1 Samuel 16:18
Then answered one of the servants, and said, Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, that is cunning in playing, and a mighty valiant man, and a man of war, and prudent in matters, and a comely person, and the LORD is with him.
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(18) Then answered one of the servants.—The Dean of Canterbury calls attention to the fact that the word in the original here rendered “servants” is not the same as was translated by “servants” in 1Samuel 16:15-17. In each of these passages the Hebrew word rendered “servant,” no doubt signifies officers connected with the royal court. Here the different word hann’-ārim lays stress on the royal attendant in question being a young man. Probably, the one spoken of in this place was a contemporary of David, very likely a youth trained with David in Samuel’s prophetic school at Naioth in Ramah, and consequently able to speak thus in detail about the young shepherd pupil of the great seer.

Cunning in playing.—As a boy, it is certain that David possessed rare gifts of poetry, and, no doubt, of music. It is probable that some of his early Psalms were originally composed while watching his father’s sheep among those hills and vales round the village of Bethlehem, where “in later centuries shepherds were still watching over their flocks by night, when the angel host appeared to them to tell them of the birth of a child in Bethlehem.”

These gifts of poetry and music were further cultivated and developed in the prophets’ school of Samuel, and there the young pupil of the seer no doubt quickly acquired among his companions that reputation and skill which induced the “young man” of the court of Saul to tell his afflicted master of the shepherd son of Jesse, famous for his “cunning in playing.”

And a mighty valiant man, and a man of war.—The description of the Bethlehemite David at a mighty valiant man can well be explained from what is related in 1Samuel 17:34-35, about the young shepherd’s prowess in the conflicts with the lions and the bears. A question has, however, been raised respecting the expression “a man of war,” as it would seem from the narrative of 1 Samuel 17 that the combat with the giant Philistine was David’s first great military exploit. It has, however, been suggested that, in addition to the combat with those wild beasts, which we know in those days frequented the thickets of the Jordan, and were a terror to the Israelitish shepherds, David had most likely been engaged in repelling one or more of the Philistine marauding expeditions so common in those wild days. Bethlehem, we know, was a strong place or garrison of these hereditary foes of Israel. (See 2Samuel 23:14; 1Chronicles 11:16.)

1 Samuel 16:18. Then answered one of the servants, &c. — It is likely this was some friend or acquaintance of David, who here gives him a very high character, which he did not disgrace, but fully verified, insomuch that Saul for a time highly esteemed him, finding him amiable in his spirit, and prudent in matters, and therefore useful to him in many other ways, as well as by his skill in music. We need not wonder that David was so suddenly advanced from a poor shepherd to so great a reputation; for this was the effect of those graces and gifts of the Divine Spirit which he had received when he was anointed. The Lord is with him — Said the servant; that is, directs and prospers all his undertakings.

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.A mighty valiant man ... - David's reputation for courage, skill, discretion, and manly beauty, was already great. Since "the Spirit of the Lord came upon him," his natural qualities and powers had been greatly enhanced. His feat of killing the lion and the bear (see the marginal references) had been performed, like Samson's feats of strength Judges 14:6, Judges 14:19; Judges 15:14, under the same supernatural influence, and was probably more or less known. 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. Wonder not that David was so suddenly advanced, from a poor contemptible shepherd, to so great reputation; for these were the effects of that Spirit of the Lord, which he received when he was anointed; though some would hence infer, that the things related in this chapter happened after the history of 1Sa 17, though it be placed before, such transpositions being not unusual in historical relations.

The Lord is with him, i.e. directs and prospers all his undertakings.

Then answered one of the servants,.... Which the Jews say (m) was Doeg the Edomite, who out of envy and ill will to David spake of him, that Saul might have an opportunity of slaying him; but this is not at all likely; rather it was one of David's friends and acquaintance, that was desirous of promoting him at court, and no doubt was directed to that motion by the overruling providence of God:

and said, behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite; he does not mention the name of his son, but so describes him, that he might be easily known by those who knew anything of the family of Jesse; besides it was sufficient that he was one of Jesse's sons, to find him out:

that is cunning in playing; that is, on the harp; has good skill in music, and is expert in it:

and a mighty valiant man; as appeared by his encountering with and slaying the lion and the bear; an event now past, as very probable:

and a man of war some think this character of him was given after the affair of his fighting with Goliath and killing him, but here put by a prolepsis or anticipation; and indeed if David had been taken into Saul's court before that affair, it is difficult to account for Saul's ignorance of him, since he must be so near him, and so often with him, as his musician and armourbearer; though that difficulty may be removed, as may be observed in its proper place:

and prudent in matters; in his talk and conversation, and conduct and behaviour; knew how to carry himself, even in a prince's court: and a comely person; which always recommended to the courts of the eastern nations; See Gill on Daniel 1:4.

and the Lord is with him; prospering and succeeding him in whatsoever he is engaged; and seeing the Lord was with him, it might be expected the evil spirit would depart from Saul, when this person, with whom the Lord was, was in his presence. The Targum is,"the Word of the Lord is for his help;''all that is said of him showed that he was fit to be in the palace of a king, and a proper person to be with Saul in his present circumstances.

(m) T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 93. 2. So in Hieron. Trad. Heb in lib. Reg. fol. 76. C.

Then answered one of the servants, and said, Behold, I have seen a {f} son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, that is cunning in playing, and a mighty valiant man, and a man of war, and prudent in matters, and a comely person, and the LORD is with him.

(f) Though David was now anointed king by the prophet, yet God would strengthen and test him in various ways before he had the use of his kingdom.

18. one of the servants] The word here used for “servants” literally means “young men” (Vulg. pueri), as it is rendered in 1 Samuel 14:1, and probably refers to military attendants: that used in 1 Samuel 16:15-17 literally means “slaves” (Vulg. servi), and includes the servants in general.

a mighty valiant man, &c.] David had proved his courage while still tending his sheep. See 1 Samuel 17:32-36. “A man of war” describes his capacity and promise rather than actual warlike experience.

prudent in matters] Rather, “skilled in word,” eloquent. Possibly he had already composed psalms, but of those which have come down to us only Psalms 8 can be referred to this period, and even that is probably somewhat later. Psalms 19, 23, , 29, describing the phenomena of nature, doubtless contain recollections of his shepherd life.

the Lord is with him] See note on 1 Samuel 3:19.

1 Samuel 16:18When Saul commanded them to seek out a good player upon a stringed instrument in accordance with this advice, one of the youths (נערים, a lower class of court servants) said, "I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, skilled in laying, and a brave man, and a man of war, eloquent, and a handsome man, and Jehovah is with him." The description of David is "a mighty man" and "a man of war" does not presuppose that David had already fought bravely in war, but may be perfectly explained from what David himself afterwards affirmed respecting his conflicts with lions and bears (1 Samuel 17:34-35). The courage and strength which he had then displayed furnished sufficient proofs of heroism for any one to discern in him the future warrior.
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