Two hundred and forty-eight years after the birth of Ruth's son, an old man of venerable appearance entered the city of Bethlehem with an attendant, and a heifer for sacrifice. The elders who sat by the gate were exceedingly alarmed by his presence, and anxiously asked, "Comest thou peaceably?" The old man was the prophet Samuel, and he answered, "Peaceably. I am come to sacrifice to the Lord. Sanctify yourselves, and come with me to the sacrifice." Their fears may have arisen from an apprehension that Samuel had come to denounce some judgment upon them.
Obed had long ago grown up and settled in Bethlehem, and among his children there was one by the name of Jesse. Jesse, like his father, had remained in his native town, and at the time of Samuel's visit was the father of eight sons, the youngest of whom was David, now eighteen or twenty years of age.
After the elders were called to the sacrifice, Samuel went to the house of Jesse to inform him that the Lord had sent him to Bethlehem to anoint a successor to Saul upon the throne of Israel. This news no doubt exceedingly interested Jess, and he cast about in his mind who would be the king elect; but what must have been his surprise when told that among his own sons was the favored one? "Now sanctify yourselves and your sons," said Samuel, "and come to the sacrifice, and there the Lord will show which it shall be."
Samuel then left Jesse to his own reflections and preparations, while he repaired to the spot upon which the altar was to be erected; and after seeing that every thing was properly arranged, he seated himself to await the hour.
The elders of the people assembled, and with them the aged Jesse and seven of his sons. Eliab the eldest was tall and handsome; and as he passed before Samuel, the prophet thought, Surely my eyes now rest upon our future king; but God said, "No, I have refused him. Man looketh on the outward appearance, but God looketh on the heart." Abinadad, and then Shammah, were called to pass before Samuel, only to be refused. Then the others passed by. "The lord has not chosen these," said Samuel; and he asked, "Are here all thy children?" Jesse replied that the youngest was absent, who kept the sheep. "Send and fetch him," said Samuel; "for we will not sit down" to eat the sacrifice "till he comes."
A messenger was immediately dispatched, and David was soon after brought in. "He was of a ruddy complexion, a beautiful countenance, and goodly to look to."
No sooner had Samuel set his eyes upon him, than the Lord said, "Arise and anoint him." Then Samuel took the consecrated oil, which was made of the most exquisite and costly perfumes, and anointed David in the midst of his brethren.
Anointing was the principal ceremony at the induction of a king into office; and by David's anointing we are to understand his inauguration, although he did not at once enter upon his kingly authority.
After the aged Samuel had fulfilled his mission, eh arose and returned to Ramah.
Not long after these events, while David was employed as usual in watching his sheep, a messenger from the king arrived in Bethlehem. He inquired for the house of Jesse, and when he found it he entered, and making the usual salutations, said to Jesse, The Spirit of the Lord has departed from Saul, and an evil spirit is troubling him. And now it has been told the king that your son David is a skilful player on the harp, a mighty valiant man, a man of war, prudent in matters, comely in person, and that the Lord is with him. Wherefore now saith the king, "Send me David thy son, who is with the sheep."
Jesse, obedient to the king's command, made immediate preparations for David's departure. But he must not go without a present for the king; so an ass was brought to the door, and loaded with bread, a leathern bottle of wine, and a kid. David then took his harp, and such other things as he should need, and was soon on his way to Gibeah, the city of the king, which was twelve miles north of Bethlehem.
David seems to have made a very favorable impression upon the king; and we find that Saul soon sent after Jesse to allow his son to remain with him; for when he played upon his harp the evil spirit departed from Saul, and he was well.
How this bad spirit affected Saul we have no knowledge, except that it excited his worst passions, and led to the most wicked conduct. That it was an evil spirit, was shown by the effects it produced upon him; but why music should have such power in driving it from him, is difficult to explain.
How long David continued with the king is not stated; but when there was no longer necessity for his remaining, he returned to Bethlehem and his flocks as contentedly as ever, and was soon forgotten at court.
About four years after, another messenger hurriedly entered the gate of Bethlehem, and proclaimed with trumpet voice, Up! the Philistines have invaded the land, and are now only fifteen miles east of your city. Rise, and fight the battles of the Lord. The cry rang from house to house, and from heart to heart. Eliab, Abinadab, and Shammah, Jessie's elder sons, joined with others, and taking their spears and javelins, hurried away to battle. They found Saul and his army stationed upon a mountain opposite the one the Philistines occupied: and as recruits arrived from different directions, their places were assigned them by the generals in command. These three brothers were placed under a captain who had charge of a thousand men. And here the two armies lay from week to week, the army of Saul terrified by the appearance of a giant full ten feet high, who daily came down into the valley and defied them and their God. Saul was trying to increase his army, but does not seem to have offered sacrifices or made supplications to the Lord.
