1 Samuel 16
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
1 Samuel 16:1. (BETHLEHEM.) -
(References: - Family register - 1 Chronicles 1-3.

I. Early life: shepherd, harper, champion - chs. 16, 17.

II. Courtier and outlaw life - chs. 18-31; 2 Samuel 1.

III. Royal life in Hebron and Jerusalem - 2 Samuel 2-24; 1 Kings 1, 2; 1 Chronicles 10-29.) While Saul pursued his own way at Gibeah, and Samuel mourned for him at Ramah, there dwelt at Bethlehem (twelve miles from the latter place) a shepherd youth who was destined to attain peerless renown as "a man of war," a ruler over men, an inspired poet and prophet, and (because of his fulfilling the idea of a truly theocratic king more perfectly than any other) a type of One to whom is given "a name which is above every name." Once and again the prophet had declared that Saul would be replaced by a worthier successor (1 Samuel 13:14; 1 Samuel 15:28); but who that successor should be he knew not until the inner voice said, "Arise, anoint him: for this is he" (ver. 12). DAVID (the beloved) was sixteen or eighteen years of age. His personal appearance is minutely described. In comparison with the gigantic Saul, and even his eldest brother, he was of short stature (ver. 7). He had reddish or auburn hair, and a fresh, florid complexion, which were rare among his black locked and swarthy countrymen; a pleasing countenance, keen, bright eyes, and a graceful form. He also possessed great physical strength, courage, intelligence, sagacity, and power of expression (ver. 18); above all, a firm trust in God and ardent love toward him. Many influences combined to make him what he was, and to develop his extraordinary gifts; which, after his anointing, advanced rapidly towards perfection. "It is impossible to draw a line of distinction between his life before and after his designation by Samuel; but we may well believe that those elements of character were already forming which began to shine forth when the Spirit of Jehovah came upon him." "Royalty was inborn in him." Among the formative influences referred to were those of -


1. He belonged to one of the most honourable families in Judah, the foremost tribe of Israel. His ancestor, Nahshon, was prince of the tribe (Numbers 2:3; Numbers 7:12); another, Salmon, married Rahab, "who received the spies in peace" (Matthew 1:5); another, Boaz (great-grandfather of David), married Ruth the Moabitess, "a truly consecrated flower of heathendom turning longingly to the light of Divine revelation in Israel" (Ruth 4:17). His father, Jesse (Isaiah 11:1), who would often speak of them, had attained "a good old age" (1 Samuel 17:12), was in prosperous circumstances, had eight sons, of whom David was the youngest, and two daughters-in-law (2 Samuel 17:25), whose children - Abishai, Joab, and Asabel (sons of Zeruiah), and Amass (son of Abigail) - were old enough to be his companions. Peculiar physical, mental, and moral qualities often characterise certain families, are transmitted from one generation to another, and are sometimes concentrated in a single individual; and great family traditions tend to excite noble impulses and aspirations.

2. He was connected (through Tamar, Rahab, Ruth) with several Gentile races. This served to enlarge his sympathies, and accounts for his friendly intercourse with them (1 Samuel 22:3; 1 Kings 5:1). "No prince of Israel was ever on such friendly, intimate terms with the heathen about him" ('Expositor,' 2:9).

3. He received a godly training. Jesse was a man of simple piety (vers. 1, 5; 1 Samuel 20:6); his mother (whose name has not been recorded) was a "handmaid of Jehovah" (Psalm 86:16; Psalm 116:16). "How much David owed to her we cannot doubt. The memory of it abode with him through all the trials and all the splendours of his subsequent career; and hence, whilst nowhere does he mention his father, he seems in these passages to appeal to the memory of his mother's goodness, as at once a special token of the Divine favour to himself, and an additional reason that he should prove himself the servant of God" (W.L. Alexander).

II. ORDINARY OCCUPATION. Whilst his brothers cultivated fields and vineyards on the slopes of Bethlehem, he kept his father's sheep "in the wilderness" of Judah (1 Samuel 17:28), and his lowly occupation -

1. Was adapted to nurture physical strength, agility, and endurance; to call forth energy, self-reliance, and courage amidst numerous perils in a wild country, from beasts of prey and hill robbers (1 Chronicles 7:21); to make him expert in the use of the sling, like the neighbouring Benjamites (Judges 20:16; 1 Samuel 17:50; 1 Chronicles 12:9.); and to prepare him to rule over men by developing a sense of responsibility, and leading him to seek the welfare and study the increase and improvement of the flock (Psalm 78:70-72).

2. Left him much alone, and afforded him leisure for meditation and the cultivation of a taste for music, by playing on the hand harp, which he could easily carry with him when he "followed the flock," and the rare gift of song, in both of which he may have greatly improved, after his anointing, by attendance at the school of the prophets at Ramah (1 Samuel 19:18). To his musical skill he owed his first introduction to the court of Saul, and by its means he became "the sweet singer of Israel." "With his whole heart he sang songs, and loved him that made him" (Ecclus. 47:8).

3. Furnished him with the suggestive imagery of many of his psalms, especially Psalm 23. - 'The Divine Shepherd.' "It is the echo of his shepherd life, and breathes the very spirit of sunny confidence and of perfect rest in God."

III. THE NATURAL CREATION. To him the visible universe was a manifestation of the glory of the invisible, immanent, ever-operating God (Psalm 104.). He regarded nature "not as an independent and self-subsisting power, but rather as the outer chamber of an unseen Presence - a garment, a veil, which the eternal One is ever ready to break through" (Shairp, 'Poetic Inter. of Nature'). Brought into direct and constant communion with it, he felt a boundless delight in contemplating

"The silence that is in the starry sky,
The sleep that is among the lonely hills;"

in listening to its mysterious voices, and watching its ever varying aspects; and poured forth the thought and feeling of his heart in songs of adoration and praise; as in Psalm 19:1-13 - 'The heavens by day;' Psalm 8. - 'The heavens by night; Psalm 29. - 'The thunderstorm.' "What we call the love of nature is in fact the love and admiration of the Deity (so far forth as he is perceived in external nature). The enthusiasm with which men survey the endless vicissitudes which the spectacle of the universe exhibits is nothing else than the devotional temper, moderated and repressed by the slight veil which sensible objects interpose between us and their author" (D. Stewart).

