1 Samuel 16
Samuel Anoints David (16:1–13)
1–3 Some time later62 the Lord told Samuel to fill his horn with (anointing) oil and go to Jesse of Bethlehem63 and anoint one of his sons the next king of Israel. Just as God had chosen Saul and told Samuel to anoint him, now He was doing the same in regard to Saul’s successor, David (see 1 Samuel 9:15–20 and comment).
4–7 When Samuel arrived in Bethlehem, the elders did not know what he had come for. As Israel’s chief prophet, Samuel was held in awe by the people. They wondered: Was he coming to bring a judgment from the Lord?
“No,” said Samuel, “I come in peace.” He then said to the elders: “Consecrate yourselves” (verse 5); and then he consecrated Jesse and his sons.64
When Samuel saw Eliab, Jesse’s eldest son, he immediately thought to himself: “This must be the one who is to be anointed”65 (verse 6). But God reminded Samuel that he was looking too much at outward appearance (verse 7); the LORD looks at the heart (see Luke 16:15).
8–12 After Jesse’s seven sons had presented themselves, God had still not indicated His choice to Samuel. So Samuel realized there must be yet another son he hadn’t seen. Andso the youngest son,David, was called, and God instructed Samuel to anoint him king (verse 12).
13 Then Samuel anointed David; this was the last major act of Samuel’s career. And then the writer adds: from that day on the Spirit came upon David in power.
A question arises: Did the Spirit come upon David in the same way He had previously come upon Saul and the various judges? (Judges 3:10; 6:34; 14:6,19; 1 Samuel 10:10; 11:6). In the earlier instances the Spirit came upon select individuals to empower them for military leadership, and the Spirit seemed to come upon them only at times when such power was needed. In David’s case, however, it appears that the Spirit came upon him in a more lasting way—from that day on.
Was David’s experience of the Spirit the same as that of the believers on the day of Pentecost? (see Acts 2:1–4). Certainly the Spirit was the same Holy Spirit in both cases. But it is best to think of David’s experience as a foreshadowing of the experience of the New Testament Christians. For Christians, the filling of the Holy Spirit is a much deeper and broader experience than that described in the Old Testament. In David’s case, the Spirit came upon him mainly to equip him for leadership and to inspire him as a psalmist. In our case, the Holy Spirit comes upon us to give us new life (John 3:3,5), to enable us to imitate Christ and manifest the Spirit’s fruit (Galatians 5:22–23), and to make it possible for us to enjoy intimate fellowship with God the Father. For us, the Holy Spirit doesn’t just “come upon” us; He lives within us (John 14:16–17). For the Holy Spirit to live within believers in this way, Christ first had to die (John 16:7); such an experience, therefore, was not available to the Old Testament saints.
Having said all this, however, we must affirm that the Holy Spirit was indeed vitally active throughout Old Testament history, empowering Israel’s leaders and inspiring her poets and prophets. Let us not suppose that the Holy Spirit only began His work at Pentecost!
David in Saul’s Service (16:14–23)
14 Meanwhile, the Holy Spirit departed from Saul; no longer did the Spirit come upon Saul in power as He had before. Instead, an evil or injurious spirit from the LORD began to torment him.
This “evil spirit” may have been a demonic spirit (see Judges 9:23). Evil spirits, like everything else, are under God’s control, and He can use them to accomplish His purposes just as He sometimes uses evil men. Even Satan himself is under God’s control (see Job 1:12; 2:4–6).
It is also possible that the spirit tormenting Saul was not demonic but rather was an “injurious” spirit-in particular, a spirit of anxiety. In either case, the power Saul had been experiencing was now replaced by torment.
15–23 One of God’s purposes in sending the evil spirit to Saul was to bring David into Saul’s service. Saul’s servants suggested that David’s harp playing could ease Saul’s torment, and Saul agreed to it. Thus unwittingly Saul brought into his service the very person who had been anointed to replace him as king! The servants even recognized that the Lord was with David (verse 18)even as He was no longer with Saul.
In the remainder of the book of 1 Samuel, we shall see how God prepared David for leadership. Samuel, the aged prophet, no longer plays center stage. His mission tolead Israel from the rule of the judges to the rule of David had largely been accomplished.