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MPN311 David's Brothers

INTRODUCTION: David was the youngest of eight sons of his father Jesse. The three oldest brothers became part of King Saul's army while David remained at home to tend his father's sheep. Later, after David killed Goliath and became a leader of many troops for King Saul, there was no further mention of his brothers for quite some time. But the growing jealousy of Saul made it necessary for David to finally escape from his own house to avoid being killed. When David took refuge at the cave of Adullam, his brothers and all his father's house heard, and they went there to him.

NOTE: Bible passages are from the New KJV.


1 Samuel 16 "1 Now the LORD said to Samuel, "How long will you mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go; I am sending you to Jesse the Bethlehemite. For I have provided Myself a king among his sons." 2 And Samuel said, "How can I go? If Saul hears it, he will kill me." And the LORD said, "Take a heifer with you, and say, 'I have come to sacrifice to the LORD.' 3 "Then invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; you shall anoint for Me the one I name to you." 4 So Samuel did what the LORD said, and went to Bethlehem. And the elders of the town trembled at his coming, and said, "Do you come peaceably?" 5 And he said, "Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the LORD. Sanctify yourselves, and come with me to the sacrifice." Then he consecrated Jesse and his sons, and invited them to the sacrifice."

COMMENTS: The LORD told Samuel that Saul was now rejected as king, so Samuel was to go to Bethlehem to anoint one of the sons of Jesse to be king. Samuel was afraid if Saul heard that he had anointed another man to become the king, Saul would have Samuel killed. The LORD instructed Samuel to take a heifer with him and hold a sacrifice. There must have been some common knowledge that King Saul had fallen from favor with the LORD, even to the point that he would be replaced; because when Samuel arrived at Bethlehem the elders were worried and asked if he had come in peace. Samuel said he had come in peace to make a sacrifice to the LORD. He told them to sanctify themselves, and come with him to the sacrifice. Then he consecrated Jesse and his sons, and invited them to what was apparently a public sacrifice. The LORD had told Samuel he would tell him which son to select, and Samuel did not even know how many sons Jesse had, since David was not at first there with his father. The text is not clear whether Samuel told the elders or Jesse, that the sacrifice to the LORD was part of his purpose to anoint one of the sons of Jesse to become king.


1 Samuel 16 "6 So it was, when they came, that he looked at Eliab and said, "Surely the LORD'S anointed is before Him." 7 But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have refused him. For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." 8 So Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. And he said, "Neither has the LORD chosen this one." 9 Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, "Neither has the LORD chosen this one." 10 Thus Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel. And Samuel said to Jesse, "The LORD has not chosen these." 11 And Samuel said to Jesse, "Are all the young men here?" Then he said, "There remains yet the youngest, and there he is, keeping the sheep." And Samuel said to Jesse, "Send and bring him. For we will not sit down till he comes here." 12 So he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, with bright eyes, and good-looking. And the LORD said, "Arise, anoint him; for this is the one!" 13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward. So Samuel arose and went to Ramah."

COMMENTS: Verses 6 and 7 give us a conversation between Samuel and the LORD. Samuel was impressed with the first son and thought surely he was the one, but the LORD told Samuel Eliab was refused: and we gained a precious couplet phrase from the LORD because of written Scripture: "man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." One by one Jesse called his sons before Samuel until all seven who were there had been refused. Samuel told Jesse that the LORD had not chosen them and then he asked if those were all of Jesse's sons, because he knew the LORD had sent him to anoint a son of Jesse. When Jesse said the youngest son was keeping the sheep, Samuel said they would not sit down (apparently to the sacrifice) until that son arrived. It is interesting that a brief description of David is given which might have been an influence one way or the other, but we know the LORD wants us also to go beyond outward appearance as much as possible. The LORD told Samuel (in an inner voice not heard by others) to arise and anoint David for he was the chosen one. Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed David, and it is clear that his brothers were all around to see this happen. Later this brought out sarcastic and demeaning remarks from David's oldest brother. The Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day of anointing and forward, and the Spirit of the LORD would be withdrawn from King Saul. There is no more narrative about the significance of the anointing, or about the sacrifice of the heifer to the LORD before Samuel arose and went to Ramah.


