“And he sent, and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and withal of a beautiful countenance, and goodly to look to. And the LORD said, Arise, anoint him: for this is he. Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brethren: and the spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward. So Samuel rose up, and went to Ramah” (1 Samuel 16:12-13).
In these two verses we have an extremely brief description of Samuel anointing David as the next king of Israel. David, far from being the child of picture books, was between fifteen and twenty years of age at this time.
It appears that this simple ceremony was performed behind closed doors, possibly in Jesse’s house. We can be sure that the people of the town would have wondered what was going on inside. David’s family probably stood there open mouthed as the prophet began to pray and pour oil on him. None, except maybe Jesse, comprehended what the event really meant, but each of them witnessed it. “David’s brethren saw David’s unction, yet did not understand, that he was anointed to the kingdom; but were only told by Samuel, that he was anointed to some great service, which hereafter they should know” (John Wesley).
The account of David’s appearance is one of a healthy and agile youth. “There was something in his looks that was very charming” (Matthew Henry). The word “ruddy” may simply describe the colour of his cheeks, but some commentators believe that he had red hair. He may not have looked the part as a candidate for kingship, but he was the one God had chosen. If it had been voted upon the people would have elected a rugged warrior rather than a shepherd boy. “Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12).
The Spirit of God
While David’s coronation ceremony was some years away, here we see him being anointed in preparation for that great day. The Holy Spirit came upon him from that moment. “That is, he was immediately endowed with extraordinary gifts of God’s Spirit, as strength, and courage, and wisdom, and other excellent qualities which fitted him for, and put him upon noble attempts” (John Wesley).
There are only a few occasions before the Day of Pentecost that people were baptised with the Spirit of God. David had the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit throughout his life, and he knew the importance of it in later life. “Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me” (Psalm 51:11).
The anointing oil being poured over David was symbolic of God’s power. It is interesting to note that when Samuel anointed Saul as king the oil came from a “vial” [a clay box or jar], “Then Samuel took a vial of oil, and poured it upon his head, and kissed him, and said, Is it not because the LORD hath anointed thee to be captain over his inheritance?” (1 Samuel 10:1), but with David it was a horn. The jar was a sign of weakness, whereas the horn symbolised strength, exactly the opposite to their physical appearance.
Back to the daily grind
David, not fully understanding all that had happened, would have returned to the field to care for the sheep. He would spend many months doing what he had always done, but, since he had the Spirit of God with him, maybe he began to compose some of the songs of praise we find in the Psalms whilst playing on his harp. All of his songs came from a heart that truly loved the Lord, “A man after his own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14) and “The sweet psalmist of Israel” (2 Samuel 23:1).
Everyone would have gone back to their homes wondering and talking about the day’s events. No doubt the majority would have refused to accept that a youth in a small town like Bethlehem could possibly be the next king of Israel. “For who hath despised the day of small things?” (Zechariah 4:10), because God has great plans for David.