Samuel & David
A look at how God used Samuel, by now an old man, to anoint the man after God’s own heart.
Much is written about David in the Bible. At the mention of his name, some people immediately think of the courageous teenager who slew Goliath using a slingshot and a stone. Others remember a tender young shepherd who penned Psalm 23. And still others reflect on King David’s adulterous affair with Bathsheba and his uncharacteristically cold-blooded order to place her husband (Uriah) on the frontline in battle, assuring his death.
However, despite David’s sin (for which he repented), he was a deeply spiritual man with a thirst and passion for God, who called him “a man after My own heart” (Acts 13:22; cf. 1 Sam. 13:14).
Young David entered Israel’s history at a dire time. King Saul’s reign as the nation’s first king was a dismal failure. He had rejected God’s Word and recklessly disobeyed the Lord. For this reason, Samuel—Israel’s godly prophet, priest, and judge—told Saul God had rejected him from being king.
After Saul reigned 40 years, the Lord tore the kingdom from him. The prophet Hosea recorded God’s attitude concerning Saul and Israel when he wrote,
O Israel, you are destroyed, but your help is from Me. I will be your King; where is any other, that he may save you in all your cities? And your judges to whom you said, “Give me a king and princes”? I gave you a king in My anger, and took him away in My wrath (Hos. 13:9–11).
Samuel, no doubt, contemplated Israel’s future because conditions were exceedingly bleak. And they would grow far worse before a new king was chosen. Samuel knew God controlled Israel’s destiny and that God alone could save the nation.
Samuel Anoints David
God knew Samuel was grieving over Saul, so He gave Samuel a message of hope: “Now the LORD said to Samuel, ‘How long will you mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go; I am sending you to Jesse the Bethlehemite. For I have provided Myself a king among his sons’” (1 Sam. 16:1). God would establish a new king to deliver Israel from defeat, despair, and danger and provide a glorious destiny for His people.
Yet Samuel had reservations about God’s command, fearing Saul would kill him after hearing he had anointed a new king. So God instructed Samuel, “Take a heifer with you, and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the LORD.’ Then invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; you shall anoint for Me the one I name to you” (vv. 2–3). Without hesitation, Samuel obeyed and traveled to Bethlehem, though fearing for his life.
When he arrived, great fear fell on the city elders because they didn’t know if the prophet had come in peace or to pronounce judgment on them; it was not the season for Samuel to visit (v. 4).
Samuel assured them he came in peace to sacrifice to the Lord and commanded them to sanctify (purify) themselves to prepare for the ceremony. Samuel then consecrated Jesse and his sons, giving them a personal invitation to the sacrifice (v. 5).
So Jesse and his sons appeared before Samuel at the sacrifice. The eldest son, Eliab, a tall and handsome man, impressed Samuel. “Surely,” Samuel thought, “the LORD’S anointed is before Him” (v. 6). Yet he had made an unwise assumption.
Since Eliab’s height and stature looked regal, Samuel assumed he was God’s choice (9:2). But looks can be deceiving. In fact, in God’s eyes they mean little. Apparently, Samuel had not learned that lesson yet from the choice of Saul, who possessed the same qualities as Eliab but proved to be a dismal disappointment. As many people do in choosing a leader, Samuel used worldly principles, rather than divine ones.
God told Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (16:7; cf. 1 Cor. 1:26–30).
The word heart refers to a person’s spiritual qualities. Saul was taller and more handsome than the other Israelites, but he lacked the inner spiritual qualities and commitment needed to rule Israel according to God’s will (1 Sam. 9:1–2). The Lord wanted a man after His own heart (13:14) to command and lead His people. The heart principle refers to character, rather than countenance, and faith rather than face.
Jesse paraded seven of his sons before Samuel, but the Lord rejected all of them (16:8–10). If Samuel had been like others, he probably would have become discouraged, thinking he had missed the person of God’s choosing. But Samuel exercised wisdom: “And Samuel said to Jesse, ‘Are all the young men here?’” (v. 11).
Jesse replied, “There remains yet the youngest, and there he is, keeping the sheep” (v. 11).
Samuel then instructed Jesse, “Send and bring him. For we will not sit down till he comes here” (v. 11). Jesse’s response kept hope alive, and Samuel insisted David be brought immediately to see if he was God’s choice.
So Jesse summoned David. “Now he was ruddy,” Scripture says, “with bright eyes, and good-looking. And the LORD said, ‘Arise, anoint him; for this is the one!’” (v. 12).
