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5 Unexpected Lessons from Jesse, King David's Father

5 Unexpected Lessons from Jesse, King David's Father

Who exactly was Jesse in the Bible and what do we know about him? Jesse was the father of King David. See Ruth 4:17. He was the grandson of Ruth and Boaz. You remember Ruth whose husband and son died. She told her mother-in-law Naomi that she would continue to follow her. Naomi’s people would be her people and Naomi’s God would be her God (Ruth 1:16). We know from further study in the Bible that Jesse is a part of the lineage of Jesus.

Jesse takes center stage in the Bible as God prepares to anoint a new king of Israel to replace Saul. We look to 1 Samuel 16 for the details. God told Samuel that He was sending him to the house of Jesse, the Bethlehemite. There among the sons of Jesse, he would find the new king of Israel. God had instructed Samuel to fill his horn with oil.

Samuel had questions as to how he would anoint a new king without facing the wrath of Saul. God told him to take a heifer to sacrifice to the Lord. God then instructed him to invite Jesse to the sacrifice. God told Samuel that He would show him what to do and who to anoint as the next king.

When Samuel went to Bethlehem, people were concerned because he was a prophet. Plus, he came to town without warning. Samuel assured them that he came in peace and planned to make a sacrifice (1 Samuel 16:5). As God had instructed, Samuel invited Jesse and his sons to the sacrifice. Samuel had no idea of who God might anoint. He figured it might be the oldest son Eliab. But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance,but the LORD looketh on the heart.

All of Jesse’s sons who were present passed by Saul. The Lord had chosen none of the seven. Samuel asked Jesse if all his children were present. Jesse told him he had another son who was the youngest. He was out tending to the sheep. Samuel asked Jesse to send for him because they would not sit down until he did this (1 Samuel 16:11). David was ruddy, handsome, and good to look at. “And the Lord said, Arise anoint him: for this is he” (1 Samuel 16:12). And Saul anointed David and the Spirit of the Lord came upon him.

What Do We Know about Jesse?

We know that Jesse is the father of David who was king of Israel. Jesse lives in Bethlehem. He is the grandson of Boaz and Ruth. His father was Obed (Ruth 4:17). Since he lived in Bethlehem, we can assume that Jesse was of the tribe of Judah. Bethlehem was one of the main cities in the territory of this tribe. Bethlehem is in Palestine today just south of Jerusalem in the West Bank. There are a few different versions of what the name Bethlehem was in biblical days.

We know that Jesse was one of the elders of the town (1 Samuel 16:4). Apparently, he was wealthy. As Israel faced battle against the Philistines, Jesse sent his son David to take food to his brothers who were fighting (1 Samuel 17:17-18). We know that David was tending his father’s sheep when Samuel came to anoint him. If someone had to tend the sheep, there was probably a herd and that signified wealth.

We know that David thought highly of his parents. While fleeing from Saul in the Bible, David planned for his father and mother to stay in Moab (1 Samuel 22:3). He wanted to make sure they were safe.

Why Does Jesus Come from the Root of Jesse?

The Bible says in Isaiah 11:1 that a rod would spring forth out of the stem of Jesse. A Branch shall grow out of its roots. We know that the Branch is significant because it is capitalized. Usually, in the Bible as in the English language, proper nouns are capitalized. References to God are capitalized. Mentions of Jesus or Son of God are usually capitalized. A branch typically means a limb from a tree. This Branch is significant because it is a precursor to the Son of God.

Turn to Mathew 1 and read the generations of Jesus Christ. Notice verses 5-6. Here, you will see the parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents of David. Move down to verse 16, you will see the names Joseph, Mary, and Jesus. In this same chapter, you also see Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Judas mentioned.

5 Unexpected Lessons from Jesse in the Bible

1. Jesse followed spiritual leadership and respected the man of God. We find this out in 1 Samuel 16. God sent the prophet Samuel to anoint the next king of Israel. Apparently, Jesse was an elder of Bethlehem. They knew that prophets often showed up to make declarations from God and to issue warnings. He did as Samuel instructed and sanctified himself along with his sons. Jesse did not know that his youngest son was about to be anointed king. He was able to follow instructions and allowed the prophet to test all his sons.

This also speaks to his character as a father. He was able to make his grown sons pass by Samuel. There is no mention of whether the sons wanted to follow through with this, but Samuel was a prophet, so everyone just fell in line. I am sure this had much to do with Samuel’s reputation as a prophet as well. He was probably not known for just taking people through the motions. They knew he was there for a reason.

2. Jesse was wealthy. Jesse appeared to be a man of wealth and had all his sons busy and working. We know that God can often bless his people, sometimes with material wealth. We know that he wants us to work if we can and are not retired. The youngest son was somewhere tending sheep. I am sure that the elder sons all had jobs with their father as well, but this task fell on the youngest son. Usually, those who tend sheep must fend off all types of animals just to keep the sheep safe. David also had to take food to his brothers while they were fighting in Saul’s army. The youngest probably had to do work that many of the older brothers had outgrown, but apparently, David had a heart of service and found favor with God.

3. Jesse followed the law of the land. I am sure that Jesse had no idea at the time that his son was to become king. He might have known that something special was going on with the youngest. His son David had slain Goliath. Many of his other sons had fought in battle with Saul. Saul sent messengers to Jesse to send for his son David when he needed someone to play music. God had taken His Spirit from Saul and he was troubled by an evil spirit that God had sent. Look to1I Samuel 16 for more details. Even though this is his youngest son, Jesse sends David with an ass loaded with bread, wine, and a goat. David apparently had his harp as well because that was the main reason Saul had sent for him.

4. Jesse was able to trust his son David in his golden years. As Saul was seeking after David’s life. David had planned for his aging parents to stay in Moab. At this point, David did not know for certain what his end would be, and he wanted his parents to be safe. We see in 1 Samuel 22 that David honored his parents because he was concerned about their welfare.

5. Jesse supported his children in their pursuits. When his sons were fighting in the war, Jesse had David take them food. When David had an invitation to play before King Saul, Jesse made sure he was ready and that he would have his own food for the stay.

Photo credit: ©GettyImages/Winnie Vinzence

Dr. Sandra SmithDr. Sandra Hamer Smith is a Christian and wife to Sylvester Smith. She has one stepson, Greg. Smith lives and resides in Memphis, Tennessee. The University of Memphis alumnae has been in education for about 20 years after receiving the call to teach. Dr. Smith primarily teaches language arts. Prior to education, she worked in local and national television news for 13 years including positions as an overnight news anchor, reporter, and assignments editor at two local network affiliate stations. Smith was also a freelance correspondent for BET news. Dr. Smith has freelanced for the Tri-State Defender newspaper and Contempora magazine.  She is the author of the self-published novel GLORY…THE HAIR.  Smith is also a playwright and poet. The Tennessee native is a member of Temple of Deliverance COGIC, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc, Omicron Delta Kappa, The Golden Key International Honour Society, and Kappa Delta Pi.


This article is part of our People from the Bible Series featuring the most well-known historical names and figures from Scripture. We have compiled these articles to help you study those whom God chose to set before us as examples in His Word. May their lives and walks with God strengthen your faith and encourage your soul.

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