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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.” NIV, ©2011

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? Sep 29 '12 at 6:56
  • Yes, that is what I mean... was it a large motivation, or not so much. Sep 29 '12 at 18:18
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    I'm not sure the reason for the downvote - I think this is a good question. Sep 29 '12 at 18:55
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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 Oct 1 '12 at 5:51
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Actually I have been wondering the same thing, and just from reading the narrative in chapter 17 I got the feeling that the reward given to the slayer was the main reason David put his life in danger to fight Goliath, if not the only reason. It's just the way the biblical author seems to present David throughout the narrative:

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.”

The author specifically points out that David asked about the reward and that only after he heard about this he was willing to fight Goliath. Then again in verse 30 for some odd reason the author repeats the same thing:

He then turned away to someone else and brought up the same matter, and the men answered him as before.

I have no idea why the author would want to portray David in such negative light (perhaps in the author's mind this did not make David any less courageous), but the implication of the text is quite clear: David wants the reward badly and is willing to put his life in danger for it (contrary to @stichmann's answer). That doesn't mean that David was acting selfishly or that he didn't really care about his people, only that his intentions were not as pure as we are used to think. No one can really say with certainty what David had in mind when he went out to fight the warrior Goliath, but the author surely want us to believe (as he makes it abundantly clear) that this was not an altruistic act.

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It’s very useful when trying to interpret Biblical verses to look for parallels.

Here the question is “Was David influenced by greed, desire to be Saul's son in law or for wealth, to fight against Goliath?”

In this case, the parallels I looked for were :

  • Task

  • Prize offered

  • Beneficiaries

Case 1

  • Abraham commanded to sacrifice son

  • Offered the promise of being a blessing to the world

  • The world is blessed when Isaac is raised back to life

Case 2

  • Joshua ordered to fight Amalekites

  • Offered the promise of being a blessing to the world

  • Rahab's mind is changed, meta noia-ed, repented, born again, to follow God, when Joshua is protected from the dangers the rest of Israel had predicted

Case 3

  • Jesus is commanded to pick up a cross

  • Offered the promise of being a blessing to the world

  • Men are drawn to Christ, when He is lifted up from the earth

We can see that the beneficiaries are the world, and the motives are disguised (veiled) as selfish desire for land, wealth or glory. David was a man after God’s heart in the sense that he remembered God's promise to bless the world, and shared a desire for it.

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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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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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We (Christians) tend to whitewash a lot of Scripture, specifically with David the "man after God's own heart."

While I'm not saying his motives weren't "to defend God's Power against the Philistines", I am saying that the other incentives--the King's Daughter, promised wealth, and being exempt from taxes, were obviously motivators. The text lends to that, as David had heard the rumors of the spoils and then asks, very specifically about them.

David's heart is always oriented towards God and he returns to God again and again, after his shortcomings and failures. That's why he's a man after God's own heart. Not because he's perfect. Not because he's always purely motivated, but because he continues to come back in repentance, time and time again.

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