They never gave him a thought. He was the runt of the family, little thought of, little cared for: a grubby kid whose only possible worth to the family was to send him out to watch the sheep. He did seem to be reasonably capable of that, despite his dreaminess and his tendency to want to sit and make up music all day. What use to the family was that? A boy like that needed to be constantly put in his place lest he start imagining he was somebody special. And when they muttered to each other in annoyance, his older brothers never gave a passing thought to another younger brother, centuries before, whose older brothers, irritated beyond measure, had sold him into slavery. That boy, Joseph, had risen to be above them all, but what of that? After all, these brothers had no intention of treating the kid that way. Out of sight was out of mind.
So when the prophet came to visit they scrubbed up, dressed up, and went nervously out to greet him. What was their little town to warrant such attention? What did Samuel (or, more alarmingly, Samuel’s God) want with them? It wasn’t a comfortable meeting, and they never gave a thought to that uppity kid as they organised themselves. Their father, Jesse, was one of the elders of the town, so they were present when Samuel was greeted. He assured them that he had come in peace and only wanted to offer a sacrifice. He invited them to consecrate themselves and attend. The brothers felt honoured to be included, and even more honoured when the prophet asked their father to present them to him, one by one. But as each of the seven was presented, the prophet searched their faces as if he was trying to see into the deepest parts of their hidden selves. There was a sense, a very disturbing sense, that he was looking for something that wasn’t there, that these brothers, handsome and tall in the prime of their young manhood, lacked something important.
The prophet said nothing, however, until he had inspected all seven, then he turned to Jesse and said, “The Lord has not chosen these.” There was an awkward silence while each wondered what it was that he had failed. Then Samuel continued, “are these here all of your sons?”
Jesse was startled, but he knew better than to lie to a prophet of God. “No,” he said slowly, “there is another one, but he’s out in the fields with the sheep.”
Samuel ordered him to send for the boy. “We will not sit down until he comes,” he said.
So they sent for the boy, David, and when he came in, to their immense astonishment, Samuel rose up, took his horn of oil and anointed the boy. The brothers didn’t dare catch each other’s eyes. What did this mean? But before they could gather their wits to find a way to ask, Samuel had risen up and gone on his way back to Ramah where he lived. But they knew that something had changed and something very important had happened.