1 Samuel 16
Matthew Poole's Commentary
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.
Samuel is sent by God; who, under pretence of a sacrifice for fear of Saul, cometh to Bethlehem; sanctifieth Jesse and his sons, 1 Samuel 16:1-5. His human judgment in choosing Eliab the eldest son is reproved, 1 Samuel 16:6,7. God had chosen David the youngest to be king in Saul’s place, 1 Samuel 16:8-12. Samuel anointeth him, and the Spirit of God cometh upon him; but departeth from Saul, and an evil spirit cometh on him, 1 Samuel 16:13,14. He sends for David to quiet it: his praise: Saul loveth him, and maketh him his armour-bearer: he playeth before Saul when the evil spirit disquieted him, 1 Samuel 16:15-23.

How long wilt thou mourn for Saul, and pray for his restitution? which the following words imply that he did.

I have rejected him from reigning over Israel: the manifestation of my peremptory will should make thee submit to my pleasure.

Fill thine horn with oil; which was used in the inauguration of kings, as 1 Samuel 10:1 1 Kings 1:39. But here it is used in the designation of a king, though David was not actually made king by it, but still remained a subject, as is evident from 1 Samuel 24:6. And the reason of this anticipation was, partly the comfort of Samuel, and other good men, against their great fears in case of Saul’s death, of which they expected every day to hear; and partly the assurance of David’s title, which otherwise would have been very doubtful. For the prevention of which doubts, it was very meet that the same person and prophet who had anointed Saul, might now, upon God’s rejection of Saul, anoint David to succeed him upon his death; and because Samuel was now not far from his death, and was to die before Saul, it was fit that David’s anointing should be hastened and done before its proper time.

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 inordinate and sinful desires; they desired him for themselves, and for their own glory and safety, as they supposed; but this is a king of my own providing, one that I have spied out, one of that tribe to which I have allotted the kingdom, Genesis 49:10. A king for me; not one to gratify the people’s desires, but to fulfil all my will, as is said, Acts 13:22, and to serve my glory. Or, my king; the Hebrew phrase, to me, or for me, being commonly used for the word mine.

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.
How can I go, to wit, safely? a question which seems to savour of human frailty; for he should have strongly believed that God, who had set him upon the work, would carry him through it.

I am come to sacrifice to the Lord; which he used oft to do, sometimes in one place, and sometimes in another, that so he might encourage and keep up the worship of God in all of them. This was one cause, though not the only cause, of his coming; nor was he obliged to declare all the causes of it.

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.
Call Jesse to the sacrifice, i.e. invite him to the feast, which, after the manner, was made of the flesh of the sacrifice; and it belonged to Samuel, as the offerer of the sacrifice, to invite whom he pleased.

Whom I name, i.e. whom I shall describe, as it were, by name.

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?
The elders of the town trembled at his coming; partly because it was strange and unexpected to them, this being but an obscure town, Micah 5:2, and remote from Samuel, and therefore they justly thought there was some extraordinary reason for it; and their guilty consciences made them fear that he came to denounce some dreadful and particular judgment of God upon them; and partly lest Saul, whose heart was estranged from and incensed against Samuel, should upon this occasion conceive a jealousy of them, and a displeasure against them.

Peaceably, Heb. in or with peace; either, first, To thyself. Comest thou voluntarily, or to flee from the rage of Saul? Or, secondly, To us. Comest thou with no evil tidings to us, either from God or from Saul? The Hebrew phrase, Comest thou in peace? being as much as to say, (in our phrase,) Is all well?

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.
Sanctify yourselves; prepare yourselves in the manner expressed, Exodus 19:14,15.

To the sacrifice, Heb. in the sacrifice, i.e. join with me in this act of worshipping God, and offering this sacrifice, thereby to give thanks for the blessings you have received from him, and to pray for what you want. It seems evident fiat there was something peculiar in Jesse’s invitation. For, first, Both he and his sons were invited, whereas the others are only invited for their own persons. Secondly, The different phrase here used, that he sanctified these, when he only bade the other sanctify themselves, argues a singular care and agency of Samuel in their sanctification; (unless we should say, He sanctified them, is no more but that he caused them to be sanctified; that is, these in particular amongst others;) which makes it probable that the rest were only to join with him in the act of sacrificing; but these, and only these, were invited to feast upon the remainders of the sacrifice; which feast is here called a sacrifice, as it is above, 1 Samuel 16:3. And the only inconvenience of this interpretation is, that the word sacrifice is taken in different senses in the same verse, which is no unusual thing. See Matthew 8:22. And this difference may possibly be intimated by the differing prepositions prefixed to the same word, the first being bazzabach, and the latter lazzabach. Howsoever, that only Jesse and his sons were present at the feast may seem probable, from Samuel’s design of privacy, and from the following relation.

