THE BOOK OF 1 SAMUEL
Lesson 6: Chapters 16-18
Saul and David

Most Holy Lord,
You shepherd Your people with justice and mercy, and You require Your covenant people to show that same mercy and justice when dealing with other members of the human family. Give us Your divine wisdom through the ministry of the Holy Spirit in making those judgments, Lord, and help us to not be swayed by the so-called wisdom of the secular world. Your apostle Paul has warned us that human wisdom is folly and that "Jesus Christ is both the power of God and the wisdom of God." It is, therefore, to Christ that we look as our example of both justice and mercy. Send Your Holy Spirit to guide us, Lord, in our lesson that covers the decline of King Saul and the rise of David, the ancestral father of Jesus of Nazareth, the true King of kings. We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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As the fat is set apart from the communion sacrifice, so was David chosen out of the Israelites. He played with lions as though with kids, and with bears as though with lambs. While still a boy, did he not slay the giant and take away the people's shame, by hurling a stone from his sling and cutting short the boasting of Goliath? For he called on the Lord Most High, who gave strength to his right arm to put a mighty warrior to death and assert the strength of his own people. Hence they gave him credit for ten thousand, and praised him while they blessed the Lord, by offering him a crown of glory. For he destroyed the enemies on every front, he annihilated his foes, the Philistines, and crushed their strength for ever. In all his activities he gave thanks to the Holy One Most High in words of glory, he put all his heart into his songs out of love for his Creator. He placed singers before the altar, melodiously to sing: he gave the feasts their splendor, the festivals their solemn pomp, causing the Lord's holy name to be praised and the Sanctuary to resound from dawn. The Lord took away his sins, making his strength ever greater; he gave him a royal covenant, and a glorious throne in Israel.
Sirach 47:2-11/13

King Saul is a study in contrasts. His story is situated between two legendary figures: the prophet/priest Samuel from the tribe of Ephraim and the charismatic David of Bethlehem from the tribe of Judah: men with whom Saul had turbulent relationships. At this time in Israel's history, the extent of Saul's kingdom was probably not very large. He was trying to extend his centralized control over the former confederacy of the twelve tribes of Israel. However, during his lifetime the territory over which he exercised dominance probably extended only from Mt. Ephraim to the mountains of Judah and into the Jezreel Valley in the north. He seemed to never have built a palace but instead ruled from a fortress at Gibeah, dispensing justice and giving commands from under a tree (1 Sam 14:2; 22:6) like the Judges of the previous era (Judg 4:5). He had a son and heir who was everything Saul wasn't: honest and loyal with a deep faith and trust in God. Instead of appreciating his son, Saul resented him. The loss of God's Spirit affected everything in Saul's life including his personal relationships and his mental stability.

The story of Saul is a cautionary tale for all who are called by the Lord to an eternal destiny but turn away from His sovereignty over their lives in deciding "what is right in their own eyes." Concerning the people and the events recorded in the Old Testament, St. Paul wrote: Now all these things happened to them by way of example, and they were described in writing to be a lesson for us, to whom it has fallen to live in the last says of the ages. Everyone, no matter how firmly he thinks he is standing, must be careful he does not fall (1 Cor 10:11-12).

Chapter 16: Samuel and David

 

He chose David to be his servant, took him from the sheepfold, took him from tending ewes to pasture his servant Jacob, and Israel his heritage. His pastured them with unblemished heart, with a sensitive hand he led them.
Psalm 78:70-72

1 Samuel 16:1-5 ~ Samuel is ordered to go to Bethlehem
1 Yahweh said to Samuel, "How much longer do you mean to go on mourning over Saul, now that I myself have rejected him as ruler of Israel? Fill your horn with oil and go. I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem, for I have found myself a king from among his sons." 2 Samuel replied, "How can I go? When Saul hears of it he will kill me." Yahweh then said, "Take a heifer with you and say, 'I have come to sacrifice [zabah] to Yahweh.' 3 Invite Jesse to the sacrifice [bazzabah], and I shall reveal to you what you must do; and you will anoint for me the one I indicate to you." 4 Samuel did what Yahweh ordered and went to Bethlehem. The elders of the town came trembling to meet him and asked, "Seer, is your coming favorable for us," 5 "Yes," he replied. "I have come to sacrifice to Yahweh. Purify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice." He purified Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice [feast].
[...] see IBHE, vol. II, page 752.
The word zebah/zabah means "sacrifice" or "feast." In verse 2 "I have come to sacrifice to Yahweh" means "to worship Yahweh;" the worship will be expressed in a communal feast. The Hebrew phrase bazzabah in verse 3 literally means "in the sacrifice," signifying "at the time of the feast," and refers to an invitation to the feast (also in verse 5; see Tsumura, page 416).

1 Samuel 16:1a ~ Yahweh said to Samuel, "How much longer do you mean to go on mourning over Saul, now that I myself have rejected him as ruler of Israel?"
God has "rejected" Saul of Benjamin as Israel's king three times because of his failure to listen and obey the voice of Yahweh in 1 Samuel 15:23, 26, and 16:1. It is a rejection for which Samuel, as Saul's spiritual advisor, feels personally responsible. In verse 1 God chastises Samuel for continuing to grieve over what God has already ordained, telling His prophet: "How much longer do you mean to go on mourning over Saul, now that I myself have rejected him as ruler of Israel?"

The life of a prophet of Yahweh was filled with great highs and great lows. He had the honor being in a uniquely close relationship with God, but he also experienced suffering and great sorrow only to discover that no one understood his grief except God.
Question: This is not the first time the inspired writer has told us that Samuel experienced distress over the events of his ministry. What are the three times the inspired writer tells us Samuel either cried or was deeply distressed? See 8:6-8; 15:10-11; 16:1
Answer:

  1. When the Israelites asked for a king other than Yahweh Samuel was deeply offended by the people lack of gratitude to God.
  2. When God told Samuel He was not only withdrawing Saul's dynasty but that His divine Spirit would no longer continue with Saul, Samuel cried and prayed for Saul all night but in the morning submitted to God's will.
  3. When Samuel continued to mourn for Saul, feeling responsible or Saul's failure.

1 Samuel 16:1b ~ Fill your horn with oil and go. I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem, for I have found myself a king from among his sons."
It was necessary that David be physically anointed to receive the Spirit of God in preparation for his mission as God's messiah ("anointed one") king. Jesus was also publically anointed by God's Spirit at His baptism by St. John the Baptist (Mt 9-11; Mk 3:16-17; Lk 3:21-22). The difference between David's anointing with oil and the Spirit and Jesus' anointing with water and the Spirit is that Jesus' anointing fulfilled the messianic hope of Israel in his threefold office of priest, prophet, and king (CCC 436, 695, 783).

This is the first time Jesse (Hebrew = yisay) is named in the Bible. Bethlehem (house/place of bread), located in the tribal lands of Judah, is about fourteen miles south of Ramah, ten miles south of Gibeah, and five miles south of Jerusalem. It is interesting that God says one of Jesse's sons is to be named melek, "king," whereas God told Samuel that Saul was to be anointed nagid, "prince," (1 Sam 9:16). However, in other passages David is called nagid (1 Sam 25:30; 2 Sam 5:2; 6:21; 7:8).

Question: Who is Jesse of Bethlehem? See Gen 29:31-35; 46:12; 1 Sam 17:12; Ruth 4:18-22; 1 Chr 2:3-13; Is 11:1-4 and Mt 1:2-16. Also see the chart Ruth's Family Tree in the handout or on the website.
Answer: Jesse was a descendant of Judah, the fourth son of Jacob-Israel and his wife Leah. Within the tribe of Judah he was of the house of Judah's son Perez and of the clan of Ephrath that founded the town Bethlehem. He was also the grandson of Ruth and Boaz, the father of David, and an ancestor of Jesus of Nazareth. The 8th century BC prophet Isaiah will prophesy that the Redeemer-Messiah will be a descendant of Jesse of Bethlehem.

