According to the Bible, David was somewhere between 13-16 when he fought and killed the giant Goliath.
David and Goliath is one of the most popular stories in the Bible. In fact, it’s one of the most popular stories period. We hear references to it in business, sports, and politics.
While at war with the Philistines, the Israelite army gets stopped in its tracks by a giant named Goliath who issued a challenge to the army. No soldier was brave enough to face him. On his way to deliver food to the soldiers, David hears of their situation and steps up to the challenge. David defeats Goliath with nothing more than a slingshot and a few stones. He saves the Israelite army from defeat. And Goliath certainly wasn’t cremated – the Bible tells us David takes Goliath’s head back home with him (your Sunday school teacher might have skimmed over that).
We know that David goes onto become king of Israel, but how old was he when He fought and killed Goliath? The Bible doesn’t tell us his exact age, but it does give us some clues.
Saul Calls David a Young Boy
And Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him, for you are but a youth, and he has been a man of war from his youth.”1 Samuel 17:33 (ESV)
When David suggest that he will be the one to fight Goliath, Saul reminds him he’s merely a youth. The Hebrew word used here is pretty broad, but it indicates that David is likely a teenager.
David Was Too Young to Be in the Army
…from twenty years old and upward, whoever is able to go out to war in Israel, you and Aaron shall number them by their armies.Numbers 1:3
According to Israelite law laid out in Numbers, all able bodied men over the age of 20 were expected to fight in wars. But maybe some snuck their way around this law? It’s unlikely.
Now the war against the Philistines was severe all the days of Saul; and when Saul saw any mighty man or any valiant man, he attached him to his staff.1 Samuel 14:52
Saul needed all the help he could get. It’s highly unlikely David would have been eligible to fight and not been by Saul’s side with his brothers on the battlefield.
There Were Four Brothers Between Shammah and David
Now David was the son of the Ephrathite of Bethlehem in Judah, whose name was Jesse, and he had eight sons. And Jesse was old in the days of Saul, advanced in years among men. The three older sons of Jesse had gone after Saul to the battle. And the names of his three sons who went to the battle were Eliab the firstborn, and the second to him Abinadab, and the third Shammah.1 Samuel 17:13
The last piece of evidence has to do with where David falls in birth order. 1 Samuel tells us that Jesse had eight sons. The three oldest were off to war, and we know that David was the youngest (1 Samuel 16:10). This means that there were at least four brothers born between Shammah and David. If none were twins or triplets (we have no reason to believe they were), and we assume the sons were all born in subsequent years, that would make David either 15 or 16.
It is possible there was some time between each birth, meaning David could have been even younger than 15 when he fought Goliath.
The Future King David Defeated Goliath as a Young Boy
It’s likely David was probably between the ages of 13-16 when he defeated Goliath. But this was just the beginning of a remarkable life marked by God’s provision and kindness. We see David assume the throne years later, and – despite some mistakes – lead God’s people well.
Did he just get lucky in his fight with Goliath? No, the power of God moved him, and the battle likely solidified his faith in God that would go on to lead him all his life.
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