philistine champion from Gath, stepped out from his lines and shouted his usual defiance, and David heard it. 24 When the Israelites saw the man, they all ran from him in great fear. (NIV)

The brook. It is dry much of the year now.
This is the view on the upper side of the road

The brook as viewed on the lower side of the road.
Lots of smooth, round, stones for use in a sling.

In the years following this event, David's popular following was solidified through songs sung of his exploits (1 Samuel 18:6-7; 21:11; 29:5). Perhaps this chorus is our modern version...

        "Only A Boy Named David"

        Only a boy named David,
        Only a little sling,
        Only a boy named David,
        But he could pray and sing,
        Only a boy named David,
        Only a rippling brook,
        Only a boy named David,
        But five little stones he took.
        And one little stone went in the sling
        And the sling went round and round;
        And one little stone went in the sling
        And the sling went round and round.
        And round and round and round and round
        And round and round and round;
        And one little stone went up in the air
        And the giant came tumbling down!

(There appears to be a few variations of this chorus, but the above is how I remember it from Vacation Bible Schools while growing up. I was unable to locate any information on its origin. To my knowledge it is not copyrighted. The midi file of the tune appears to be public domain. Please contact us if you know otherwise.)