When David Met Samuel, Saul and then Goliath (BIG WORD: 1 Samuel 16-17)

If you know me in real life or have followed this blog for any length of time, you know that my family comes first. ALWAYS. I make lots of personal and professional goals; I set my deadlines, but when family interrupts, all those well-intentioned plans fall by the wayside in favor of my most important pursuits.

Part of me wants to apologize for this extremely late re-cap of last week’s Bible study. Most of me, however, shrugs and affirms that life happens. For the past week I have been knee-deep in life. And I’ll not ask forgiveness for that.

We had a great discussion last week! While diving into 1 Samuel 16-17, most people want to talk about the giant. Books and studies urge readers to identify their giants and then slaughter them with their own smooth stones. That’s a good angle, but BIG WORD took a slightly different approach. Instead of focusing on the battle, we focused on the relationships. We talked about Samuel’s relationship with Saul and his response to God rejecting Saul as king. We talked a lot about fear vs. trust and then about Saul’s relationship with David. You can dive deeper into the passage with the help of the homework.

Click here for the homework on Chapters 16-17.

As always, I’ll not touch on every question, just the points we discussed most in group. If I miss something important or if you have a question about anything, be sure to comment! I want to know what you think and what you’re getting out of this study of Scripture.

Samuel Mourns Saul’s Failure

Why did Samuel take Saul’s failure so personally. On more than one occasion the prophet verbalized  his disapproval of the monarchy and here, when he is finally proven right, he mourns. Why?

Well, consider the situation. Samuel had worked very closely with Saul for years. He loved him and wanted him to succeed! It’s never easy to watch a friend suffer consequences, especially when those consequences could have been avoided. Something else: Samuel very likely took ownership of the Saul’s success … or failure. He was his adviser. In a way, he was his mentor. If Saul failed, wouldn’t Samuel have blamed himself for not properly training him?

Fear vs. Trust

Once again we find the Israelites forgetting the power of their God and fearing the strength of their enemies. Does this sound like anyone you know? It sounds an awful lot like me … and just about everyone I know. We can so easily focus on what’s in front of us rather than remembering the Power that is behind us and in us.

Samuel feared Saul.

The people of Bethlehem feared Samuel.

Saul feared the Philistines and the opinions of his men.

The Israelites feared Goliath.

Because of all this fear, trust was misplaced.

Samuel placed his trust in a less-than-forthcoming excuse.

The Philistines placed their trust in Goliath.

Saul placed his trust in the strength of  men and the enticing bribe he offered them. (The incentive for fighting Goliath included riches, a life free from taxes, and the hand of Saul’s daughter.)

The Israelites, led by Saul, placed their trust in a courageous kid named David.

David, in contrast, placed his trust in God. He staked his life and the future of his people on his conviction that his God was greater and would defend them.

So the question begs: In whom do we place our trust?

If we, like David, place our trust in the only One worthy of being trusted, then we have nothing to fear. Fear dissipates in the face of faith. And faith in anything other than the one true and living God is misplaced. God has given us many promises — Romans 8:31; Ephesians 3:20-21; Psalm 118:6; Isaiah 41:10; 1 John 4:4 — upon which we may courageously stand. This doesn’t mean we’ll never be afraid. Only that, if God is for us, those against us have more to fear.

Meeting David

After the battle against Goliath, Saul inquires about David’s identity. This seems odd since David had previously been hired by the king to play the harp and sooth his evil spirits. They had worked together for some time and yet, at the end of chapter 17, he seems clueless. Why didn’t Saul know who David was?

We have a few theories on this.

Theory 1: These chapters may not be written chronologically. The fact that David’s family line is mentioned twice gives credence to this thought. Some scholars have rearranged the chapters to provide flashbacks to the narrative. They believe David fighting Goliath was the first encounter between he and King Saul and that after this, David was appointed the court musician.

There are a couple problems with this. First, none of the rest of First Samuel is told out of order, so how are we to ever be confident of an accurate timeline? Secondly, chapter 18, which we’ll dive into next time, states that David was immediately given a ranked position in the army. It just doesn’t jive that Saul would have a military commander audition as a palace harpist. In makes more sense to conclude that David was already the harpist and continued those duties even after being promoted.

Theory 2: Saul knew who David was, but needed to affirm his family line. Part of the champion’s reward was tax exemption for the warrior’s whole family. Saul needed to make sure it was possible and done. He may also have wondered if there were any more like David hiding somewhere back home.

Theory 3: Saul is simply a self-absorbed man who didn’t notice or care who was playing the harp for him. The Israelites had already been on the battlefield for at least 40 days. It is possible that much time had passed between the battle and the king’s last episode with the evil spirit.

Theory 4: David was only called to play for King Saul when the evil spirit assaulted him. It is possible and quite likely that Saul was not mentally present during those times and would not have recognized the boy soothing him.

We don’t know exactly why Saul nor Abner recognized David (my favorite theories, however, are #3 and #4). We do know that someone did recognize him: his brother, Eliab.

Eliab was the firstborn of Jesse. His response to David here may seem extreme, but consider what he has faced and lost. As the firstborn he was entitled to a double portion of his father’s land and inheritance, but all that – and even the future of his people – could be in jeopardy since his snotty-nosed kid brother was anointed by the prophet. Eliab was passed over and now that same little brother wants to prove himself even greater by fighting a giant.

Here, again, we see misplaced trust. Eliab trusted in his birthright to provide for him — to provide status and honor. He wasn’t willing to surrender that to his little brother, even if God told him to.

How old was David?

The question of David’s age rose more than once. According to Numbers 1:3 men must be 20 years old to enter the Israelite army. David was the last of eight sons, only the three eldest of whom had entered the battle. This seems to put David in his early to mid-teens. We know they had two sisters, as well, but are not informed of their birth order. They could have been older or younger than Dave.

Your Turn:

In what do you most often place your trust? When in a frightening situation, how can you change your perspective from fear of what is before you to trust in What is behind you?

Talk to me!

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