1 Samuel 16
At this chapter begins the story of David, one that makes as great a
figure in the sacred story as almost any of the worthies of the Old
Testament, one that both with his sword and with his pen served the
honour of God and the interests of Israel as much as most ever did, and
was as illustrious a type of Christ. Here
I. Samuel is appointed and commissioned to anoint a king among the sons
of Jesse at Bethlehem,
1 Samuel 16:1-5.
II. All his elder sons are passed by and David the youngest is pitched
upon and anointed,
1 Samuel 16:6-13.
III. Saul growing melancholy, David is pitched upon to relieve him by
1 Samuel 16:14-23.
Thus small are the beginnings of that great man.
|Samuel Goes to Bethlehem.
||B. C. 1065.|
1 And the LORD said unto Samuel, How long wilt thou mourn for
Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? fill
thine horn with oil, and go, I will send thee to Jesse the
Bethlehemite: for I have provided me a king among his sons.
2 And Samuel said, How can I go? if Saul hear it, he will
kill me. And the LORD said, Take a heifer with thee, and say, I
am come to sacrifice to the LORD.
3 And call Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will shew thee what
thou shalt do: and thou shalt anoint unto me him whom I name
4 And Samuel did that which the LORD spake, and came to
Bethlehem. And the elders of the town trembled at his coming, and
said, Comest thou peaceably?
5 And he said, Peaceably: I am come to sacrifice unto the LORD:
sanctify yourselves, and come with me to the sacrifice. And he
sanctified Jesse and his sons, and called them to the sacrifice.
Samuel had retired to his own house in Ramah, with a resolution not to
appear any more in public business, but to addict himself wholly to the
instructing and training up of the sons of the prophets, over whom he
presided, as we find,
1 Samuel 19:20.
He promised himself more satisfaction in young prophets than in young
princes; and we do not find that, to his dying day, God called him out
to any public action relating to the state, but only here to anoint
I. God reproves him for continuing so long to mourn for the rejection
of Saul. He does not blame him for mourning on that occasion, but for
exceeding in his sorrow: How long wilt thou mourn for Saul?
1 Samuel 16:1.
We do not find here that he mourned at all for the setting aside of his
own family and the deposing of his own sons; but for the rejecting of
Saul and his seed he mourns without measure, for the former was done by
the people's foolish discontent, this by the righteous wrath of God.
Yet he must find time to recover himself, and not go mourning to his
1. Because God has rejected him, and he ought to acquiesce in the
divine justice, and forget his affection to Saul; if God will be
glorified in his ruin, Samuel ought to be satisfied. Besides, to what
purpose should he weep? The decree has gone forth, and all his prayers
and tears cannot prevail for the reversing of it,
2 Samuel 12:22,23.
2. Because Israel shall be no loser by it, and Samuel must prefer the
public welfare before his own private affection to his friend. "Mourn
not for Saul, for I have provided me a king. The people provided
themselves a king and he proved bad, now I will provide myself one,
a man after my own heart." See
"If Saul be rejected, yet Israel shall not be as sheep having no
shepherd. I have another in store for them; let thy joy of him
swallow up thy grief for the rejected prince."
II. He sends him to Bethlehem, to anoint one of the sons of Jesse, a
person probably not unknown to Samuel. Fill thy horn with oil.
Saul was anointed with a glass vial of oil, scanty and brittle, David
with a horn of oil, which was more plentiful and durable; hence we read
of a horn of salvation in the house of his servant David,
III. Samuel objects the peril of going on this errand
(1 Samuel 16:2):
If Saul hear it, he will kill me. By this it appears.
1. That Saul had grown very wicked and outrageous since his rejection,
else Samuel would not have mentioned this. What impiety would he not be
guilty of who durst kill Samuel?
2. That Samuel's faith was not so strong as one would have expected,
else he would not have thus feared the rage of Saul. Would not he that
sent him protect him and bear him out? But the best men are not perfect
in their faith, nor will fear be wholly cast out any where on this side
heaven. But this may be understood as Samuel's desire of direction from
heaven how to manage this matter prudently, so as not to expose
himself, or any other, more than needed.
IV. God orders him to cover his design with a sacrifice: Say, I have
come to sacrifice; and it was true he did, and it was proper that
he should, when he came to anoint a king,
1 Samuel 11:15.
As a prophet, he might sacrifice when and where God appointed him; and
it was not all inconsistent with the laws of truth to say he came to
sacrifice when really he did so, thought he had also a further end,
which he thought fit to conceal. Let him give notice of a sacrifice,
and invite Jesse (who, it is probable, was the principal man of the
city) and his family to come to the feast upon the sacrifice; and, says
God, I will show thee what thou shalt do. Those that go about
God's work in God's way shall be directed step by step, wherever they
are at a loss, to do it in the best manner.
