Yesterday got so chaotic I missed reflecting on 1 Samuel 16 (a very important chapter), so again today you get a 2 for 1 deal, with 16 and 17 (another HUGE chapter in 1 Samuel).
Samuel is called to go to Bethlehem (“house of bread”) to anoint YHWH’s chosen. This assumes Saul was either the anointed of Israel and never had YHWH’s anointing, or that Saul’s incomplete obedience has cost him the anointing.
Samuel is reluctant to go. As with many prophets, there is a moment of looking for an excuse. Many prophets have this. Moses, Jonah, Jeremiah, Isaiah all shy away from a prophetic task initially, and require some prodding. In the previous chapter, Saul is afraid of Samuel, left begging the prophet to remain with him. Now, Samuel is fearing Saul’s wrath. Is Samuel grabbing at anything to avoid this task, or has something changed in the Samuel-Saul dynamic to cause Samuel to fear Saul?
Bethlehem’s elders tremble with Samuel’s arrival. Why? Do they fear that Saul will come through looking for him and take out some anger on them? Or are they afraid of Samuel? Is Samuel about to take out his frustration on these unsuspecting folks? The Septuagint and Qumran texts read, “Have you come in peace, O seer?” This brings back to mind chapter 9, when Saul goes looking for the seer. The motif of sight is prominent in 1 Samuel (and in the Old Testament in general; e.g. Isaac) as symbolizing spiritual awareness. Eli cannot see, his eyes are dimmed, reflecting his lack of spiritual discernment, whereas Samuel is a seer.
Yet as chapter 16 unfolds, Samuel is struggling with discernment.
Note the use of a horn of oil here, compared with the flask or vile used to anoint Saul. This anointing is different.
After anointing David, Samuel goes back to Ramah. No instructions. No “game plan” for bringing David to the throne. Saul got a rather elaborate plan after his anointing. Here, David gets, “hey you’re king, see ya”.
How does the servant of Saul know of David’s talents? In 17 David’s brothers try to keep David from the frontlines, but according to this servant, David has a proven track record in battle. Odd.
An evil spirit of God… wait, that’s weird. God sending an evil spirit to torment Saul? That sounds out of character.
Saul asks for David, but there is no indication from David or Jesse that they’re concerned. My response would probably be, Oh crap, he knows about Samuel’s visit, and David’s gonna get it. But they just send David off to court.
The NIV translates, “David came to Saul and entered his service. Saul liked him very much” In fact the wording in the Hebrew is “David came to Saul and stood before him and he loved him, and he became his weapons carrier” Who loved whom? In the Masoretic text, it is somewhat ambiguous. It is generally the immediately preceding person who becomes the “he”. But then the next sentence, David is the “he”. Is David the subject of all three verbs and Saul the object (i.e. David came Saul, David loved Saul, and David became Saul’s amour bearer) or does the “he” apply to the closest preceding person, meaning subject-object flip, then flip again (i.e. David came to Saul, Saul loved David, David became Saul’s armour bearer)? Hmmm.
Ok, chapter 17, a familiar story for any Sunday School grad…
We could reflect on Goliath’s actual size (the Masoretic has Goliath at about 9’9″, the LXX and 4QSam a, Codex Vaticanus and Josephus say about 6’6″). Either way, he’s a big guy.
Why is Saul’s armour bearer going back and forth between the fields and the frontlines? Shouldn’t he be with Saul? David’s first words are curious, “What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should taunt the armies of the living God?” (NIV). Is David hoping for a reward should he volunteer?
Saul refuses to let David fight because he’s a youth… wait, didn’t someone tell us that David is proven in battle? “Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear” Now, I’m not an expert in the wildlife of ancient Bethlehem, but lions and bears?? Are these roaming the Judean countryside?
So why does David take 5 stones? If he’s so sure, shouldn’t he only need 1?
Goliath asks, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?”. Well, no, he’s got a projectile. Does Goliath not see it? Well, this may be an Ehud style trick (see Judges 3). Stick in the right hand is a diversion, sling in the left. Let’s remember this: “Out of all these people 700 choice men were left-handed; each one could sling a stone at a hair and not miss” (Judges 20:16). That’s right, Davey’s a southpaw!
How is it that Goliath takes a stone to the forehead and falls forward? Odd. But take a look at chapter 5. Goliath falls like his god, Dagon, facedown before YHWH, with his head gone. And David removes the sword from it’s sheath… wait, Goliath picks a fight, goes out to meet David, and doesn’t bother to draw his sword? Dummy.
Why take the head to Jerusalem? Jerusalem is not even an Israelite controlled city yet. Why not Gibeah, Gilgal, Hebron, Shiloh, Bethel or Mizpah? Foreshadowing? Or a warning to the Jebusites?
Notice the sword goes to David’s tent. In 1 Samuel 21 this very sword pops up again, but in the possession of Ahimelech the priest.
Saul asks his uncle whose kid David is. Wait, this is Saul’s armour bearer, who he summoned to his court. He sent to Jesse to call for David. Now he doesn’t know?