1 Samuel 16
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
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.
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).

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.
2. Take an heifer with thee, &c.] For David’s safety no less than his own it was necessary that the purpose of Samuel’s errand should not be known. “Concealment of a good purpose for a good purpose is clearly justifiable.” It was perfectly legitimate for Samuel to conceal the primary intention and mention only the secondary object of his visit.

It may be inferred from the command, that Samuel was in the habit of holding religious gatherings in different provincial towns from time to time.

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.
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?
4. Beth-lehem] Beth-lehem (= “house of bread”) was the later name of the ancient town of Ephrath (Genesis 48:7). It was situated about five miles south of Jerusalem, a short distance east of the road from Jerusalem to Hebron. As the scene of the fresh picture of domestic life contained in the book of Ruth it would possess no common interest, but as the “city of David” (Luke 2:4), and the birthplace of Him of Whom David was a type, it is, next to Jerusalem itself, the most sacred spot on earth. Here too, it should be remembered, “beside what he believed to be literally the cradle of the Christian faith … Jerome composed the famous translation of the Scriptures which is still the ‘Biblia Vulgata’ of the Latin Church.” Stanley’s Sin. and Pal., p. 442.

4. the elders of the town, &c.] The elders of the city (see note on 1 Samuel 8:4) came to meet him trembling. Perhaps Samuel’s visits were often made with the view of rebuking sin and correcting abuses, and hence their alarm: or the breach between him and Saul may have made the elders afraid of incurring the royal displeasure by welcoming him.

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.
5. sanctify yourselves] By the usual ceremonial purifications, such as washing the body and clothes, the outward symbols of spiritual preparation. See Genesis 35:2; Exodus 19:10 ff. The Sept. adds, “and rejoice with me this day.”

And he sanctified, &c.] In the case of Jesse’s family Samuel super-intended the necessary purification himself. This gave him the opportunity of a private interview with them in Jesse’s house, at which David’s anointing took place. The sacrifice appears to have followed afterwards.

And it came to pass, when they were come, that he looked on Eliab, and said, Surely the LORD'S anointed is before him.
6. and said] Said to himself: thought. “Eliab by his height and his countenance seemed the natural counterpart of Saul, whose successor the Prophet came to select. But the day was gone when kings were chosen because they were head and shoulders taller than the rest.” Stanley’s Lect. II. 40.

Eliab is probably the same as “Elihu one of the brethren of David” whom David appointed “ruler of the tribe of Judah” (1 Chronicles 27:18).

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.
7. for [the Lord seeth] not as man seeth] The words in brackets are rightly supplied in the Sept. For the thought see 1 Chronicles 28:9; Luke 16:15; Acts 1:24, &c. God first gave the people a king of stately stature and majestic appearance, such as they would have chosen for themselves (1 Samuel 10:24): now He will choose “a man after His own heart” on the true ground of his inner moral worth.

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.
9. Shammah] Also called Shimeah (2 Samuel 13:3), or Shimea (1 Chronicles 20:7); Shimma in 1 Chronicles 2:13 should be written Shimea. Two of his sons are mentioned: Jonadab, celebrated for sagacity (2 Samuel 13:3): Jonathan, for courage (2 Samuel 21:21).

10 Again, Jesse made, &c.] “So Jesse made seven of his sons,” &c., including of course the three already mentioned by name.

Again, Jesse made seven of his sons to pass before Samuel. And Samuel said unto Jesse, The LORD hath not chosen these.
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.
11. we will not sit down] We will not sit round the table for the sacrificial feast.

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.
12. ruddy] The word denotes the red hair and fair skin which are regarded as a mark of beauty in southern countries, where the hair and complexion are generally dark.

of a beautiful countenance, &c.] Lit. “beautiful-eyed and goodly in appearance.” Compare the description of Joseph (Genesis 39:6), and Moses (Exodus 2:2; Acts 7:20, where compare the Gk. ἀστεῖος τῷ Θεῷ with the Sept. here, ἀγαθὸς ὁράσει Κυρίῳ).

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.
13. in the midst of his brethren] This can only mean “in the presence of his brethren.” As in the subsequent history they do not seem to have any idea of their brother’s high destiny, the true significance of the act appears to have been concealed from them. Whether it was made clear even to Jesse and David himself may be doubted. They may have supposed that Samuel had selected David for a pupil in his prophetic school. See 1 Samuel 19:18 ff.

the spirit of the Lord came upon David] As upon Saul at the first (1 Samuel 10:6). For “came upon” see note on 1 Samuel 11:6. The special supernatural preparation for his office began from that hour.

David] The name means “beloved” or “darling,” and was probably given to him as the youngest of the family.

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

And Saul's servants said unto him, Behold now, an evil spirit from God troubleth thee.
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.
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.

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.
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.

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.
20. And Jesse took, &c.] Cp. 1 Samuel 10:4; 1 Samuel 10:27. The character of the presents offered to the King shews the simplicity of the manners of the age. They were “the natural produce of the well known vines, and corn-fields, and pastures of Bethlehem.”

And David came to Saul, and stood before him: and he loved him greatly; and he became his armourbearer.
And Saul sent to Jesse, saying, Let David, I pray thee, stand before me; for he hath found favour in my sight.
22. Let David … stand before me] Thus David entered upon the first stage of special education for his office. In Saul’s court he was placed in a position which gave opportunity for the development of his powers, and for gaining the esteem and love of the people.

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.
23. And it came to pass, &c.] The verbs in this verse are frequentative, expressing what happened repeatedly.

On the apparent inconsistency between this account of David’s introduction to Saul, and the narrative of the next chapter see Note VI. p. 241.

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