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"Anointing of David" Lesson Set!

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The Anointing of David

Bible Background


Passage: 1 Samuel 16:1-13

Key/Memory Verses: "For the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart."  1 Samuel 16:7b (NRSV)

{Younger classes may want to use the CEV translation: "The Lord told Samuel, 'People judge others by what they look like, but I judge people by what is in their hearts.'

Additional Suggestions for Key/Memory Verse:

"The Lord said to David: 'It is you who shall be shepherd of my people Israel, you who shall be ruler over Israel.' ... And David became greater and greater, for the Lord, the God of hosts, was with him."  2 Samuel 5:7b, 10 (NRSV)

A "thematic" memory verse for the rotation could be: "I can do all things through him who strengthens me."  Philippians 4:13 (NRSV)

Paul references the sweet aroma of anointing oil in 2 Corinthians 2:15 "Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God."  A Cooking lesson will touch on this.  Anointing oil usually had a fragrance.


David, a man after God's own heart, was chosen by God to be the King of Israel.

Students need to know "how" that happened, but also "why" God chose David, in order to understand, what God is looking for in our hearts.  

 God directs the prophet Samuel to anoint David in secret as Israel's future king. Twenty-four years later David will become king, "according to the word of the Lord to Samuel." (1 Chronicles 11:1-9)

Here is a concise kid-friendly summary of the importance of David's story to us. Use it to give students a quick overview. Older students would do well to have a working knowledge of this summary by the end of the rotation.

King David is one of the most famous people in the Bible, and for all the right reasons! He was born in the village of Bethlehem 1000 years before Jesus was born there. David was a young shepherd boy when he was selected by God through the Prophet Samuel to be the second King of Israel, replacing King Saul. Why? Because God looked in his heart at a young age and saw that David would be his faithful servant.  What matters most to God is not what's on the outside of a person, their looks or strength, but what's on the inside.

As a sign of God's blessing and what was on the inside of David that God found pleasing, Samuel anointed David's head with sweet smelling oil, because David heart was pleasing to God.

As a young boy, his courageous faith allowed him to win a great battle over the giant Goliath who mocked God. As a grown up, King David worshiped God with joy, wrote psalms, and protected the people of Israel.

David was so loved, that later prophets used him as an example of the kind of king God was going to send to Israel to save them from their sins. This “Second David” would also be born in Bethlehem. And he would be called "God with us," "the 2nd David," the "Messiah." We know him as Jesus, the King of Kings. (7)

The choice of David to be King, and Jesus the King of Kings, tells us what God wants to find in each of our hearts as well.

Objectives for the Rotation

After completing this Rotation, participants will:

  • appreciate that God is in charge, working steadfastly according to God's own plan and timetable, and often through unlikely people, -like David, and like people like you if you have a heart for God.
  • learn that the shepherd boy David will become Israel's greatest king because of his heart for God.
  • understand that David became the king all others were compared to, -which eventually turned into the hope and promise of "another king like David" (a "2nd David") who would come save Israel, -a promise fulfilled in the coming of Christ.
  • examine what's in their own heart, and what they need to grow in their heart, in order to be pleasing to God.

Bible Background

1 Samuel 16:1-13

1-3 - God to Samuel: "Stop grieving over rejected Saul and go to Bethlehem to anoint a king from Jesse's sons." Samuel is afraid; he knows Saul will kill him if he anoints another king. God tells him to take a heifer to Bethlehem to give the appearance of going to make a sacrifice. If Samuel invites Jesse to the sacrifice, God will show Samuel what to do and who to anoint.

4-5 - Samuel obeys; terrified elders meet him and ask if he has come in peace. Samuel says "peace" and invites them to the sacrifice. He sanctified Jesse and his sons and invited them.

6-7 - First son comes before Samuel and Samuel is sure this is the one God wants anointed. God says, "You're looking at the outside, it's what's on the inside that I see and that's what's important. I have rejected this man for anointing."

8-10 - All seven sons pass by Samuel, and God does not choose any of them.

11-12 - Samuel asks Jesse if these are all of his sons. Jesse says only the youngest is left but he is tending sheep. Samuel asks Jesse to send for him. When the youngest comes in, God says to Samuel, "Rise and anoint him; for this is the one."

