1 Samuel 16:1
And the LORD said unto Samuel, How long wilt thou mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? fill thine horn with oil, and go, I will send thee to Jesse the Bethlehemite: for I have provided me a king among his sons.
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(1) How long wilt thou mourn for Saul?—The constant references to the influence Saul acquired, and the love and admiration he attracted, is a striking feature in this most ancient Book of Samuel, where the fall and ruin of the first Hebrew king is so pathetically related.

Though it tells us how Saul was tried, and found utterly wanting, still the record, which dwells on the evil qualities which ruined the great life, never loses an opportunity of telling how men like Samuel and David mourned for Saul, and how heroes like Jonathan loved the king who might have been so great. The ordinary reader of the story, but. for these touches of feeling, would be tempted to condemn with far too sweeping a condemnation the unhappy Saul, whose sun, as far as the world was concerned, set amidst clouds and thick darkness. Is it too much to think that for Saul the punishment ended here? that the bitter suffering caused by the solemn anger of his prophet friend, the gloomy last years of unhappiness and distrust, and the shame and defeat of the last campaign, purged away from the noble soul the scars left by the self-will and disobedience? The Divine Voice, so well-known to the seer, at length roused him from his mourning inactivity. Though that instrument, prepared with so much care, was broken, the work of God for which this instrument was created must be done. If Saul had failed, another must be looked for. and trained to fill the place of the deposed disobedient king.

Fill thine horn with oil.—Heb., the oil; probably, as Stanley suggests, the consecrated oil preserved in the Tabernacle at Nob. (On the use to be made of this “sacred oil,” see Note on 1Samuel 16:3.)

Jesse the Beth-lehemite.—From this day forward the village of Bethlehem obtained a strange notoriety in the annals of the world. David loved the village, where his father, most probably, was the sheik, or head man. “The future king never forgot the flavour,” as Stanley graphically reminds us, “of the water of the well of Bethlehem” (1Chronicles 11:17). It was Bethlehem, the cradle of the great ancestor, that was selected in the counsels of the Most High as the birthplace of Jesus Christ.

This Jesse was evidently a man of some wealth, Mohammedan tradition speaks of him as one who, in addition to his farming pursuits, was famous for his skill in making hair-cloths and sack-cloths.

1 Samuel


1 Samuel 16:1 - 1 Samuel 16:13

The chief purpose in these verses is to bring out that the choice of David was purely God’s. The most consummate art could have taken no better way of heightening the effect of his first appearance than that adopted in this perfectly unartificial story, which leads us up a long avenue to where the shepherd-boy stands. First, we have Samuel, with his regrets and objections; then Jesse with his seven stalwart sons; and at last, when expectation has been heightened by delay and by the minute previous details, the future king is disclosed,-a stripling with his ruddy locks glistening with the anointing oil, and his lovely eyes. We shall best catch the spirit by simply following the letter of the story.

I. We have Samuel and his errand to Bethlehem. After that sad day at Gilgal, he and Saul met no more, though their homes were but a few miles apart, and it must have been difficult to avoid each other. Samuel yearned over the man whom he had learned to love, and it must have been pain to him to see the shattering of the vessel which he had formed. However natural his mourning, and however indicative of his sweet nature, it was wrong, because it showed that he had not yet reconciled himself to God’s purpose, though his conduct obeyed. The mourning which submits while it weeps, and which interferes with no duty, is never rebuked by God. He never says,’ How long dost thou mourn?’ unless sorrow has deepened into accusation of His providence, or tears have blinded us to the duty that ensues. But the true cure for overmuch sorrow is work, and, for vain regrets after vanished good, the welcome to the new good which God ever sends to fill the empty place. His resources are not exhausted because one man has failed. ‘There are as good fish in the sea as ever came out of it.’ Saul has been rejected, but a king shall be found; and Samuel is to dry his tears and anoint him. He evidently had no thought of a successor to Saul till this command came; and when it comes, how little it tells him! He gets light enough for the next step, but no more. That is always God’s way. Duty opens by degrees, and the way to see farther ahead is to go as far as we see.

