This weeks introduction gives you some of the historical background on the text and on Israel’s move into the monarchic period. You may choose to share this with your class, but it is a tad complicated (especially for younger children) and you may decide instead to focus on how God calls David to be a leader in Israel. Quick aside: I really wish we could do the stories of Hannah and/or Samuel this week because they are so wonderful, but we must move a bit more quickly than that.
In this week’s lesson, you already begin to see our move toward Advent, as we jump ahead to the establishment of Israel’s monarchy. After their time wandering in the desert (we will revisit this story for a bit in Lent), Israel finds itself located in its own land, the land that God promised. It is, however, almost continuously under threat from other groups and peoples. Two things happen to move Israel toward the establishment of a monarchy. First, beginning in Judges, we hear the repeated refrain, “there was no king in Israel and everyone did what was right in their own sight”; in short, the people are straying from who God wants them to be (or from the Law as received and given to the people by Moses). Second, Israel’s existence is consistently under threat from the Philistines; Israel’s loose confederation of tribes is threatened without some organized power structure and response. The second of these reasons is related to the first, as it is often noted by historical writers that Israel’s existence is under threat because the people (and their leadership) stray from God’s favor. In other words, when they are in God’s favor, they are victorious in battle, and when they are outside of God’s favor, they lose battles. The establishment of the monarchy, however, is not entirely positive. Indeed, at some points, is is portrayed as a rejection of God’s direct rule (in favor of a different ruler) over the people.
As we have seen in various other texts, God chooses (through Samuel), David, the youngest of Jesse’s sons to be anointed as king. Such a selection is contrary to expectation that the oldest male would receive this privilege. From the time of his anointing, the Spirit of the Lord is upon David (as an aside, the portrayal of David in 1 Samuel is pretty idealistic. We remember him as a person after the heart of God, the youngest selected to remedy the evil spirit in Saul and lead Israel with faithfulness, and the writer of the Psalms (though David did not, in fact, write most of the Psalms as these were composed and compiled over hundreds of years). 2 Samuel’s account of the Davidic monarchy offers a more nuanced and complicated picture. David takes advantage of Bathsheeba, sends her husband Uriah to his death, and neglects to respond to the rape of his daughter Tamar by his son Amnon. These details don’t need to be shared with the children (though they are likely familiar with the first two), but it is important to avoid valorizing David entirely since our picture of David in Scripture is more mixed than our children’s Bibles, and our story for this Sunday demonstrate.
In our text for today, 1 Samuel 16:1-13, the Prophet Samuel anoints David while Saul is still king. From this point forward in the story, David rises to power as Saul falls from the seat of control. This story can cause us to wonder what God will make of these people. Does God’s promise still rest with the people? Does it come through David? In Matthew’s genealogy, it is clear that Christ is of David’s line (Matthew 1:6). Despite all of the conflicting ideas about the rise of the monarchy in Israel and despite the conflicting stories of David in 1 and 2 Samuel, here, it seems as though God has a plan for this people. Even before the exile and the hope of the Messiah how is God’s promise unfolding for the people of Israel and all the world?
Hear the Word: 1 Samuel 16: 1-13
Read the Story of the Prophet Samuel’s anointing of David. You may choose to read or tell this story directly from the Biblical text.
Respond to the Word
1. Artistic Intertext: Spend time looking at one of the following images: the illumination shown above, this fresco from Dura Europos, or this image. After reading the story of David’s anointing, share some of the details that stand out to you. Then, spend some time talking about the images. What does David look like? Does he seem like a simple shepherd boy or more like a king? What makes him look like one of these things? Is there a quality about David that makes him seem like a good king, or was God’s selection random? Invite the children to discuss which of the images they like best and then which image is most like the story as it is written. What makes the images similar to and different from the story?
2. What about the others?: Discuss some of the features that this story may share in common with other stories in the Bible. It seems as though God or another character has favored or selected younger siblings over older siblings in many of our stories (Abel over Cain, Jacob over Esau, Isaac over Ishmael, Joseph over his other brothers, etc.). Why does this seem to be the case? Why does Samuel (with God’s direction) select David over Jesse’s other sons? How do you think Jesse’s other sons responded? What about Jesse? Wonder together about this theme. What might it say about the work of God?
3. Paper figures: Have your students illustrate an image of each of Jesse’s sons (there are seven, including David). You can find most of their names in our text. Also have them illustrate livestock, Samuel, and Jesse. Cut each of the figures out and have yours students use them to retell the story. You can find a visual and some additional directions here.
4. David Icon: Many of our significant Old Testament Matriarchs and Patriarchs are considered Saints of the Church. Here is an icon depicting Saint David the Prophet and King. What details of the picture tell us something about David? Discuss what makes David a Saint of the Church and ask students to share some of the stories about David that they know. Is there something about David that makes him a Saint or something about what God does with David that makes him a Saint? After talking about his life and witness for the church, invite your students to write their own icon of David. They can depict any of the stories about David they know, including the story of his anointing. Or, they can make and image of David with symbols that remind us of his importance for the church and witness.
5. Liturgy Connection: Talk together about what it means that Samuel anointed David. The children may be most familiar with anointing from the liturgy. After someone is baptized, they are anointed with oil. Oil is often used when someone is commissioned, called, blessed, or given a charge. Reflect together on this significance and what it might have meant to David to be anointed. Then, set out small dishes of oil and roll up the children’s sleeves. Cut out pieces of the thick, brown building paper we have and give students a chance to practice anointing the paper. You can ask them to imagine that they are anointing a real person and giving them an important task. Then, on another sheet of paper, draw images or symbols from the story on the paper. This can be messy, so in classes with younger students, ask them to get ready to use these materials. Demonstrate some of the different shapes they can make and remind them that less is more. You may want to use some of the extra t-shirts in the supply closet to cover their clothes and use the sinks in your class to wash hands right after their activity.
6. Tending the animals Game: David was out tending the animals when his father was asked to summon him. It seems that Jesse was pretty sure that David was not going to be selected by Samuel! On slips of paper, write down animal names (sheep, cow, horse, etc.) and “David.” Then, Select one child to be Jesse. Send Jesse out of the room while all of the other children select a slip of paper. The children spread out throughout the room. Then bring in the blindfolded Jesse and place them in the middle of the class. When you start the game, all of the children should make the sound of their animal. Jesse needs to find David in the crowd of animals. If Jesse touches on of the characters they must tell him if they are David or not. When Jesse finds David, they game starts over with David playing the new Jesse.
Close with Prayer and a Feast