David and Goliath, Christ and Satan: the Typology of Lent

Whatever the date on this post says, I’m writing this on the first Sunday of Lent. Here, I propose that David’s famous battle against Goliath is an Old Testament type of Our Lord’s temptation in the wilderness, as well as a type of Lent.

Here are my starting points:

1.) Today’s Gospel in the Traditional Latin Mass is St. Matthew 4:1-11, which narrates Our Lord’s temptation in the desert. After Christ fasts for 40 days, Satan tempts Him. Our Lord resists the temptations and triumphs over Satan. This passage is our New Testament Scriptural type for Lent. We fast for 40 days, at the end of which we celebrate Our Lord’s triumph over Satan in the mysteries of the Easter Triduum.

2.) David’s triumph over Goliath has traditionally been interpreted as a type of Our Lord’s triumph over Satan. Our Lord was a physical descendant of David and legal heir to his throne. David was anointed by Samuel to be King of Israel, and “Christ” means Anointed. Our Lord was born in Bethlehem, David’s birthplace, and was hailed on Palm Sunday as the Son of David. Etc.

From there, I direct your attention to one of the details of David’s confrontation with Goliath. At I Samuel 17:16 (in the Vulgate, I Kings 17:16), we learn that Goliath came out from the Philistine camp and challenged the Israelites to battle for 40 days, and the Israelites were too frightened to respond.

At the end of this 40-day period, David arrived to avenge the God of Israel, the Lord God of Hosts. David had been guarding his father’s sheep in the desert (I Sam. 17:28), possibly the same desert where Our Lord later fasted for 40 days. David declined to wear Saul’s armor or carry his weapons (I Sam. 17:38-39), but instead went forth dressed only as a shepherd, a pastor of the flock. He carried a staff, a sling, and five stones (I Sam. 17:40).

Goliath cursed David by his pagan gods, i.e. by demons (I Sam. 17:43). But David prevailed, striking Goliath in the forehead with a stone and then decapitating him with his own sword (I Sam. 49-51).

Goliath taunts the Israelites and challenges them to do battle with him. This is like Satan’s temptation of Our Lord. At the end of 40 days, David slew Goliath. At the end of 40 days, Our Lord defeated Satan. In the Hebrew text of Sacred Scripture, the Fall of Adam occurred in approximately 4,000 B.C. For 40 centuries, Satan taunted and lorded it over mankind, until Our Lord, the Son of David, rose up against him.

David was away from battle, guarding his father’s flock at Bethlehem. He learned his fighting skills defending the flock against lions and bears. Our Lord is the Good Shepherd, the pastor of His Father’s flock. We are His sheep, whom He defends against ravenous predators, both human and demonic.

Like David, Our Lord did not wear armor when He went forth to meet Satan. Though He could have had angels serve Him in the desert, He refused to do so. Though Our Lord could have assumed the full glory of His divinity and prevented any injury to His Body, He came in the form of human frailty. He allowed Himself to feel hunger during His fast—He even allowed Himself to be crucified unto death. His Cross answers to David’s staff, and His Five Wounds answer to the five stones in David’s scrip. David took his stones from the brook (I Sam. 17:40), which recalls our Baptism into Christ’s Death and Resurrection.

David slew Goliath with his own sword, and Christ beat Satan “at his own game” by inverting the terms of the Fall. Satan defeated Adam, thereby consigning him to death. Christ gave Himself up to death, thereby defeating Satan. Adam and Eve succumbed to Satan by eating of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Christ the New Adam and Mary the New Eve triumphed over Satan by another tree—the wood of the Cross. In Eden, Adam and Eve were seduced by Satan. At Calvary, it was Satan who was “seduced” by Christ’s apparent weakness into crucifying Him and piercing the Immaculate Heart of Mary “with a sword.” Like Goliath, Satan was vanquished with his own sword.

David came to the battleground from Bethlehem (I Sam. 17:15), and afterward he brought Goliath’s head to Jerusalem (I Sam. 17:54). In the course of His earthly life, Our Lord came forth from Bethlehem, His birthplace, to triumph over Satan at Jerusalem, on the mount of Calvary, Golgotha, “the Place of the Skull.”

David’s stone struck Goliath in the forehead, and he decapitated the giant. Christ and His Blessed Mother crush the head of the serpent under their feet (Gen. 3:15; different translations make the subject either male or female—either Christ or His Mother).

So, David’s triumph over Goliath after 40 days of the giant’s taunts and challenges points forward to Christ’s 40-day fast, His victory when tempted by Satan, and His triumph on the Cross. It also points forward to our 40-day Lenten fast. We are preparing to journey with Christ, the Son of David, when He goes up to Jerusalem for the Passover. There, in the Easter Triduum, we shall trample on Satan’s severed head as a token of our victory in, with, and through Christ.

One thought on “David and Goliath, Christ and Satan: the Typology of Lent

  1. Pingback: Stones in David’s Sling | Driftless Catholic

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