Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

1 Samuel 16:16

Let our lord now command your servants who are before you. Let them seek a man who is a skillful player on the harp; and it shall come about when the evil spirit from God is on you, that he shall play the harp with his hand, and you will be well."
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Demons;   Harp;   Thompson Chain Reference - Music;   Musicians;   Players on Instruments;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Diseases;   Music;  
Dictionaries:
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Harp;   Jesse;   Music;   Physicians;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - David;   Disease;   Music;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - David;   Demon;   Disease;   Evil;   Know, Knowledge;   Psalms, Theology of;   Charles Buck Theological Dictionary - Prayer;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Harp;   Neginah;   Saul;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - David;   Minstrel;   Music;   Neginah;   Samuel, the Books of;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Samuel, Books of;   Saul;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Bethlehem;   David;   Exorcism;   Samuel, Books of;   Saul;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Exorcism;   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Jesse ;   The Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary - Music;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - Kingdom of christ of heaven;   Kingdom of god;   Kingdom of heaven;   Saul;   Smith Bible Dictionary - Da'vid;   Minstrel;  
Encyclopedias:
Condensed Biblical Cyclopedia - Hebrew Monarchy, the;   International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - David;   Jesse;   Mad;   Psalms, Book of;   Samuel, Books of;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Exorcism;   Harp and Lyre;   Music and Musical Instruments;   Samuel, Books of;  

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

The medicinal effects of music on the mind and body, especially as appeasing anger, and soothing and pacifying a troubled spirit, are well known. It is deeply interesting to have the youthful David thus brought before us, as using music for its highest purpose, that of turning the soul to the harmony of peace and love. We may infer that some of his Psalms, such e. g. as Psalm 23:1-6, were already composed.

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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 16:16". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/1-samuel-16.html. 1870.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

Let our Lord now command thy servants which are before thee,.... Meaning either themselves, or some of a more inferior rank, who were in some post and office at court, waiters there, such as yeomen of the guards:

to seek out a man who is a cunning player on the harp: a musical instrument much in use in those days:

and it shall come to pass, when the evil spirit from God is upon thee; when in a melancholy mood, and Satan takes the advantage of it to distress and terrify, to spread the gloom, and stir up evil passions, and promote distraction and confusion:

that he shall play with his hand: upon the harp, that being not an instrument of wind, but of hand music:

and thou shalt be well: music being a means of cheering the spirits, and removing melancholy and gloomy apprehensions of things, and so of restoring to better health of body and disposition of mind; and that music has such an effect on the bodies and minds of men is certain from observation and experience in all ages. Music has been found to be medicine to various diseases, not only for the curing of the bite of vipers, and of the tarantula, but for easing the pains of the sciatica, and for helping persons labouring under the disorders of the frenzyF11A. Gell. Noct. Attic. l. 4. c. 13. Alex. ab Alex. Genial. Dier. l. 2. c. 17. Vid. Philostrat. Vit. Apollon. Tyan. l. 5. c. 7. ; and Pythagoras used to compose the mind, and remove the perturbations of it, by the use of the harpF12Seneca de Ira, l. 3. c. 9. , the thing here advised to.

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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 16:16". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/1-samuel-16.html. 1999.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

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.

Be well — And the success confirms their opinion. For although music cannot directly have an 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 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 chearful; 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 lunaticks in the decrease, than in the increase of the moon: Matthew 17:15,18. And seeing music prepared the Lord's prophets for the entertainment of the good Spirit, as2Kings3:15. Why might it not dispose Saul to the resistance of the evil spirit? And why might not the chearing of his heart, in some measure strengthen him against those temptations of the devil, which were fed by his melancholy humour? And by this means, David without any contrivance of him or his friends, is brought to court, soon after he was anointed to the kingdom. Those whom God designs for any service, his providence will concur with his grace, to prepare and qualify them for it.

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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Bibliographical Information
Wesley, John. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 16:16". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/1-samuel-16.html. 1765.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

1 Samuel 16:16 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.

Ver. 16. Let our lord now command.] Here the good providence of God beginneth to work for the bringing of David to the court, that he might appear to be a man fit to govern the kingdom, to wear that diadem whereunto his head was destinated after Saul’s death.

And thou shalt be well.] Thy melancholy malady shall be much mitigated and allayed by the music, and the voice of the sacred hymn sung therewith shall cause an intermission of Satan’s work. Although it may well be thought that Saul’s counsellors and courtiers took care only for his corporal ease; for else they would have advised him in the first place to send for Samuel to have prayed for him, and with him, and advised him the best way for his soul. Without this, music and other such like diversions would work but a palliate cure, and be but as a cup of cold water to him that is in a high fever. Charles IX of France, after the Parisian massacre acted by him upon his Protestant subjects, was so haunted by the furies of his own evil conscience, that he could neither sleep nor waken without music, which what was it else but the devil’s anodyne, or whistle, to call him off from the practice of repentance, that would soon have settled his mind by that peace of God which passeth all understanding! But this was hid from his eyes. (a)

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 16:16". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/1-samuel-16.html. 1865-1868.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

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 17:15,18. 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?

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

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

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.

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

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Easily. The effects which have been produced by music are truly surprising, if we may believe what the ancients have related. Our music may not at present be so striking, or we may keep a greater restraint upon our passions, and moderate the exterior demonstrations of our sentiments more than they did. (Calmet) --- But, in the present case, there was probably some miraculous interference. (Haydock) --- The disciples of Pythagoras lay a great stress on music, to calm the passions, (Quintil. ix. 4.; Menochius) or to rouse them. (p. 439.) (Haydock) --- It may also frequently contribute to restore health. (Gallien, &c.) See chap. x. 10., and 4 Kings iii. 15. (Calmet) --- but God made it so efficacious here, to shew the virtue of David, and the injustice of Saul. (Worthington) --- Thus, by the prayers of the Church, the devil is expelled. (Theodoret) (Tirinus)

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 16:16". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/1-samuel-16.html. 1859.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

man. Hebrew. "ish. App-14.

cunning = skilful.

harp = kinnor. An instrument of many strings.

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Bibliographical Information
Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 16:16". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/1-samuel-16.html. 1909-1922.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(16) And it shall come to pass . . . thou shalt be well.—It has been a well-known fact in all ages that music exerts a powerful influence on the mind. We have several instances in ancient Greek literature, where this influence is recommended to soothe the passions or to heal mental disease. Pythagoras, whenever he would steep his mind in Divine power, was in the habit before he slept of having a harp played to him; Æsculapius, the physician, would often restore such sick souls with music. (See reference from Censorinus, De die natali, quoted by Keil.)

“Priests would call

On Heaven for aid: but then his brow would lower

With treble gloom. Peace! Heaven is good to all.

To all, he sighed, but one—God hears no prayers for Saul

At length one spake of music.”—HANKINSON.

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 16:16". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/1-samuel-16.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

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.
before thee
21,22; Genesis 41:46; 1 Kings 10:8
play
23; 10:5; 2 Kings 3:15
Reciprocal: 1 Samuel 18:10 - played;  2 Samuel 6:5 - David

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Bibliographical Information
Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 16:16". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/1-samuel-16.html.