The story of King David’s life began with the prophet Samuel anointing him to be king over Israel. 1 Samuel 16:1 tells us that God sent Samuel to Jesse the Bethlehemite and said, “I have provided for myself a king among his sons.” At that time, Saul was the reigning king and Samuel feared that he would be killed if Saul found out that God had chosen someone to replace him (1 Samuel 16:2). 1 Samuel 16:6-13 states:
When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is before him.” But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” Then Jesse called Abinadab and made him pass before Samuel. And he said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” And Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel. And Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen these.” Then Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but behold, he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and get him, for we will not sit down till he comes here.” And he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy and had beautiful eyes and was handsome. And the Lord said, “Arise, anoint him, for this is he.” Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers. And the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon David from that day forward.
David who was the youngest of eight sons was not considered to be a significant contributor to his family’s reputation. When Samuel arrived at his home, David’s father Jesse didn’t even think to include David in the family celebration, but instead, left him out in the field with the sheep, as if David was a hired servant. Samuel’s description of David was more appropriate for a woman than a man, he said David “was ruddy and had beautiful eyes and was handsome” (1 Samuel 16:12). “From a human perspective, Saul fully satisfied the desires of the people. He was a man of great stature from the most military-minded tribe of Israel and was considered capable of leading the people in battle against their enemies” (see note on 1 Samuel 10:20-24). God told Samuel not to look on the appearance of Jesse’s other sons, “on his appearance or on the height of his stature…For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).
Sometime later, when David was preparing to face the giant Goliath, Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him, for you are but a youth, and he has been a man of war from his youth” (1 Samuel 17:33). The Hebrew word that is translated youth, naʿar (nahˊ-ar) means “a boy (as active), from the age of infancy to adolescence” (H5288). Therefore, it is safe to assume that David was less than 19 years of age when he fought Goliath and may have been as young as 17 or 18 when he experienced his first military victory. 1 Samuel 17:55-58 tells us, “As soon as Saul saw David go out against the Philistine, he said to Abner, the commander of the army, ‘Abner, whose son is this youth?’ And Abner said, ‘As your soul lives, O king, I do not know.’ And the king said, ‘Inquire whose son the boy is?’ And as soon as David returned from striking down the Philistine, Abner took him, and brought him before Saul with the head of the Philistine in his hand.’ And Saul said to him, ‘Whose son are you, young man?’ And David answered, ‘I am the son of your servant Jesse the Bethlehemite.’” “It is intriguing that Saul seemingly did not recognize David here since David had previously been employed as a musician to soothe the king’s troubled spirit (1 Samuel 16:15-23). No one knows what length of time or how frequently David played his harp for Saul, however, and the slaying of Goliath probably happened several years after David’s service in the king’s court” (note on 1 Samuel 17:55-58). Based on this information, it seems likely that David was only 14 or 15 years old when he was anointed by Samuel to be the king of Israel. According to 2 Samuel 5:4-5, “David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years. At Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months, and at Jerusalem he reigned over all Israel and Judah thirty three years,” suggesting that there was a gap of at least twelve to fifteen years between the times when David was anointed to when he became king of Judah at Hebron.
The last year and four months of David’s life before he became king of Judah at Hebron were spent in the country of the Philistines. 1 Samuel 27:1 tells us, “Then David said in his heart, ‘Now I shall perish one day by the hand of Saul. There is nothing better for me than that I should escape to the land of the Philistines. Then Saul will despair of seeking me any longer within the borders of Israel, and I shall escape out of his hand.” The extreme faith that David had as youth, which enabled him to slay the giant Goliath, seemed to have completely disappeared shortly before he became king of Israel. It seems that David believed when he went to live in the country of the Philistines that it was the only way for him to survive. At the beginning of his flight from Saul, David had gone to Achish the king of Gath and pretended to be insane (1 Samuel 21:13) so that he wouldn’t be killed by his enemies. Afterward, David escaped to the cave of Adullam and gathered together an army of about 400 men (1 Samuel 22:1-2). While he was there, the prophet Gad came to David and said to him, “Do not remain in the stronghold; depart and go into the land of Judah” (1 Samuel 22:5). God didn’t want David to try and save his own life, but to put his trust completely in him and to remain under his divine protection. When David returned to Achish, 1 Samuel 27:5 tells us, “Then David said to Achish, ‘If I have found favor in your eyes, let a place be given me in one of the country towns, that I may dwell there. For why should your servant dwell in the royal city with you?’” David referred to himself as Achish’s servant. The Hebrew word ʿebed (ehˊ-bed) refers to someone who reports to a king or is under the authority of a leader. “The ‘servant’ was not a free man. He was subject to the will and command of his master (H5650).