1 Samuel 16 "14 But the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and a distressing spirit from the LORD troubled him. 15 And Saul's servants said to him, "Surely, a distressing spirit from God is troubling you. 16 "Let our master now command your servants, who are before you, to seek out a man who is a skillful player on the harp; and it shall be that he will play it with his hand when the distressing spirit from God is upon you, and you shall be well." 17 So Saul said to his servants, "Provide me now a man who can play well, and bring him to me." 18 Then one of the servants answered and said, "Look, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, who is skillful in playing, a mighty man of valor, a man of war, prudent in speech, and a handsome person; and the LORD is with him." 19 Therefore Saul sent messengers to Jesse, and said, "Send me your son David, who is with the sheep." 20 And Jesse took a donkey loaded with bread, a skin of wine, and a young goat, and sent them by his son David to Saul. 21 So David came to Saul and stood before him. And he loved him greatly, and he became his armorbearer. 22 Then Saul sent to Jesse, saying, "Please let David stand before me, for he has found favor in my sight." 23 And so it was, whenever the spirit from God was upon Saul, that David would take a harp and play it with his hand. Then Saul would become refreshed and well, and the distressing spirit would depart from him."

COMMENTS: King Saul accepted his servant's advice about the calming effect of music, and when one of them said he knew of a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, he listed very complimentary characteristics including his appearance and that the LORD was with this son. We are not told anything about the servant who made the DETAILED recommendation, but Saul sent messengers to Jesse specifically for him to send his son David (by name) to leave the sheep he was tending. Jesse sent David to King Saul with a gift on a donkey. David was loved greatly by Saul, and he became his armorbearer. Then Saul sent a message to Jesse, asking that he please let David stay with him. whenever the spirit from God was upon Saul, David would take a harp and play it with his hand. Then Saul would become refreshed and well, and the distressing spirit would depart from him. David was able to return to his father periodically until later, after he had killed Goliath.


1 Samuel 17 "12 Now David was the son of that Ephrathite of Bethlehem Judah, whose name was Jesse, and who had eight sons. And the man was old, advanced in years, in the days of Saul. 13 The three oldest sons of Jesse had gone to follow Saul to the battle. The names of his three sons who went to the battle were Eliab the firstborn, next to him Abinadab, and the third Shammah. 14 David was the youngest. And the three oldest followed Saul. 15 But David occasionally went and returned from Saul to feed his father's sheep at Bethlehem. 16 And the Philistine drew near and presented himself forty days, morning and evening. 17 Then Jesse said to his son David, "Take now for your brothers an ephah of this dried grain and these ten loaves, and run to your brothers at the camp. 18 "And carry these ten cheeses to the captain of their thousand, and see how your brothers fare, and bring back news of them." 19 Now Saul and they and all the men of Israel were in the Valley of Elah, fighting with the Philistines. 20 So David rose early in the morning, left the sheep with a keeper, and took the things and went as Jesse had commanded him. And he came to the camp as the army was going out to the fight and shouting for the battle. 21 For Israel and the Philistines had drawn up in battle array, army against army. 22 And David left his supplies in the hand of the supply keeper, ran to the army, and came and greeted his brothers. 23 Then as he talked with them, there was the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name, coming up from the armies of the Philistines; and he spoke according to the same words. So David heard them. 24 And all the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him and were dreadfully afraid. 25 So the men of Israel said, "Have you seen this man who has come up? Surely he has come up to defy Israel; and it shall be that the man who kills him the king will enrich with great riches, will give him his daughter, and give his father's house exemption from taxes in Israel." 26 Then David spoke to the men who stood by him, saying, "What shall be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?" 27 And the people answered him in this manner, saying, "So shall it be done for the man who kills him." 28 Now Eliab his oldest brother heard when he spoke to the men; and Eliab's anger was aroused against David, and he said, "Why did you come down here? And with whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know your pride and the insolence of your heart, for you have come down to see the battle." 29 And David said, "What have I done now? Is there not a cause?" 30 Then he turned from him toward another and said the same thing; and these people answered him as the first ones did."

