New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary


1Sa 16:1 Yahweh said to Samuel, How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him from being king over Israel?-
This sounds like a rebuke of Samuel for still entertaining the hope that Saul might repent. For his mourning may be mourning in prayer before God, asking Him to still accept Saul. I noted on 1 Sam. 15:26 that Samuel appears to have concluded that Saul is now finally rejected and beyond the hope of reformation by repentance, and therefore refused to "return" with Saul. "Return" is the word usually used for repentance. Samuel didn't see Saul's repentance as sincere, and so he would not turn again with him. And yet he apparently gives in and does so in 1 Sam. 15:31. This could have been because he still entertained the desperate hope that perhaps Saul had turned again / repented. And he is now rebuked for this. We learned from 1 Sam. 15:28 that Samuel knew that Yahweh had already decided to given the kingdom to another, as already expressed in 1 Sam. 13; and he knew that God had already selected this "neighbour". But Samuel had still gone on hoping for Saul, and was apparently not proactive in seeking for this replacement- hence now the implicit criticism of him by God. 

God tells Samuel of His rejection of Saul, and Samuel cries to Him all night. I think the implication is that Samuel was pleading with God to consider another future with Saul (1 Sam. 15:11,35; 16:1). Amos 7:1-6 is another case- God reveals His intention regarding Israel, but then Amos makes a case against this and is heard. In fact, these and other examples suggest that this is almost a pattern with God- to devise His purpose, and then in the 'gap' until its fulfillment, be open to the persuasion of His covenant people to change or ammend those plans. This could be what Am. 3:7 is speaking of: "Surely the Lord God does nothing without revealing His secret to His servants the prophets". It's as if He reveals His plans to them so that they can then comment upon them in prayer.

Fill your horn with oil and go. I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided a king for Myself from among his sons-
"Provided for Myself" could be an implied rebuke that Samuel had not been more proactive in searching him out. Literally, "seen", which could suggest God had searched for David and found him, having foreseen him from afar.

1Sa 16:2 Samuel said, How can I go? If Saul hears it he will kill me. Yahweh said, Take a heifer with you and say, I have come to sacrifice to Yahweh-
We get the impression that this is intended to recall Moses' weak reluctance to do God's work. Samuel was it seems rebuked for holding on to the dream that Saul would work out well in the end, and for not being proactive in seeking the neighbour of Saul whom Yahweh had already appointed to be king. "Go" in :1 is responded to with apparent defiance: "How can I go?". It seems Samuel was well known for going to villages and homesteads to offer sacrifice. They would have been voluntary peace offerings, with the people invited to eat of the offering; even though in this case Samuel himself brought the animal. That could imply that Jesse was not forthcoming in providing the offering. 

1Sa 16:3 Call Jesse to the sacrifice and I will show you what you must do. You are to anoint for Me the one whom I name to you-
Samuel had commanded Saul earlier to wait until God would show him what he must do (the very same phrase is in 1 Sam. 10:8). Now, God was telling Samuel to do what Samuel had told Saul to do. And Samuel had observed Saul's testing, his initial obedience and his later failure. This is how God works, repeating circumstance between the lives of people, bringing people into our lives from whom we are to learn; and then we are tested just as they were. David may have reflected on this, for he in turn uses the phrase of how he was waiting for God to lead him further (1 Sam. 22:3). He would have remembered how Samuel had come to his father's house and likewise waited for God to show him what he had to do.

1Sa 16:4 Samuel did what Yahweh said and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city came to meet him trembling, and said, Do you come peaceably?-
This may reflect their deep fear of Saul. For the last we knew, the elders of Israel, including of Bethlehem, had gone to Gilgal and witnessed Samuel snubbing Saul over the matter of Agag; and it was known that Samuel had withdrawn credibility from Saul. And Saul was doubtless fuming and cussing Samuel about that. So a visit from Samuel was not particularly to be welcomed.