Question: What was unique about Jesse's grandmother Ruth as opposed to other mothers of important Israelites in salvation history? Ruth 1:4; 4:11; Mt 1:3, 4
Answer: She was a Gentile Moabitess who became a convert to the covenant with Yahweh. She was also one of only four women named in St. Matthew's genealogy of Jesus: Tamar, Rabab, Ruth and Mary of Nazareth.

Five women are mentioned in Matthew's genealogy of Jesus with His mother Mary of Nazareth being the fifth woman, but only four women are identified by name; Bathsheba is only called "Uriah's wife." According to the Law of the covenant, the offspring of an Israelite and Moabite marriage was not eligible to worship in the Sanctuary until the tenth generation (Dt 23:4/3). This law was probably meant to discourage marriage to these pagan peoples during the early years of the conquest, but apparently three centuries later the prohibition was no longer enforced or a convert like Ruth who demonstrated such obedience and loyalty was no longer considered a Moabite. David is only the fourth generation from Ruth (counting her as generation #1).

1 Samuel 16:2 ~ Samuel replied, "How can I go? When Saul hears of it he will kill me." Yahweh then said, "Take a heifer with you and say, "I have come to sacrifice [zebah can mean feast or sacrifice] to Yahweh." 3 Invite Jesse to the sacrifice [zebah], and I shall reveal to you what you must do; and you will anoint for me the one I indicate to you."
Samuel has already recognized that Saul can be a violent and vindictive man (as in the case of Jonathan, Saul's son, who narrowly escaped death at his father's command in 14:44-45). He is therefore concerned that anointing another man will cause Saul to seek his life. God, however, has a plan. Samuel regularly visited villages and took part in village feasts (9:13, 22-24), and so God tells Samuel to take a heifer and celebrate a feast in Bethlehem. Once again Samuel demonstrates his greatness in that despite the risk to his life, he trusts God and is obedient to God's command.

Josephus described the heifer as an offering for the celebration of a communal feast (Antiquities of the Jews, 6.8.1 [164]).
Question: What is similar to the plan God gave Samuel when the prophet first met Saul and anointed him privately as king of Israel? See 1 Sam 9:22-24.
Answer: Samuel will privately anoint Jesse's son and then celebrate at a feast that will be an inaugural banquet for Jesse's son just as Samuel had an inaugural banquet for Saul.

1 Samuel 16:4-5 ~ Samuel did what Yahweh ordered and went to Bethlehem. The elders of the town came trembling to meet him and asked, "Seer, is your coming favorable [in peace] for us," 5 "Yes," he replied. "I have come to sacrifice to Yahweh.
Samuel's sudden visit to Bethlehem concerns the elders. A prophet spoke for God and often the message was one of condemnation for sins of the community. They were probably afraid this was a disciplinary visit or they may have been concerned about welcoming Samuel knowing that he had broken his relationship with the king and feared reprisals from Saul.

1 Samuel 5b: Purify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice." He purified Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.
The Hebrew can be translated "purify" or "consecrate" and literally means to keep one another in a state of consecration (see Num 11:18; 2 Sam 11:4; etc.). In order to offer worship to God in a communal feast, they were probably required to ritually wash themselves and perhaps also their clothes as in Exodus 19:10 and Numbers 8:21. Only those in a state of ritual purity could be invited to the feast.

Question: How is this restriction similar for those who come forward to receive Christ in the sacred communal feast of the Eucharist?
Answer: Christians can only come to the feast if they have purified their souls in the Penitential rite for venial sins or in the Sacrament of Reconciliation for mortal sins. One must be in a state of grace to come forward to receive the Eucharist.

1 Samuel 16:6-13 ~ Samuel Anoints David
6 When he arrived, he looked at Eliab and thought, "This must be Yahweh's anointed now before him," 7 but Yahweh said to Samuel, "Take no notice of his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him; God does not see as human beings see; they look at appearances but Yahweh looks at the heart." 8 Jesse then called Abinadab and presented him to Samuel, who said, "Yahweh has not chosen this one either." 9 Jesse then presented Shammah, but Samuel said, "Yahweh has not chosen this one either." 10 Jesse thus presented seven of his sons to Samuel, but Samuel said to Jesse, "Yahweh has not chosen these." 11 He then asked Jesse, "Are these all the sons you have?" Jesse replied, "There is still one left, the youngest; he is looking after the sheep [shepherding the sheep]." Samuel then said to Jesse, "Send for him, for we shall not sit down to eat until he arrives." 12 Jesse had him sent for; he had ruddy cheeks [word "cheeks" is not in the Hebrew or LXX texts], with fine [beautiful] eyes and an attractive appearance. Yahweh said, "Get up and anoint him: he is the one!" 13 At this, Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him, surrounded by his brothers; and the Spirit of Yahweh seized on David from that day onwards. Samuel, for his part, set off and went to Ramah. [..] = literal translation IBHE, vol. II, page 753.

Jesse presents his firstborn son, Eliab (his name means "God is Father"). He is also mentioned in 17:13, 28; 1 Chr 2:13; he is called Elihu in 1 Chr 27:18.
Question: When Samuel saw Jesse's tall and handsome firstborn son why did he immediately assume Eliab was God's choice for the next anointed king of Israel? See 9:2; 10:23.
Answer: Eliab was physically impressive like Saul who was handsome and stood head and shoulders above other men.

Question: What lesson does God teach his prophet?
Answer: God is not interested in physical attributes but in interior purity of heart.

In fact God tells His prophet that it isn't that He hasn't "chosen" Eliab but that he has "rejected" him. It is the same Hebrew verb used in 15:23, 26, and 16:1 for the rejection of Saul. Perhaps Eliab has defects of character that are similar to Saul's defects. The second son, Abinadab ("father of generosity"), is also not "chosen" (17:13; 1 Chr 2:13), nor is the third son, Shammah (proper noun; see 17:13; 1Chr 2:13).

Only four of Jesse's sons are named in this passage. It is significant that the passage says Jesse presented seven of his sons to Samuel and David is understood to be the eighth son (verse 12; also see "eight sons" in 17:12 and in the LXX). 1 Chronicles 2:13 lists David as the seventh son and Josephus also lists David as the seventh son (Antiquities of the Jews, 6.8.1 [162-63]). Seven sons is supposed to be the ideal composition of a family in the Bible (see Job's seven sons in Job 1:2; 42:13 and Naomi says that her daughter-in-law Ruth was better to her than seven sons in Ruth 4:15).

It is possible that the allusion to David as the "eighth" son is meant to be symbolic. In the significance of numbers in Scripture, eight is the number of redemption, salvation, and re-birth. David's kingship will signal a new era of Israel's Davidic kings, and David's descendant, Jesus of Nazareth, will establish an eternal kingship that will bring about mankind's salvation and the birth of a new age. Seven is the number of fullness, completion, and spiritual perfection. It is also possible that one son died young and his absence is reflection in the list in 1 Chronicles.

1 Samuel 16:11-12a ~ He then asked Jesse, "Are these all the sons you have?" Jesse replied, "There is still one left, the youngest; he is looking after the sheep [shepherding the sheep]." Samuel then said to Jesse, "Send for him, for we shall not sit down to eat until he arrives." 12 Jesse had him sent for; he had ruddy cheeks [word "cheeks" is not in the Hebrew or LXX texts], with fine eyes and an attractive appearance.
Question: This isn't the first time God will have a special love for a shepherd. What other men described as shepherds in salvation history had a special relationship with God?
Answer:

  1. Abel (Gen 4:4)
  2. Abraham (Gen 13:5; 24:34-35)
  3. Isaac (Gen 26:14)
  4. Jacob (Gen 30:32-43)
  5. Moses in Midian (Ex 3:1)
  6. David (1 Sam 16:11-19; 17:14-1)
  7. the Prophet Amos (Amos 1:1)
  8. Jesus the Lord (Ps 23:1; Jn 10:1-3, 11, 15, 17)

There is a connection between David "shepherding the sheep" and the way David will describe his God as shepherding the flock of His people (for example see Ps 23:1; 80:1). It will become a repeated image of the role of Israel's kings and priests as the good shepherds or failed shepherds of their people (1 Kng 22:17; 2 Chr 18:16; Jer 23:1-4; Ez 34:5, 8), and of the Messiah who the prophets promised will come to be the Shepherd of His people (Is 40:11; Ez 34:12, 23-24). This is one of the reoccurring symbolic images of the prophets. One of the most famous passages is from the 6th century BC prophet Ezekiel who lived four centuries after David: I shall raise up one shepherd, my servant David, and put him in charge of them to pasture them; he will pasture them and be their shepherd (Ex 34:23). See the chart on the symbolic images of the prophets.

