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Bible Commentaries
1 Samuel 16

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 1

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.

How long wilt thou mourn, for Saul? Samuel's grief on account of Saul's rejection, accompanied, doubtless, by earnest prayers for his restitution, showed the amiable feelings of the man; but they were at variance with his public duty as a prophet. The declared purpose of God to transfer the kingdom of Israel into other hands than Saul's was not an angry menace, but a fixed and immutable decree; so that Samuel ought to have sooner submitted to the peremptory manifestation of the divine will. But to leave him no longer room to doubt of its being unalterable, he was sent on a private mission to anoint a successor to Saul (see the note at 1 Samuel 10:1). The immediate designation of a king was of the greatest importance for the interest of the nation, in the event of Saul's death, which at this time was dreaded: it would establish David's title, and comfort the minds of Samuel and other good men with a right settlement, whatever contingency might happen.

Fill thine horn with oil. Horns were anciently used for holding liquors, which were sometimes drunk out of them. They were hung up on the walls of rooms or the poles of tents (Isaiah 22:24).

I will send thee to Jesse the Beth-lehemite. The genealogy of Jesse is traced (Ruth 4:18-21) to Boaz. But the object was merely to prove that he was a link in the Messianic chain of descent; and it is left quite unknown whether Jesse was the oldest of Obed and Boaz's family, the heir of that wealthy proprietor, or a younger son. That he was a comparatively poor man has been inferred from his having a small flock, under the care of one shepherd only, his youngest son. At the same time, he seems to have been a man of note in the village, esteemed for his piety and general worth of character (cf. Isaiah 11:1).

I have provided me a king. The language is remarkable, and intimates a difference between this and the former king. Saul was the people's choice-the fruit of their wayward and sinful desires for their own honour and aggrandizement; the next was to be of God's nomination, who would consult the divine glory, and selected from that tribe to which the pre-eminence had been early promised (Genesis 49:10).

Verse 2

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? This is another instance of human infirmity in Samuel. Since God had sent him on this mission, He would protect him in the execution.

I am come to sacrifice. This was true, though not the whole truth, which he was not bound or called upon to tell. It seems to have been customary with Samuel to do this (cf. 1 Samuel 9:12), in the different circuits to which he went, that he might encourage the worship of God. It has been formerly shown that although the appointed place for presentation of offerings was the front court of the national sanctuary (see the note at Leviticus 17:1-9; Deuteronomy 12:5-7), in not a few instances sacrifices were offered elsewhere, even by prophets (1 Samuel 7:17; 1 Samuel 9:12; Judges 2:5; 1 Kings 18:19; 1 Kings 18:32).

Verse 3

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., the social feast that followed the peace offering. Samuel, being the offerer, had a right to invite any guest he pleased.

Verse 4

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. Beth-lehem was an obscure town, and not within the usual circuit of the judge. The elders were naturally apprehensive, therefore, that his arrival was occasioned by some extraordinary reason, and that it might entail evil upon their town, in consequence of the estrangement between Samuel and the king. 'They might have been conscious of secret guilt, and supposed that Samuel, coming among them as the judicial vicegerent of God, was about to investigate and punish the commission of some crime. The inhabitants of this place have long been proverbial for their refractory spirit; because even in modern times they have been often at variance with the reigning power' (Hardy's 'Notices of the Holy Land,'

p. 174).

Verse 5

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 - by the preparations described, Exodus 19:14-15. The elders were to sanctify themselves. Samuel himself took the greatest care in the sanctification of Jesse's family. Some, however, think that the former were invited only to join in the sacrifice, while the family of Jesse were invited by themselves to the subsequent feast.

Verse 6

And it came to pass, when they were come, that he looked on Eliab, and said, Surely the LORD's anointed is before him.

He looked on Eliab, [ 'Eliy'aab (H446), to whom God is father] - or Elihu (1 Chronicles 27:18). And said, Surely the Lord's anointed is before him. Here Samuel, in consequence of taking his impressions from the external appearance, falls into the same error as formerly (1 Samuel 10:24).