V. Samuel went accordingly to Bethlehem, not in pomp, or with any
retinue, only a servant to lead the heifer which he was to sacrifice;
yet the elders of Bethlehem trembled at his coming, fearing it
was an indication of God's displeasure against them and that he came to
denounce some judgment for the iniquities of the place. Guilt causes
fear. Yet indeed it becomes us to stand in awe of God's messengers, and
to tremble at his word. Or they feared it might be an occasion of
Saul's displeasure against them, for probably they knew how much he was
exasperated at Samuel, and feared he would pick a quarrel with them for
entertaining him. They asked him, "Comest thou peaceably? Art
thou in peace thyself, and not flying from Saul? Art thou at peace with
us, and not come with any message of wrath?" We should all covet
earnestly to stand upon good terms with God's prophets, and dread
having the word of God, or their prayers, against us. When the Son of
David was born king of the Jews all Jerusalem was troubled,
Samuel kept at home, and it was a strange thing to see him so far from
his own house: they therefore concluded it must needs be some
extraordinary occasion that brought him, and feared the worst till he
(1 Samuel 16:5):
"I come peaceably, for I come to sacrifice, not with a
message of wrath against you, but with the methods of peace and
reconciliation; and therefore you may bid me welcome and need not fear
my coming; therefore sanctify yourselves, and prepare to join
with me in the sacrifice, that you may have the benefit of it." Note,
Before solemn ordinances there must be a solemn protestation. When we
are to offer spiritual sacrifices it concerns us, by sequestering
ourselves from the world and renewing the dedication of ourselves to
God, to sanctify ourselves. When our Lord Jesus came into the world,
though men had reason enough to tremble, fearing that his errand was to
condemn the world, yet he gave full assurance that he came peaceably,
for he came to sacrifice, and he brought his offering along with him:
A body hast thou prepared me. Let us sanctify ourselves, that we
may have an interest in his sacrifice. Note, Those that come to
sacrifice should come peaceably; religious exercises must not be
VI. He had a particular regard to Jesse and his sons, for with them his
private business lay, with which, it is likely, he acquainted Jesse at
his first coming, and took up his lodging at his house. He spoke to all
the elders to sanctify themselves, but he sanctified Jesse
and his sons by praying with them and instructing them. Perhaps he
had acquaintance with them before, and it appears
(1 Samuel 20:29,
where we read of the sacrifices that family had) that it was a devout
religious family. Samuel assisted them in their family preparations
for the public sacrifice, and, it is probable, chose out David, and
anointed him, at the family-solemnities, before the sacrifice was
offered or the holy feast solemnized. Perhaps he offered private
sacrifices, like Job, according to the number of them all
and, under colour of that, called for them all to appear before him.
When signal blessings are coming into a family they ought to sanctify
|David Anointed by Samuel.
||B. C. 1065.|
6 And it came to pass, when they were come, that he looked on
Eliab, and said, Surely the LORD's anointed is before him.
7 But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance,
or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for
the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward
appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.
8 Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel.
And he said, Neither hath the LORD chosen this.
9 Then Jesse made Shammah to pass by. And he said, Neither hath
the LORD chosen this.
10 Again, Jesse made seven of his sons to pass before Samuel.
And Samuel said unto Jesse, The LORD hath not chosen these.
11 And Samuel said unto Jesse, Are here all thy children? And
he said, There remaineth yet the youngest, and, behold, he
keepeth the sheep. And Samuel said unto Jesse, Send and fetch
him: for we will not sit down till he come hither.
12 And he sent, and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and
withal of a beautiful countenance, and goodly to look to. And the
LORD said, Arise, anoint him: for this is he.
13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the
midst of his brethren: and the Spirit of the LORD came upon David
from that day forward. So Samuel rose up, and went to Ramah.
If the sons of Jesse were told that God would provide himself a king
among them (as he had said,
1 Samuel 16:1),
we may well suppose they all made the best appearance they could, and
each hoped he should be the man; but here we are told,
I. How all the elder sons, who stood fairest for the preferment, were
1. Eliab, the eldest, was privately presented first to Samuel, probably
none being present but Jesse only, and Samuel thought he must needs be
the man: Surely this is the Lord's anointed,
1 Samuel 16:6.
The prophets themselves, when they spoke from under the divine
direction, were as liable to mistake as other men; as Nathan,
2 Samuel 7:3.
But God rectified the prophet's mistake by a secret whisper to his
mind: Look not on his countenance,
1 Samuel 16:7.
It was strange that Samuel, who had been so wretchedly disappointed in
Saul, whose countenance and stature recommended him as much as any
man's could, should be so forward to judge of a man by that rule. When
God would please the people with a king he chose a comely man; but,
when he would have one after his own heart, he should not be chosen by
the outside. Men judge by the sight of the eyes, but God does not,
The Lord looks on the heart, that is,
(1.) He knows it. We can tell how men look, but he can tell what they
are. Man looks on the eyes (so the original word is), and is pleased
with the liveliness and sprightliness that appear in them; but God
looks on the heart, and sees the thoughts and intents of that.