Question: How will this same "shepherd" imagery be used in the New Testament to describe Jesus' role as the Redeemer-Messiah? See Mt 15:24; Jn 10:2-27; 21:16-17; Heb 13:20; 1 Pt 2:25; 5:4.
Answer:

Jesus identifies Himself as the Shepherd sent to find the "lost sheep" of His people. Those who belong to Him recognized His voice in the same way sheep recognize the voice of their shepherd. He shows His "sheep" the way to the sheepfold/heaven. The inspired writers of the New Testament epistles present Jesus as the divine Shepherd of the sheep by "the blood that sealed an eternal covenant" (Heb 13:20), and Chief Shepherd who seeks the lost who have "gone astray like sheep but who are returned to the Shepherd and guardian of your souls" (1 Pt 2:25) who will return to give the faithful sheep of His flock the crown of glory (1 Pt 5:4).

... he had ruddy cheeks [word "cheeks" is not in the Hebrew or LXX texts], with fine [beautiful] eyes and an attractive appearance.
The Hebrew word admoni, "red," (translated as "ruddy" in the above passage) can refer to the hair or the completion. According to Jewish tradition, David had auburn hair and blue eyes. The rabbis wrote that because of the ideal set by David, reddish-brown or auburn was considered the ideal hair color for men. David is also described as being attractive in 1 Samuel 16:18 and in 17:42-43 when David first encountered the Philistine warrior Goliath: When the Philistine looked David up and down, what he saw filled him with scorn, because David was only a lad, ruddy/red [admoni] and with an attractive appearance.(1) The Hebrew word to describe David's eyes is the same word used for the beauty of women in Scripture like Rebekah and Abigail (Gen 24:16; 1 Sam 25:3 )

1 Samuel 16:12b-13 ~ Yahweh said, "Get up and anoint him: he is the one!" 13 At this, Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him, surrounded by his brothers; and the Spirit of Yahweh seized on David from that day onwards. Samuel, for his part, set off and went to Ramah.
It is both significant and climatic that David's name is not mentioned until he receives God's Spirit. Is this when he is no longer is known by his Hebrew birth name but becomes David the "beloved" of God? The Spirit of Yahweh came upon David in the same way God's spirit came upon Saul (10:6, 10); however God's spirit came upon David immediately whereas Saul did not receive God's Spirit until the signs Samuel promise him were confirmed.

Question: How do the differences in their anointing experiences point to the difference between David and Saul from the beginning? See Saul's experience in 1 Sam 10:1-10.
Answer: God's Spirit came upon David immediately because he believed in the power of his anointing whereas Saul needed proof before God's Spirit came upon him.

Question: What does it mean when God's Spirit comes upon the one anointed?
Answer: The anointing and the resting of God's Spirit upon those persons was the way God gave His anointed representatives the means to carry out their commissioning.

David's elder brothers were passed over and he was chosen as God's anointed. The elder son being passed over in favor of the younger is a motif that is repeated often in Scripture.
Question: What are some other examples in the Bible where the younger brother was favored by God? Gen 4:1-2, 4-5; 18-19; 25:25-28; 28:10,13-15; 48:17-19; Ex 6:20.
Answer:

  1. Abel was favored over Cain.
  2. Isaac was favored over Ishmael.
  3. Jacob was chosen over Esau.
  4. Ephraim was ranked over Manasseh.
  5. Moses was chosen as the people's redeemer/lawgiver over Aaron.

God's choice of a younger son will also take place in David's family when his son Solomon will be chosen to succeed David instead of his older half-brother Adonijah. This motif is also part of Jesus' parable of the "Lost Son" (Prodigal Son) in Luke 15:11-32 which was a warning to the Old Covenant people who are God's "firstborn sons" (Ex 4:23) not to reject their "brothers" in the human family who are the lost Gentile "younger sons" because God will favor who He decides to favor in order to move forward His divine plan (see Agape Bible Study Luke Lesson 11 ).

Samuel anointed David but he did not announce to the family that David will one day be king of Israel; therefore the reason for David's anointing may not have been clear to his family. They may have assumed his anointing indicated the call to a prophetic ministry like Samuel's.(2) This may have been for David's protection as may be indicated by David's eldest brother Eliab's adverse reaction to David's presence in the Israelite camp in 17:28.

No one else in the Bible bears David's name. David (dvd) is not a proper name in Hebrew. Most scholars agree that in Hebrew dvd means "beloved." It has been suggested that this was not David's birth name and that his family gave him the nick-name "beloved" because of his sweet nature as a child. This is the first of three anointings for David:

  1. Anointed by Samuel (16:13).
  2. Anointed by the men of Judah to be king of Judah (2 Sam 2:4).
  3. Anointed by the elders of Israel to be king of the twelve tribes of Israel (2 Sam 5:3).

After anointing David, Samuel returns home to Ramah where he is the leader of a community of prophets (18:20).

1 Samuel 16:14-23 ~ The Young David Enters Saul's Service
14 Now the Spirit of Yahweh had withdrawn from Saul, and an evil spirit from Yahweh afflicted him with terrors. 15 Saul's servants said to him, "an evil spirit from God is undoubtedly the cause of your terrors. 16 Let our lord give the order, and your servants who wait on you will look for a skilled harpist; when the evil spirit from God comes over you, he will play and it will do you good." 17 Saul said to his attendants, "Find me, please, a man who plays well, and bring him to me." 18 One of the servants then spoke up and said, "I have seen one of the sons of Jesse the Bethlehemite: he is a skilled player, a brave man and a fighter, well spoken, good-looking and Yahweh is with him." 19 So Saul sent messengers to Jesse with the order, "Send me your son David who is with the sheep." 20 Jesse took five loaves, a skin of wine and a kid, and sent them to Saul by his son David. 21 David went to Saul and entered his service; Saul became very fond of him and David became his armor-bearer. 22 Saul then sent a message to Jesse, "Let David stay in my service since he has won my favor." 23 And whenever the spirit from God came over Saul, David would take a harp and play; Saul would then be soothed; it would do him good, and the evil spirit would leave him.

Question: As the Spirit of Yahweh descends upon David (16:13), what happens to Saul?
Answer: Saul feels the effects of the departure of God's Spirit and is "afflicted with terrors."

Later, humbly confessing his sins, David will write about the necessity of being blessed with God's Spirit to fulfill his destiny and will pray that he will not be deprived of God's Spirit like Saul: God, create in me a clean heart, renew within me a resolute spirit, do not thrust me away from your presence, do not take away from me your spirit of holiness. Give me back the joy of your salvation, sustain in me a generous spirit. I shall teach the wicked your paths, and sinners will return to you (Ps 51:10-11). Even though David knows that he has replaced Saul as God's anointed to be king of Israel, and despite Saul's future enmity toward him, David will remain loyal to Saul's kingship for as long as Saul lives. It is another aspect of David's good character.