Verses 7-10

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.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 11

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.

The youngest ... he keepeth the sheep. Jesse, having evidently no idea of David's wisdom and bravery, spoke of him as the most unfit; as one not to be taken into account in the conduct of any public affairs. God, in His providence, so ordered it that the appointment of David might the more clearly appear to be a divine purpose, and not the design either of Samuel or Jesse.

Samuel said unto Jesse, Send and fetch him: for we will not sit down until he come hither, [ lo'

(H3808) naacob (H5437)] - we will not come around, we will not surround - i:e., by sitting at table (cf. Psalms 128:3). The ancient Hebrews sat around a low table, with their legs crossed, as the modern Orientals do; because the luxurious practice of reclining was not introduced into Judea until a late period in the Old Testament history. David had not been sanctified with the rest of his family, because, owing to his absence from home, be had not been invited to the sacrifice; and it is probable that he returned to his pastoral duties the moment the special business on which he had been summoned was done.

Verse 12

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 ..., [ 'admowniy (H132), red, red or auburn haired (Genesis 25:25); Septuagint, purrakees; Vulgate, rufus. Josephus, on the other hand ('Antiquities,' b. 6:, ch. 8: sec. 1), refers this expression to his tawny complexion, xanthos teen chroan].

Withal of a beautiful countenance, [ yªpeeh (H3303) `eeynayim (H5869)] - bright or beautiful in his eyes. [The Septuagint has: meta kallous ofthalmoon, with beauty of eyes; while Josephus ('Antiquities,' b. 6:, ch. 8:, sec. 1) describes him as: gongos tas opseis, sharp, penetrating eyes.]

And goodly to look on, [ wªTowb (H2896) ro'iy (H7210), and comely in person; Septuagint, agathon horasei kurioo, uncommonly graceful and well-proportioned]. It will be observed that although his physical qualities and external attractions are so minutely specified as engaging the notice and admiration of beholders, the circumstance of his being selected for the regal office implies that he possessed the right state and dispositions of mind (1 Samuel 16:7). Josephus says that David was ten years old, while most modern commentators are of opinion that he must have been fifteen years of age.

The Lord said, Arise, anoint him: for this is he. This symbolical ceremony was performed only on the first of a royal dynasty (1 Samuel 10:1).

Verse 13

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.

Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him. This transaction must have been strictly private, according to Josephus, who states that Samuel whispered the object of it in his ear. But the sacred historian says expressly that it was done "in the midst of his brethren." Whether the elders of Beth-lehem were present or not, Jesse and all his sons were witnesses of the ceremony, and cognizant of its import, (see the notes at the end of 1 Samuel 17:1-58.)

And the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward - (see the note at 1 Samuel 10:1.) 'The anointing is placed in causal connection with the communication of the Spirit, the former typifying what the latter secured (cf. Mark 6:13; James 5:14): it was a seal and pledge of the blessings which the Lord bestowed upon the rulers of the nation for the people's good' (Hengstenberg, 'Christology,' 3:, p. 125).

Verse 14

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

An evil spirit from the Lord troubled him, [ wªruwach (H7307) Yahweh (H3068) caaraah (H5493), and a spirit of defection (apostasy) from the Lord]. There is no reason, from the phraseology of the text, to believe that the Hebrews were accustomed to ascribe every malignant disorder as "from the Lord." Saul was possessed of a devil; because it is evident from the symptoms, as well as the remedy proposed, that his attendants regarded his malady as a natural, not an extraordinary or miraculous, disease. It was manifestly a case of hypochondria. But his bodily distemper was aggravated by the state of his temper (Mead, 'Medica Sacra,' p. 26). His own gloomy reflections, the consciousness that he had not acted up to the character of an Israelite king, the loss of his throne, and the extinction of his royal house, made him jealous, irritable, vindictive, and subject to fits of morbid melancholy, and even of violent frenzy.' [The Septuagint has: epnigen auton pneuma poneeron para kuriou, an evil spirit from the Lord choked, strangled him.] Josephus also ('Antiquities.' b. 6:, ch. 8:, sec., 2) says 'that some strange disorders came upon him and brought upon him such suffocations as were ready to choke him.'

