1 Samuel 16–20: David & Goliath

Read the Bible in 2023 ◊ Week 14: Tuesday

But Yahweh said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but Yahweh looks at the heart.”
1 Samuel 16:7 LSB

Tuesday’s Bible reading of 1 Samuel 16–20, introduces David, the eighth son of Jesse, Israel’s most famous king, and the man from whose lineage Messiah will be born. Two key events occur in these chapters: David is anointed by Samuel and David defeats Goliath.

In chapter 16, the Lord sends Samuel to Bethlehem to anoint the man who will replace Saul as king, and He reveals David as His choice.

Now it happened, when they entered, he looked at Eliab and thought, “Surely the anointed of Yahweh is before Him.” But Yahweh said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but Yahweh looks at the heart.”
Then Jesse called Abinadab and made him pass before Samuel. And he said, “Yahweh has not chosen this one either.” Next Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “Yahweh has not chosen this one either.” Thus Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel. But Samuel said to Jesse, “Yahweh has not chosen these.”
And Samuel said to Jesse, “Are these all the young men?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, and behold, he is shepherding the sheep.” Then Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him, for we will not turn around until he comes here.”
So he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, with beautiful eyes and a handsome appearance. And Yahweh said, “Arise, anoint him, for this is he.” Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of Yahweh came mightily upon David from that day forward. And Samuel arose and went to Ramah.
1 Samuel 16:6-13 LSB

David Tsumara notes that in verse 13:

“Here the name David (dāwīd) makes its debut in the Bible. Note that he has been kept anonymous until now: “Samuel . . . anointed him [= the youngest]” (v. 13a). The first mention of his name in connection with the onrush of the spirit of the Lord is significant and climatic. From now on, David’s entire life would have a special relationship with the Lord’s spirit (see 2 Sam. 23:2), while by contrast the spirit of the Lord would depart from Saul (v. 14).

“David is the only person of the Bible of that name.”1

In 1 Samuel 16:13-14 David’s anointing is juxtaposed with God’s Spirit departing from Saul.

Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of Yahweh came mightily upon David from that day forward. And Samuel arose and went to Ramah.
Now the Spirit of Yahweh departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from Yahweh terrorized him.
1 Samuel 16:13-14 LSB

David Howard writes verses 13-14,

“occur on either side of a major junction within the book of 1 Samuel: 1 Samuel 16:1-13 contains the story of David’s discovery and anointing by Samuel, while 16:14-23 tells of the beginning of Saul’s tormented life and the introduction of David into Saul’s court.”2

Howard states:

“The issue…directly faced here is that of the transfer of power from Israel’s first king, Saul, who has forfeited his kingship, to Israel’s second, king, David, who would become the standard for succeeding generations. This issue is the subject of most of 1 Samuel 13-31 in both its political and spiritual dimensions, but in these two verses the emphasis is upon the movements of the spirits and of Samuel, and they serve to emphasize and symbolize this transfer of power…

“The Spirit of YHWH’s [Yahweh’s] coming upon David was significant for him in two ways. First, it was a mighty empowerment, a sign of YHWH’s favor upon him. This came immediately after his anointing as king and served to legitimate his kingship at a time when Saul was still king.

“The OT speaks often of the Spirit of YHWH’s…coming upon individuals. It was usually for specific purposes, the common element being one of empowerment…

“The implication in most of the references to the Spirit is that it came upon individuals in this powerful way for limited time period to accomplish the specific purposes mentioned. Even though it is seldom mentioned as leaving any individual3 it came upon Samson and Saul several different times, implying that it had left them in some way in the interim periods.

“The second way in which the Spirit’s coming upon David in 16:13 was significant is that it was “from that day forth.” There are no references to its coming upon him again. Indeed, later we see that David feared its withdrawal (Ps 51:11 [13]), implying a more permanent of sustained empowerment, different from the usual pattern seen in the OT…

“The four movements in 1 Sam. 16:13-14, in addition to being significant by themselves and in paired relationships in each verse, also are significant as they are compared with each other across the boundaries of the verses. The movements of the figures here—YHWH’s Spirit, Samuel, the evil spirit—in relationship to each other effectively tell the story of the transfer of political and spiritual power from Saul to David. The transfer in the immediate context is related to empowerment by YHWH’s Spirit, but it is symbolic of the transfer of political power as well.”4

Howard also notes that after Samuel returns to Ramah, he “does not figure prominently at all”5 in 1 Samuel, and that verse 14 “introduces the only period of time when God directly sent an evil spirit to afflict someone.”6

Not only did the Yahweh’s Spirit depart from Saul, but an evil spirit from Yahweh terrorized him. Howard comments,

“Concerning the morality of God’s sending such a spirit upon individuals, the answer in brief is that it happened in response to their sin. With reference to Abimelech the evil spirit was “beween”…him and the Shechemites, and it was the cause of discord between them. Both parties had sinned (Judg. 9:1-9), and they deserved each other. In Saul’s case the evil spirit terrorized him after his offenses that led to his forfeiting the throne of Israel (1 Samuel 13, 15; see especially 15:23b).

