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1 Samuel 17:12-19 meaning

David, a shepherd and the youngest of eight sons is sent by his father Jesse to his brothers on the battlefront with the intention of knowing their welfare.

David had already been anointed as the future king of Israel by Samuel the prophet in 1 Samuel 16:13, the Spirit of the Lord was upon David from that time forward. The name David means "beloved" and is a title of Jesus—being God's beloved son. Jesse who is David's father is called an Ephrathite of Bethlehem in Judah. Ephratah is the region around Bethlehem. Bethlehem means "house of bread" and was where the Messiah was prophesied to be born (Micah 5:2). Roughly a thousand years later, Jesus will be born in Bethlehem as a descendent of David, and heir to his throne (Matthew 1:1, 17). He will be born in the "house of bread" and become the "Bread of Life" (John 6:35).

Judah was David's tribe, in which Bethlehem was located. David was one of eight sons of Jesse. The Bible says that Jesse was old in the days of Saul, advanced in years among men. David, being the last son of eight, was apparently born when Jesse was older, for now he is advanced in years.

Jesse's three oldest sons had gone after Saul in battle, and were currently with Saul at the Valley of Elah in battle array against the Philistines. The Valley of Elah is about 20 miles southwest of Jerusalem. The names of Jesse's three oldest sons were Eliab the firstborn, and the second to him Abinadab, and the third Shammah. David, being the youngest, would at times be called to assist Saul and the army and then would return home to tend his father's flock at Bethlehem. Now the three oldest brothers followed Saul fighting battles and protecting Israel. This was predicted in 1 Samuel 8:11-12 when Samuel warned the Israelites that if they crowned a king like the other nations, the king would enlist their sons to follow him in battle.

During the next forty days Goliath came forward morning and evening and took his stand shouting his demoralizing words to the men of Israel. The number forty in the Bible signifies testing. Israel spent forty years in the wilderness, where they were tested, so they could learn that man does not live by bread alone (Deuteronomy 8:2-3). Jesus was tested after He spent forty days in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-2).

Jesse instructs David his son,"Take now for your brothers an ephah of this roasted grain and these ten loaves and run to the camp to your brothers." An ephah was an ancient measurement that might have been roughly forty pounds of wheat. David would have traveled about twenty-five miles to get to the Valley of Elah from Bethlehem, so he might have led a donkey to carry the bag of roasted grain and ten loaves of bread and cheese. That would have been about a one-day journey. This would indicate that the primary source of food for the army was coming from the families of the soldiers.

In addition to sending grain and bread for his brothers, Jesse told David, "Bring also these ten cuts of cheese to the commander of their thousand." This might have been custom, to provide for the commanders as well as the soldiers. And it might have been shrewdness on the part of Jesse, to gain favor for his sons. This also tells us that the army was divided into units of a thousand men. Jesse further instructed David to "look into the welfare of your brothers and bring back news of them. For Saul and they and all the men of Israel are in the valley of Elah, fighting with the Philistines."

Not only was Jesse providing for his sons, but he was also understandably eager for their welfare, and desired to hear news of their fortunes. He did not seem to have any concern for David's safety. This could be due to many factors, including his knowledge of David's expertise and success in the wilderness.


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