David the Tabernacle

God’s choice of David from among his brothers in 1 Samuel 16 not only prefigures the baptism of Jesus, it presents David as a human Tabernacle.

The  era of Israel’s kings begins with the promise of a new kind of “house” for Israel, a kingly dynasty. Aptly, the nation’s first three kings form a triune architecture. Despite his great conquests, Saul’s sins correspond to the failure of Adam in the Garden (Father/Word). Despite his greater conquests, and great faithfulness, David’s sins (which were in fact worse than those of Saul) correspond to the failure of Cain and Lamech in the Land (Son/Sacrament). Finally, despite his initial humility, the sins of Solomon, the great bridegroom who judged from a great white throne, correspond to the corruption of the nations of the World before the flood. In this case, of course, the flood was “Social” — the invading hordes of Assyria and Babylon (Spirit/Government).

This three-level “Tabernacle” architecture is found at every level in Scripture, because Man was made in the image of God. An obvious example is the account of the anointing of David in 1 Samuel 16. The Bible Matrix pattern is fairly easy to discern in the structure of this passage. Not only is it profoundly beautiful in its simplicity, it also makes sense of the inclusion of the description of the physical appearance of David, a rare occurrence in Scripture.

Since this act would lead to the establishment of a heavenly Covenant with the house of David, note the “Covenantal” shape of the events:

Creation/Initiation – The Lord commands Samuel to fill his horn with oil.
Division/Delegation – The Lord sends Samuel under the pretense of making a sacrifice.
Ascension/Presentation – In Bethlehem, Jesse and his sons to consecrate themselves. The first son is presented but is rejected.
Testing/Purification – Jesse’s seven sons pass before Samuel. The Lord rejects them all.
Maturity/Transformation – Jesse reveals that there is an eighth son, David, who is keeping the flocks. Samuel commands him to bring him in, or there will be no rest.
– David has a ruddy face, bright eyes, and is attractive.
Glorification/Representation – Samuel takes the horn of oil and anoints David. The Spirit rests upon him from that day on.

The rhythm of events follows patterns from the Torah which ought to be very familiar to us. If we have the Creation Week (Genesis), the Tabernacle (Exodus), the Ascension offering and the Feasts (Leviticus), the judgment upon Israel (Numbers), and the fivefold forging of a New Covenant (Deuteronomy) hidden in our hearts, the true depth, significance and magnificence of this humble literary sequence should both delight us and make us tremble.

  • The Creation Week (Transcendence)
    • Day 1: In Tabernacle terms, oil is “liquid light.” As the dove descended upon Christ, so this earthly oil pictured the coming of the Spirit upon David.
    • Day 2: As a prophet, Samuel’s mission takes him from the court of God (the waters above, the crystal sea) to the nations of men (the waters below).
    • Day 3: He crosses the “dry land” of Israel to find a servant-king, a firstborn son with the faith of his father Abraham, a bearer of spiritual fruit.
    • Day 4: Corresponding to Joseph’s second dream, the sun, moon and stars giving obeisance to the younger son, the older brothers are rejected.
    • Day 5: The flocks correspond to the tribes of Israel (swarms) configured in hosts (clouds).
    • Day 6: David has an Abrahamic heart instead of an Adamic one.
    • Day 7: David is anointed, and the Spirit rests upon him as the cloud rested upon Sinai, and should have rested upon Eden.
  • The Tabernacle (Hierarchy)
    • Step 1 in the Tabernacle is the Ark of the Testimony, the authority of the Word of God (Genesis). When the Ark was in the field, God’s enemies would scatter. In this way it pictured the chariot of God, the glory cloud, His mobile throne. Likewise, this oil-filled horn is a sacrificial mediator, a holy messenger who is a union of heaven (holy oil) and earth (the altar horn which scatters, Zechariah 1:19). The sacrifices and priests were not the only mediators which served in the Tabernacle. The ministry of the priests was carried out using bowls, basins and tools, mediators designed for carrying holy things. Even the seven lamps of the lampstand were wicks in detachable bowls. In Revelation, the seven bowls of judgment are these bowls from the lampstand, the light of the law tipped out in judgment upon those who rejected Pentecost.
    • Horns are symbols of kingly power. The oil-filled horn pictures a kingdom which is priestly, ruled by a king who serves the people and leads by his moral example. A servant-king is a “horn” which judges wisely because it is filled with the Spirit of God. Solomon’s great white throne was white because it was covered in ivory. Horns are instruments of judgment.
    • The sequence begins with Samuel filling his horn with oil and ends with him emptying it. The filling and emptying of the horn pictures the Covenant-cycle as a “tour of duty.” Just as the Levites were consecrated for duty and deconsecrated when it was done, so this earthly kingdom would be temporary. Just as the heavenly oil was poured out at the beginning of her service, at it end the blood of Israel according to the flesh would be “poured out” as water (Deuteronomy 12:24; 2 Timothy 4:6).1For consecration and deconsecration in the Covenant pattern, see Inquiétude: Essays for a People Without Eyes, 374. For the origin of the symbolism of horns, see “Horns of Moses” and “Being Cornucopia” in God’s Kitchen: Theology You Can Eat & Drink.
    • Step 2 in the Tabernacle is the Veil, picturing the hiding of God’s true intentions from His servants until He can call them His friends. Samuel leaves for Bethlehem under a pretence of sacrifice (Exodus). His true purpose is temporarily hidden until this particular “veil” is torn.
    • Step 3 is the Bronze Altar and Table of Showbread. Israel is the Land crossed by Samuel and “Beth Lechem” means “House of Bread.” Jesse’s sons consecrate themselves for the sacrifice (Leviticus).
    • Step 4 is the Lampstand, with its seven lights. Here, Jesse’s seven sons are inspected by Samuel, who serves as the eyes of God, and although circumcised, they are rejected (Numbers), just like Saul in the previous chapter (1 Samuel 15:16).
    • Step 5 is the Incense Altar, the ministry of elders in God’s court. David is the youngest but he is the most spiritually mature (Deuteronomy). The command to bring him in denotes access to the Sanctuary in a ministry of music and prayer.
    • Step 6 is the sacrificial mediators, the High Priest (Garden), sacrifices (Land) and Bronze Laver (World). These three are the vertical points of the cross, Above, Beside, Below. But David is described in terms of the three horizontal points, the Table of Facebread (“a blood-filled face”), the Lampstand (“bright eyes”) and the Incense Altar (physical beauty). Although he was Israel’s king, David’s life follows the same Priest-King-Prophet process as the life of Moses, another “triune man,”2See “The Meekest Man” in Inquiétude: Essays for a People Without Eyes. but unlike Moses his ministry would be the reconquest of the Land (Joshua). Why is David’s outward appearance valued when that of his brothers is described? Because there was integrity between the expressions of his face and those of his heart. There was no serpentine guile. He was circumcised not only in flesh but also in heart (John 1:47; Romans 2:28-29; 1 Peter 2:22).
    • Step 7 is the glory cloud of God, the Shekinah arriving and dwelling in the completed house, “God with us.”
  • The Ascension Offering and the Feasts (Ethics)
    The festal sequence in Leviticus 23 sheds even more light upon these events.