IV. HISTORIC REVELATION. He was instructed in "the law of the Lord" (Psalm 19:7-14 - 'The moral law'), and in the wonderful works which he had wrought on behalf of his people in past time (Psalm 105.); whilst the scenes amidst which his life was spent formed a pictorial Bible, by which they were more deeply impressed on his memory. His acquaintance with the contents of the sacred records then existing would be greatly increased under the teaching of Samuel. "Thy creatures have been my books, but thy Scriptures much more" (Bacon).

V. PROVIDENTIAL PRESERVATION. The same special care which had been exercised by Jehovah over Israel he was taught to recognise in the lowly course of his own individual life. Once and again he was preserved in imminent danger (1 Samuel 17:37), and thus his faith in the ever watchful presence and providence of the Great Shepherd grew strong. "Every Hebrew might consider himself alone in the presence of God; the single being to whom a great revelation had been made, and over whose head an exceeding weight of glory was suspended. His personal welfare was infinitely concerned with every event that had taken place in the miraculous order of Providence His belief in him could not exist without producing, as a necessary effect, that profound impression of passionate individual attachment which in the Hebrew authors always mingles with and vivifies their faith in the Invisible" (A.H. Hallam).

VI. RELIGIOUS INSPIRATION. Led by Divine grace from his earliest years into direct and loving communion with Jehovah, he was endowed with unusual spiritual power, which, as he faithfully surrendered himself to it, wrought in him more and more mightily, and prepared him for his high destiny. And all true spiritual life, as well as the peculiar endowments of the prophets and apostles, is a Divine inspiration (John 3:8; Acts 2:17). "The morning of his day this extraordinary man spent not in colleges nor camps nor courts, but in following, the sheep among the pastures of Bethlehem. There, under the breathings of spring and the blasts of winter; there, in fellowship with fields and flocks and silent stars; there, with the spirit of nature and of God fresh upon him; there, in the land of vision, miracle, and angels - there it was that his character was formed, a character which afterwards exhibited so rare a combination of simplicity and grandeur, sensibility and power" (C. Morris). Application (to the young): -

1. The morning of life is the appropriate season for education - physical, mental, moral. If neglected, the evil cannot be repaired.

2. No educational advantages can be of service without your own diligent cooperation.

3. All circumstances - adverse as well as propitious, solitude and society, work and recreation - may be helpful to your highest progress.

4. "Have faith in God," the secret of all David's greatness. - D.

1 Samuel 16
B.C. 1051-1011. (References: 1 Chronicles 10-29; 1 Kings 1, 2; Psalms. For his earlier life, as shepherd at Bethlehem, servant of Saul at Gibeah, outlaw in the wilderness of Judah and elsewhere, see 1 Samuel 16-34.) When Saul fell on Gilboa, David was about thirty years old; the age at which Joseph stood before Pharaoh, the Levites entered on their official duties, and Jesus began his public ministry. The Second Book of Samuel describes the steps by which he became king ever Judah, and (after seven years and a half) king over all Israel, the consolidation and victorious expansion of his kingdom (ch. 1-10.); his deplorable fall (when about fifty years of age), his repentance, the consequences of his transgression, and the restoration of his impaired authority (ch. 11-20.); and (in an appendix, ch. 21-24.) among other things some events and utterances of his last days (his life ending at three score years and ten). "He most happily combined all the qualifications for becoming the true support of the extraordinary efforts of this period; and he thus succeeded in winning, not only a name unequalled in glory by any other king of Israel, but also a halo of kingly fame as ruler of the community of the true God, unattainable by a king of any other nation of antiquity" (Ewald). "The reign of David is the great critical era in the history of the Hebrews." In it we see -

I. THE PURPOSE OF THE DIVINE KING OF ISRAEL FULFILLED. That purpose (subordinate to the larger purpose mentioned in the preceding homily), to make David ruler instead of Saul, was:

1. Previously indicated. It was first announced by Samuel, in indefinite terms (1 Samuel 13:14; 1 Samuel 15:28), symbolized in the anointing of David (when about sixteen years old), afterwards doubtless plainly declared to him by the prophet, and clearly manifested by the course of events. It was also more and more generally recognized (1 Samuel 24:20; 1 Samuel 25:30; 2 Samuel 3:17, 18).

2. Vainly opposed, at first by Saul, and, after he had been made King of Judah, by Abner and "the house of Saul." It was impossible for them to succeed. "There is no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the Lord" (Proverbs 21:30).

3. Gradually, surely, and fully wrought out. There were times in which it seemed to fail, but only to become more apparent and effectual; like a stream disappearing beneath the surface of the earth, and after a short distance bursting forth with renewed strength.

4. Its fulfilment shows the power and faithfulness of God, and should confirm our faith in the fulfilment of all his promises. "Wait on the Lord." "There hath not failed one word of all his good promise," etc. (1 Kings 8:56). "The Davidic age, with those that lie immediately around it, towers by its special glory like a giant mountain above a wide tract of more level periods. It was, moreover, soon afterwards recognized by the nation itself as a period of unique glory in the fortunes of the monarchy; and its memory has therefore been preserved in the historical narrative with the most exuberant fulness of detail" (Ewald).

II. THE CHARACTER OF THE HUMAN KING OF HIS CHOICE PORTRAYED. The interest of David's reign centres in David himself; his activities, achievements, experiences, utterances, so fully recorded, not only in the history, but also in his psalms. His character (more completely revealed than that of any other man) was the growth of a noble and gifted nature under the influence of Divine grace.

1. It was matured by long and varied discipline. While keeping his father's flock, in the court and camp of Saul, as an exile at the head of his heroic band, by persecution, calumny, hardship, meditation, temptation, prayer, and during his "apprenticeship to monarchy" in Hebron, his natural endowments and moral qualities were strengthened, developed, and perfected.

2. It was marked by a many-sided excellence. His insight, skill, prescient sagacity, tender sensibility, sympathy, imagination, fervour, versatility, courage, magnanimity, power of leadership, and of winning the passionate attachment of others, were never surpassed. He was "one of the greatest men in the world" (Bayle). "The most daring courage was combined in him with tender susceptibility; even after he had ascended the throne he continued to retain the charm of a pre-eminent and at the same time childlike personality" (Wellhausen).

