THE PASSING OF THE YEARS AND THE SEEMING SILENCE OF THE PROPHET.
Samuel “secretly” working on his most cherished vision.
The years rolled by. As far as we know Samuel never crossed David’s path throughout his puberty, adolescence, teens and early twenties. Samuel’s life was clearly in danger from Saul. Saul was now a dangerous man to be with, or to cross. We know from the biblical account that David’s life was more and more wrapped up in the presence and activity of serving King Saul. As soon as he hit his twentieth birthday, David was an officer in Saul’s army. Nobody could serve in Israel’s army until they were 20 years old. My thoughts are that David was anointed by Samuel between 10-12 years of age. An anointing that facilitated David to kill bears and lions between 12-15. Anointed to kill Goliath circa 15. Anointed to carry Saul’s armour and sing prophetically in order to soothe his soul and spirit betwixt 15-20 years of age. Anointed to fight the battles of the kingdom of Israel from 20 – 23/25 years of age.
If Samuel had sought out David during the passing of those years, which consist of I Samuel 16:15 through to 1 Samuel 19:17, David’s, as well as Samuel’s life would have been in mortal danger from the demonised King Saul (David was in danger anyway simply by being with Saul). Samuel, I am sure, was bravest of the brave when it came to endangering his life for God, but Saul’s inner response to having been told that he was to lose the kingdom, as well as the animosity towards him who had been chosen to succeed him, meant that Samuel and David must have been on Saul’s “Most Wanted” list. Thankfully for both future king and present prophet, it seems that Saul was too fearful and confused to do anything about his fears and animosity in this direction. Or was it just that God withheld his hand towards David and Samuel. There are those who fight for God, and there are those that God fights for. David and Samuel being held in the hollow of Yahweh’s palm were as safe as safe could be, no matter how many chases Saul troubled himself with to get hold of David..
No matter what the evils were that the king had perpetrated (and was still perpetrating), Samuel’s deep knowledge of all things spiritual knew that the day he poured oil on Saul’s head, the son of Kish had become a new man. Something had happened that made Saul almost untouchable. It’s a spiritual principle that rules in the heavens. “Touch not the Lord’s anointed, and do His prophets no harm.” And Godly, or godless, holy or utterly unholy, Saul was the Lord’s anointed. Nothing could undo that fact. That anointing was more important before the throne and the angels of heaven, than it was to the people of Israel. The anointing meant that he was to be left alone, no matter how bad or wicked he became. If he was unfit for office, or divine use, it was God’s prerogative to remove him, nobody else’s. It was Samuel, I am sure, that taught David the principle not to touch the Lord’s anointed. When he actually imparted that principle to David, ie: at what point of time, we shall negotiate a little later.
The book that we call 1 Samuel covers a period of around 115 years. It gives us, as we have discovered, the personal history of Samuel, who was the last of the judges, and the first of the national writing prophets in the land of Canaan – that is Israel, although he did not write as the major or minor prophets wrote. This ninth book of the Bible records and teaches us the moral failure of the priesthood under Eli, and of the Judges, especially in Samuel’s failed attempt to make the office of Judge hereditary. In his office as a prophet to the nation, Samuel was faithful, and in him begins the line of what we refer to as the prophets to the nation in the nation. That is one of the reasons why Peter referred to him as the first prophet in Acts 3:24. From Samuel on, in the history of Israel, the prophet, not the priest is the conspicuous person, in the context of the story and guidance of the nation.
Through study and meditation, I have discovered that many times in the biblical narrative, we are caught out concerning the truth of people’s ages at certain points of the story line. No Hollywood film or artist’s illustration that I have ever seen shows Sarah as 90 years old when she delivers Isaac. They normally use a mature actress with a little grey added to her hair, but I have never seen anybody that looks 90 as old as Sarah was. No film or book illustration that I have ever seen has shown the fact that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were all three alive together for fifteen years. The last fifteen years of Abraham’s days were the first fifteen years of Jacob’s life. Now a story that covers those fifteen years would be a classic. Did you know Jacob was 77 years old when he first left home to go to see his uncle “for a few days?” Some of these kind of things concerning ages and places in the bible I find to be an utter fascinating revelation that causes the concept of what I read to change in my mind’s eye. Did you know that Samuel lived about 2 miles from Saul? One could see Gibeah of Saul from Ramathaim Zophim, and vica verca. How often would both Samuel and Saul stand on the ramparts of their respective homes, and gaze over the land, and wonder what the other was doing!
When it comes to Samuel’s days, intermingled with Saul, David, Jonathan and all the moments of drama in his life, we have only a few concrete dates, or ages to hang on to, to assist us piecing the story together with “joined up writing,” and imaging what age the players in the drama were at any point of time. I spend many hours stringing the facts and theories together, studying what the academics and biblical professors say about them, and then coming to my own conclusions. So follow me as I push the envelope out on a few issues.
