1 Samuel 16-20 Common English Bible (CEB)
Samuel anoints David
16 The Lord said to Samuel, “How long are you going to grieve over Saul? I have rejected him as king over Israel. Fill your horn with oil and get going. I’m sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem because I have found[a] my next king among his sons.”
2 “How can I do that?” Samuel asked. “When Saul hears of it he’ll kill me!”
“Take a heifer with you,” the Lord replied, “and say, ‘I have come to make a sacrifice to the Lord.’ 3 Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will make clear to you what you should do. You will anoint for me the person I point out to you.”
4 Samuel did what the Lord instructed. When he came to Bethlehem, the city elders came to meet him. They were shaking with fear. “Do you come in peace?” they asked.
5 “Yes,” Samuel answered. “I’ve come to make a sacrifice to the Lord. Now make yourselves holy, then come with me to the sacrifice.” Samuel made Jesse and his sons holy and invited them to the sacrifice as well.
6 When they arrived, Samuel looked at Eliab and thought, That must be the Lord’s anointed right in front.
7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Have no regard for his appearance or stature, because I haven’t selected him. God[b] doesn’t look at things like humans do. Humans see only what is visible to the eyes, but the Lord sees into the heart.”
8 Next Jesse called for Abinadab, who presented himself to Samuel, but he said, “The Lord hasn’t chosen this one either.” 9 So Jesse presented Shammah, but Samuel said, “No, the Lord hasn’t chosen this one.” 10 Jesse presented seven of his sons to Samuel, but Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord hasn’t picked any of these.” 11 Then Samuel asked Jesse, “Is that all of your boys?”
“There is still the youngest one,” Jesse answered, “but he’s out keeping the sheep.”
“Send for him,” Samuel told Jesse, “because we can’t proceed until he gets here.”[c]
12 So Jesse sent and brought him in. He was reddish brown, had beautiful eyes, and was good-looking. The Lord said, “That’s the one. Go anoint him.” 13 So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him right there in front of his brothers. The Lord’s spirit came over David from that point forward.
Then Samuel left and went to Ramah.
David is introduced to Saul
14 Now the Lord’s spirit had departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord tormented him. 15 Saul’s servants said to him, “Look, an evil spirit from God is tormenting you. 16 If our master just says the word, your servants will search for someone who knows how to play the lyre. The musician can play whenever the evil spirit from God is affecting you, and then you’ll feel better.”
17 Saul said to his servants, “Find me a good musician and bring him to me.”
18 One of the servants responded, “I know that one of Jesse’s sons from Bethlehem is a good musician. He’s a strong man and heroic, a warrior who speaks well and is good-looking too. The Lord is with him.”
19 So Saul sent messengers to Jesse to say, “Send me your son David, the one who keeps the sheep.”
20 Jesse then took a donkey and loaded it with a homer of bread,[d] a jar of wine, and a young goat, and he sent it along with his son David to Saul. 21 That is how David came to Saul and entered his service. Saul liked David very much,[e] and David became his armor-bearer. 22 Saul sent a message to Jesse: “Please allow David to remain in my service because I am pleased with him.” 23 Whenever the evil spirit from God affected Saul, David would take the lyre and play it. Then Saul would relax and feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him alone.
David defeats Goliath
17 The Philistines assembled their troops for war at Socoh of Judah. They camped between Socoh and Azekah at Ephes-dammim. 2 Saul and the Israelite army assembled and camped in the Elah Valley, where they got organized to fight the Philistines. 3 The Philistines took positions on one hill while Israel took positions on the opposite hill. There was a valley between them.
4 A champion named Goliath from Gath came out from the Philistine camp. He was more than nine feet tall.[f] 5 He had a bronze helmet on his head and wore bronze scale-armor weighing one hundred twenty-five pounds.[g] 6 He had bronze plates on his shins, and a bronze scimitar hung on his back. 7 His spear shaft[h] was as strong as the bar on a weaver’s loom, and its iron head weighed fifteen pounds.[i] His shield-bearer walked in front of him.