... an evil spirit from Yahweh afflicted him with terrors. God is holy and therefore to afflict Saul with an evil spirit is contrary to God's nature (Wis 15:11-20), but because everything is attributed to God's cause, the spirit that God allowed to bring Saul discomfort and which replaced God's divine Spirit is also attributed to God. God allows it because it will be part of the formation of God's divine plan. Realizing he has been rejected by God and deserted by Samuel, Saul suffers attacks of "madness." The illness that tormented him was probably episodes of severe mental depression that incapacitated Saul to the point of not being able to perform his duties as Israel's king.

1 Samuel 17:17-18 ~ Saul said to his attendants, "Find me, please, a man who plays well, and bring him to me." 18 One of the servants then spoke up and said, "I have seen one of the sons of Jesse the Bethlehemite: he is a skilled player, a brave man and a fighter, well spoken, good-looking and Yahweh is with him."
Question: When Saul requests a musician, one of Saul's courtiers suggested David of Bethlehem. How did the man describe David's attributes?
Answer: He described David as a skilled musician, brave, well spoken, good looking, and one blessed by Yahweh.

The courtier's knowledge of David's bravery was not from serving in the army but could have come from hearing about David's exploits in defending his father's flocks against lions and bears, perhaps from David's older brothers (17:34-36). It is also possible that the courtier is describing David's credentials as the son from a ruling family whose father was a warrior as in the case of Saul and Kish in 9:1-2. In any event, the courtier describes David as the ideal young man from a good family who is favored by God.

 

1 Samuel 16:19-20 ~ 19 So Saul sent messengers to Jesse with the order, "Send me your son David who is with the sheep." 20 Jesse took five loaves, a skin of wine and a kid, and sent them to Saul by his son David.
Jesse obediently sent his youngest son to Saul's court with a gift to curry the king's favor and express his loyalty. Saul's fondness for David at this point may not have been for David personally but for the effect David's music had on calming Saul. Most Biblical scholars suggest that David played a lyre and not a harp. It is interesting that it has only been in modern times that music therapy has been recognized as a therapeutic treatment for the mentally distressed.

Scripture tells us that David composed music (2 Sam 1:17-27; 22:1-51; 1 Chr 16:7-42) and is believed to have written many of the psalms which bear as a title "psalm of David" (Ps 3-41, 51-70, 101, 103, 108-110, 122, 124, 131, 133, 139-144). The prophet Amos writes that David also invented musical instruments (Amos 6:5). When he is king, David will introduce musical instruments and choirs of Levites into the daily liturgy of worship (1 Chr 6:31; 23:5; chapter 25).

Question: How was it helpful to David's education in kingship to be part of Saul's court in this period of his youth?
Answer: David's period of service in Saul's court gave David the opportunity to experience the positives and negatives of court life and to observe the workings of the monarchy and politics in general. This period in his life was an apprenticeship that would later make him a better king who served as God's servant to the people.

1 Samuel 16:21-22 ~ David went to Saul and entered his service; Saul became very fond of him and David became his armor-bearer. 22 Saul then sent a message to Jesse, "Let David stay in my service since he has won my favor."
Saul not only appointed David his court musician but also appointed David to be his weapons carrier. This probably does not mean that David accompanied Saul into battle but it may have been an honorary position designating him the king's official servant and which made David eligible to be housed and have his meals provided at court. That Saul wrote to David's father requesting that David be allowed to stay at court suggests that David was only in his teens, younger than the required 20 years old to be a warrior and therefore too young to be conscripted into the army (Num 1:20, 22, 24, 26, etc.; 1 Sam 14:52). That this is the case is also supported by Saul's statement in 17:33. David apparently continued to commute the ten to miles between Bethlehem and Saul's fortress at Gibeah (17:15). The letter to Jesse is one of the only times Saul will use David's name. Later as his enmity to David grows, Saul will refer to David only as "Jesse's son."

Chapter 17: David and Goliath

 

No Anakim were left in the territory of the Israelites, except at Gaza, Bath and Ashdod.
Joshua 11:22

 

Chapter 17 contains what many Bible scholars consider several inconsistencies in the narrative. The first problem is that the Hebrew Massoretic text does not agree with the LXX (Septuagint) which is shorter; lacking verses 17:12-31, 41, 48b, 50, 55-58. Some scholars suggest the Hebrew text has woven together from two different narratives of different sources. Other scholars suggest the Massoretic text reflects a deliberate literary expansion of the narrative, and still others suggest the passages were dropped from the LXX because of the perceived inconsistencies. However, 1 Samuel 17:15 links chapters 16 and 17, providing an answer to some of the perceived inconsistencies by giving the information that David went back and forth between serving as Saul's servant/court musician and working for his father Jesse in Bethlehem.

1 Samuel 17:1-7 ~ The Philistine Champion Goliath
1 The Philistines mustered their troops for war; they assembled at Socoh in Judah and pitched camp between Socoh and Azekah, in Ephes-Dammim. 2 Saul and the Israelites also mustered, pitched camp in the Valley of the Terebinth [Elah], and drew up their battle line opposite the Philistines. 3 The Philistines occupied the high ground on one side and the Israelites occupied the high ground on the other side, with the valley between them. 4 A champion stepped out from the Philistine ranks; his name was Goliath, from Gath; he was six cubits and one span tall. 5 On his head was a bronze helmet and he wore a breastplate of scale-armor; the breastplate weighed five thousand shekels of bronze. 6 He had bronze greaves on his legs and a bronze scimitar slung across his shoulders. 7 The shaft of his spear was like a weaver's beam, and the head of his spear weighed six hundred shekels of iron. A shield bearer walked in front of him.

Saul has left his fortress at Gibeah to prepare for war with the Philistines. The Philistines are encamped at Ephes-dammin between Scoch and Azekah. The men of Israel are encamped on a hill in the Valley of Elah ( elah in Hebrew means "terebinth," a type of large tree that grows in the lowlands). The towns of Socoh and Azekah are listed as lowland towns of Judah in the Book of Joshua (Josh 15:35). The Philistines probably also have possession of the fortress of Azekah, a few miles northwest of Socoh which controls the main road across the valley where the Israelites are camped (Josh 15:35). The Israelite camp is about four miles northeast of Socoh. The Israelite and Philistine armies are across from each other with the Philistines occupying the high ground. The valley is south and parallel to the Valley of Sorek that lies between the Philistine towns of Ashkelon and Gaza. The location is in the Shephelah lowlands in the tribal lands of Judah, fourteen miles west of Bethlehem. The Valley of Elath is the natural point of entry from Philistine territory into the hill country controlled by Saul's kingdom.

1 Samuel 17:4 ~ A champion stepped out from the Philistine ranks; his name was Goliath, from Gath; he was six cubits and one span tall.
Goliath is from the city of Gath, one of the five Philistine city-states located on the coastal plain in southern Canaan (Josh 13:3). He is one of two men named Goliath in the Book of Samuel. The other is also a giant man from Gath that the Israelites encountered many years later when David is king of Israel, perhaps a son of the first Goliath (2 Sam 22:19). Gath, like Gaza and Ashdod, is one of the remaining homes to a race of giant people known as the Anakim whose inherited DNA may have been the cause of Goliath's great size (see Num 13:22, 28, 33; Dt 1:28; 2:10-11, 21; 9:2; Josh 11:21-22; 14:12, 15; 15:13-24; Judg 1:20; 2 Sam 21:22).According to the Hebrew text, Goliath's height of six cubits and a span would have been about nine feet nine inches (or c. three meters).(3)However, the Septuagint reduces Goliath's height to a little over six feet. The number six is the symbolic number in Scripture for man, especially man in rebellion against God (see the document "The Significance of Numbers in Scripture").