13- Samuel anoints David in front of his brothers. From that day forward, God's spirit was on David in power. Samuel leaves for Ramah.

1 Chronicles 11:1-9 (Also found in 2 Samuel 5:1-10)

1-2 - All Israel gathers together and says they are all family. They acknowledge that David commanded the army while Saul was king and that God appointed David to be their king.

3- The elders of Israel anoint David as king over all of Israel, according to God's word through Samuel.

4-6 - David and his army march to Jerusalem and take it from their enemies. Joab was made commander-in-chief because he led the attack.

7-8 - David begins living in the fortress of Jerusalem. Joab and David build up and restore the city.

9- David becomes more and more powerful because the Almighty God was with him.

Comments on the Scripture

Our text is a wonderful story about how God chooses, prepares and leads leaders. We see God faithfully working in God's own time through his chosen people, and through chosen individuals.   

The scene opens with the Lord's words to Samuel, a powerful prophet, priest, and the last of the judges of Israel. God is rebuking Samuel for his continuing grief over the disobedience of Saul, Israel's first king. God announces, "I have rejected him." Then the Lord sends Samuel on a startling, unexpected mission to anoint a new king in Bethlehem.

♦ It's as if God is saying, "stop your complaining, go find a leader to lead Israel."  

What is it that WE complain about, but don't do anything about?

How could you or another be a leader for change?

Samuel responds in fear, knowing that vengeful King Saul would kill Samuel if he heard about the prophet's anointing a replacement for him. But God reassures Samuel that God knows how to avoid that disaster.

When Samuel actually arrives in Bethlehem, the elders of Bethlehem are themselves terrified at Samuel's coming. They fear both Samuel and Saul, but meekly accept the ruse that God's great prophet has traveled this distance only to offer a sacrifice with Jesse and his sons.

We as readers are in on God's secret with Samuel, but Jesse and the elders are unaware of the pivotal importance of this event. Our narrator draws out both the drama and the comedy of this scene. We see Samuel preparing to choose Jesse's eldest son, Eliab, the "natural choice" in a Hebrew family because he was the oldest, and a man whom Samuel falsely assumed would be a good choice because of his physical height. But the Lord speaks directly to Samuel, warning him that physical appearance is not how God chooses a leader. Perhaps Samuel now remembers that Saul also was tall and appeared suited to leadership.

♦ This is a key life application point for students. God's standards vs the world's for choosing leaders.

Who gets picked for the team captains and prom kings at school?

In the movies, do the girls swoon over a boy's looks or heart?

What qualifications do you need to be a leader in the church? Older? Smartest? What?

Jesse's next two sons, Abinadab and Shammah, are rejected by name. Then the last four pass by, nameless, but also rejected. This must be an important story because seven is an important number. Samuel finally asks, "Are all your sons here?"

The youngest, too inconsequential to have been invited to the sacrifice, must be brought in from keeping the sheep. So everyone stops, waiting for David's arrival. Walter Brueggeman notes, "The narrator makes Jesse's household wait, and makes the reader wait, for the arrival of (the as-yet unnamed) David. The story waits, just as Israel has waited." (1)

As David finally arrives, the first information we are given is his physical description. Ironically, the Lord has just instructed Samuel to disregard physical appearance. But our first information about David is that he is redheaded with beautiful eyes, a handsome fellow. Throughout his life, David's charisma, his attractiveness to both men and women, will be important to him.

What makes him look beautiful to others?

Were his eyes good-looking, or did his eyes pay attention, notice beauty, and showed respect?
As a young warrior, he inspired others to follow him through his faithful acts. Was his charisma because of his good looks? Or because he was blessed by God?

David speaks not a word, and the anointing is quickly done. "... And the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward." 

Throughout his life, his biggest qualification and saving grace (even after doing wrong) was that he had a personal relationship with God. He prayed, he confessed, he sang, and he led others to do the same.

About Anointing

The practice of Anointing in the Bible was a way of marking, choosing, or blessing. Samuel anointed David as the chosen king; the woman anointed Jesus' feet. The women went to the tomb to anoint Jesus' body.  .

In some churches, babies are anointed, or sick people are anointed.  Anointing is similar to baptism in that we set apart and use a common substance for special purpose. Ashes on Ash Wednesday are sometimes mixed with anointing oil.

