David & Goliath: A Tale of Two Songs

DavidAndGoliathGettyImages-91727886

by John Ellis

If the Old Testament stories were to be ranked based on popularity, the story of David and Goliath would undoubtedly rank in the top-three. I wouldn’t be surprised if most people’s list didn’t rank the tale as number-one. Anyone who has spent any amount of time in Sunday School or VBS is familiar with the story of the young Israelite who was destined to become king taking down the Philistine giant with only a sling. The Biblical story is so ubiquitous, in fact, that “David and Goliath” has become a cultural colloquialism used to refer to any underdog tale. Sadly, though, the story of David and Goliath is as misunderstood as it is popular.

Many of us known the story of David and Goliath primarily as a morality tale (the Biblical narrative can be found in 1 Samuel 17) –  Turning the giant into a place-holder for personal demons, struggles, and/or obstacles, the readers/listeners are taught to identify with young David. Taught this way, we’re encouraged to bravely trust God like David, pick up our five stones, and boldly face our personal Goliath[1]. This approach to the story is often dovetailed with Jesus’ words about faith moving mountains (I’ve already written about “faith moving mountains,” read it by clicking here).

This is the prevailing interpretation found in the vast majority of pop culture retellings and references – Facing the Giants, “Only a Boy Named David,” and Malcom Gladwell’s book David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants, to name a mere three.[2] Francesca Battistelli utilizes the same poor understanding of David and Goliath to structure her new and popular song “Giants Fall.”

Before interacting with “Giants Fall,” though, I’m going to offer a brief and what I believe to be a robust and Biblically attune exegesis of 1 Samuel 17. I will then introduce another new and far less popular song by an artist who seeks to point his listeners to Jesus through his musical retelling of David and Goliath.

In fact, pointing people to Jesus is the purpose of 1 Samuel 17. Using the words of the Satan-Serpent from the Garden of Eden, the Philistine giant Goliath confronts the reader (and the fearful Israelites in the Valley of Elah) with the scary reality that the sinful coupe on the throne of the Creator of the Universe is still ongoing. Being banished from the Garden of Eden and having death introduced into the world as the just punishment for the personal sins of all humans did not stop the rebellion. Satan-Serpent is still prowling around, seeking people to devour.

By desiring to destroy God’s people, and in alliance with Satan-Serpent, Goliath sought to undermine God’s promise found in Genesis 3:15. Destroying God’s people, the line of Abraham, would’ve cut off the seed of the woman whom God promised would crush the head of Satan-Serpent. If Goliath succeeded, all would’ve been lost.

But all wasn’t lost, because God did promise to send a seed of the woman to crush the head of Satan-Serpent. And God keeps His promises. Instead of the seed of the woman being cut off, Satan-Serpent’s ally Goliath had his head cut off.

In the story of David and Goliath, when the young, unassuming David strides onto the battlefield, our eyes should turn to Jesus. The very promised One of Genesis 3:15. The very One who will sit on David’s throne forever, as God promised to that very David.

When David picked up those five stones and faced Goliath, he wasn’t just engaging in an ancient Near-East tribal squabble. David was facing down the hordes of hell and reminding the Israelites that they needed a Savior-King to fully and finally defeat the enemies of God. And that’s what the story tells the readers and listeners of 2017 – we all need a Savior-King to defeat sin, death and Satan-Serpent, and apart from faith in that Savior-King we are as doomed as the Israelites were before David killed Goliath. You see, in the story of David and Goliath, we are the Israelites. We are not David. Jesus is David.

If the above and very brief exegesis of David and Goliath is new to you, or is old to you, yet still stirs your heart in praise to our King and Savior, I am incredibly excited to introduce you to the new song from Timothy Brindle titled “Headcrusher.”

