We begin today’s reading in chapter 16, where David is anointed king of Israel. We see the pattern repeated that we saw with Eli and Samuel – God removes the man that should have been the Godly leader of Israel (Eli/Saul), and replaces him with a true man of God (Samuel/David). We left off yesterday with Samuel’s grief over Saul’s fall (15:35), and we see today that God comforts Samuel by calling him to anoint the true king (16:1). We see that Samuel knows Saul’s evil heart and fears him (V. 2), yet trusts himself to God (vv. 3-5). In verse 6, we see that even Samuel is seeing with worldly eyes. But God calls him to see with obedient eyes of faith (v. 7). After passing on seven of Jesse’s sons (v. 10), God sovereignly chooses David to be king (v. 12). Notice that the Spirit of God rushed on David “from that day forward” (v. 13), indicating a more permanent bond with the Holy Spirit than that of Saul (v. 14).* This points us to the Holy Spirit falling on Jesus of Nazareth (Matt 3:16).
Again, Samuel was afraid Saul would find out that he anointed David king, so God called him to faith. We see beginning in verse 14 that God would Himself sovereignly reveal David as king to Saul and to the people of Israel. Because of his musical skills, David is chosen to come to Saul’s court to play for him (vv. 14-19). Note that included in the commendation of David is that YHWH is with him (v. 18). And because God is with him, David is given favor with Saul (v. 21), and God blesses Saul through David (v. 23). This is, however, about to change.
Chapter 17 is one of the most famous stories in all the Bible. What we have is both a call back to the Garden of Eden and a type of Christ and the cross. In this battle, Goliath represents Satan, Israel represents the first Adam, and David represents Christ, the second Adam. Goliath is about 9′ 4″ (v. 4). The “coat of mail” in verse 5 is literally “coat of scales,” likening Goliath to the serpent or to Leviathan (see Job 41:15-17). He tries to goad God’s chosen people, like the serpent did to Adam and Eve (v. 8-10), into defeat. In essence, Goliath is asking them: “did God actually say” He would bring you victory? And we see in verse 11 that Saul and Israel were faithless.
When David hears the challenge of the giant (v. 23), David reacts in faith (v. 26). Note that even David’s own family doesn’t understand him (v. 28), much like Christ. Yet, David will fight the battle for God’s people (v. 32). From an earthly point of view, the battle could not be won this way (v. 33). Yet David is a man of faith who knows that God can do what seems impossible (vv. 34-37). Yet Saul wants to fight with earthly means (v. 38). But this is not how God wins victory for His people (v. 39). The shepherd will fight the battle by faith (v. 40).
In verse 42 we see that the world disdains one that lives by faith. In verse 44, Goliath threatens to do to David what God said could only befall His people through disobedience (see Deut 28:25-26). So David has faith that God will deliver him (v. 45) and do to the Philistines what they want to do to God’s people (v. 46). Through the victory, the world will know that YHWH is God, and so will Israel (vv. 46-47). And by faith, David is victorious. He has “bruised the head” of the enemy of God (v. 49 – see Gen 3:15). And both the Philistines know that YHWH is God and they run in fear (v. 51), and Israel knows that YHWH is God and their faith is strengthened (v. 52).
After seeing the victory God worked through David, Saul inquires of his lineage (v. 55). This is not a contradiction with chapter 16 where Saul already knows David. This is a question about how David was able to do what he did. “Who are you, David” is the question. Saul asked who his father was because he assumed David’s father must be in reality a great man of war. It turns out, David’s Father is in reality a great God Who fights for those of great faith. And we see in this incident that David – anointed but not yet revealed to be king – has nonetheless already won the battle that would make him the king (remember what we saw in chapter 11), even before he ascends to his throne. This is what Christ did at the cross.
Psalm 9 is believed to be written by David about his battle with Goliath some years after the fact. He begins with thanksgiving to God (9:1) and praise to His name (v. 2). The Philistines fled before David (v. 3 – 1 Sam 17:51) as a righteous judgment (v. 4). In verses 5 and 6 we see that in defeat, the wicked have had their names forgotten, which as we saw was the symbolism of the cutting off of the head of a defeated enemy (1 Sam 17:51). YHWH is the true King (v. 7) and the righteous Judge (v. 8), like Christ was revealed to be at His first coming (King), and will yet be at His second (Judge). And all God requires to be on the right side of that is faith (v. 10). David calls on God to preserve him once again as He has before (vv. 13-14). In verse 16 we see that through His victory, God is made known to the world (v. 16 – 1 Sam 17:46), and the unrighteous see and fear (v. 20).
*Before Pentecost (Acts 2), the Holy Spirit did not indwell believers as He does today. We see in the Old Testament that the Spirit is given situationally to give people power (Judg 15:14), prophetic gifts (1 Sam 10:10), etc.