I’ve been working on 1 Samuel 17 (David and Goliath) this week, and I’ve noticed the way in which Goliath is repeatedly referred to as ‘the Philistine.’
Perhaps this feature of this story marks it as open to typological reading: After this feature is repeated numerous times, the hearer senses that we are encountering ‘types’ or ‘categories’ here; not just individuals: ‘the Philistine’ and ‘the shepherd.’ This is further heightened as we find that the narrator shows both opponents making appeal to their gods at the near-climactic moment: this is, in fact, not just a battle between David and the Philistine, but between the LORD and the Philistine gods.
It seems then that this Former Prophet opens itself to typological significance. Such a reading of the text is not just foisted on a completely unsuspecting text by later pre-critical Christian interests. Francis Watson makes a good point – cited in Hamilton, ‘The Typology of David’s Rise to Power,’ SBJT 16.2 (2012): 4-25; 4:
What is proposed is not an anachronistic return to pre-critical exegesis but a radicalization of the modern theological and exegetical concern to identify ever more precisely those characteristics that are peculiar to the biblical texts.
I would suggest that typological pregnancy is indeed a characteristic of biblical texts. Goliath, in Scripture, was never just Goliath. He was symbolic of a category – a category that might grow and evolve as the Scriptures themselves develop.
Chrysostom is not to be scoffed at then, as he reaches a peculiarly Christian reading of the chapter, with the stone in the shepherd-bag typifying Christ himself:
Therefore, let us take in our hands that stone, I mean the cornerstone, the spiritual rock. If Paul could think in these terms of the rock in the desert, no one will in any way feel resentment against me if I understand David’s stone in the same sense. (ACCS, p. 274)
The stone was always pregnant with possibility; and Chrysostom now suggests that Christian readers can perceive it to have been pregnant with Christ.