Bible Commentary

1 Samuel 16

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

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(Read all of 1 Samuel 16)

Verse 1

[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.

Mourn — And pray for his restitution, which the following words imply he did.

Oil — Which was used in the inauguration of kings. But here it is used in the designation of a king; for David was not actually made king by it, but still remained a subject. And the reason of this anticipation was the comfort of Samuel, and other good men, against their fears in case of Saul's death, and the assurance of David's title, which otherwise would have been doubtful.

I have provided — This phrase is very emphatical, and implies the difference between this and the former king. Saul was a king of the people's providing, he was the product of their sinful desires: but this is a king of my own providing, to fulfil all my will, and to serve my glory.

Verse 4

[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?

Trembled — Because it was strange and unexpected to them, this being but an obscure town, and remote from Samuel, and therefore they justly thought there was some extraordinary reason for it.

Peaceable — The Hebrew phrase, comest thou in peace, is as much as to say (in our phrase) is all well?

Verse 5

[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.

He sanctified — It seems evident that there was something peculiar in Jesse's invitation. For first, both he and his sons were invited, whereas the others were only invited for their own persons. Secondly, the different phrase here used, that he sanctified these, when he only bade the other sanctify themselves; argues a singular care of Samuel in their sanctification. Which makes it probable, that the rest were only to join with them in the act of sacrificing; but these, and only these, were invited to feast upon the remainders of the sacrifices.

Verse 6

[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.

Before him — That is, in this place where God is now present. For it is observable, that not only the sacrifice is said to be offered, but even the feast upon the remainders of it is said, to be eaten before the Lord, Deuteronomy 12:7, that is, before or near his altar, where God was present in a special manner. This I take to be the person I am sent to anoint: wherein yet be was mistaken, as other prophets sometimes were, when they hastily spake their own thoughts, before they had consulted God.

Verse 10

[10] Again, Jesse made seven of his sons to pass before Samuel. And Samuel said unto Jesse, The LORD hath not chosen these.

Seven — There are but seven named, 1 Chronicles 2:13-15, because one of them was either born of a concubine: or, died immediately after this time.

Verse 11

[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.

Keepeth sheep — And consequently is the most unfit of all my sons for that high employment. Either therefore he did not understand David's wisdom and valour, or he judged him unfit, by reason of his mean education. And God so ordered it by his providence, that David's choice might plainly appear to be God's work, and not Samuel's, or Jesse's. David signifies beloved: a fit name for so eminent a type of the Beloved Son. It is supposed, David was now about twenty years old. If so, his troubles by Saul lasted near ten years: for he was thirty years old when Saul died. Samuel having done this went to Ramah. He retired to die in peace, since his eyes had seen the salvation, even the sceptre brought into the tribe of Judah.

Verse 13

[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.

Anointed him — David's brethren saw David's unction, yet did not understand, that he was anointed to the kingdom; but were only told by Samuel, that he was anointed to some great service, which hereafter they should know. Thus Jesse only, and David, understood the whole business, and his brethren were able to attest to that act of Samuel's anointing him, which, with other collateral evidences, was abundantly sufficient to prove David's right to the kingdom, if need should be.

The spirit, etc., — That is, he was immediately endowed with extraordinary gifts of God's Spirit, as strength, and courage, and wisdom, and other excellent qualities which fitted him for, and put him upon noble attempts.

Verse 14

[14] But the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD troubled him.

Departed — God took away that prudence, and courage, and alacrity, and other gifts wherewith be had qualified him for his public employment.

From the Lord — That is, by God's permission, who delivered him up to be buffeted of Satan.

Troubled — Stirred up in him unruly and tormenting passions; as envy, rage, fear, or despair. He grew fretful, and peevish, and discontented, timorous and suspicious, frequently starting and trembling.

Verse 16

[16] Let our lord now command thy servants, which are before thee, to seek out a man, who is a cunning player on an 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.

Be well — And the success confirms their opinion. For although music cannot directly have an influence upon an evil spirit to drive him away; yet, because the devil, as it seems, had not possession of him, but only made use of the passions of his mind, and humours of his body to molest him: and because it is manifest, that music hath a mighty power to qualify and sweeten these, and to make a man sedate and chearful; it is not strange, if the devil had not that power over him when his mind was more composed, which he had when it was disordered; as the devil had less power over lunaticks in the decrease, than in the increase of the moon: Matthew 17:15,18. And seeing music prepared the Lord's prophets for the entertainment of the good Spirit, as 2 Kings 3:15. Why might it not dispose Saul to the resistance of the evil spirit? And why might not the chearing of his heart, in some measure strengthen him against those temptations of the devil, which were fed by his melancholy humour? And by this means, David without any contrivance of him or his friends, is brought to court, soon after he was anointed to the kingdom. Those whom God designs for any service, his providence will concur with his grace, to prepare and qualify them for it.

Verse 18

[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.

Prudent — Wonder not, that David was so suddenly advanced, from a poor shepherd, to so great a reputation; for these were the effects of that Spirit of the Lord which he received when he was anointed.

The Lord, … — That is, directs and prospers all his undertakings.

Verse 20

[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.

Sent him — This present, though in our times it would seem contemptible, yet was very agreeable to the usage of those times, and to the condition of Jesse, which was but mean in the world. And it seems to have been the custom of those times, (as it is yet in the eastern countries) when they made their appearance before princes, or great persons, to bring a present.

Verse 21

[21] And David came to Saul, and stood before him: and he loved him greatly; and he became his armourbearer.

Stood before him — That is, waited upon him.

And he loved him greatly — So there was something good in Saul still: he had not lost all, tho' he had lost the kingdom.

Armour-bearer — He had that place conferred upon him, though we do not read that he ever exercised it; for it seems he was gone back to his father upon some occasion not related; and had abode with him some considerable time before the war described, chap. 17:1-53, happened.

Verse 23

[23] And it came to pass, when the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, that David took an harp, and played with his hand: so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him.

Departed — Namely, for a season. And the reason of this success, may be, partly natural, and partly, supernatural, respecting David; whom God designed by this means to bring into favour with the king, and so to smooth the way for his advancement.

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