(2.) He judges of men by it. The good disposition of the heart, the
holiness or goodness of that, recommends us to God, and is in his
sight of great price
(1 Peter 3:4),
not the majesty of the look, or the strength and stature of the body.
Let us reckon that to be true beauty which is within, and judge of men,
as far as we are capable, by their minds, not their mien.
2. When Eliab was set aside, Abinadab and Shammah, and, after them,
four more of the sons of Jesse, seven in all, were presented to Samuel,
as likely for his purpose; but Samuel, who not attended more carefully
than he did at first to the divine direction, rejected them all: The
Lord has not chosen these,
1 Samuel 16:8,10.
Men dispose of their honours and estates to their sons according to
their seniority of age and priority of birth, but God does not. The
elder shall serve the younger. Had it been left to Samuel, or
Jesse, to make the choice, one of these would certainly have been
chosen; but God will magnify his sovereignty in passing by some that
were most promising as well as in fastening on others that were less
II. How David at length was pitched upon. He was the youngest of all
the sons of Jesse; his name signifies beloved, for he was a type
of the beloved Son. Observe,
1. How he was in the fields, keeping the sheep
(1 Samuel 16:11),
and was left there, though there was a sacrifice and a feast at his
father's house. The youngest are commonly the fondlings of the family,
but, it should seem, David was least set by of all the sons of Jesse;
either they did not discern or did not duly value the excellent spirit
he was of. Many a great genius lies buried in obscurity and contempt;
and God often exalts those whom men despise and gives abundant
honour to that part which lacked. The Son of David was he whom men
despised, the stone which the builders refused, and yet he has
a name above every name. David was taken from following ewes
to feed Jacob
as Moses from keeping the flock of Jethro, an instance of his humility
and industry, both which God delights to put honour upon. We should
think a military life, but God saw a pastoral life (which gives
advantage for contemplation and communion with heaven), the best
preparative for kingly power, at least for those graces of the Spirit
which are necessary to the due discharge of that trust which attends
it. David was keeping sheep, though it was a time of sacrifice; for
there is mercy that takes precedence of sacrifice.
2. How earnest Samuel was to have him sent for: "We will not sit
down to meat" (perhaps it was not the feast upon the sacrifice, but
a common meal) "till he come hither; for, if all the rest be
rejected, this must be he." He that designed not to sit at table at all
is now waited for as the principal guest. If God will exalt those of
low degree, who can hinder?
3. What appearance he made when he did come. No notice is taken of his
clothing. No doubt that was according to his employment, mean and
coarse, as shepherds' coats commonly are, and he did not change his
clothes as Joseph did
but he had a very honest look, not stately, as Saul's, but sweet and
lovely: He was ruddy, of a beautiful countenance, and goodly to look
(1 Samuel 16:12),
that is, he had a clear complexion, a good eye, and a lovely face; the
features were extraordinary, and there was something in his looks that
was very charming. Though he was so far from using any art to help his
beauty that his employment exposed it to the sun and wind, yet nature
kept its own, and, by the sweetness of his aspect, gave manifest
indications of an amiable temper and disposition of mind. Perhaps his
modest blush, when he was brought before Samuel, and received by him
with surprising respect, made him look much the handsomer.
4. The anointing of him. The Lord told Samuel in his ear (as he had
1 Samuel 9:15)
that this was he whom he must anoint,
1 Samuel 16:12.
Samuel objects not the meanness of his education, his youth, or the
little respect he had in his own family, but, in obedience to the
divine command, took his horn of oil and anointed him
(1 Samuel 16:13),
(1.) A divine designation to the government, after the death of Saul,
of which hereby he gave him a full assurance. Not that he was at
present invested with the royal power, but it was entailed upon him, to
come to him in due time.
