Volume 46 - Issue 2

The Bows of the Mighty Are Broken: The “Fall” of the Proud and the Exaltation of the Humble in 1 Samuel

By Justin Jackson


Modern scholarship has questioned the literary unity of Samuel’s Narrative (especially 1 Samuel), concluding that Samuel presents a fractured and, oftentimes, contradictory theological message. This article seeks to demonstrate 1 Samuel’s literary unity by highlighting the great reversal motif and the “fall” of the arrogant. The author explores four “falls” and the subsequent exaltations of the humble. The unified theological message of 1 Samuel is that God humbles the self-exalting and exalts the humble, thereby proving his sovereignty and his plan to raise up a humble prince to reign over God’s people.

Over the last century or so, modern scholarship has called into question the books of Samuel’s literary unity, arguing that the books is a collection of independent—sometimes, conflicting—narratives.1 Some, like Leonhard Rost, for example, treat 1 Samuel’s ark narrative as being completely independent from the rest of the “history of David’s rise.”2 The result of this fragmentation of the biblical text inevitably leads to variant proposals of the authors’ message—if one can effectively discern exactly which author is writing, when he is writing, and why.3 In turn, this fragmented hermeneutical approach to Samuel, in the words of Robert Alter, loses “the richness and complexity of the story.”4

This article sets out to demonstrate the literary unity of 1 Samuel by exploring the pattern of “falls” presented in the book. As will be seen, the author of Samuel (whether it be the prophet Samuel, the seers Gad and Nathan, or a single editor) uses reversal—i.e., the “fall” (נפל) of the sinful arrogant and the exaltation of the humble—as a unifying theme in the story of Davidic kingship.5 In other words, the great reversal motif brings literary cohesion to the entire narrative. While this is not the first study to demonstrate that reversal is an important motif in Samuel’s narrative, this study argues that reversal is the principal motif throughout Samuel’s story and is crucial for understanding Samuel’s literary focus. Far from being a mere collection of independent stories, Samuel’s final form is a unified story with a central theme. Using this motif of reversal, Samuel prepares its readers for the rise of the Son of David, Jesus Christ.

First, a brief exposition of Hannah’s prayer will show that Hannah’s song is the hermeneutical foundation upon which the rest of Samuel’s narrative is built. Second, the paper will present the pattern of reversal, including the author’s use of physical descriptors as indicative of arrogance, the “fall” (נפל) of the proud, and the subsequent exaltation of a humble being. Finally, this study will highlight David’s anointing and exaltation as the foil to the arrogant antagonists’ various falls.

1. Hannah’s Prayer as a Hermeneutical Foundation for Samuel

1 Samuel 1–2 is no literary outlier in the story of redemption and Davidic dominion. The crisis, characters, and outcome in Samuel’s infancy narrative establish a paradigm that the rest of the story follows. Namely, Hannah’s song introduces the essential leitmotif of great reversal, in which the proud and self-exalting are humbled, and the humble faithful are exalted. Declaring that “Yahweh regularly exalts the lowly and confounds the powerful,” this hymn foreshadows what is to come.6 In this light, Dempster is right in calling this section of text a “hermeneutical bridge” between past and future redemptive history.7 The exaltation of the humble and humiliation of the self-exalting begins as a personal experience but escalates in national and typological significance. What Hannah experiences will be replayed on a grander scale in the life of Israel and her future Messiah, the Davidic King.

The biblical author initiates the story with a conflict between a husband and his two wives. On the one side, there is Hannah, who was beloved by Elkanah but “had no children.” Barrenness in ancient times was viewed as an unfortunate lot and was, at times, viewed as a judgment from God. One thinks of the way Elizabeth described her barrenness as a “reproach” or “disgrace.” To an outside observer, Hannah stands as one who, from a human perspective, has no favor with God and stands under his displeasure.

On the other side stands Peninnah, who has children. Some scholars believe that her name may mean something like “fruitful.”8 Though she is fruitful, Peninnah becomes a bitter rival toward Hannah, perhaps out of jealousy toward Hannah’s status as the beloved wife and the double portion she receives from Elkanah. First Samuel 1:6 notes the kind of acidic harassment Hannah endured: “Her rival used to provoke her grievously to irritate her, because the Lord had closed her womb.” The ESV’s “to irritate her” could also be rendered “to oppress her” (הַרְּעִםָהּ). Such terminology rules out the possibility of a few subtle slights or off-handed mocking. Instead, Hannah has become the subject of merciless verbal and emotional abuse. Seeing Peninnah’s aggression in this way helps explain Hannah’s unwillingness to eat, her deep bitterness, and her mourning at the temple of the Lord (v. 10). As she pours “out [her] soul before the Lord” (v. 15), readers find a woman who is to be pitied—embattled in spirit, broken in heart, and depleted by helplessness.

That Hannah fervently prays may be the author’s subtle demonstration of her humility and dependence upon the Lord since other texts in the OT historical books equate prayer with humility (e.g., 2 Chr 7:14). In contrast, there is no indication that Peninnah prays at all. While Peninnah arrogantly attacks Hannah’s barrenness, Hannah humbly turns to the Lord. After a brief and ironic discourse, Eli assures Hannah that God has heard her prayer. “And in due time Hannah conceived and bore a son” (1:20). She names him Samuel, and, true to her vow, Hannah dedicated him to the Lord’s service.

Stephen Dempster divides Hannah’s thanksgiving praise into three sections: Hannah’s personal reversal (2:1–3), Israel’s national reversal (2:4–8b), and cosmic reversal (2:8c–10).9 As these stanzas tell, redemptive reversals in Israel display the Lord’s sovereignty over the world.

Verses one through three make up the first stanza and describe Hannah’s personal redemption. She exults in the Lord and derides her enemies because there is none holy like the Lord, no rock like our God, and because he knows and weighs humanity’s actions. Stanza one sings of the Holy Judge, who gives both redemption and retribution. In her experience, God has silenced Peninnah’s arrogant chatter, thereby proving that he is Hannah’s holy Rock. He has judged faithfully. He has reversed Hannah’s barren state—a picture of God’s salvation—and has vindicated her in the presence of the proud.

Verses 4–8 describe God’s present work of national reversal. The arrogant are warned because the bows of the mighty are broken, and the feeble bind on strength; the full have hired themselves out for bread, and the hungry no longer hunger; the barren are fruitful, and the fruitful are now barren. The Lord kills and resurrects, impoverishes and enrichens, exalts and humbles. Much of this stanza describes work that God does for his people throughout redemptive history. For example, the bows of the mighty being broken correspond with the weapons that are broken when enemies make war on Jerusalem (Ps 76:2–3).10 Hannah concludes this stanza saying, “For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, and on them he has set the world” (2:8c). In other words, God’s work of exalting and humbling demonstrates his comprehensive authority over all the earth. The earth’s pillars belong to him, and as Creator, he holds sovereign prerogative to exalt and humble whom he pleases. Even the most exalted prince, the wealthiest noble, or the mightiest warrior can be humbled under his kingly hand.

