Behaving Wisely


In the years immediately following Samuel’s anointing, David’s life changed dramatically. God was working behind the scenes to bring him out of the shepherd’s fields into the grandeur of the king’s court. How did the transition affect David’s behavior? 

1 Samuel 18:14 (READ THE CONTEXT HERE)
“David behaved wisely in all his ways, and the Lord was with him.”

When the Spirit of the Lord left Saul, a “distressing spirit” oppressed him. Concerned for the king’s welfare, servants suggested that harp music could be therapeutic (1 Sam. 16:14-16).

Apparently by this time, David was already known for his superior musical ability. He was summoned to play his harp to calm the king (v. 19). The royal servants commissioned David to play shortly after Samuel anointed him to be Saul’s successor to the throne. Most Bible scholars suggest David was between 10-15 years of age when anointed.

Upon his arrival at court, we are told Saul, “took a strong liking to him,” requested that Jesse permit David to stay with him as needed and, “made him one of his arms-bearers” (v. 21).

After his victory over Goliath, David’s promotion to a place of prominence was even more dramatic. Right after the defeat of Goliath, David was summoned to meet with Saul.

“Then, as David returned from the slaughter of the Philistine . . . Saul said to him, “Whose son are you, young man?” So David answered, “I am the son of your servant Jesse the Bethlehemite” (17:57-58).

Many scholars are perplexed that Saul seemed to be unaware of David’s identity. Personally, I believe the context suggests Saul was surprised that this was the same David who had played the harp. It was like asking, Are you the same kid that plays the harp for me? Who are you really?  Truthfully, who’s your father?

During this interview, Saul’s son Jonathan was drawn to David’s character and integrity. Jonathan removed his royal armor and presented it to David in recognition of Samuel’s anointing (18:4; cf. 23:17). A close friendship developed between the two. 

Over the next few years, David rapidly advanced through the ranks of Saul’s army. He was given a commission and Scripture documents, “So David went out wherever Saul sent him, and behaved wisely” (18:5).

It is important to grasp the significance of the term translated “behaved wisely” because it describes David’s habitual way of life. The verb “behaved” (Hebrew: yaskil יַשְׂכִּ֔יל) conveys prudence, attentiveness or discernment that is linked with success and prosperity. The term is sometimes translated “prospered” and describes the care and diligence David learned while a shepherd caring for his father’s sheep.

Because of David’s prudent behavior, his rapid promotion did not engender what would normally cause envy and bitterness among the troops. Those serving with him supported his rapid advancement. 

David’s wise behavior also endeared him to the people of Israel. As he and Saul returned from battle with the Philistines, the women danced in the street singing, “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands (v. 7). Suddenly, Saul saw David in a different light.

It was more than petty jealousy on Saul’s part. He began to comprehend the implications. David was his replacement. Anger and jealousy boiled into a rage resulting in attempts to, “pin David to the wallwith a spear. David escaped twice (v. 11). When Saul observed that David,behaved very wisely, he was afraid of him(v. 15).

Continuing to serve in Saul’s army, “David behaved more wisely than all the servants of Saul, so that his name became highly esteemed(v. 30). Over the course of a few months, God established David’s reputation and popularity among the people of Israel; but, Saul’s hatred for him escalated.

Then, at the height of his popularity, David was suddenly forced to flee for his life. For the next decade, David lived in the wilderness to escape Saul’s determined efforts to assassinate him. On two separate occasions, David had opportunity to kill Saul (1 Sam. 24; 26).

He was even counseled that God had delivered Saul into his hand. David, however, chose to behave wisely refusing to act on his own initiative. The words of Torah were deeply embedded in David’s mind and heart,

Vengeance is Mine, and recompense; their foot shall slip in due time; for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things to come hasten upon them(Deut. 32:35).

Chosen by God and anointed king of Israel by Samuel, David knew God would ultimately vindicate him. He was convinced that in due time God would bring him to the throne of Israel, as promised. David’s actions were not swayed by his circumstances. Even the threat of death didn’t alter his conduct. He continued to behave wisely.

Wherever God leads us in our lifewalk, it is crucial we consistently behave in accordance with the principles of God’s Word. Like David, people of faith make the choice to behave wisely.


Copyright © 2016 Charles E. McCracken, commentary only. Repost/Reprint with permission. Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

1) David and Saul. By Julius Kronberg. [Public domain]
2) The Festivities Honouring David. By James Jacques Joseph Tissot. [Public domain]