Let our lord now command your servants, which are before you, to seek out a man, who is a cunning player on an harp: and it shall come to pass, when the evil spirit from God is on you, that he shall play with his hand, and you shall be well.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)And it shall come to pass . . . thou shalt be well.—It has been a well-known fact in all ages that music exerts a powerful influence on the mind. We have several instances in ancient Greek literature, where this influence is recommended to soothe the passions or to heal mental disease. Pythagoras, whenever he would steep his mind in Divine power, was in the habit before he slept of having a harp played to him; Æsculapius, the physician, would often restore such sick souls with music. (See reference from Censorinus, De die natali, quoted by Keil.)
“Priests would call
On Heaven for aid: but then his brow would lower
With treble gloom. Peace! Heaven is good to all.
To all, he sighed, but one—God hears no prayers for Saul
At length one spake of music.”—HANKINSON.Psalm 23:1-6, were already composed. Matthew 17:15,18. And seeing music prepared the Lord’s prophets for the entertainment of the good Spirit, as 2 Kings 3:15, why might it not dispose Saul to the resistance of the evil spirit? and why might not the cheering of his heart, in some measure, strengthen him against those temptations of the devil which were fed by his melancholic humour?
to seek out a man who is a cunning player on the harp: a musical instrument much in use in those days:
and it shall come to pass, when the evil spirit from God is upon thee; when in a melancholy mood, and Satan takes the advantage of it to distress and terrify, to spread the gloom, and stir up evil passions, and promote distraction and confusion:
that he shall play with his hand: upon the harp, that being not an instrument of wind, but of hand music:
and thou shalt be well: music being a means of cheering the spirits, and removing melancholy and gloomy apprehensions of things, and so of restoring to better health of body and disposition of mind; and that music has such an effect on the bodies and minds of men is certain from observation and experience in all ages. Music has been found to be medicine to various diseases, not only for the curing of the bite of vipers, and of the tarantula, but for easing the pains of the sciatica, and for helping persons labouring under the disorders of the frenzy (k); and Pythagoras used to compose the mind, and remove the perturbations of it, by the use of the harp (l), the thing here advised to.Let our lord now command thy servants, which are before thee, to seek out a man, who is a cunning player on an harp: and it shall come to pass, when the evil spirit from God is upon thee, that he shall play with his hand, and thou shalt be well.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)16. a cunning player] “Cunning,” from A.-S. cunnan, to know, ken, is generally used in the E. V. in its original sense of knowing, skilful, without any idea of underhand dealing.
thou shalt be well] The power of music to restore the harmony of a troubled mind is well known. Kitto (Bible Illustr., p. 212) quotes among other instances the case of Philip V. of Spain in the last century. He was seized with a total dejection of spirits, which rendered him incapable of attending to business. After all other methods had been tried unsuccessfully, the celebrated musician Farinelli was invited to perform at a concert in a room adjoining the King’s apartment. The music attracted his attention; by degrees the disease gave way, and the King was restored to his usual health.Verses 16-18. - A cunning player on an harp. Literally, one skilful in striking the chords on the harp. In Saul's case music would have a soothing influence, and turn the current of his thoughts. His officers suggest, therefore, that search should be made for an expert musician, and Saul consents; whereupon one of the servants recommended the son of Jesse. The word used here is not the same as that found in vers. 15, 16, 17. There we have Saul's officers; here it is na'arim, "young men." Thus it was a youth of David's own age, who had probably been with him at Naioth in Ramah, that described him to Saul. The description is full and interesting, but it has its difficulties. David is not only skilful in music, of which art he would have had ample scope to manifest his powers in the service of the sanctuary at Ramah, but he is also a mighty valiant man, and a man of war, and prudent in matters, or, rather, intelligent in speech (see margin), as well as handsome and successful. Nevertheless, in 1 Samuel 17:33-36 David appears as a youth about to make his first essay in fighting; and though the two exploits mentioned there, of killing the lion and the bear, might justify his friend in calling him a mighty valiant man, literally, "a hero of valour," they do not justify the words a man of war. It is strange, moreover, that Saul should be so entirely ignorant of David's person and lineage as he is represented in the narrative in ch. 17, if thus David was court musician, though reference is made there to this visit of David to Saul in ver. 15. Possibly, however, David and this youth may have served together in repelling some marauding expedition of the Philistines, and though David may not have actually done much, - nothing, at all events, so well worth repeating to Saul as the combats with the wild beasts, - yet he may have achieved enough to convince his friend that he had in him the qualities of a man of war, i.e. of a good soldier. For the rest, we must conclude that this first visit of David was a very short one, and that after playing before Saul and being approved of, he then returned home, ready to come again whenever summoned, but that Saul's malady did not immediately return, and so a sufficient interval elapsed for Saul not to recognise him when he saw him under altered circumstances. Saul's question, "Whose son is this stripling?" (1 Samuel 17:56) seems to imply that he had a sort of confused idea about him, without being able exactly to recall who he was. The ultimate consequences of this introduction to Saul, as well as its immediate effect, are all narrated here after the usual manner of Old Testament history (see 1 Samuel 7:13). 1 Samuel 16:8-10, we may assume that he had communicated the object of his coming to Jesse.
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