Verses 9–10 extend the theme of reversal to the entire cosmos. God will keep his faithful ones but will cut off the wicked. No might can save man from God’s justice. The Lord will judge “the ends of the earth” and “he will give strength to his king and exalt the horn of his anointed.” In Hannah’s praise, God’s redemptive reversals culminate in the exaltation of an anointed king (literally, “his messiah” [מְשִׁיחוֹ]). The capstone of God’s work in bringing Hannah’s personal reversal and Israel’s national reversal is an eschatological reversal in which God’s justice and salvation are poured out on the nations, and his Messiah is given royal victory.

In summary, Hannah’s hymn sets Samuel’s readers on a trajectory in which God exalts the humble, humbles the exalted, proves his sovereignty, and establishes his anointed king. It is no coincidence that a similar hymn closes out Samuel’s book by praising “the Rock” (2 Sam 22:32), who saves “a humble people” and brings down “the haughty” (22:28). Brevard Childs was right to point out how these two hymns act as bookends of Samuel’s work.11 In this light, the theme of reversal forms an inclusio around Samuel’s narrative that tells of Davidic exaltation.12 The author weaves this motif as a golden thread throughout his entire narrative, and it is this thread that ties Samuel into the tapestry of the biblical canon. God’s work on humble Hannah’s behalf mirrors his work for his humble people and sets the trajectory to his future work in a humble king.13 Moving on from this hymn, the careful reader will have his or her eyes peeled for similar redemptive reversals.

2. Samuel’s Pattern of Reversal

In his biblical theology on redemptive reversals, G. K. Beale defines the various ironies found in Scripture, including verbal irony, dramatic irony, and character irony. These “ironies” serve as literary devices that highlight the reversal theme. For this paper, the focus will be on dramatic ironies, in which “narrated events are turned to the opposite of the way they appeared to be heading.”14 In Samuel, one half-expects the prestigious, the tall, and the mighty to be victorious. However, Samuel details a figure’s looming height or status to dramatically emphasize an imminent humiliation. In other words, Samuel elevates an antagonist’s status only to highlight how great his “fall” will be.

In Samuel, there are four explicit reversals, as well as various implicit reversals. Explicit falls follow a three-fold pattern: physical description (e.g., weight and height) as an illustration of pride, the subject’s “fall” (נפל) as a sign of divine judgment, and the subsequent exaltation of the humble. These falls serve as a visible illustration of Hannah’s hymn in which God exalts the humble and humbles the self-exalting. The pattern can be seen in this way (see the table below):

Eli and Samuel (1 Samuel 4)
  • Physical Description: “for he was old and heavy” (1 Sam 4:18)
  • Fall: “he fell over backward from the seat” (1 Sam 4:18)
  • Exaltation: Samuel exalted to become Israel’s prophet (1 Sam 7:3–17)
Dagon and the Ark of the Covenant (1 Samuel 5)
  • Physical Description: As will be seen, the description of Dagon breaking his head on the threshold of his temple implies that the idol would have been quite tall. Though there is no explicit description, a careful reader can deduce the statue’s physical greatness.
  • Fall: Dagon fell face downward twice (1 Sam 5:3–4)
  • Exaltation: The ark is feared throughout Philistia: “The ark of the God of Israel must not remain with us, for his hand is hard against us and against Dagon our god” (1 Sam 5:7)
Goliath and David (1 Sam 17)
  • Physical Description: “whose height was six cubits and a span” (1 Sam 17:4)
  • Fall: “and he fell on his face to the ground” (1 Sam 17:49)
  • Exaltation: “So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and struck the Philistine and killed him.” (1 Sam 17:50)
Saul and David (1 Sam 10–31)
  • Physical Description: “he was taller than any of the people from his shoulders upward” (1 Sam 10:23)
  • Fall: “Therefore Saul took his own sword and fell upon it” (1 Sam 31:4)
  • Exaltation: David becomes king (2 Samuel)

Some may argue that נפל is simply a metaphorical way of describing death. However, in Samuel’s narrative, it seems significant that it is especially the arrogant who “fall” to their death. In other instances of the term, David falls on his face in humility (1 Sam 20:41), and others fall on their face to pay homage to David (2 Sam 1:2; 9:6; 14:22). There are very few instances that the word נפל describes death in general (e.g., 2 Sam 11:17). However, whenever נפל is used in the context of a mighty, tall, heavy figure, “fall” depicts an ironic and humiliating death and the subsequent exaltation of someone humble. It is also interesting that no one righteous “falls” in Samuel’s narrative. Jonathan is struck down (נכה), but he does not fall (נפל) in 1 Samuel 31:2.

Further still, David never falls in death. Instead, as 1 Kings 2:10 describes, he “slept with his fathers,” providing a hopeful metaphor that may imply a future awakening or resurrection. In conclusion, whenever Samuel gives his reader the pattern of (1) physical grandeur, (2) death by נפל (fall), and (3) a subsequent exaltation, he intends to highlight the great reversal theme that was established in Hannah’s praise. The simple point in this pattern is that the arrogant “fall,” while the humble are exalted. Following this paradigm throughout Samuel’s narrative uncovers key insights and helps the reader better understand Samuel’s literary structure.

2.1. Eli’s Fall (1 Samuel 4)

Physical Descriptors and Pride. Eli’s ministry as a priest is filled with ironies and contradictions. Samuel introduces Eli, “sitting on the seat beside the doorpost of the temple of the Lord” (1:9). This detail may imply that Eli was sitting in a judge’s seat since judges and kings often sat on a “throne” or “seat” (כִּסֵּא) by the gate to hear cases. In this light, it could be that Eli has taken upon himself the mantle of a judge as well as a priest. Moreover, Eli’s “throne” becomes a symbol of irony later in the narrative.