1 Samuel 17:5-7 ~ On his head was a bronze helmet and he wore a breastplate of scale-armor; the breastplate weighed five thousand shekels of bronze. 6 He had bronze greaves on his legs and a bronze scimitar slung across his shoulders. 7 The shaft of his spear was like a weaver's beam, and the head of his spear weighed six hundred shekels of iron. A shield bearer walked in front of him.
Goliath is not a Semitic name but is believed to be Anatolian or Aegean. His battle equipment, some of which is similar to the equipment worn by the Greek/Aegean warriors in Homer's Iliad, included a helmet, body armor, greaves, a sword (all made of bronze), a spear with an iron spear point and a shield. It is interesting that only Goliath's spear is made of iron. Perhaps the Philistines had not yet developed the technology of tempering the iron that kept long, flat pieces of iron from being too brittle. Tsumura notes that the information that most of Goliath's weapons and equipment was of bronze and only his spear point was made of iron fits the period of the mid to late 11th century BC where iron was still newly available and relatively costly (The Book of First Samuel, page 444).

Goliath's helmet did not resembled the typical bronze helmet worn by King Menelaus in the Iliad but was more like the Hittite helmets that fit like a cap with no forehead and nose guards as the foreign (possibly Hittite) word for "helmet"(koba) suggests. Goliath did wear the typical Greek greaves, armor plates that are lined with leather or felt and worn to protect the shins of each leg.(4) The shaft of Goliath's spear that is compared to a "weaver's beam" is either the size of the bar to which the warp is fastened in a large loom or the shaft carrying the strings for separating the threads of the warp. The head of his spear weighed six hundred shekels of iron, about 15 pounds or 7 kg (Jewish Study Bible, page 593 note 7).

Goliath's breastplate, or more literally his scale armor, weighed about 130 pounds or 60 kg, and it was not Greek. The Greeks wore chest armor made of a thin, molded solid sheet of bronze. Scale armor was made of small interlocking pieces of metal (indicated by the Hebrew word qasqassim = scales). The metal scales were fashioned into shirt that fit over the head, rested on the shoulders and covered the front and back of the warrior. The front and back pieces were attached at the sides with leather straps and in some cases at the shoulders. It was developed by either the Egyptians or by the Hittites; examples are depicted on Egyptian reliefs such as the 10th century BC relief of Pharaoh Shishak/Shoshenq (945-924 BC). The Philistines had evidently abandoned the Greek breastplate armor and adopted the more efficient scale armor of the region. Goliath's shied was not the small, round shield used by the Israelites (magen) but was a large, standing shield that covered the entire body (sinnah). Finally, a bronze sword or curved scimitar completed his combat equipment. The detailed description of Goliath and his weaponry is meant to impress upon the reader the impossibility of defeating Goliath who is covered from head to toe in bronze with the exception of his face.

1 Samuel 17:8-11 ~ Goliath Challenges the Israelite Army to Individual Combat
8 Taking position in front of the Israelite lines, he shouted, "Why have you come out to range yourselves for battle? Am I not a Philistine and are you not Saul's lackeys? Choose a man and let him come down to me. 9 If he can fight it out with me and kill me, we will be your servants; but if I can beat him and kill him, you become our servants and serve us." 10 The Philistine then said, "I challenge the ranks of Israel today. Give me a man and we will fight it out!" 11 When Saul and all Israel heard what the Philistine said, they were dismayed and terrified.

This kind of individual combat representing opposing armies is not documented in the literature in the ancient Near East other than the Bible. However, the challenge of individual combat between opposing army's champions is recorded in Greek literature especially in the Iliad where the Greeks challenged the Trojans to individual combat.(5) You may recall that the Philistines originated from the region of the Greek isles of the Aegean.(6) Goliath taunts the Israelites and makes the offer that the victor in mortal combat will win victory for his entire army. It is an offer the Philistines are confident they will not have to keep, and no warrior on the Israelite side is brave enough to face Goliath in combat.

1 Samuel 17:12-19 ~ Jesse sends David with Provisions to the Israelite Camp
12 David was the son of an Ephrathite from Bethlehem of Judah whose name was Jesse; Jesse had eight sons and, by Saul's time, he was old and well on in years. 13 Jesse's eldest three sons followed Saul to the war. The names of the three sons who went to the war were: the eldest Eliab, the second Abinadab and the third Shummah. 14 David was the youngest; the eldest three followed Saul. 15 David alternated between serving Saul and looking after his father's sheep at Bethlehem. 16 Morning and evening, the Philistine advanced, presenting himself thus for forty days. 17 Jesse said to his son David, "Take your brothers this ephah of roasted grain and these ten loaves, and hurry to the camp, to your brothers. 18 And take these ten chesses to their commanding officer; find out how your brothers are and bring some token back from them; 19 they are with Saul and all the men of Israel in the valley of the Terebinth, fighting the Philistines."

For the first time we are told that Jesse is from the clan of Ephratha. It is the clan of Judah that settled in Bethlehem, and it is the clan of Naomi and Boaz of the Book of Ruth (Rt 1:2; 4:11; Mic 5:1). Jesse's three eldest sons (see 16:6-9) are now serving in Saul's army. In verse 12 we are reminded that David is the eighth son of Jesse (see 16:10-11). David is too young to join the army like his brothers, but before Saul and the army left for the renewed war with the Philistines David was traveling ten miles from Bethlehem to Gibeah to serve as Saul's court musician and then returning to Bethlehem to continue caring for his elderly father's sheep. At Saul's camp, a Philistine warrior has been challenging the Israelites to individual combat.
Question: For how many days had Goliath harangued the Israelites with his taunts?
Answer: For forty days.

Forty is one to the significant numbers in Scripture. This number is recognized as an important number both on account of the frequency of its occurrence and the uniformity of its association as a time of consecration as well as a period of trial: for example forty days of continuous rain in the Great Flood, Moses' two forty-day periods on the mountain at Sinai, Jesus' forty days in the wilderness prior to His temptation; forty days between Jesus crucifixion and His Ascension; etc. (see "The Significance of Numbers in Scripture").

1 Samuel 17:17-19 ~ Jesse said to his son David, "Take your brothers this ephah of roasted grain and these ten loaves, and hurry to the camp, to your brothers. 18 And take these ten chesses to their commanding officer; find out how your brothers are and bring some token back from them; 19 they are with Saul and all the men of Israel in the valley of the Terebinth, fighting the Philistines."
Jesse is concerned for the welfare of his eldest sons and arranges to have David deliver supplies for them and a gift for their commander. An ephah is about half a bushel. Roasted grain was cooked in a pan and could be stored for a long time. It was a good food supply for the common people and for warriors in the field (also see Lev 23:14; Ruth 2:14; 1 Sam 25:18; 2 Sam 17:28).

Question: Why does Jesse tell David to bring back "some token" from each of his brothers?
Answer: Jesse is asking David to determine proof of life. Either he will find his brothers alive and bring some item of theirs back as proof they are still living or he will have to find their bodies on the battle field and bring proof to their father that they are dead.

1 Samuel 17:20-31 ~ David Arrives in the Israelite Camp
20 David got up early in the morning and, leaving the sheep with someone to guard them, took up his load and went off as Jesse had ordered; he reached the encampment just as the troops were leaving to take up battle stations and shouting the war cry. 21 Israel and the Philistines drew up their lines facing one another. 22 David left his bundle in charge of the baggage guard and, running to the battle-line, went and asked his brothers how they were. 23 While he was talking to them, the champion (Goliath, the Philistine from Gath), came up from the Philistine ranks and made his usual speech, which David heard. 24 As soon as the Israelites saw this man, they all ran away from him and were terrified. 25 The Israelites said, "You saw that man who just came up? He comes to challenge Israel. The king will lavish riches on the man who kills him, he will give him his daughter in marriage and exempt his father's family from all taxes in Israel." 26 David asked the men who were standing near him, "What would be the reward for killing this Philistine and saving Israel from disgrace? Who is this uncircumcised Philistine, to challenge the armies of the living God?" 27 The people told him what they had been saying, "That would be the reward for killing him," they said. 28 His eldest brother Eliab heard David talking to the men and grew angry with him. "Why have you come down here?" he said, "Whom have you left in charge of those few sheep in the desert? I know how impudent and artful you are; you have come to watch the battle!" 29 David retorted, "What have I done? May I not even speak?" 30 And he turned away from him to someone else and asked the same question, to which the people replied as before. 31 David's words were noted, however, and reported to Saul, who sent for him.

