Although the stories do not mirror each other exactly when compared there seem to be several similarities between the lives of Joseph (Genesis) and David (1 Samuel 16) in the Old Testament.
We meet both David and Joseph when they are young teens for the first time in the Bible and follow the timeline of both men through to their deaths. There are several other similarities:
- God spoke to both David and Joseph in dreams.
- Both spent years waiting for God to fulfill his promise to them regarding their life calling.
- Both men were blessed by God with wealth.
- Both men were positioned by God in places of power and influence.
- Both men were the youngest sons having many older brothers
Regardless of the similarities, the lives of David and Joseph had several differences.
David was a shepherd. He spent years in the fields working for his family. Even after being anointed the next King of Israel by the prophet Samuel, David stayed in the fields. He then became a warrior defeating Goliath when no other Israelite would step up to the challenge. King Saul kept him by his side from that day forward (1 Samuel 18:1-7) and with each mission, David gained notoriety in the kingdom. “When the men were returning home after David had killed the Philistine, the women came out from all the towns of Israel to meet King Saul with singing and dancing, with joyful songs and with timbrels and lyres. As they danced, they sang: ‘Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.’ ”
In a contrasting situation, Joseph was kept back with his father instead of working with his brothers in the fields. As the favorite son, he was honored with a beautiful coat. David, on the other hand, was not even brought in to stand before Samuel when he came to anoint him, King. His father Jesse had to be asked again for ALL his sons to stand before the prophet.
Joseph’s favoritism didn’t win him any favors though. Instead, his brothers threw him into a pit and sold him into slavery to be rid of him. He entered a life of service and imprisonment and waiting.
Years wrongly imprisoned Joseph waited until his name was called to help the king. As he stood before Pharaoh (Genesis 41) before interpreting the dream as asked to do, he gave God the glory.
Genesis 41:15-16 “Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘I had a dream, and no one can interpret it. But I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.’
‘I cannot do it,’ Joseph replied to Pharaoh, ‘but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.’ “
Upon helping Pharaoh Joseph’s life took a turn for the better. Pharaoh was so impressed with Joseph that he was promoted from prisoner to second in command. He answered to no one but Pharaoh himself.
Genesis 41:37-40 “ ‘The plan seemed good to Pharaoh and to all his officials. So Pharaoh asked them, “Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God?’
Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘Since God has made all this known to you, there is no one so discerning and wise as you. You shall be in charge of my palace, and all my people are to submit to your orders. Only with respect to the throne will I be greater than you.’ “
The choice to honor God before stepping into power is another thing that David and Joseph had in common.
1 Samuel 17:34-37 “But David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.”
With the slaying of Goliath David began his journey to becoming king.
With the interpretation of a dream, Joseph stepped into power.
I don’t know what would have happened if Joseph or David had moved forward without first acknowledging God, but I do think it is significant that both stories begin that way. Glorifying God first and publicly seems like an excellent leadership standard to follow. It sure worked out for David and Joseph and for those around them as well.