After my last post several people commented that thinking of David as “a seer after God’s own sight” was a new concept. One noted that she loved learning that “beautiful eyes” can mean the way we see things, and that it would change the way she and others, she believed, viewed David.
When we examined the phrase “he was ruddy and had beautiful eyes and was handsome,” that’s what we were doing — glimpsing how David’s kinsmen viewed him. But not everyone saw him that way. The enemies of Israel certainly did not. And when we look at their reactions to him, there is even more evidence of a strong scriptural connection between beautiful eyes and spiritual insight.
That takes us right back to the story of David and Goliath. As Goliath approaches David on the battlefield, he gets a good look at him. We are told that the Philistine disdained David, and are told why: he was “but a youth, ruddy and handsome in appearance” (1 Samuel 17:42). It is undeniable that this phrase echoes the familiar description of 1 Samuel 16:12. That the phrase is also different is obvious too. The differences, not surprisingly, emphasize what we already learned about David and give us insight into other characters in the story. Further, they tie together some additional, seemingly disparate, parts and passages of these several sequential chapters of 1 Samuel.
First, let’s reflect on what is missing: “beautiful eyes.” Goliath got close enough to notice David’s complexion and was struck like others by his good looks. But he completely overlooked his stunning eyes. At first blush that seems strange. But a Philistine after all could not have been expected to recognize, much less value, spiritual insight. When he missed that aspect of David’s persona, he underestimated the source of the power, confidence and strength of his smaller opponent. That proved to be a fatal mistake for the giant.
Now, let’s look at what words were added in this part of the text: “but a youth” and “in appearance.” Goliath judged David on the basis of his age and his appearance. The latter is the very thing that the God of Israel had cautioned Samuel not to do (1 Samuel 6:7). The characterization of David as “a youth” is precisely the same observation that Saul made when he first met David. He too probably failed to understand fully who David was. While the text does not say explicitly that Jesse forgot to present David to Samuel (1 Samuel 16:11) because of his youth, it at least implies that by having Jesse state David was the “youngest”. The Hebrew word used for youngest also carries the meaning of “smallest” and thus ties together David’s youth and appearance.
In battle, when insight is absent and when vision fails, the consequences can be disastrous. The spiritual insight David possessed is clearly and uniquely God-given. But a careful reading of the biblical text, and attention to the precise language through which it is conveyed, can deliver spiritual insights to us as we read and study the Word of God. We can see that here and surely will encounter it again as we turn to David’s psalms. That can help equip us for whatever struggles we might face.