1 Samuel 16–17

Old Testament Teacher Resource Manual, (2003), 123–24


The early life of David, the shepherd boy who became Israel’s most famous king, is a good example of the adage “When the time for performance has come, the time for preparation has passed.” As you study 1 Samuel 16–17, look for how David was prepared and the difference that preparation made in his ability to perform when the time came (see also JST, 1 Samuel 16–17; introduction for 1 Samuel 16–31 in Old Testament Student Manual: Genesis–2 Samuel (p. 277).

Some Important Gospel Principles to Look For

  • The Lord judges us by what we are rather than what we look like (see 1 Samuel 16:7).

  • Through faith in the Lord and personal preparation, we can overcome any of life’s challenges (see 1 Samuel 17:20–51; see also Matthew 19:26).

Suggestions for Teaching

scripture mastery icon 1 Samuel 16–17 (Scripture Mastery, 1 Samuel 16:7). The Lord does not judge us by how we look but by what we are. (25–30 minutes)

Prepare two bags, putting something of significant value in one and something of little value in the other (such as food students would like in one bag and just the wrapper in the other). Show the class the two bags and ask: Without seeing what is inside, which one would you choose? After some discussion, ask them if it would help if they could choose one class member to look inside the bags and recommend a choice.

Tell students that there is a story in 1 Samuel that shows we have someone to help us who has “inside information” for the choices and decisions we have to make. Read 1 Samuel 16:1–13 with your students and discuss some of the following questions:

  • Why was Samuel sent to the house of Jesse in Bethlehem? (see v. 1).

  • Who did Samuel think might be the one the Lord had chosen to be the next king? (see v. 6).

  • Did the Lord agree with Samuel? Why? (see v. 7).

  • What qualities did Samuel notice David had? (see v. 12).

  • From what the Lord said in verse 7, what qualities do you think the Lord saw in David?

  • How is this story like the situation with the two bags?

Write the following qualities on the board: cheerful, popular, willing heart and mind, athletic, educated, pure, humble, courageous, kind, obedient, honest, handsome, talented, spiritual, and respected. Ask:

  • From most to least important, how would the world rank these qualities when choosing a leader?

  • How is the Lord’s judgment different from the world’s?

Elder Marvin J. Ashton, who was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, spoke of these judgments:

“We … tend to evaluate others on the basis of physical, outward appearance: their ‘good looks,’ their social status, their family pedigrees, their degrees, or their economic situations.

“The Lord, however, has a different standard by which he measures a person … (1 Samuel 16:7).

“When the Lord measures an individual … He measures the heart as an indicator of the person’s capacity and potential to bless others.

“Why the heart? Because the heart is a synonym for one’s entire make-up. …

“The measure of our hearts is the measure of our total performance. As used by the Lord, the ‘heart’ of a person describes his effort to better self, or others, or the conditions he confronts” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1988, 17; or Ensign, Nov. 1988, 15).

Have students mark and perhaps memorize 1 Samuel 16:7. Note that the heart is a symbol for one’s entire make-up. Ask why the Lord is better at choosing leaders than we are. Encourage students to trust the Lord and to heed the counsel of the leaders He has chosen (see Proverbs 3:5–7).

1 Samuel 16:14–23. Music has power to influence our spirits. (10–15 minutes)

Do activity B for 1 Samuel 16 in the student study guide (p. 96).

weekly icon 1 Samuel 17. Through faith in the Lord and personal preparation, we can overcome any of life’s challenges. (45–60 minutes)

To help students visualize Goliath’s actual size, make a life-size drawing of him in the classroom or put a mark on the wall at the correct height (see the commentary for 1 Samuel 17:4–11 in Old Testament Student Manual: Genesis–2 Samuel, p. 278). If you prefer, you could teach this portion of the lesson by standing on a chair or a desk so that you are about as tall as Goliath.

To help students understand how well David prepared in his youth, consider making a sling like the one shown. Use any sturdy fabric or soft leather for the pouch (an oval about 8x13 centimeters, or 3x5 inches) and something like shoelaces for the strings (any length from 46–60 centimeters, or 18–24 inches). Tie a knot in the end of one string and a loop in the other. The loop goes over the index or the third finger and the knot is held between the thumb and index finger. The stone is slung by swinging the sling around over the head and releasing the string as the pouch begins its arc toward the target. Timing is critical and difficult to master.

Read 1 Samuel 17 with your students and help them visualize the situation the army of Israel faced in the valley of Elah. Consider discussing the following questions as you go through the chapter. Refer to the commentaries for this chapter in Old Testament Student Manual: Genesis–2 Samuel (pp. 277–79) for help as needed.

  • How tall was Goliath? (see vv. 4–10).

  • Why do you think he asked for just one man to come out and fight with him? (see vv. 8–10).

  • What was David’s reaction when he heard Goliath’s challenge? (see vv. 26–32).

  • Why did David believe he could fight Goliath and win? (see vv. 32–37).

  • Why did David refuse the armor and sword King Saul offered? (see vv. 38–39).

  • What weapons did David choose instead, and what armor did he trust in? (see vv. 40–47).

  • When might David have gained the ability to use the sling? (see vv. 34–37).

  • Why was David chosen to fight Goliath instead of Saul, who was “higher than any of the people” (1 Samuel 9:2)?

Let students use the sling and try hitting your picture of Goliath and find out how much David must have practiced. Do not use stones. Be mindful of student safety and use something that will not harm people or your building—marshmallows work well.

Discuss the importance of learning early to trust in the Lord. Ask:

  • Are there “Goliaths” that we face today that are as dangerous as the one David faced?

  • What causes are there today that are worth fighting for? (see 1 Samuel 17:29). List student responses on the board.

Share the following statement by President Gordon B. Hinckley, then a Counselor in the First Presidency:

“There are Goliaths all around you, hulking giants with evil intent to destroy you. These are not nine-foot-tall men, but they are men and institutions that control attractive but evil things that may challenge and weaken and destroy you. Included in these are beer and other liquors and tobacco. Those who market these products would like to enslave you into their use. There are drugs of various kinds. … There is pornography, seductive and interesting and inviting. It has become a giant industry, producing magazines, films, and other materials designed to take your money and lead you toward activities that would destroy you.

“The giants who are behind these efforts are formidable and skillful. They have gained vast experience in the war they are carrying on. They would like to ensnare you.

“It is almost impossible to entirely avoid exposure to their products. You see these materials on all sides. But you need not fear if you have the slingshot of truth in your hands. You have been counseled and taught and advised. You have the stones of virtue and honor and integrity to use against these enemies who would like to conquer you. … You can triumph over them by disciplining yourselves to avoid them. …

“Victory will be yours. There is not a [person] within the sound of my voice who needs to succumb to any of these forces. … You have His power within you to sustain you” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1983, 66; or Ensign, May 1983, 46, 51).

List on the board the modern Goliaths President Hinckley mentioned that the students did not. Share your testimony of the value of learning to recognize the counsel that comes from the Lord and to trust in His power to strengthen us and deliver us from the power of the adversary.

Consider closing with a song such as “I Will Be Valiant” (Children’s Songbook, 162), “A Young Man Prepared” (Children’s Songbook, 166), “Let Us All Press On” (Hymns, no. 243), or “Behold! A Royal Army” (Hymns, no. 251).