David started to be king of Judah when he was 30 years old, anointed at Hebron three days after Saul had died on Mount Gilboa. That is the first unmoveable fact that is set in concrete (2 Samuel 1:2. 2 Samuel 2:4. 2 Samuel 5:4). He became king of all Israel when he was 33, and died when he was 70 (1 Kings 2: 10-12). Those facts we cannot mess around with. They are inviolable, as it were, as plain as plain could be in the biblical text.
I believe Saul reigned for forty years because of what Acts 13:21 says. I am fully aware of the issues with 1 Samuel 13:1 in some translations of the Bible, but I leave my readers to read what Martin Anstey says about that verse and the Hebrew scrolls, and how the NIV handles it, and I personally count the matter settled. I choose not to discuss it in these pages. If we accept that the actual number of years of Saul’s reign was 40 as the apostle Paul preached in Pisidian Antioch, or 42 as the NIV states it in 1 Samuel 13, the larger chronological questions are answered, or at least made easier.
From Saul’s 40 year reign, we understand then, that David must have been born around the tenth year of Saul’s reign.
From this I cannot but conclude that there must have been a considerable age gap between David and Jonathan. Why? Because Jonathan was serving in Saul’s army really early on in his father’s reign, before David had been born, and nobody could serve in the armies of Israel until they were at least 20 (1 Samuel 13:2). If Jonathan was in the army as Saul started his reign, that means Saul was old enough to have a son who was at least twenty when his reign started. Many academics assume from this that Saul was around 40 when he became king, informing us, therefore, that he died around 80 years of age.
Jesse had seven (1 Chronicles 2:13-17) or eight (1 Samuel 16:10) sons. 1 Samuel 16:10 tells us that there were seven sons as well as David. 1 Chronicles 2:13-17 tells us that there were seven sons of Jesse (all named) including David. The important thing to note is that when they are introduced to us in scripture, the eldest three are already in Saul’s army (1 Samuel 17:13). This tells us that the eldest three had to be over twenty years of age. The absolute youngest the third son could have been was 20 (Numbers 1:3). Of course, it’s possible he was older. This leaves the remaining 4 or 5 sons under 20. Jesse had two daughters as well, Zeruiah and Abigail, and we are told that David was the youngest.
Assuming Jesse’s wife had a child every year in succession, this means that David must have been around 13 or 14 when 1 Samuel 17 took place (ie: the slaying of Goliath).
I am under no illusion to think that the slaying of Goliath happened days, weeks or even months after his anointing by Samuel. I suggest that a couple of years at the very least passed between 1 Samuel 16:13 and 1 Samuel 17:17. If David had been Bar-Mitzvah’d when Samuel turned up to anoint him, I have no doubt at all, he would have been introduced to Samuel along with the other older siblings when the prophet turned up at Bethlehem in 1 Samuel 16.
Therefore, I assert that David must have been somewhere between ten and possibly twelve years old when Samuel turned up with a rams horn full of especially fragrant anointing oil, to tell him that he would one day be king of Israel. No wonder Jesse didn’t invite him in while “grown-up” business was being discussed. A youngster of that age would have been out of his depth socially.
Samuel must have identified with the mind of God, as well as with the child David, on this issue, having been of a similar age when God first called him and birthed him into the prophetic ministry with a particularly harsh message for Eli. He must have smiled from ear to ear when he looked into David’s eyes for the first time. He couldn’t have failed to have remembered his own calling so many years earlier. I find it a strange fascination that, as far as 1 Samuel 16 tells us, or rather doesn’t tell us, it seems Samuel anointed the shepherd boy and left without even knowing the boy’s name.
I hasten to add that my statements here are merely as intelligent an extrapolation as I can make of it all, but what I am saying seems logical when considering the biblical facts, and then the aspects of the biblical story. So, I surmise that when Goliath issued his challenges against Saul’s army that included David’s three oldest brothers, David could have been any age between 12 and 15. He could not have been older than 15, as he was the youngest son of 8 sons, and no one could go in the army younger than 20, and only the eldest three were old enough to be enlisted as far as the biblical account informs us. I believe all of Jesse’s sons would have been in the army if they had all passed twenty years of age.
