Another look at David’s story, part of a series of stories for liberal religious kids.
Once upon a time there lived a good and holy man named Samuel. Samuel lived in the land of Israel. He knew that Israel needed a good and strong leader. Samuel decided that Saul, son of Kish, would be the best person to rule over Israel, and so he anointed Saul king, and then served Saul as a holy man and an advisor.
Saul was a handsome man. There was not a man among all the people of Israel who was as handsome as he, and he was so tall that he stood head and shoulders over everyone else.
Saul was a likeable man. When he was a boy, he was easy-going and treated his parents with respect. When he became a man, he remained easy-going and friendly.
But even though he was handsome and likeable, every once in a while Saul would fall into a dark mood. It was more than just a bad mood. When Saul fell into one of these dark moods, the light went out of his eyes. When he was in one of his dark moods, he didn’t want to talk with anyone, he just wanted to stay by himself in his throne room. When he was in one of his dark moods, sometimes he would do things that were dangerous or foolish.
One day Samuel sent Saul off to do battle with the evil tribe of the Amakelites. Samuel warned Saul that if he won the battle, he must slaughter all the Amakelites’ cattle. This was because their cattle was diseased, and if Saul brought the diseased cattle back to Israel, all the cattle of Israel would grow sick and soon die.
Saul fought the battle, and he won. But unfortunately, after the battle he fell into one of his dark moods. He forgot what Samuel had told him, and he brought all the diseased cattle back to Israel.
Samuel met him, and cried out, “What is all this lowing of cattle that I hear?”
Suddenly Saul remembered what Samuel had him — but it was too late. The cattle were already in Israel. Sail felt terrible. He worried that Samuel could no longer trust him, and his mood grew even darker.
Samuel saw that Saul kept falling into these dark moods. He feared that Saul’s moods were growing worse and worse, and might some day overcome Saul entirely. So he decided to find a successor for Saul.
Samuel found David, the son of Jesse. David was a shepherd, he was short and cheerful, with red hair and bright eyes. Samuel anointed David in secret, and told David that soon he be the next king of Israel.
Saul knew none of this. But soon he fell into one of his dark moods again. His servants said, “One of your dark moods has come again! Command us to go and find someone to come an play beautiful music for you. The music will ease your pain and lighten your mood.”
One of the servants said, “I know a young man named David, the son of Jesse. He plays beautifully on the harp. He is also a warrior, and he doesn’t gossip.”
“Fetch him here,” said Saul.
So David came to live with King Saul, and his music helped to soothe the king when one of his dark moods came upon him.
But Saul’s dark moods got worse and worse, and they came more and more frequently. Sometimes Saul wouldn’t recognize David, and several times he attacked David.
Finally, it got so bad that David had to leave the king, and go live in the wilderness….
To be continued…
Source: Hebrew Bible, 1 Samuel 10-16, 31; 2 Samuel 1-3. The suggestion that Saul’s dark moods might have been a manifestation of mental illness comes from lectures given by Carole Fontaine, professor of Hebrew Bible, at Andover Newton Theological School in 1997.