Did Saul know David or not? Did he ask Jesse or Abner to bring David to him? Did Saul meet David before or after he killed Goliath? Are there contradictions in 1 Samuel 16-17?
Here are the specific texts the questioner put forth:
…Saul sent messengers to Jesse, and said, ‘Send me your son David … So David came to Saul and stood before him. … David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone… (16:19, 21; 17:50)
When Saul saw David going out against the Philistine, he said … ‘Abner, whose son is this youth?‘ …as David returned from the slaughter of the Philistines, Abner took him and brought him before Saul … And Saul said to him, ‘Whose son are you, young man?’ So David answered, ‘I am the son of your servant Jesse the Bethlehemite.’ (17:55-58)
These supposed discrepancies completely dissolve when we understand that not everything in 1 Samuel 16-17 is recorded chronologically.
In chapter 16, David is identified by a servant of Saul as:
…a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, who is skilled in playing, a mighty man of valor, a man of war, prudent in speech, and a handsome person; and the LORD is with him. (16:18)
In 1 Samuel 17:4, we are told that David was the youngest of Jesse’s sons, and that the three oldest had gone to battle with Saul. David was not a man of war when he met Goliath. His only experience with battle was to defend the sheep against the lion and the bear (17:34-36).
In chapter 16 he is a man of war; in chapter 17 he is a youth with no war experience. That ought to tell us that chapter 16 is topical, not chronological. Samuel begins with the anointing of David, who will be the next king of Israel. He then tells us that the Lord departed from Saul, but that He is with David. One of Saul’s servants notes that David is not only a mighty warrior (he defeated the giant!), and prudent in speech, and handsome, but that he is also a skilled musician. And so David is brought before Saul.
Q1 – Did Saul know David?
A1 – Saul didn’t know David at the time he slew Goliath (17:55-58), but he did know him when he called him to live at the palace (16:19-22).
Q2 – Did he ask Jesse or Abner to bring David to him?
A2 – At the battle site, he asked Abner to bring David to him, so he could meet the young man (chapter 17). Afterward, he sent messengers to Jesse, asking him to send David to him (chapter 16).
Q3 – Did Saul meet David before or after he killed Goliath?
A3 – Saul met David briefly before he killed Goliath (17:31-39), but did not know whose son he was (17:55-58). As indicated above, the meeting in chapter 16 came after the events of chapter 17.
There is no contradiction.
A response to 1001 Bible Contradictions.