In Samuel, Eli makes a rather poor judge. He unjustly rebukes Hannah showing that he has not the wisdom to discern sincere devotion from drunkenness (1:12–15). He wrongly accuses Hannah of being a “worthless woman” (בַּת־בְּלִיָּעַל) but lacks the holy fortitude to condemn his sons who are truly “worthless men” (בְּנֵי בְלִיָּעַל, 2:12). Ironically, Eli and his sons serve as priests, but “they did not know the Lord” (2:12). They unlawfully demand the best portions of the sacrifices spurning the Lord’s Levitical commands concerning burnt offerings. In their arrogance, boiled meat was unacceptable, and the best portions were taken by force. Though it is often assumed that it was only Eli’s sons who committed this travesty, there is some indication that Eli participated in this great wickedness.15 Verse 15 describes the servant of the priest (singular הַכֹּהֵן) demanding for raw meat on the priest’s behalf. Additionally, when Eli rebukes his sons in 2:22–25, it is not for their contempt toward the Lord’s offering but merely for their “evil dealings” with the people—explicitly, their sexual misconduct with the women at the entrance of the tent of meeting (perhaps a subtle hint of cult prostitution practiced by pagan religions at the time). Their misconduct in the sacred sacrifice goes unpunished. Bruce Waltke notes that Hophni and Phinehas’ sexual immorality and Eli’s passivity “combines the sin of the idolatrous Levite and the callous Levite in the epilogue of Judges.”16 Eli, the self-made judge, fails to render God’s justice on the guilty but foolishly rebukes the innocent. This is leadership that the Lord will not tolerate among his people.

One final detail hints at Eli’s partaking in the eating of the choicest sacrificial meat. A man of God comes to pronounce judgment on Eli and his sons. Among the accusations is the indictment, “Why do you scorn my sacrifices and my offerings that I commanded for my dwelling, and honor your sons above me by fattening yourselves (לְהַבְרִיאֲכֶם) on the choicest parts of every offering of my people Israel?” (2:29). Is this a rebuke against Eli’s sons primarily, or is it a rebuke against Eli? It is no coincidence that Eli is described as “heavy” or “fat” (כָּבֵד), implying that he is the wicked priest who has been fattening himself on sacrificial meat. In this light, Eli is no passive observer when it comes to his sons’ rebellion. Quite the contrary, he is an active participant.

Eating the fat of the sacrifices betrays an arrogance of the most extreme. The fat was to be dedicated and burnt to YHWH alone (Lev 7:23–25, 31).17 It was intended to be a “pleasing aroma to the Lord” (Lev 17:6). By eating the sacred fat, Eli and his sons were stealing not only from the people but from the Lord Himself. They had exalted themselves and took for themselves an honor that belonged solely to the Lord. In this way, Eli’s family treats themselves as little deities. This self-exaltation sets Eli and his sons up for a great fall.

Humiliating Fall. The first hint of this fall comes from the mouth of the man of God. He declares that the same family who once fattened themselves on the sacred fat would be left begging (literally, “bowing” [חוה]) for “a loaf of bread” (1 Sam 2:36). Those who exalted themselves would be humbled and left hungry. Thus, Hannah’s prophetic words are fulfilled: “Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread, but those who were hungry have ceased to hunger” (2:5).

In 1 Samuel 4, Eli is seen sitting once again upon his throne (כִּסֵּא) anxiously waiting for news about the ark. Eli hears from the Benjamite that the ark has been captured and his sons killed. Verse 18 says, “As soon as he mentioned the ark of God, Eli fell (נפל) over backward from his seat by the side of the gate, and his neck was broken and he died, for the man was old and heavy.” Eli’s death at the gate adds to the irony of the reversal brought about by God. Cat Quine notes that Eli’s death at the gate is significant because “city gates were a place of judgment, execution, and public displays in the ancient Near East.”18 This helps explain why judges and kings sit at the city gate on the seat of honor. Their judgment was public and final. That Israel’s failed priest-judge who exalted himself to a throne (כִּסֵּא) is now judged at the gate is an irony that cannot be missed.19 The unjust judge is judged, and the self-exalter is knocked off his self-made throne. Adding to the irony, Eli fattened himself on sacred meat and died by his own weight. As Beale writes, “The very way by which people attempt sinfully to get ahead often become the very means by which they fail.”20 Eli’s self-made honor (i.e., “heaviness”) killed him.

Exaltation of the Humble. While the old priest-judge is brought down by God, the boy (נַעַר) Samuel is exalted in his place. The ironic reversal begins in 1 Samuel 2:21: “And the boy Samuel grew (literally, “became great” [גדל]) in the presence of the Lord.” At the same time that the sins of Eli’s family were “very great” (גְּדוֹלָה) in the sight of the Lord (2:17), Samuel grew great in the presence of God. It seems the more sinful the priestly family became, the more God exalted Samuel to serve as judge in their place.

1 Samuel 3:1 says, “Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord in the presence of Eli. And the word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision.” The lack of prophetic vision or divine communication often signifies God’s displeasure with his people. At such times, God’s silence is punishment. When God chooses to speak a word of revelation in Samuel, it is not to Eli, the priest—whom one would initially expect God to speak. Instead, God speaks to the “young boy” (נַעַר). That God bypasses the priest and speaks to a lad shows that a reversal has been initiated. That this same lad prophecies Eli’s destruction and the death of his sons furthers the irony. Eli would soon “fall” off his priestly throne, but God would let none of Samuel’s words “fall (נפל) to the ground.” Samuel was exalted and established as the Lord’s priest, and Eli’s arrogant family was humbled.

2.2. Dagon’s Fall (1 Samuel 5)

Physical Descriptors and Pride. A second reversal is seen in the fall of Dagon and the exaltation of the Lord’s ark. Some may argue that Dagon’s fall does not fit the paradigm since no physical description is given. However, as the evidence will show, there are implicit details in the text that hint at the idol’s height. Those who lived in the Ancient Near Eastern culture would have already assumed Dagon’s tall stature. Concerning the idol, the author records that Dagon’s head and hands were found at the threshold of his temple (5:4). Vladimir Orel helpfully pieces together the significance of this detail:

First of all, if Dagon’s statue occupied the most natural place in his temple, that is, if it stood facing the entrance, at the opposite wall, the description of v. 4 gives us a certain idea of its size: the idol’s height must have exceeded the length of the room as far as after the fall its head was on the threshold. Moreover, the fact that Dagon’s hands were found there too makes it highly probable that the god stood with both of his arms raised so that, when falling, his hands reached the same point as his head. Thus, we may reconstruct the general picture of what was inside the temple into which the Ark was brought. In fact, the picture of an immense idol standing upright, with his hands up, opposed to a relatively small guilded [sic] box of the Ark (Ex 25:10–22 and 37:1–9), an object probably, offered to Dagon as a trophy, fill the whole picture with particular dramatism.21

Modern temple practices in East Asia (e.g., Daoistic and Buddhistic temples) confirm that the general practice is to situate an idol at the back of the main room. From this, readers can gather that Dagon was of a looming stature, tall, and most likely intimidating—this compared with the rather unimpressive and small ark of the covenant.