COMMENTS: David was again identified as a son of Jesse of Bethlehem Judah, who had eight sons. Jesse was advanced in years in the days of King Saul, and his three oldest sons had become soldiers in the army. While David was the man who played the harp for Saul and also was his armor bearer, he occasionally returned to feed his father's sheep at Bethlehem. Goliath had been making his challenge for forty days before Jesse sent David to take some provisions to his three brothers, and some cheese to the captain of their company of a thousand men. David left his supplies with the supply keeper and ran to greet his brothers. David's comments about the defiant Goliath brought a snide remark from his oldest brother Eliab. David brushed off that comment about leaving the few sheep and having a proud heart, and continued to ask about this brash Philistine defying the armies of the living God.


1 Samuel 17 "31 Now when the words which David spoke were heard, they reported them to Saul; and he sent for him. 32 Then David said to Saul, "Let no man's heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine." 33 And Saul said to David, "You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are a youth, and he a man of war from his youth." 34 But David said to Saul, "Your servant used to keep his father's sheep, and when a lion or a bear came and took a lamb out of the flock, 35 I went out after it and struck it, and delivered the lamb from its mouth; and when it arose against me, I caught it by its beard, and struck and killed it. 36 "Your servant has killed both lion and bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, seeing he has defied the armies of the living God." 37 Moreover David said, "The LORD, who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine." And Saul said to David, "Go, and the LORD be with you!"

1 Samuel 17 "50 So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone, and struck the Philistine and killed him. But there was no sword in the hand of David. 51 Therefore David ran and stood over the Philistine, took his sword and drew it out of its sheath and killed him, and cut off his head with it. And when the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled. 52 Now the men of Israel and Judah arose and shouted, and pursued the Philistines as far as the entrance of the valley and to the gates of Ekron. And the wounded of the Philistines fell along the road to Shaaraim, even as far as Gath and Ekron. 53 Then the children of Israel returned from chasing the Philistines, and they plundered their tents. 54 And David took the head of the Philistine and brought it to Jerusalem, but he put his armor in his tent. 55 When Saul saw David going out against the Philistine, he said to Abner, the commander of the army, "Abner, whose son is this youth?" And Abner said, "As your soul lives, O king, I do not know." 56 So the king said, "Inquire whose son this young man is." 57 Then, as David returned from the slaughter of the Philistine, Abner took him and brought him before Saul with the head of the Philistine in his hand. 58 And Saul said to him, "Whose son are you, young man?" So David answered, "I am the son of your servant Jesse the Bethlehemite.""

COMMENTS: Though David had come from his father Jesse as requested by King Saul to play the harp, and had gone before Saul before he faced Goliath; Saul failed to recognize him after he returned from the battle carrying the head of Goliath. With that being the case, it seems very unlikely that Saul would know anything about David's three brothers who were part of the army of Saul.


1 Samuel 19 "8 And there was war again; and David went out and fought with the Philistines, and struck them with a mighty blow, and they fled from him. 9 Now the distressing spirit from the LORD came upon Saul as he sat in his house with his spear in his hand. And David was playing music with his hand. 10 Then Saul sought to pin David to the wall with the spear, but he slipped away from Saul's presence; and he drove the spear into the wall. So David fled and escaped that night. 11 Saul also sent messengers to David's house to watch him and to kill him in the morning. And Michal, David's wife, told him, saying, "If you do not save your life tonight, tomorrow you will be killed." 12 So Michal let David down through a window. And he went and fled and escaped."

