The Valley of Elah—How Your Ordinary Becomes Extraordinary

God will make your simple faithfulness great in His time.

At first glance, the valley seems like nothing remarkable. Just a road winding its way up into the Hill Country of Judea. A large satellite dish sits on one hill. A dry stream bed divides patches of tall weeds. Greenhouses clump together next to wheat fields.

The Elah Valley—How Your Ordinary Becomes Extraordinary

(Photo: The Elah Valley. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Like the other valleys in Israel’s Judean foothills today, the Valley of Elah appears so commonplace. Very ordinary.

But back up 3000 years and the Valley of Elah offers one of the most strategic battlefields in Israel.

It was here David killed Goliath.

That day speaks significance to the days of your life that feel ordinary.

The Shephelah Foothills

With the Hebrews dominating the Hill Country of Judea and the Philistines controlling the coastal plain, the buffer between these enemies was the Shephelah—often rendered “foothills” or “lowland” (Zechariah 7:7; 2 Chronicles 26:10).

  • Shephelah comes from the Hebrew term that means, “humble, lowly.”
  • The valleys of the Shephelah separated the Hill Country and the coastal area—specifically the Philistines and the International Highway.
  • Judah’s control of the Shephelah at any given point served as a barometer of Israel’s strength.

Five valleys cut in an east-west direction through the Shephelah and offered convenient passages from the Philistine Plain to the Hill Country of Judea. So convenient, in fact, they had to be guarded vigilantly.

The Valley of Elah was one of them. That’s what made David’s battle with Goliath so critical.

Elah Valley pistachio tree

(Photo: Elah Valley pistachio /terebinth tree. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Elah is the Hebrew term for the Terebinth Tree, which still grows in the valley.

David and Goliath in the Valley of Elah

Having lost control of the Hill Country farther north, the Philistines tried to come up the Valley of Elah to gain access once again (1 Samuel 14; 17). The valley offered a backdoor entrance to the Hill Country via Bethlehem. They had to be stopped.

  • The Philistines camped on the south side of the valley—between Socoh and Azekeh—and faced King Saul’s army on the strategic hill to the north.
  • The vale between them offered a level middle ground, the approximate location where the modern highway runs today.
Elah Valley from Socoh panorama

(Photo: Elah Valley from Socoh panorama, courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Dr. Todd Bolen comments on his photo above:

This panoramic view of the Elah Valley from the south is an approximate view of what the Philistine army saw as they faced the Israelites in the battle commonly known as “David vs. Goliath.”  The Philistines were encamped on the south side of the valley and King Saul’s forces occupied the hill on the northern side.

How ironic that the two men who faced each other in the middle ground came from two towns at either end of it. The valley begins just east of Gath and ends near Bethlehem.

Five Smooth Stones and One Big God

A small bridge spans the brook in the Valley of Elah today. The dry stream bed has rocks scattered here and there.

Some assume David selected five stones from the stream that snaked through the valley so that he could take down Goliath and his four brothers. Probably not.

  • Only Goliath stood in the valley to defy the young Hebrew.
  • David’s choice of five stones more likely represented all he could easily carry.
  • Most sling stones measured the size of a fist, so carrying more than five of them could have inhibited David’s ability to maneuver.
sling stones from Lachish

(Photo: My hand beside sling stones from Lachish. British Museum)

David came to the Valley of Elah that day from Bethlehem, a mere twelve miles away. But he didn’t come to be a national hero.

  • His father had instructed the young shepherd to check on the welfare of his brothers in the army.
  • But once he arrived, David took the responsibility no one else would accept.

It was just an ordinary day in an ordinary valley. But it changed David’s life forever.

Elah Valley

(Photo: Elah Valley. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

How Your Ordinary Becomes Extraordinary

David lived many thousands of days that never made it to the pages of Scripture. That’s true of all of our days. But ours are no less significant. God often uses ordinary days in extraordinary ways.

But don’t live for that extraordinary day. Just stay faithful.

The Lord isn’t calling you to do anything extraordinary today. Just stay faithful to the ordinary tasks He has called you to do.

