1 Samuel 13:8–13; 16:6–13comment (0)
July 1, 2010
By James Barnette
Related Scripture: 1 Samuel 13:8–13; 16:6–13
Bible Studies for Life
Associate Professor, Department of Religion, Samford University
The Power of Choice
1 Samuel 13:8–13; 16:6–13
Saul was in Gilgal, where he was anxiously awaiting the passage of the “seven days” at which point Samuel was expected to arrive. It was made clear that the king was to wait until Samuel appeared to administer the appropriate sacrifices. Such sacrifices were offered twice daily: in the early morning and at twilight (Num. 28:1–6). Samuel could have arrived at any time on the seventh day and still fulfilled his role in the process. Saul’s excuses for proceeding with the sacrifices without Samuel appear to be legitimate: The troops were scattered, Samuel had not arrived and the Philistines were gathering right outside Gilgal. His primary concern seems to be that the troops were drifting away toward home. But Saul judged the situation according to what he saw, not by faith in the Lord. Note the significant contrast between Saul here and Jonathan in Chapter 14: While Saul was concerned with the reduction in his troops, Jonathan did not concern himself about the large number of enemy troops and totally depended on God (1 Sam. 14:6). Samuel had nothing to gain if Saul failed on the battlefield, and he knew that God was in control, even in the appointment of the new king. Furthermore this meeting had been planned some two years before, and no doubt Samuel and Saul had discussed this more than once. This meeting appears to be God’s way of assessing Saul’s faith and patience. Unfortunately he placed his trust in his timing instead of God’s.
The central purpose of Samuel’s trek to Bethlehem was to anoint a future king, though the public anointing would occur much later. The prophet was impressed by the appearance and height of Jesse’s oldest son, Eliab. Samuel had been similarly impressed by the tall and striking Saul. Some suggest that Eliab represents a “new Saul” so that in his rejection, Saul is denounced in effigy. Humans look at the outward appearance (literally “the eyes”), but God looks at the heart. Only the Lord has the capacity to know one’s thoughts, emotions and motivations. Seven sons were presented and yet the Lord had not chosen any of them. So insignificant was the youngest son, David, that Jesse did not even summon him from the flock to the feast. Our story began with the rejection of Saul. Now we see a threefold use of the phrase “not choose.” The combination of “reject” and “not choose” builds the suspense of the story. We are waiting for God’s choice. We do not know how long Jesse’s household waited, but it must have been for a while. It had to wait — and we must wait — for the arrival of the youthful shepherd.
Another interesting contrast: Saul was hiding among the baggage when Samuel came to call him, but David was busy caring for his father’s sheep. God calls people who are busy, not people looking for ways to avoid responsibility. In verse 12, for the first time, David is brought into direct contact with Samuel. David is described as “ruddy,” meaning he either sported red-tinted hair or a bronze complexion. He had a “fine appearance” (literally “beauty of eyes”) and was “handsome.” However, the basis of God’s selection was what He saw inside of the young man. Other men who were not firstborn but were selected over their more socially powerful older brothers include Seth, Noah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Ephraim and Moses. Often God chose the more disenfranchised family members to carry out His divine mission. Verse 13 is careful not to state that David was anointed king over Israel. To Jesse and the small group assembled, the purpose of the anointing might not have been totally clear. As far as we know, only Samuel knew the purpose of the ritual for certain. David was anointed three times in his life: by Samuel (1 Sam. 16:33) at Bethlehem, by men of Judah to be a “king over the house of Judah” (2 Sam. 2:4) and by the elders of Israel to be “a king over Israel” (2 Sam. 5:3). This progression depicts how ultimately this young shepherd completed the conquest of Canaan and united the entire Jewish nation.