What Esther Meeks calls the “defective epistemic default” of modernity infects and paralyzes biblical interpretation. In this default, knowledge is defined as information.
This can only produce puzzlement about the details of the Bible. They aren’t symbols; they aren’t clues; they text isn’t pregnant with meaning. The details are there as mere bits of information.
Why, for instance, are we told that Goliath had a bronze helmet and scale armor and bronze greaves on his legs? Why are we told his height? Why do we need to know the weight of his armor and of the head of his spear? Why does it matter that David struck Goliath’s head with a stone?
A certain kind of commentator will say: Well, because Goliath actually wore armor and his spear’s head actually weighed that amount and David actually did sling a stone.
Try to move beyond, try to suss out the symbolic significance of these details, try to move beyond information to see the details as clues to a pattern, and you can expect to hear cries of “Allegorist! Origenist!”
But each of these details is significant.
When the spies came back from the land, they frightened Israel by saying that the land was filled with giants. Only Joshua and Caleb were giant-killers. David is a latter-day Joshua, ready to rid the land of giants, ready to rule in a way that Saul, the Israelite giant, cannot.
Goliath is dressed in scale armor; he’s dressed like a serpent. And, like the serpent he suffers a massive head wound from the seed of a woman.
He’s dressed in metal, and like the great metallic statue in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, he’s felled by a stone.
When we recognize the pregnancy of the text, this episode becomes a moment in the unveiling of Jesus Christ, who is the focal point of all Scripture.
When we abandon the epistemic default of modernity, we see the details as clues to a pattern, the pattern of our redemption.