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From 1 Samuel 17:

23 As he was talking with them, Goliath, the Philistine champion from Gath, stepped out from his lines and shouted his usual defiance, and David heard it. 24 Whenever the Israelites saw the man, they all fled from him in great fear. 25 Now the Israelites had been saying, “Do you see how this man keeps coming out? He comes out to defy Israel. The king will give great wealth to the man who kills him. He will also give him his daughter in marriage and will exempt his family from taxes in Israel.” 26 David asked the men standing near him, “What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and removes this disgrace from Israel? Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?” 27 They repeated to him what they had been saying and told him, “This is what will be done for the man who kills him.”

I was curious if we are given any clue, in this passage or later passages, how much motivation to fight Goliath was due to financial and romantic incentive, if any?

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Do you mean how much of David's motivation? – Jack Douglas Sep 29 '12 at 6:56
Yes, that is what I mean... was it a large motivation, or not so much. – Brian Mains Sep 29 '12 at 18:18
I'm not sure the reason for the downvote - I think this is a good question. – Jack Douglas Sep 29 '12 at 18:55
up vote 9 down vote accepted

David, in convincing Saul why he should be allowed to be Israel's representative on the battlefield says,

"Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God."

And to Goliath he says,

You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of Yahweh of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day Yahweh will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that Yahweh saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is Yahweh’s, and he will give you into our hand.”

So, in both of these, David gives his reason for wanting to fight as an opportunity for God to show His hand, to have victory or vindication over the gods of the Philistines. In the next chapter, David doesn't demand the promised reward. Even when the promised daughter is given to another man, he doesn't push the matter.

And David said to Saul, “Who am I, and who are my relatives, my father’s clan in Israel, that I should be son-in-law to the king?” But at the time when Merab, Saul’s daughter, should have been given to David, she was given to Adriel the Meholathite for a wife.

Later, Saul offers him another daughter and still David waits. He recognizes the weight of being the king's son-in-law and doesn't just pounce on his opportunity to "climb the ranks". Also, throughout the rest of Saul's reign David has several chances to take the throne, but waits. His actions support the stated motive.

Of course, this isn't to say that the reward given isn't received with gratitude. :)

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@GoneQuiet speculation: knowing about the reward offered a) increased the sense of shame that no-one was found willing to fight Goliath, and therefore David's indignation and/or b) as no-one else would fight Goliath despite the great reward, made it less inappropriate that David, a mere boy, should stand up - he obviously would be Saul's last choice unless he was Saul's only choice and David may well have understood this – Jack Douglas Oct 1 '12 at 5:51

Great question.

By indicating that he had killed the lion and bear, David was telling Saul that he had experienced the power of God as delineated in the Torah (Please compare Lev 26:21-22, which is a judgment of God, with Ex 23:28-30 and its parallel in Deut 7:22-23) -- that is, the Lord would defeat the uncircumcised Gentiles, who are equated with animals. Thus David struck and killed the bear and lion (1 Sam 17:35), which are animals. Therefore Saul did not perceive David to be a lunatic who wanted to take on Goliath on a suicide mission, but as someone who actually had access to God's power that was needed at that essential moment to defeat the uncircumcised Gentile, Goliath. David had indicated in so many words that God's power was upon him. Saul therefore put all his chips on David, knowing full well that if David were killed, the Israeli Army would have had to concede defeat and become slaves per Goliath's wager. When Goliath met David and had referred to himself as a dog ("Am I a dog that you should come to me with sticks?") David knew that he had it clinched, because Goliath was referring to himself precisely at that moment as an animal.

Saul therefore, because of the dire predicament that he was in, had no choice but to put David forward. In other words, David had indicated that he had successfully tapped into God's strength according to the Torah. Saul's hand thus was forced, since there was no other apparent source of power and deliverance from God available to Saul at that time except through David. David knew he had the situation bagged (he actually ran to confront Goliath at the moment of truth). Unfortunately for Saul, David's victory would be the basis for his subsequent suspicion and fear of David from that time onward.

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(Hey Joshua)

It seems the motivation is David's witnessing Goliath's curses. He was basically calling down the curses of the Covenant upon God's people (being eaten by the birds and beasts, that is, not being buried in the promised land), something previously attempted by Balak (through Balaam). We must track it back to Genesis 12:3.

"I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed."

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