This week, we begin the David stories, some of our best children’s stories. We read about the shepherd boy who used his slingshot to kill a lion and a bear when they attacked his flock, the pure hearted youth singing songs of praise with his harp, the bold young man taking down a giant with a single stone shot from his sling, and the discounted youngest child who was honored above his seven handsome brothers and anointed to be king of Israel.
Who remembers the children’s song about a boy named David and the giant that came tumbling down? When I was a girl, my Sunday school friends and I would spin like a slingshot—“round and round and round and round”—then come tumbling down together in a giggling heap.
The stories about David in the Hebrew Scriptures sometimes sound like tall tales and there is good reason for that. The genre “tall tales” usually is based in history where real people and authentic flesh-and-blood figures are lionized as over-the-top heroes.
For example, there is another David you may recall, another David of legend who was “born’d on a mountaintop in Tennessee . . . and kilt him a b’ar when he was only three.” As a child, I loved singing this song as well. As stories of these actual heroes’ lives were told throughout the years, they became larger than life, and the legends around them grew. Looking back, it’s not always easy to distinguish fact from embellishment.
Our biblical David, though, is much more than a children’s book character. When we adults read these familiar stories anew as serious students of the Bible, we uncover all sorts of unfamiliar nuance.
Coyle, Charlotte Vaughan. Living in The Story: A Year to Read the Bible and Ponder God’s Story of Love and Grace (pp. 316-325). Resource Publications. Kindle Edition.
Image: Michelangelo’s David with his sling over his shoulder, ready for battle.