The Philistines gather against Israel. The Philistine giant Goliath (six cubits and a span high) challenges the Israelites to single combat. David, the youngest of eight brothers, splits his time between the palace and the pasture. David brings gifts from home to his three elder brothers, who are fighting against the Philistines. David asks how a Philistine can defy the army of the living God. Saul hears of David’s words. David says his experience of defending sheep from lions and bears with stones has prepared him well. David chooses not to wear untested armour, and goes armed with a staff, a sling and five stones instead. Goliath curses David. David replies that he comes in the name of the Lord of Hosts, not like Goliath with sword, spear and javelin. David defeats Goliath with a stone to the forehead. David cuts off Goliath’s head with his own sword. Israelites pursue the fleeing Philistines. David presents himself to Saul.
Jonathan and David become friends. David stays at Saul’s palace permanently. Israelite women celebrate David’s military exploits: ‘Saul has killed his thousands, David his tens of thousands.’ Saul tries to kill David when he plays his harp. Saul transfers David from the palace to the army. Saul offers his daughter Merab to David, asking in return that David fight for him, and secretly hoping that David will be killed in battle. David is diffident about becoming the son-in-law of a king, but in the event, Merab is married off to Adriel the Meholathite. Michal, another of Saul’s daughters, loved David. Saul asks for the dowry of a hundred Philistine foreskins. David delivers two hundred, and marries Michal. David’s fame and popularity grows constantly.
Saul plots the murder of David, attempting to enlist the help of Jonathan and his servants. Jonathan tells David to hide, pleads for him, and manages to effect a reconciliation. Following more military success against the Philistines, Saul attempts to kill David with a spear again. David flees with the aid of Michal, who puts an image in his bed covered with goat’s hair. When Saul challenges Michal about this, she claims that David had threatened to kill her. David flees to Samuel at Ramah, then they both go to Naioth. Saul sends messengers to capture David, but instead they prophesy in the presence of Samuel and other prophets. Saul goes himself, and starts to prophesy. Is Saul among the prophets?
David asks Jonathan about Saul’s intentions towards him; Jonathan promises his help to David. David avoids the feast of the New Moon with Saul, hiding in a field but making the excuse that he must go to a yearly sacrifice with his family. David asks Jonathan to ascertain Saul’s disposition towards him: if he is satisfied by the excuse, then all will be judged well, but if he is angry, then David will know that Saul intends evil to him. Jonathan and David make a covenant, with David promising never with withdraw his kindness from Jonathan’s house. Jonathan proposes a signal to tell David of Saul’s reaction: he will send a lad after some arrows shot at a target, and if he says the arrows are to the side of him, then all is well, but if he says the arrows are beyond him, then David must flee. Saul is furious at David’s absence, accuses Jonathan of complicity with him, and throws a spear at him. Jonathan gives David the sign, and David tearfully departs from Jonathan and flees from Saul.
David fless to the priest Ahimelech in Nob, saying he goes there on business for the king. He receives showbread and Goliath’s sword. David flees to king Achish of Gath, and feigns madness in order to protect himself.