In 1 Samuel 4, the defeated Israelites determine to bring the ark of the covenant to the battle. Their decision was far from an act of faith in the Lord. Instead, they bring the ark to the battlefield in the same way the surrounding nations would have brought their idols to battle.22 To the Israelites, the ark has become nothing more than an image, an idol that they hoped would mystically bring them fortune. The Philistines interpret the Israelites’ actions in this way. When they hear of the ark coming to the battle, the Philistines cry out, “A god has come into the camp” (4:7). The careful reader knows that the God of Israel will not allow his name to be misrepresented in such a way, and the subsequent defeat of Israel comes as no surprise. However, to the ancient reader, the capture of the ark symbolically meant Yahweh’s defeat. Whenever an enemy army’s divine image or idol was captured in battle, it was “akin to capturing those gods themselves.”23

That the Philistines put the ark into the temple of Dagon highlights their arrogance. Jeffrey Emanuel explains, “Captured cult images were routinely set up in the temples of the conquering deities, either as gifts to the gods of the victors or as lesser deities to be worshipped alongside those already present in the conquerors’ pantheon.”24 These details betray the Philistines’ cultic arrogance as they sincerely believed that Dagon had defeated “the gods who struck the Egyptians with every sort of plague in the wilderness” (4:8). Stephen Dempster describes the Philistines’ actions as an “attempt to domesticate the ark in their pantheon.”25

Humiliating Fall. Such great arrogance precedes a great fall. In this account, Dagon falls twice. The day after placing the ark in the temple of Dagon, the Philistines rose the next day to find that “Dagon had fallen face downward on the ground before the ark of the Lord” (וְהִנֵּה דָגוֹן נֹפֵל לְפָנָיו אַרְצָה לִפְנֵי אֲרוֹן יְהוָה, 5:3). The word “behold” (הִנֵּה) in verse 3 emphasizes the ironic and surprising outcome. From a Philistine perspective, Dagon was the victor, and yet the dramatic irony is that he bows to the true victor. The Philistines upright their god—an ironic act seeing that Dagon cannot pick himself up.26 The next morning, “Behold, Dagon had fallen face downward on the ground before the ark of the Lord [וְהִנֵּה דָגוֹן נֹפֵל לְפָנָיו אַרְץָה לִפְנֵי אֲרוֹן יְהוָה], and the head of Dagon and both his hands were lying cut off on the threshold. Only the trunk of Dagon was left to him” (5:4). Dagon’s severed head and hands indicate that combat has ensued and that YHWH has been vindicated as the real conqueror.27 The broken image of Dagon corresponds with Hannah’s song, in which “the adversaries of the Lord shall be broken to pieces” (1 Sam 2:10). The “captured” ark conquers the apparent victors. Peter Leithart says that in doing this, Dagon is forced “to bow before [YHWH’s] throne” and “was apparently joining with Israel in prostrating himself before the throne of the God of gods.”28 This is a great reversal.29

Exaltation of the Humble. The third part of the pattern, a surprising exaltation, is seen in the Philistine’s subsequent fear of the ark. The author writes, “The hand of the Lord was heavy against the people of Ashdod, and he terrified and afflicted them with tumors, both Ashdod and its territory” (5:6). Here, the irony deepens as the ark was brought to Ashdod as a proclamation of victory over Israel’s God, and yet by bringing the ark to Ashdod, the Philistines have brought their own destruction. They take the ark to Gath and then on to Ekron with chaos following wherever the ark went.30 The people of Ekron lamented the ark’s arrival, and “there was a deathly panic throughout the whole city” (5:11). The celebration of the arrogant has become the panic of the broken. J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays point out the ironic drama as God executes Dagon and “then by himself invades and ‘conquers’ the Philistines, moving city by city, accepting the surrender of each city like a conquering king (5:6–12). Finally the Philistines pay a tribute to him in gold, and he returns to Israel triumphantly.”31 Because “the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s” (1 Sam 2:8), God is glorified and feared in both Israel and Philistia.

The reversal continues into chapter 7. Later, when Israel gathers at Mizpah in mass repentance with Samuel, the Philistines arrogantly return to attack the Israelites while they are fasting. After Samuel lifted up a burnt offering and as the Philistines were drawing near, “The Lord thundered (וַיַּרְעֵם) with a mighty sound that day against the Philistines and threw them into confusion, and they were defeated before Israel” (7:10). This thundering at Mizpah corresponds with the “thundering” (רעם) of which Hannah sings in 1 Samuel 2:10.32 God thunders against the proud and shatters his enemies. The paradigm of arrogant grandeur, an inglorious fall, and a subsequent exaltation is seen clearly in Dagon’s and Philistia’s story.

2.3. Goliath’s Fall (1 Samuel 17)

Physical Descriptors and Pride. This paper will come back to Saul, his rise, and his fall in a moment. For now, attention is turned to Goliath. The paradigm of a physical description, humiliating fall, and subsequent exaltation is evident in 1 Samuel 17. Textual markers suggest that Goliath may be fulfilling the role of Genesis 3’s serpent. For example, Brian A. Verrett has pointed out the connections between Goliath’s “scaly” armor and Ezekiel’s scaly sea serpent (Ezek 29:1–6).33 Additionally, Goliath’s bronze (נְחֹשֶׁת) armor (v. 6) may be a subtle serpentine allusion, since the word for serpent comes from the Hebrew נָחָשׁ.34 Commenting on this impressive armor, Robert Alter describes Goliath as “a hulking monument to an obtusely mechanical conception of what constitutes power.”35 If one questions the description of Goliath’s armor as an allusion to the Genesis 3 serpent, then his arrogant enmity leaves little doubt. His defiant speech mirrors that of the deceptive serpent.36 His pride is conspicuous. Dempster comments, “It is difficult not to hear in the huge Goliath’s taunts and his humiliation of the Israelites, not only the echoes of gebōhâ gebōhâ (“very proudly,” ESV) in Hannah’s song, but an anti-God rhetoric that worships the spear, the sword, and the javelin.”37 The stage is set with a giant warrior clad in brilliant armor and defying God’s people. Readers who are carefully following the paradigm will be looking for this man’s “fall.”

Humiliating Fall. David, the youngest of his father’s household, steps forward to challenge the giant. His small stature is implied by the fact that he is unable to wear Saul’s armor. In the eyes of Goliath, David was nothing more than a little boy (נַעַר). Again, following the paradigm, readers know that God used the נַעַר, Samuel, to replace the “heavy” Eli; so now, he will use the נַעַר, David, to strike down the “tall” Philistine.