8 He stopped and shouted to the Israelite troops, “Why have you come and taken up battle formations? I am the Philistine champion,[j] and you are Saul’s servants. Isn’t that right? Select one of your men, and let him come down against me. 9 If he is able to fight me and kill me, then we will become your slaves, but if I overcome him and kill him, then you will become our slaves and you will serve us. 10 I insult Israel’s troops today!” The Philistine continued, “Give me an opponent, and we’ll fight!” 11 When Saul and all Israel heard what the Philistine said, they were distressed and terrified.[k]
12 Now David was Jesse’s son, an Ephraimite from Bethlehem in Judah who had eight sons. By Saul’s time, Jesse was already quite old and far along in age.[l] 13 Jesse’s three oldest sons had gone with Saul to war. Their names were Eliab the oldest, Abinadab the second oldest, and Shammah the third oldest. 14 (David was the youngest.) These three older sons followed Saul, 15 but David went back and forth from Saul’s side to shepherd his father’s flock in Bethlehem.
16 For forty days straight the Philistine came out and took his stand, both morning and evening. 17 Jesse said to his son David, “Please take your brothers an ephah[m] of this roasted grain and these ten loaves of bread. Deliver them quickly to your brothers in the camp. 18 And here, take these ten wedges of cheese to their unit commander. Find out how your brothers are doing and bring back some sign that they are okay. 19 They are with Saul and all the Israelite troops fighting the Philistines in the Elah Valley.”
20 So David got up early in the morning, left someone in charge of the flock, and loaded up and left, just as his father Jesse had instructed him. He reached the camp right when the army was taking up their battle formations and shouting the war cry. 21 Israel and the Philistines took up their battle formations opposite each other. 22 David left his things with an attendant and ran to the front line. When he arrived, he asked how his brothers were doing. 23 Right when David was speaking with them, Goliath, the Philistine champion from Gath, came forward from the Philistine ranks and said the same things he had said before. David listened. 24 When the Israelites saw Goliath, every one of them ran away terrified of him. (25 Now the Israelite soldiers had been saying to each other: “Do you see this man who keeps coming out? How he comes to insult Israel? The king will reward with great riches whoever kills that man. The king will give his own daughter to him and make his household exempt from taxes[n] in Israel.”)
26 David asked the soldiers standing by him, “What will be done for the person who kills that Philistine over there and removes this insult from Israel? Who is that uncircumcised Philistine, anyway, that he can get away with insulting the army of the living God?”
27 Then the troops repeated to him what they had been saying. “So that’s what will be done for the man who kills him,” they said.
28 When David’s oldest brother Eliab heard him talking to the soldiers, he got very mad at David. “Why did you come down here?” he said. “Who is watching those few sheep for you in the wilderness? I know how arrogant you are and your devious plan: you came down just to see the battle!”
29 “What did I do wrong this time?” David replied. “It was just a question!”
30 So David turned to someone else and asked the same thing, and the people said the same thing in reply. 31 The things David had said were overheard and reported to Saul, who sent for him.
32 “Don’t let anyone[o] lose courage because of this Philistine!” David told Saul. “I, your servant, will go out and fight him!”
33 “You can’t go out and fight this Philistine,” Saul answered David. “You are still a boy. But he’s been a warrior since he was a boy!”
34 “Your servant has kept his father’s sheep,” David replied to Saul, “and if ever a lion or a bear came and carried off one of the flock, 35 I would go after it, strike it, and rescue the animal from its mouth. If it turned on me, I would grab it at its jaw, strike it, and kill it. 36 Your servant has fought both lions and bears. This uncircumcised Philistine will be just like one of them because he has insulted the army of the living God.
37 “The Lord,” David added, “who rescued me from the power of both lions and bears, will rescue me from the power of this Philistine.”