1Sa 16:5 He said, Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to Yahweh. Consecrate yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice. He consecrated Jesse and his sons, and called them to the sacrifice-
We wonder whether Jesse and his wife were very faithful people. His other sons all supported Saul (1 Sam. 17:13). He was surely one of the elders of Bethlehem who were not comfortable with the idea of a visit from Samuel, the peripatetic priest (:4). He was here asked to consecrate himself, but Samuel ends up having to consecrate him, and Samuel has to provide the animal for the peace offering himself (:2). And it's possible to understand Ps. 51:5 as meaning that David may have been an illegitimate child. The description of David's other sons as "rejected" (:7) uses the same word as used of Saul's rejection by God; a rather strong term, which seems to imply they were rejected by God as they had rejected Him.   

1Sa 16:6 When they had come he looked at Eliab and said, Surely Yahweh’s anointed is before Him-
The very structure of Biblical Hebrew as a language is often instructive as to how God wishes us to perceive things. There is actually no literal word in Biblical Hebrew for ‘to think’ – instead there is a word meaning ‘to say in one’s heart’. And there are times when the word is wrongly translated simply “say”– here NEB correctly renders as “thought” instead of NEV "said". This provides a window into understanding how the Greek logos means both ‘speech’ and ‘reason’; and sets the backdrop for the repeated teaching of Jesus that God counts human thoughts as if they are the spoken word or acted deed. But my point is that the Hebrew Bible continually focuses our attention upon the internal thought processes – for here is the real ‘Satan’, the real enemy to true spirituality.

Samuel’s comment about Eliab was presumably to himself (1 Sam. 16:6); Saul’s “I’ll strike [David] to the wall” was surely said to himself (1 Sam. 18:11); likewise his explanation of his plan to trap David via his daughter Michael was all hatched out within his own brain (1 Sam. 18:21); other examples in 1 Sam. 27:12; 1 Kings 12:26 etc. Only God knew what those men ‘said in their heart’; and yet He has recorded it in His inspired word for all generations to see. In this alone we see how ultimately, nothing remains secret; at the day of judgment, what we spoke in darkness (i.e. In our own minds) will be heard in the light of God’s Kingdom (Lk. 12:3).

1Sa 16:7 But Yahweh said to Samuel, Don’t look at his appearance or height, because I have rejected him. I do not look at the things man looks at; man looks at the outward appearance but Yahweh looks at the heart-
Samuel appeared to have assumed that Eliab must be Yahweh's anointed, seeing he was tall and handsome (1 Sam. 16:7). But he had not learnt the lesson he should've learnt from his experience with Saul, who was exceptionally tall, and yet was no leader of God's people. God tries to remind Samuel of this by saying of Eliab: "I have rejected him"; God had used the very term about Saul very recently (1 Sam. 16:1,7 RV). Ps. 89:19,20 imply that God had specifically told Samuel to anoint David- so his desire to anoint tall, handsome Eliab appears to have been a failure on Samuel's part, rooted in simply not joining the dots. And even when David was brought in, Samuel seems to have somewhat failed in his judgment- for he was impressed by David's fair appearance (1 Sam. 16:12), when God had just laboured the point to Samuel that the choice of a ruler was not to be based upon his appearance. See on :5.

1Sa 16:8 Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. He said, Neither has Yahweh chosen this one-
In all close friendships there are some aspects which just could not have been contrived by human arrangement, and which add to the closeness and sense of specialness which those relationships have. There were such aspects with David and Jonathan, intensifying the love of David for Jonathan. For example, it was a beautiful coincidence that they both happened to have a brother called Abinadab (1 Sam. 16:8 cp. 1 Chron. 8:33).

1Sa 16:9 Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. He said, Neither has Yahweh chosen this one-
It's unclear whether the sons and Jesse knew what was happening. We get the impression Jesse ushered each of his sons before Samuel, perhaps to receive from him a part of the meat of the peace offering. However by this stage they had not yet sat down to eat the peace offering (:11). As they passed by him, Yahweh signalled to Samuel whether or not this was the chosen son. And David was anointed in the presence of his brothers (:13). See on :10.