He will make your simple faithfulness great in His time (1 Peter 5:6).

Tell me what you think: What helps you see the significance in your ordinary days? To leave a comment, just click here.

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  • Dubonnet

    Hello dear Wayne,

    It is true that it was a special day for the young shepherd David, but let us remember this: “Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a javelin: but I come to thee in the name of Jehovah of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, Whom thou hast defied This Day Will Jehovah deliver thee into my hand;. and I will smite thee, and take thy head from off thee, and I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day unto the birds of the heavens, and to the wild beasts of the earth, the earth That All May Know That there is a God in Israel, and That All May this assembly Know That Jehovah Saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is Jehovah’s, and He Will give you into our hand (I Sam 17:45-47 ASV 1901).

    It is in this that lay its strength and victory, his trust in God and for us it is a great example, even in the face of problems ‘massive’, our trust in God through prayer and action, we helping has overcome all obstacles in order to grade our integrity to Him.

    thank you so much for all the good tickets for meditation.

    Christian friendships.

    • That’s precisely the point, isn’t it? God uses our daily trust in Him for extraordinary events. Thanks.

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  • Delphine Reed

    What makes ordinary days significant for me is knowing that nothing is wasted in God’s economy! A happy and blessed new year to you, Wayne!!

    • Thank you, Delphine! May the Lord also bless this year for you—including a closer walk with Him.

      • Delphine Reed

        Thank you, Wayne. That is EXACTLY what I desire and I am in pursuit of the same!!!

  • Wanda

    I learned the significance of ordinary five years ago when my husband was diagnosed with cancer. Between chemo and the hospital I had little time for myself so I grabbed moments here and there to just sit outside and enjoy God’s beautiful world. He recovered and life went back to normal. Little did I realize that this was preparation for five years later when he was diagnosed with leukemia, a result of the strong chemo of five years earlier. Now we only had three months but we made the most of that time draining out moments of ordinary to offset the approaching separation. He has been gone a year and I thank God for the time we had as I try to make the most of the days that remain.

    • Those are profound insights, Wanda. I hope you’ll share with other women who are struggling with a perspective not as godly as the one you’ve acquired. Thank you for sharing.

    • Michelle thick

      God Bless you and for your testimony. It helped me to remember what God did for me in my marraige. You will be ok each day gets easier.

  • Michelle thick

    I had troubles in my marraige and sought counceling and God. I was going to devorce him but God had other plans. God asked me to bring my husband to Him. So we went to church, studied with bible classes, got remarried. My husband passed away. Im so glad I listened because I would of felt bad had I didn’t listen to God and he died without knowing Him.

    • How wonderful for you, Michelle, to have experienced God’s hand in your marriage like that. I hope you’ll encourage others who need the same wisdom. God bless.

    • Michelle thick

      Thank you for the teachings and discussion group. Helps me to learn more of the bible and to hear peoples stories. What a blessing.

  • Jeanelle Sims

    Thank you Wayne for reminding me that the sameness of my days in God’s hands can be used to give God glory and can be used to encourage others. What a blessing!!

    • You’re welcome, Jeanelle. Sometimes sameness is a blessing! I’ve had some recent changes I would not have wanted. 🙂


    This kind of topic has always been a reminder for me because my life’s journey with God has also always been in a good and bad relationship,i don’t know about other people,but i’m always having problem to understand how to walk with God,and that is the reason why often i don’t know and can’t see God’s hand and intervention in every single day i live ,and yes of course sometimes i Can see it,a Good Topic Wayne and a remainder for me.

    • You’re not alone, in your struggle to see God’s hand in our lives. For me, that’s why it’s essential to be in the Word each day and to fellowship with others who can encourage me with their own lives.

  • Whew. Needed this post. My head is spinning today with ordinary. Laundry. Crying baby. Boys that want my every moment. A list of important tasks for the family. And a day where the unknown before me stumbles my peace. Just be faithful right now in the ordinary? I can try that :-). Man, trusting God is challenging sometimes even though He is so faithful.

    • I couldn’t agree with you more here, Seana. It’s so easy to confuse the ordinary with the mundane. God is looking straight at it!

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