In my last post, in 1st Samuel 16, we saw young David, son of Yishai (Jesse) anointed by Samuel, but the narrator is careful NOT to say that David was anointed “king over Israel.” It was probably not entirely clear to David’s family (and whoever else was in attendance) just what this anointing ceremony was intended to accomplish. There is no hint that anyone but Samuel (and God who sent him) knew what an enormous event had just transpired.
It is interesting that while many Bible characters often share one name, we don’t ever see the name David duplicated. In Hebrew it is Dawid, but because it is an unusual name, the Sages don’t entirely agree on its meaning. The one most generally agreed upon is that it means, “beloved.”
What’s essential for us to grasp in our time is that no ancient artifact bearing the name David had ever been found in Israel, but somewhat recently there have been a couple of finds that does refer to him. Probably the most important one is known as the Victory Stele that was uncovered in Tel Dan (the far north of Israel) that speaks very plainly of the “house of David.”
Some have tried to claim that this might be referring to another and different “house of David” but not the David of the Bible (or better, David’s dynasty). But a rather implausible stretch because David was such a rare name in Israel and the stele specifically refers to Israel, Judah, and speaks of the “house of David” as being the royal house. It can be no other than the Biblical King David.
We find that the Bible spoke of 3 separate occasions when David was anointed: the first time was here when Samuel anointed him as nagid, king in waiting. Although the passage (verse 13) where the anointing happens, it doesn’t explicitly say “king in waiting,” it is made evident earlier in verse 1 that Samuel was sent to the family of Jesse in Bethlehem to do just that.
The second anointing would be performed by the leaders of Judah for David “to be a king over the House of Judah,” and is recorded in 2nd Samuel 2:4.
The third time he would be anointed by the elders of Israel to be a “king over Israel” is recorded in 2nd Samuel 5:3. A king over Judah and a king over Israel are by no means the same thing.
I make this point at this time because while the Bible contains many mysteries, the reasons that some things happened as they did are quite apparent and we don’t have to wonder. We have learned enough about the history and regional politics of that era to see that now was NOT the moment for Samuel to announce David as the new king (because Saul was still firmly entrenched on the throne and he had the full backing of the northern tribes).
Further that since the Israelites’ loyalties were divided between the northern tribes led by Ephraim (and their king was Saul), and the southern tribes led by Judah (who only tacitly acknowledged Saul). It was completely logical that David’s own tribe (Judah) would be the first to accept him as their king wholeheartedly.
Only after David was king of the south (King of Judah) was he in any position to consolidate his power, but first King Saul had to die so that the throne became vacant and a power struggle over the leadership of the northern tribes would ensue. In this way, under David, the north and the south would become united into one sovereign nation called Israel.
Thus when in 2nd Samuel 5:3 we read that David was anointed by the elders of Israel to be king over Israel. What that meant was that David was accepted by the leaders of the northern tribes who had formerly given their loyalty to Saul (David had already been anointed some time earlier by the southern tribes).
And this is why we’ll find that David immediately knew that he had to search for a neutral site for a capital city (which turned out to be Jerusalem). Otherwise, he’d be seen as favoring one tribal coalition over the other, and he wouldn’t be viewed as the legitimate and even-handed king over ALL the 12 tribes.
We also need to go forward in the all-important context that the Spirit of God had departed from King Saul. And this Holy Spirit was not only the source of power and enlightenment for God’s earthly governor it was also the spirit of a sound mind.
Thus we read that since God’s Spirit had left Saul, it was instantly replaced with another kind of Spirit that caused evil to befall the king. And the principle that we see so clearly on display here is that there is no such thing as a human whose soul is not occupied with a supernatural spiritual influence.
This supernatural power is either going to be for good or for evil; this influence will either cause good to flow or evil to run amok (there is no middle ground). In turn, we’re informed that the Holy Spirit of good that was taken from Saul now fell upon David. Let’s pick up at verse 13.
Read 1 Samuel 16:13-23
The effects of the Lord departing from Saul, and of the spiritual influence that caused evil to replace it was physically evident and observable and those who were closest to him couldn’t help but notice. It is interesting that the one who seemed to be oblivious to the effects of it all was Saul himself. Oh, he no doubts recognized when he was feeling unusually agitated, melancholy, depressed, and irrationally angry but he didn’t seem to know why.