Goliath, true to form, arrogantly mocks the boy saying, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” (1 Sam 17:43). He then curses David by his gods—presumably, Dagon—and threatens, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the beasts of the field” (17:45). Such boasts make it clear that Goliath has pridefully put his trust in his skill and armor. However, David comes with nothing but the name of the Lord of host, the God of the armies of Israel, whom Goliath had defied. David turns the giant’s threat back on him and escalates it:

This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give into our hand. (17:46–47)

David’s personal victory over Goliath will mean corporate defeat for Philistia and corporate salvation for Israel. Whereas Goliath threatens to give David’s body to the birds of the air, David threatens to give the bodies of the entire Philistine army to the birds of the air. A threat to kill David will lead to the absolute desolation of the Philistine horde.

Verse 49 says, “And David put his hand in his bag and took out a stone and slung it and struck the Philistine on his forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face to the ground (וַיִּפֹּל עַל־פָּנָיו אָרְץָה).” Scholars debate whetherמֵצַח means “forehead” or “shin.”38 If it is Goliath’s shin, then the irony would be that Goliath’s armor becomes his demise “by not allowing him to rise up after having his knee crushed.”39 If it is Goliath’s head, on the other hand, then there may be allusions to the head-crushing redemption spoken of in Genesis 3:15. Either way, Goliath “falls” (נפל) in humiliation.

In another point of irony, David warned Goliath that he would “cut off” his head. However, David had no sword. Goliath, who had put so much hope in his impressive armor ends up being decapitated by his own sword wielded by the “boy” (נַעַר) he has just mocked. He cursed David by his gods (most likely including Dagon) and then died like his god. The picture of Goliath falling face down and being decapitated mirrors the decapitation of Dagon in 1 Samuel 5.40

Exaltation of the Humble. In the end, David prevailed with nothing more than a sling, a stone, and his faith in YHWH. This boy’s victory over the giant echoes Hannah’s song, which sings of the bows of the mighty being broken and the feeble binding on strength (1 Sam 2:4).41 David’s victory over the Philistine giant sparks Israel’s independence and freedom from their Philistine overlords. Moving forward, Goliath’s “fall” leads to the “fall” of another key character and the rise of God’s anointed king.

2.4. Saul’s Fall (1 Samuel 8–31)

Physical Descriptors and Pride. In many ways, Hannah’s great reversal motif culminates in Saul’s humiliation and David’s exaltation.42 It can be argued that the great reversal theme is portrayed most clearly on the stage of Israel’s kingship. Before considering Saul’s reign, it is vital to understand the background behind Saul’s coronation. Nearing the end of his service as judge and prophet, Samuel hears of his sons’ disqualifications to judge Israel. They took bribes and perverted justice. The people request a king: “Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations” (8:5); but the request has an ulterior motive. First, the people want a king “to judge” (שפט) them. In their eyes, it is apparent that the judge system has not provided long-term stability.43 The solution, in their opinion, is a king. Up to this point, the book of Judges would agree with their assessment. With judges and without a king, all Israel does what is right in its own eyes.

The idea of a king ruling Israel was, in and of itself, not an unforeseen concept. After all, there are numerous indications from the Pentateuch that God willed to raise up a king from Judah’s lineage. One need only turn to Genesis 49:7–12 or Numbers 24:17 for evidence. In Deuteronomy 17:14–20, Moses’s commands describe the attributes of a faithful king.44 From the beginning, God intended to exalt a Judahite to wield a scepter and bring global restoration through his dominion.

However, they do not ask for a king so that he will restrain them from sin and lead them in righteousness. This request is founded on a covetous desire to be “like all the nations” and have a king who will “judge us and go out before us and fight our battles” (1 Sam 8:20).45 Noticeably absent from the people’s criteria of desirable qualifications (e.g., “judge” and “fight”) is the qualification that Israel’s king must know the Torah and rule accordingly (Deut 17:18). The irony is that Israel was not like the surrounding nations because the Lord himself was their judge and also the one who fought for them, as he did as Mizpah (1 Sam 7:5–11; cf. Exod 14:14; Deut 1:30; 3:22; 20:4; Josh 10:14, 42; 23:3). Thus, instead of seeking a king who would exemplify the Lord’s kingship, the people wanted a king who would replace the Lord as king. What the people wanted in a man, they already had in YHWH. This motivation sheds light on God’s statement to Samuel: “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them” (1 Sam 8:7). Israel’s desire for a king was a subtle desire for independence from God, so that they could have provision, justice, and protection in a human monarch.46 Accordingly, Israel’s request is corporate arrogance in which they collectively desire to throw off their dependence upon God. This is important because Saul’s arrogance depicted throughout the book of Samuel is the people’s arrogance on full display. He is the king who fits their desires, but does “not necessarily meet Yahweh’s.”47 As will be seen shortly, Saul’s fall is Israel’s fall as well.

Saul has both the prestige and the physique that matches the people’s demands. As for prestige, Saul is a son of Kish who is described as a גִּבּ֖וֹר חָֽיִל. The phrase can mean either a mighty warrior or a wealthy landowner. In either case, Kish and all who belong in his family enjoy high status. That Saul is Kish’s son means that he shares his father’s esteem. As for physique, the author describes him as a “handsome man” and says that he was “taller than any of the people” (גָּבֹהַּ מִכָּל־הָעָם, 9:2). It is important to remember that the adjective גָּבֹהַּis also used of “haughty” people (e.g., Isa 5:15).48 Saul’s height serves as a metaphor for the self-exaltation he will commit throughout his kingship. Adding to the irony, Saul is from a town called Gibeah (גִּבְעָה), which also means “high.”

As the narrative progresses, it becomes clear that Saul is yet another failed judge rather than the king God’s people really needed.49 First, throughout Samuel, Saul fails to carry out the conquest Joshua started. While initially, Saul defeats the serpent-like Nahash (נָחָשׁ), it will be left to David to finish the job by defeating Hanun “the son of Nahash” in 2 Samuel 10.50 Saul’s fear-motivated sacrifice in 1 Samuel 13 indicates his arrogant pragmatism instead of faithful dependence in YHWH. His focus on the number of solders (13:15) and weaponry (13:19–22) shows that he has not yet learned that the Lord saves not “with sword and spear” (17:47). Shamefully, his own son’s trust in the Lord and subsequent victory serves as a foil to his father’s faithlessness. Moreover, Saul’s rash vow in 1 Samuel 14 echoes Jephthah’s vow in Judges 11. After the initial victory, Saul remains prayerless. He fails to entreat of God what he should do, and the people encourage such prayerless action by saying, “Do whatever seems good to you” (14:36, 40)—perhaps echoing the way people “did what was right in [their] own eyes” (Judg 21:25). In 1 Samuel 14:47, Saul continues to fight “all his enemies on every side” but, tellingly, his victories bring no lasting rest (cf. 2 Sam 7:1).

