I wrote in Uninvented how impossible it would be to invent the story of David’s choice to be the future king of Israel. What makes it believable, biblical speaking, is that it’s perfectly consistent with God’s choosing those he will use to establish his kingdom on earth, the most unlikely from a human perspective. If you know your Bible, this is not news. However, for those who think the Bible is merely a human book, I encourage them to consider why this is evidence for the veracity of the Bible’s claim to be a divine book.

If it was human, we would expect it to communicate things from a typically human perspective. For example, consistently using weak and terribly flawed people to make a religious story believable is not a good strategy. But the stories told from beginning to the end upend all cultural expectations of the times in which they were written. And not just upend them marginally, but completely and totally. That is a significant fact for the divine historicity of the stories. David’s choice as Israel’s future king is a good example, but several came before.

In the ancient world, the oldest male in the family got all the perks. In the biblical stories, it’s the youngest or younger who gets God’s blessing. If these stories were made up in the ancient world where does this counter cultural message come from if there is no precedent for it? Good question. Without God writing the story, it’s unexplainable. It just is. That’s not a satisfying explanation. God’s purposes in the history of redemption is a much more plausible explanation. So, before they’re even born, God picks Isaac over Esau, the younger over the older. Of Jacob’s twelve sons who will become the twelve tribes of Israel, it is the youngest, Joseph, who ends up of the hero of the story saving Israel from starvation in Egypt. In the Exodus, it is the first-born male who will pay the price of death for the Pharaoh’s sin, not exactly what you’d expect in a culture and society that exalts the first born male.

In the next significant step in redemptive history, there is David, the runt of the litter. The most unlikely of the sons of Jesse to become king of Israel. Saul, Israel’s first king whom he replaces, the prototypical king who stands literally head and shoulders above all his peers, fails miserably. You have to read the story of how the Lord instructs Samuel to pick David (I Sammuel 16) to appreciate how uninvented it would have been in the ancient world; it can only be explained plausibly in divine terms. Samuel gets to Bethlehem, which will be the birthplace of the future Messiah, and picks Jesse because one of his sons will be the future king of Israel. When Samuel sees the most impressive physical specimen among them, he says what any normal human being would, especially in the ancient world: “Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.” Nope:

 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

Oh, how guilty we all are of looking on appearance as if that is the true measure of the person. Paul says that since Christ died for us, we no longer regard anyone “according to the flesh,” or in the NIV, “from a worldly point of view.” I gotta work on that!

Jesse then parades all seven of his sons before Samuel, and each one is rejected as not chosen by the Lord. Samuel asks Jesse if these are all the sons he has, and his reply is pure uninvented credible:

“There is still the youngest,” Jesse answered. “He is tending the sheep.”

What? Not only is he the youngest, but he’s a shepherd! A normal career path to king in the ancient world did not go through the sheep pasture. The high school guidance counselor would say that is not a good move. Anyone tending sheep is most certainly not aspiring to be king.

As we know, the Bible is generally sparse in its description of events, partly by necessity. Writing was a laborious and expensive process, so the fewer words to communicate a message the better. What we don’t often see are the psychological and emotional reactions, unless they are necessary to convey something God in his providence felt we need to know. So, I try to imagine the reactions of Jesse and his sons, and their confusion and utter incredulity it wasn’t one of them chosen to be anointed king.

Samuel then tells them to send for David, and I wonder what the time waiting must have been like. This would have been a huge deal, and they all knew it. There was likely jealousy and envy, and more than a little anger, “You mean, that little snot nosed kid over me!” Yep:

12 So he sent for him and had him brought in. He was glowing with health and had a fine appearance and handsome features.

Then the Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; this is the one.”

You imagine dad and the sons thinking, it can’t be! But he’s a shepherd! We can’t know how any of this went down, of course, but given how culturally upside-down and inside-out this was, you just can’t make this stuff up!



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