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Bible Commentaries

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

1 Samuel 16

Verse 1

Introduction

Here begins the history of David, a man who, with his sword and his pen, served the honor of God and the interests of Israel. It is the man who has been previously described as “the man after God’s heart” (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22) and who as Saul’s neighbor is “better” than he (1 Samuel 15:28). David means ‘loved’, ‘beloved’. He is not so for his brothers; but he is it of the LORD. The LORD, that is the Lord Jesus, is the root of David (Revelation 22:16; Revelation 5:5). David is rooted in Him and comes forth from Him. David came forth from the heart of God.

There are a few statements that shows God’s choice of David in a special way. Thus he is “the man” who is “sought” by the LORD (1 Samuel 13:14). He is “found” by the LORD as “My servant” (Psalms 89:21), he is “selected” by the LORD as “king” (1 Samuel 16:1) and “has appointed him as ruler over His people” (1 Samuel 13:14). David is in many ways a wonderful type of the Lord Jesus. Time and again we will be reminded of Him in His history.

David is the third protagonist of this Bible book. Of the two other main characters, Samuel and Saul, a lot has already become known to us. Samuel and Saul are both prayed of the LORD, they are asked for. For Samuel is asked of the LORD by a God-fearing mother (1 Samuel 1:11; 1 Samuel 1:20). Saul has also been asked for and this by a whole people, although a people who deviated from God (1 Samuel 8:5). The name Saul means ‘asked’ or ‘coveted’.

Saul is the man after the heart of the people. By giving him God has given the people what they have asked for. The desire to have a king was not wrong, for God had it in His heart to give them a king. However, they do not ask about God’s time and motives, nor about God’s man. They want a king because they want to be like the nations. However, God uses their question to show the contrast between their taste and His taste. He first meets their desires and then shows them who meets His desires. Here we see the principle: “The spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual” (1 Corinthians 15:46).

David forms a great contrast with both Samuel and Saul. No one asked for David. He is even forgotten. Nobody thinks of him (cf. Ecclesiastes 9:14-Ezra :). Only God thinks of him (1 Samuel 13:14). He is therefore God’s sovereign gift according to the wishes of His heart. The LORD says that He has chosen David (1 Samuel 16:1), David is his choice. This contrasts with the way in which Saul became king. He is the choice of the people. Saul responds to their search for their own honor. David will answer to the honor of God.

Samuel Must Go to Anoint David

Samuel has a hard time saying goodbye to Saul. He knows God’s thoughts about Saul. However, that does not make him happy, but sad. His grief is not superficial. God’s rejection of Saul makes a deep impression on him and he grieves over it. He is aware of how much Saul has deviated. How is has to go with the people? God sees his grieve. He does not tell him not to grieve but reprimands him for having grieved long enough.

God tells Samuel why he can stop grieving. It is the decision of God. All his prayers and tears cannot incite God to revoke it (cf. 2 Samuel 12:22-Isaiah :). The fact that God had to reject Saul has to do with his acts with him because of his behavior. God could not go on with him. He had to reject him and could not keep him as king over His people. Now God wants David to be anointed as the substitute for Saul. This must be done in secret and must also be kept secret. It is not God’s intention to make David an insurgent who, after his anointing, forcibly scares Saul and takes his place.

God shares His thoughts so that we may see things as He sees them and feel them as He feels them. If grief prevails, God cannot continue. When He says it is enough, He offers a new perspective at the same time. Samuel is ordered to fill his horn with oil. He must go to anoint someone.

The horn speaks of strength (cf. Luke 1:69). For what Samuel must do, spiritual strength is needed. The horn comes from a sacrificial animal. It reminds us that the kingship of David is based on the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus, to which every sacrifice in the Old Testament refers. The whole basis of David’s anointing is hugely different from that of Saul. Saul is anointed from a flask (1 Samuel 10:1), which represents fragility.

For the anointing Samuel must go to Bethlehem. He must go to Jesse, because one of his sons has been chosen by God to be king. The name of David is not mentioned by God. “Jesse” means “Yahweh exists”. In Bethlehem, the foundation of the generation is laid. Boaz dwelt there (Ruth 2:4). Jesse is the son of Obed and Obed is the son of Boaz and Ruth (Ruth 4:21-Song of Solomon :). David is the great-grandson of Boaz and Ruth.

