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In 1 Samuel 21:10, David "flees" to Gath, and King Achish's servants say to him, "Is this not David, the king of the land?"

This is positioned immediately after David's goodbye to Jonathan (1 Samuel 20) and retrieval of Goliath's sword from the priests at Nob (1 Samuel 21:1-9), so well before Saul's death and the presumed beginning of David's kingship.

There's a thought David might've seized Hebron before Saul died, based largely on David reigning 5.5 years longer in Hebron than Ishbosheth did in the North (meaning he either took 5.5 years to move his base from Hebron to Jerusalem after Ishbosheth's death or he was already reigning in Hebron before Saul died and Ishbosheth took the throne), but this article also makes a good point about David going to Keilah's rescue -- Keilah was a southern city, so if David were already king of the south at this point, it makes sense for David to have gone to their aid and not Saul.

But even supposing David's reign in Hebron began before Saul's death, why would the servants of Gath already know David as "king of the land" in 1 Samuel 21? If he were already king of Hebron here, why would he be "fleeing" to Gath? Is it possible these verses reflect a tradition of a later event that had no part in David's fleeing?

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There are numerous instances where David as known to be the next King after Saul, despite the heir apparent, Jonathan being alive.

  • Samuel, the prophet who had anointed Saul anointed David 1 Sam 16:13
  • King Saul recognised that David would take the throne and be given precedence over Jonathan. 1 Sam 20:31
  • Even Israel's enemies knew that David was destined to be king and that Saul was therefore, a "dead king walking" 1 Sam 21:11
  • King Saul acknowledges that David will be his successor 1 Sam 24:20, 21
  • Abigail recognised David's divinely designated right to be king 1 Sam 25:28, 30, 31
  • King Saul knew he was inferior to David and that in the struggle between the two, David would triumph 1 Sam 26:25
  • Even in the attempted deception of the Amalekite when he tried to take credit for Saul's death, was doing so because he knew that David was then not just a promised king but would be king an actuality 2 Sam 1:1-16

Thus, David's kingship was recognised, if not in fact, but in anticipation, by many, many people before he actually took the crown.

  • Is your anaswer that there are numerous references to the fact and so it was common knowledge, but there is no Biblical evidence as to how this came to be? – Revelation Lad Mar 10 '19 at 14:37
  • I think that is a reasonable summary – user25930 Mar 10 '19 at 20:49

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