1 Samuel 20 "35 And so it was, in the morning, that Jonathan went out into the field at the time appointed with David, and a little lad was with him. 36 Then he said to his lad, "Now run, find the arrows which I shoot." As the lad ran, he shot an arrow beyond him. 37 When the lad had come to the place where the arrow was which Jonathan had shot, Jonathan cried out after the lad and said, "Is not the arrow beyond you?" 38 And Jonathan cried out after the lad, "Make haste, hurry, do not delay!" So Jonathan's lad gathered up the arrows and came back to his master. 39 But the lad did not know anything. Only Jonathan and David knew of the matter. 40 Then Jonathan gave his weapons to his lad, and said to him, "Go, carry them to the city." 41 As soon as the lad had gone, David arose from a place toward the south, fell on his face to the ground, and bowed down three times. And they kissed one another; and they wept together, but David more so. 42 Then Jonathan said to David, "Go in peace, since we have both sworn in the name of the LORD, saying, 'May the LORD be between you and me, and between your descendants and my descendants, forever.'" So he arose and departed, and Jonathan went into the city."

COMMENTS: Even though David had become a valiant warrior and leader of troops, he continued to play the harp to calm Saul's spirit. There is still no mention of David's brothers, though it is likely they continued to serve in the army even as Saul's jealousy of David grew stronger. David was able to escape when Saul threw his spear to pin David to the wall as he played. Then David was let down by his wife through a window at night, because men that Saul had sent were waiting at the door to kill David in the morning. Jonathan met with David according to a prearranged plan, and this became their final meeting. David never returned to Saul after that attempt on his life, and David's brothers were not with him as he sought refuge.


1 Samuel 21 "10 Then David arose and fled that day from before Saul, and went to Achish the king of Gath. 11 And the servants of Achish said to him, "Is this not David the king of the land? Did they not sing of him to one another in dances, saying: 'Saul has slain his thousands, And David his ten thousands'?" 12 Now David took these words to heart, and was very much afraid of Achish the king of Gath. 13 So he changed his behavior before them, feigned madness in their hands, scratched on the doors of the gate, and let his saliva fall down on his beard. 14 Then Achish said to his servants, "Look, you see the man is insane. Why have you brought him to me? 15 "Have I need of madmen, that you have brought this fellow to play the madman in my presence? Shall this fellow come into my house?""

1 Samuel 22 "1 David therefore departed from there and escaped to the cave of Adullam. And when his brothers and all his father's house heard it, they went down there to him. 2 And everyone who was in distress, everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was discontented gathered to him. So he became captain over them. And there were about four hundred men with him. 3 Then David went from there to Mizpah of Moab; and he said to the king of Moab, "Please let my father and mother come here with you, till I know what God will do for me." 4 So he brought them before the king of Moab, and they dwelt with him all the time that David was in the stronghold."

COMMENTS: It seems rather odd that David would go to Gath of the Philistines, especially since Goliath whom David had killed, had been from Gath. But if he had been able to stay, it is unlikely that Saul would have found him there. David's brothers went to him when the rest of his father's house joined him at Adullam, and most likely that would have been all seven brothers. There is no further mention about them or of any sons they may have had. Many others who were in debt, and everyone who was discontented gathered to him. So he became captain over about four hundred men. David made a request before the king of Moab which was granted, so he took his father and mother to Mizpah of Moab and they dwelt there all the time that David was in the stronghold. Even though David was the youngest son, he took this responsibility for his parents.


Lord, I thank you that though David was the last son born to Jesse the Bethlehemite, he was very faithful as the shepherd of his father's sheep, even to the point of defending the flock from a bear and a lion. There is no indication that he ever had any superior attitude toward any of his brothers after Samuel had anointed him following the rejection of all of his brothers by you LORD. Though Eliab criticized David for asking about the Philistine who was defying the armies of the living God, David simply said there is a cause. Then David became a valiant leader of Saul's troops after he had slain Goliath with confidence that God would make him victorious. David had decisive victories as he led battles against the Philistines, with no mention of his three brothers who were part of the army. When David made the cave of Adullam his stronghold, his brothers and the house of his father Jesse went to him. By this time it seems that the brothers must have realized that David had truly been chosen by you LORD, and that he had not been driven by pride. I thank you LORD for the quiet conclusion regarding David's older brothers. May I be careful not to envy or criticize anyone who has a leadership position over me. Amen.

Published 15 September 2020