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the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
1 Samuel 16

Poole's English Annotations on the Holy BiblePoole's Annotations



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 16:6,1 Samuel 16:7.

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 16:13,1 Samuel 16:14.

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.

Verse 1

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.

Verse 2

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.

Verse 3

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.

Verse 4

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?

Verse 5

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

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.

Verse 6

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, Deuteronomy 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.

Verse 7

The Lord spake by secret inspiration.

The height of his stature; whereby thou wast once deceived in Saul, 1 Samuel 10:23,1 Samuel 10:24, 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.

Verse 9

Shammah, called also Shimeah, 2 Samuel 13:3, and Shimna 1 Chronicles 2:13.

Verse 10

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.

Verse 11

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.

Verse 12

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.

Verse 13

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; 1 Samuel 17:34, &c.

Verse 14

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.

Verse 16

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,Matthew 17:18. 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?

Verse 18

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 1 Samuel 17:0, 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.

Verse 20

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; Genesis 43:25,Genesis 43:26, and elsewhere); to which civil custom that religious precept seems consonant, Exodus 23:15; Deuteronomy 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.

Verse 21

Stood before him, i.e. ministered unto him; or (as we use to speak) waited upon him, as that phrase oft signifies; as Deuteronomy 1:38; Deuteronomy 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, 1 Samuel 17:0, happened.

Verse 23

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.

Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on 1 Samuel 16". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/mpc/1-samuel-16.html. 1685.
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