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.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.
And Samuel said, How can I go? if Saul hear it, he will kill me. And the LORD said, Take an heifer with thee, and say, I am come to sacrifice to the LORD.1 Samuel 16:2. How can I go? — That is, with safety. Say, I am come to sacrifice to the Lord — Which he, being a prophet, might do anywhere, all the ritual laws being subject to the prophets. What the Lord commanded him to say was a truth, though not the whole truth.
And call Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will shew thee what thou shalt do: and thou shalt anoint unto me him whom I name unto thee.1 Samuel 16:3-4. Call Jesse to the sacrifice — To the feast upon the sacrifice, to which they might invite their neighbours and friends. The elders trembled at his coming — Because it was strange and unexpected to them, this being but an obscure town, and remote from Samuel, and therefore they justly thought there was some extraordinary reason for it. They might fear lest he came to denounce some judgment against them, or to shun Saul’s displeasure, in which case it might have been dangerous for them to entertain him. Peaceably — The Hebrew phrase, Comest thou in peace? was as much as to say, (in our phrase,) Is all well?
And Samuel did that which the LORD spake, and came to Bethlehem. And the elders of the town trembled at his coming, and said, Comest thou peaceably?
And he said, Peaceably: I am come to sacrifice unto the LORD: sanctify yourselves, and come with me to the sacrifice. And he sanctified Jesse and his sons, and called them to the sacrifice.1 Samuel 16:5. I am come to sacrifice unto the Lord — That was one intention of his coming; and though there was another, namely, to anoint one of Jesse’s sons to be king, he was not bound to declare it. For where there are two ends of any action, a person may, without any injury to truth, declare the one and conceal the other. Thus Moses did when he told Pharaoh they must go and sacrifice to God in the wilderness; but suppressed their intention to march to the land of Canaan. This is set in a clear light by Dr. Waterland: — “As to Samuel pretending a sacrifice, it was a just pretence, and a true one; for he did offer sacrifice, as God had commanded him, 1 Samuel 16:5. And what if he had a further intention? was he bound to declare all he knew, or to disclose to every man the whole of his errand? Secrecy is of great use in all important business; and the concealing one design by going upon another, to prevent giving offence, or doing other worse mischief, is as righteous and as laudable a practice as the drawing a curtain to keep off spies. The making one good design the cover for a better is doing two good things at once; and both in a proper way; and though men have been blamed, and very justly, for using acts of religion as a cloak for iniquity, yet I have never heard that there could be any thing amiss in performing one act of obedience toward God in order to facilitate the performance of another.” — See Scrip. Vind., p. 95.
He sanctified Jesse and his sons — It seems evident that there was something peculiar in Jesse’s invitation. For, first, both he and his sons were invited, whereas the others were only invited for their own persons. Secondly, the different phrase here used, that he sanctified these, when he only bade the others sanctify themselves, argues a singular care of Samuel in their sanctification. Which makes it probable that the rest were only to join with them in the act of sacrificing; but these, and only these, were invited to feast upon the remainders of the sacrifices.
And it came to pass, when they were come, that he looked on Eliab, and said, Surely the LORD'S anointed is before him.1 Samuel 16:6. He looked on Eliab, and said, Surely the Lord’s anointed, &c. — Struck with the gracefulness and dignity of his person, he immediately concluded that this was the person whom God designed for his anointed; wherein, however, he was mistaken, as other prophets sometimes were, when they hastily spake their own thoughts, before they had consulted God. Before him — That is, in this place, where God is now present. For it is observable, that not only the sacrifice is said to be offered, but even the feast upon the remainders of it, is said to be eaten before the Lord, Deuteronomy 12:7; that is, before, or near his altar, where God was present in a special manner.
But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.1 Samuel 16:7-8. The Lord said unto Samuel — By a secret inward suggestion. Look not on his countenance — All have not a noble spirit who have a noble aspect, as appeared by Saul; which should have prevented Samuel’s concluding so hastily from Eliab’s appearance that he was the person whom God had chosen. Neither hath the Lord chosen this — God suggested to him, as he did concerning the former that this was not the man of his choice.
Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. And he said, Neither hath the LORD chosen this.
Then Jesse made Shammah to pass by. And he said, Neither hath the LORD chosen this.
Again, Jesse made seven of his sons to pass before Samuel. And Samuel said unto Jesse, The LORD hath not chosen these.1 Samuel 16:10. Again (or rather, Thus) Jesse made seven of his sons to pass before Samuel — Not all at once, but seven in all, one after another, in order, David being the eighth. See 1 Samuel 17:12. Probably, however, one of these was either only an adopted son, or was born of a concubine, and therefore is not noticed 1 Chronicles 2:13; 1 Chronicles 2:15, where only seven of Jesse’s sons are named, and David is said to have been the seventh. Samuel said unto Jesse, The Lord hath not chosen these — These words show that Samuel had acquainted Jesse with his business.