Since Saul has moved out of the court at Gibeah and has resumed the war against the Philistines, it may be some time since he has last seen David who has returned to Bethlehem to resume his duties as the shepherd of his father's flocks. In 17:17-18 David's father gave him two commands: to take provisions to the camp and to check on the condition of his brothers.
Question: What three things does David do to show that he is a dutiful and responsible son?
Answer:

  1. He arranges to have someone watch his father's sheep.
  2. He takes the supplies to the Israelite camp and leaves them with the guard.
  3. He immediately looks for his brothers so he can report to his father on their condition.

Notice that David's family does not have servants to help with such duties. It is another indication that David's family is not wealthy. Jesse is sending provisions for his sons who have been living in the military camp for at least forty days as well as a gift to curry favor for them with their commanding officer. When David arrives in camp the armies are aligned in battle formation across from each other in the valley and so David entrusts his supplies to the guards and hurries to the battlefield to see his brothers. There David hears Goliath's taunts and challenge to Israel. The key word in this part of the narrative concerning Goliath is the word "challenge" or "defy" (hrp pronounced charaph) that is repeated five times in verses 17:10; 25, 26, 36, and 45. Goliath is not only challenging Israel but he is defying Israel's God!

When David hears the reward Saul is offering for the man who kills the Philistine champion, he is very interested and asks several different people to be sure the information is correct.
Question: How many times does David inquire about the reward?
Answer: He is told about the reward in verse 25 and then he inquires again in verses 26 and 30.

Some commentators have criticized David's interest in the reward, but it would be foolish for David not to be interested in what could mean his father would be free from all taxes for the rest of his life and that David could secure a good marriage that would increase the honor of his family. Marriage only for love was not a concept in ancient times. But it is more likely that David is just trying to verify the amazing offer because later he will turn down the invitation to make a royal marriage twice (18:18, 23), and he will not demand to collect a royal bride as the offered payment for killing the Philistine champion. David also announces that he is outraged that the Philistine is disparaging his God (17:26b).

1 Samuel 17:28-29 ~ 28 His eldest brother Eliab heard David talking to the men and grew angry with him. "Why have you come down here?" he said, "Whom have you left in charge of those few sheep in the desert? I know how impudent and artful you are; you have come to watch the battle!" 29 David retorted, "What have I done? May I not even speak?"
This is an interesting exchange between David and his eldest brother. Eliab, who is probably about ten years older than David, is annoyed with his little brother's conduct. He evidently believes David has come to the camp without their father's permission just to view the battle. David is not intimidated by his brother but defends his actions asking what has he done to offend him and can't he express his opinion on such an important matter? That David is not afraid to challenge his elder brother who is supposed to have authority over him as the "firstborn" is probably why Eliab accuses him of impudence.

1 Samuel 17:30 ~ David's words were noted, however, and reported to Saul, who sent for him.
It is unclear why David's comments should have caused him to be taken to Saul, but it is evidently because he is the only man who has expressed interest in the reward.

1 Samuel 17:32-39 ~ David Volunteers to Accept Goliath's Challenge
32 David said to Saul, "Let no one be discouraged on his account; your servant will go and fight this Philistine." 33 Saul said to David, "You cannot go and fight the Philistine; you are only a boy and he has been a warrior since his youth." 34 David said to Saul, "Your servant used to look after the sheep for his father and whenever a lion or a bear came and took a sheep from the flock, 35 I used to follow it up, lay into it and snatch the sheep out of its jaws. If it turned on me, I would seize it by the beard and batter it to death. 36 Your servant has killed both lion and bear, and this uncircumcised Philistine will end up like one of them for having challenged the armies of the living God." 37 "Yahweh," David went on, "who delivered me from the claws of lion and bear, will deliver me from the clutches of this Philistine." Then Saul said to David, "Go, and Yahweh be with you!" 38 Saul dressed David in his own armor; he put a bronze helmet on his head, dressed him in a breastplate 39 and buckled his own sword over David's armor. David tried to walk but, not being used to them, said to Saul, "I cannot walk in these; I am not used to them." So they took them off again.

David bravely announces his willingness to kill the Philistine champion. Saul protests that David is just a boy without any training as a soldier.
Question: What fighting credentials does David give?
Answer: David says that he has killed both lions and bears with his bare hands defending his father's flock, and then David expresses the confidence that if God can deliver him from wild beasts that He will also deliver David from the Philistine.

It is interesting that David says he only kills the prey animals if they turned on him. If the prey animal releases the sheep, he lets it go. Like all truly great men, David does not equate mercy with weakness.

Question: Saul accepts David's offer to kill Goliath and generously dresses David in his own armor, but why does David refuse the offer?
Answer: The armor must have been a bad fit since David was not tall like his brother and like Saul, and he was not used to wearing armor. David also realizes that God's favor is a far greater protection than any man made protection.

1 Samuel 17:40-47 ~ David confronts Goliath
40 He took his stick in his hand, selected five smooth stones from the river bed and put them in his shepherd's bag, in his pouch; then, sling in hand, he walked towards the Philistine. 41 The Philistine, preceded by his shield-bearer, came nearer and nearer to David. 42 When the Philistine looked David up and down, what he saw filled him with scorn, because David was only a lad, with ruddy cheeks [the word cheeks is not in the text] and an attractive appearance. 43 The Philistine said to David, "Am I a dog for you to come after me with sticks?" And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. 44 The Philistine said to David, "Come over here and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and the wild beasts!" 45 David retorted to the Philistine, "You come to me with your sword, spear and scimitar, but I come to you in the name of Yahweh Sabaoth, God of the armies of Israel, whom you have challenged. 46 Today, Yahweh will deliver you into armies of Israel, whom you have challenged. Today, Yahweh will deliver you into my hand; I shall kill you, I shall cut off your head; today, I shall give your corpse and the corpses of the Philistine army to the birds of the air and the wild beasts, so that the while world may know that here is a God in Israel, 47 and this whole assembly know that Yahweh does not give victory by means of sword and spear; for Yahweh is lord of the battle and he will deliver you into our power." [..] = literal translation IBHE, vol. II, page 759.

Goliath's taunt concerning David's "stick" refers to his shepherd's staff (see Ps 23:4). His sling is his chief weapon. The armies are on the valley floor and are lined up in formation across from each other (17:48). David goes to the stream that flows through the valley and collects five smooth stones for his sling.
Question: Why does David select five stones? See 2 Sam 21:20-22.
Answer: There were four other huge men from Gath who were probably Goliath's kinsmen. David has a selected a stone to kill Goliath and four others in case Goliath's kinsman may attempt to attack him.

Question: Compare Goliath's weapons to David's sling and staff. Which warrior had the tactical advantage in weaponry, Goliath or David?
Answer: If you said Goliath, you would be wrong. Goliath, although better armed, only had short range weapons while David, with his sling and stone had the advantage of a long range weapon.

Question: David is not intimidated by his enemy. What does David tell the Philistine?
Answer: David tells him that it is David's God who will protect him and give him victory, using God's battle name "Yahweh Sabaoth."

Question: How many times does David use God's divine name in his response to Goliath?
Answer: David uses God's divine name four times in his defiant speech to Goliath (verses 45, 46, and 47 twice).

1 Samuel 17:48-54 ~ The Battle
48 No sooner had the Philistine started forward to confront David than David darted out of the lines and ran to meet the Philistine. 49 Putting his hand in his bag, he took out a stone, slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead; the stone penetrated his forehead and he fell face downward on the ground. 50 Thus David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone; he hit the Philistine and killed him, though he had no sword in his hand. 51 David ran and stood over the Philistine, seized his sword, pulled it from the scabbard, dispatched him and cut off his head. 52 When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled. The men of Israel and of Judah started forward, shouting their war cry, and pursued the Philistines as far as the approaches of Gath and the gates of Ekron. The Philistine dead lay all along the road from Shaaraim as far as Gath and Ekron. 53 Turning back from their ferocious pursuit of the Philistines, the Israelites plundered their camp. 54 And David took the Philistine's head and brought it to Jerusalem; his weapons, however, he put in his own tent.