Verse 15

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

Saul's servants said unto him. The Hebrew physicians knew of no remedy for a malady of the sort but music, which 'has charms to soothe the savage breast;' and accordingly they advised to obtain the services of a person skillful in instrumental music.

Verses 16-17

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.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 18

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.

Then answered one of the servants. Jewish tradition points to Doeg (Jerome, 'Quaest Hebraicae'). Whether he or some other of the king's attendants, it appears that David's talents and accomplishments as a musician were already celebrated.

Verse 19

Wherefore Saul sent messengers unto Jesse, and said, Send me David thy son, which is with the sheep.

Saul sent messengers unto Jesse ... Send me David. In the East the command of a king is imperative; and Jesse, however reluctant and alarmed, had no alternative but to comply.

Verse 20

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.

Jesse took an ass ... and sent them ... unto Saul - as a token of homage and respect. "An ass laden with." These two last words are supplemented by our translators. [The Hebrew text is chªmowr (H2543) lechem (H3899), an ass of bread; which the Septuagint renders it as: gomom artoon, a homer of loaves.] Reland ('Disser. de inscrip. Nummor. Samar.') adduces a great number of quotations from Greek writers, showing that the ancients used a bottle with two long handles, which, from their resemblance to donkeys' ears, were called onoi, asses; and the Greek poet Sosibus says of one of his heroes, 'He ate three times in the space of a single day three great donkeys of bread' [artoon treis onous]; which Casaubon understood to signify the lading of three donkeys; whereas the true meaning is, the contents of three vases or jars called donkeys (see the note at 1 Samuel 25:18: cf. Exodus 8:14; Judges 15:16, where the word is "heaps upon heaps" - literally, asses upon asses; i:e., it signifies, not an animal, but a measure, or amount of anything). According to this import of the expression, the clause will stand thus: Jesse took a heap or pile of loaves.

And a bottle of wine [ no'd (H4997), a skin (cf. Joshua 9:4; Joshua 9:13; also Judges 4:19).] The word is applied to a substance soft, moist, or moistened into pliancy. They were rendered fit for preserving wine or other liquids by being suspended in the smoke (Ps. 9:83 ).

Verse 21

And David came to Saul, and stood before him: and he loved him greatly; and he became his armourbearer.

David came to Saul. Providence thus prepared David for his destiny, by placing him in a way to become David came to Saul. Providence thus prepared David for his destiny, by placing him in a way to become acquainted with the manners of the court, the business of government, and the general state of the kingdom.

Became his armour-bearer. This choice, as being an expression of the king's partiality, shows how honourable the office was held to be.

Verse 22

And Saul sent to Jesse, saying, Let David, I pray thee, stand before me; for he hath found favour in my sight.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 23

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.

David took an harp, and played with his hand, [ hakinowr (H3658), the kinnor] - not the large, heavy instrument denoted by the word harp among us, but the lyre, a light, portable instrument, resembling a bow in shape. The performers played on this instrument both in a standing (1 Samuel 16:21) and a sitting posture.

Saul was refreshed, and was well. The ancients believed that music had a mysterious influence in healing mental disorders (see 'Dissertatio Historico-Theologica de Saule per musicam curato,' by Casper Laescherus, Professor of Divinity at Wittemberg, 1868; 'Memoires de l'Academie Francoise,' 1707; Issac Vossius, 'De Poematum cantu et rhythmi viribus;' Kitto's 'Daily Bible Illustrations,' vol. 3:, p. 253, 254).

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 16". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/1-samuel-16.html. 1871-8.
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