Some faith traditions have many uses and types of oil, such as, the Episcopal and Roman Catholic churches. In biblical times, hair was oiled to cleanse it.

Importantly, the word "Messiah" means, "Anointed One."  Anointing oil was scented with spices, often myrrh and cinnamon, and thus, the Anointed One was One Who Smelled Pleasing to God. Metaphorically speaking, sin smelled bad, and good smelled sweet. This is often the case in the real world too. Bad things have a stench.

In Exodus, Moses gives a recipe for sweet anointing oil to be used in the Tabernacle. Good smelling things like anointing oil and frankincense (incense) were used in the Tabernacle and Temple to make the offerings smell sweet to God.  As the smoke rose, it carried that sweetness to God.  It was an olfactory lesson! 

We too are to be a pleasing smell to God. We are anointed with Christ's Spirit. The Apostle Paul brings all these images and smells together in 2 Corinithians 15, "Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God."   

Historical Background

David reigned around the year 1000 B.C. The books of 1 and 2 Samuel were written some time later and anonymously. The events center around three important men: Saul, Samuel, and David.

Prior to the period of Saul, David, and Solomon, Israel was organized tribally and ruled by a series of Judges (the Book of Judges). However, the people, prophets, and priests complained that their nation needed to be more established. Israel whined and said they wanted to have a king like all the other nations. (1 Samuel 8:5, 20)   The problem was that God wanted to be their king, and was afraid that an earthly king would lead them astray, (and the rest of the Old Testament proves this point).

God's point of view seems to be one of "giving in" to the demand to prove a point. So he intervened and gave Hannah the son she longed for, Samuel. Samuel, as a judge, prophet, and priest, was a strong leader.

Samuel found and anointed Saul to be Israel's first king. Saul's forty-two year reign was marked by some successes but mostly by rebellion against God. When God chose to replace Saul with David, Saul became insanely jealous of David and tried to kill him at least seven times. God finally rejected and Saul was killed in battle alongside his son Jonathan, -opening the door to David.

An undetermined amount of time passed between God's rejection of Saul and God's command to Samuel to go to Bethlehem and anoint the king of God's own choosing. David's father, Jesse, was the grandson of Ruth and Boaz and so was in the line of promise for the coming Messiah. Matthew and Luke make a point of tracing Jesus' ancestry back to David's in their introductions.

Theological Background

Sometimes this story is reduced to a simple moral: be a person after God's own heart." And indeed, that's one of its meanings. But because we know how the story of David and all the rest of the kings turns out, as Christians we also teach a larger meaning:  Even the best people are not perfect leaders. God wants to be our king.

Jesus was more than just a "2nd David."  Jesus being Emmanuel, God with us, is a return to God's original "pre-Kings" plan: God would be the people's king, not a mere human. 

The words of one of David's Psalms says it clearly: "You have been our king from the beginning, O God; You have saved us many times." (Psalm 74:12) 

People want to place their trust in earthly leaders:  Presidents, politicians, warriors, pastors, parents, team captains. But as the Bible tells us, even good people are only human. To really follow God, you must follow him personally.  God wants to be our "president/pastor/parent/captain." God comes to lead us, the Messiah, as Jesus.


(1) Brueggeman, Walter. Interpretation #8, First and Second Samuel. Louisville: Westminster/John Knox Press, p. 122.

(2) Walvoord, John F. and Roy B. Zuck. Bible Knowledge Commentary. Colorado Springs: Chariot Victor Publishing, 1985, p. 431.

(3) Ibid., p. 449.

(4) Ibid., p. 590.

(5) Ibid., p. 447.

(6) Wiersbe, Warren W. Wiersbe's Expository Outlines on the Old Testament. Colorado Springs: Chariot Victor Publishing, 1993, p. 266.

(7) Summary of David's Importance, Life of David worksheet.

Additional Bibliography

Keithahn, Mary Nelson. Discover David. Prescott, AZ: Educational Ministries, 1994.

Wehrheim, Carol A., Editor. "Stories of David, Shepherd King." The Storyteller Series. St. Louis: Christian Board of Publication, 1997.


Written by: Anne Camp, Sally Priebe, and Neil MacQueen

Copyright 2015,
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