Samuel’s sorrow and the incomplete command show plainly that he was but an instrument. At every step the view is confuted which makes him a far-seeing statesman who inaugurated and carried through a peaceful revolution. The history, which is our only source, tells another story, and makes God the actor, and the prophet only a tool in His hands. If we cut the supernatural out of the story, the fragments do not hang together, and no reason is forthcoming why they should be any more true than are the rejected pieces. Samuel does not show to advantage in either of the two things mentioned about him here. In neither was he true to his early vow, ‘Speak, for Thy servant heareth.’ But there was much reason for his fear, if once God was left out of the account; for Saul’s ever-wakeful suspicion had become a disease, and it was not wonderful that he should be on the watch for any act which looked like putting the sentence of deposition into effect. If ever a man lived with a sword hanging by a hair over him, it was this unhappy king, who knew that he was dethroned, and did not know when or by whom the divine rejection would be made visible to all men. But Samuel had faced worse dangers without a murmur; and no doubt his alarm now, which makes him venture all but flatly to refuse to obey, indicates that, to some extent, he had lost his hold of God by his indulgence in his sorrow. If he had been true to his high calling, he would have ‘filled his horn,’ and gone on God’s errand, careless of a hundred Sauls or a hundred deaths. But it is easy for us, who have never perilled anything for obedience, to sit in judgment on him. ‘Wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself.’ God judges him mercifully, and provides a shelter for his weakness, which he should not have needed. To hide his true errand behind the cloak of the sacrifice was second-best, and only permitted in consideration of his fear which had a touch of sin in it. He was not, at the moment, up to treading the heroic plain path; and God opened an easier one for him. It is sometimes allowable to use an avowed purpose to conceal the real one, but it is a permission which should be very sparingly used.

II. We have Samuel at Bethlehem, with Jesse and his sons. An old man is suddenly seen coming up the hill to the gate of the little city on foot, driving or leading a heifer, and carrying a horn in his hand. In such humble fashion did the prophet travel; but reverential awe met him, and his long years of noble service surrounded him as with a halo. Apparently, Bethlehem had not been included in his usual circuits, and the village elders were somewhat scared by his sudden appearance. Their question may give a glimpse into the severity which Samuel sometimes had to show, and is a strange testimony to the reality of his power: ‘Comest thou peaceably?’ One old man was no very formidable assailant of a village, even if he did not come with friendly intent; but, if he is recognised as God’s messenger, his words are sharper than any two-edged sword, and his unarmed hand bears weapons mighty to ‘pull down strongholds.’ Why should the elders have thought that he came ‘with a rod’? Because they knew that they and their fellow-villagers deserved it. If men were not dimly conscious of sin, they would not be afraid of God’s messenger or of God.

The narrative does not tell whether or not the sacrifice preceded the review of Jesse’s sons. Probably it did, and the interval between it and the feast was occupied in the interview. It is evident that Samuel kept the reason of his wish to see Jesse’s sons to himself; for disclosure would have brought about the danger which he was so anxious to avoid. It appears, too, from 1 Samuel 16:13, that only the family of Jesse were present. So we have to fancy the wondering little cluster of burly husbandmen with their father surrounding the prophet, and: one by one, bracing themselves to meet his searching gaze. Again the choice is emphatically represented as God’s, by the mention of Samuel’s hasty conclusion, from the look of the eldest, that he was the man. Had not Samuel had enough of kings of towering stature? Strange that he should have been in such a hurry to fix on a second edition of Saul! The most obedient waiters on God sometimes outrun His intimations, and they always go wrong when they do. Samuel has to learn two lessons, as he is bidden to repress the too quick thought: one, that he is not choosing, but only registering God’s choice; and one, that the qualifications for God’s king are inward, not bodily. In these old days, the world’s monarchs had to be men of thews and sinews, for power rested on mere brute force: but God’s chosen had to rule, not by the strength of his own arm, but by leaning on God’s. The genius of the kingdom determined the principle of selection of its king. Samuel does not again attempt to forecast the choice; but he lets the other six pass, and, hearing no inward voice from God, tells Jesse, as it would seem, that the Lord has not chosen them for whatsoever mysterious purpose was in His mind.