1Sa 16:10 Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel. Samuel said to Jesse, Yahweh has not chosen these-
This statement is hard to understand unless Samuel had told Jesse his intention. In which case there was clearly some agreement from Samuel in this risky venture. For Samuel is alluding to Dt. 17:15, "You shall set him king over you, whom Yahweh your God shall choose". The same word for "choose" is used.  Despite their desire to choose their own king (1 Sam. 8:18 s.w.), and God disagreeing with it, He and not they chose the king. He intervened to as it were make them obedient, even in this wrong choice they had made. We marvel at His grace. For David's choosing was totally of God and not man.

1Sa 16:11 Samuel said to Jesse, Are all your children here? He said, There is still the youngest; he is keeping the sheep. Samuel said to Jesse, Send and get him, for we will not sit down until he comes here-
It's possible to understand Ps. 51:5 as meaning that David may have been an illegitimate child. This would also account for the diffidence in inviting him, and answering the question as to whether David was one of "your children". The youngest son had a bad lot in life, serving his older brothers and doing the dumb jobs like minding the sheep. But from this kind of hopeless, bottom of the ladder or hierarchy situation, God prepares those whom He can use.

1Sa 16:12 He sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, with a beautiful face and handsome appearance. Yahweh said, Arise, anoint him, for this is the one-
"Ruddy" could mean he was a redhead, which was unusual for Semitic peoples and considered handsome.

1Sa 16:13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers-
It's unclear whether or not they understood this anointing to be as a king to replace Saul. For they "followed Saul" (1 Sam. 17:13). Perhaps they did perceive what it was all about, but their jealousy over his choice led them to support Saul. There are similarities with the hateful jealousy of Joseph's brothers concerning his choice, as one of the youngest. David's Psalms connect being "anointed" with having opposition, and this was doubtless rooted in his own experience (Ps. 2:2; 89:51; 105:15). But surely Ps. 45:7 was also based upon David's case: "You have loved righteousness, and hated wickedness; therefore God, even your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness above your fellows". The choice of David is here predicated upon his love of righteousness "above" his brothers. The "gladness" at the anointing was likely only for Samuel and David, as the brothers were doubtless bitterly jealous onlookers. However when this is quoted about the Lord Jesus in Heb. 1:9, "gladness" is translated by a Greek word meaning 'exaltation'; as if the anointing was a sign of David's exaltation above his brothers. 


And the spirit of Yahweh came mightily on David from that day on. So Samuel arose and went to Ramah-
The Spirit departed from Saul and came to David (:14). This was the Spirit which had made Saul a new man and given him  new heart in order to do God's work. This spoke of his psychological strengthening and transformation, which continues to be the work of the Spirit to this day. But the Spirit as it were transferred from one to the other because it was given for the intention of making them saviour king of Israel. That intention transferred from Saul to David and therefore the Spirit was transferred from Saul to David. 

The Spirit came on David as it did on Samson (1 Sam. 16:13); they were both empowered to kill lions, whilst keeping the fact a secret. And in both those acts they were taught that they would deliver God's people from the Philistines (1 Sam. 17:34-37). Indeed, David's confident words that God would deliver him from the Philistines were evidently inspired by Samson, the renowned one-man deliverer from Philistine armies. Both Samson and David wrought "great salvation" for Israel (1 Sam. 19:5 cp. Jud. 15:18). As Samson was characterized by his love of that riddle (the word occurs nine times in Jud. 14:12-19, and Jud. 15:16 Heb. is also some kind of riddle), so David uses the same word to describe how he chose to put forth a riddle (Ps. 78:2). Psalm 3 is full of reference to Samson's fight at Lehi. It was also written at a time when David was betrayed by his own people. And his failures with women would make another parallel.

