The Serpent Slayer

Great David’s Greater Son

This is a short article on “typology” and one of the ways King David’s life points to Christ. 

David, the Serpent, and Christ

A clear “type” of Jesus, the Christ, is his “father,” David. There are numerous corresponding connections one could make between David and Jesus. (1) David was a shepherd, and Jesus called himself the good shepherd (John 10:11); (2) David had the Spirit of the Lord (1 Sam 16:13), and the Holy Spirit rested upon Jesus at his baptism (Matt 3:16); (3) David was the great king who ruled over Israel and was promised that one of his sons shall sit on his throne forever and would be a son to God, and so his kingdom would be forever (2 Sam 7:12–16), and in the opening of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus is called the Son of David (Matt 1:1) and Paul says Jesus descended from David from the flesh (Rom 1:3). As this Son of David, Jesus is declared to be the Son of God in power (1:4)—God’s very own begotten Son (Heb 1:5). As this Son of David and Son of God, Jesus was given all authority in heaven and on earth (Matt 28:18), and Luke writes that “the Lord God will give to him [Jesus] the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:32–33). (4) Further yet, David was known for his righteousness and was a righteous sufferer as Psalm 22 indicates when he felt as if he was abandoned, and was thus persecuted by his enemies. Similarly, Jesus cried the same cry as Psalm 22:1 when he was on the cross and was persecuted even though he was righteous: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me” (Mark 15:34). (5) David was called God’s servant (2 Sam 7:5, 8, 20–21). Likewise, Jesus is the suffering servant of the Lord (Acts 8:30–34; cf. Isa 53:7–8). 

While they had many similarities, there was a shocking difference. Two texts can be put together to see this radical discontinuity: “David did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and did not turn aside from anything that he commanded him all the days of his life, except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite” (1 Kgs 15:5); “Christ also suffered for you . . . He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth . . . He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed” (1 Pet 2:21–22, 24). David sinned, Jesus never sinned. And thus, by Jesus’s death, we might be saved. Jesus is the great King whose kingdom shall never end, who now sits at the right hand of the throne of God (Heb 1:3; 12:2; cf. Ps 110:1). 

Further, while David’s sin and Jesus’ perfection show discontinuity and escalation from type to antitype, there is another noteworthy element of escalation. David defeated Israel’s oppressor, the great Philistine, Goliath of Gath, whose armor is described as an armor of “scale” (קַשְׂקֶשֶׂת), which necessarily evokes serpent imagery. David slung a stone, and the stone “struck the Philistine on his forehead. The stone sank into his forehead” (1 Sam 17:49). David then cut off Goliath’s head (17:51) with Goliath’s own weapon. Later, David fights the son of Nahash. The name “Nahash” means “serpent.” And David defeats him (2 Sam 10). So, David defeated the great oppressor, Goliath, who wore serpent-like armor, and David defeated the son or seed of the serpent. This shouts out clear echoes of the first gospel in Genesis 3:15: “I will put enmity between you [the serpent] and the woman, and between your offspring [seed of serpent] and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” David defeats a political oppressor that is very serpent-like by crushing and cutting off his head, and kills the son of a serpent. However, David did not bring the ultimate deliverance, for he too fell for the serpent’s lie and sinned. David’s life and work point to a greater deliverance—that of Jesus.

Jesus brings a greater deliverance. When Jesus was crushed on Golgotha (the place of the skull [which sounds similar to Goliath of Gath]), he rendered Satan’s power of accusation useless, and so crushing him (see Col 2:13–15), and will soon defeat him in full effect (Rom 16:20; Rev 20:10). And so we confess, Jesus is the “Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11).