III. We have ‘the Lord’s chosen.’ Samuel was staggered by the apparent failure of his errand. God had told him that he had provided a king from this family, and now they had passed in review before him, and none was chosen. Again he is made to feel his own impotence, and his question, ‘Are here all thy children?’ has a touch of bewilderment in it. God seldom shows us His choice at first; and both in thought and practice we get at the precious and the true by a process of exclusion, having often to reject ‘seven’ before we find in some all-but-forgotten ‘eighth’ that which we seek. David’s insignificance in Jesse’s eyes was such that his father would never have remembered his existence but for the question, and his answer is a kind of assurance to the prophet that he need not take the trouble to see the boy, for he will never do for whatever he may have in view. His youth and occupation put him out of the question. We know, from the other parts of his story, that his brothers had no love for him; nor does his father seem to have had much. Probably the lad had the usual lot of genius,-to grow up among uncongenial, commonplace people, understanding him little, and liking him less. It is a hard school; but where it does not sour, it makes strong men. His solitary shepherd life taught him many precious lessons, and, at any rate, gave him the priceless gift of solitude, which is the nurse of poetry, heroism, and religion. The glorious night-piece in Psalm 8:1 - Psalm 8:9, and its companion day-piece in Psalm 19:1 - Psalm 19:14, may bear the impress of the shepherd life; which is idealised and sanctified for ever in the immortal sweetness of Psalm 23:1 - Psalm 23:6 There were many worse schools for the future king than a solitary shepherd’s life on the bare hills round Bethlehem.

The delay of the feast and the pause of idle waiting heighten the expectation with which we look for David’s coming. When he does come, what a bright young figure is lovingly painted for us! He is ‘ruddy, and withal fair of eyes, and goodly to look upon,’-of fair complexion, with golden hair {rare among these swarthy Orientals}, and with lustrous poet’s eyes. What a contrast to Saul’s grim face and figure,- like a sunbeam streaming athwart a thunder-cloud seamed with its own lightning! Silently the divine voice spoke, and silently, as it would seem, Samuel poured the oil on the boy’s bowed curls. No word of the purpose escaped his lips, and the awestruck youth was left to wonder for what high destiny he was chosen. One can fancy the looks of his brothers as they bitterly watched the anointing with hearts full of envy, contempt, and rage. 1 Samuel 17:28 shows what they felt to David.

What was the use of this enigmatical anointing for an undisclosed purpose? It is Samuel’s last act, and his last appearance, except for the mention of David’s flight to him from the court of Saul, and that weird scene of Saul prophesying and lying naked before Samuel and David for a day and a night. It was therefore the solemn final act of the prophet,-transferring the monarchy; but it was for David the beginning of his training for the throne, in two ways, ‘The Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward.’ There was an actual communication of divine gifts fitting him for his unknown office, and he was conscious of a new spirit stirring in him. Beside this, the consciousness of a call to unknown tasks would mature him fast, and bring graver thoughts, humbler sense of weakness, and clinging trust in God who had laid the burden on him; and the necessity for repressing his dreams of the future, in order to do his obscure present duties, would add patience and self-control to his youthful ardour. What a whirl of thoughts he carried back to his flock, and how welcome would the solitude be!

The great lesson here is the one so continually reiterated in Scripture, from Isaac downwards, that God ‘chooses the weak things of the world to confound the things that are mighty,’ and thereby magnifies both the sovereign freedom of His choice and the power of His Spirit, which takes the stripling from the sheepcotes and qualifies him to be the antagonist of the grim Saul, and the king of Israel. There are subsidiary lessons, especially for young and ardent souls confined for the present to lowly tasks, and feeling some call to something higher in a dim future. Patience, the faithful doing of to-day’s trivial tasks, the habit of self-repression, the quiet trust in God who opens the way in due time,-these, and such like, were the signs that David was called to a throne, and that God’s Spirit was preparing him for it. They are the virtues which will best prepare us for whatever the future may have in store for us, and will be in themselves abundant reward, whether they draw after them a high position, which is a heavy burden, or, more happily, leave us in our sheltered obscurity.

1 Samuel 16:1. How long wilt thou mourn for Saul? — And pray for his restoration, which the following words imply he did. Fill thy horn with oil — Which was used in the inauguration of kings. But here it was used in the designation of a king; for David was not actually made king by it, but still remained a subject. And the reason of this anticipation was the comfort of Samuel, and other good men, against their fears in case of Saul’s death, and the assurance of David’s title, which otherwise would have been doubtful. I have provided me a king — This phrase is very emphatical, and implies the difference between this and the former king. Saul was a king of the people’s providing; he was the product of their sinful desires; but this is a king of my own providing, to fulfil all my will, and to serve my glory.

