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David: The Shepherd Boy
by [?]

A rare good fortune it is to have a friend so true and so faithful that it is as safe to tell him a secret as to whisper it to yourself, one to whom your interests are as important as his own, and who would do any sort of unselfish act to show his devotion to you. It was just such a comradeship as this which existed between two boys of long ago, the story of whose intimacy has come down to us from Bible times as a most wonderful example of what a friendship can be.

Those boys were David, the son of Jesse of Bethlehem, and Jonathan, the son of Saul, King of Israel, and when you hear two persons spoken of as “a David and a Jonathan” you may know that they are the closest kind of friends.

To appreciate thoroughly the friendship between David and Jonathan, and what it meant to both of them, let us go back a little into the history of the time in which the boys lived, and look at the circumstances which led up to their friendship, for that is very important to a clear understanding of the story of David and Jonathan.

At that time the kingdom of Israel was in a deplorable condition, for the Philistines, a war-like tribe who lived in a small territory on the coast, had over-run and conquered most of Israel, and Samuel who was the aged guide and advisor of the Israelites, as well as the last of the judges and the first of the prophets of Israel, saw that the only hope for his people lay in having a higher moral standard and a central government. To bring this about, Samuel established the schools of the prophets in Ramah and other cities, where men could be trained to teach their nation how to live wiser, purer lives–and Samuel also anointed Saul as King of Israel, and for a while Saul ruled wisely and well. Then he disobeyed the command of God, and began to care for conquest in war only when it brought him glory or the spoils of battles, and Samuel seeing this, was much troubled, and finally went to Saul and told him that he must repent and do differently or he would no longer be worthy to be the King of Israel, that God demanded more honest service than he was giving. Saul was considerably troubled at this plain speaking of Samuel and promised to do better in future, but when Samuel left him, it was with a heavy heart, for he felt sure that there would be need of a new king–that Saul would not keep his promises.

And so Samuel at once began to look for a man whom he could anoint as the future King, although no one knew of this purpose but himself, and the voice of God within him inspired him to go to Bethlehem and seek among the sons of Jesse for the King he wished to find. So Samuel went to Bethlehem, but in order that the real purpose of his visit might not be discovered, he took with him beside the horn of oil with which he would anoint the new King if he should find him, also a young calf to offer as a sacrifice, that he might have a suitable excuse to give to the people for his visit.

Of course the coming of Samuel created a great excitement in the little town of Bethlehem, for the people feared that he came to reprove them for some wrong-doing, until Samuel assured them that this was not so, that he came peaceably, and in proof of it invited them to the sacrifice which he was preparing to offer on a hill just outside the gate of the city. According to the rule of Oriental hospitality, it was customary that some prominent man from the village should invite Samuel to return to his home after offering the sacrifice, to break bread with him and to pass the night under his roof if Samuel desired to do so, and as Samuel had invited Jesse to the sacrifice, it came about quite naturally that, as Samuel desired, it was Jesse’s home to which the aged Prophet went.