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Thursday, July 18th, 2024
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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Bible Commentaries
1 Samuel 16

Coffman's Commentaries on the BibleCoffman's Commentaries



“This chapter is the natural continuation of the last one.”(F1) Time marches on regardless of the readiness or unreadiness of men; and the rejection of Saul as king of Israel in the last chapter required that a successor be chosen. “It was God’s purpose that David should be anointed at this time as Saul’s successor and as the ancestor and type of God’s Christ. It was not God’s purpose that Samuel should stir up a civil war by setting up David as Saul’s rival. Therefore, secrecy was a necessary part of this transaction.”(F2)

Verses 1-5


“The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve eve over Saul, seeing I have rejected him from being king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.” And Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears it, he will kill me.” And the Lord said, “Take a heifer with you, and say, `I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.’ And invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; and you shall anoint for me him whom I name to you.” Samuel did what the Lord commanded, and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city came to meet him trembling, and said,, “Do you come peaceably”? And he said, “peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord; consecrate yourselves, and come with me to the sacrifice.” And he consecrated Jesse and his sons, and invited them to the sacrifice.”

“I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite” Jesse’s genealogy is given in Ruth 4:18-22 all the way back to Judah and his daughter-in-law Tamar. Thus, David was the great-grandson of Boaz and Ruth.

The first king of Israel was from Gibeah in Benjamin, but the second was from Bethlehem in Judah. In the foreknowledge of God, Christ was to be born in Bethlehem; and it was most appropriate that the great O.T. type of Christ should also have been born in Bethlehem, although no mention of that specific detail is made here. “Bethlehem is the modern Beit Lahm about six miles south-southwest of Jerusalem.”(F3)

“How can I go? If Saul hears it, he will kill me” In the light of this text, it is unnecessary to speculate on why Samuel was reluctant to go to Bethlehem to anoint Saul’s successor. He tells us here that he was afraid Saul would kill him. This also reflects back on Samuel’s accompanying Saul to worship after refusing at first to do so (1 Samuel 15:31) where the same reason probably influenced Samuel’s action in that incident.

“Take a heifer with you, and say, I am come to sacrifice to the Lord” This was God’s requirement that the mission be conducted secretly. This was neither duplicity nor falsehood, but discretion and concealment, both of which are honorable.

“You shall anoint for me him whom I name to you” Many have been impressed with the skill of the author here in the concealment of David’s name until the very last.

“The elders came trembling, and said, `Do you come peaceably’?” The most reasonable explanation of this is that of Willis, “They came trembling because it could be assumed that anyone supporting Samuel against Saul would incur Saul’s wrath.”(F4) What Saul later did to the priests at Nob fits this conclusion exactly (1 Samuel 22:11-19).

Verses 6-13


“When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is before him.” But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart. Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. And he said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one. And Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel. And Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen these.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here”? And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but behold, he is keeping the sheep.” and Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and fetch him; for we will not sit down till he comes here.” And he sent, and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. And the Lord said, “Arise, anoint him; for this is he.” Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward. And Samuel rose up and went to Ramah.”

“Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature” Saul had been an excellent example of one who certainly looked like a king but was unfit for the office.

“Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel” Everything in this passage indicates the secrecy of the proceedings. Each son who came before Samuel had to be “called,” which, in context, probably means “sent for,” just as David was. Furthermore, the statement in 1 Samuel 16:13 that David was anointed “in the midst of his brethren” could not mean that all of his brothers witnessed the anointing, but that he was chosen from “the midst of his brethren,” just as Moses had promised with reference to the Messiah that God would raise him up from “the midst of thee and of thy brethren” (Deuteronomy 18:15 AV). As Willis said, “There is no indication in this text, nor even in 1 Samuel 16:13, that the elders, Jesse, or Jesse’s seven eldest sons realized the primary purpose of Samuel’s visit.”(F5) It was exactly like it was when Saul was anointed, not even the members of his family knew of it at first. In this anointing of David, “Even David’s brothers knew nothing about the meaning and object of the anointing.”(F6)

“And Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel” David, at this time had not appeared; and thus the number of Jesse’s sons, as indicated here, was eight. However, in 1 Chronicles 2:13-15, only seven sons are named, David being listed as the seventh. Willis reported that, “This problem has not been satisfactorily resolved”;(F7) but as John W. Haley explained it, “The writer in Chronicles simply, “Omitted a son who died early.”(F8)

“Now he was ruddy… and handsome” “This means that David was either of fair complexion or red-haired,”(F9) or perhaps both, since both conditions often appear together. This writer had both a brother and a sister with light complexion and with red hair.

“The Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David” This probably refers to supernatural strength such as Samson had and to other magnificent endowments. David’s killing a lion and a bear might well have been results of this endowment.

“Again it must be understood that this appointment of David carried with it no office, title or prerogatives. It simply represented a future destiny to be worked out (by God Himself) in human history.”(F10) God would use Saul himself in working out this future placement of David upon the throne of Israel.

Verses 14-23


“Now the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord tormented him, And Saul’s servants said to him, “Behold now, an evil spirit from God is tormenting you. Let our lord command your servants, who are before you, to seek out a man who is skillful in playing the lyre; and when the evil spirit from God is upon you, he will play it, and you will be well.” So Saul said to his servants, “Provide for me a man who can play well, and bring him to me.” One of the young men answered, “Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, who is skillful in playing, a man of valor, a man of war, prudent in speech, and a man of good presence; and the Lord is with him.” Therefore Saul sent messengers to Jesse, and said, “Send me David your son, who is with the sheep.” And Jesse took an ass laden with bread, and a skin of wine and a kid, and sent them by David his son to Saul And David came to Saul and entered his service. And Saul loved him greatly, and he became his armor-bearer. And Saul sent to Jesse, Saying, “Let David remain in my service, for he has found favor in my sight..” And whenever the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, David took the lyre and played it with his hand; so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him.”

“This paragraph is not intended as a detailed sequel to 1 Samuel 16:1-13. It is a panoramic picture of events to be detailed in the next few chapters.”(F11) Bible students should not be confused by this. This type of historical writing is found frequently in the Bible, especially in the Book of Revelation. Once this is understood by believers, the shouts of critics about `contradictions’ `duplicate accounts,’ etc. appear in their true character as absolutely unfounded. Philbeck’s allegation that we have, “Two accounts of David’s introduction to Saul,”(F12) is due solely to a failure to appreciate the prolepsis.

“An evil spirit from the Lord tormented him” In no sense whatever is God the author of evil; but this verse reflects the prevailing Oriental viewpoint that `everything which happens is in harmony with God’s permissive will.’ In a sense, of course, this is true. One often hears the expression, “The Lord has given and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord”! Whatever happened to Saul, it was the will of God. It is also possible to view this verse as relating a punishment which Saul deserved and which God visited upon him.

The subject of demon possession is a vast one; and we have written many comments upon it in our N.T. series; and there are far too many unknown factors evident in human behavior today to support any intelligent denial that demon possession may still exist. One thing, however, is certain. Demonic forces may not afflict men without God’s permission.

“And David came to Saul and entered his service” “This is a summary of developments that, “undoubtedly covered several weeks or months.”(F13) It is impossible to view this paragraph as a chronological arrangement of events in an orderly sequence. It was written to give a quick glance at what would take place in David’s future. “O.T. authors not infrequently pursue a theme to its ultimate consequences, and then return to fill in the details”;(F14) and there is a lot of that in Samuel.

Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 16". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bcc/1-samuel-16.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
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