The battle gear that David carried into battle against Goliath seemed ridiculous when compared to the giant’s weapons. Several items in David’s arsenal are mentioned in these verses.
Sword. King Saul wanted David to carry his sword into battle against the Philistine giant Goliath (1 Samuel 17:5-7). But David refused it after he decided it did not fit his battle style. Fashioned from heavy metal, a typical sword of Bible times was about three feet long. It’s double-edged blade allowed a warrior to slash right or left and up or down in hand-to-hand engagement of the enemy. The sword was the main weapon of the Israelite army. A man was identified as a soldier by the fact that he “drew the sword” (2 Samuel 24:9).
Staff. A staff was a slender stick about five or six feet long that a shepherd used for balance and support when walking over the rough terrain where his sheep grazed. He also found it useful for nudging stray sheep back to the flock and beating the undergrowth to drive away snakes. Some staffs had a crook on one end that the shepherd used like a hook to pull sheep away from danger or to rescue them from pits or crevices into which they had fallen. Why did David carry his staff into battle, since he never used it against Goliath? Perhaps he wanted to lull the giant into feeling overconfident and letting down his guard. When Goliath saw David’s staff, he declared. “Am I a dog, that thou comest to me with staves [sticks, NIV]? (1 Samuel 17:43).
Bag. The bag where David put five stones for his sling was probably a goatskin container in which he kept his food supply. Travelers and shepherds often carried such bags when on extended trips or work assignments.
Sling. The sling that David carried was a simple but effective weapon used by shepherds, farmers, and even soldiers in Bible times. It was similar to the slingshot in its design and use. Like a slingshot, the sling had a pocket in which a small stone was placed. Attached to this pocket were two leather straps. The slinger grasped the ends of the straps. twirled the stone around several times in a circular motion, then released one of the straps at just the right time to hurl the stone toward its target. In skilled hands, the sling was a formidable weapon . The force of the stone was strong enough to kill wild animals and-in Goliath’s case-even a giant of a man (1 Samuel 17:49).
During the time of the judges, the tribe of Benjamin had a unit of seven hundred soldiers who specialized in use of the sling. All of the slingers in the elite corps were left-handed, and they “could sling a stone at a hair and not miss” (Judges 20:16 NIV).
1 SAMUEL 17:39-40 – David girded [fastened, NIV] his [King Saul’s] sword upon his armour. . . He took his staff in his hand, and chose him five smooth stones out of the brook, and put them in a shepherd’s bag which he had, even in a scrip; and his sling was in his hand: and he drew near to the Philistine [Goliath].
1 SAMUEL 17:49 – David put his hand in his bag, and took thence a stone, and slang it, and smote [stunk, NIV] the forehead, that the stone sunk into his forehead; and he fell upon his face to the earth