And it came to pass, when they were come, that he looked on Eliab, and said, Surely the LORD'S anointed is before him.
When they were come; when the most of Jesse’s sons were come, either to the place of the feast, or to some other place near it, appointed for this private discourse, whither they were to come before they went to the feast. It must also be understood that Samuel had acquainted Jesse with his design, which is easily gathered out of the context, and needed not be expressed.

Is before him, i.e. 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, Deu 12:7, i.e. before or near his altar, where God was present in a special manner. And the ground of this expression seems to be this, that Jesse brought not all his sons together, but made one after another to come to the place, and to pass before Samuel, who stood before the Lord, in some place near the altar, that this great business might be managed with more solemnity. And Eliab being the person now before Samuel, is said to be now before the Lord. But whatsoever the ground of this phrase is, this is certain and confessed, that this is his meaning, This I take to be the person whom I am sent to anoint; wherein yet he was greatly mistaken, as other prophets sometimes were, when they hastily spake their own thoughts, before they had consulted God in the case, as 2 Samuel 7:3.

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.
The Lord spake by secret inspiration.

The height of his stature; whereby thou wast once deceived in Saul, 1 Samuel 10:23,24, and therefore shouldst not now be deceived a second time.

Man looketh on the outward appearance; men value men by their outsides.

The Lord looketh on the heart; God esteems of men by the goodness of their hearts, and hath now proceeded by that rule in the choice of a king, and would have done so before, if the people’s sinful desires had not provoked him to give them a bad king.

Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. And he said, Neither hath the LORD chosen this.
No text from Poole on this verse.

Then Jesse made Shammah to pass by. And he said, Neither hath the LORD chosen this.
Shammah, called also Shimeah, 2 Samuel 13:3, and Shimna 1 Chronicles 2:13.

Again, Jesse made seven of his sons to pass before Samuel. And Samuel said unto Jesse, The LORD hath not chosen these.
Seven of his sons, i.e. the rest of his sons, which were seven, besides David; for in all he had eight, 1 Samuel 17:12. It is true, there are but seven of them named 1 Chronicles 2:13-15, but that may be because one of them was either born of a concubine, or an obscure person; or one that died immediately after this time.

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.
He keepeth the sheep; and consequently is the most unfit of all my sons for that high employment. Either therefore he did not thoroughly understand David’s great wisdom and valour, or he judgeth him unfit, by reason of his mean education. And God so ordered it by his providence, that David’s choice might plainly appear to be God’s work, and not Samuel’s or Jesse’s design.

We will not sit down, to wit, to the feast.

Quest. How could David be admitted to this feast, being, as it seems, not sanctified with the rest of his brethren?

Answ. 1. It is not strange if the prophet, by God’s direction, dispensed with the ordinary rule, in a person so extraordinary, both for his piety and the dignity to which he was chosen.

2. It is not affirmed that David did sit down with them to the feast, but only that they would not do so till he came. And when he was come, and Samuel had done what he intended with him, David, for aught we know, might depart, and the rest sit down to the feast; for David was not now actually raised to any higher degree, but returned to his former employment; as we read below, 1 Samuel 16:19.

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.
He was ruddy; which may be referred either to the colour of his hair; or rather, to the complexion of his face.

Goodly to look to; of a comely but masculine and majestic aspect.