1Sa 16:14 Now the spirit of Yahweh had departed from Saul and an evil spirit from Yahweh troubled him-
See on :13. In Old Testament times, an evil or unclean spirit referred to a troubled mental state (Jud. 9:23; 1 Sam. 16:14; 18:10); and in every Old Testament reference to evil spirits, they were sent by God, not an orthodox ‘Devil’. In New Testament times, the language of evil spirit/demon possession had come to refer to those suffering mental illness. The association between demons and sickness is shown by the following: “They brought unto Him (Jesus) many that were possessed with demons: and He cast out the spirits with a word… that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses” (Mt. 8:16,17). So human infirmities and sicknesses are described as being possessed by “demons” and “evil spirits”. See on :15.

1Sa 16:15 Saul’s servants said to him, See now, an evil spirit from God troubles you-
See on 1 Chron. 21:30. "Troubles" is the word for 'made afraid'. Saul became paranoiac as a result of his own insecurities, which in turn were rooted in his own lack of faith and security in God's grace. His pride also contributed majorly, so that he ever feared losing his crown and glory. These psychological processes were confirmed by God. This is how His Spirit works upon the human spirit. His Holy Spirit will likewise confirm us in the upward spiral of spirituality we wish to take, working through our own psychological processes.

1Sa 16:16 Let our lord now command your servants who are before you to seek out a man who is a skilful player on the harp. When the evil spirit from God comes on you, he can play and you will feel better-
There is quite a theme of servants bringing blessings or good news (1 Sam. 9:6; 16:16; 25:14 cp. Gen. 41:10; 2 Kings 5:3). This may be to reflect God's interest in the significance of the lowly. I suggested on :15 that God's Spirit worked to confirm Saul's own psychological processes, freely chosen by him. No amount of music would change this. At best only a surface level, placebo effect would be achieved. We too must beware of the power of music. It is good if it confirms us in the upward path we are going; but we must beware of the possibility that like Saul, we can be unspiritual people who are made to feel only temporarily better by music. The essential issues are as outlined in :15, and will not be changed by music.   

1Sa 16:17 Saul said to his servants, Find me someone who can play well and bring him to me-
"Find" is literally to see or provide. The Hebrew language reflects certain realities about the nature of God's ways. The common Hebrew word for 'to see', especially when used about God's 'seeing', means also 'to provide'. Abraham comforted Isaac that "God will see for himself [AV 'provide'] the lamb" (Gen. 22:8 RVmg.); and thus the RVmg. interprets 'Jehovah-Jireh' as meaning 'the Lord will see, or provide' (Gen. 22:14). The same word is used here when Saul asks his servants to "provide" him a man. When Hagar said "You God see me" (Gen. 16:13) she was expressing her gratitude for His provision for her. What this means in practice is that the fact God sees and knows all things means that He can and will therefore and thereby provide for us in the circumstances of life; for He sees and knows all things.

1Sa 16:18 Then one of the young men said, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite who is skilful in playing, a mighty man of valour, a man of war, who speaks well and is good-looking, and Yahweh is with him-
"Young men" means just that, and is not the usual word used of Saul's servants. Perhaps they had grown up with him, having also been taken from Bethlehem to serve Saul, as Samuel had predicted Israel's king would do. They say nothing of David's victory over lion and bear which he mentions in 1 Sam. 17:34-36. Instead, David was known by the other youngsters for having fought valiantly against the Philistines. His fights with the wild animals were personal things to him, he didn't share them with others, and only in extremis did he tell Saul about them in order to let him fight Goliath. There are private things which occur within our experience with God, deliverances so amazing and personal it's not appropriate to publically share them with others.

1Sa 16:19 Therefore Saul sent messengers to Jesse and said, Send me David your son, who is with the sheep-
This was in fulfilment of Samuel's warning that Israel's king would take their young men to serve him. And yet through this curse, blessing was to come. God is never defeated by sin but somehow works through it in a wider sense. They only had a "few sheep" (1 Sam. 17:28); David was not from a wealthy family, he was "a poor man" as he says himself (1 Sam. 18:23).  His later abuse of the "poor man" Uriah once he was rich (2 Sam. 12:3 s.w.) was therefore the more culpable.