David stuck Goliath on the only part of his body that was not covered. Writer Agatha Christie, who accompanied her archaeologist husband on a number of his digs, got to witness the advantage of the sling as a weapon first hand. She wrote: "Standing on the mound at Nimrud, I watched the local bird scarer, an old Arab with his handful of stones and his sling, defending the crops from the hordes of predatory birds. Seeing his accuracy of aim and the deadliness of his weapon, I suddenly realized for the first time that it was Goliath against whom the dice were loaded. David was in a superior position from the start; the man with a long distance weapon against the man who had none. Not so much the little fellow against the big one, as brains versus brawn."

Question: Agatha Christie made a good point, but David didn't just possess brains. What greater weapon did David have in defeating his enemy?
Answer: David possessed faith that his destiny was in God's hands! Faith in God was his greatest advantage.

Running up to the dead Philistine who was lying face down on the ground (verse 49), David pulled Goliath's sword from it scabbard that was hung on his back and cut off the Philistine's head.

1 Samuel 17:52-54 ~ When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled. The men of Israel and of Judah started forward, shouting their war cry, and pursued the Philistines as far as the approaches of Gath and the gates of Ekron. The Philistine dead lay all along the road from Shaaraim as far as Gath and Ekron. 53 Turning back from their ferocious pursuit of the Philistines, the Israelites plundered their camp.
Judah is mentioned because it is David's tribe and the largest fighting force of all the tribes. The Philistines are driven back to their cities of Gath and Ekron, but the Israelites again cease their pursuit of the enemy to return to plunder the Philistine camp.

1 Samuel 17:54 ~ And David took the Philistine's head and brought it to Jerusalem; his weapons, however, he put in his own tent.
This line is probably a scribal addition. Jerusalem is still a Canaanite city at this time. David will capture the city after he becomes king of Israel about ten years later in c. 1000 BC. At that time the head of Goliath may have been taken to Jerusalem then as a kind of relic. David kept Goliath's battle gear and weapons as trophies.

1 Samuel 17:55-58 ~ The Victorious David is Presented to King Saul
55 When Saul saw David going to engage the Philistine he said to Abner, the army commander, "Abner, whose son is that boy?" "On your life, O king," Abner replied, "I do not know." 56 The king said, "Find out whose son the lad is." 57 When David came back after killing the Philistine, Abner took him and brought him before Saul with the Philistine's head in his hand. 58 Saul asked him, "Whose son are you, young man?" David replied, "The son of your servant Jesse of Bethlehem."

Abner is Saul's cousin and chief military commander. It is not surprising that Saul did not recognize the young musician who had been performing at his court. Servants were considered to be nearly invisible. Saul was "fond" of David (16:21), but it may have been that Saul was fond of the calming music and not necessarily the servant musician. We also do not know how much time had elapsed since Saul last saw David. Young men of his age can grow and mature significantly in a year or two. Notice that David does not receive the reward he was told the victor would receive for killing the Philistine champion in 17:25, nor does David bring up the question of the reward. It is another of Saul's short comings that he does not seem to feel bound by his own vows if it isn't convenient. This won't be the first time Saul will renege on a promise to David.

Chapter 18: David joins Saul's Army

 

1 Samuel 18:1-5 ~ David and Jonathan
1 When David had finished talking to Saul, Jonathan felt an instant affection for David; Jonathan loved him like his very self; 2 Saul engaged him that very day and would not let him go home to his father. 3 Jonathan made a pact [covenant] with David, since he loved him like his very self; 4 Jonathan took off the cloak which he was wearing and gave it to David, and his armor too, even including his sword, his bow and his belt. 5 Wherever David was sent on a mission by Saul, he was successful, and Saul put him in command of the fighting men; all the people respected him and so did Saul's staff.

Jonathan is moved by David's courage and his love for God. This is the beginning of an enduring friendship. Since David cannot afford to purchase arms and perhaps because Jonathan's father has failed to keep the promise he made concerning the reward for killing Goliath, Jonathan takes it upon himself to adequately dress David for battle (Goliath's equipment would have been too large for David). He not only gives David his weapons but even gives David his princely cloak. Unknowingly Jonathan performs a significant act that points to David who is now God's anointed nagid, the prince elect/crown prince (see nagid in reference to David in 1 Sam 25:30; 2 Sam 5:2; 6:21; 7:8). That Saul will not allow David to leave and conscripts him into the army is evidence that David is now twenty years old, the age a young Israelite can become a warrior. His success as a warrior soon earns David his own command.

Question: In addition to Jonathan the crown prince, David's military success and his personal integrity has earned him the respect of what three groups of Israelites? See verse 5.
Answer: He has the respect of the other warriors, the people, and Saul's staff.

1 Samuel 18:6-16 ~ Saul's Jealousy of David
6 On their return, when David was coming back from killing the Philistine, the women came out of all the towns of Israel singing and dancing to meet King Saul, with tambourines, sistrums and cries of joy; 7 and as they danced the women sang: "Saul has killed his thousands, and David his tens of thousands." 8 Saul was very angry; the incident displeased him. "They have given David the tens of thousands," he said, "but me only the thousands; what more can he have except the throne?" 9 And Saul watched David jealously from that day onwards. 10 The following day, an evil spirit from God seized on Saul and he fell into a frenzy while he was indoors. David played the harp as on other occasions; Saul had a spear in his hand. 11 Saul brandished the spear; he said, "I will pin David to the wall!" David evaded him twice. 12 Saul feared David, since Yahweh was with him and had withdrawn from Saul. 13 So Saul removed him from his presence and appointed him commander of a thousand; he led the people on campaign. 14 In all his expeditions, David was successful and Yahweh was with him. 15 And Saul, seeing how very successful he was, was afraid of him. 16 All Israel and Judah loved David, however, since he was their leader on campaign.

Question: How is Saul's initial fondness and appreciation for David changing? Also see 15:28.
Answer: Saul's fondness for David is now transforming into jealousy over David's popularity with the soldiers and with the people. Saul is also beginning to suspect that David is the man God has chosen to replace him as Israel's king.

Saul's jealousy escalates into hatred, and the day after David's great victory Saul attempts to kill him (verses 10-11). After the attempt to kill David, Saul removes David from court. Saul promotes David, giving him the command of a thousand soldiers, and again David is successful in all his missions. The people love David, but Saul hates and fears him because while God's Spirit has left him it is obvious that God's Spirit is with David.

1 Samuel 18:17-25 ~ Saul Offers David his Daughter as a Wife
17 Saul said to David, "This is my elder daughter Merab; I shall give her to you in marriage; but you must serve me bravely and fight Yahweh's wars." Saul thought, "Better than strike the blow myself, let the Philistines do it!" 18 David replied to Saul, "Who am I and what is my lineage, and my father's family in Israel, for me to become the king's son-in-law?" 19 When the time came for Merab daughter of Saul to be given to David, she was given to Adriel of Meholah instead. 20 Now Michal daughter of Saul fell in love with David. When Saul heard this he was pleased. 21 He thought, "Yes, I shall give her to him; she can be the snare for him, so that the Philistines will get him." On two occasions, Saul told David, "Today, you shall be my son-in-law." 22 Saul gave instructions to his servants, "Have a private word with David and say, 'Look, the king is fond of you and all his servants love you, why not be the king's son-in-law?'" 23 Saul's servants repeated those words in David's ear, to which David replied, "Do you think that becoming the king's son-in-law is a trivial matter; I have neither wealth nor position." 24 Saul's servants then reported back, "This is what David said." 25 Saul replied, "Tell David this, 'The king desires no bride price except one hundred Philistine foreskins, in vengeance on the king's enemies.'" Saul was counting on getting David killed by the Philistines.