Samuel did as the Lord instructed and anointed David king of Israel. Then “the Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward. So Samuel arose and went to Ramah,” where he lived (v. 13). This anointing was one of three, but it was the only one Samuel performed. The second was when David was crowned king over Judah alone (2 Sam. 2:4), and the third was when he was made king over all Israel (5:3).
Throughout David’s life, the Holy Spirit empowered him in his reign as king and in his battles, writings, and ministry.
SCRIPTURE GIVES US FIVE FACTS ABOUT DAVID:
1. He possessed God’s approval to be king: “And the LORD said, ‘Arise, anoint him, for this is the one!’” (1 Sam. 16:12).
2. He was the youngest of Jesse’s eight sons, although his age is not recorded (vv. 10–11). Most scholars believe David was around 16 or 17 when Samuel anointed him.
3. He was industrious, obedient, trustworthy, and faithful in caring for the family sheep (v. 11).
4. He was handsome, although he was not chosen for that reason (v. 12). Yet his looks endeared him to people.
His abilities were provided and governed by the Lord: “The Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward” (v. 13). His victory over Goliath and his skill in music, courage in war, leadership over men, wisdom in governing, faithfulness in worship, writing of God’s Word, and commitment to God were all controlled by the Holy Spirit.
Samuel Protects David
When David was anointed king, “the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and a distressing spirit from the LORD troubled him” (v. 14). Saul’s servants asked the king to let them find a skillful harpist to drive the evil spirit away. David was selected because of his demeanor, abilities, and skill on the harp (vv. 18–21).
Unbeknown to Saul or his staff, God had orchestrated David’s appointment. Although David was the king-elect, he had no training in court protocol or politics. David became a submissive, supportive servant to Saul, as faithful as he had been in shepherding the family sheep.
Saul immediately loved David and made him his armor-bearer (v. 21). When an evil spirit distressed the king, David would play his harp, the distressing spirit would leave, and Saul would experience relief (v. 23).
However, as David rose in favor with the Israelites because of his military exploits, Saul’s trust and affection for him turned to jealousy. Since Samuel no longer spoke to Saul, the king lacked wise counsel; and he soon became obsessed with killing David.
David took refuge by going to Samuel in Ramah, a short distance from Saul’s capital in Gibeah. It was in Ramah that David poured out his woes to the great prophet who had anointed him. Then David and Samuel went to Naioth to get away from Saul (19:18).
However, getting away was not easy. The king sent soldiers to Samuel’s place to arrest David. But God’s Spirit came upon the soldiers, and they started to prophesy. Then they returned to Saul and explained why they could not arrest David. Saul sent a second group of soldiers, and the same thing happened. A third group returned with identical results. Wondering what had happened, Saul himself went to Naioth. When he arrived, he too began to prophesy with everyone else, giving David time to escape (vv. 20–23).
Samuel and the Gatekeepers
Gatekeepers were leaders or heads of leading families within Israel who were specifically selected for their duties to guard access to certain gates. First Chronicles describes the duties of the 212 gatekeepers who protected the Lord’s house and managed its resources. Even Levites who did not reside in Jerusalem participated as gatekeepers.
Gatekeepers were appointed in the time of David while Samuel was still alive (1 Chr. 26:1–19). Since Samuel died long before David selected the gatekeepers, Samuel probably instructed David on whom to select and also appointed gatekeepers himself. Remember, Samuel was a gatekeeper in his youth (1 Sam. 3:15). He would have known the responsibilities and was well able to teach David. It cannot be overstated how great Samuel’s influence was in instructing Israel’s leadership during his days on Earth.
Today when a great man dies, word spreads around the world in seconds. We can only imagine how swiftly the news that Samuel the prophet was dead echoed throughout the hills of Israel in that day. It must have been a shocking blow to both Saul and David, but especially David.
Samuel’s death complicated young David’s life immensely. Hounded by Saul and his army, he would no longer have Samuel from whom to seek wisdom and prayer. The prophet’s death probably made David feel more alone than ever as he sought to stay a step ahead of Saul’s sword. But he did not lose hope and learned to rely more and more on God.
Samuel was the last of Israel’s judges. Though much more is written in the Bible about David than Samuel, Samuel was a revered spiritual leader who anointed the first two kings of Israel and who ranks as one of the greatest men in Israel’s history in both the nation’s religious and political life.