Saul’s judge-like failure climaxes in his refusal to honor the Lord’s cherem command to devote to destruction all Amalekite people and property by sparing Agag and the best of the sheep, oxen, fattened calves, lambs, and “all that was good” (1 Sam 15:9; cf. v. 3). In this way, Saul becomes a new Achan who takes for himself whatever he deems “good” (cf. Josh 7:21). Thinking he had accomplished a great feat, Saul “set up a monument for himself” (15:12). This monument was a self-exalting “victory marker.”51

When Samuel confronted him, Saul defended himself by claiming that it was the people who spared the animals—a clear contrast to author’s earlier statement that it was Saul who “spared” the livestock and the Amalekite king with Saul as the principal actor (note the singular, וַיַּחְמֹל).52 Samuel persists that Saul has done a great evil in the sight of the Lord. Saul confesses, “I feared the people and obeyed their voice [וָאֶשְׁמַע בְּקוֹלָם]” (15:24). This phrase echoes the way Adam “listened to the voice” (שָׁמַעְתָּ לְקוֹל) of his wife (Gen 3:17). Not only is Saul a new Achan, but his arrogant sin also matches that of Adam. Instead of restraining the people from sin, Saul leads the people into sin.53 Jessica Lee writes, “And so the man who became king because of the voice of the people is rejected for listening to the voice of the people.”54 Understanding this helps shed light on why Samuel refuses Saul’s appeal to give him “glory” (כַּבְּדֵנִי) and turns away from him (1 Sam 15:30–31).55 Just as Adam’s self-exaltation led to separation from God, Saul’s self-exaltation, arrogant self-memorializing, and concern for his own honor leads to the Lord forsaking him.

Humiliating Fall. Fast-forward to 1 Samuel 31. Saul finds himself surrounded by Philistines. His army was decimated, his sons were “struck down” (נכה), and he was wounded. Saul asks his armor-bearer to kill him, but the armor-bearer rightly refused. “Therefore Saul took his own sword and fell upon it [וַיִּפֹּל עָלֶיהָ]” (31:4).56 His “fall” mirrors his people’s “fall” (נפל) on Mount Gilboa. Saul’s exaltation began with Israel’s arrogance, now both Israel’s army and its king are dead. When the Philistines come to strip the slain, they find Saul’s body, cut off his head, and strip off his armor. Like Eli, the death of Saul’s sons preceded his. Like Dagon and Goliath, his humiliation is symbolized by decapitation. By impaling his body on a wall in Beth-Shan, the Philistines show the ultimate disgrace.57 He, who exalted himself, has met an inglorious end. Dempster poetically writes, “The Israelite giant (gebōhâ) from Gibeah (gib‘â) dies on the mountains of Gilboa (gilbō’a).”58 Saul’s death shows that the “mighty have fallen [נָפְלוּ גִבּוֹרִים]” just as Hannah’s song proclaims (2 Sam 1:27; cf. 1 Sam 2:4).

Exaltation of the Humble. The exaltation aspect of the paradigm is that David will now be king. Saul’s death anticipates the reign of the humble and anointed man whose heart is in harmony with God’s heart.

3. David’s Exaltation

According to Hannah’s song, YHWH’s work of great reversals culminates in his justice extending to the ends of the earth and the establishment of the anointed king: “The Lord will judge the ends of the earth; He will give strength to his king and exalt the horn of his anointed” (1 Sam 2:10). In this poetic stanza, God’s justice and the “anointed” king come together. Hannah’s song is partially fulfilled with the anointing and exaltation of humble David.

Some scholars have wrongly attributed David’s exaltation to his military or sexual prowess, as if these attributes confirmed his fitness to reign.59 However, this seems to go against the general grain of Samuel’s narrative. In fact, things sour whenever David exercises military (e.g., taking a census in 2 Sam 24) or sexual prowess (e.g., his adultery with Bathsheba in 2 Sam 11). David is blessed when he puts no trust in weapons (1 Sam 17), refuses to vindicate himself (1 Sam 24–26), and shows mercy on his enemies (2 Sam 16:5–13; 19:16–23). Far from military or sexual prowess, David’s rise to the throne is not due to self-exaltation but rather self-humiliation. David is humble, which qualifies him to reign over God’s people.60 More explicitly, David’s humble beginning as a shepherd of sheep prepared him to be a shepherd of Israel (i.e., 2 Sam 7:8 and Ps 78:70–71. Any explanation of David’s rise other than his humble heart contradicts the text. David is the foil to all of the arrogant self-exalters in Samuel.

The Book of Judges shows the need for a king, who will lead the people in righteousness and not in what their eyes see as right. Saul’s arrogance and failures showed that not just any man could fulfill this role. Only a man “after [God’s] own heart” will suffice as a “prince over his people” (1 Sam 13:14). The word נָגִיד (“prince”) in this text subtly indicates that this man will be different from Saul (a “king,” מֶלֶךְ) by remaining under and faithfully representing God’s kingship. Donald F. Murray notes,

In our texts the melek [“king”] is the one who sees his power from Yahweh as susceptible to his own arbitrary manipulation, who obtrudes himself inappropriately and disproportionately between Yahweh and Israel, and who treats Israel as little more than the subjects of his monarchic power. The nāgîd [“prince”], on the other hand, is positively portrayed as one who sees his power as a sovereign and inviolable devolvement from Yahweh, who acts strictly under the order of Yahweh for the benefit of Yahweh’s people, and holds himself as no more than the willing subject of the divine monarch.61

In other words, נָגִיד (“prince”) may be the author’s way of describing God’s desire for a humble king. Saul’s kingship represents a break from God’s kingship. However, David’s reign would lead the people back under YHWH’s sovereign rule. David’s humility offsets Saul’s pride in many ways (e.g., he waits on the Lord, while Saul is rash; he seeks to lead the people in worship, while Saul led the people into sin; he is merciful, while Saul is vindictive).62 David’s own words evidence his belief that the King must humbly rule under God’s reign, not above it: “When one rules justly over men, ruling in the fear of God, he dawns on them like the morning light, like the sun shining forth on a cloudless morning, like rain that makes grass to sprout from the earth” (emphasis added, 2 Sam 23:3b–4). It is not insignificant that David becomes the paradigm of successful kingship from here on (e.g., 1 Kgs 9:4; 2 Kgs 22:2; 2 Chr 17:3).

