How Old Was David When He Killed Goliath?
How old was David when he killed Goliath the Philistine? Let us first see the context.
But David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the Name of Yehovah of hosts, the Elohim of the armies of Israel, whom you have reproached. This day Yehovah shall deliver you into my hand, and I shall smite you and take your head from you, and give the carcasses of the camp of the Philistines today to the birds of the heavens and the wild beasts of the earth, so that all the earth know that Elohim is for Israel, and all this assembly know that Yehovah does not save with sword and spear, for the battle belongs to Yehovah, and He shall give you into our hands.” (1Sa 17:45-47)
This fight must have taken place close to the end of King Shaul’s reign. The common perception is that David must have been a young boy who shepherded his father’s sheep and liked to play around with his sling. However, this type of David (perceived from the popular Bible movies) cannot be supported by the text of 1 Samuel 17.
First, we learn that Shaul stood in the midst of the people, and he was taller than any of the people, from his shoulders and upwards (1Sa 10:23-24). Later, we see that Shaul dressed David with his garments and put his bronze helmet and his armor on him (1Sa 17:38). Notice that David girded his sword over his garments, and began to go, but he took them off because he had not tried them, not because they were too large size for him (1Sa 17:39).
So, how tall was King Shaul? He was taller than any of his people, from his shoulders and upwards. If he put his armor on David, David must have been as tall and fit as King Shaul. King Shaul was no fool. He would have put his armor on a little boy and send him against the strongest warrior of the Philistines before whom all Israel feared.
But to understand how old David was when he killed Goliath, we need to see the chronology of events and do Bible math.
First, Israel was commanded to observe the Sabbatical and Jubilee years when they conquer the Promised Land. Only then the Land of YHVH could start observing the laws of the land. But, were the enemies of Israel driven out completely of the land thus having ushered the counting of the Sabbaths and Jubilees? No, the nations had never been driven completely out of the land of Kanaan.
Therefore, we may ask the question: What event would have triggered the accountability of Israel for observance of the laws of the Sabbath and Jubilee years of the land? And because the land was not cleansed from the nations in the reign of King Shaul, it would be reasonable to expect that an event would have commenced the accountability of Israel for observing the Sabbatical and Jubilee years.
The only event in that period of time was the war with the Philistines in which the young David killed Goliath. But how old was David when he killed Goliath?
In the 480th year after Israel had come out of Egypt, which is the 4th year of the reign of Solomon (2973 from the creation), the king began to build the Temple (1Ki 6:1). King Solomon began to reign in the year his father, David, died (2970). That was the 477th year after Israel had come out of Egypt.
David was thirty years old when he began to reign (2930), and he reigned 40 years (2Sa 5:4). Counting backwards 40 years leads us to the 437th year of the Exodus. 30 more years counted back, and we arrive at the 407th year of the Exodus, when David was born (year 2900 of the creation). For more clarity, refer to Jubilees Table.
David began to reign in the 437th year, when King Shaul was killed. We know from Acts that King Shaul reigned 40 years (1Sa 10:24-26), and his first year was the 397th year of the Exodus (2890).
In his commentary on Lev 26:35, the medieval Tanak commentator Rashi (Shlomo Yitzchaki, 1040 – 1105) gives very important information on three key moments that help understand the chronology of events: (1) the total length of the period between Israel’s entry in the land and the beginning of the Babylonian exile: 850 years, (2) the years during which Israel angered Elohim in the land: 430 (390+40) years, and (3) 436 sinful years during which Israel accrued 70 unobserved sabbatical years and was exiled in Babylon for 70 years.
Again, in order for Israel to be held legally accountable for observing the Sabbatical and Jubilee years, the entire land must be conquered. Only then the Sabbatical and Jubilee cycle can begin, and indeed in that year in which the 436 year began was the beginning of the new sabbatical cycle. See Jubilees Table.
Note: 850 years are to be reckoned not from the year of the crossing of the Jordan River but from the year when the land was divided and inherited by the twelve tribes, which is the actual conquering of the land 14 years later.
Likewise, 480 years are to be counted not from the year Israel [physically] left Egypt, but from the year when the slavery of Egypt was taken out of Israel, when the new generation crossed the Jordan River and the Egyptian exile in the minds of the Israelites ended. Read more in Chapter “The Rise and Fall of Israel” for the explanation.
Both reckonings of 850 years and 436 years, according to Rashi, ends in the year of the destruction of the First Temple (3357 from the creation).
With that being said, if we count backwards 436 years from the destruction of the Temple, we arrive at the 415th year from the inheritance of the land (in the 850-year counting), which is also the 429th year in the 480-year counting. This is the year in which the 436-year countdown starts, year 2922 from the creation.
If David was born in year 2900, then he was 22 years old, when the 436-year countdown began (2922), and as we explained in the foresaid chapter of the book Reckoning of Time, that was the year when Israel started conquering the entire land in the battle with the Philistines and the year when David killed Goliath.
Thus, we came to the conclusion that David was twenty-two years old when he killed Goliath the Philistine: a perfect age for a young and extraordinary strong man who was able to kill a lion and a bear (1Sa 17:34-35). With this battle against the Philistines Israel would begin to conquer the Promised Land.
The reader is also encouraged to read the article And the Philistine Cursed David.
May we merit seeing the coming of our Mashiach speedily in our days.