It’s been an interesting weekend, and through some conversations and readings a few insights have stuck out to me.
In 1 Samuel 17, David faces up against Goliath. The story is well known, of course, but there are some interesting details worth consideration. Goliath is said to be wearing a “coat of mail” in verse 5, but the word used for “mail” is actually “scales” (cf. Leviticus 11:9, Ezekiel 29:3-4), like those of a fish or snake. So Goliath, our antagonist, is dressed like a dragon, like his dragon-fish god Dagon. And then there’s David, unarmed little shepherd boy. What’s a boy to do against a great big serpent?
David, being brought up on the Scriptures, knows what to do with serpents. He crushed Goliath’s head with a stone, and then he cut off Goliath’s head with his own sword (17:49-51). Then, he put the giant’s armor in his tent and took the head to Jerusalem. Why he did this is unknown, but it’s entirely possible that the skull was mounted for a time as a trophy (possibly outside the city gates, since Israel didn’t control the city), and then buried.
“So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha” (John 19:16-17). It’s interesting that three of the four Evangelists tell us the Hebrew name for the place Jesus was crucified. Is there a play on words here? Gol is the first syllable of Goliath, and Gath was the giant’s home. I don’t want to indulge in fancy here, but there may be some deliberate connection made by the authors.
Golgotha was where David’s greater Son definitively crushed the head of that ancient serpent, the devil. Through the bruising of his heel, he was lifted up above the skull of his enemy. Jesus used death, the sword of his enemy, to crush his enemy and put him to open shame in him (Colossians 2:15).