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Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament

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 Chapter 15
Chapter 17
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"This chapter is the natural continuation of the last one."F1 Time marches on regardless of the readiness or unreadiness of men; and the rejection of Saul as king of Israel in the last chapter required that a successor be chosen. "It was God's purpose that David should be anointed at this time as Saul's successor and as the ancestor and type of God's Christ. It was not God's purpose that Samuel should stir up a civil war by setting up David as Saul's rival. Therefore, secrecy was a necessary part of this transaction."F2


Verses 1-5
And Jehovah said unto Samuel, How long wilt thou mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from being king over Israel? fill thy horn with oil, and go: I will send thee to Jesse the Beth-lehemite; for I have provided me a king among his sons. And Samuel said, How can I go? if Saul hear it, he will kill me. And Jehovah said, Take a heifer with thee, and say, I am come to sacrifice to Jehovah. And call Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show thee what thou shalt do: and thou shalt anoint unto me him whom I name unto thee. And Samuel did that which Jehovah spake, and came to Beth-lehem. And the elders of the city came to meet him trembling, and said, Comest thou peaceably? And he said, Peaceably; I am come to sacrifice unto Jehovah: sanctify yourselves, and come with me to the sacrifice. And he sanctified Jesse and his sons, and called them to the sacrifice.

I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite
(1 Samuel 16:1). Jesse's genealogy is given in Ruth 4:18-22 all the way back to Judah and his daughter-in-law Tamar. Thus, David was the great-grandson of Boaz and Ruth.

The first king of Israel was from Gibeah in Benjamin, but the second was from Bethlehem in Judah. In the foreknowledge of God, Christ was to be born in Bethlehem; and it was most appropriate that the great O.T. type of Christ should also have been born in Bethlehem, although no mention of that specific detail is made here. "Bethlehem is the modern Beit Lahm about six miles south-southwest of Jerusalem."F3

How can I go? If Saul hears it, he will kill me…
(1 Samuel 16:2). In the light of this text, it is unnecessary to speculate on why Samuel was reluctant to go to Bethlehem to anoint Saul's successor. He tells us here that he was afraid Saul would kill him. This also reflects back on Samuel's accompanying Saul to worship after refusing at first to do so (1 Samuel 15:31) where the same reason probably influenced Samuel's action in that incident.

Take a heifer with you, and say, I am come to sacrifice to the Lord
(1 Samuel 16:2) This was God's requirement that the mission be conducted secretly. This was neither duplicity nor falsehood, but discretion and concealment, both of which are honorable.

You shall anoint for me him whom I name to you
(1 Samuel 16:3). Many have been impressed with the skill of the author here in the concealment of David's name until the very last.

The elders came trembling, and said, `Do you come peaceably'?
(1 Samuel 16:4). The most reasonable explanation of this is that of Willis, They came trembling because it could be assumed that anyone supporting Samuel against Saul would incur Saul's wrath.F4 What Saul later did to the priests at Nob fits this conclusion exactly (1 Samuel 22:11-19).


Verses 6-13
And it came to pass, when they were come, that he looked on Eliab, and said, Surely Jehovah's anointed is before him. But Jehovah said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have rejected him: for [Jehovah seeth] not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but Jehovah looketh on the heart. Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. And he said, Neither hath Jehovah chosen this. Then Jesse made Shammah to pass by. And he said, Neither hath Jehovah chosen this. And Jesse made seven of his sons to pass before Samuel. And Samuel said unto Jesse, Jehovah hath not chosen these. And Samuel said unto Jesse, Are here all thy children? And he said, There remaineth yet the youngest, and, behold, he is keeping the sheep. And Samuel said unto Jesse, Send and fetch him; for we will not sit down till he come hither. And he sent, and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and withal of a beautiful countenance, and goodly to look upon. And Jehovah said, Arise, anoint him; for this is he. Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brethren: and the Spirit of Jehovah came mightily upon David from that day forward. So Samuel rose up, and went to Ramah.

Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature
(1 Samuel 16:7). Saul had been an excellent example of one who certainly looked like a king but was unfit for the office.

Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel
(1 Samuel 16:8). Everything in this passage indicates the secrecy of the proceedings. Each son who came before Samuel had to be called, which, in context, probably means sent for, just as David was. Furthermore, the statement in 1 Sam. 16:13 that David was anointed in the midst of his brethren could not mean that all of his brothers witnessed the anointing, but that he was chosen from the midst of his brethren, just as Moses had promised with reference to the Messiah that God would raise him up from the midst of thee and of thy brethren (Deut. 18:15 AV). As Willis said, There is no indication in this text, nor even in 1 Sam. 16:13, that the elders, Jesse, or Jesse's seven eldest sons realized the primary purpose of Samuel's visit.F5 It was exactly like it was when Saul was anointed, not even the members of his family knew of it at first. In this anointing of David, Even David's brothers knew nothing about the meaning and object of the anointing.F6

And Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel
(1 Samuel 16:10). David, at this time had not appeared; and thus the number of Jesse's sons, as indicated here, was eight. However, in 1 Chr. 2:13-15, only seven sons are named, David being listed as the seventh. Willis reported that, This problem has not been satisfactorily resolved;F7 but as John W. Haley explained it, The writer in Chronicles simply, Omitted a son who died early.F8

Now he was ruddy. and handsome
(1 Samuel 16:12). This means that David was either of fair complexion or red-haired,F9 or perhaps both, since both conditions often appear together. This writer had both a brother and a sister with light complexion and with red hair.

The Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David
(1 Samuel 16:13). This probably refers to supernatural strength such as Samson had and to other magnificent endowments. David's killing a lion and a bear might well have been results of this endowment.

"Again it must be understood that this appointment of David carried with it no office, title or prerogatives. It simply represented a future destiny to be worked out (by God Himself) in human history."F10 God would use Saul himself in working out this future placement of David upon the throne of Israel.


Verses 14-23
Now the Spirit of Jehovah departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from Jehovah troubled him. And Saul's servants said unto him, Behold now, an evil spirit from God troubleth thee. Let our lord now command thy servants, that are before thee, to seek out a man who is a skilful player on the 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. And Saul said unto his servants, Provide me now a man that can play well, and bring him to me. Then answered one of the young men, and said, Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Beth-lehemite, that is skilful in playing, and a mighty man of valor, and a man of war, and prudent in speech, and a comely person; and Jehovah is with him. Wherefore Saul sent messengers unto Jesse, and said, Send me David thy son, who is with the sheep. And Jesse took an ass [laden] with bread, and a bottle of wine, and a kid, and sent them by David his son unto Saul. And David came to Saul, and stood before him: and he loved him greatly; and he became his armorbearer. And Saul sent to Jesse, saying, Let David, I pray thee, stand before me; for he hath found favor in my sight. And it came to pass, when the [evil] spirit from God was upon Saul, that David took the harp, and played with his hand: so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him.

"This paragraph is not intended as a detailed sequel to 1 Sam. 16:1-13. It is a panoramic picture of events to be detailed in the next few chapters."F11 Bible students should not be confused by this. This type of historical writing is found frequently in the Bible, especially in the Book of Revelation. Once this is understood by believers, the shouts of critics about `contradictions' `duplicate accounts,' etc. appear in their true character as absolutely unfounded. Philbeck's allegation that we have, "Two accounts of David's introduction to Saul,"F12 is due solely to a failure to appreciate the prolepsis.

An evil spirit from the Lord tormented him
(1 Samuel 16:14). In no sense whatever is God the author of evil; but this verse reflects the prevailing Oriental viewpoint that `everything which happens is in harmony with God's permissive will.' In a sense, of course, this is true. One often hears the expression, The Lord has given and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord! Whatever happened to Saul, it was the will of God. It is also possible to view this verse as relating a punishment which Saul deserved and which God visited upon him.

The subject of demon possession is a vast one; and we have written many comments upon it in our N.T. series; and there are far too many unknown factors evident in human behavior today to support any intelligent denial that demon possession may still exist. One thing, however, is certain. Demonic forces may not afflict men without God's permission.

And David came to Saul and entered his service
(1 Samuel 16:21). This is a summary of developments that, undoubtedly covered several weeks or months.F13 It is impossible to view this paragraph as a chronological arrangement of events in an orderly sequence. It was written to give a quick glance at what would take place in David's future. O.T. authors not infrequently pursue a theme to its ultimate consequences, and then return to fill in the details;F14 and there is a lot of that in Samuel.

Footnotes for 1 Samuel 16
2: Albert Barnes, Samuel, p. 40
3: John T. Willis, p. 169.
4: Ibid., p. 170.
5: Ibid., p. 171.
6: C. F. Keil, Keil and Delitzsch's Old Testament Commentaries, Vol. 2b, p. 170.
7: Ibid.
8: John W. Haley, An Examination of Alleged Discrepancies of the Bible (Nashville: B. C. Goodpasture, 1951), p. 385.
9: John T. Willis, p. 173.
10: The Teachers' Bible Commentary, p. 172.
11: John T. Willis, p. 173.
12: The Teachers' Bible Commentary, p. 172.
13: John T. Willis, p. 176.
14: The New Bible Commentary, Revised, p. 296.

Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 16". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". <>. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.  


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