"Great, valiant, pious, good, and clean,
Sublime, contemplative, serene,
Strong, constant, pleasant, wise!
Bright effluence of exceeding grace;
Best man I the swiftness and the race:
The peril and the prize!"

(Christopher Smart.) There never was a specimen of manhood so rich and ennobled as David, the son of Jesse, whom other saints haply may have equalled in single features of his character; but such a combination of manly, heroic qualities, such a flush of generous, godlike excellences, hath never yet been seen embodied in a single man (Edward Irving). "The most thoroughly human figure, as it seems to me, which had appeared upon the earth before the coming of that perfect Son of man, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen" (Charles Kingsley).

(1) In relation to God he was eminent in faith, hope, and love; loyal obedience, fervid zeal, holy aspiration, enthusiastic devotion, lowly submission, and thankfulness (Nehemiah 12:36).

(2) In relation to men he was tenderly affectionate toward his family; considerate and grateful toward his friends; generous and forgiving toward his enemies; faithful and just, self-denying and self-sacrificing toward his people.

(3) Beyond any other monarch of Israel he was a truly theocratic king. His heart was perfect with the Lord his God (1 Kings 11:4). "David did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord, and turned not aside from anything that he commanded him all the days of his life, save only in the matter of Uriah the Hittite" (1 Kings 15:5).

3. It was marred by grave defects and aggravated transgressions. Although these were in great measure due to the spirit of his age, the effect of temptation incident to his position, contrary to the general course of his life, and deeply repented of, yet they incurred heavy guilt, and were followed by severe chastisements.

4. It thus affords a warning as well as an example. "In this history we have the pattern of a pious and prudent prince. Its utility and profit for example of life appears in the prudence, piety, zeal, humility, equity, and good government of David, and all other his heroic and godly virtues worthy of imitation. As also are set down David's infirmities and falls, as examples of the weakness of the best when they watch not over themselves, or are left to themselves, proponed to be eschewed, ut majorum ruina sit minorum cautela, as likewise his repentance to be imitated, and the sharp corrections notwithstanding, as medicinal corrasives wherewith he was chastised; as we see in the Lord's dealing with his dearest sons and servants (Hebrews 12:6, 7)" (W. Guild, 'The Throne of David:' 1659).

III. THE MAJESTY OF THE DIVINE-HUMAN KING MESSIAH FORESHADOWED. David is to be regarded, not simply as an individual, but as a noble, though imperfect, representation of the idea of a theocratic king, and therefore also as an adumbration of One in whom that idea would be perfectly realized (Luke 1:32). "His relation to the history of redemption is most peculiar and remarkable. The aim and import of the Old Testament history to prefigure, prophesy, and testify of Christ concentrated in him as in a focus" (Kurtz). "As we have a great increase of the prophetic light breaking forth, and encompassing the family and kingdom of David so subsequent prophecy reverts often to the same subjects, insomuch that there is no individual, king or other person, one only excepted, of whom more is said by the prophets than of this king and his throne" (Davison, 'On Prophecy'). "It is David who, without intending it, supplies the personal foundation of all the Messianic hopes, which from this time contribute with increasing power to determine Israel's career; and so he stands at the turning-point in the history of two thousand years and separates it into two great halves" (Ewald). High above him, in the dim and distant future, rose the majestic form of "the King of kings, and Lord of lords." "A person, as such, can never be a symbol. It was not David, or Manasseh, or Ahab, that was the type of Christ as King of Zion; it was the royal office with which these were invested, symbolical as that was of the theocracy, which was typical of the kingly dignity of the Redeemer" (W. L. Alexander, 'Connection of the Old and New Testaments,' 315, 418). The kingly dignity of the Messiah appears in:

1. His Divine appointment (Psalm 2:6,.7) founded on the Incarnation. "In Jesus the Christ, Jehovah and the Son of David become one. Heaven and earth interpenetrate, that they may unite in him and be united by him" (Delitzsch).

2. His glorious exaltation after deep humiliation and patient endurance.

3. His righteous administration (Psalm 72:1, 2).

4. His advancing triumph over the enemies of his kingdom and our salvation - "the devil with all his retinue, the world, the flesh, sin, death, and hell; whatever doth oppose his glory, his truth, his service; whatever consequently by open violence or fraudulent practice doth hinder our salvation" (Barrow).

5. His munificent gifts and the blessings of his reign; refuge, refreshment, repose (Isaiah 32:1, 2); "righteousness, peaces and joy in the Holy Ghost." As a King he gathers, governs, protects, and perfects his people.

6. His wide dominion.

7. His endless continuance. "His Name shall endure forever."


1. Submit to his rule. "Kiss the Son," etc. (Psalm 2:12).

2. Rejoice in his salvation.

3. Cooperate with his purposes.

4. Look forward to his final triumph. - D.

1 Samuel 16:4-13. (BETHLEHEM)
Arise, anoint him: for this is he (ver. 12). In the exercise of his prophetic office Samuel appears to have been accustomed to visit one place or another, rebuking crime and sin. Hence his presence at Bethlehem (clad in a mantle, his white hair flowing over his shoulders, holding a horn of consecrated oil in his hand, and attended, perhaps, by a servant), driving before him a heifer for sacrifice, filled the elders with consternation. Having quieted their fears, he showed special honour to Jesse and his sons by inviting them to be his principal guests at a sacrificial feast. By the express direction of God he allowed his seven sons, who were introduced to him, to pass by without any mark of distinction; and, having delayed the feast until his youngest son came, poured upon his head the sacred oil, and "anointed him from amongst his brethren." "As far as outward appearances go he simply chooses him as his closest companion and friend in the sacrifice" (Ewald). The act may have been regarded as "somehow connected with admission to the schools of the prophets, or more probably with some work for God in the future, which at the proper time would be pointed out." Its main significance was known only to the prophet, and was not revealed by him at the time to any one else. Consider the Divine choice of David (representing that of others) to eminent spiritual service and honour, as -

I. DIFFERING FROM THE NATURAL JUDGMENT OF MEN (vers. 6, 7). They are accustomed -

1. To judge according to the "outward appearance," which alone is clearly perceived, which is often deemed of greater worth than properly belongs to it, and which is erroneously supposed to be united with corresponding inward reality. On this account Saul suited the popular desire.

