Questions From Readers
Why did King Saul ask David, “Whose son are you, boy?” after David killed Goliath, even though Saul had earlier sent for David to be his attendant?—1 Samuel 16:22; 17:58.
A simple suggestion is that Saul forgot who David was because their first encounter had been brief. This is unlikely, however, since the account at 1 Samuel 16:18-23 shows that King Saul had specifically sent for David and came to love him very much and made him his armor-bearer. Saul must have been well-acquainted with David.
Some Bible scholars consider 1 Samuel 17:12-31 and 17:55–18:5 to be later additions because these verses are not found in certain copies of the Greek Septuagint, a translation of the Hebrew Scriptures completed in the second century B.C.E. To draw such a conclusion on the basis of these copies of the Septuagint alone, however, is unwise, since these passages appear in other authoritative manuscripts of the Hebrew Scriptures.a
Evidently, by questioning first Abner and then David himself, Saul was not just interested in knowing the name of David’s father. Having seen David in a completely new light as a person of great faith and courage who had just defeated Goliath, Saul wanted to know what kind of man had raised such a boy. Saul may have had in mind adding David’s father, Jesse, or other members of his family to the army, since the courage and bravery seen in David might also be found in them.
Although 1 Samuel 17:58 includes only David’s brief reply, “the son of your servant Jesse the Bethlehemite,” what follows suggests that there could have been more to the conversation. On this point, note the comments by C. F. Keil and F. Delitzsch: “It is very evident from the expression in [1 Samuel 18:1], ‘when he had made an end of speaking unto Saul,’ that Saul conversed with him still further about his family affairs, since the very words imply a lengthened conversation.”
From all of this, we can conclude that by his question, “Whose son are you, boy?” Saul was intending to find out, not David’s identity, which he already knew, but David’s background.
a Regarding the authenticity of the passages omitted in the Septuagint, see Insight on the Scriptures, Volume 2, page 855, published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
[Picture on page 31]
Why did Saul ask David whose son he was?