The passage from 1 Samuel 16:14 through to 16:23 is clearly out of synch with a straightforward chronology in the text. It was inserted I believe because 16:13 tells us how the Spirit of the Lord clothed David with power at the moment that Samuel had anointed him, and the writer immediately hastens to contrast how that the same Spirit had departed from Saul just as He had come upon David. To add deeper significance to the fact of one having the Spirit come upon him, and the other having the Spirit depart, the writer added that the account of David being seconded to sing and play for king Saul in order to soothe his troubled mind. The point being, that the “king to be” was the minister of peace and tranquillity to the troubled mind of the king that was in office. But David is not a lad as he is in 1 Samuel 16:12-13, and as he is in 1 Samuel 17. In 1 Samuel 16:18, at a point of time in the chronology when David’s anointing was probably only known by his family, David is described as a full grown adult, and a bit of a macho man by any standards. One of Saul’s servants said to the tormented king, “Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite who is skillful in playing, and a mighty warrior, and a man of battle, and skillful in speech, and a man of form. And Yahweh is with him”. In other words, the kingliness of David was surfacing and being noticed even by the king’s servants who had an eye to see. All this – and there was possibly another 15 years to roll by before Saul’s death and David’s becoming king.
All this leads me to believe, in my mental image of the story that David was about 10-12 when anointed by Samuel whom the ancient rabbinical writings theorise was in his mid sixties at the time. David was circa 15 when he defeated Goliath. That was the day when David first met king Saul. It was from the time that his first interview with Saul was ended that David and Jonathan met. If my extrapolations are correct David would have been 15 while Jonathan would have been somewhere around 45, if not older (This suggestion is based on the conclusion that if Jonathan was a soldier when his father took the throne, he must have been at least 20 years old. Ten years later David was born, suggesting Jonathan was at least 30 at the time that Jesse’s youngest was born. From that extrapolation, when David was 15 years old, Jonathan must have been at the very least 45.). So the age old artist’s impressions of two similarly aged young men forming a friendship has to be a complete anomaly when seen in the light of the big picture. Hollywood and book illustrations eat your heart out. Why don’t they just stick to the reality of the inspired text?
What follows, after Goliath’s slaying in 1 Samuel 17 is David’s rise to fame and glory. David must have been twenty years old before he started doing valiant things in the army, as per 1 Samuel 18:5. He was quickly promoted, and just as quickly became a famous hero of the people. The ladies of Israel sang, “Saul has slain his thousands, David his tens of thousands.” And that is where David’s problems started.
Actually, they were Saul’s problems internally, not David’s. But the king’s internal fears and hang-ups were turned around and pointed towards David. The king who would have been around 70 years old at this point of time, was demonically jealous of the soldier who was around 20 years old. Saul was neurotic in his thoughts about David, that having won the heart of the people, “What more can he (David) get but the kingdom?” Those words clearly suggest that he knew nothing of the anointing of Samuel in Bethlehem. Goodness knows what his responses would have been if he had actually known that David had been truly anointed by Samuel as the king to follow after him.
Samuel was still in the Naioth, in Ramah, living only a couple of miles away from Gibeah of Saul. As far as we know from scripture, he never approached Saul, and Saul never approached him. Life went on for them both in completely different directions. Surely Saul received reports of Samuel’s health and activities, and probably vica versa. But they never met throughout those years. What a strange situation. How badly did Saul need a word from God, but the Spirit of God having left him, also left him without Samuel’s mentoring or prophetic input.
What of Samuel’s age at this point? It’s guesswork mostly. One ancient Rabbi in particular, considered an authority in Jewish circles, reckons that Samuel was around 49 when Saul was made king aged 40. We simply don’t have the data to pinpoint Samuel’s birth or death. My personal opinion, and one guess is as good as another, is that Samuel was in his 60’s when Saul was made king, and in his nineties when he died. How do I come to those ideas? Just by reading Jewish Journals and biblical theses of Rabbinical trainees on the internet. It really is a matter of, “You pay your money and you make your choice,” as to the reality of the prophet’s age and stature in the story of Samuel’s long life, apart from the ages of David during his reign.
One thing I am certain about, is that the ages of the characters in the screenplay of Samuel’s life are in much deeper contrast than normally shown in films, picture bibles, and bible story books.
With David in such a committed friendship with Jonathan, and Saul’s ever deepening jealousy concerning David, it meant that Jonathan was seriously between a rock and a hard place. Jonathan defended David as best as he could with his father. He also was reluctant to speak against his father, or withdraw his support for him, even though Jonathan must have been aware that he would never be king of Israel after his father’s death. The whole story informs us quite frankly that Jonathan is one of the most noble characters in the whole of scripture. Knowing that David becoming king meant that he would lose what seemed like an inheritance to reign, he still supported and helped his covenanted friend, David, all he could. That makes Jonathan a great man in my thinking.
It was somewhere around this time, or perhaps, after the Goliath episode and before David’s rise to national fame, that Jesse’s son was appointed armour-bearer to Saul (1 Samuel 16:21. As I said above, it may be mentioned in chap. 16, but the actual event is probably later – i.e. “he [later] became one of Saul’s armour-bearers.). Armour- bearers did not have to be twenty, but it kept the men (or boys) that had such posts near the soldiers to allow them to grow in the atmosphere and general mindsets of the armies of Israel.