2. To prefer the eldest before the youngest; an arrangement which is an imperfect one, and often set aside by the choice of God, who thus exhibits his superior knowledge and maintains his sovereign right.

3. Even the oldest and wisest of men fall into error when left to themselves. Not only did Jesse and the brethren of David look upon him as unfit for anything but the lowliest occupation (1 Samuel 17:28), and unworthy to be called to the sacred feast, but Samuel himself thought at first that in Eliab the Lord's anointed was before him. The stone which the builders refuse becomes (by the operation of God, and to the surprise of men) "the head stone of the corner."


1. In the sight of God is of greater value than anything else, and essential to the worth of everything else.

2. Implies such qualities as sincerity, humility, trust, fidelity, courage, purity? and unselfish, generous, entire devotion, which were eminently displayed by David.

3. Renders capable of noble service, prompts to it, and prepares for the highest honour. "Is thy heart right?" (2 Kings 10:15). Whatever great things may lie in the future, right heartedness is the first condition of attaining them. "My son, give me thine heart."


1. By his separation from others, and by directing their attention to his worth, which had been previously unrecognised. "We will not sit down till he come hither." Circumstances often constrain attention to those who have been despised. "The stone which is fit for the building will not be left in the road."

2. By indications of his being providentially destined to future eminence. David did not himself understand the chief purpose of his anointing, but he must have inferred from it that he was not always to continue in "the sheepfolds" (Psalm 68:70), and have been impelled to look forward to a higher service on behalf of Israel. Possibly it was afterwards explained to him by Samuel in more familiar intercourse.

3. By communications of Divine grace and strength to his inner life. "And the Spirit of Jehovah came upon David from that day forward." It is recorded of Samson that "the Spirit of Jehovah began to move him at times in the camp of Dan;" it was the same in the case of David (1 Samuel 17:34), and in a much higher manner (see 1 Samuel 10:1, 10; 1 Samuel 11:6). "The natural basis for this symbolism of oil is its power to dispense light and life, joy and healing; by which it sets forth the Spirit's dispensation of light and life, and the gifts and powers therein contained" (Bahr).

IV. DELAYED IN THE FULFILMENT OF ITS ULTIMATE AIM. Many years must sometimes elapse before one who is chosen by God for a special work is fully called to its performance. Why such delay? For -

1. The removal of obstacles that lie in his path. Saul must be suffered to go to the natural termination of his melancholy career.

2. The occurrence of circumstances that make it necessary and cause it to be generally desired. The people must learn by experience the folly of their former choice, and their need of another and different kind of ruler.

3. His own instruction, discipline, and preparation. The proper course for him who is impelled to higher service is patiently to bide his time in the humble and faithful discharge of the duty that lies immediately before him. "David's peculiar excellence is that of fidelity to the trust committed to him; a firm, uncompromising, single-hearted devotion to the cause of God, and a burning zeal for his honour. This characteristic virtue is especially illustrated in the early years of his life. Having borne his trial of obedience well, in which Saul had failed, then at length he was intrusted with a sort of discretionary power to use in his Master's service" (J.H. Newman). - D.

1 Samuel 16:7. (BETHLEHEM)
The heart is the centre of

(1) the bodily life;

(2) the spiritual-psychical life - will and desire, thought and conception, the feelings and the affections; and

(3) the moral life, so that all moral conditions - from the nighest mystical love of God to the self-deifying pride and the darkening and hardening - are concentrated in the heart as the innermost life circle of humanity (Delitzsch, 'Bib. Psychology,' p. 295). The declaration that "Jehovah looketh on the heart" is profitable for -

I. THE CORRECTION OF ERRORS into which we too commonly fall in relation to others.

1. The adoption of an imperfect standard of human worth: - "the outward appearance," personal strength and beauty; wealth and social position; cleverness, education, and refinement of manners; external morality, ceremonial observances, and religious zeal. These things are not to be despised, but they may exist whilst the chief thing is wanting - a right state of heart. "One thing thou lackest."

2. The assumption that we are competent judges of the character and worth of others. But we cannot look into their hearts; and what we see is an imperfect index to them, and liable to mislead us.

3. The formation of false judgments concerning them. How common this is our Lord's words indicate (Matthew 7:1).

II. THE INCULCATION OF TRUTHS which are often forgotten in relation to ourselves.

1. That we are liable to be deceived concerning the real state of our hearts, and to think of ourselves "more highly than we ought to think" (Romans 12:3).

2. That the heart of each of us lies open to the inspection of God: certainly, directly, completely, and constantly. He beholds its deepest motive, its supreme affection and ruling purpose. However we may deceive ourselves or others, we cannot deceive him (1 Chronicles 28:9; Psalm 44:21; Proverbs 15:11; Jeremiah 17:9, 10; Luke 16:15; Revelation 2:23).

3. That only a right state of heart can meet with his approval. It is the effect of his grace, and he cannot but take pleasure in his own work; but "the heart of the wicked is little worth" (Proverbs 10:20).

III. THE ENFORCEMENT Or DUTIES which ought to be diligently fulfilled in relation both to ourselves and others.

1. To seek supremely that our own hearts be set right; and kept right - by self-examination, self-restraint, and fervent prayer to him "who searcheth the reins and the hearts" (Psalm 51:10; Psalm 139:23, 24; Jeremiah 31:33).

2. To endure patiently the wrong judgments that others may form and utter concerning us. If we sometimes judge wrongly of them, need we wonder that they should judge wrongly of us? "Unto God would I commit my cause" (Job 5:8).

3. To judge charitably of their motives, character, and worth. A judgment must sometimes be formed (Matthew 7:15-20); but "let all your things be done with charity" (1 Corinthians 16:14). - D.

The Lord is never without resource. If Saul fail, the God of Israel has another and a better man in training for the post which Saul discredited. This new personage now appears on the page of history, and he will occupy many pages. It is David, the hero, the musician, the poet, the warrior, the ruler, a many-sided man, a star of the first magnitude.

