Typology from the Life of David (Part 1)


Typology as a subspecialty of Biblical hermeneutics has had definitions and parameters at both ends of the spectrum.[1] The Scriptures indicate the concept of foreshadowing the person and work of Christ, for example, in the imagery of the tabernacle system:  “There are priests who offer the gifts according to the law; who serve the copy and shadow of the heavenly things, as Moses was divinely instructed when he was about to make the tabernacle” (Heb 8:4–5, emphasis added).[2] Thus, we have precedent to regard historical people, places, events, objects, and ceremonies in the Old Testament as having New Testament fulfillment or at the very minimum emphasis.[3]

The problems converge on what constitutes the typological definition and its boundaries. Professor Roy Zuck crafts six criteria that lays tight parameters for the concept.[4]

In summary, a type must have at least these five elements: A notable resemblance or correspondence between the type and the antitype, historical reality in both the type and the antitype, a prefiguring or predictive foreshadowing of the antitype by the type, a heightening in which the antitype is greater than the type, and divine design…[which is] a sixth characteristic or element: It must be designated in the New Testament.

By his definition, there would be 17 types he has identified in the New Testament. At the other end of the spectrum are scholars who have found 1163 types in the Old Testament.[5]

Undoubtedly, too loose of a definition lends itself to allegorical interpretation. Too strict a definition discards some amazing types such in the case of Joseph. What might be a middle ground would entail regarding types not only which satisfies Dr. Zuck’s basic definition but would also include that which envisions the grand themes of God such as the freedom from death or substitution or reconciliation. These themes are all accomplished by Christ.

King David’s life has a multitude of events that typify such themes that are brought to fruition in Christ. In this paper, we will examine three of those themes and conclude with a consideration of David’s poetry as it depicts a suffering Savior.

Typology in the Life of King David

David and Goliath

In this narrative, we have ample touchpoints with the thematic movement of a champion who rises to defeat undisputable death. This has been the fate of humanity since the fall for sin produced such a reality: “In the day you eat of it, you shall surely die” (Gen 3:17). For mankind, the keeper of death and death itself became our nemesis that plagues every creature (cf. 1 Cor 15:26). What the metanarrative demands is a champion who will defeat our enemy and lead us out of our captivity. Such a person was promised in the immediate wake of the fall: “Her seed…shall bruise your head and you shall bruise his heal” (Gen 3:15). In the case of David, this classic, mesmerizing Sunday School story, captures the confrontation that we inherited. The conflict mirrors humanity’s crisis with Satan and death. It screams for a victor like Christ who will assume our place and rise victoriously as David did for his very own brothers in arms.

The ancient struggle opens with the basic elements of a death certificate upon the armies of God with an impotent leader. The persistent and antagonist Philistine people were raddling their sabers in the strategic Valley of Elah of the Shephelah. The Israeli army with General Saul at its helm is paralyzed by fear through the colossal foe and Philistine champion named, Goliath (17:8–11). Twice a day for 40 days this formidable enemy would taunt Saul and his soldiers by calling for a dual in the haunting “Field of Blood” (17:1, 16). The king and his soldiers would consistently flee from the very sight of this monstrous and weaponized human being (17:24–25). This reflects our plight in several ways. First, like the incapable Saul, we too had the head of our human race who was defeated by sin and ushered in death upon humanity (Rom 5:12). Second, we were all subsequently doomed: “Who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Heb 2:15). Like Goliath, Satan had a similar foot on our spiritual necks. We too were numbed and paralyzed by death’s inevitable and fatal sting (1 Cor 15:56). All we could do, like the Israeli forces, was be manipulated by the “prince of the power of the air” who used the threat of death as puppet strings to chain us to his will (Eph 2:1–2).

From the obscure shadows of a youth, in the prime of his life, emerges an innocent and seemingly harmless teen who has only been busy about his father’s business (17:14–15). It is with unquestioning virtue to his father’s wishes that David visits his brothers on the frontline (17:17–18, 22). His display of pure submission to his father contrasts a distinct temperament in comparison to King Saul or David’s physical brother, Eliab (17:28, 31–33). Our protagonist directly mimics the disposition of Christ. He too made it his sole focus to fulfill “the will of him who sent me” (John 6:38). In fact, Christ demonstrated his unrelenting resolve to obey the will of his Father in Gethsemane’s garden where he volitionally surrendered his human will (cf. Matt 26:36–46). Thus, we recognize an unblemished demeanor about Christ that set him apart in the field of battle (Heb 7:26).

Finally, we come to the clash with Goliath himself. This mammoth man bellows out his threats and curses and promises a mutilating death to this ruddy and handsome youth (1 Sam 17:42–44). David with the simplest of weapons, as if unarmed, springs forward to face the giant. He returns Goliath’s threats with a promise of his own which was to defeat Goliath and his army by the arm of God’s promise (1 Sam 17:45–47). The titanic soldier sets his course straight for David, who in turn reciprocates with fleetness of foot toward the danger. This serves as a marked contrast to Saul and his army who would flee from the giant twice a day for one and a third months. With one swift head blow, the behemoth falls dead to the ground. It is only later that the spoils of war and the evidence of victory are paraded in the streets of Israel (1 Sam 18:6).

Our Christ has also risen to the challenge. According to his own words: When the wolf comes to his flock, he does not flee but rises to meet the carnivore of souls (John 10:12). Our Christ conquers the foe of death and releases us from the tyranny Satan held over us “through the fear of death” (Heb 2:15). Goliath thought the battle was to be easily won, but David’s unassuming appearance fooled his foe. So, it is with our Christ who had “no form or comeliness…or beauty that we should desire him” (Is 53:2b), yet, he still achieved success. Furthermore, like David, Christ with one fatal cephalic wound would once and for all defeat our arch enemy as promised by God at the dawn of time (Gen 3:15). Finally, as David displayed the spoils of his victory, so does our Christ exhibit that defeated tyrant in heaven as our champion, Christ, stands triumphantly in the lead chariot (Col 2:15; 2 Cor 2:14). We are but his captives that he freed from our fears of death, like David did the Israeli forces.  

In this short synopsis, we see three aspects of God’s metanarrative that shine through the pages of history to typify the theme of what Christ accomplished. We found ourselves in a plight through the poor leadership of the human race, and thus the enemy of death tortured us all by its fear all our lifelong existence. It was meant to be doomed and defeated by the most perfect of human specimens. It is Christ who with bravery and an undeterred demeanor met our foe with convincing defeat. He thus frees us from our bondage and we now march in his parade of victory. Clearly, this event showcases the grand theme of God’s redemptive story by using the combat of an ancient conflict.

Dr. Price wears many hats including a doctor, husband, father of 9 children, elder, speaker, and writer. He is a core team member of Renew In Knowledge. You can follow some of his writings and life probing meditations on the blog Shepherdinghisflock.


[1] Mal Couch, ed., An Introduction to Classical Evangelical Hermeneutics, (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2000), 80.

[2] Unless otherwise noted, Scripture quotations in this study are taken from the NKJV, 1982, Thomas Nelson.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Roy Zuck, Basic Bible Interpretation: A Practical Guide to Discovering Biblical Truth, ed. Craig Bubeck Sr. (Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 1991), 175–176.

[5] Ibid.