1 Samuel 16:14
But the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD troubled him.
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1 Samuel 16:14. The Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul — Which came upon him when he was first made king, and continued with him till this time, but which God now took away, depriving him of that prudence, courage, and alacrity, and other gifts wherewith he had qualified him for his public employment. An evil spirit from the Lord — That is, by God’s permission, who delivered him up to be buffeted by Satan. Troubled him — Stirred up in him unruly passions, such as envy, rage, fear, or despair. Hence he grew fretful, peevish, and discontented, timorous and suspicious, frequently starting and trembling, as the Hebrew word here used seems to import. He therefore became very unfit for business, being sometimes melancholy, or furious and distracted, and always full of anxiety and solicitude of mind.16:14-23 Saul is made a terror to himself. The Spirit of the Lord departed from him. If God and his grace do not rule us, sin and Satan will have possession of us. The devil, by the Divine permission, troubled and terrified Saul, by the corrupt humours of his body, and passions of his mind. He grew fretful, peevish, and discontented, and at times a madman. It is a pity that music, which may be serviceable to the good temper of the mind, should ever be abused, to support vanity and luxury, and made an occasion of drawing the heart from God and serious things. That is driving away the good Spirit, not the evil spirit. Music, diversions, company, or business, have for a time often been employed to quiet the wounded conscience; but nothing can effect a real cure but the blood of Christ, applied in faith, and the sanctifying Spirit sealing the pardon, by his holy comforts. All other plans to dispel religious melancholy are sure to add to distress, either in this world or the next.The Spirit ... came upon David - The exact phrase used of the Judges and Saul. See 1 Samuel 10:6, note; Judges 3:10, note; Judges 6:34, note; Judges 11:29, note; Judges 14:18, note; Judges 15:14, note. 14-18. The Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord troubled him—His own gloomy reflections, the consciousness that he had not acted up to the character of an Israelitish king, the loss of his throne, and the extinction of his royal house, made him jealous, irritable, vindictive, and subject to fits of morbid melancholy. God took away that prudence, and courage, and alacrity, and other gifts and assistances of God’s Spirit, wherewith he had qualified him for the management of his public employment.

An evil spirit; properly so called; for what need is there of forsaking the proper signification of the word? It is evident, both from Scripture and experience, that God hath permitted some men to be really acted and disquieted by the devil; and why not Saul as well as others?

From the Lord, i.e. by God’s permission or judgment, delivering him up to Satan.

Troubled him; stirred up in him unruly and tormenting passions; as envy, rage, fear, despair, and the like. But the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul,.... As a spirit of prophecy as at first, as a spirit of wisdom and prudence in civil government, and as a spirit of fortitude and courage, as the Targum:

and an evil spirit from the Lord troubled him; the reverse of the former, which by the permission of God, and as a punishment to him for his sins, came upon him; he seemed to be a demoniac, as Josephus represents (i) him, as if possessed with the devil; by whom he was almost suffocated and strangled, as well as was distracted in his counsels, and became weak and foolish; lost all courage and greatness of mind, was timorous and fearful, and alarmed by everything, and was full of envy, suspicion, rage, and despair.

(i) Antiqu. l. 6. c. 8. sect. 2.

But the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an {e} evil spirit from the LORD troubled him.

(e) The wicked spirits are at God's commandment to execute his will against the wicked.