“Go!” Saul replied to David. “And may the Lord be with you!”
38 Then Saul dressed David in his own gear, putting a coat of armor on him and a bronze helmet on his head. 39 David strapped his sword on over the armor, but he couldn’t walk around well because he’d never tried it before. “I can’t walk in this,” David told Saul, “because I’ve never tried it before.” So he took them off. 40 He then grabbed his staff and chose five smooth stones from the streambed. He put them in the pocket of his shepherd’s bag and with sling in hand went out to the Philistine.
41 The Philistine got closer and closer to David, and his shield-bearer was in front of him. 42 When the Philistine looked David over, he sneered at David because he was just a boy; reddish brown and good-looking.
43 The Philistine asked David, “Am I some sort of dog that you come at me with sticks?” And he cursed David by his gods. 44 “Come here,” he said to David, “and I’ll feed your flesh to the wild birds and the wild animals!”
45 But David told the Philistine, “You are coming against me with sword, spear, and scimitar, but I come against you in the name of the Lord of heavenly forces, the God of Israel’s army, the one you’ve insulted. 46 Today the Lord will hand you over to me. I will strike you down and cut off your head! Today I will feed your dead body and the dead bodies of the entire Philistine camp[p] to the wild birds and the wild animals. Then the whole world will know that there is a God on Israel’s side. 47 And all those gathered here will know that the Lord doesn’t save by means of sword and spear. The Lord owns this war, and he will hand all of you over to us.”
48 The Philistine got up and moved closer to attack David, and David ran quickly to the front line to face him. 49 David put his hand in his bag and took out a stone. He slung it, and it hit the Philistine on his forehead. The stone penetrated his forehead, and he fell facedown on the ground. 50 And that’s how David triumphed over the Philistine with just a sling and a stone, striking the Philistine down and killing him—and David didn’t even have a sword! 51 Then David ran and stood over the Philistine. He grabbed the Philistine’s sword, drew it from its sheath, and finished him off. Then David cut off the Philistine’s head with the sword.
When the Philistines saw that their hero was dead, they fled. 52 The soldiers from Israel and Judah jumped up with a shout and chased the Philistines all the way to Gath[q] and the gates of Ekron. The dead Philistines were littered along the Shaarim road all the way to Gath and Ekron. 53 When the Israelites came back from chasing the Philistines, they plundered their camp. 54 David took the head of the Philistine and brought it to Jerusalem, but he put the Philistine’s weapons in his own tent.
55 Now when Saul saw David go out to meet the Philistine, he asked Abner the army general, “Abner, whose son is that boy?”
“As surely as you live, Your Majesty, I don’t know,” Abner answered.
56 “Then find out whose son that young man is,” the king replied.
57 So when David came back from killing the Philistine, Abner sent for him and presented him to Saul. The Philistine’s head was still in David’s hand. 58 Saul said to him, “Whose son are you, my boy?”
“I’m the son of your servant Jesse from Bethlehem,” David answered.
Jonathan and David
18 As soon as David had finished talking with Saul, Jonathan’s life[r] became bound up with David’s life, and Jonathan loved David as much as himself.[s] 2 From that point forward, Saul kept David in his service[t] and wouldn’t allow him to return to his father’s household. 3 And Jonathan and David made a covenant together because Jonathan loved David as much as himself. 4 Jonathan took off the robe he was wearing and gave it to David, along with his armor, as well as his sword, his bow, and his belt. 5 David went out and was successful in every mission Saul sent him to do. So Saul placed him in charge of the soldiers, and this pleased all the troops as well as Saul’s servants.
Saul jealous of David
6 After David came back from killing the Philistine, and as the troops returned home, women from all of Israel’s towns came out to meet King Saul[u] with singing and dancing, with tambourines, rejoicing, and musical instruments. 7 The women sang in celebration:
“Saul has killed his thousands,
8 Saul burned with anger. This song annoyed him. “They’ve credited David with tens of thousands,” he said, “but only credit me with thousands. What’s next for him—the kingdom itself?” 9 So Saul kept a close eye on David from that point on.
