Samuel sent to Bethlehem to Jesse. (1-5) David is anointed. (6-13) Saul troubled with an evil spirit, is quieted by David. (14-23)
Verses 1-5 It appears that Saul was grown very wicked. Of what would he not be guilty, who durst think to kill Samuel? The elders of Bethlehem trembled at Samuel's coming. It becomes us to stand in awe of God's messengers, and to tremble at his word. His answer was, I come peaceably, for I come to sacrifice. When our Lord Jesus came into the world, though men had reason to fear 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 with him; A body hast thou prepared me. Let us sanctify ourselves, and depend upon His sacrifice.
Verses 6-13 It was strange that Samuel, who had been so disappointed in Saul, whose countenance and stature recommended him, should judge of another man by that rule. We can tell how men look, but God can tell what they are. He judges of men by the heart. We often form a mistaken judgment of characters; but the Lord values only the faith, fear, and love, which are planted in the heart, beyond human discernment. And God does not favour our children according to our fond partiality, but often most honours and blesses those who have been least regarded. David at length was pitched upon. He was the youngest of the sons of Jesse; his name signifies Beloved; he was a type of God's beloved Son. It should seem, David was least set by of all the sons of Jesse. But the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward. His anointing was not an empty ceremony, a Divine power went with that instituted sign; he found himself advanced in wisdom and courage, with all the qualifications of a prince, though not advanced in his outward circumstances. This would 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 experience of a work of grace in our hearts.
Verses 14-23 Saul is made a terror to himself. The Spirit of the Lord departed from him. 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 the corrupt humours of his body, and passions of his mind. He grew fretful, peevish, and discontented, and at times a madman. It is a pity that music, which may be serviceable to the good temper of the mind, should ever be abused, to support vanity and luxury, and made an occasion of drawing the heart from God and serious things. That is driving away the good Spirit, not the evil spirit. Music, diversions, company, or business, have for a time often been employed to quiet the wounded conscience; but nothing can effect a real cure but the blood of Christ, applied in faith, and the sanctifying Spirit sealing the pardon, by his holy comforts. All other plans to dispel religious melancholy are sure to add to distress, either in this world or the next.
1 Samuel 16:1-10 . SAMUEL SENT BY GOD TO BETHLEHEM.
1. the Lord said unto Samuel, How long wilt thou mourn for Saul--Samuel's grief on account of Saul's rejection, accompanied, doubtless, by earnest prayers for his restitution, showed the amiable feelings of the man; but they were at variance with his public duty as a prophet. The declared purpose of God to transfer the kingdom of Israel into other hands than Saul's was not an angry menace, but a fixed and immutable decree; so that Samuel ought to have sooner submitted to the peremptory manifestation of the divine will. But to leave him no longer room to doubt of its being unalterable, he was sent on a private mission to anoint a successor to Saul The immediate designation of a king was of the greatest importance for the interests of the nation in the event of Saul's death, which, to this time, was dreaded; it would establish David's title and comfort the minds of Samuel and other good men with a right settlement, whatever contingency might happen.
I have provided me a king--The language is remarkable, and intimates a difference between this and the former king. Saul was the people's choice, the fruit of their wayward and sinful desires for their own honor and aggrandizement. The next was to be a king who would consult the divine glory, and selected from that tribe to which the pre-eminence had been early promised ( Genesis 49:10 ).
2. How can I go?--This is another instance of human infirmity in Samuel. Since God had sent him on this mission, He would protect him in the execution.
I am come to sacrifice--It seems to have been customary with Samuel to do this in the different circuits to which he went, that he might encourage the worship of God.
3. call Jesse to the sacrifice--that is, the social feast that followed the peace offering. Samuel, being the offerer, had a right to invite any guest he pleased.
4. the elders of the town trembled at his coming--Beth-lehem was an obscure town, and not within the usual circuit of the judge. The elders were naturally apprehensive, therefore, that his arrival was occasioned by some extraordinary reason, and that it might entail evil upon their town, in consequence of the estrangement between Samuel and the king.
5. sanctify yourselves--by the preparations described ( Exodus 19:14 Exodus 19:15 ). The elders were to sanctify themselves. Samuel himself took the greatest care in the sanctification of Jesse's family. Some, however, think that the former were invited only to join in the sacrifice, while the family of Jesse were invited by themselves to the subsequent feast.
6-10. Samuel said, Surely the Lord's anointed is before him--Here Samuel, in consequence of taking his impressions from the external appearance, falls into the same error as formerly ( 1 Samuel 10:24 ).
1 Samuel 16:11-14 . HE ANOINTS DAVID.
11. There remaineth yet the youngest, and, behold, he keepeth the sheep--Jesse having evidently no idea of David's wisdom and bravery, spoke of him as the most unfit. God, in His providence, so ordered it, that the appointment of David might the more clearly appear to be a divine purpose, and not the design either of Samuel or Jesse. David having not been sanctified with the rest of his family, it is probable that he returned to his pastoral duties the moment the special business on which he had been summoned was done.
12. he was ruddy, &c.--JOSEPHUS says that David was ten, while most modern commentators are of the opinion that he must have been fifteen years of age.
13. Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him--This transaction must have been strictly private.
14-18. The Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord troubled him--His own gloomy reflections, the consciousness that he had not acted up to the character of an Israelitish king, the loss of his throne, and the extinction of his royal house, made him jealous, irritable, vindictive, and subject to fits of morbid melancholy.
19. Saul sent messengers unto Jesse, and said, Send me David--In the East the command of a king is imperative; and Jesse, however reluctant and alarmed, had no alternative but to comply.
20. Jesse took an ass laden with bread, and a bottle of wine, and a kid, and sent them . . . unto Saul--as a token of homage and respect.
21. David came to Saul--Providence thus prepared David for his destiny, by placing him in a way to become acquainted with the manners of the court, the business of government, and the general state of the kingdom.
became his armour-bearer--This choice, as being an expression of the king's partiality, shows how honorable the office was held to be.
23. David took an harp, and played with his hand: so Saul was refreshed, and was well--The ancients believed that music had a mysterious influence in healing mental disorders.