1. Not chosen according to the thoughts of men. Samuel, who at first hesitated to go to Bethlehem on so dangerous an errand as the Lord prescribed to him? when he did go was inclined to be over hasty. Assuming that a new king who should supplant Saul ought to be not inferior to him in stature and strength, the prophet at once fixed on Eliab, the eldest son in Jesse's family, as the one who should be the Lord's anointed. Here was a man able to cope with, or worthy to succeed, the almost gigantic son of Kish. But the Lord corrected his servant's mistake. The time was past for choosing a leader on the score of "outward appearance." The Lord sought for the regal position a man whose heart would be true and obedient. Now Eliab's heart, as the next chapter shows, was small, though his body was large; his temper was vain and overbearing. So he had to pass; and all his brothers who were present at the feast had to pass. Not one of them had such a heart as the Lord required; and it is a significant fact that we never read of any of these men in after years as playing any honourable or memorable part in the history of their country, unless the Septuagint reading of 1 Chronicles 27:18 be right, and the Eliab here mentioned held the office of a tribal chief under his royal brother.

2. Chosen according to the thoughts of God. When the young shepherd, being sent for by his father, entered the chamber with his bright hair and fair countenance, fresh from the fields, the Lord bade Samuel anoint him. "This is he." The selection of the youngest son is in keeping with what we find in many Bible stories. Divine choice traversed the line of natural precedence. The Lord had respect to Abel, not to Cain; to Jacob rather than to Esau; to Joseph above his eider brethren. Ephraim was blessed above Manasseh; Moses was set over Aaron; Gideon was the youngest in his father's house. In this there is something so pleasing to the imagination that it has passed into the tales and legends of many nations. Of three brothers, or seven brothers, it is always the youngest who surpasses everyone, accomplishes the difficult task, and rises to be a king. David's superiority to his brothers was intrinsic, and the result not of luck, but of grace. The Lord had drawn his heart to himself in the days of youth. Accordingly, where such men as Saul and Eliab were weak David was strong. He revered and loved the Lord, and could therefore be depended on to do God's will. "To whom also," says Stephen, "he gave testimony, and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, who shall fulfil all my will." The last clause in this extract shows what is intended by the one which goes before. David was a man after the Lord's heart in loyally doing his will. He was not without fault; he certainly displeased God more than once; but he thoroughly apprehended what Saul never could understand - that a king of Israel must not be an autocrat, but should without question or murmur carry out the paramount will of God. In this respect David never failed. He had many trials and temptations, afflictions that might have made him discontented, and successes that might have made him proud; but he continued steadfast in his purpose of heart to be the Lord's, to consult the Lord about everything, and carry out his revealed will.

3. Prepared in retirement for future eminence. There is a sort of augury of his career in his father's words, "Behold, he keepeth the sheep." Saul first came before us going hither and thither in search of asses that were astray, and not finding them. So, as a king, he went up and down, restless and disappointed. But David kept the flock intrusted to him, and, as a king, he shepherded the flock of God. "So he fed them according to the integrity of his heart, and guided them by the skilfulness of his hands."

(1) As a shepherd David formed habits of vigilance. He had to think for the flock, lead the sheep to pasture, see that they were regularly watered, watch that none strayed or were lost, and look well after the ewes and the tender lambs. All this served to make him in public life wary, prudent, thoughtful for others, a chieftain who deserved the confidence of his followers. Saul bad little or none of this. He went to and fro, and fought bravely, but evinced none of that unselfish consideration for his people which marks a kingly shepherd. David showed it all through his career. He watched over his subjects, thought for them, instructed and led them. Near the end of his reign he committed an error which brought disaster on Israel; and it is touching to see how the true shepherd's heart was grieved that the flock should suffer through his fault. He Cried to the Lord, "Lo, I have sinned, and have done wickedly; but these sheep, what have they done?"

(2) As a shepherd David proved and improved his courage. Shepherds in Palestine, in those days, were obliged to protect their flocks from prowling beasts of prey. How many encounters of this kind David may have had we do not know; but we learn from himself that, while yet a stripling, he had fought and slain both a lion and a bear rather than give up one lamb or kid of the flock. His was the best sort of courage - natural intrepidity of a true and brave spirit, sustained and elevated by unquestioning trust in God. While encountering the wild beasts in defence of his flock David was being fitted, though he knew it not, to face an armed giant in behalf of Israel, and in many battles afterwards to beat down the enemies of his country. The springs of his courage were in God. "Jehovah is my light and my salvation: whom shall I fear? Jehovah is the strength of my life: of whom shall I be afraid?"

(3) As a shepherd David had leisure for music and poetry. As he kept the sheep he learned to play on his harp with a skill which was the occasion of his first rise from obscurity; and he composed and sang sweet lyrics, pious and patriotic. Whether he looked up to the sky, or looked round on the hills and valleys, or recalled to mind famous passages of his nation's history, everything gave him a song to Jehovah. Every poet writes juvenile pieces, which, though defective, show the bent of his genius; and in after years, if he has not rashly published them, he is able to recast them into new and more perfect forms as his mind grows and his skill improves. So, doubtless, the son of Jesse, in the pastoral solitude at Bethlehem, began to compose lyrics which in more mature life, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, he threw into the forms of those Psalms which carry down his fame to the end of time. What a contrast to the unhappy son of Kish! Saul had the impulse of music and song upon him more than once; but he had to be acted on by others, and his own spirit had no inward harmony. As the years advanced his life became more and more unmelodious and out of tune; whereas David's early addiction to devout song and minstrelsy prepared him to be something better than a gruff warrior in his manhood. Born with genius and sensibility, he grew up a man of some accomplishment, and when called to the throne, elevated the mental and spiritual tone of the nation, and was, through a long reign, himself a very fountain of musical culture and sweet poetic thought.

4. Anointed without and within. Samuel anointed the youth outwardly, pouring oil over his head; Jehovah anointed him inwardly, for "the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward." The old prophet is a figure of John the Baptist, another Nazarene, and one who came to prepare the way of the King. David suggests Another, a descendant of his own, born in the same Bethlehem, and, like himself, lightly esteemed. As Samuel poured oil on the head of David, so John poured water on the head of Jesus, the Good Shepherd. Then Samuel retired from view. So John too retired, and made way for him whom he had baptized. "He must increase, but I must decrease." The parallel goes still further. David had been a child of grace, but on that day the Spirit of the Lord came upon him, and he got what Samuel could not impart - a Divine qualification for the work and dignity to which he was destined. Jesus had been holy, harmless, and undefiled from his mother's womb; but on the day of his baptism the Spirit, as a dove, descended and rested upon him, and he got what John could not impart - the Divine qualification of his humanity for the work and dignity to which he was destined as the Christ, the Lord's Anointed. "Now know I that the Lord sayeth his anointed." Therefore He will save us who follow the King. Only let the name of the King be our watchword, his righteousness our righteousness, his strength our strength, his mind our mind, his anointing our anointing. So shall we see him and be with him in his kingdom and glory. - F.