The Hebrew word ʿebed is translated bondage in the King James Version of the Bible with respect to the Israelites’ circumstances in Egypt. The English Standard Version of the Bible translates ʿebed as slavery. In Moses’ recitation of the Ten Commandments, he said, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me” (Deuteronomy 5:6-7). Moses went on to say:
“And when the Lord your God brings you into the land that he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you—with great and good cities that you did not build, and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant—and when you eat and are full, then take care lest you forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. It is the Lord your God you shall fear. Him you shall serve and by his name you shall swear. You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are around you—for the Lord your God in your midst is a jealous God—lest the anger of the Lord your God be kindled against you, and he destroy you from off the face of the earth.” (Deuteronomy 6:10-15)
Moses indicated that the Israelites were to serve God. ʿAbad, which is translated serve in Deuteronomy 6:13, means “to work (in any sense)” (H5647). ʿEbed is derived from the Hebrew word ʿabad, along with the word ʿabowdah (ab-o-dawˊ), which refers to “work of any kind” (H5656). “The more limited meaning of the word is ‘service.’ Israel was in the ‘service’ of the Lord…Whenever God’s people were not fully dependent on Him, they had to choose to serve the Lord God or human kings with their requirements of forced ‘labor’ and tribute.”
Immediately after Jesus fed five thousand people with five loaves of bread and two fish (Matthew 14:13-21), he made his disciples get into a boat and go before him to the other side of the sea (Matthew 14:22). During the night, the boat was beaten by the waves because the wind was against them. Matthew tells us that in the fourth watch of the night, Jesus came to his disciples walking on the water (Matthew 14:25). Matthew went on to say:
But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”
And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:26-31)
According to Matthew, when Peter saw the wind, “he was afraid” (Matthew 14:30). The word that Matthew used that is translated afraid, phobeo (fob-ehˊ-o) means “to show reverential fear” and is sometimes used to express “’reverence’ of God, e.g., Acts 10:2, 22; 13:16, 26; Colossians 3:22; 1 Peter 2:17; Revelation 14:7; 15:4; 19:5” (G5399). When Peter began to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me” (Matthew 14:30). The Greek word that is translated save, sozo (sodeˊ-zo) is the same word Jesus used when he said, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved (sozo) through him” (John 3:16-17). Peter thought that the reason why he began to sink into the sea was because he wasn’t saved, but Jesus corrected him and identified doubt as the source of his problem.
Jesus said that Peter had little faith. One way of looking at little faith is that it is insufficient to get the job done. The Greek word oligopistis (ol-ig-opˊ-is-tos) indicates that Peter was “lacking confidence (in Christ),” and was used by Jesus as a gentle rebuke for Peter’s anxiety (G3640). Jesus indicated that the reason why Peter’s faith was shaken wasn’t because he lacked confidence in the Lord’s ability to walk on the water, but because Peter didn’t think that Jesus could make him walk on the water. Peter thought that the wind might be more powerful than Jesus. The Greek word that is translated doubt in Matthew 14:31, distazo (dis-tadˊ-zo) means to mentally waiver in opinion, “to stand in two ways implying uncertainty which way to take” (G1365). Peter wasn’t sure whether or not he could overcome the power of the wind by simply believing in Jesus. Matthew tells us, “And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshipped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God’” (Matthew 14:32).
David’s conclusion that he would one day perish by the hand of Saul (1 Samuel 27:1), showed that he doubted God’s ability to remove Saul from the throne. David may have thought that because Saul had been anointed king of Israel, his dominion over God’s kingdom safeguarded him from being discharged from his position. David’s statement, “There is nothing better for me than that I should escape to the land of the Philistines” (1 Samuel 27:1) was based on his lack of confidence in God’s ability to tear the kingdom from Saul and give it to him as was foretold by Samuel the prophet (1 Samuel 15:28). David’s plan to escape from Saul by going into the land of the Philistines was in essence, David taking matters into his own hands. While he was there, David deceived Achish into thinking that he was his loyal servant. In actuality, David was making raids against the Geshurites, the Girzites, and the Amalekites and covering up his tracks so that Achish wouldn’t find out. 1 Samuel 27:9-11 tells us:
And David would strike the land and would leave neither man nor woman alive, but would take away the sheep, the oxen, the donkeys, the camels, and the garments, and come back to Achish. When Achish asked, “Where have you made a raid today?” David would say, “Against the Negeb of Judah,” or, “Against the Negeb of the Jerahmeelites,” or, “Against the Negeb of the Kenites.” And David would leave neither man nor woman alive to bring news to Gath, thinking, “lest they should tell about us and say, ‘So David has done.’” Such was his custom all the while he lived in the country of the Philistines.
It appears that David’s plan was to gain Achish’s trust so that he could fight alongside him against the Israelites and kill Saul in battle. While the Philistines were gathering their troops and preparing to launch an attack at Aphek, it was discovered that David and his men were among the Philistine army. 1 Samuel 29:2-9 states:
As the lords of the Philistines were passing on by hundreds and by thousands, and David and his men were passing on in the rear with Achish, the commanders of the Philistines said, “What are these Hebrews doing here?” And Achish said to the commanders of the Philistines, “Is this not David, the servant of Saul, king of Israel, who has been with me now for days and years, and since he deserted to me I have found no fault in him to this day.” But the commanders of the Philistines were angry with him. And the commanders of the Philistines said to him, “Send the man back, that he may return to the place to which you have assigned him. He shall not go down with us to battle, lest in the battle he become an adversary to us. For how could this fellow reconcile himself to his lord? Would it not be with the heads of the men here? Is not this David, of whom they sing to one another in dances,
‘Saul has struck down his thousands,
and David his ten thousands’?”