The first single off of Brindle’s soon to be released album The Unfolding (which is also the title of Brindle’s new book), “Headcrusher” adroitly, beautifully, and faithfully recounts the glorious story of God’s salvation of His people through David’s defeat of Goliath. As you can probably guess by the title, Timothy Brindle has zero interest in interacting with David and Goliath as a morality tale. In fact, the song opens with a brief and gracious admonishment to those of us who see ourselves in David and our personal demons in Goliath.

Instead, seeking to advance the gospel and stay true to the Bible, Timothy Brindle uses his God-given talent as a wordsmith and rapper to artfully lay out the Story of Redemption with “Headcrusher.” Honoring God through lyrical content and aesthetic excellence is sadly lacking in much of contemporary Christian music. Timothy Brindle demonstrates that it’s possible. More of his brothers and sisters in Christ should be allowing Brindle’s gifts to cause us to turn our eyes to Jesus.

Recognizing that hip-hop isn’t for everyone, although I firmly believe that Reformed hip-hop should be enjoyed by the vast majority of Christendom, I encourage you to listen to the Brindle’s song (posted below). Parents, even if you don’t like hip-hop, you should at least consider buying the song and album for your children. Timothy Brindle has gifted Christian parents with a tool to faithfully teach our children about Jesus in a form that our kids will enjoy. Although, parents, I believe that you will like “Headcrusher” if you engage the song and its genre objectively and with a heart’s desire to praise God for Timothy Brindle’s faithfulness to Scripture and his desire to magnify God’s name.

Sadly, Francesca Battistelli’s new hit “Giants Fall” occupies artistic and exegetical space on the exact opposite end of Timothy Brindle’s “Headcrusher.” Leaning on the worst of the moralistic tropes often wrongfully connected to the story of David and Goliath, Battistelli’s “Giants Fall” turns a story about Jesus into an individualistic and idolatrous affirmation of the popular lie that “If you dream it; you can accomplish it.”

Like “Headcrucher” above, I’ve posted “Giants Fall” below. Listen to it, and then listen again to Timothy Brindle’s song. Compare the two, and make note of which song is most faithful to the Bible while demonstrating the desire to see people saved from their sins through repenting of their sins and placing their faith in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Also take note of which of the two songs reinforces the me-centered, pop-culture belief that our dreams and goals are all important.[3]

While I pray that this isn’t true, I’m afraid that the popularity of “Headcrusher” by Timothy Brindle will languish far behind the popularity of “Giant’s Fall” by Francesca Battistelli. And while I have zero doubt that Brindle isn’t looking for fame, and is and will continue to praise God for however the Holy Spirit chooses to bless his labors by using “Headcrusher” to turn peoples’ eyes to Jesus[4], I still find it sad that Battistelli will be widely confirming the already entrenched self-centered consumer mentality that pervades much of evangelicalism in this country. Of course, in His kindness, God chooses to use our efforts and labors for His glory. With that thought in mind, please consider buying the album as well as helping spread the word about Timothy Brindle by telling your family, friends, and church family about “Headcrusher.”

Soli Deo Gloria

You can download “Headcrusher” by clicking here.


[1] As one theologian put it, when the story is viewed this way, David’s five stones can mean anything that our sinful heart’s desire. In other words, bad exegesis begets worse exegesis. By the way, I can’t remember the name of that theologian, which is embarrassing. I was just talking about him with a friend.

[2] 1. For the record, every other time that I’ve referenced Malcolm Gladwell in my writing, it’s been a positive reference. 2. I was prepared to defend “Only a Boy Named David” as an appropriate pedagogical tool. However, I listened to the song for the first time in years, and the song divorces all of the Biblical thematic content from the story leaving behind nothing but a morality tale.

[3] To be fair to Bttistelli, I don’t think that this is her intended objective with “Giants Fall,” but it’s the end result, nonetheless. And it’s the unintended result every time we teach our kids (our ourselves) to “face our giants like David.”

