Certainly, because Joseph was a powerful ruler, even if it was in Egypt, there could naturally be a desire for a ruler of Israel to be very much like Joseph. Though it is scant, there is a growing sense that this issue of appearance is an important one when it comes to Israel’s rulers and the way the people wanted to think about their rulers. This is quite understandable in the day of mass media, but it is not at all difficult to comprehend what would seem to be a natural human desire to have attractive leaders set over them.
This should be kept in mind when first encountering David in the Scriptural narrative. As is well known, the Creator God is said to have rejected Saul as king. Samuel, the one whose failure with his sons has lead to the desire for a king, goes to anoint another man as king. When David is brought before Samuel we learn that “he was ruddy, with attractive eyes and a handsome appearance” (16:12b). Strangely, this is after Samuel has viewed the first of David’s brothers and was impressed by his physical appearance.
This experience with the sons of Jesse must have reminded Samuel of when Saul first stood before him. However, with that in mind the Lord can be heard to say “Don’t be impressed by his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him” (16:7b), which serves as an explicit reminder of Saul’s having been rejected. The Lord is reported to have gone on to say “God does not view things the way men do. People look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (16:7c). With this said, it is indeed strange that David’s appearance is mentioned at all, let alone mentioned in such positive terms. One might think that it would have been the opposite when it came to David, and that Samuel was going to anoint one who was unattractive, but this was apparently not going to be the case.
Eventually Saul dies and David takes the throne as he was anointed to do. Frankly, he fares little better than Saul. In many ways, he was more corrupted by the power than was Saul. When those who hear the story of Saul, followed by the story of David (with that story naturally and appropriately including David’s adultery and murder) while considering that Saul was rejected from the throne of Israel because he had inappropriately offered a sacrifice, the hearer simply knows that Israel’s God is going to remove David from the throne as well.
As if to confirm that this is indeed going to take place in due course, David’s son Absalom is introduced into the narrative. During the course of Absalom’s story, adhering closely to the pattern that has been previously established and apparently as if to confirm that Absalom is indeed going to take the throne of Israel, the author reports that “in all Israel everyone acknowledged that there was no man as handsome as Absalom. From the sole of his feet to the top of his head he was perfect in appearance” (2 Samuel 14:25).
Unsurprisingly then, he indeed does take the throne (David is temporarily removed), and even experiences an anointing to confirm what was his justly and prophecy (calling corrupt leaders to account) confirming gained position. However, as had been the case with both Saul and his father, he eventually engages in an action that is displeasing to the Lord of Israel and is removed from the throne, allowing David (one of the handsome men of Scripture) to regain his rule.