Goliath the dog
In my post Samson and Goliath, I said:
Goliath himself understood (sort of) that the God of Israel was treating him as a joke. “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” (see 1 Samuel 17:43) he asks rhetorically… only it turns out it wasn’t merely rhetorical, it was actually worth pondering, because the answer was a resounding “Yes!” This too parallels Samson, when the 30 companions answer his riddle with rhetorical questions that were actually the heart of the matter (see Judges 14). “What is stronger than a lion?” they ask. Well, duh! Samson is… he just ripped one limb from limb.
I’ve been thinking about this interesting aspect of Philistine questions (that they seem to have a knack to ask profound questions that cut to the heart of the matter without realizing it and thinking they are merely making some rhetorical flourish), and I suddenly realized there as an another dimension to Goliath’s question.
Turning to Matthew 15:21-28, we have the following story:
And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.
In Jesus’ interaction with the Canaanite woman, the Canaanites were dogs, and it turns out there is a kind of dog that shames the sheep with her faith and pleases the master! The Philistines were not true Canaanites, but had settled in Canaan and seem to substitute for the Canaanites in opposition to Israel at the time of Goliath. By asking whether he was a dog, Goliath was not only hinting that he was the punch line in God’s joke on the Philistines, he was also hinting at the path of humility and faith open to the Canaanites (and the Philistines). The table laid out for God’s people had plenty of scraps if they would simply hunger for true food.