14–23. David’s introduction to the Court of Saul

14. But the spirit of the Lord departed from Saul] Note the contrast to 1 Samuel 16:13. As David rose, Saul sank.

an evil spirit from the Lord] The cause of Saul’s mental disorder is described as “an evil spirit from Jehovah,” or “of Jehovah” (1 Samuel 19:9); “an evil spirit of God” (1 Samuel 16:15-16, 1 Samuel 18:10); “the spirit of evil” (1 Samuel 16:23); even “the spirit of God” (1 Samuel 16:23); because it was God’s messenger of judgment. Cp. 1 Kings 22:19-22. It is never called “the spirit of Jehovah,” which always designates the spirit of holiness. Saul’s apostasy was punished not merely by the withdrawal of the grace which had been given as the endowment of his office, but by positive assaults from the powers of evil, akin to the demoniacal possession of the N. T. The result was a form of melancholy madness. The cause of the disease was (as we commonly speak) “supernatural,” the cure employed “natural.” The inference is that it is impossible to draw a sharp line of distinction between the two spheres. They are in closer connexion than is commonly recognised.Verses 14, 15. - From this time forward David is the central figure of the history. Saul has been rejected, and though, as being the actual king, he must still play his part, more especially as his decline goes on side by side with David s growth in every kingly quality, yet the record of it is no longer given on Saul's account. Interesting, then, as may be the information concerning the mental malady with which Saul was visited, yet the object of this section is to acquaint us with the manner in which David was first brought into connection with him. From the description given of David in ver. 1 Samuel 16:18 it is evident that there has been a considerable interval of time between this and the previous section. David is no longer a child, but a "mighty valiant man." The connection is ethical, and lies in the contrasted moral state of the two men, as shown in the two parallel statements: "the Spirit of Jehovah came upon David;" "the Spirit of Jehovah departed from Saul." There was a gradual decline and debasement of his character; and as David grew from a child into a hero in war and a scholar in peace, so Saul, from being a hero, degenerated into a moody and resentful tyrant. An evil spirit from Jehovah troubled him. Really, as in the margin, terrified him; that is, Saul became subject to fits of intense mental agony, under which his reason gave way, and temporary insanity, accompanied by outbreaks of violence, came on. It is very difficult for us with our richer language to give the exact force of the Hebrew; for the word rendered spirit is literally wind, air, breath. A student of Hebrew can trace the word ruach through all its modifications, from its physical signification as the material wind, to its metaphysical meaning as an influence from God; and then still onward up to the beings who minister before God, and of whom the Psalmist says, "He maketh his angels to be winds" (Psalm 104:4); till finally we reach up unto the third person of the blessed Trinity: and then, as with this full knowledge of the Divine nature we read backward, we find the presence of the Holy Ghost indicated, where to the Israelite probably there was mention only of a material agency. Jost, in his 'History of the Jews since the time of the Maccabees,' vol. 1. p. 12, says that Saul suffered under that form of madness called hypochondria, and that the Jews gave this the name of bad air, the words translated here "evil spirit;" for they held, he says, that "the devil inhabited the air." So St. Paul speaks of the "wicked spiritual beings that are in high places," i.e. in the loftier regions of the atmosphere (Ephesians 6:12). A study of Saul's character makes it probable that, as is often the case with men of brilliant genius, there was always a touch of insanity in his mental constitution. His joining in the exercises of the prophets (1 Samuel 10:10-12) was an outburst of eccentric enthusiasm; and the excitement of his behaviour in the occurrences narrated in ch. 14. indicate a mind that might easily be thrown off its balance. And now he seems to have brooded over his deposition by Samuel, and instead of repenting to have regarded himself as an ill-used man, and given himself up to despondency, until he became a prey to melancholy, and his mind was overclouded. His servants rightly regarded this as a Divine punishment, but their words are remarkable. Behold, an evil spirit from God terrifieth thee. And so again, in ver. 16, the evil spirit from God, as if they were unwilling to ascribe to Jehovah, their covenant Deity, the sending of this evil "influence," while rightly they saw that evil as well as good must come from the Almighty, inasmuch as all things are in his hand, and whatever is must be by his permission. The writer of the book has no such scruples; he calls it "an evil spirit from Jehovah," because it was Jehovah, their own theocratic King, who had dethroned Saul, and withdrawn from him his blessing and protection. When Jesse thereupon brought up his other sons, one after another, before Samuel, the prophet said in the case of each, "This also Jehovah hath not chosen." As Samuel must be the subject to the verb ויּאמר in 1 Samuel 16:8-10, we may assume that he had communicated the object of his coming to Jesse.
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