More years pass by. Saul banishes David from his court, yet makes him commander of a thousand (1 Sam 18:13). It all sounds very strange. Is that acceptance? Or is it rejection? As the jealousy developed Saul hoped David would be killed in battle. The ex shepherd boy of Bethlehem is perhaps 25-28 years old as this takes place. David’s success as a warrior has made Saul offer him the hand of his daughter Michal, “as a snare.” Each time the king spawns a plan to get David killed, he raises the bar of danger for David’s life. Where is Samuel while all this intrigue is infesting the land and ruining the reputation of the king of Israel? We who read the text of scripture know all about what was going on in Saul’s heart. It took, however, years for the nation as a whole to discover the truth about Saul’s prophetic rejection (1 Sam 18:21).
Imagine the wretchedness of a man who plays games with potential husbands for his own daughters. He promised his daughter to whoever killed Goliath (1 Samuel 17:25. 17:27. 17:30). Saul was untrue to his word. Saul told David that if he served him well and bravely he could marry his daughter Merab (1 Samuel 18:17). Both the scriptures and the responses of the nation affirm that few, if any, were as brave as the anointed future king. Yet at the point when she needed to marry, she was given to another. So, Saul broke his word on a very important issue of honour, twice.
But then Saul understands that his daughter Michal was madly in love with David. He saw this again as a wonderful opportunity to get David killed. He plots and plans, telling David that if he kills a hundred Philistines, cuts off their foreskins, and brings them to Saul as proof of such an act, he could marry Michal. The smug contentment that Saul must have felt when David went out to fullfil such a commission, turned to deep shock, horror and disgust when David walked in with the hideous package.
This plot of treachery by Saul that had so woefully backfired was known amongst his courtiers. So the king became a slave to his own words. He had to give Michal to David (1 Samuel 18:28).
The scripture at this point, very starkly, tells us that David became the king’s enemy for the rest of Saul’s days. Saul was just downright fearful of David for the rest of his life (1 Samuel 18:29).
David’s success and prosperity increased and expanded. He slew more Philistines and was more victorious than any other army officer in Israel. The people loved him, sang songs about him, and esteemed him highly. In the midst of this Euphoric “David-mania” sweeping the nation, something extremely dark takes place. It is on record that Saul actually asked Jonathan, and all the hangers on at court, to kill David (19:1).
Jonathan, caught between love for his father, as well as David, examined the king about the issue of killing his dearest friend, as well as any motive that Saul might have had for such an act. Jonathan wanted to sort it all out in a place where David could watch. Jonathan seems to have swayed Saul to change his mind. The king agreed to let David live happily, so Jonathan brought David to be with the king “as he had been before (19:7).” But how long would that togetherness last, we ask?
In between the outbursts and neurotic changes of mind of Saul towards David, now to kill him, now to let him live, now to kill him and now to let him live, the text tells us that David’s courage, strength and victories in battle increased more and more (19:8). It is a striking highlight that the more successful David was, in his role as defender of Israel, the darker was Saul’s response each time. As before in 18:10-11, David was playing his harp to soothe the spirit of the king, whilst Saul was caressing his favourite battle spear. In a wicked, murderous and seriously demonic outburst, he thrust the spear at David. That was the third throw at Jesse’s son, probably with the same javelin each time. We thank God that Saul missed his target.
David fled to his home, where his wife Michal, who obviously knew her father better than David did, told him to run while she, “covered,” for him (19:11-13). How marvellous for David that Michal suggested such a thing. David escaped without being seen. And when, as per Saul’s instructions, two “hit men” called at David’s house the following morning to kill him, Michal played for time in a very brilliant way. I rather fancy the hit men were a little lacking in astuteness, if not, were a little ESN (Educationally Sub Normal). However, these, “toughies,” not being able to tell the difference between a wooden idol and a man in the bed, worked to David’s advantage. Michal lied ruthlessly to her own father, obviously to save her own life, and much to King Saul’s chagrin, David had successfully fled.
David, at this point, is alone, fearful, and possibly confused. Where can he run to? Who can he speak to? Where can he receive God’s big picture of what is happening to him? How can it be that the anointing to be king over all Israel, had led him into being a pawn in Saul’s mind games of murder? How could he come to terms with his situation? From whence could he see a light coming out of the darkness? Who else could meet him at his level of anointing, but the prophet who lives at Naioth? So David chose to go looking for the very old Shmuel ben Elkanah. Only time would reveal what a gloriously prudent choice that was.
After one incredible meeting with Samuel, David had been anointed to be king. Fifteen years or so had passed. As far as we know Samuel and David had never met together since. But for those fifteen years, Samuel had been working on what was probably his own most treasured project. And how that project would impact David’s future, and the very life blood of Jewish culture and the Nation of Israel nobody but David could have imagined.