The soul is an arena where light and darkness, good and evil, heaven and hell, strive for mastery. But it is not an unconscious scene or passive prize of the conflict. It is endowed with the power of freely choosing right or wrong, and, with every exercise of this power, comes more or less under the dominion of the one or the other. Saul was highly exalted, but by his wilful disobedience sank to the lowest point of degradation. His sin was followed by lamentable effects in his mental and moral nature, and (since soul and body are intimately connected, and mutually affect each other) doubtless also in his physical constitution. His malady has been said to be "the first example of what has been called in after times religious madness" (Stanley). His condition was, in many respects, peculiar; but it vividly illustrates the mental and moral effects which always, in greater or less degree, flow from persistent transgression, viz.: -

I. THE WITHDRAWAL OF THE DIVINE SPIRIT. "And the Spirit of Jehovah departed from Saul" (ver. 14; 1 Samuel 10:10).

1. His presence in men is the source of their highest excellence. What a change it wrought in Saul, turning him into "another man." It imparts enlightenment, strength, courage, order, harmony, and peace; restrains and protects; and, in the full measure of its influence, quickens, sanctifies, and saves (Isaiah 11:2; Galatians 5:22; Ephesians 5:9).

2. His continuance in them depends on the observance of appropriate conditions. He is often compared with the wind, water, and fire, the most powerful forces of the natural world; and as there are conditions according to which they operate, so there are conditions according to which he puts forth his might. These are, humble and earnest attention to the word of the Lord, sincere endeavour to be true, just, and good, and believing and persevering prayer.

3. His departure is rendered necessary by the neglect of those conditions. "They rebelled and vexed his Holy Spirit," etc. (Isaiah 63:10; Acts 7:51; Ephesians 4:10; 1 Thessalonians 5:19). And with his departure the effects of his gracious influence also depart. Hence David prayed so fervently, "Take not thy Holy Spirit from me."

II. SUBJECTION TO AN EVIL INFLUENCE. "And an evil spirit from Jehovah troubled him." The expression is only used once before (Judges 9:23), - "God sent an evil spirit between the men of Abimelech and the men of Shechem" (producing discord, treachery, and strife), - and denotes a breath, influence, agency, or messenger (1 Kings 22:22) which -

1. Prevails only after the withdrawal of the Divine Spirit. When the soul ceases to be governed by God, it lies open to the power of evil, and comes under its dominion.

2. Is sent in just retribution for sin. "No man living needs a heavier chastisement from the Almighty than the letting his own passions loose upon him" (Delany). But the expression means more than this. "It is a spiritual agency of God, which brings to bear upon Saul the dark and fiery powers of Divine wrath which he has aroused by sin" (Delitzsch). Even that which is in itself good becomes evil to those who cherish an evil disposition. As the same rays of the sun which melt the ice harden the clay, so the same gospel which is "a savour of life unto life" in some is "a savour of death unto death" in others (2 Corinthians 2:16). And it is God who appoints and effectuates the forces of retribution. "The punitive justice of God is a great fact. It is stamped on all the darker phenomena of human life - disease, insanity, and death. It is in the nature of sin to entail suffering, and work itself, as an element of punishment, into all the complicated web of human existence" (Tulloch).

3. Implies the domination of the kingdom of darkness. Josephus, speaking according to the common belief of a later age, attributes the malady of Saul to demoniacal agency. "It was probably a kind of possession, at least at times, and in its highest stage. As a punishment for having given himself willingly into the power of the kingdom of darkness, he was also abandoned physically to this power" (Henstenberg). How fearful is that realm of rebellion, evil, and disorder to which men become allied and subject by their sin!

III. THE EXPERIENCE OF UNCONTROLLABLE FEAR; "troubled him" - terrified, choked him.

1. In connection with the working of peculiar and painful thoughts: brooding over the secret of rejection, which might not be revealed to any one; the sense of disturbed relationship with God, and of his displeasure, the removal of which there was no disposition to seek by humble penitence and prayer.

2. In the darkening aspect of present circumstances and future prospects; suspicion and "royal jealousy, before which vanish at last all consistent action, all wise and moderate rule" (Ewald).

3. In occasional melancholy, despondency, and distress, irrational imaginations and terrors (Job 6:4), and fits of violent and ungovernable passion (1 Samuel 18:10, 11). "There are few more difficult questions in the case of minds utterly distempered and disordered as his was than to determine where sin or moral disease has ended, and madness or mental disease has begun" (Trench). Sin not only disturbs the moral balance of the soul, but also disorders the whole nature of man. It is itself a kind of madness, from which the sinner needs to "come to himself" (Luke 15:17). "Madness is in their hearts," etc. (Ecclesiastes 9:3; 2 Peter 2:6).


1. In the case of the malady occasioned by sin there is no self-healing power in man, as in many bodily diseases, but it tends to become worse and worse.

2. Its fatal course may often be distinctly marked. "These attacks of madness gave place to hatred, which developed itself in full consciousness to a most deliberately planned hostility" (Keil). His courage gave place to weakness and cowardice; general fear and suspicion fixed on a particular object in envy and hatred, displayed at first privately, afterwards publicly, and becoming an all-absorbing passion. "The evil spirit that came upon him from or by permission of the Lord was the evil spirit of melancholy, jealousy, suspicion, hatred, envy, malice, and cruelty, that governed him all the after part of his life; to which he gave himself up, and sacrificed every consideration of honour, duty, and interest whatsoever" (Chandler).

3. It is, nevertheless amenable to the remedial influences which God, in his infinite mercy, has provided.

"All cures were tried: philosophy talked long
Of lofty reason's self-controlling power;
He frowned, but spake not. Friendship's silver tongue
Poured mild persuasions on his calmer hour:
He wept; alas! it was a bootless shower
As ever slaked the desert. 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 prayer for Saul.
At length one spake of Music"

(Hankinson) = - D.

