The hero of our story is David, youngest son of Jesse, whose family lived in Bethlehem. This section will seek to answer the who, what, when, where, why, how and how much questions; these are key to any serious exegesis of Scripture.

About Bethlehem:

  • First mentioned in Genesis 35:19 and 48:7. Jacob buries his beloved Rachel near there after she dies giving birth to Benjamin.
  • Early it was called Ephratah or Ephrath, meaning “fruitful.”
  • Bethlehem, or Beit-lechem, meant “house of bread.”
  • It was a place where grain grew abundantly, as illustrated in the Book of Ruth; Boaz and others had grain-fields there.
  • The story of Ruth centers around Bethlehem. Ruth’s father-in-law was Elimelech of Bethlehem. When both Ruth and Naomi are widowed, Naomi returns to Bethlehem accompanied by Ruth. Boaz, a bachelor, was the “redeemer-kinsman” of Elimelech’s family, meaning he accepted responsibility for carrying on the family line and maintaining the family property. After he and Ruth marry, their son was Obed, who would one day have a son named Jesse, the father of David! Thus, Ruth was David’s great-grandmother.
  • Bethlehem was located about 6 miles south of the old city of Salem, later Jerusalem. It was located in the Judean Mountains. From Bethlehem it was about 20 miles west down through a long canyon to the Valley of Elah, which was located here the coastal plains met the foothills of Judea.
  • Despite David’s victory over Goliath, Bethlehem will later fall into the hands of the Philistines (II Samuel 23:14) for a time. David will long for water from the well there, and some of his mighty men will slip behind enemy lines to draw water from the well at Bethlehem for their leader (II Samuel 23:13-17).

About David:

  • (I recommend a free book download entitled David: Shepherd, Psalmist, King, by F. B. Meyer available at
  • David was the youngest of eight sons of Jesse, son of Obed, of Bethlehem – I Samuel 17:12
  • David was still “a boy” as shepherd of the family’s flocks – I Samuel 16:11
  • “Now he was ruddy, with beautiful eyes and a handsome appearance.” – I Samuel 16:12 (NASB). Ruddy may have meant he was of fair complexion with reddish hair.
  • When Samuel had confronted Saul for his disobedience regarding the Amalekites, he said to Saul: “But now your kingdom shall not endure. The LORD has sought out for Himself a man after His own heart, and the LORD has appointed him as ruler over His people, because you have not kept what the LORD commanded you.” – I Samuel 13:14
  • Yet, Samuel did not know who the Lord had chosen until he was sent to Bethlehem to make sacrifices and anoint the one the Lord would reveal to him – I Samuel 16:12-13
  • David was not chosen based on his physical attributes, but because of his heart – I Samuel 16:7
  • As Samuel had told Saul, David was one “after His own heart,” that is, a person with qualities dear to God’s heart.
  • It seems that neither David nor his family recognized the real significance of Samuel’s anointing, perhaps thinking only that David was receiving a blessing from the old prophet. Only later would it be clear he had actually been anointed to be king.
  • The contrast is clear: the people chose Saul as their king; the Lord chose David.
  • Upon his anointing the “spirit of the Lord” came upon David – I Samuel 16:13. At about the same time, the Lord’s spirit departed from Saul – I Samuel 16:14. For the remainder of his life Saul will be like a man suffering from some mental illness, including depression, fits of rage, and paranoia.
  • Observations about David’s probable age:
    • He had fought and killed both a lion and a bear – I Samuel 17:34-37. His physical strength indicates at least near adulthood.
      • Adult Syrian brown bears can weigh 550 pounds. Learn more about them at and on Wikipedia.
      • Adult Asiatic lions can weigh from 260 lbs. (females) to 450 lbs. (males), according to Wikipedia.
      • Both types of animals were larger than the average man in David’s day, with the bear being near the same weight as Goliath.
    • He was sent several times by his father to check on his brothers in Saul’s army, a distance of 18-20 miles minimum carrying supplies to deliver to them and their commanding officer – I Samuel 17:12-20. He made the trip from Bethlehem to the battlefield in one day! Again, this indicates David is probably a minimum of 16-18 years old at this time.
    • Saul thought David might be able to wear his armor in battle against Goliath – I Samuel 17:38-39. The text does not indicate the armor was too large for David, only that David was not used to wearing it and believed it would hinder him. David seems clearly in early manhood, a young adult. Granting that men in that time matured earlier than now, this again would place him at a probable minimum of 16 years old and likely 2-4 years older than that. (Goliath was expecting Saul to come out and fight him one on one. Perhaps Saul thought that sending David out dressed in the King’s armor would make Goliath think it was Saul since Goliath had never seen Saul before!)
  • The story of David entering King Saul’s service to play the harp to sooth Saul’s spirit (I Samuel 16:14-23) is possibly out of chronological order, maybe more appropriately placed after I Samuel 17.

James Tissot (1836-1902) painted hundreds of images taken from the Bible. Our image today was entitled by Tissot, “Saul Puts His Armor Upon David.”