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David and Goliath


Editor's Note:

Originally posted by member Neil MacQueen in 2004, this "critique" or treatment of the David and Goliath lessons is worth remembering.  Since this critique was posted, however, some of the lessons being critiqued have been "retired". Neil has also since updated this critique.


The Drama lesson Neil refers to has been moved to the Drama Workshop thread in this David and Goliath Forum.



Neil writes:


In preparing to teach the story of David & Goliath I looked through many of the lessons posted here. Wow there are a lot. You can see my David Videotaped Drama lesson in the Drama Workshop topic in this forum.

But first...


Some of the lessons I read were too long and involved, especially the drama lessons. I felt like David facing Goliath just looking at them! My drama lesson posted here is provided as a contrast. Reducing the drama to manageable size allows more time for discussion and activity.

I'm also left with the impression that many of theselessons aren't sure WHAT the story "should mean" for children. Indeed, some lesson writers are WAY SHORT on life application. (Update: The Rotation Editor for this forum has tried to subsequently add some life app.)


David is a role-model. He was raised in the faith, and when the time came, his heart was found true and that gave him both the opportunity to serve God, and the COURAGE to do so!


Also....this is not a story about bullying.

Some lessons teach David and Goliath as a story about BULLYING.  It is not. David did not go tell his teacher. We do not teach our children to go throw rocks at bullies. This story is not about confronting someone, at least not for our kids. Rather, it's about being prepared to serve God, and to courageously do seemingly impossible things.  The "giants" for our kids might be problems with other kids, or family members. But that's where the LITERAL parallel ends. The rocks are metaphorical, and even they are small and not likely to dent the giant's armor. It is GOD who makes the small rocks fell our problems. 

David vs Goliath in a nutshell for kids:

"Trust God to help you face giants."


Okay it's more than that. It's also the story of God picking David because of David's steadfast, faithful and courageous heart. God couldn't depend on Saul. Saul made bad decisions as a leader. God wanted someone in charge who was a servant. And even more, someone who was humble enough to admit when he did wrong. That was Saul's flaw. 


For our kids, we need to explore HOW a person develops trust/faith in God. What are the ingredients, practices and attitudes that PREPARE young Davids to face the inevitable giants.

Teaching Suggestions: 

1. Discover what they know.

This isn't the last time, and probably isn't the first time many of our children have heard the story. Almost every lesson would do well to begin by finding out what the kids know about the story AND what they think it means. Then focus on what they NEED ADDED to their knowledge.

2. Teach the story like it's a Parable.

It is a parable, -an example of what to do and expect, and what not to do. While it may have a historical core, that's pretty irrelevant to us with our kids. God is still speaking, and not to David anymore.  


We are meant to see ourselves, our community, our leaders, our giant problems, our faithlessness and faith, and our God in this story. In Biblical times, David was the one to whom all others were compared. Before Jesus, people wore WWDD bracelets! (Hey, that's not a bad idea for a lesson activity).

What are "the Goliaths" which individuals and churches and communities face?
Who should step forward to lead?
What makes a person "weak" or "strong"?
What makes a person afraid?
What "weapons" and "protection" should we take into our battles?

By telling your teachers it is like a parable, it will help them focus and get to the life application.

And here's an interesting question to ask:
How did David GET his faith in God? The Bible is rather silent on that, but your kids might be able to fill in with some ideas.

3. Don't focus on the slingshot.

Teach it as the improbable weapon it was meant to be.

Some lessons extol the slingshot as some sort of Shepherd's Superweapon. It wasn't. Against an armored warrior it was nothing. Goliath even said so (I Sam 17:43). The odds of it defeating Goliath were zilch. Obviously it took God to intervene, not a rock. And this is exactly the point the verses are trying to make. David is too young and too small to wear armor and only brings a slingshot. But David brings his confidence in God.


So don't turn the slingshot into a metaphor for "small things we can do to bring down big problems". While that's an interesting idea, the point of the slingshot is to heighten the impossibility and thus NEED for God to act. In other words, ladies and gentlemen, David wasn't that good a shot. Neither are we. We depend on God for our success.

In some deep way, this story is also an anti-war, anti-weapon story. Most kings in the Bible want to define themselves by their achievements. God continuously called them to define themselves by their faith.

4) Read the Story Out Loud
It's great theater. Lots of dramatic lines to deliver. But don't stop to analyze everything. The kids will be hearing this story for many years to come.

<>< Neil MacQueen

Exchange Volunteer renamed title of post for clarity.

Last edited by Lesson Forma-teer
Original Post

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Thanks, Neil for reminding all of us that we don'thave to teach everything in a story or a passage. Also for emphasizing the importance of first choosing a focus for a lesson then letting the activities support this.

Like other, I am sure, it is easy to get bowled over by a GREAT art, cooking or whatever activity and forget to ask What do we want the children to learn from this story.
I agree with a lot of what you have said, Neil. I might add a couple of warnings and suggestions I have given my Workshop leaders as they prepare their lessons:

This is a very familiar story . . . or is it? Read the passage in a modern translation. You might be surprised at how many familiar details either are not quite the same as we were taught in Sunday School, or else are not there at all.

For instance, all the pictures, songs and most storybooks picture David as a boy. However, the word translated "boy" in some versions in vv. 33 and 42 is probably better translated "youth" (as in KVJ and NASB) or "young man." After all, David already was killing lions and bears (O my!), was a trusted shepherd (not a boy's job), and was sent on this mission by his father (again, not a boy's job). However, David was not yet a skilled soldier. The Bible does not say Saul's armor was too big for him--only that he was unused to wearing it and so was uncomfortable (vv. 38-41). What other surprises do we find in the text?

As we teach the children the story, let us help them get beyond all the stereotypes and get to the real meaning of the story. Its main point is that David had faith in God and a disdain for those who dispised God. It was these personal characteristics that would make him a great leader of Israel and a man "after God's heart."

As Neil notes, God certainly is the one who wins the battle in this story (and David makes sure everyone knows that!).

Kris Edscorn
Director of Ministries
First Presbyterian Church
Kannapolis, North Carolina

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