In the mean time, Jessie, the good and pious old man of Bethlehem, began to feel solicitous for the welfare of his sons, and anxious to know how they fared; so he called David from tending the sheep, and said, Take this parched conr, and these loaves of bread, and run to the camp to your brothers; and carry these ten cheeses to their captain, and see how thy brethren fare.
David places his sheep in the care of a keeper, and rose up early in the morning, and went as his father directed him.
When David came in sight of the army, their shouts rang long and loud as they went forth to battle. David hastened forward at the sound, and leaving what he was carrying in the hands of his servant, mingled with the army, and finding his brothers, saluted them.
While he stood talking with them, his attention was attracted by the giant advancing towards the Israelites. His head was covered with a brass helmet or cap, and his body by a coat of mail, which weighed nearly two hundred pounds. The handle of his spear was like a weaver's beam, and the spearhead weighed about twenty-five pounds. The shield to protect him in battle was carried before him by another man.
As the giant approached with his haughty challenge, "I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together," David said, "Who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?"
These words of David were told to Saul, and Saul sent for him. David undoubtedly remembered the king, and expected to be recognized by him; but receiving no intimation that he was know, he immediately proceeded to tell Saul that he himself would go down and fight with the giant. Saul was surpised at his apparent rashness, and commenced telling him of the difficulties of the undertaking. But David, confident of help from the God whom he served, assured the king that he was not unused to danger, for he said, As I was tending my father's sheep, a lion and a bear came and seized a lamb, and I went out after him and smote him, and took the lamb out of his mouth; and when he turned upon me, I caught him by his beard and killed him. I slew both the lion and the bear; and this Philistine shall be as one of them. And Saul said, "Go, and the Lord be with you."
Saul then clothed David in his own armor; but it was too large and clumsy, so David laid it off; and with his staff in his hand, taking his simple shepherd's sling and five smooth stones from the brook, he went down the side of the mountain in sight of both armies, who crowded forward in breathless suspense to view this strange combat.
The giant, coming down from the hill-side into the plain, confident in his strength, looked proud defiance at the stripling. As David advanced, stout hearts trembled with excitement, and a silence profound and awful pervaded the armies.
The silence was broken by the curses of the Philistine, who demanded in his rage, "Am I a dog, that you come to me with staves? Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the fowls of the air, and to the beasts of the field."
David replied, You come to me with a sword and a spear and a shield; but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts: and all this assembly shall know that the Lord saveth not with sword or spear; for the battle is the Lord's and he will give you into our hands.
These were the last words that Goliath heard, for David by this time had placed a stone in his sling, and running towards the giant, he threw it, and it sank into his forehead, and he fell dead: and while David was cutting off his head, the shouts of the victorious army rang with deafening echoes from rock to rock, and from mountain to mountain.
Then came a general onset, and the Philistines fled in all directions, and were pursued and cut down for miles, till there was not a man to be found.
The Israelites then returned, and entering into the well-filled tents of their vanquished foe, they took possession of the whole with great joy and rejoicings.
In the mean time, Abner, the general of the host, took David, who stood with the giant's bleeding head in his hand, and brought him before Saul. This was a triumphant hour in the life of David; but when the king asked, "Whose son art thou, young man?" he replied with characteristic simplicity and humility, "I am the son of thy servant Jesse." There was no intimation that he was any thing else, or ever expected to be, although he was confident that he should one day occupy the very throne itself.
Michal, Saul's daughter, was given as the wife of David, and he seems to have accompanied the king to Gibeah; but notwithstanding all the noble deeds of David, the popularity which his daring act had gained him was very distressing to Saul, and he watched him with envious hatred.
Notwithstanding Goliath was gone, the giants were not all dead, for he had a brother of like dimensions, who afterwards exceedingly annoyed and troubled Israel. Here was another call for hazardous daring; and Elhanan, who was brought up in Bethlehem with David, and was probably one of his associates, and of the same intrepid spirit, encountered this giant, and killed him. Elhanan afterwards became one of David's valiant men, and received a commission in his army.
For eight or ten years after David's encounter with Goliath, he was obliged to hide himself from the envious Saul in the silent recesses of caves and mountains, and even among the enemies of his country. He first visited Samuel at Ramah, and poured out his full heart to this aged and sympathizing friend. Samuel undoubtedly encouraged him to put his trust in the Lord, who bringeth all his purposes to pass, and to feel that his life and interests were secure in his keeping.
David and Samuel removed to Naioth as a place of greater security; but not feeling safe here, David hurried back to Gibeah, and seeking a private interview with Jonathan, learned that he could hope for no favor or security from Saul, and that his safety lay in flight.