“Concerning the nature of this spirit, it must be seen as more than a mere mental disturbance in Saul’s case. It certainly introduced the effects of mental disturbance but, coming immediately after the departure of YHWH’s Spirit, it must be seen as an active, external power. Some see a demon here, although it may have been more in the nature of a spirit of calamity or distress.”7

He lists eight times when God sent an evil spirit in consequence of sin. Once to Abimelech (Judges 9:23), and seven times to Saul (1 Samuel 16:14, 15, 16, 23a, 23b; 18:10; 19:9).8 Notice a majority of those times occur in 1 Samuel 16.

Joyce Baldwin is of the opinion that, “‘evil’ should be read in the sense of ‘injurous’ here.”9

“In the case of King Saul, it is important to note that signs of mental illness began to occur only after confrontation with Samuel over the question of obedience to the divine command. This suggests that his illness was due to his rebellion against God; certainly he was held responsible for his actions, and regarded himself as responsible (1 Sa. 24:16-21; 26:21)…

“The text does not suggest that Saul had already been constitu­tionally prone to some severe depressive illness, which might have mitigated his responsibility for his behavior.”10

As his servants see Saul being terrorized, they suggest a skilled musician to be brought in to play for him.

David’s life then becomes intertwined with Saul’s when he becomes Saul’s harpist.

Then one of the young men answered and said, “Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite who is a skillful musician, a mighty man of valor, a warrior, one who is understanding in speech, and man of fine form; and Yahweh is with him.”
1 Samuel 16:18 LSB

Saul is taken with David, and David begins to travel back and forth to Saul’s court, playing for him (2 Samuel 17:15).

In 2 Samuel 17, the scene changes to war with the Philistines. Goliath is their champion, who openly mocks Israel with his challenge of single combat for forty days. David hears it when sent by his father with supplies for his brothers.

Then David spoke to the men who were standing by him, saying, “What will be done for the man who strikes down this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should reproach the battle lines of the living God?”
1 Samuel 17:26 LSB

Saul hears of David and sends for him.

And David said to Saul, “Let no man’s heart fail on account of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.”
1 Samuel 17:32 LSB

Here is the advent of David, the fearless warrior. Tsumara writes:

“The story of David and Goliath is one of the best-known in the Bible and one of the classics of the world…This is, “in essence, a story of David trusting God and of God delivering David.” It is, “an outstanding example of the Lord’s power to give victory against dramatically overwhelming odds in response to faith and courage.” It has been thus one of the most fascinating and encouraging events, not only to the then minor power Israel but all to believers of God in a “post-modern” society.”11

David’s victory over Goliath in chapter 17, is the measure of David’s knowledge of God, his reliance on God, and his reverence for God.

The Philistine also said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the sky and the beasts of the field.”
Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of Yahweh of hosts, the God of the battle lines of Israel, whom you have reproached”

“This day Yahweh will deliver you up into my hands, and I will strike you down and remove your head from you. And I will give the dead bodies of the camp of the Philistines this day to the birds of the sky and the beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that Yahweh does not save by sword or by spear; for the battle is Yahweh’s, and He will give you into our hands.”
1 Samuel 17:44-47 LSB

From here on out, we will see God many times give David victory over his enemies, and rescue him from his foes.

David’s courage and triumph over Goliath and his ensuing victories over the Philistines bring him loyal love and bitter hatred. He is loved by Israel and Judah, and given lasting friendship by Jonathan, Saul’s son.

And David was prospering in all his ways, and Yahweh was with him. Then Saul saw that he was prospering greatly, so he dreaded him.
1 Samuel 18:14-15 LSB

Saul finds not only Jonathan, but his daughter, Michal, David’s wife, are loyal to David and help him. Saul’s envy over the adulation David receives gives birth to murderous hatred. Saul’s descent is horrible to see and is an example of what happens when envy is left unchecked. In fear of his life, David begins his years of evasion and hiding from Saul.

From those years of distress and deliverance, David will give us a great heritage of psalms that help and encourage us to trust God with all our fears, in all our times, and to worship and praise Him with all our heart.

David knew the battle is Yahweh’s. The story of David and Goliath, of “David trusting God and of God delivering David”, epitomizes David’s life. In the record of David’s life, and in the songs he left us, we have his witness to God.

Silvesterzug Laterne: Bk muc. (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Saul: Detail from a 1878 oil painting, David and Saul. Ernst Josephson. Public Domain.
David and GoliathJan van’t HoffGospel Images. 1 Samuel 17:49.
1,11David Toshio Tsumura, The First Book of Samuel (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids MI: 2007) 423-424, 434.
2,3,4,5,6,7,8David M. Howard Jr., “The transfer of power from Saul to David in 1 Sam 16:13-14,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 32.4 (Dec. 1989) 474; 475: “Except once, in the text under consideration here (1 Sam. 16:14), referring to Saul…Note also that YWHW himself left Samson when he cut his hair (Judg 16:20).”; 473-475, 477;  475; 477; 482; 482
9,10Joyce G. Baldwin, 1 and 2 Samuel (Inter-Varsity Press, Downers Grove IL: 1988) 122, 123.

I’m using Michael Coley’s Bible reading plan (one page PDF to print) to read through the Bible in 2023. Each day my posts are on different books because he divides Bible readings into seven categories, one for each day of the week: Epistles, The Law, History, Psalms, Poetry, Prophecy and Gospels. There’s more information on his plan and other ones at Read the Bible in 2023.

Copyright ©2021–2023 Iwana Carpenter

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s