Bethlehem is located in the area of the tribe of Judah. After the prophecy of Jacob, the Messiah comes forth from this tribe (Genesis 49:10; Micah 5:1). Bethlehem means ‘bread house’. That is the place where blessing comes from. The Lord Jesus is “the living bread” (John 6:51). The house of the Father is the true ‘bread house’. The Lord Jesus came to earth to open its storerooms and to respond to the spiritual hunger on earth with the Father’s abundance.

Verses 2-3

Samuel Has Objections

Samuel has objections. He has sorrow and soul pain because of Saul’s rejection, and at the same time he is afraid of Saul. He became an enemy for Saul, but Saul did not become an enemy for him. With Samuel there are no feelings of enmity against Saul.

Samuel has not shown the slightest fear in previous meetings with Saul. He fearlessly told Saul that God is taking the kingship from him and giving it to his neighbor. Perhaps Samuel has already had to deal with a tantrum of Saul, as we see such later in this chapter. If it turns out that he anointed another king, Saul’s rage is predictable.

The LORD does not blame Samuel for his fear but comes to meet him. He gives him protection: a sacrificial animal as a peace offering. The sacrificial animal that Samuel must take with him is not only for himself. It also serves to have a sacrificial meal with it, for which he must invite Jesse. During that meal God will tell who should anoint Samuel. With His indications about the sacrificial animal God – in picture – brings His Son to Samuel and Jesse and his family to show what the basis is on which He deals with him and them.

Verse 4

Samuel Comes to Bethlehem

Samuel follows the LORD’s command and goes to Bethlehem. When he appears there so unexpectedly, the elders become afraid. This indicates that the people did not expect his coming (cf. Matthew 2:3). Their reaction seems to indicate that things are not right. Why else should they be so afraid at the coming of the man of God?

We naturally love the government of the flesh – of which Saul is the type – because it gives us a deceptive rest. As soon as something of God’s Spirit comes, it becomes restless and we become afraid. It is with it as with the appearance of Paul in Corinth, through his letter. His letter also reveals that many things are not right. He even threatens to come with the rod (1 Corinthians 4:21).

Verses 5-10

The Sons of Jesse

The coming of Samuel is peace, for he comes with a peace offering, and his goal is to anoint David. The offering is for the LORD, and the meal is for Jesse and his sons. To be able to participate in it, consecration is necessary. They need to clean their clothes and themselves. That is what Samuel commands. He takes up the consecration himself. By this act he sets them apart from all the other people of Bethlehem to keep the sacrificial meal with them.

Jesse lets his sons come in one by one. He starts with the oldest and tallest. When Samuel sees him, he is clearly impressed by this appearance (cf. 1 Samuel 10:24). We see here that even prophets who speak under Divine guidance are as subject to mistakes as other people. We see that also with Nathan (2 Samuel 7:2-Deuteronomy :). Here we see that Samuel is in fact looking for a second Saul.

Eliab’s tall stature is reminiscent of Saul. Our natural hearts are quickly impressed by what we see. We must learn that God has never chosen the first born after the flesh. On the contrary, it is precisely they who are under the judgment of death. He chose not Cain, but Abel, not Ishmael, but Isaac, not Esau, but Jacob.

God tells Samuel how He looks at people. It is not about the appearance, but about the heart. This lesson is difficult for us to learn, but it is necessary. The Lord sees the heart that He also knows completely (Jeremiah 17:10; 1 Chronicles 28:9; Psalms 7:10; Jeremiah 11:20; Jeremiah 20:12).

After teaching about how God looks at people, the next sons of Jesse pass Samuel by. Every time the LORD says that He has not chosen him. Samuel can happily intercept the voice of the LORD of his own preference. The first Saul has failed. Every next Saul will also fail. We need a man after a completely different model. Even Samuel has yet to learn that. God sees the heart. He knows the heart of David, which is a heart like His own.

So seven sons pass by. In the number seven we see how the complete glory of what man is passes by to make way for the eighth. The number eight speaks of a new beginning. [Here we read that Jesse has eight sons, however in the genealogy in 1 Chronicles 2 only seven are mentioned (1 Chronicles 2:13-Ezra :).]

Verses 11-13

David Anointed

When all the sons have passed by Samuel, he must say that the LORD has not chosen any of them. Then he asks Jesse if he has shown all his sons. Jesse answers that there is another son, the youngest. He did not think of him. None of the seven brothers has thought of him either. They all forgot him. Jesse does not even mention the name of his son, David, but speaks of him as “the youngest”. It is clear that David is not the choice of men. Thus the Lord Jesus was passed by, people forgot Him, and did not pay attention to Him. “For not even His brothers were believing in Him” (John 7:5).