Just as he never could seem to make the leap of faith by connecting the presence of God with his behavior and decisions and thus creating a personal relationship with the Lord, but now he couldn’t seem to make the connection between his emotional and intellectual deterioration and the absence of God.
But (terrifying as it is for us to contemplate) in some ways whether he realized it or not, or finally made that connection or not, it no longer mattered; his earthly and eternal future had already been set in stone. His name had been removed from the Book of Life. God judged him with the result that Saul would forever remain cut-off from Yehoveh.
All that was left was for him was some earthly salve to be applied to Saul’s tormented mind to give him some relief, and his closest advisors suggested that music might be good medicine.
Most Bibles (such as the CJB) will translate the Hebrew word ebed as servants, but in this context, it is not referring to menial laborers who suggested the prescription of music, but to his royal court. Why music? It was a combination of a superstition and an observed reality that indeed music has an inherent quality that “can soothe the savage breast.”
All ancient societies used music to fight demons, and Saul’s advisors were fully aware (as the passages make note) that the underlying cause of the king’s depression and fits of rage was a spirit (that seemed to come and go) that caused evil.
So they recommended finding a suitable musician who could magically exorcize whatever demon or spirit that brought forth this evil that was hounding him and thus provides some relief for their king. In fact, when we look closely at the Hebrew in verse 15 we find that this spirit from Yehoveh is Ba’ath Sha’ul; the spirit is terrorizing Saul (some Bibles correctly translate it this way).
The king agrees to allow his court to find such a musician and one fellow says he knows of just the man for the job: one of the son’s of Jesse the Bethlehemite. He describes the musician as a brave soldier who chooses his words carefully and is pleasant looking. All of this information is important both for King Saul and for us, the future readers of this story.
Foremost is that since David will by definition have such intimate proximity to the king and necessarily be aware of his mental and emotional state (especially when he’s at its worst), then he’ll have to be of an appropriately refined and trustworthy type.
The family of Jesse is part of the ruling class of Judah, so David fits the bill in that regard. But David is also a superb player of the lyre, has the right kind of pleasant appearance, and is appropriately educated so he can speak well. Although it doesn’t occur to Saul, these are also the same kinds of attributes that make a good king.
So Saul sends a messenger to Jesse summoning David. Jesse (being wise in the ways of power and protocol) he of course complies and along with David sends a donkey laden with bread, wine, and a young goat as a gift. Jesse fully understands the tremendous opportunity of his son having the king’s ear. David immediately ingratiated himself to King Saul, and so the king took a liking to him. In fact, King Saul declared David to be his armor-bearer.
Now an armor-bearer is not precisely how it might seem to us. We picture an armor-bearer as a soldier who carries his bosses’ armor in servant fashion. An armor-bearer was more the title given to a certain official office than it was the descriptions of a task. By no means does the title indicate that an armor-bearer was one who carried the king’s military gear (although some might have).
The effects of such a privileged title gave David a position of prestige and no small amount of authority. It was usual for kings and potentates to have many armor-bearers and in fact in 2nd Samuel 18:15 we learn that Joab had ten men holding that title, and no doubt they each served separate governmental functions for him in his administration. So David was an armor-bearer whose role was as the court musician who played-away the king’s foul moods.
Before we move to chapter 17, I want to clear up something that modern liberal scholars at times completely pervert (no doubt for reasons of an obvious politically correct agenda).
In verse 21 we find it said that Saul “loved” David. The Complete Jewish Bible says “greatly liked,” but that is not accurate. In fact, the original Hebrew says that Saul ahab David (ahab is Hebrew for love). The liberal innuendo is that there was a homosexual relationship going on here, and later on also between Jonathon and David. Well, that’s just sheer nonsense.
It doesn’t take a very in-depth historical and linguistic study of the Bible and the Biblical era to learn that ahab is not about an erotic affection between two people. In a sense used here, it means to accept greatly or to bring near as a trusted person. We find that “love” is commonly used to describe a king-vassal relationship. So the term “love” (ahab) was a standard part of the Middle Eastern political language to describe a person close to the throne or who had royal favor, and it had no sexual overtones whatsoever.
And this concludes our study of 1 Samuel 16.