In 1 Samuel 16:1, the Lord tells Samuel to go to Jesse of Bethlehem, “for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.” While Samuel is wiser and godlier than Saul, he also displays a wrongly-placed emphasis on external appearances. Seeing Eliab, the oldest, he concludes, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is before him” (16:6). God corrects this distorted view by saying, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature [גְּבֹהַּ קוֹמָתוֹ], because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (16:7). God will not raise up another “tall” (גְּבֹהַּ) king. Instead, he raises “the small” (קָּטָ֔ן). This reversal is finalized as the Spirit that once graced Saul now rushes on David, showing that the Lord empowers his anointed king to fulfill his task.63 Space is too limited to tell how David’s faith, prayerfulness, and mercy demonstrate his humble dependence on God. Suffice it to say that David’s godly demeanor and his YHWH-like heart reveal him to be a man of humility exalted by God to reign over Israel. The ark’s arrival in Jerusalem demonstrates that David is positioning himself as a humble prince, who rules under YHWH’s reign.

Though David later proves to be a flawed and, at times, sinful man, the fact he never “falls” (נפל) in Samuel’s narrative shows that God has indeed established his dynasty. God has exalted his king by bringing down those who exalt themselves. However, even as a foil to the self-exalters, David is only a placeholder for the king that is to come. David’s exaltation sets readers on a trajectory toward the Christ, through whom a cosmic, eschatological reversal will be accomplished. The book of Samuel, then, looks beyond David’s exaltation to the exaltation of his Messianic descendant.64 In this way, the author of Samuel leaves the narrative an intentionally unfinished story.

4. Conclusion

Recognizing this pattern of reversal helps demonstrate the literary unity of Samuel’s narrative and Samuel’s unity with the rest of the canon. The reversals played out on the stage of Samuel’s story are fulfilled with greater cosmic and eschatological significance in the life of David’s son, Jesus. The message of Samuel is historical—recording important events in redemptive history, exemplary—calling its readers to pursue humility, and typological—preparing its readers for the promised anointed one. By following the theological motif of reversal through the historical recounting of David’s rise, this paper has labored to show that, far from being a patchwork of independent, conflicting narratives, the book of Samuel is a unified whole. From beginning to end, Samuel provides a literary framework that lays the foundation for the redemptive motif of reversal through Davidic kingship. Neglecting to see this motif’s significance inevitably leads to missing Samuel’s true complexity, beauty, and unity.

[1] Some scholars argue that Samuel is made up of various layers of promonarchic, post-exilic, and antimonarchic material. Examples of scholars who hold this position include Julius Wellhausen (1871), Rost (1926), and Martin Noth (1943). See Brian E. Kelly, “Samuel,” in Theological Interpretation of the Old Testament: A Book-by-Book Survey, ed. Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Graig G. Bartholomew, and Daniel J. Treier (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008), 112.

[2] Leonhard Rost, The Succession to the Throne of David, trans. M. D. Rutter and D. M. Gunn (Sheffield: Almond Press: 1982).

[3] Similar to the JEDP theory, redaction theorists have proposed up to three different redactors who modified the text—with various portions of Samuel belonging to either the Deuteronomistic Historian, the Prophet, or the Nomist. This is referred to as the triple redaction theory proposed by Martin Noth and advanced by Timo Veijola in Die ewige Dynastie: David und die Enstehung siener Dynastie nach der deuteronomistischen Darstellung (Helsinki: Suomalainen Tiedeakatemia, 1975).

[4] Robert Alter, The Hebrew Bible: Prophets (New York: Norton, 2019), 163.

[5] Bava Batra 14b asserts that the book was written by Samuel and finished by Gad and/or Nathan.

[6] Ralph W. Klein, 1 Samuel, WBC 10 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000), 14.

[7] Stephen G. Dempster, Dominion and Dynasty: A Theology of the Hebrew Bible, NSBT 15 (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 135.

[8] Klein, 1 Samuel, 6.

[9] Dempster, Dominion and Dynasty, 136. While Dempster’s outline is helpful, it seems that 8c (“for the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s”) fits better in the second stanza of national reversal.

[10] Interesting parallels link Hannah’s song with Psalm 76 when one reads the psalm in the light of the reversal motif.

[11] Brevard S. Childs, Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1979) 272–73; Dempster, Dominion and Dynasty, 144; Timothy S. Laniak, Shepherds after My Own Heart, NSBT 20 (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2006), 105.

[12] “Reversal is the rhyme and rhythm of these poems: the mighty, handsome, seemingly impressive people of the world (such as Peninnah, Saul, Goliath, and Absalom) are exposed as bankrupt, while the small, weak, infertile, and unimpressive (such as Hannah, Samuel, Jonathan, and David) are exalted,” according to James M. Hamilton, God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment: A Biblical Theology (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010), 158.

[13] Hamilton, God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment, 159.

[14] G. K. Beale, Redemptive Reversals and the Ironic Overturning of Human Wisdom, Short Studies in Biblical Theology (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2019), 22.

[15] Bruce K. Waltke with Charles Yu, An Old Testament Theology: An Exegetical, Canonical, and Thematic Approach (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007), 628.

[16] Waltke, An Old Testament Theology, 626.

[17] Klein, 1 Samuel, 25.

[18] Cat Quine, “On Dying in a City Gate: Implications in the Deaths of Eli, Abner and Jezebel,” JSOT 40 (2016): 400.

[19] Quine adds, “In this reading, it seems that Eli previously judged Israel, now Yahweh judges Eli and finds him to be at fault” (“On Dying in a City Gate,” 406).

[20] Beale, Redemptive Reversals, 26–27.

[21] Vladimir Orel, “The Great Fall of Dagon,” ZAW 110 (1998): 428.

[22] Emanuel notes, “The Ark narrative is rife with standard Near Eastern motifs, of which this is a prominent example. Here, the Ark functions as the Israelites’ version of a divine cult image. Taking these images in battle was common place.” Jeffrey P. Emanuel, “‘Dagon Our God’: Iron I Philistine Cult in Text and Archaeology,” JANER 16 (2016): 31 n. 25.

[23] Emanuel, “Dagon Our God,” 31.

[24] Emanuel, “Dagon Our God,” 31 n. 26.

[25] Dempster, Dominion and Dynasty, 137.

[26] Thomas R. Schreiner, The King in His Beauty: A Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2013), 142. Wright argues, “The comic motif and the theological presupposition are the same as are used by Isaiah 46:1–2 against the mighty gods of Babylon.” Christopher J. H. Wright, The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2006), 151.

