“‘But the Lord said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.'”
Then Jesse told his son Abinadab to step forward and walk in front of Samuel. But Samuel said, ‘This is not the one the Lord has chosen.’ Next Jesse summoned Shimea, but Samuel said, ‘Neither is this the one the Lord has chosen.’ In the same way all seven of Jesse’s sons were presented to Samuel. But Samuel said to Jesse, ‘The Lord has not chosen any of these.’ Then Samuel asked, ‘Are these all the sons you have?’
‘There is still the youngest,’ Jesse replied. ‘But he’s out in the fields watching the sheep and goats.’
‘Send for him at once,’ Samuel said. ‘We will not sit down to eat until he arrives.’
So Jesse sent for him. He was dark and handsome, with beautiful eyes. And the Lord said, ‘This is the one; anoint him.'” 1 Samuel 16:7-12, NLT
David: Profile from the NLT Study Bible
David is one of the monumental figures of biblical history. His reign was a high point in God’s plan for Israel, and it had great and lasting significance.
David was born in Bethlehem as Jesse’s youngest son; his lineage is traced back to Judah (Ruth 4:18-22; 1 Chr 2:3-15; Matt 1:3-6; Luke 3:31-33). At the time, Jerusalem was occupied by the Jebusites, and large parts of the Promised Land were still occupied by foreign people, most notably the Philistines. God would use David to complete the conquest of the land.
As a youth, David was a simple shepherd, watching his father’s sheep (16:11; 17:15). His life took an unexpected turn when the prophet Samuel came to Jesse and anointed David as the next king of Israel. However, David’s kingship was not initiated by a coup or an assassination. Indeed, David became a faithful servant to King Saul. David first entered Saul’s service as a musician, playing songs that soothed Saul’s tormented soul (16:14-23). This service anticipates David’s role as the composer of many of the psalms. The youthful David also helped Saul by famously defeating the Philistine champion Goliath in individual combat (17:32-51). This victory anticipates David’s role as a victorious military leader.
Although David was loyal, Saul grew deeply suspicious of him, and David had to flee. He was able to escape with help from Saul’s own children, Jonathan and Michal. David led a virtual kingdom in exile. He had a standing army of 600 men. The prophet Gad and the priest Abiathar were also with him, providing direction and guidance from the Lord.
God’s long-suffering patience finally ran out with Saul, and Saul was killed on the battlefield. Yet it was still not easy for David to establish his rule over all Israel. Judah immediately proclaimed him its king, but at first the northern tribes chose Ishbosheth, a son of Saul, to be their leader. Ishbosheth was not a powerful or good leader; he only stayed in power because of the protection of his father’s military leader, Abner. However, Ishbosheth foolishly insulted Abner, so the general helped turn the kingdom over to David.
As king over a united Israel, David proceeded to solidify the kingdom. He and his men captured Jerusalem from the Jebusites and made this central city his capital. He also expelled the remaining Philistines from the land. He then brought the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem. David wanted to build a permanent temple to God in Jerusalem to replace the Tabernacle. God denied this wish, but he showed his love for David by entering into a covenant with him that established his descendants as a dynasty (2 Sam 7).
David’s life soon took a turn for the worse, however (2 Sam 11–12). At a time when he probably should have been on the battlefield with his army, he was lounging around on the palace roof. He saw a beautiful woman named Bathsheba taking a bath. He wanted her, so, like a Near Eastern despot, he took her. She became pregnant, and his attempt to cover up his adultery failed. In a desperate attempt to keep things secret, he had her husband, Uriah, killed. But not even a great king like David can keep secrets from God, and God sent his prophet Nathan to confront David. David repented (see Pss 32, 51), but the consequences of his actions plagued his family and the rest of his reign.
From that point on, David’s family fell apart. David’s son Amnon raped his half sister Tamar (2 Sam 13:1-14). Her brother Absalom then murdered Amnon (2 Sam 13:20-22, 28-29). Absalom later created a civil war as he tried to steal the throne from his father (2 Sam 15–18). Another son, Adonijah, tried to take the throne from David by having himself proclaimed king while his father was still alive (1 Kgs 1:5-10). But David was able to muster enough strength to ensure that Solomon would succeed him (1 Kgs 1:28-40). David died, Solomon was proclaimed king, and David’s long dynasty began (as promised in 2 Sam 7).
David’s successors rarely measured up. Only rarely did his descendants lead the nation to worship God faithfully; the united monarchy did not even outlive Solomon. In the centuries that followed, the descendants of David ruled only Judah in the south. Finally, the kingdom of Judah was destroyed. Never again did a descendant of David reign as king in Israel.
What, then, of the promise to David that “your throne will be secure forever” (2 Sam 7:16)? The NT points to Jesus. He was the descendant of David, and God proclaimed him the Christ, or Messiah—the anointed king (see Matt 1:1; 9:27; 12:23; Mark 10:48; 11:10; 12:35; Luke 18:38-39; 20:41; John 7:42; Rev 5:5; 22:16). The life and rule of David foreshadows the messianic reign of Jesus Christ, which will last forever (see Luke 1:33; Rev 11:15).