How old was David when Samuel anointed him king (1 Samuel 16:13)?
The passage that tells us of David being anointed king is as follows:
Thus Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel. But Samuel said to Jesse, “The LORD has not chosen these.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Are these all the children?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, and behold, he is tending the sheep.” Then Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here.” So he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, with beautiful eyes and a handsome appearance. And the LORD said, “Arise, anoint him; for this is he.” Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon David from that day forward. And Samuel arose and went to Ramah. 1 Sam 16:10-13 (NASB)
Here we are told that Jesse made his seven sons come before the prophet Samuel one-by-one. But none of the sons was the one that God wanted to be king over Israel, except for Jesse’s youngest son David. God had rejected all of the others. God was looking at each man’s heart. He was looking for a man after His own heart. Finally, Samuel discovered that Jesse had one more son, his youngest.
David Commissioned As Future King
When his youngest son came before Samuel, the prophet commissioned him by anointing as the future king. This occurred when David was either a boy or an adolescent since one chapter later 1 Samuel 17:33 tells us that David was a youth.
Then Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are but a youth while he has been a warrior from his youth.” 1 Samuel 17:33 (NASB)
The Hebrew word that is translated as youth is naar. This Hebrew word describes David once again in 1 Samuel 17:42 when Goliath mocked David as being just a youth. The word can mean a boy, youth or servant. The word was used to refer to,
A child of any age from infancy, through weaning, to late adolescence.
For example, the Hebrew word naar appears in Joshua 6:23 when young men were sent as spies to the city of Jericho. These would not have been eight year olds. The word also appears in Judges 13:24 in reference to a child who grew up. Therefore, David could have been a boy or an adolescent. Clearly David was not an adult since he was the youngest of eight sons (1 Samuel 16:10-13). However, most likely he was pre-adolescent. It has been estimated that his commissioning occurred approximately 1070 or 1063 B.C. 1 Samuel 16:13 records David’s commission.
David Anointed As King
2 Samuel 5:4 records the time David was anointed as the king of Israel. The passage states that David was 30 years old when he became king of Israel.
David was thirty years old when he became king, and he reigned forty years. 2 Samuel 5:4 (NASB)
It has been estimated that he became king either in 1048 or 1011 B.C.[4, 5] It is important to note that Ussher and Floyd Nolen Jones estimate that the time of David’s commissioning was either 15 or 22 years earlier than his coronation as king. The estimates are in agreement with scripture. Their estimates would imply that David was 8 years or 15 years when was commissioned. Since scripture does not give us the exact age of David’s commissioning, we estimate that he was most likely pre-adolescent or an adolescent.
Initially, David was king over Israel in Hebron for seven years . Then the throne was moved to Jerusalem and there he ruled for 33 years for a total of 40 years.
So David was probably 10 to 15 years old when he was commissioned as king over Israel and 30 years old when he was anointed as king. But why did God decide to choose David to be the next king? The answer is that God did not choose him because of his age, but his heart was completed devoted to Him. This challenges us to be totally devoted to God in our hearts.
But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7 (NASB)
1. Milton C. Fisher. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. Moody Press. 1999, 585.
2. James Swanson, Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament) (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997).
3. Floyd Nolen Jones. The Chronology of the Old Testament. Master Books. 2005. pp. 99. Note that the author estimates David’s commissioning at 1070 B.C. and cites Usshers’ chronology as 1063 B.C.).
4. Ibid. p. 100.
5. Wilkinson & Boa. Talk Thru The Bible. Thomas Nelson. 1983. p. 71-72.