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Bible Commentaries
1 Samuel 16

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary

Verse 1

1. How long wilt thou mourn for Saul Samuel’s affectionate nature passed through a bitter struggle before he could become reconciled to the will of Jehovah. He had loved Saul, and done his utmost to preserve him. All night he had cried unto the Lord for him, (1 Samuel 15:11,) and when he thought of his sad fall, and the wrath of God against him, he trembled for the safety of the kingdom.

Fill thine horn with oil For the purpose of anointing another king. See note on 1 Samuel 10:1.

Jesse The only one who bears this name in Scripture. His genealogy is given Ruth 4:18-22, and 1 Chronicles 2:5-12.

Verses 1-13

THE ANOINTING OF DAVID, 1 Samuel 16:1-13.

We are now about to be introduced to him who figures in the following history as one of the most interesting and honoured personages of the olden time that neighbour of Saul, (1 Samuel 15:28,) that man after Jehovah’s heart, (1 Samuel 13:14,) who is to succeed Saul on the throne of Israel, and be the brightest star in all the host of kings. Soon after his anointing he is providentially introduced into the royal household, and still later, by his victory over Goliath, he suddenly becomes the idol of the nation’s heart. But from that proud day until the death of Saul he is persecuted by the jealous king, and flies from the court and from his home, and wanders up and down as an exile and outlaw.

Verse 2

2. If Saul hear it, he will kill me The prophet seems to have known that Saul was now given over to the power of an evil spirit, (1 Samuel 16:14,) and, urged on by Satanic impulse, he might be as quick to imbrue his hands in the blood of his spiritual father as he was at a later period to slay the priests of Nob. 1 Samuel 22:18.

Take a heifer with thee, and say, I am come to sacrifice Samuel was under no obligation to publish the whole object of his mission to Beth-lehem, and therefore, by the counsel of the Lord himself, he prudently conceals his chief design. In this there was no falsehood, no deception.

Verse 4

4. The elders of the town trembled at his coming For what reason we are not told; but probably from suspicion or fear that his coming was for the purpose of punishing some sin among them, or of denouncing some bitter judgment.

Comest thou peaceably Without any hostile intention? Compare parallel passages.

Verse 5

5. I am come to sacrifice A purpose the same as that which led him to the city were he first met Saul. See notes on 1 Samuel 9:6; 1 Samuel 9:12.

Sanctify yourselves According to the directions of the law, by change of clothes, washings, and abstinence. See Exodus 19:10-15.

Jesse and his sons For these particularly the sacrifice was intended, and it is probable, from the acts and words of Samuel on this occasion, that he privately informed Jesse of his object to anoint one of his sons, but it nowhere appears that Jesse was informed of David’s royal destiny. Though the prophet may have told him of his purpose to anoint one of his sons, he did not acquaint him with the object of that anointing, but left it for the developments of providence to show.

Verse 7

7. Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature This seems to be a plain allusion to the external appearance of Saul. 1 Samuel 9:2. That which chiefly recommended him to the favour of Israel was his size and beauty; but now, in selecting a man after his own heart, Jehovah shows that his divine judgment is based not on external form or comeliness, but on the inner life. David also, however, was of a goodly appearance. 1 Samuel 16:12.

Verse 10

10. The Lord hath not chosen these This statement made to Jesse implies that Samuel had already, as we have remarked on 1 Samuel 16:5, privately informed him of the object of his coming.

Verse 12

12. Ruddy אדמוני , red; it may refer either to the face or the hair, but as it is used of the hair in Genesis 25:25, we prefer so to understand it here and in 1 Samuel 17:42. These three are the only passages where the word occurs. Esau and David were alike in being red-haired, as well as in their wandering habits and skilful use of weapons. It is said that red hair was regarded as a rare mark of beauty in the East.

Of a beautiful countenance Rather, beautiful as to the eyes. This indicates that his eyes were keen and penetrating, enlivened by the fires of genius, and beaming with a generous warmth, by which the hearts of men and women were alike affected.

Goodly to look to That is, of a comely and prepossessing appearance.

Verse 13

13. Anointed him in the midst of his brethren But though these sons of Jesse saw this honour conferred on their youngest brother, they seem not to have understood its meaning. They may have thought that he was anointed because of some desire or intention of the prophet to make him a pupil of one of the prophetical schools.

The Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward “A spirit of prudence to behave himself wisely upon all occasions; with a spirit of courage, so that he durst grapple with a lion and a bear; and the spirit of prophecy, in which he was afterwards very eminent. In short, a spirit fit for a prince.”- Patrick. It does not appear that Samuel informed David of his destiny, as he did Saul; but the special movings of the Spirit on his heart, and the successive developments of Providence in his favour, must have gradually convinced him that he was sooner or later to be recognized as the Lord’s anointed. At a later time this seems to have been openly revealed. 2 Samuel 3:18.

Verse 14


14. The Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul The divine influences of which he had been made a partaker at the beginning of his career (see 1 Samuel 10:10; 1 Samuel 11:6) were withdrawn from him, and God no longer inspired him to noble enterprises.