10 The next day an evil spirit from God came over Saul,[v] and he acted like he was in a prophetic frenzy in his house. So David played the lyre as he usually did. Saul had a spear in his hand, 11 and he threw it, thinking, I’ll pin David to the wall. But David escaped from him two different times.
12 Saul was afraid of David because the Lord was with David but no longer with Saul. 13 So Saul removed David from his service, placing him in command of a unit of one thousand men. David led the men out to war and back. 14 David was successful in everything he did because the Lord was with him. 15 Saul saw that he was very successful, and he was afraid of him. 16 Everyone in Israel and Judah loved David because he led them out in war and back again.
17 Saul said to David, “Look, here is my oldest daughter Merab. I will give her to you in marriage on this condition: you must be my warrior and fight the Lord’s battles.” I won’t raise my hand against him, Saul thought; let the Philistines do that!
18 “I’m not worthy,” David replied to Saul, “and neither is my family or my father’s clan in Israel, to become the king’s son-in-law.” 19 And so when the time came for Saul’s daughter Merab to be married to David, she was given to Adriel from Meholah instead.
20 Now Saul’s younger daughter Michal loved David. When this was reported to Saul, he was happy about it. 21 I’ll give her to him, Saul thought; she’ll cause him problems, and the Philistines will be against him.
So Saul said to David a second time, “Become my son-in-law now.”
22 Saul instructed his servants, “Tell David in private: ‘Look, the king likes you, and all his servants love you. You should become the king’s son-in-law.’”
23 Saul’s servants whispered these things in David’s ear. But David said, “Do you think it’s a simple matter to become the king’s son-in-law? I don’t! I’m poor and insignificant.”
24 Saul’s servants reported what David said, 25 and Saul replied, “Tell David this: ‘The king doesn’t want any bridal gift, just a hundred Philistine foreskins as vengeance on the king’s enemies.’” (Saul was hoping that David would die at the hands of the Philistines.) 26 When the servants reported this to David, he was happy to become the king’s son-in-law. Even before the allotted time had expired,[w] 27 David got up and went with his soldiers and killed one hundred Philistines.[x] David brought their foreskins and counted them out for the king so he could become the king’s son-in-law. Then Saul gave his daughter Michal to him in marriage.
28 When Saul knew for certain that the Lord was with David and that his daughter Michal loved him, 29 then Saul was even more afraid of David. Saul was David’s enemy for the rest of his life.[y] 30 And whenever the Philistine commanders came out for battle, David would have more success than the rest of Saul’s officers, so his fame spread widely.
David escapes Saul
19 Saul ordered his son Jonathan and all his servants to kill David, but Jonathan, Saul’s son, liked David very much. 2 So Jonathan warned David, “My father Saul is trying to kill you. Be on guard tomorrow morning. Stay somewhere safe and hide. 3 I’ll go out and stand by my father in the field where you’ll be. I’ll talk to my father about you, and I’ll tell you whatever I find out.”
4 So Jonathan spoke highly about David to his father Saul, telling him, “The king shouldn’t do anything wrong to his servant David, because he hasn’t wronged you. In fact, his actions have helped you greatly. 5 He risked his own life when he killed that Philistine, and the Lord won a great victory for all Israel. You saw it and were happy about it. Why then would you do something wrong to an innocent person by killing David for no reason?”
6 Saul listened to Jonathan and then swore, “As surely as the Lord lives, David won’t be executed.” 7 So Jonathan summoned David and told him everything they had talked about. Then Jonathan brought David back to Saul, and David served Saul as he had previously.
8 War broke out again. When David went out to fight the Philistines, he struck them with such force that they ran from him.
