Q&A: Saul's Memory Lapse

Saul's Memory Lapse

Question

In 1 Samuel 17:55-58, it appears as if Saul does not know who David's father is. Yet in 16:18-22 it indicates he certainly knew. How do you resolve this?

Answer

There are a couple possible solutions to this apparent problem. The first possible explanation is that the events in 1 Samuel 17 actually preceded the events in 1 Samuel 16, and that the arrangement in the text is not intended to be chronological. David became Saul's armor-bearer in 1 Samuel 16:21. It would seem reasonable to assume that he would have already been on the field of battle with Saul in 1 Samuel 17, rather than having to be sent there by Jesse just to bring food to his brothers, if indeed he had already been Saul's armor bearer before the events of 1 Samuel 17 took place. Besides this, 1 Samuel 18-19 describes actions which took place after those in 1 Samuel 17, but which appear to be the same kind of actions that took place in 1 Samuel 16 (cf. 1 Sam. 18:10; 19:9). Both these facts strengthen the suggestion of dischronology.

The second possible explanation is that the events in 1 Samuel 16-17 are actually chronological, but that in the time that elapsed between the two sets of events Saul simply forgot who David was. This is also a reasonable explanation given the fact that during this time Saul was suffering torment from the evil spirit from the Lord (1 Sam. 16:14-15), which in 1 Samuel 18:10; 19:9-10 seems to have been the cause of some raving and madness.


Answer by Ra McLaughlin

Ra McLaughlin is Vice President of Finance and Administration at Third Millennium Ministries.