[4] To my knowledge, I’ve never met Brindle and do not know him, much less, know his heart. However, based on his music, I’m making what I believe to be a fairly safe assumption. If I’m wrong about Timothy Brindle and what motivates him, he still produces excellent music that honors God apart from his motives. I think. I need to meditate a little more on that last claim. … But, that has very little to do with this article. Circling back, I’m choosing to believe that Brindle is an honest dude who desires to magnify the name of God and see His kingdom spread through the sound preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ. And I’m choosing to believe that because I have zero evidence to even suggest otherwise. In fact, all the evidence loudly points in the other direction, to what I believe about Timothy Brindle. … This turned out to be a mostly useless and possibly counter-productive footnote. I’m leaving it in as a reminder to myself to reconsider my use of footnotes.

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4 thoughts on “David & Goliath: A Tale of Two Songs

  1. I would argue you are a bit harsh in your condemnation of both the “Giants Fall” song and the usage of David as an example of what we can also accomplish through faith. I have no doubt that the deepest meaning of the story is what you have outlined, and that Brindle’s song engages with the story in a much meaningful way than the other (plus in my subjective opinion it is much more enjoyable to listen to than the pop-ish Giants Fall), but there is still the surface-level reality that David was a man who took a step of faith, and realized that the true battle wasn’t between himself and Goliath but between God and God’s people’s enemy, and on that ground was willing to enter into a battle that others were not. Again I fully realize the deeper and more profound meaning of the story, but I don’t think that in turn invalidates the idea that it also represents what can be accomplished when we go in God’s strength to accomplish His purposes…So while I don’t believe that we should interpret David as “us” in the story in any way, and should emphasize the deeper meaning of the story, I think we can still see the principle of overcoming spiritual obstacles through faith in the narrative….

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    • I think that I could agree with you if that “idea that it also represents what can be accomplished when we go in God’s strength to accomplish His purposes” was secondary, at the least. Except, it’s mainly primary, to the point of ironing out the actual thematic content of the story. No doubt, there are faithful teachers and parents who properly exegete the passage and then helpfully find some day-to-day, ground level application. But I’m afraid that those teachers and parents are not even close to being the norm. In fact, my entire time growing up, I don’t ever remember being taught that David points us to Jesus. It was always the moralistic version of David and Goliath. Researching this post, I rarely uncovered a proper exegesis of the text; the vast majority of what I found turned the story into nothing more than a morality tale.

      I like and agree with your qualifier “to accomplish His purposes.” Sadly, that qualifier is missing in the vast majority of pop culture references about David and Goliath. The American church is besotted with consumerism at the expense of the gospel. Most of us are taught to believe in a version of God that turns the Sovereign Creator of the Universe into a genie in a lamp. We’re far less concerned with “His purposes” than we are with our purposes. We want to know how our faith serves us instead of how we can use our faith to serve God first and then others.

      Thank you for reading and commenting.

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      • Agree with everything you’ve said, and certainly been my experience growing up as well – can’t remember ever being taught the underlying message regarding Jesus but then that could be my memory vs. poor teaching…Enjoyed your article, always appreciate your well-reasoned and balanced approach to topics, in such short supply these days….

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  2. EXCELLENT commentary on the narrative of David vs. Goliath, John! You helped me see the details in a much different and biblically correct way. I listened to both songs in their entirety. Hip-hop is not my first choice of genres, but I cooperated, as you requested, agreeing conditionally with your assessment of the lyrics. Batistelli’s lyrics are inspiring and full of God’s truth, but not truth related to the David vs. Goliath narrative. You are right that her song will garner SIGNIFICANTLY more followership, because of her popularity as a Top-40 Contemporary Christian artist, because she is an excellent singer, and because the rhythm is catchy, even if her exegetical skills are flawed. The key person in this Old Testament account is God the Father, who is being mocked by this Satanic figure, and David cannot suffer his God being mocked. You rightly took us back to Genesis — perfect Creation, marred by sin, the sending of Jesus, His ironic crushing of Satan’s head through death AND RESURRECTION. As our Pastor says at the end of EVERY SINGLE SERMON MESSAGE: “This is the Gospel, and the Gospel changes everything!”

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