Then Achish called David and said to him, “As the Lord lives, you have been honest, and to me it seems right that you should march out and in with me in the campaign. For I have found nothing wrong in you from the day of your coming to me to this day. Nevertheless, the lords do not approve of you. So go back now; and go peaceably, that you may not displease the lords of the Philistines.” And David said to Achish, “But what have I done? What have you found in your servant from the day I entered your service until now, that I may not go and fight against the enemies of my lord the king?” And Achish answered David and said, “I know that you are as blameless in my sight as an angel of God. Nevertheless, the commanders of the Philistines have said, ‘He shall not go up with us to the battle.’”
David’s plea to Achich, “But what have I done? What have you found in your servant from the day I entered your service until now, that I may not go and fight against the enemies of my lord the king?” (1 Samuel 29:8), makes it clear that David wanted to fight against Saul’s army. The fact that he was stopped from doing so seems to confirm that God didn’t want David to kill Saul himself.
Saul’s state of mind at the time that the Philistines were mounting their attack against him could be described as anxious at the very least, but may have been closer to paranoia. 1 Samuel 28:5-8 tells us, “When Saul saw the army of the Philistines, he was afraid, and his heart trembled greatly. And when Saul inquired of the LORD, the LORD did not answer him, either by dreams, or by Urim, or by prophets. Then Saul said to his servants, ‘Seek out for me a woman who is a medium, that I may go to her and inquire of her.’ And his servants said to him, ‘Behold, there is a medium at En-dor.’ So Saul disguised himself and put on other garments and went, he and two men with him. And they came to the woman by night.” Saul had put the mediums and the necromancers out of the land of Israel earlier in his reign (1 Samuel 28:3) because it was against the law for the Israelites to consult such persons. Leviticus 20:6 states, “If a person turns to mediums and necromancers, whoring after them, I will set my face against that person and will cut him off from among his people.” The medium that Saul went to see was aware of the danger of her profession. “The woman said to him, ‘Surely you know what Saul has done, how he has cut off the mediums and the necromancers from the land. Why then are you laying a trap for my life to bring about my death?’” (1 Samuel 28:9). Even though Saul knew that it was wrong for him to inquire of a medium instead of the LORD, “Saul swore to her by the LORD, ‘As the LORD lives, no punishment shall come upon you for this thing’” (1 Samuel 28:10).
Saul’s encounter with the medium of En-dor resulted in Samuel’s spirit being brought up from Sheol (shehˊ-ole), the place of the dead (H7585). The conversation between Saul and Samuel is recorded in 1 Samuel 28:15-19. It states:
Then Samuel said to Saul, “Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?” Saul answered, “I am in great distress, for the Philistines are warring against me, and God has turned away from me and answers me no more, either by prophets or by dreams. Therefore I have summoned you to tell me what I shall do.” And Samuel said, “Why then do you ask me, since the Lord has turned from you and become your enemy? The Lord has done to you as he spoke by me, for the Lord has torn the kingdom out of your hand and given it to your neighbor, David. Because you did not obey the voice of the Lord and did not carry out his fierce wrath against Amalek, therefore the Lord has done this thing to you this day. Moreover, the Lord will give Israel also with you into the hand of the Philistines, and tomorrow you and your sons shall be with me.
Saul told Samuel that he was “in great distress” (1 Samuel 28:15). The Hebrew word that is translated distress, tsarar (tsaw-rarˊ) means “to cramp…to wrap, tie-up, be narrow, be in pangs of birth” (H6887). Saul was experiencing an extreme amount of mental and emotional pain and was hoping that Samuel would say something that would make him feel better. Instead, Samuel worsened Saul’s situation by telling him that tomorrow he was going to die (1 Samuel 28:19).
The Apostle Peter was brave enough to get out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus, “But when he saw the wind, he was afraid” (Matthew 14:29-30). Matthew tells us that when Peter began to sink, “he cried out, ‘Lord, save me’” (Matthew 14:30). Peter thought that the reason why he began to sink into the sea was because he wasn’t saved, but he actually was. In Saul’s case, he didn’t cry out for help when he realized that his situation was hopeless. Saul may have thought that he was saved, but it is very likely that he wasn’t. Jesus warned his disciples before he sent them out to minister to the people on their own that he was sending them out “as sheep in the midst of wolves” (Matthew 10:16) and then, concluded, “But the one who endures to the end will be saved” (Matthew 10:22). What I believe Jesus meant by this was that the outcome of a person’s situation would show whether or not he was actually saved. The person who is saved will endure to the end. Saul did not endure to the end. Saul was terrified of dying at the hands of the Philistines (1 Samuel 28:21) and was left alone without any means of overcoming his fear. Whereas, David doubted that he could survive Saul’s attempt to kill him, and yet, the LORD did tear the kingdom out of Saul’s hand and gave it to David, just as he said he would (1 Samuel 28:17).