The end of 1 Samuel 17:55-58 gives us an odd, if not confusing, passage about Saul not knowing David’s identity. There are three possible explanations:
- Explanation #1: Perhaps the writer is making use of flashback in 1 Samuel 17:55–56. Saul is shown having conversation with Abner, his commander prior to David’s encounter with Goliath. At that time the king ordered his general to find out what family “that young man” belonged to. Then, in 1 Samuel 17:57–58 return the time and geographic location in v. 54. David was “still holding the Philistine’s head” (v. 57),
- Explanation #2: Perhaps David had heard about Saul’s offer to provide a tax exemption for the family of the Israelite who killed Goliath (1 Samuel 17:25). Maybe Saul asked David for his father’s name so that he could properly formulate an edict in behalf of Jesse’s family and perhaps also so that he could learn more about the family background of the one who had earned the right to become the king’s son-in-law.
- Explanation #3: This passage may also function to demonstrate that the Lord’s Spirit was no longer with Saul. Being devoid of the divine Spirit, Saul also was intellectually incompetent. The image presented in vv. 55–58 of a king who cannot remember details related to one of his most beloved and trusted warriors.
Regardless of the explanation, David’s life will change forever beginning with his new friend, Saul’s son Jonathan.