How old was David when he killed Goliath?
This is an example – one of the many events in David’s life which have hints at his age, but no more.
We do not know how old David was when he killed Goliath; the clearest detail we know about his age is in this verse:
“And when the Philistine looked and saw David,
he disdained him, for he was but a youth,
ruddy and handsome in appearance.”
Another hint might be found in the information that David’s three oldest brothers were in Saul’s army and that David, the youngest of eight, was caring for the family sheep (1 Samuel 17:14-15).
Sometimes looking at the original language in which the scripture is written can help us find hints. In this case, however, the Hebrew word translated “youth” can apply to anyone from an infant to a young man, so that’s no help.
This is typical of any attempt to create a timeline of King David’s life.
In all of the records of David’s life in the Bible, his age is only given once – when he was made king over Judah after the death of King Saul:
“David was thirty years old when he began to reign,
and he reigned forty years.
At Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months,
and at Jerusalem he reigned over all Israel and Judah thirty-three years.”
Based on King David’s age of 30 when he became king and his 40-year reign, we see that he lived to the age of 70.
We are told about many events that happened before he became king, and many that followed his coronation, but we are never given enough information to make us certain exactly when things happened.
Not only so, but there is evidence that some of the events before he became king are not in chronological order.
“Oh, no!” I hear you say. “This is sounding like Jeremiah!”
But relax, it’s not that mixed up!
However, when David was taken to Saul and Abner the commander of the army after he killed Goliath (see 1 Samuel 17), neither of them knew him. Not only that, but the proof David gave of his experience in fighting described fighting lions and bears, not men.
Even when Saul and Abner hear that he is the son of Jesse, no hint of recognition appears, yet in 1 Samuel 16 when Saul is looking for a musician, David the son of Jesse is recommended to him as a man of valour and a man of war.
The simplest explanation of these apparent anachronisms is that the events in chapter 17 happened before those in the last section of chapter 16.
If you wonder how it might fit together, try reading the passages in the order below:
Sometime, I may write another post about the ordering of events in David’s life. For the moment, though, we’ll just observe that some of the recorded events may not be in order.
David’s life was full of unexpected events which he responded to with unusual faith. He fought lions and giants, escaped the flying javelins of a mad king, and safely led a force of hundreds of outlaws through a wilderness for several years – even leading them into service under a foreign king. After more than a year spent in the land of the Philistines, he inspired hundreds of foreigners to join him as he returned to his own land to be made king, then conquered an impregnable fortress and made it his capital. Through his leadership – and despite a moral lapse that earned God’s punishment in the form of family difficulties that dogged the remainder of his reign – David ushered in a time of greatness for the kingdom of Israel that has never been equalled since.
Some of the events of his reign are shown in the timeline below, which is freely available for anyone to use. The timeline is also available in Powerpoint format with embedded fonts, so if you want it in that format, please let me know through the Contact Us page.