In this section Saul continues to act as king and the transition to David as king begins. All this begins with YHWH’s idea to have Samuel invite Jesse of Bethlehem to a sacrifice in order to reveal one of his sons as the next anointed king. Unlike with the selection of Saul, the selection this time would be based on the heart. YHWH told Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For YHWH sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but YHWH looks on the heart” (1 Sam 16:7).
And thus YHWH would choose the youngest of eight sons. The world would choose the eldest and strongest sons, but the youngest son away keeping the sheep was YHWH’s choice. “The Spirit of YHWH rushed upon David from that day forward” (1 Sam 16:13). Anointing him was a prophetic sign that one day he would be king. This was a sign that would be a long time in coming to be fulfilled. Yet it began by the Spirit rushing upon David (1 Sam 16:13) and leaving Saul (1 Sam 16:14). It was this event that led David to be in Saul’s service.
Aside from being a shepherd, David was a musician. And when he played the lyre the evil spirit that tormented Saul would leave Saul and Saul would be refreshed. So David is taken in by Saul as his armor bearer and essentially as an adopted son. But in the next scene we discover that David would go back and forth from Saul to feed his elderly father’s sheep at Bethlehem. And Goliath taunted the army of Israel for 40 days when David returned to hear it.
The men of Israel said, “And the king will enrich the man who kills [Goliath] with great riches and will give him his daughter and make his father’s house free in Israel” (17:25). This is much like the prize that Othniel had won.
The whole story then plays into this theme of the transition of power to David. David is even clothed by Saul in Saul’s armor. He could not wear them (being better suited to a giant), but the event showed this transition theme just as the promise of marrying Saul’s daughter did.
David said that the defeat of Goliath would be a sign: “That all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that YHWH saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is YHWH’s, and He will give you into our hand” (1 Sam 17:46-47). The real hero of the story is not David, but YHWH. And David knows this.
This a recurring lesson in the prophetic books. One we have seen in Joshua, Judges, and Samuel (as well as Isaiah in sermons). The Battle is the Lord’s is a good theme for understanding evangelism too.
(1) David used a slingshot, which was supposed to be the weapon of choice of Benjaminites (but Saul is not willing to go face Goliath himself).
(2) David is the new Joseph. The instructions of Jacob to Joseph in Gen 37:12 are largely identical to those of Jesse to David. And how Joseph’s brothers treated him was imitated here as David’s brothers gave him a hard time.
(3) Goliath had become like an animal (lion or bear) or even a serpent (described as having armor like scales). Thus David is the true Adam who crushed the head of the serpent.
And then much like the earlier story about playing the lyre, Saul discovers (rediscovers) the name of David’s father – Jesse the Bethlehemite – and adopts David as his own son.
The text says, “the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. And Saul took him that day and would not let him return to his father’s house” (1 Sam 18:1-2). And we see further transitioning as David takes the place of Jonathan in inheriting the kingdom from Saul. Jonathan gives David his robe and his armor and even his sword and bow and belt.
The theme we saw earlier that YHWH was with Joshua but not with Saul is now YHWH was with David but not with Saul. “Saul was afraid of David because YHWH was with him but had departed from Saul…And David had success in all his undertakings, for YHWH was with him” (1 Sam 18:12, 14).
And the transition continues with David becoming the son-in-law of Saul. Saul gave the daughter that should have been David’s wife to another but another daughter loved David and Saul tried to use that against him.
Saul was purposely sending David out to fight the Philistines because he hoped that the Philistines would kill David so that Saul would not have to do so himself. For example, he required David pay a bride-price of 100 foreskins of the uncircumcised Philistines in order to marry Michal, Saul’s daughter. (The promise made regarding defeating Goliath was unpaid). Eventually though Saul then begins trying to kill David himself and Jonathan warns him.
Yet these chapters emphasize that everywhere David went he prospered – he acted wisely. Thus David is the new Joseph with the Spirit of God. And people fell in love with him – Jonathan and Michal among them but the people of Israel as a whole did as well.
One issue of contemporary “interpretation” needs to be confronted head on at some point. You need to know that the homosexual lobby argues that David and Jonathan were homosexual lovers.
The argument is not only an attempt to legitimate homosexual behavior but it is a slander against David and Jonathan. The author of Samuel is very open about David’s sins. This was not one of them. The text does not even hint at such behavior. But the lobby is not concerned with what the text says, they want to read into it such a relationship for their own goals.
So Saul is still in the picture at this point, but David is emerging. David joins the house of Saul. He marries into that house by marrying the daughter of Saul, Saul takes him on like an adopted son, and Jonathan becomes like a brother. And YHWH, who looks at the heart, is with David. Thus David will be the legitimate heir to the throne of Israel.