    • Sabbath: The Lord brings rest to Samuel, who is still grieving over Saul.
    • Passover: Samuel leaves the kingdom of the rejected king under a pretence of sacrifice (Exodus 3:18). David is thus the protected “firstborn” of Israel.
    • Firstfruits: Like Cain, the firstborn of Jesse is rejected. True dominion of the earth only comes through submission to heaven.3For more on the “firstborn” theme, see Big Love: A History of Stolen Fruit.
    • Pentecost: This is the central feast. It not only corresponds to the “kingly” Ethics of the Covenant, but also to the threshing of the grain. Israel was given the Law at the first Pentecost and the Spirit at the “last” Pentecost. Here, David’s seven brothers are “sifted like wheat” and found wanting.
    • Trumpets: David is described as the “youngest” or “smallest.” He is summoned to the “sacrifice” as the tribes of Israel were mustered to the feast of Trumpets. This is also the step in Covenant history where the “fullness of the Gentiles” joins the priesthood of God under the New Covenant. Moses lived as a Gentile when he served as a shepherd, and the new generation of Israel remained uncircumcised until just before the conquest of Jericho.4For more discussion, see “Uncircumcised Jews” in Inquiétude: Essays for a People Without Eyes.  True rulers are forged in the wilderness.
    • Atonement: David is pictured as fulfilling the furniture in the Holy Place. This would qualify him to not only raise up a resurrected and more festive Tabernacle, but also to prepare the elements for a permanent and far more glorious house of God with an expanded priesthood.
    • Booths: Adam was intended to be filled with the Spirit of God that he might provide food and shelter for all nations as a tree of righteousness. A faithful king in Israel would bring peace and prosperity not only to Israel, but also to all nations.
    • Even though the true “lamb of God” is not chosen until the middle of the pattern (as it was in history), the sequence is also “sacrificial,” recapitulating the sevenfold process of the Ascension offering.5See Psalm 20.
  • The Judgment of Israel (Oath/Sanctions)
    • The sevenfold pattern recapitulates the first seven books of the Bible (see the book titles in the Tabernacle sequence above). The sons of Jesse are like the generation of Israel which perished in the wilderness through lack of faith and courage. David, the “youngest,” is the new generation of Israel which believes and receives the promised inheritance.
  • The New Covenant (Succession)
    • The sequence works, as discussed, from Above (the authority of heaven) to Beside (fellow man) to Below (the fruit of the Land and the womb, the inheritance).
    • The choosing of a “son of the herd,” one “without blemish” is the background for the selection of David. This selection of David, a “king among sons,” is also the background for the selection of Christ from among His circumcised brothers before His baptism. Both Samuel and John the Baptist were Nazirites from birth. All the “sons of David” passed before John as he was baptizing in the Jordan. All were rejected until Jesus presented Himself “to fulfill all righteousness.” The Spirit descended, and the Father said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” Once again, the Father was looking upon the heart rather than the outward appearance. David’s name means “beloved.” Perhaps this is the background to the phrase in Ephesians 1:6, “accepted in the Beloved.” Israel could not truly cross the Jordan, could not truly “enter into rest,” the heavenly country, the inheritance of all the saints, until her true king, the Captain of the Lord’s hosts, arrived in Bethlehem.

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References   [ + ]

1. For consecration and deconsecration in the Covenant pattern, see Inquiétude: Essays for a People Without Eyes, 374. For the origin of the symbolism of horns, see “Horns of Moses” and “Being Cornucopia” in God’s Kitchen: Theology You Can Eat & Drink.
2. See “The Meekest Man” in Inquiétude: Essays for a People Without Eyes.
3. For more on the “firstborn” theme, see Big Love: A History of Stolen Fruit.
4. For more discussion, see “Uncircumcised Jews” in Inquiétude: Essays for a People Without Eyes.
5. See Psalm 20.


  1. George fyfe

    Enjoyed the teaching and insights very much

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