1 Samuel 16:19, 20. (BETHLEHEM.)
David, setting out from his father's house at Bethlehem to go to the court of Saul at Gibeah (a distance of about ten miles), presents a picture of many a youth leaving home for more public life - to enter a profession, learn a business, or occupy a responsible position. Notice -


1. Some such step is necessary. A young man cannot always continue under the paternal roof. He must go forth into the world, be thrown on his own resources, and make his own way.

2. Its nature and direction are commonly determined by his ability and tastes, and the use he makes of early advantages (ver. 18).

3. It is also greatly influenced by the wishes of others. David was sent for by Saul, and sent to him by his father.

4. It is ordered by Divine providence. This was plainly the case with David. And we are as truly the children of providence as he was. God has a purpose concerning each of us.

"There's a Divinity that shapes our ends,
Rough hew them as we will."

5. It opens a wider field for the exercise of natural or acquired abilities, and the attainment of desired objects.

6. It determines in most instances, the subsequent course of life. It is like the commencement of a river; or like the rolling of a stone down the mountain side, the course of which is determined by the direction and impulse which it first receives.

II. THE PROPER SPIRIT in which it should be taken.

1. Due consideration; not thoughtlessly or rashly.

2. Lowly and loyal obedience to rightful claims.

3. Cheerful anticipation of new scenes, duties, and enjoyments.

4. Not unmingled with misgiving and self-distrust at the prospect of new difficulties and trials, and watchfulness against new and strong temptations.

5. Simple trust in God and fervent prayer for his guidance.

6. Firm determination to be true to oneself faithful to God, and useful to men.

"Now needs thy best of man;
For not on downy plumes, nor under shade
Of canopy reposing, fame is won;
Without which whosoe'er consumes his days
Leaveth such vestige of himself on earth
As smoke in air, or foam upon the wave"

(Dante, 'Inferno,' 24.) Consider -

1. That life itself is a setting out in a course which will never terminate.

2. That the manner in which this step is taken will decide your future destiny. - D.

1 Samuel 16:23. (GIBEAH.)
All men, with rare exceptions, are susceptible to the influence of music; some men peculiarly so. It was thus with Saul (1 Samuel 10:10; 1 Samuel 19:23); and on this account, perhaps, his servants suggested the sending for a skilful musician to soothe his melancholy. The visit of David had the desired effect, and he "went and returned" (was going and returning) "to feed his father's sheep at Bethlehem" (1 Samuel 17:15, 55-58; 1 Samuel 16:21, 22 - a general, and to some extent prospective, summary of his early relations with Saul). Consider the soothing influence of music as -

I. PROVIDED BY DIVINE PROVIDENCE. It is one of the manifold indications of the goodness of God in the adaptation of man to his surroundings so as to derive enjoyment from them. The world is full of music. In trouble and agitation especially it soothes and cheers. "It brings a tone out of the higher worlds into the spirit of the hearer" (Koster). Its direct influence is exerted upon the nervous system, which is intimately connected with all mental activity. As the condition of the brain and nerves is affected by it, so also it affects the state of the mind.

"There is in souls a sympathy with sounds;
Some chord in unison with what we hear
Is touched within us, and the heart replies"

(Cowper) Pythagoras quieted the perturbations of the mind with a harp (Seneca, 'On Anger'). Elisha, when chafed and disturbed in spirit, called for a minstrel, and was prepared by the soothing strains of his harp for prophetic inspiration (2 Kings 3:5). Divine providence ordered the visit of David to Saul, over whom mercy still lingered. He was not only freed from the immediate pressure of fear and despondency, but also restored to a mental condition which was favourable to repentance and return to God. Music is a means of grace, and when rightly used conveys much spiritual benefit to men. It is "one of the fairest and most glorious gifts of God, to which Satan is a bitter enemy; for it removes from the heart the weight of sorrow and the fascination of evil thoughts" (Luther). "It is a language by itself, just as perfect in its way as speech, as words; just as Divine, just as blessed. All melody and all harmony, all music upon earth, is beautiful in as far as it is a pattern and type of the everlasting music which is in heaven" (C. Kingsley).

II. PRODUCTIVE OF EXTRAORDINARY EFFECTS. "Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him." "The music was more than a mere palliative. It brought back for the time the sense of a true order, a secret, inward harmony, an assurance that it is near every man, and that he may enter into it" (Maurice).

"He is Saul, ye remember in glory, - ere error had bent
The broad brow from the daily communion; and still, though much spent
Be the life and the bearing that front you, the same, God did choose,
To receive what a man may waste, desecrate, never quite lose"

(Browning, 'Saul') Many other instances of a similar nature, both in ancient and modern times, have been recorded. One of the most noteworthy is that of Philip V. of Spain, who was restored from profoundest melancholy by the magical voice of Farinelli (see Bochart; Burton, 'Anat. of Mel.;' Kitto, 'D.B. Illus.;' Jacox, 'Script. Texts Illus.;' Bate, 'Cyc. of Illus.'). "Psalmody is the calm of the soul, the repose of the spirit, the arbiter of peace. It silences the wave and conciliates the whirlwind of our passions. It is an engenderer of friendship, a healer of dissension, a reconciler of enemies. It repels the demons, lures the ministry of angels, shields us from nightly terrors, and refreshes us in daily toil" (Basil).

III. PERFECTED BY SPECIAL ENDOWMENTS possessed by the musician. David's harp was the accompaniment of his voice as he sang "psalms and hymns and spiritual songs" (see Josephus), expressive of the sympathy, confidence, hope, and joy of his soul; "the prelude to the harpings and songs which flowed from the harp of the future royal singer." His musical and poetic gifts were great, and they were consecrated (as all such gifts should be) to the glory of God and the good of men. "Did the music banish the demon? Not so. But the high frame of mind into which the king was brought by it sufficed to limit at least the sphere of the operation of the evil spirit within him; while the full, clear, conscious life of faith on the part of Saul would have altogether destroyed the power of the wicked one. Besides, the silent intercessions of David sent up to heaven on the wings of the music of his harp must have contributed not a little to the results with which his melodies were crowned" (Krummacher). "The Lord was with him" (ver. 18).

