But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things human beings look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Sam 16:7 TNIV). . . . So he sent and had him brought in. He was glowing with health and had a fine appearance and handsome features. Then the LORD said, “Rise and anoint him; this is the one” (1 Sam 16:12 TNIV). . . . He looked David over and saw that he was little more than a boy, glowing with health and handsome, and he despised him (1 Sam 17:42 TNIV). The seminal introduction of young David in the narrative of the Books of Samuel has captured the hearts of readers for immeasurable generations. At the same time, various aspects of the text have puzzled thoughtful readers’ minds since ancient times. While numerous minutiae may be debated, the general difficulties for scholars are usually the following: (a) YHWH is said to disregard outward appearance and to attend instead to inward character when evaluating a person, yet the only description of David that is provided in the pericope extols his attractive appearance (16:7, 12); (b) a similar initial impression of David is put in the eyes of Goliath in 17:42, which many therefore conclude is a later addition based on 16:12; and (c) the phrase עינים יפה עם) literally, “with beautiful of eyes”) in 16:12 is grammatically awkward—so much so that its precise meaning remains unresolved. Placed within a context that introduces the greatest king of ancient Israel, the text and its difficulties gain additional significance. Just what were these initial impressions of the future king? What do they mean, and what do they tell us about David, and moreover, what do they tell us about the diverse people who perceived him? This article endeavors to address these questions and issues by way of a close literary and phraseological investigation of the text. While most interpretations understand the assessments of David by Samuel and Goliath (1 Sam 16:12; 17:42) to be based on externals, closer study of the language used in this tradition demonstrates that Samuel’s assessment is, in fact, ultimately based on the internal condition of David, while Goliath’s assessment remains based on superficial factors. This difference in perception provides a rich and engaging comparison as Samuel learns to perceive as YHWH perceives, while Goliath—to his own condemnation—does not. We will also look further at the grammatically difficult phrase עינים יפה עם and propose a literary theological function behind it.



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