And Samuel said unto Jesse, Are here all thy children? And he said, There remaineth yet the youngest, and, behold, he keepeth the sheep. And Samuel said unto Jesse, Send and fetch him: for we will not sit down till he come hither.1 Samuel 16:11. Behold, he keepeth sheep — And consequently is the most unfit of all my sons for that high employment. Either, therefore, he did not understand David’s wisdom and valour, or he judged him unfit, by reason of his mean education. And God so ordered it by his providence, that the choice of David might plainly appear to be God’s work, and not Samuel’s or Jesse’s. David signifies beloved; a fit name for so eminent a type of God’s beloved Son. It is supposed David was now about twenty years old. If so, his troubles by Saul lasted near ten years; for he was thirty years old when Saul died. Samuel, having done this, went to Ramah. He retired to die in peace, since his eyes had seen the salvation, even the sceptre brought into the tribe of Judah.
And he sent, and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and withal of a beautiful countenance, and goodly to look to. And the LORD said, Arise, anoint him: for this is he.1 Samuel 16:12-13. The Lord said, &c. — Spoke secretly by his Spirit to Samuel’s heart; for it is not probable that any audible voice was uttered. Samuel anointed him in the midst of his brethren — This is a perfectly literal translation of the Hebrew, confirmed by the Seventy; and the words seem evidently to imply that he was anointed publicly among his brethren. But though they saw his unction, it is probable they had no idea that he was anointed to the kingdom, but were only told by Samuel that it was to some great service, which they should be informed of hereafter. Samuel certainly was afraid to have it known at present that he was anointed to be king, and therefore would not tell it out among his brethren. And by Eliab’s treatment of David after this, (1 Samuel 17:28,) it appears that he did not know him to be the king elect of God’s people. Thus Jesse only and David understood the whole business; but his brethren would be able to bear witness to the fact of Samuel’s anointing him, which, with other collateral evidences, would be abundantly sufficient to prove David’s right to the kingdom, if need should be. Dr. Waterland proposes to translate the words, from the midst, instead of in the midst; but Houbigant approves of our reading, and thinks the anointing was made publicly, as has just been stated, but that Samuel did not signify, unless to Jesse, the purpose for which he was anointed. The Spirit of the Lord came upon David, &c. — That is, he was immediately endowed with extraordinary gifts of God’s Spirit, as strength, and courage, and wisdom, and other excellent qualities, which prepared him for, and excited him to, noble attempts.
Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brethren: and the Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward. So Samuel rose up, and went to Ramah.
But the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD troubled him.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.
And Saul's servants said unto him, Behold now, an evil spirit from God troubleth thee.1 Samuel 16:15-16. His servants said, &c. — His courtiers could not but observe the change which had taken place in him, and the strange disturbance in his mind, and very probably ascribed it to the hand of God upon him. When the evil spirit from God is upon thee — When a melancholy fit seizeth thee. He shall play with his hand, and thou shalt be well — And the success confirmed their opinion. It is true, music cannot, of itself, have a direct influence on an evil spirit, to cause it to depart; yet because such a spirit, it seems, had not got possession of him, but only occasionally troubled him, by working on the passions of his mind, and humours of his body; and because it is manifest that music hath great power over these, frequently composing the spirits, and cheering and delighting the mind, and thereby gradually altering, qualifying, and sweetening the very juices and humours of the body; it is not strange if that evil spirit had not that power over Saul when these good effects of music had been experienced by him, which it had had before. Thus Satan had less power over lunatics in the decrease than in the increase of the moon, Matthew 17:15; Matthew 17:18. 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 encouraged and strengthened by his melancholy humour? And by this means David, without any contrivance of himself or his friends, is brought to court, soon after he was anointed to the kingdom. Those whom God designs for any service, his providence will concur with his grace to prepare and qualify them for it.
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.
And Saul said unto his servants, Provide me now a man that can play well, and bring him to me.
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.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.
Wherefore Saul sent messengers unto Jesse, and said, Send me David thy son, which is with the sheep.
And Jesse took an ass laden with bread, and a bottle of wine, and a kid, and sent them by David his son unto Saul.1 Samuel 16:20. Jesse took bread, a bottle of wine, and a kid, and sent them — This present, though in our times it would seem contemptible, yet was very agreeable to the usage of those ages, and to the condition of Jesse, which was but mean in the world. And it was usual in those days not to come before a prince without a present, as a token of respect.
And David came to Saul, and stood before him: and he loved him greatly; and he became his armourbearer.1 Samuel 16:21. David came to Saul and stood before him — Ministered unto him among the rest of his servants. This sufficiently shows that Saul had no knowledge of the anointing of David, otherwise it cannot be supposed that he would have had him brought to his court. And he loved him greatly — So there was something good in Saul still; he had not lost all, though he had lost the kingdom. He became his armour-bearer — He had that place conferred upon him, though we do not read that he ever exercised it; for it seems he was gone back to his father upon some occasion not related; and had abode with him some considerable time before the war, described chap. 17., happened.
And Saul sent to Jesse, saying, Let David, I pray thee, stand before me; for he hath found favour in my sight.
And it came to pass, when the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, that David took an harp, and played with his hand: so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him.1 Samuel 16:23. The evil spirit departed — Namely, for a season. And the reason of this success might be partly natural, and partly supernatural, respecting David; whom God designed by this means to bring into favour with the king, and so to smooth the way for his advancement.