9 Then an evil spirit from the Lord came over Saul.[z] He was sitting in his house with his spear in hand while David was playing music. 10 Saul tried to pin David to the wall with his spear, but David escaped Saul. Saul drove the spear into the wall, but David fled and got away safely. That night 11 Saul sent messengers to David’s house to keep watch on it and kill him in the morning. David’s wife Michal warned him, “If you don’t escape with your life tonight, you are a dead man tomorrow.” 12 So Michal lowered David through a window. He took off and ran, and he got away. 13 Then Michal took the household’s divine image and laid it in the bed, putting some goat’s hair on its head and covering it with clothes.
14 Saul sent messengers to arrest David, but she said, “He’s sick.”
15 Saul sent the messengers back to check on David for themselves. “Bring him to me on his bed,” he ordered, “so he can be executed.” 16 When the messengers arrived, they found the idol in the bed with the goat’s hair on its head. 17 Saul said to Michal, “Why could you betray me like this, letting my enemy go so that now he has escaped?”
Michal said to Saul, “David told me, ‘Help me get away or I’ll kill you!’”
18 So David fled and escaped. When he reached Samuel at Ramah, he reported to him everything Saul had done to him. Then he and Samuel went to stay in the camps.[aa]
19 When Saul was told that David was in the camps at Ramah, 20 he sent messengers to arrest David. They saw a group of prophets in a prophetic frenzy, with Samuel standing there as their leader. God’s spirit came over Saul’s messengers, and they also fell into a prophetic frenzy. 21 This was reported to Saul, and he sent different messengers, but they also fell into a prophetic frenzy. So Saul sent a third group of messengers, and they did the very same thing.
22 At that point, Saul went to Ramah himself. He came to the well at the threshing floor that was on the bare hill there[ab] and asked, “Where are Samuel and David?”
“In the camps at Ramah,” he was told. 23 So Saul went to the camps at Ramah, and God’s spirit came over him too. So as he traveled, he was in a prophetic frenzy until he reached the camps at Ramah. 24 He even took off all his clothes and fell into a prophetic frenzy in front of Samuel. He lay naked that whole day and night. That’s why people say, “Is Saul also one of the prophets?”
Jonathan and David’s friendship
20 David fled from the camps at Ramah. He came to Jonathan and asked, “What have I done? What is my crime? How have I wronged your father that he wants me dead?”
2 Jonathan said to him, “No! You are not going to die! Listen: My father doesn’t do anything big or small without telling me first. Why would my father hide this from me? It isn’t true!”
3 But David solemnly promised in response, “Your father knows full well that you like me. He probably said, ‘Jonathan must not learn about this or he’ll be upset.’[ac] But I promise you—on the Lord’s life and yours!—that I am this close to death!”
4 “What do you want me to do?” Jonathan said to David. “I’ll do it.”
5 “Okay, listen,” David answered Jonathan. “Tomorrow is the new moon, and I’m supposed to sit with the king at the feast. Instead, let me go and I’ll hide in the field until nighttime.[ad] 6 If your father takes note of my absence, tell him, ‘David begged my permission to run down to his hometown Bethlehem, because there is an annual sacrifice there for his whole family.’ 7 If Saul says ‘Fine,’ then I, your servant, am safe. But if he loses his temper, then you’ll know for certain that he intends to harm me. 8 So be loyal to your servant, because you’ve brought your servant into a sacred covenant[ae] with you. If I’m guilty, then kill me yourself; just don’t take me back to your father.”
9 “Enough!” Jonathan replied. “If I can determine for certain that my father intends to harm you, of course I’ll tell you!”
10 “Who will tell me if your father responds harshly?” David asked Jonathan.