Jesse says what David is doing at that moment: “behold, he is tending the sheep.” In faithfulness he takes care of the few sheep of his father. Samuel gives the order to get David. The way in which Samuel’s first meeting with David takes place is very different from Samuel’s first meeting with Saul. David is with the sheep, while Saul was looking for lost asses that he also did not yet find. David is literally taken from behind the sheep to become king (Psalms 78:70).

Jesse obeys and sends for David. That indeed must be, because without David there will be no meal. He is the main character. When he enters, he comes as it were from nowhere. His name is not even mentioned. However, his beauty is being described. The beauty of David is different from that of Saul. He resembles the Lord Jesus (Song of Solomon 5:10). He is ruddy, reddish, something special in Israel. He also has beautiful eyes and a handsome appearance. This is where his moral characteristics come to expression. His eyes point to his insight which is shaped through his relationship with God. His appearance relates to his behavior, his actions, in which he is also led by God. Samuel must anoint him.

David is anointed in the midst of his brothers. Saul is anointed when he is all alone. David is anointed twice more after this: in the midst of his tribe, Judah (2 Samuel 2:4), and over all Israel (2 Samuel 5:3). Here, as the Lord Jesus is anointed at His baptism, he takes His place amid the remnant. In Psalm 89 (Psalms 89:20-Ecclesiastes :) we see the connection between election and anointing in words that apply to the Lord Jesus in their fullness (cf. Isaiah 61:1; Luke 4:18-Ecclesiastes :; Psalms 45:7-Ruth :; Hebrews 1:8-1 Samuel :).

We too are anointed with the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 1:21; 1 John 2:20) We have not only received the Holy Spirit in us by faith, but there is also talk of the Holy Spirit Who is upon us. This is especially the case when it comes to do a service for God. There is a direct link between anointing and service. In this context, the Lord Jesus speaks of being “clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49).

At the anointing of Saul Samuel spoke a few words (1 Samuel 10:1). At the anointing of David, he says nothing, at least not something that is recorded. That is not to say that David did not know the meaning of his anointing. The emphasis is on the fact of anointing.

The true king is anointed now. But it pleases God that the way of climbing the throne will be as special as his election as king. Who has ever made such a journey to the throne after being anointed, except the Lord Jesus, of whom David is an example in so many ways? David is made fit for government, while at the same time the people become public in their anger. God uses that anger to prepare His chosen vessel for the throne. He teaches David by trusting him alone. David is probably around twenty years old here. He is thirty when Saul dies. So he suffered from Saul during about ten years.

When Samuel has anointed David, he returns to Ramah. After this we read of him only twice (1 Samuel 19:18; 1 Samuel 25:1). He retreats to Ramah to die there in peace, as it were. To have seen his eyes, so to speak, in David, the salvation (cf. Luke 2:27-Amos :), in whom the scepter came into the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10).

Verses 14-17

An Evil Spirit of God on Saul

While the Spirit rests upon David from the anointing, He departs from Saul. When the Spirit of the LORD departs from Saul and an evil spirit of the LORD terrorizes him, it does not mean that Saul is a believer first and then no longer. Saul has not been a believer. Nor is it about the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Saul is the anointed king, and as such God has been with him. Because Saul rejected God, God withdraws from him.

In the empty place comes an evil spirit, for what God does not fill, the devil fills. In agreement with His spirit, God sends an evil spirit which, like all evil spirits, is also subject only to God and is used by Him to achieve His purpose. Satan is always limited in his actions and can only act within the limits set by God (Job 1:12; Job 2:6).

It goes with Saul just like once with Pharaoh. Saul has so often rejected God that now is the moment when God cannot help him. No doubt the evil spirit will have given him the feeling that he has been abandoned by God and no longer has His approval. An evil spirit processes spiritual suffering and brings extreme despair and finally suicide. He makes a person incapable to perform his normal activities because he only makes him busy with himself.

Saul’s servants see that it is an evil spirit coming from God. They have compassion with him and propose a solution. The means that his servants recommend to him for enlightenment is music. It would have been much better if they had advised him to go to God with sincere repentance. They could also have suggested asking Samuel to come and pray for him and plead with God for him. Then he would not only have had enlightenment for the moment, but the good spirit of God would have returned to him.

