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Then David asked Ahimelech, “Is there not a spear or sword on hand here? For I have brought neither my sword nor my weapons with me, because the king’s business was urgent.”

9The priest replied, “The sword of Goliath the Philistine, whom you killed in the Valley of Elah, is here; it is wrapped in a cloth behind the ephod. If you want, you may take it. For there is no other but this one.”

And David said, “There is none like it; give it to me.” (1 Sam. 21:8-10)

I was wondering why would Goliath's sword be kept in the house of the Lord? It seems rather odd that of all places, Yahweh's tabernacle should be chosen as the resting place of the sword of a fallen philistine warrior. Is there any religious or symbolic significance to this?

Edit: David's question "Is there not a spear or sword on hand here?" further implies that it was a normal practice to keep swords at the sanctuary.

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  • Goliath must have been a small giant for David to be able to master his sword! Commented Oct 18, 2019 at 14:05
  • I’m perplexed since size of sword would be something too big to handle. He may have swung it like an axe to cut off Goliath head but to use as a weapon to fend off Sauls army, I think it would be too heavy. You have to compare the weight of Goliaths weapons like his spear head and shield
    – Frank
    Commented Apr 17, 2023 at 7:19

5 Answers 5

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http://storage.cloversites.com/makinglifecountministriesinc/documents/How%20Did%20the%20Sword%20of%20Goliath%20Get%20to%20Nob_2.pdf

How Did Goliath’s Sword Get to Nob?

After David killed Goliath, David used Goliath’s sword to cut off his head (1 Samuel 17:51). Then David took Goliath’s weapons back to his tent (7:53). The Bible doesn’t mention it again until later, when David is fleeing from King Saul who is trying to kill him.

David goes to the town of Nob where he visits with a priest named Ahimelech. David told him that he was an urgent mission from the king and needed bread and a weapon. The priest told him, “The sword of Goliath the Philistine, whom you killed in the valley of Elah, is here, wrapped in a cloth behind the ephod. If you want to take it for yourself, then take it” (1 Samuel 21:9). This sword wasn’t like the long heavy swords that medieval knights used but was similar to a long dagger that could be handled easily in battle.

How did Goliath’s sword get into the sanctuary at Nob? The last we heard of it was when David put it in his tent. Although the Scripture doesn’t tell us exactly how it got there, David probably dedicated the sword to God as a symbol of his gratefulness for his conquest of Goliath. Since there was no temple in Israel at this time, the large sanctuary at Nob, which was staffed with 85 priests, was the most likely place to do this.

When David was fleeing from Saul he was in need of a sword. He knew that priests didn’t have swords, but he also knew that Goliath’s sword was in the sanctuary at Nob. He had dedicated it to God and now in his time of need, the priest gave it back to him. No doubt that every time that David looked at that sword, he was reminded of God’s faithfulness in defeating Goliath and would continue to be with him in all future battles.

Edit to answer comment: @Bach Perhaps David didn't presume the sword was still there, so he feigned ignorance. Ahimelech may not have been the priest to whom the sword was first presented for 'dedication'. (The OT doesn't tell us, so we're looking for plausible explanations. I posted this one because it checks a lot of boxes - at least in my mind, thus far.)

What I don't get is why David would have placed so much store on the sword of Goliath to have taken it in the first place. It was not the sword that killed Goliath, but the Hand of God directing the stone in the slingshot. David proceeding to cut off dead Goliath's head only over-shadowed God's awesome proof of Power. David should have left the sword on the ground and praised God - not made a show of himself.

For all we know, the sword could have been stolen from David's tent, and then David heard rumors that it was now in the sanctuary at Nob. Personally, I think the 'dedication' more likely.

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  • From verse 9 it sure doesn't look like David knew at all that Goliath's, or any, sword was there!
    – bach
    Commented Oct 18, 2019 at 15:13
  • Interesting answer. Maybe David really didn't know that Goliath's sword was in the sanctuary and it was a sign of God faithfulness that he encountered exactly the sword of Goliath there.
    – shamisen
    Commented Oct 23, 2019 at 21:47
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Compare "The priest delivered to the captains the spears and shields which had been King David's, which were in the house of the Lord" (2 Kings ch11 v10, RSV). So such storage was not thought unusual.

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The sword of Goliath at Nob would become an encouraging message to David. His fear of Saul whilst running away from him were calmed down by the sword. This reminded him of how God gave him victory over Goliath who had oppressed Israel for a while. God had a message for David that just said, I have your back. The sword of Goliath lifted up the power of God who conquered the Philistines.

In our weaknesses, fear, moments of terror, we need to remind ourselves about moments when God destroyed and brought down those powerful attacks.

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    Commented Oct 5, 2021 at 13:04
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According to the Midrash, Goliath's sword had magical powers. It is believed that it was able to change size and weight to match the owner. This is reminiscent of Rashi telling us that when David tried on Saul's armour it miraculously changed size and fitted him rather than being too large.

We certainly know from the text quoted in the question that, 'there was none like it'.

Storing it with items used for divination in the ephod makes sense in view of it having powers and being no ordinary sword.

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I am not confident that we can conclude that the sword of Goliath was the instrument that actually killed the giant. The same terminology (מוּת) is applied to both the stone and the sword (1 Samuel 17:50-51). It appears that the stone sinking into the giant's forehead resulted in his death, but the cutting off of the giant's head is what gave proof to the Philistines. It is not until the head was removed that the Philistines saw that their champion was dead (1 Samuel 17:51).

It is a dangerous habit to presume to fill in details that God has left vacant. The potential for various answers to the posed question is as numerable as the creative humans that address it. And to what end? Cui bono? That seems almost more consistent with the mindset of the philosophers of Athens, as depicted in Acts 17, who loved to discuss something new.

How Goliath's sword ended up in Nob is obviously not a detail that is relevant, nor necessary, or else God would have provided that information (out of context, but the principle from John 14:2 - I would have told you). There is no spiritually uplifting truth to be unearthed in hypothesis. The Spirit of God works with truth (John 16:13), and, God has seen fit to leave us a completed volume (1 Corinthians 13:10) with no need for editions, additions, nor suppositions (Revelation 22:18-19).

I would love to here analysis of how this can be understood in light of typology and eschatology.

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