11 “Come on,” Jonathan said to David. “Let’s go into the field.” So both of them went out into the field. 12 Then Jonathan told David, “I pledge by the Lord God of Israel that I will question my father by this time tomorrow or on the third day. If he seems favorable toward David, I will definitely send word and make sure you know. 13 But if my father intends to harm you, then may the Lord deal harshly with me, Jonathan, and worse still if I don’t tell you right away so that you can escape safely. May the Lord be with you as he once was with my father. 14 If I remain alive, be loyal to me.[af] But if I die, 15 don’t ever stop being loyal to my household. Once the Lord has eliminated all of David’s enemies from the earth, 16 if Jonathan’s name is also eliminated, then the Lord will seek retribution from David!”[ag]
17 So Jonathan again made a pledge to David[ah] because he loved David as much as himself. 18 “Tomorrow is the festival of the new moon,” Jonathan told David. “You will be missed because your seat will be empty. 19 The day after tomorrow, go all the way to the spot where you hid on the day of the incident, and stay close to that mound.[ai] 20 On the third day I will shoot an arrow to the side of the mound as if aiming at a target.[aj] 21 Then I’ll send the servant boy, saying, ‘Go retrieve the arrow.’ If I yell to the boy, ‘Hey! The arrow is on this side of you. Get it!’ then you can come out because it will be safe for you. There won’t be any trouble—I make a pledge on the Lord’s life. 22 But if I yell to the young man, ‘Hey! The arrow is past you,’ then run for it, because the Lord has sent you away. 23 Either way, the Lord is witness[ak] between us forever regarding the promise we made to each other.” 24 So David hid himself in the field.
When the new moon came, the king sat at the feast to eat. 25 He took his customary seat by the wall. Jonathan sat opposite him[al] while Abner sat beside Saul. David’s seat was empty. 26 Saul didn’t say anything that day because he thought, Perhaps David became unclean somehow. That must be it. 27 But on the next day, the second of the new moon, David’s seat was still empty. Saul said to his son Jonathan, “Why hasn’t Jesse’s son come to the table,[am] either yesterday or today?”
28 Jonathan answered Saul, “David begged my permission to go to Bethlehem. 29 He said, ‘Please let me go because we have a family sacrifice there in town, and my brother has ordered me to be present. Please do me a favor and let me slip away so I can see my family.’ That’s why David hasn’t been at the king’s table.”
30 At that, Saul got angry at Jonathan. “You son of a stubborn, rebellious woman!” he said. “Do you think I don’t know how you’ve allied yourself with Jesse’s son? Shame on you and on the mother who birthed you![an] 31 As long as Jesse’s son lives on this earth, neither you nor your dynasty will be secure. Now have him brought to me because he’s a dead man!”
32 But Jonathan answered his father Saul, “Why should David be executed? What has he done?”
33 At that, Saul threw[ao] his spear at Jonathan to strike him, and Jonathan realized that his father intended to kill David. 34 Jonathan got up from the table in a rage. He didn’t eat anything on the second day of the new moon because he was worried about David and because his father had humiliated him.
35 In the morning, Jonathan went out to the field for the meeting with David, and a young servant boy went with him. 36 He said to the boy, “Go quickly and retrieve the arrow that I shoot.” So the boy ran off, and he shot an arrow beyond him. 37 When the boy got to the spot where Jonathan shot the arrow, Jonathan yelled to him, “Isn’t the arrow past you?” 38 Jonathan yelled again to the boy, “Quick! Hurry up! Don’t just stand there!” So Jonathan’s servant boy gathered up the arrow and came back to his master. 39 The boy had no idea what had happened; only Jonathan and David knew. 40 Jonathan handed his weapons to the boy and told him, “Get going. Take these back to town.”
41 As soon as the boy was gone, David came out from behind the mound[ap] and fell down, face on the ground, bowing low three times. The friends kissed each other, and cried with each other, but David cried hardest. 42 [aq] Then Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace because the two of us made a solemn pledge in the Lord’s name when we said, ‘The Lord is witness between us and between our descendants forever.’” Then David got up and left, but Jonathan went back to town.