(2.) A divine communication of gifts and graces, to fit him for the
government, and make him a type of him who was to be the Messiah, the
anointed One, who received the Spirit, not by measure, but without
measure. He is said to be anointed in the midst of his brethren,
who yet, possibly, did not understand it as a designation to the
government, and therefore did not envy David (as Joseph's brethren did
him), because they saw no further marks of dignity put upon him, no,
not so much as a coat of divers colours. But bishop Patrick reads it,
He anointed him from the midst of his brethren, that is, he
singled him out from the rest, and privately anointed him, but with a
charge to keep his own counsel, and not to let his own brethren know
it, as by what we find
(1 Samuel 17:28),
it should seem, Eliab did not. It is computed that David now was about
twenty years old; if so, his troubles by Saul lasted ten years, for he
was thirty years old when Saul died. Dr. Lightfoot reckons that he was
about twenty-five, and that his troubles lasted but five years.
5. The happy effects of this anointing: The Spirit of the Lord came
upon David from that day forward,
1 Samuel 16:13.
The anointing of him was not an empty ceremony, but a divine power went
along with that instituted sign, and he found himself inwardly advanced
in wisdom, and courage, and concern for the public, with all the
qualifications of a prince, though not at all advanced in his outward
circumstances. This would abundantly satisfy him that his election was
of God. The best evidence of our being predestinated to the kingdom of
glory is our being sealed with the Spirit of promise, and our
experience of a work of grace in our own hearts. Some think that his
courage, by which he slew the lion and the bear, and his extraordinary
skill in music, were the effects and evidences of the Spirit's coming
upon him. However, this made him the sweet psalmist of Israel,
2 Samuel 23:1.
Samuel, having done this, went to Ramah in safety, and we never read of
him again but once
(1 Samuel 19:18),
till we read of his death; now he retired to die in peace, since his
eyes had seen the salvation, even the sceptre brought into the tribe of
|Saul Troubled by an Evil Spirit.
||B. C. 1065.|
14 But the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil
spirit from the LORD troubled him.
15 And Saul's servants said unto him, Behold now, an evil
spirit from God troubleth thee.
16 Let our lord now command thy servants, which are before
thee, to seek out a man, who is a cunning player on a 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.
17 And Saul said unto his servants, Provide me now a man that
can play well, and bring him to me.
18 Then answered one of the servants, and said, Behold, I have
seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, that is cunning in
playing, and a mighty valiant man, and a man of war, and prudent
in matters, and a comely person, and the LORD is with him.
19 Wherefore Saul sent messengers unto Jesse, and said, Send me
David thy son, which is with the sheep.
20 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.
21 And David came to Saul, and stood before him: and he loved
him greatly; and he became his armourbearer.
22 And Saul sent to Jesse, saying, Let David, I pray thee,
stand before me; for he hath found favour in my sight.
23 And it came to pass, when the evil spirit from God was
upon Saul, that David took a harp, and played with his hand: so
Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed
We have here Saul falling and David rising.
I. Here is Saul made a terror to himself
(1 Samuel 16:14):
The Spirit of the Lord departed from him. He having forsaken God
and his duty, God, in a way of righteous judgment, withdrew from him
those assistances of the good Spirit with which he was directed,
animated, and encouraged in his government and wars. He lost all his
good qualities. This was the effect of his rejecting God, and an
evidence of his being rejected by him. Now God took his mercy from Saul
(as it is expressed,
2 Samuel 7:15);
for, when the Spirit of the Lord departs from us, all good goes. When
men grieve and quench the Spirit, by wilful sin, he departs, and will
not always strive. The consequence of this was that an evil spirit
from God troubled him. Those that drive the good Spirit away from
the do of course become prey to the evil spirit. If God and his grace
do not rule us, sin and Satan will have possession of us. The devil, by
the divine permission, troubled and terrified Saul, by means of the
corrupt humours of his body and passions of his mind. He grew fretful,
and peevish, and discontented, timorous and suspicious, ever and anon
starting and trembling; he was sometimes, says Josephus, as if he had
been choked or strangled, and a perfect demoniac by fits. This made him
unfit for business, precipitate in his counsels, the contempt of his
enemies, and a burden to all about him.