16:1-5 It appears that Saul was grown very wicked. Of what would he not be guilty, who durst think to kill Samuel? The elders of Bethlehem trembled at Samuel's coming. It becomes us to stand in awe of God's messengers, and to tremble at his word. His answer was, I come peaceably, for I come to sacrifice. When our Lord Jesus came into the world, though men had reason to fear that his errand was to condemn the world, yet he gave full assurance that he came peaceably, for he came to sacrifice, and he brought his offering with him; A body hast thou prepared me. Let us sanctify ourselves, and depend upon His sacrifice.Samuel came no more ... - In the sense of visiting or conversing on public affairs. CHAPTER 16

1Sa 16:1-10. Samuel Sent by God to Bethlehem.

1. the Lord said unto Samuel, How long wilt thou mourn for Saul—Samuel's grief on account of Saul's rejection, accompanied, doubtless, by earnest prayers for his restitution, showed the amiable feelings of the man; but they were at variance with his public duty as a prophet. The declared purpose of God to transfer the kingdom of Israel into other hands than Saul's was not an angry menace, but a fixed and immutable decree; so that Samuel ought to have sooner submitted to the peremptory manifestation of the divine will. But to leave him no longer room to doubt of its being unalterable, he was sent on a private mission to anoint a successor to Saul (see on [244]1Sa 10:1). The immediate designation of a king was of the greatest importance for the interests of the nation in the event of Saul's death, which, to this time, was dreaded; it would establish David's title and comfort the minds of Samuel and other good men with a right settlement, whatever contingency might happen.

I have provided me a king—The language is remarkable, and intimates a difference between this and the former king. Saul was the people's choice, the fruit of their wayward and sinful desires for their own honor and aggrandizement. The next was to be a king who would consult the divine glory, and selected from that tribe to which the pre-eminence had been early promised (Ge 49:10).Samuel is sent by God; who, under pretence of a sacrifice for fear of Saul, cometh to Bethlehem; sanctifieth Jesse and his sons, 1 Samuel 16:1-5. His human judgment in choosing Eliab the eldest son is reproved, 1 Samuel 16:6,7. God had chosen David the youngest to be king in Saul’s place, 1 Samuel 16:8-12. Samuel anointeth him, and the Spirit of God cometh upon him; but departeth from Saul, and an evil spirit cometh on him, 1 Samuel 16:13,14. He sends for David to quiet it: his praise: Saul loveth him, and maketh him his armour-bearer: he playeth before Saul when the evil spirit disquieted him, 1 Samuel 16:15-23.

How long wilt thou mourn for Saul, and pray for his restitution? which the following words imply that he did.

I have rejected him from reigning over Israel: the manifestation of my peremptory will should make thee submit to my pleasure.

Fill thine horn with oil; which was used in the inauguration of kings, as 1 Samuel 10:1 1 Kings 1:39. But here it is used in the designation of a king, though David was not actually made king by it, but still remained a subject, as is evident from 1 Samuel 24:6. And the reason of this anticipation was, partly the comfort of Samuel, and other good men, against their great fears in case of Saul’s death, of which they expected every day to hear; and partly the assurance of David’s title, which otherwise would have been very doubtful. For the prevention of which doubts, it was very meet that the same person and prophet who had anointed Saul, might now, upon God’s rejection of Saul, anoint David to succeed him upon his death; and because Samuel was now not far from his death, and was to die before Saul, it was fit that David’s anointing should be hastened and done before its proper time.

I have provided me a king: this phrase is very emphatical, and implies the difference between this and the former king. Saul was a king of the people’s providing, he was the product of their inordinate and sinful desires; they desired him for themselves, and for their own glory and safety, as they supposed; but this is a king of my own providing, one that I have spied out, one of that tribe to which I have allotted the kingdom, Genesis 49:10. A king for me; not one to gratify the people’s desires, but to fulfil all my will, as is said, Acts 13:22, and to serve my glory. Or, my king; the Hebrew phrase, to me, or for me, being commonly used for the word mine.

