Old Testament Tales: David, the early years

1. How was David anointed king?
2. When does Bethlehem first appear in the Bible?
3. When did Saul first meet David, and what happened?
4. How old was David when he fought Goliath?
5. How did David and Jonathan become friends?
6. How did David and Saul become enemies?
7. How did David escape from Saul?
8. Whose side did David fight on?
9. How many wives and concubines did David have?
10. How did David begin his reign?

When Saul lost favor with God Samuel annointed the next king (1 Sam 16) from among the sons of Jesse of Bethlehem. (Bethlehem was where Rachel was buried (Gen 35), homeplace of the judge Ibzan (Jud 12:8), Naomi (Ruth), the Levite who served a king instead of God (Jud 17:7), and the concubine whose death in Gibeah led to war with Benjamin (Jud 19-20). Samuel was impressed by several sons, but God chose the youngest. That said, David already had a reputation as a warrior when he was called to play music at court for King Saul (1 Sam 16:18), and he was probably of similar age to Saul’s son Jonathan, already a soldier, since they later shared clothing and weapons (1 Sam 18:4).

When David’s brothers go to fight the Philistines, David, home caring for sheep, is sent to carry food to the front as a family member. David volunteers to fight the Philistine giant, Goliath (1 Sam 17). He refuses to wear Saul’s armor because it’s uncomfortable, not because he’s a child (1 Sam 17:38), then kills his foe with a slingshot, afterwards joining the army chasing the fleeing enemy. Saul makes David his armor-bearer (definitely a man’s job). David and Jonathan become close but David and Saul are soon estranged when a song makes Saul jealous (1 Sam 18:8) with its traditional second-line exaggeration.

Saul sends David away from court and hopes to get him killed as a captain in the army (1 Sam 18), offering his daughter Merab as temptation. When David fails to die Merab ends up married to someone else. Meanwhile Michal, another daughter, has fallen in love with David; Saul challenges David to win a great battle to gain her hand. David survives this challenge too and Saul tells his servants and his son to kill him, but Jonathan intercedes on his behalf.

Saul tries to kill David himself with a javelin (1 Sam 18:11, 19:9). Michal helps him escape from court by climbing out a window (1 Sam 19) and Samuel leads him to shelter with the prophets. Everyone Saul sends ends up prophesying in David’s favor, even Saul himself! David asks Jonathan to confirm whether the relationship is irretrievably broken (1 Sam 20) and Saul throws a javelin at Jonathan as well. David departs with a troop of followers, sustained with holy bread at a temple (1 Sam 21). One of Saul’s followers, an Edomite, takes news back to the king. Meanwhile David settles in caves on the borderlands, where four hundred of the country’s discontented come to join him (1 Sam 22). Saul demands the death of the priests who fed David, but only the Edomite who reported them responds. Abiathar, son the priest, escapes and joins David, giving him access to priestly intercession.

David has several chances to kill Saul (1 Sam 24, 26) but refuses. The two are briefly reunited, David promising not to destroy Saul’s family when he becomes king. David marries Abigail, after she helps avert a battle and feeds his army—her husband dies of heart problems—and Ahinoan. By the end of the story, David will have seven wives (1 Chron 3). Eventually David and his followers settle in Ziklag, serving with Israel’s enemies, the Philistines. When the Philistines attack Israel, David is, quite logically, sent to fight elsewhere (1 Sam 29). The Amalekites invade Israel (and Ziklag) from the South as the Philistines invade the North, so David fights Amalek. Saul dies in the Northern battle and David becomes king in the South, killing the self-proclaimed killer of Saul as his first action.


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