Week 11 – From Shepherd to King

Scripture Reading:  1 Samuel 16-18, 24, 31; 2 Samuel 6, 22; 1 Chronicles 17; Psalm 59

Significant Moments in The Story

David anointed by Samuel as the next king of Israel – 1 Samuel 16

David battles the Philistine warrior, Goliath – 1 Samuel 17

David spares the life of King Saul – 1 Samuel 24

The death of King Saul & Jonathan – 1 Samuel 31

David brings the ark of the covenant into Jerusalem – 2 Samuel 6

God promises to establish a lineage for David – 1 Chronicles 17

Key Themes

The will of God

Throughout this section of The Story, we see that God does not see and do things the way that man sees and does things.  Samuel was ready to anoint the first and oldest of Jesse’s sons as the new king; however, God says he has the youngest in mind instead.  The Israelites were fearful of facing Goliath because of his size and his armaments, which were the best one could possess.  However, David understood that human armaments were no match for the power of God conveyed in a slingshot and 1 stone.  As king, David determined he would build a house for God, as grand as the house that David lived in.  God sends Nathan to tell David that God doesn’t want or need a house; instead, he wants to be in the midst of His people. So often we assume that God thinks and acts the way that we would.  We forget that Scripture teaches us that God’s ways are not our ways.  God has a unique plan and purposes, which is why a relationship with Him is so important.  We invest our very lives in understanding and discerning the unique will of a unique God.

God our Deliverer

1 Samuel 17, 2 Samuel 22, and Psalm 59 are all expressions of God’s ability to deliver Israel and David from harm.  These stories serve as reminders that God’s will is not to oppose His people but to fight for His people.  Often times, when are in crisis or in a time of struggle, we assume that God is our enemy and our opponent.  It is not always easy to cry out that God is is “my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer” when the enemy seemingly is perched on our doorstep.  However, these stories remind us that God greatest desire is to be with us, and He will go to the greatest lengths to make that relationship possible.

The power of art

David has been associated with music and poetry through the Psalms for centuries.  We see him playing the lyre for King Saul to soothe him.  It reminds of something I heard this past weekend while attending the North Carolina Middle School State Honors Chorus concert.  The choir director asked the students to write 4 sentences about why they thought music was important.  The director shared that one student wrote, “Music is power.  The world is full of destructive power; music is power that does not destroy, but builds up and moves us.”

Background Information

Saul’s “evil” spirit – 1 Samuel 16:14

There are some who believe that the word here is better translated as a “troubling” spirit as opposed to an “evil” spirit. Many believe that this was the ancient way of describing one who suffered from mental illness.  Others wonder if this is just the biblical way of detailing Saul’s wrestling with the reality that the throne has been taken away from him even though he is still the king.

Jonathan and David – 1 Samuel 18:1-4

When we read that Jonathan gave David his robe and his armor and his weapons, we should see more than just a generous act of friendship.  Jonathan was the heir apparent to the throne of Saul.  However, remember that Samuel referenced the tearing of a robe as symbolic of the kingdom being torn from the hands of Saul and given into the hands of “his neighbor” (1 Samuel 15:28).  In this case, the giving of the robe may be symbolic of Jonathan willingly giving over his claim to the throne to David.

The recovery of Saul’s body – 1 Samuel 31:11-13

In 1 Samuel 11, the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead were being persecuted by Nahash the Ammonite, who agreed to make a peace treaty with them only he could gouge out the right eye of every citizen.  It was Saul who came to the defense of the citizens and defeated the Ammonites.  Now, the citizens of Jabesh-gilead repay Saul’s loyalty to them by refusing the allow his body and the bodies of his sons to be desecrated and humiliated by the Philistines.

Jerusalem – 2 Samuel 5 & 6

After he is named king by the Israelites, we are told that David captures the city of Jerusalem, which had been occupied by the Jebusites.  The indication of the text is that David took the city not with the armies of Israel but with his personal army that had formed around him as he ran from King Saul.  This explains how the city could come to be called “the city of David”, because he truly took possession of it himself.  The decision to make Jerusalem his capital was wise.  Since it had been previously occupied by the Jebusites, it had no connection to any particular region or tribe of Israel, making it a good neutral city.  In addition, the city relatively centrally located and easy to defend since it sat upon a hill.

The ark of the covenant – 2 Samuel 6

1 Samuel 4-7 describes how the ark of the covenant was captured in battle by the Philistines.  However, while they possessed the ark, the Philistines encountered many hardships, and so they voluntarily returned the ark to the Israelites.  For 20 years, the ark had been kept in a town called Kiriath-jearim (or Baale-judah).  The decision to move the ark to Jerusalem was important for several reasons.  First, it established Jerusalem as the political and religious center of Israel.  Second, it was a statement that the kingship could serve Israel’s faith and not oppose it, as Samuel had suggested when Israel first asked for a king.  Third, it established this newly established kingdom of Israel as the successor to the Israel of the wilderness and the Israel of Joshua and Judges.  In essence, it was now understood that the king was responsible for protecting the sacred institutions of the past.  Finally, it was another way of distancing David from Saul.  Whereas Saul kept the ark (and, therefore, the presence of God) at a distance, David brings the ark into the heart of his kingdom and reign.

Psalm 59

Often times, we read the psalms without considering their context.  In this case, this Psalm is associated with the period when David was being hunted down by King Saul.  From that standpoint, it should be read between reading 1 Samuel 18 and 1 Samuel 24.

There is some question as to whether or not all of the Psalms attributed to David were actually written by David.  However, what is more significant is that this psalm is intended to convey David’s feelings and faith in the circumstances which he encountered in life.  Therefore, it is appropriate to read it in that context as well as reading it in the context of a general prayer for God’s help in the face of overwhelming odds.

Some Questions That Might Come Up

How come King Saul has no idea who David is in 1 Samuel 17:55-58?  

The story of David and Goliath is one of the stories that is so well-known, yet upon reading it we are struck by some unusual circumstances in the text.  For one thing, 2 Samuel 21:19 tells us that Goliath of Gath was slain at a later time by one of David’s warriors, Elhanan.  1 Chronicles 20:5 says that Elhanan killed Goliath’s brother.  These three passages, when put together, raise the question of whether David himself killed Goliath or whether he killed another Philistine champion who was later mistakenly identified as Goliath of Gath.

A second oddity of the text is how Saul suddenly has no idea who David is at the end of the story.  In chapter 16, we were told that David played the lyre for Saul and became his armor bearer.  In 1 Samuel 17:15, we are told that David traveled back and forth between Saul and his father’s sheep.  And yet, in 1 Samuel 17:55-58, Saul has no idea who David is.

These textual oddities have caused many to wonder if the story of David and Goliath is actually a combination of several different stories about David’s rise to prominence that were combined together to make this one narrative.

Additional Resources