IV. PARTIAL AND TEMPORARY IN ITS WHOLESOME POWER. Saul was not completely cured of his malady. A breathing space was afforded him for seeking God, and if he had faithfully availed himself of it he might have been permanently preserved from its return. But he failed to do so. On the indulgence of envy, "the evil spirit from God came upon him" again (1 Samuel 18:10; 1 Samuel 19:10) with greater power than before (Matthew 12:45), and that which formerly calmed and gladdened him now excited him to demoniacal frenzy and murderous passion. "It is said that the evil spirit departed, but not that the good spirit returned. Saul's trouble was alleviated, but not removed. The disease was still there. The results of David's harp were negative and superficial. So is it with the sinner still. There are many outward applications which act like. spiritual chloroform upon the soul. They soothe and calm and please, but that is all; they do not go below the surface, nor touch the deep seated malady within. Our age is full of such appliances, literary and religions, all got up for the purpose of soothing the troubled spirits of men. Excitement, gaiety, balls, theatres, operas, concerts, ecclesiastical music, dresses, performances, what are all these but man's appliances for casting out the evil spirit and healing the soul's hurt without having recourse to God's remedy" (Bonar, 'Thoughts and Themes'). Learn -

1. That the excellent gift of music should excite our admiration of the Giver, "the First Composer," and our devout thankfulness to him.

2. That it ought not to be perverted from its proper intention, and employed, as it too frequently is, in the service of sin (Isaiah 5:12; Amos 6:5).

3. That the soothing and elevating effect of a "concord of sweet sounds" must not be mistaken for the peace and joy of true religion.

4. That nothing but the gospel of Christ and the power of his Spirit can effect the moral and spiritual renewal of man, and restore him to "his fight mind" (Mark 5:15). - D.

I. THE COMPLICATION OF MENTAL AND MORAL DISORDER. Saul was the victim of cerebral disease, but not an innocent victim. His unhingement of mind was due in large measure to causes for which he was morally responsible. The expression, "an evil spirit from the Lord was upon him," is just an Old Testament way of saying that the state into which he fell, as a result mainly of his own misconduct, bore the character of a Divine retribution. From the beginning there seems to have been a morbid tendency in the mind of Saul. He was at once very impulsive and very obstinate; and as his troubles and anxieties increased, the original weakness or unhealthiness of his brain became more and more apparent. He had an evil conscience because of his disobedience to Divine commands, and though faithfully reproved by the prophet Samuel, he does not appear to have ever sought pardon or healing. Thus the purpose of God to give the kingdom to another and a better man weighed on him as a dreadful secret, and his native melancholy deepened. The thing preyed on his mind till he became wretchedly suspicious and jealous, and at times gave way to homicidal mania. For considerable periods, as during the active struggle with the Philistines, this evil spirit left the king; but he fell back into his passionate gloom. As we trace his course, the better lines of his character fade away, and the worse become deeper and more obvious.

II. THE REMEDY APPLIED - ITS SUCCESS AND ITS FAILURE. In so far as there was mental disease, the case called for medical treatment; in so far as it was complicated with and grounded on moral disorder, it needed a moral corrective. But even if there had been any scientific treatment of insanity known at the period, it would have been difficult to apply it to King Saul, and it occurred to his attendants to try the soothing charm of music. This might be the opiate to assuage the anguish of the spirit -

"The soft insinuating balsam, that
Can through the body reach the sickly soul." So David was brought to the court to allay, if he could not cure, the malady of the king by his skilful minstrelsy. It was a wise experiment. From the readiness of Saul to catch the fervour and join in the strains of the sons of the prophets, and from the fact that in his frenzy he "prophesied in the midst of the house," we infer that his temperament was peculiarly open to musical impression, and are not surprised that the sounds of David's lyre and voice, especially when chanting some Divine and lofty theme, affected and in some degree controlled the unhappy king. As he listened his spirit became more tranquil, and wicked thoughts and jealousies lifted from off him, as clouds lift from a mountain for a while, even though they gather again. The refining and calming effect of music and song no wise man will disparage. It is not religion, but it may legitimately and powerfully conduce to moral and religious feeling. Elisha called for a minstrel, that his mind might be attuned and prepared to receive the prophetic impulse. Martin Luther found the inspiration of courage in the same manner. "Next to theology," he said, "I give the first place and the greatest honour to music." Milton, too, delighted in such musical service

"As may with sweetness, through mine ear,
Dissolve me into ecstasies,
And bring all heaven before mine eyes." David sang before the clouded face of Saul, and "played with his hand." So let sweet and sacred minstrelsy confront the sin and sorrow of the world. It is better than the fabled power of Orpheus, who, when he touched his lyre, moved the very trees and rocks, and gathered the beasts of the forest to listen to his notes. Another myth regarding Orpheus has indeed a noble meaning beneath the surface of the story. When the Argonauts passed the island of the sirens, Orpheus, on board their ship, loudly chanted the praises of gods and heroes, so as to drown the voices from the shore, and so he and his comrades passed the fatal spot in safety. The moral is obvious. The sirens represent pleasures of sense, which begin with blandishment, but end in cruel destruction; and a powerful resistance to sensual temptation is to be found in preoccupation of mind and heart with holy and heroic song. Yet the moral power thus exerted has its limit, and we see this clearly in the case of Saul. The king was acutely sensitive to the influence of David's minstrelsy, but he was only charmed, not cured; and even while the youth played before him he attempted his life in a paroxysm of jealousy. So is many a man thrilled with delight by sacred music wedded to holy words in an oratorio or in Church service who is not delivered thereby from some evil spirit or base passion that has mastered him. Alas, how many men of musical taste and sensibility, some of them of poetic capacity also, have been quite unable to shake off the yoke of that most conspicuous evil spirit of our time and nation, the love of strong drink! This infatuation may be quieted or checked for a time, but it is not expelled by music ever so good and true. The harp, even David's harp, cannot subdue the power of sin. This requires the power of David's God. There is need of a prayer of David, such as Saul seems never to have offered up: "Create in me a clean heart; Lord, renew a right spirit within me." There is need to apply to the Son of David, who cast out unclean spirits by his word, and brought men to their right mind, and now in the power of the Holy Spirit not only controls, but corrects and cures all the evils which prey on the mind or defile the heart of man. The blackness of envy, the foulness of hatred, the demons of deceit, avarice, intemperance, and cruelty are expelled by nothing less than the grace of Christ.

"And his that gentle voice we hear,
Soft as the breath of even,
That checks each fault, that calms each fear,
And speaks of heaven." - F.

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