[27] Emanuel, “‘Dagon Our God,’” 31 n. 27.

[28] Peter J. Leithart, A Son to Me: An Exposition of 1 and 2 Samuel (Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 2003), 57.

[29] “The powerful are being abased, and the powerless (after all, the ark has been captured) are being exalted,” according to Dempster, Dominion and Dynasty, 137.

[30] “In this ‘ark narrative,’ as Yahweh strikes down the idol of the god Dagon and smites city after city of Philistines, the story reads as if God is indeed invading and conquering Philistia,” according to C. Marvin Pate, et al., The Story of Israel: A Biblical Theology (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 61. Hamilton adds, “The ‘conquered’ ark goes on a victory romp through Philistine territory (5:6–6:1).” Hamilton, God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment, 160.

[31] J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays, God’s Relational Presence: The Cohesive Center of Biblical Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2019), 69.

[32] Schreiner, The King in His Beauty, 142.

[33] Brian A. Verret, The Serpent in Samuel: A Messianic Motif (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2020), 50.

[34] John L. Ronning, “The Curse on the Serpent (Gen 3:15) in Biblical Theology and Hermeneutics” (PhD diss., Westminster Theological Seminary, 1997), 296.

[35] Robert Alter, The Art of Biblical Narrative (New York: Basic Books, 2011), 103

[36] Schreiner, The King in His Beauty, 148.

[37] Dempster, Dominion and Dynasty, 139.

[38] Gregory T. K. Wong, “A Farewell to Arms: Goliath’s Death as a Rhetoric against Faith in Arms,” BBR 23 (2013): 43–55.

[39] Verrett, The Serpent in Samuel, 57. Wong adds, “But if, on the other hand, it was indeed one of Goliath’s greaves that David’s stone hit, then every single piece of combat gear mentioned in the catalog of Goliath’s arms would have contributed to the author’s rhetorical purpose of deconstructing a prevailing faith in arms. For not only are the helmet, armor, scimitar, and spear dismissed in their recurrences within the narrative as inconsequential toward securing victory, the greaves at the center of the catalog have now become the very item that, ironically, led to the downfall of its user. Thus, the very items that, at the beginning of the narrative, appear to make Goliath invincible have by the end of the narrative been shown either not to matter at all or, worse still to have become a liability.” Wong, “A Farewell to Arms,” 52–53.

[40] Dempster writes, “Goliath is felled by a small stone to the head and is immediately beheaded by David, experiencing the same fate as his god, Dagon, who collapsed in front of the ark of the covenant.” Dempster, Dominion and Dynasty, 140. Wright adds, “In the end, the gods of human creation for all their arrogant claims and masquerade are no greater than gilded statues that have to be nailed dow to keep them vertical. Even then it’s a precarious posture. Philistine god Dagon was as [sic] flattened by the living God and Philistine giant Goliath was by David’s sling—and for the same didactic purpose: ‘And the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel’ (1 Sam 17:46).” Wright, The Mission of God, 160.

[41] Dempster, Dominion and Dynasty, 140.

[42] T. D. Alexander, The Servant King: The Bible’s Portrait of the Messiah (Vancouver: Regent College Publishing, 1998), 63.

[43] Laniak, Shepherds After My Own Heart, 97.

[44] Laniak, Shepherds After My Own Heart, 94–95.

[45] Jessica N. T. Lee, “The Role of the People in Saul’s Rise and Fall,” BSac 174 (2017): 161.

[46] Laniak helpfully comments, “The community was exposing its own belief that security could only be ensured by a human king.” Laniak, Shepherds After My Own Heart, 97.

[47] Lee, “The Role of the People in Saul’s Rise and Fall,” 162.

[48] Alter writes, “Saul’s looming size, together with his good looks, seems to be an outward token of his capacity for leadership but as the story unfolds with David displacing Saul, his physical stature becomes associated with a basic human misperception of what constitutes fitness to command.” Alter, The Hebrew Bible: Prophets, 206.

[49] Laniak, Shepherds After My Own Heart, 100–1. See also, P. Kyle McCarter Jr., 1 Samuel, AB 8 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1980), 205–6.

[50] Verrett, The Serpent in Samuel, 92–93.

[51] Alter, The Hebrew Bible: Prophets, 236.

[52] Alter, The Hebrew Bible: Prophets, 235.

[53] Lee writes, “Saul has inverted the proper relationship between Yahweh, king, and people by heeding those he should have restrained.” Lee, “The Role of the People in Saul’s Rise and Fall,” 177.

[54] Lee, “The Role of the People in Saul’s Rise and Fall,” 177.

[55] Alter suggests that instead of Samuel “turning back” to go with Saul, Samuel abandoned Saul. If that is the case, then, “Samuel is completing his rejection of Saul here by refusing to accompany him in the cult, shaming him by forcing him to offer the sacrifice without the officiation of the man of God.” Alter, The Hebrew Bible: Prophets, 238.

[56] Beale argues that Saul’s death is an ironic parallel with Psalm 37:14–15, which says that the wicked one who have drawn his weapon to kill the upright will die upon his own sword. See Beale, Redemptive Reversals, 31.

[57] Alter, The Hebrew Bible: Prophets, 306.

[58] Dempster, Dominion and Dynasty, 141.

[59] Warner, for example, argues “that indiscriminate killing constructs the figure of the Israelite man, I should add that sexual prowess is a definite, constitutive masculine value—and not a secondary one, but one which is specifically tied to fitness.” Adam Warner, “Potency and the Potentate: The Narrative of David’s Rise,” Proceedings 18 (1998): 27.

[60] Alexander writes, “While this is probably the last characteristic normally associated with royalty, it is portrayed as essential in order to be a successful king.” Alexander, The Servant King, 64.

[61] Donald F. Murray, Divine Prerogative and Royal Pretension: Pragmatics, Poetics, and Polemics in a Narrative Sequence about David (2 Samuel 5.17–7.29), JSOTSup 264 (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1998), 299. See also, Laniak, Shepherds After My Own Heart, 101.

[62] For an excellent article on David’s relationship with Yahweh, see David M. Cook, “The King’s Fear of the Lord as a Theme in the Books of Samuel,” Themelios 45 (2020): 515–27.

[63] Alexander, The Servant King, 70. See also Laniak, Shepherds After My Own Heart, 98–99.

[64] See James M. Hamilton Jr., “The Typology of David’s Rise to Power: Messianic Patters in the Book of Samuel,” SBJT 16.2 (2012): 4–25.

Justin Jackson

Justin Jackson is lead teaching pastor at Grace Church in Ovilla, Texas.

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