David: “A Man After God’s Own Heart” – Does It Refer to His Piety? The Case for Yes

In a previous post where I raised this question I cited scholars who believed that when the writer of Samuel refered to David as a man “after God’s own heart” it was not a reference to his piety but to God’s selection. While reading Robert Chisholm’s new commentary on 1 & 2 Samuel I noticed he argued for the more traditional view. He writes,

“The new leader appointed by the Lord is described as ‘a man after [or, ‘according to’] his [the Lord’s] own heart.’ In light of the contextual emphasis on Saul’s disobedience, this expression probably means ‘like-minded,’ that is, ‘committed to obey the Lord’s commands’ (cf. Acts 13:22). Long shows that the statement ‘You have acted foolishly’ is balanced by and contrasted with ‘sought out a man after his own heart’ in the structure of verses 13-14. This suggests that the latter refers to a character quality of the new king. Furthermore, the phrase ‘according to your heart’ is used in 14:7 by Jonathan’s armor-bearer to emphasize that his is ‘with Jonathan in ‘heart and soul,’ that is, loyal to Jonathan and committed to whatever Jonathan decides to do.’ (83)

He states further in a footnote:

“McCarter argues that the expression refers to the Lord’s will or purpose, not to some quality that David possesses. He translates, ‘a man of his own choosing’ (1 Samuel, 229). One can find support for this nuance of ‘heart’ in 2 Sam. 7:21 and Ps. 20:4, where it refers to one’s choice, will, or purpose. However, in 1 Sam. 13:14 the phrase modifies a noun [‘man’], as it does in Jer. 3:15, where the Lord promises to give repentant Israel Shepherds ‘according to’ the Lord’s ‘heart.’ In this case, a quality of the shepherds (their commitment to knowledge and understanding) is in view, as the following clause indicates. McCarter creates a false dichotomy; surely one chosen in the heart of the Deity would conform in his character and motives to the will of the Deity!” (316n.7 under “1 Samuel 13:1-15”)

1 & 2 samuel is from the new Teach the Text commentary series from Baker Books.

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About Louis

I am a 1997 graduate of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.
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