In previous entries we have noted how a word used in combination with other words must be studied in that combination, not just as an individual unit. A good example of this is found in our study of 1 Samuel 13:14, where the NIV reads, “The Lord has sought out a man after his own heart.” The translation is nearly identical in the NLT, NASB, God’s Word, NRSV and ESV. The issue is not the translation, but the interpretation. This statement is often understood as a comment on David’s spiritual devotion or piety. As such, it often raises troubling questions, such as, “How could such a godly and devout man possibly commit some of the crimes recorded of David” (adultery, conspiracy to murder, mass murders as a Philistine mercenary, etc.)?
When we look into this Hebrew phrase, however, we will find that it points us in a different interpretive direction. Rather than indicating David’s spirituality it indicates the fact that David meets God’s criteria for kingship. He is a man of God’s choice. This stands in immediate contrast to Saul who met the criteria that were established by the people.
How do we know that the interpretation should go this direction?