The Shepherd Boy of Bethlehem
I Samuel xvi: 1 to
Samuel told Saul that the Lord would take away the
kingdom from him, he did not mean that Saul should
lose the kingdom at once. He was no longer God's
king; and as soon as the right man in God's sight
should be found, and should be trained for his duty
as king, then God would take away Saul's power, and
would give it to the man whom God had chosen. But it
was many years before all this came to pass.
Samuel, who had helped in choosing Saul as king,
still loved him, and he felt very sorry to find Saul
disobeying God's commands. He wept much, and mourned
for Saul. But the Lord said to Samuel:
"Do not weep and mourn any longer over Saul, for I
have refused him as king. Fill the horn with oil,
and go to Bethlehem in Judah. There find a man named
Jesse, for I have chosen a king among his sons."
But Samuel knew that Saul would be very angry, if he
should learn that Samuel had named any other man as
king in his place. He said to the Lord, "How can I
go? If Saul hears of it, he will kill me."
Then the Lord said to Samuel, "Take a young cow with
you; and tell the people that you have come to make
an offering to the Lord. And call Jesse and his sons
to the sacrifice. I will tell you what to do; and
you shall anoint the one whom I name to you."
Samuel went over the mountains southward from Ramah
to Bethlehem, about ten miles, leading a cow. The
rulers of the town were alarmed at his coming, for
they feared that he had come to judge the people for
some evil-doing. But Samuel said, "I have come in
peace to make an offering and to hold a feast to the
Lord. Make yourselves ready and come to the
And he invited Jesse and his sons to the service.
When they had made themselves ready they came before
Samuel. He looked at the sons of Jesse very closely.
The oldest was named Eliab; and he was so tall and
noble-looking that Samuel thought:
"Surely this young man must be the one whom God has
chosen." But the Lord said to Samuel:
"Do not look on his face, nor on the height of his
body; for I have not chosen him. Man judges by the
outward looks, but God looks at the heart."
Then Jesse's second son, named Shammah, passed by.
And the Lord said, "I have not chosen this one."
Seven young men came, and Samuel said:
"None of these is the man whom God has chosen. Are
these all your children?"
"There is one more," said Jesse. "The youngest of
all. He is a boy in the field caring for the sheep."
And Samuel said:
"Send for him; for we will not sit down until he
comes." So after a time the youngest son was brought
in. His name was David, a word that means "darling,"
and he was a beautiful boy, perhaps fifteen years
old, with fresh cheeks and bright eyes.
As soon as the young David came, the Lord said to
"Arise; anoint him, for this is the one whom I have
Then Samuel poured oil on David's head, in the
presence of all his brothers. But no one knew at
that time the anointing to mean that David was to be
the king. Perhaps they thought that David was chosen
to be a prophet like Samuel.
From that time the Spirit of the Lord came upon
David; and he began to show signs of coming
greatness. He went back to his sheep on the
hillsides around Bethlehem, but God was with him.
David grew up strong and brave; not afraid of the
wild beasts which prowled around and tried to carry
away his sheep. More than once he fought with lions
and bears, and killed them, when they seized the
lambs of his flock. And David, alone all day,
practised throwing stones in a sling, until he could
strike exactly the place for which he aimed. When he
swung his sling, he knew that the stone would go to
the very spot at which he was throwing it.
And, young as he was, David thought of God, and
prayed to God. And God talked with David, and showed
to David his will. And David was more than a
shepherd and a fighter of wild beasts. He played
upon the harp, and made music, and sang songs about
the goodness of God to his people.
One of these songs of David we have all heard, and
perhaps know so well that we can repeat it. It is
called "The Shepherd Psalm," and begins with the
"The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
He leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul;
He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow
I will fear no evil; for thou art with me;
Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of
Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the
days of my life:
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."
think that David made this Psalm, while he was
himself a shepherd, tending his flock. But it seems
rather like the thoughts of a man than of a boy; and
it is more likely that long after those days, when
David was a king, and remembered his youth, and his
flock in the fields, that he saw how God had led
him, just as he had led his sheep; and then he wrote
But while the Spirit of God came to David among his
sheep, that Spirit left King Saul, because he no
longer obeyed God's words. Then Saul became very
unhappy, and gloomy in his feelings. There were
times when he seemed to lose his mind, and a madness
would come upon him; and at almost all times Saul
was sad and full of trouble, because he was no more
at peace with God.
The servants around Saul noticed that when some one
played on the harp and sang, Saul's gloom and
trouble passed away, and he became cheerful. At one
time Saul said:
"Find some one who can play well, and bring him to
me. Let me listen to music; for it drives away my
One of the young men said:
"I have seen a young man, a son of Jesse in
Bethlehem, who can play well. He is handsome in his
looks, and agreeable in talking. Then I have heard
that he is a brave young man, who can fight as well
as he can play; and the Lord is with him."
Then Saul sent a message to Jesse, David's father.
"Send me your son David, who is with the sheep. Let
him come and play before me."
Then David came to Saul, bringing with him a present
for the king from Jesse. When Saul saw him, he loved
him, as did everybody who saw the young David. And
David played on the harp, and sang before Saul. And
David's music cheered Saul's heart, and drove away
his sad feelings.
Saul liked David so well that he made him his armor-bearer;
and David carried the shield and spear and sword for
Saul when the king was before his army. But Saul did
not know that David had been anointed by Samuel. If
he had known it, he would have been very jealous of
After a time Saul seemed well, and David left him,
to be a shepherd once more at Bethlehem.