Q. Two verses, 1 Samuel 16:7 and 16:12, seem to contradict each other. Please explain.
A. Samuel was to anoint a new king to take the place of wicked King Saul. God instructed Samuel to go to Jesse the Bethlehemite to find a king among his sons. Verse 7 says that the Lord warned Samuel not to evaluate the sons by their looks, “for the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” After God indicated that the sons, one by one, were not whom He had in mind, verse 12 says that there was one son left, “so he sent and brought him [David] in. Now he was ruddy, with bright eyes, and good looking. And the Lord said, ‘Arise, anoint him; for this is the one!’”
Notice that it was the Lord who chose David. David happened to be attractive physically, but he was also attractive in his heart. We know that this is true from later Bible accounts and from the beautiful psalms he wrote. God chose David for reasons that could not be seen with the human eye. Thus verse 12 simply describes David’s appearance as a fact, which had nothing to do with his being divinely chosen.
Nothing is specifically said about the physical characteristics of David’s seven brothers, but something Samuel saw in Eliab made him think that this son might be the one. It is quite probable that Eliab was tall like Saul and that Samuel may have thought it would be good if the next king was similar in height. This is suggested in the Lord’s words in verse 7: “Do not look on . . . the height of his stature” (ESV). We read in 1 Samuel 9:2 that Saul was very tall: “From his shoulders upward he was taller than any of the people.” But this did not matter to God.
This article appeared in the “Q & A” column of the Baptist Bulletin by Norman A. Olson.