1Sa 16:20 Jesse took a donkey loaded with bread, a bottle of wine and a young goat and sent them by David his son to Saul-
Bread and wine had been sent to Saul during the process of training him in 1 Sam. 9. Perhaps this was to recall that, in an attempt to prod Saul back to his earlier spirituality. We marvel at God's continued working with this man, despite having already twice rejected him. His activity with those who apparently leave Him is amazing. Situations are arranged to restimulate their previous spiritual connections.

1Sa 16:21 David came to Saul and stood before him. Saul loved him greatly and he became his armour bearer-
For "loved him", see on 1 Sam. 18:20. But by 1 Sam. 17:15,56, David has returned to the sheep and Saul is ignorant of him. Saul's mental illness may well have involved short term memory loss, and he may have totally forgotten about the young David who came to play for him and was then dismissed; or perhaps David himself wanted to leave the court. This verse could also be a summary statement of what happened, and then 1 Sam. 17 explains how it came about, with that chapter climaxing in David's glory and, as we would learn here, promotion to Saul's armourbearer, carrying the very armour of Saul which he himself had declined to use.

Saul loved David. David had spiritually helped him, and the very special relationship between the spiritual helper and the helped had fully developed. Yet in such cases it isn't uncommon for there to arise a bitterness between the convert and the converter; exactly as happened with David and Saul.

1Sa 16:22 Saul sent to Jesse saying, Please let David stay with me, for I am pleased with him-
See on :21; 1 Sam. 17:58. "Stay with me" is "Stand before me", as if this was an official position. But as noted on :21, we may be reading here a summary statement of what Saul did to David after the victory over Goliath, and now in 1 Sam. 17 we are to read how this situation came about. This is typical of Hebrew writing and prose style.

1Sa 16:23 When the spirit from God was on Saul, David took the harp and played, and Saul was refreshed and felt better and the evil spirit departed from him
According to Ps. 35:13 "But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth, I afflicted my soul with fasting. My prayer returned into my own bosom". Saul is in view (see on Ps. 35:12). The sickness of Saul was psychological, and David not only played the harp for him but also prayed and fasted in sackcloth for him. This again is something we don't see in the historical records.

I explained on :16 that Saul's illness was confirmed by God through His Spirit working on Saul's psychological issues, which arose from his own unspirituality. Music could not resolve those issues, apart from by some temporary placebo effect. And we must be aware likewise of 'feel good' religion caused by music. This is not to decry the use of music, but it is a caveat sounded by Saul's case.

We could also entertain the possibility that God departing from Saul may mean that the Angel physically left him; for God makes His Angels Spirits, and He works through them (Ps. 104:4)- the Hebrew for 'depart' can imply physical movement (it is also translated 'withdraw', 'pluck away' etc.). At times in our lives we may feel the presence of God coming and going. Perhaps such feelings are connected with the presence or absence of our Angel, although the Angel leaving us does not necessarily imply God's displeasure with us. The Angel may return to God (cp. Angels ascending and descending on Jacob's ladder) to report on His actions or to seek further commands; or they may depart from us in order to give us a feeling of spiritual depression so that our faith is tempted all the more. Job and Jesus on the cross are prime examples of this- hence the real anguish of the Lord's cry "My God, My God (a reference to His Angel?), Why hast Thou forsaken Me". In this case, an added trial of the crucifixion would have been that Jesus did not feel at His spiritual strongest to face the ordeal. Job explains  how all things in life come and go in rhythms, and so also does our spirituality (Job 12:15; 34:29; 36:32; 39:3- the context of each of these needs to be studied to get the point). So the Lord was perhaps on a spiritual 'low' cycle due to the Angel not being with Him. It seems that great stress is placed in Scripture on the Angels physically moving through space, both on the earth and between Heaven and earth, in order to fulfil their tasks, rather than being static in Heaven or earth and bringing things about by just willing them to happen. See on Gen. 18:10. However, the essential reference here is as explained on :16; God was confirming Saul's spirit psychologically by His Spirit acting upon him.