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.
In the midst of his brethren: according to this translation, his brethren were present at this act, and knew that David was anointed king. But this seems, to some, neither consistent with Samuel’s design of secrecy, nor with Eliab’s scornful words concerning him after this, 1 Samuel 17:28. But to this others reply, that David’s brethren saw David’s unction, but did not particularly understand that he was anointed to the kingdom; but were only told by Samuel at he was anointed to some great service, which hereafter they should know, but at present it was fit to be concealed. Thus Jesse only and David understood the whole business, and his brethren were able to attest to that act of Samuel’s anointing him, which, with other collateral evidences, was abundantly sufficient to prove David’s right to the kingdom, if need should be. And this seems fairly to accord and explain the matter. But the words may be otherwise translated out of the Hebrew, that he anointed him out of the midst of his brethren, i.e. he selected him from amongst the rest of his brethren to be king; as Christ is said to be raised from the midst of his brethren. And whereas the Hebrew word is bekereb, in the midst, not mikkereb, out of the midst; it is confessed that the preposition beth, in, is oft used for min, of, or out of, as hath been formerly showed by many instances; and so it may be here. And further, the place may be thus rendered, that Samuel anointed him, being taken out of the midst of his brethren; and so these words may be added, to signify that Samuel took him out from the rest of the company, and privately anointed him; Jesse only being present at the action. And thus there is an ellipsis of a verb or particle, which is frequent; as Genesis 12:15, The woman was taken (i.e. was taken and carried) into Pharaoh’s house; and many such places.

The Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward, i.e. he was immediately endowed with extraordinary gifts of God’s Spirit, as strength, and courage, and wisdom, and magnanimity, and other excellent qualities, which fitted him for and put him upon noble attempts; for which he presently grew famous, even whilst he lived a private life. See below, 1 Samuel 16:18 17:34, &c.

But the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD troubled him.
God took away that prudence, and courage, and alacrity, and other gifts and assistances of God’s Spirit, wherewith he had qualified him for the management of his public employment.

An evil spirit; properly so called; for what need is there of forsaking the proper signification of the word? It is evident, both from Scripture and experience, that God hath permitted some men to be really acted and disquieted by the devil; and why not Saul as well as others?

From the Lord, i.e. by God’s permission or judgment, delivering him up to Satan.

Troubled him; stirred up in him unruly and tormenting passions; as envy, rage, fear, despair, and the like.

And Saul's servants said unto him, Behold now, an evil spirit from God troubleth thee.
No text from Poole on this verse.

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 the success confirms their opinion. For although music cannot directly have any influence upon an evil spirit to drive him away; yet because the devil, as it seems, had not possession of him, but only made use of the passions of his mind and ill humours of his body to molest him; and because it is manifest that music hath a mighty power to qualify and sweeten these, and to make a man sedate and cheerful, as is evident by the unanimous consent of learned writers, and by common experience; it is not strange if the devil had not that power over him when his mind was more composed, which he had when it was disordered; as the devil had less power over lunatics in the decrease than in the increase of the moon, Matthew 17:15,18. And seeing music prepared the Lord’s prophets for the entertainment of the good Spirit, as 2 Kings 3:15, why might it not dispose Saul to the resistance of the evil spirit? and why might not the cheering of his heart, in some measure, strengthen him against those temptations of the devil which were fed by his melancholic humour?

And Saul said unto his servants, Provide me now a man that can play well, and bring him to me.
No text from Poole on this verse.

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.
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.

Wherefore Saul sent messengers unto Jesse, and said, Send me David thy son, which is with the sheep.
No text from Poole on this verse.

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.
This present, though in our times it would seem contemptible, yet was very agreeable to the usage of those times, and to the condition of Jesse, which was but mean in the world. And it seems to have been the custom of those times, as it is yet in the eastern countries (when they made their appearance before princes or great persons, to bring a present: see Genesis 32:20 43:25,26, and elsewhere); to which civil custom that religious precept seems consonant, Exodus 23:15 Deu 16:16. None shall appear before me empty. And he might send it, partly as a testimony of his respect to his sovereign, and partly to gain David favour and acceptance with him, being sensible that he was going into a place and state of hazard; but knowing Saul’s furious temper, he durst not refuse to send him; and he sent him the more willingly, because this seemed a most likely means to accomplish God’s promise of the kingdom, and to prepare him for it.

And David came to Saul, and stood before him: and he loved him greatly; and he became his armourbearer.
Stood before him, i.e. ministered unto him; or (as we use to speak) waited upon him, as that phrase oft signifies; as Deu 1:38 10:8.

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, 1Sa 17, happened.

And Saul sent to Jesse, saying, Let David, I pray thee, stand before me; for he hath found favour in my sight.
No text from Poole on this verse.

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.
To wit, for a season. And the reason of this success may be partly natural and common; of which see on 1 Samuel 16:16; and partly supernatural and special, respecting David, whom God designed by this means to bring into favour with the king and his court, and so to smooth the way for his advancement.

Matthew Poole's Commentary

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