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Bible Commentaries
1 Samuel 17

Gray's Concise Bible CommentaryGray's Concise Commentary

Verses 1-58


AS A MINSTREL (1 Samuel 16:14-23 )

When it is said that “the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul” (1 Samuel 16:14 ), we have a further illustration of the distinction between the Spirit coming on a man and the Spirit dwelling within him. In the latter case we do not think of His departing from him (John 14:16 ; Romans 11:29 ), but in the former He may do so for more than one reason, but especially when the man through disobedience has placed himself outside the pale where God cares to use him. As to “an evil Spirit from the Lord” troubling him, we are to regard it as a judgment upon him (see Judges 9:23 ; 1 Kings 22:15-23 ; Job 1:2 ; 1 Corinthians 5:1-5 ), in consequence of which he became “jealous, irritable, vindictive and subject to morbid melancholy.” The ancients believed music had an influence in healing such disorders (1 Samuel 16:23 ).

It is easy to see why this providence came David’s way (1 Samuel 16:18-22 ), when we consider how it may have prepared him for his future position by acquainting him with the ways of the court and the business of government.

We are interested in the description of the young man David, by one who knew him well (1 Samuel 16:18 ). The word “servants” is “young men” in the Revised Version, indicating that it may have been one of his former chums. But how could David have been a “man of war?” If not on the battlefield as yet, nevertheless in his conflicts with wild beasts (1 Samuel 17:34 , ff.), which demonstrated that he had the soldier in him when the time came.

AS A CHAMPION (1 Samuel 17:1-54 )

This story is so familiar as to require little comment. The event occurred, according to the chronology in the margin of our Bibles, almost a quarter of a century after the victory over the Philistines at Michmash (chap. 14), and when that old time enemy of Israel had again become bold. The place (Shocoh) seems to have been a town in the western section of the territory of Judah.

There is no explanation of David’s prowess in the presence of this strong enemy (1 Samuel 17:26 ; 1 Samuel 17:32 ), save the supernatural enduement of God. It was not the temporal reward that moved him, but the desire that God be magnified. This is discovered in the faith evidenced in verse 37. His success had been God’s success rather than his own and would continue so to be (1 Samuel 17:45 ).

And yet works wrought with his faith, since he took not only his staff but five stones, not one alone. If one failed he had others (1 Samuel 17:40 ). Surely the description of him was true, he was “prudent in matters.’

But why should David have brought the giant’s head to Jerusalem (1 Samuel 17:54 )? Probably because it was the nearest city, and hence the appropriate place of deposit for such a trophy. We learned (Joshua 15:63 and Judges 1:21 ) that the Jebusites possessed this city, but probably that means only the fortress on Mount Zion, while the rest was in Israel’s hands.

AS A COURTIER (1 Samuel 17:53 to 1 Samuel 18:4 )

We are not surprised to find David a favorite at Saul’s court after this, but we are surprised that he does not identify him (1 Samuel 17:55-58 ). In explanation, remember Saul’s mental condition at times, as well as the fact that time had elapsed since David’s minstrel days, and the ruddy youth may have changed into the bearded man. And as to Abner, he may have been absent from court when David had been there.

In chapter 18, we have the beginning of a friendship that has gone into history as one of the most beautiful among men.

Jonathan and David were doubtless nearly of an age and, although the former had taken no notice of the minstrel, the heroic though modest warrior had commanded his admiration and affection at once, and “he loved him as his own soul” (1 Samuel 18:3 ). To receive any part of the dress worn by a sovereign or his eldest son and heir, is deemed in the east the highest honor which can be conferred on a subject. (Compare 1 Samuel 18:4 with Esther 6:8 ).


1. How are we to regard the saying that “an evil Spirit from the Lord” troubled Saul?

2. Have you read 1 Corinthians 5:1-5 ?

3. How is David described in verse 18?

4. Where was Shocoh?

5. What was David’s motive in the conflict with Goliath?

6. What do you know about the Jebusites and Jerusalem?

7. How would you explain Saul’s failure to identify David the second time?

Bibliographical Information
Gray, James. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 17". Gray's Concise Bible Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jgc/1-samuel-17.html. 1897-1910.
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