Verse 15

15. An evil spirit… troubleth thee A demon like those mentioned so frequently in the New Testament, sent by permission of the Lord, as Satan in the case of Job. Job 2:7. See notes on Matthew 4:24, and Mark 5:2. It is not only by Saul’s servants, but by the sacred writer himself, that we are told it was an evil spirit from the Lord; so we cannot regard it as merely a superstitious and mistaken notion of Saul’s physicians. Compare 1 Samuel 18:10; 1 Samuel 19:9. But while he thus became possessed by a supernatural evil power, it is very likely that a mental disease bordering on insanity was the substratum on which the evil spirit worked. After Samuel’s last words of judgment the king could not be happy in his kingdom. The more he thought upon his doom, the more it harrowed up his soul. It was, perhaps, his highest ambition to be the father of a race of kings, and to have this hope suddenly dashed from him was to have darkness settle over all his life. “The Hebrew mind so linked itself to the future by the contemplation of posterity that it is scarcely possible to us, with our looser attachment to the time beyond ourselves, to apprehend, in all its intensity, the deep distress of mind with which any Hebrew, and much more a king, regarded the prospect that there would be no son of his succeeding.” Kitto. Saul’s future gradually became full of ghostly images, and when, disengaged at times from the excitements of war and the cares of government, he sat down to think upon his darkened fortunes, his mind and heart, forsaken of all divine influences from Jehovah, became an easy prey to foul suspicions and gloomy fears a most inviting state for demoniacal possession. The evil spirit, entering and revelling amid these mental disorders, carried him at times to the wildest height of madness.

Verse 16

16. A cunning player on a harp One skilled in the use of that instrument.

He shall play with his hand, and thou shalt be well Numerous instances in ancient and modern times illustrate the power of music to quell disorders of the mind. One old author says: “Music is the cure for many affections of the mind and body such as absence of mind, fearful apprehensions and long-continued derangement.” Censorinus, a writer of the third century, says that the physician Asclepiades was accustomed by the melody of sound to allay the ravings of the delirious. Xenocrates is said to have done the same. Kitto also, quoting from the Memoirs of the French Royal Academy of Sciences, cites “the case of a person who was seized with fever, which soon threw him into a very violent delirium, accompanied by bitter cries, by tears, by terrors, and by an almost constant wakefulness. On the third day, a hint that fell from himself suggested the idea of trying the effect of music. Gradually as the strain proceeded his troubled visage relaxed into a most serene expression, his restless eyes became tranquil, his convulsions ceased, and the fever absolutely left him.” Instances of a similar nature might be multiplied. Dr. A. Clarke quotes from the Physica Sacra of Dr. Scheuchzer the following attempt at a physiological explanation of this phenomenon. “Health consists in a moderate tension of the fibres, which permits all the fluids to have an entire freedom of circulation; and to the spirits, that of diffusing themselves through all the limbs. On the contrary, disease consists in tensions of the fibres morbidly weak or morbidly strong. This latter seems to have been the case of Saul: and as the undulations of the air, which convey sound, communicate themselves to and through the most solid bodies, it is easy to suppose that by the modulations of music all the fibres of his body, which were under the influence of their morbidly increased tension, might be so relaxed as to be brought back into their natural state, and thus permit the re-establishment of a free and gentle circulation of the fluids, and consequently of the animal spirits, and thus induce calmness and tranquillity of mind.” When, now, Saul’s physical and mental derangement was checked by the power of musical sounds, the demon was for the time dispossessed, (1 Samuel 16:23,) because the psychological conditions of his absolute control over his victim were removed.

Verse 18

18. A mighty valiant man, and a man of war From what we learn in 1 Samuel 17:34-35, of David’s early conflicts with wild beasts, we may readily infer that long before his warlike abilities became patent to the public eye there were individuals who knew of these his early conflicts, and discerned in the youthful hero the beginnings of a mighty warrior.

Prudent in matters Hebrew, knowing of speech; skilled in the use of language. The words and psalms of David show him to have been eloquent.

Verse 19

19. Thy son, which is with the sheep Saul’s servant, who informed him of David, seems to have known this son of Jesse only as the remarkable shepherd boy.

Verse 20

20. An ass laden with bread… wine… kid See note on 1 Samuel 9:7. The Hebrew is, literally, an ass of bread, and some have thought it to be the name of a weight or measure, but the English version conveys the better meaning. “It is a pleasant picture to conceive the future king of Israel stepping lightly along behind the animal, with his shepherd’s staff and scrip, and entertained as he went by the gambols of the kid. His light harp was, no doubt, slung to his back; and it is likely that he now and then rested under a tree and solaced his soul with its music.” Kitto. The distance between Beth-lehem and Gibeah of Saul is about ten miles, and on this journey the youthful psalmist probably passed in sight of the stronghold of Zion, destined one day to fall before his conquering forces, and ever after to be known as “the city of David.” 2 Samuel 5:7.

Verse 21

21. He became his armourbearer That is, Saul conferred upon him this office as a token of confidence and love; but he never actually exercised its duties, unless, perhaps, for a short time after his victory over Goliath.

Verse 23

23. David… played… Saul was refreshed “They sit side by side, the likeness of the old system passing away, of the new system coming into existence. Saul, the warlike chief, his great spear always by his side, reluctant, moody, melancholy; and David, the youthful minstrel, his harp in his hand, fresh from the schools where the spirit of the better times was fostered, pouring forth, to soothe the troubled spirit of the king, the earliest of those strains which have soothed the troubled spirit of the world.” Stanley.

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 16". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/1-samuel-16.html. 1874-1909.
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