Question: What plan does Saul devise to kill David?
Answer: He offers his eldest daughter as a wife on the condition that David continuously engages the Philistine enemy.

Question: What is David's reply?
Answer: He humbly protests that he is not worthy to be the king's son-in-law because of his humble birth and declines the offer.

David is also probably hesitant because a royal bride was supposed to be David's reward for killing Goliath (17:25) and Saul did not fulfill that promise.
Question: What is the result of this new offer of a royal bride?
Answer: Saul continues to make the offer but then he gives Merab in marriage to another man.

1 Samuel 18:20-21 ~ Now Michal daughter of Saul fell in love with David. When Saul heard this he was pleased. 21 He thought, "Yes, I shall give her to him; she can be the snare for him, so that the Philistines will get him." On two occasions, Saul told David, "Today, you shall be my son-in-law."
Not even members of the royal family are immune from being drawn to the charismatic David. When Saul discovers that his younger daughter loves David, the crafty Saul decides to use her to arrange David's death. He urges David to accept but when David shows no interest (21b) Saul decides to use his servants to convince David to accept the match. Again David declines and protests his humble station and his inability to pay the bride price for a royal bride (verse 23). The status of a girl's family determined the bride price a prospective son-in-law was required to pay.

Question: What is Saul's plan to have David killed? See verse 25.
Answer: As a bride price Saul asks for a hundred foreskins of the enemy, what he considers an impossible quest that will result in David's death on the battlefield.

Question: What was the significance in demanding the foreskins of the Philistines as proof of the death of the enemy? See Gen 17:11-14; Lev 12:3.
Answer: The demand for the foreskins of the Philistines emphasizes the fact that the Philistines did not practice circumcision, a physical sign that demonstrated an Israelite male's entrance into the covenant with Yahweh from the time of Abraham. It was a command that was repeated in the law of the Sinai Covenant.

1 Samuel 18:26-30 ~ David's Marriage
26 When his servants repeated this to David, David thought it would be a fine thing to be the king's son-in-law. And no time was lost 27 before David got up to go, he and his men, and killed two hundred of the Philistines. David brought their foreskins back and counted them out before the king, so that he could be the king's son-in-law. Saul then gave him his daughter Michal in marriage. 28 Saul could not but see that Yahweh was with David, and that the whole House of Israel loved him; 29 Saul became more afraid of David than ever, and became his inveterate enemy. 30 The Philistine chief kept mounting their campaigns but, whenever they did so, David proved more successful than any of Saul's staff, consequently he gained great renown.

1 Samuel 18:27 ~ ... before David got up to go, he and his men, and killed two hundred of the Philistines. David agrees to the bride price and before the appointed time elapsed to submit the payment, David and his men more than provided the necessary price in Philistine foreskins by doubling the count and bringing back two hundred foreskins. Saul was caught in his own trap and had to approve of David's marriage to princess Michal.

1 Samuel 18:28-29 ~ Saul could not but see that Yahweh was with David, and that the whole House of Israel loved him; 29 Saul became more afraid of David than ever, and became his inveterate enemy. 30 The Philistine chief kept mounting their campaigns but, whenever they did so, David proved more successful than any of Saul's staff, consequently he gained great renown.
Now David is an even greater threat to Saul because he is a part of the royal family. David's popularity with the people continues to grow along with David's successes and Saul's jealousy and hatred for David.

Questions for reflection or group discussion:
Sin is an act that is contrary to reason that wounds man's nature, injures human fellowship, and separates man from unity of fellowship with God. Jealousy/envy is a sin that became a serious problem in Saul's life. At first the success of Jonathan became a source of Saul's jealousy, but later the source of Saul's jealousy transferred from Jonathan to the popular and skilled warrior David of Bethlehem. Jealousy is listed as one of the seven "capital sins" (see CCC 1866-67 and the chart on Virtues and Sins).

  1. Why does St. Paul list jealous/envy as a sin that is among the self-indulgent works of the flesh in Gal 5:19-21? Also see Rom 1:29-32.
  2. For what reason did the Cain kill Abel and for what reason did the chief priests want to put Jesus to death? See Gen 4:3-8; Mt 27:18.
  3. What is the root cause(s) of the sin of jealousy/envy?
  4. Have you had occasion to fall prey to this sin either as a participant or as a victim? What were the circumstances? How did you overcome the sin of jealousy?

Endnotes:

1. Many modern archaeologists concluded that David was only a legendary figure in Israel's history or he was a composite of several Israelite heroes. However, that theory was challenged in 1993. In 1993 archaeologists discovered a ninth century BC inscription from Tel Dan in northern Galilee. The inscription commemorated the victory of an Aramean king over the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. The thirteen partially preserved lines of early Aramaic, written in paleo-Hebrew script, mention both the "House of David" and the "king of Israel." The stela's discovery marked the first time the name David was found in any ancient inscription outside the Bible. After viewing the Tel Dan stele, epigrapher Andre Lemaire of the Sorbonne was examining a damaged section of the Moabite stele and discovered what he believes is another inscription mentioning the "House of David." This 34 line text commissioned by King Mesha of Moab has the earliest extra-Biblical reference to the God of the Israelites and details the accomplishments of King Mesha, including his rebellion against the armies of Israel that is also found in 2 Kings Chapter 3 during the reign of King Omri of Israel. The majority of archaeologists and Biblical historians now admit that David was a historical person in Israel's past and that he did indeed found a dynasty of kings.

2. David was considered a prophet by his people and is called a prophet by St. Peter in Acts 2:29-30. Also see Jesus' statement in Lk 20:41-44 referring to David's prophetic references to the Messiah.

3. A cubit was the distance from a man's elbow to the tip of the middle finger. A span was from the tip of the thumb to the tip of the little finger of a splayed hand. The tallest recorded person in modern times in the United States was eight feet eleven inches, and an Englishman named John Middleton who lived in the 17th century AD was recorded as being nine feet three inches tall. Unnatural tallness can also be caused by a pituitary gland disjunction.

4. The primary purpose of greaves is to protect the tibia, a bone very close to the skin that is extremely vulnerable to attack. A successful attack on the shin results in the leg being rendered useless, greatly hampering one's ability to maneuver in any way. Greaves were used to counteract this. Greaves usually contained a metal outside with leather or felt padding inside. The padding was particularly important because without it any blow would transfer directly from the metal plating to the shin, rendering the piece of armor almost useless. Greaves have been mentioned in many ancient Greek and Latin texts, including Hesiod's Shield of Heracles, Homer's Illid, and Virgil's Aeneid.

5. An example of individual combat between champions of armies is in the Iliad: Paris of Troy fought the Greek King Menelaus and Hector of Troy fought the Greek warrior Ajax in single combat (Homer, Illiad, 3.85-95; 7.66-91).

6. According to 1 Sam 21:11-16; 27:1; 29:9 and 1 Kng 2:39-40 all the rulers of the Philistine city of Gath were named Achish from the time of Saul to Solomon. It is a name which is very similar to the Greek word Achaean, a Greek people, while an eighth century Philistine ruler of Ashdod used the name Yamani, which may be a corruption of the Greek word Ionian, another Greek people. It appears that Philistine rulers used their Greek ethnic identity as a title. This also fits with the claim of Jer 47:4; Amos 9:7; and Zeph 2:4-6 that the Philistines were Kerethites, the Biblical word for Crete (also see Caphtor) who came to Canaan along with the other Greek "Sea Peoples" (Archaeology Study Bible, page 428).

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2014 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.

Catechism references for 1 Samuel Lesson 6 (* indicates Scripture is either quoted or paraphrased in the citation):

1 Sam 16:1, 12-13 (CCC 436*, 695*, 783*)