II. Here is David made a physician to Saul, and by this means brought
to court, a physician that helped him against the worst of diseases,
when none else could. David was newly appointed privately to the
kingdom. It would be of use to him to go to court and see the world;
and here his doing so is brought about for him without any contrivance
of his own or his friends. Note, Those whom God designs for any service
his providence shall concur with his grace to prepare and qualify for
it. Saul is distempered; his servants have the honesty and courage to
tell him what his distemper is
(1 Samuel 16:15),
an evil spirit, not by chance but from God and his
providence, troubleth thee. Now,
1. The means they all advised him to for his relief was music
(1 Samuel 16:16):
"Let us have a cunning player on the harp to attend thee." How
much better friends had they been to him if they had advised him, since
the evil spirit was from the Lord, to give all diligence to make his
peace with God by true repentance, to send for Samuel to pray with him
and to intercede with God for him! then might he not only have had some
present relief, but the good Spirit would have returned to him. But
their project is to make him merry, and so cure him. Many whose
consciences are convinced and startled are for ever ruined by such
methods as these, which drown all care of the soul in the delights of
sense. Yet Saul's servants did not amiss to send for music as a help to
cheer up the spirits, if they had but withal sent for a prophet to give
him good counsel. And (as bishop Hall observes) it was well they did
not send for a witch or diviner, by his enchantments to cast out the
evil spirit, which has been the abominably wicked practice of some that
have worn the Christian name, who consult the devil in their distresses
and make hell their refuge. It will be no less than a miracle of divine
grace if those who thus agree with Satan ever break off from him again.
2. One of his servants recommended David to him, as a fit person to be
employed in the use of these means, little imagining that he was the
man whom Samuel meant when he told Saul of a neighbour of his, better
than he, who should have the kingdom,
1 Samuel 15:28.
It is a very high character which the servant of Saul's here gives of
(1 Samuel 16:18),
that he was not only fit for his purpose as a comely person and skilful
in playing, but a man of courage and conduct, a mighty valiant man, and
prudent in all matters, fit to be further preferred, and (which crowned
his character) the Lord is with him. By this it appears that
though David, after he was anointed, returned to his country business,
and there remained on his head no marks of the oil, so careful was he
to keep that secret, yet the workings of the Spirit signified by the
oil could not be hid, but made him shine in obscurity, so that all his
neighbours observed with wonder the great improvements of his mind on a
sudden. David, even in his shepherd's garb, has become an oracle, a
champion, and every thing that is great. His fame reached the court
soon, for Saul was inquisitive after such young men,
1 Samuel 14:52.
When the Spirit of God comes upon a man he will make his face to shine.
3. David is hereupon sent for to court. And it seems,
(1.) His father was very willing to part with him, sent him very
readily, and a present with him to Saul,
1 Samuel 16:20.
The present was, according to the usage of those times, bread and wine
1 Samuel 10:3,4),
therefore acceptable because expressive of the homage and allegiance of
him that sent it. Probably Jesse, who knew what his son David was
designed for, was aware that Providence was herein fitting him for it,
and therefore he would not force Providence by sending him to court
uncalled, yet he followed Providence very cheerfully when he saw it
plainly putting him into the way of preferment. Some suggest that when
Jesse received that message, Send me David thy son, he began to
be afraid that Saul had got some intimation of his being anointed, and
sent for him to do him a mischief, and therefore Jesse sent a present
to pacify him; but it is probable that the person, whoever he was, that
brought the message, gave him an account on what design he was sent
(2.) Saul became very kind to him
(1 Samuel 16:21),
loved him greatly, and designed to make him his
armour-bearer, and (contrary to the manner of the king,
1 Samuel 8:11)
asked his father's leave to keep him in his service
(1 Samuel 16:22):
Let David, I pray thee, stand before me. And good reason he had
to respect him, for he did him a great deal of service with his music,
1 Samuel 16:23.
Only his instrumental music with his harp is mentioned, but it should
seem, by the account Josephus gives, that he added vocal music to it,
and sung hymns, probably divine hymns, songs of praise, to his harp.
David's music was Saul's physic.
[1.] Music has a natural tendency to compose and exhilarate the mind,
when it is disturbed and saddened. Elisha used it for the calming of
2 Kings 3:15.
On some it has a greater influence and effect than on others, and,
probably, Saul was one of those. Not that it charmed the evil spirit,
but it made his spirit sedate, and allayed those tumults of the animal
spirits by which the devil had advantage against him. The beams of the
sun (it is the learned Bochart's comparison) cannot be cut with a
sword, quenched with water, or blown out with wind, but, by closing the
window-shutters, they may be kept out of the chamber. Music cannot work
upon the devil, but it may shut up the passages by which he has access
to the mind.
[2.] David's music was extraordinary, and in mercy to him, that he
might gain a reputation at court, as one that had the Lord with him.
God made his performances in music more successful, in this case, than
those of others would have been. Saul found, even after he had
conceived an enmity to David, that no one else could do him the same
(1 Samuel 19:9,10),
which was a great aggravation of his outrage against him. It is a pity
that music, which may be so serviceable to the good temper of the mind,
should ever be abused by any to the support of vanity and luxury, and
made an occasion of drawing the heart away from God and serious things:
if this be to any the effect of it, it drives away the good Spirit, not
the evil spirit.