But their goal is to make him happy and thus heal him. Through such gods many, whose conscience is convinced and startled of sin, are led to destruction. Their proposal is a method whereby all the worries of the soul are smothered in the pleasures of the senses. The servants of Saul would not have been wrong to present music as an aid to cheer up his spirit, if they had sent it to the prophet to give Saul good advice.

What is positive is that they have not proposed to ask a sorceress or soothsayer to cast out the evil spirit by incantations. Such an ungodly practice we find with those who adorn themselves with the name Christian, but in their distress have consulted the devil, with whom they have resorted to hell. It will be nothing less than a miracle of divine grace if those who surrender in this way to Satan are ever delivered from his power.

Verse 18

A Servant Describes David

The servants have known David for a long time. They know his music. He has sung and played about God. Music can have a soothing effect (2 Kings 3:15). However, it only brings a natural peace. There must be played by a man of God, because it is about scaring an evil spirit. It is not a therapy, but a spiritual struggle. That is why more about David is being told than just that he can play and sing. Besides being able to, he is also known as a hero and warrior. The servant who knows David’s musical qualities has also heard David speak, and he also testifies of this before Saul (cf. John 7:46). As the servant before Saul speaks of David, his brothers know him not, for they have no eye for it.

The servant knows all this of David, without David having been in the army. These are all characteristics that only stand out when they are used. With Saul it is only the appearance, his tall stature. The appearance of David is also beautiful, but different than with Saul. It is only beautiful for those who have an eye for it. It is not for the natural eye, but for the spiritual eye. For that beauty we must look deeper than the surface, deeper than the directly perceptible.

The last thing the servant says about David is that the LORD is with him. The servant has also noticed that. This testimony is given several times of Joseph (Genesis 39:2-Leviticus :; Genesis 39:21Genesis 39:23). It is also given from the Lord Jesus (Acts 10:38). Everything is reminiscent of the Lord Jesus. That the servant notices it as a special thing, says everything of the people of God, for it is something that should have been said of the whole people.

Verses 19-23

David With Saul

Saul listens to his servant’s proposal and sends for David. He mentions the name of David, so there is no doubt about who he means. Furthermore, he notes as a peculiarity that it is about him “who is with the flock”. David is not at home, but at work with the animals he must take care of and protect.

Jesse acknowledges the honor that Saul has given him in this way. He sends David to Saul with a gift. Thus David comes to Saul. That God sends an evil spirit to Saul is the reason why David comes to Saul’s court. Thus David comes to the court of Saul through God sovereignty. He must get to know Saul, and vice versa. By God’s providence David comes to Saul, just as Joseph and Moses previously had come into the opposition of the rulers of their days.

Also at Saul’s court David is faithful in his service. His service was much appreciated by Saul, so much so that he started to love David. Saul is the first person we read that he loves David. The hatred of Saul he later shows is not directed at David’s person, but at what he does and will be. He hates him not because of his attributes, but because of his calling. He sees in David a competitor for the throne he does not want to give up.

Later he will make him his armor bearer, a special function of trust in the king’s immediate surroundings. The Spirit is already pointing this out here. The question to Jesse to always have David with him is also asked later. Saul initially only met David as a player during his angry moods. Later he gets to know him better.

It must have given a good feeling to Jesse as a father that Saul gives such a testimony of his son. David has behaved as a good citizen and met the expectations. In the same way, employers should also be able to talk about our children as employees.

Saul benefits from the service of David, but it does not change his attitude toward the LORD. Just as the evil spirit of Saul departs from him by the music of David, so too the service of the Lord Jesus during His walk on earth enlightened many who were possessed by evil spirits. Even in the days of the Lord Jesus, many profited from the blessings He spread, but also without conversion to God.

Harps are sometimes linked to prophecy service (1 Samuel 10:5; 1 Chronicles 25:1). The application is to make that the Word of God that is spoken in a meeting can have a calming effect. The service of New Testament prophets – a service that is open to every brother in the congregation (1 Corinthians 14:25-Micah :) – is about the upbuilding of the church. “But one who prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation” (1 Corinthians 14:3). When such words are spoken, it will be a pleasant experience for any attendee who expects something from the Lord that is useful to his or her spiritual life.

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Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op 1 Samuel 16". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/1-samuel-16.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniƫl', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.