And the Lord said unto Samuel,.... In a vision or dream, or by an articulate voice: how long wilt thou mourn for Saul? he does not blame him for mourning, but for mourning so long; but how long that was cannot be said; and though his affection for him might cause him to indulge to it, yet it was in vain, seeing the sentence was irreversible:

seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? that is, his posterity; for he himself reigned as long as he lived, though in a very inglorious manner:

fill thine horn with oil; with common oil; for that this was the holy anointing oil kept in the tabernacle, as the Jewish writers generally suppose, with which they say David and Solomon, and the kings of Judah, were anointed, there is no reason to believe; since the tabernacle, where this oil was, was at a distance from Samuel, and which seems to have been only for the anointing of the priests. This was not a phial he was bid to take, as when he anointed Saul; but an horn, denoting the abundance of gifts bestowed on David, and the firmness and duration of his kingdom:

and go, and I will send thee to Jesse the Bethlehemite; the son of Obed, whom Boaz begat of Ruth the Moabitess, Ruth 4:21.

for I have provided me a king among his sons; but which he says not; this was reserved for an later discovery; however God had in his own mind picked him, whom he would hereafter make known; this was a king for himself, raised up to fulfil his will; Saul was chosen by him, but then it was at the request of the people, and so he was rather their king than his; but this was not at their desire, nor with their knowledge, but of his own good will and pleasure; the one was given in wrath, and the other in love; the one was to the rejection of God as King, the other to the rejection of Saul by the will of God.

And the LORD said unto Samuel, How long wilt thou mourn for Saul, {a} seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? fill thine horn with oil, and go, I will send thee to Jesse the Bethlehemite: for I have provided me a king among his sons.

(a) Signifying that we should not show ourselves more pitiful than God, nor to lament those whom he casts out.

Ch. 1 Samuel 16:1-13. The choice of Saul’s successor

1. Jesse the Beth-lehemite] Grandson of Ruth the Moabitess, and belonging to the tribe of Judah through the line of his male ancestors (Ruth 4:18-22).

Verse 1. - How long writ thou mourn? The grief of Samuel was prolonged almost to a sinful extent, nor can we wonder at it. We who see Saul's whole career, and know how deeply he fell, are in danger of discrediting his high qualities; but those who were witnesses of his military skill and prowess, and saw him and his heroic son raising the nation from its feebleness and thraldom to might and empire, must have given him an ungrudging admiration. Both David's dirge (2 Samuel 1:19-27) and Samuel's long mourning, and the unqualified obedience which he was able so quickly to extort from a high-spirited people unused to being governed, bear decisive testimony to his powers as a ruler and commander in war. But God now warns Samuel to mourn no longer. Saul's rejection has become final, and God's prophet must sacrifice his personal feelings, and prepare to carry out the purpose indicated in 1 Samuel 13:14; 1 Samuel 15:28. We must not, however, conclude that Samuel's sorrow had only been for Saul personally; there was danger for the whole nation in his conduct. If wilfulness and passion gained in him the upper hand, the band of authority would be loosed, and the old feebleness and anarchy would return, and Israel become even more hopelessly a prey to its former troubles. Samuel, therefore, is to go to Bethlehem and anoint there a son of Jesse. As this place lay at some distance from Ramah, and out of the circuit habitually traversed by Samuel as judge, he probably had but a general knowledge of the family. Evidently he had no acquaintance with David (vers. 11, 12); but as Jesse was a man of wealth and importance, his reputation had probably reached the prophet's ears. 1 Samuel 16:1Anointing of David. - 1 Samuel 16:1. The words in which God summoned Samuel to proceed to the anointing of another king, "How long wilt thou mourn for Saul, whom I have rejected, that he may not be king over Israel?" show that the prophet had not yet been able to reconcile himself to the hidden ways of the Lord; that he was still afraid that the people and kingdom of God would suffer from the rejection of Saul; and that he continued to mourn for Saul, not merely from his own personal attachment to the fallen king, but also, or perhaps still more, from anxiety for the welfare of Israel. He was now to put an end to this mourning, and to fill his horn with oil and go to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for the Lord had chosen a king from among his sons.
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