(chps. 16-31)



                                              I Samuel 16









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.”

How long writ thou mourn? The grief of Samuel was

prolonged almost to a sinful extent, nor can we wonder at it. We who see

Saul’s whole career, and know how deeply he fell, are in danger of

discrediting his high qualities; but those who were witnesses of his military

skill and prowess, and saw him and his heroic son raising the nation from

its feebleness and thraldom to might and empire, must have given him an

ungrudging admiration. Both David’s dirge (II Samuel 1:19-27) and

Samuel’s long mourning, and the unqualified obedience which he was able

so quickly to extort from a high-spirited people unused to being governed,

bear decisive testimony to his powers as a ruler and commander in war.

But God now warns Samuel to mourn no longer. Saul’s rejection has

become final, and God’s prophet must sacrifice his personal feelings, and

prepare to carry out the purpose indicated in ch.13:14; 15:28.

We must not, however, conclude that Samuel’s sorrow had only been for

Saul personally; there was danger for the whole nation in his conduct. If

willfulness and passion gained in him the upper hand, the band of authority

would be loosed, and the old feebleness and anarchy would return, and

Israel become even more hopelessly a prey to its former troubles. Samuel,

therefore, is to go to Bethlehem and anoint there a son of Jesse. As this

place lay at some distance from Ramah, and out of the circuit habitually

traversed by Samuel as judge, he probably had but a general knowledge of

the family. Evidently he had no acquaintance with David (vs. 11-12); but

as Jesse was a man of wealth and importance, his reputation had probably

reached the prophet’s ears.



David’s Parentage and Education (v. 1)


(References: — Family register — 1 Chronicles 1-3.


1.  Early life: shepherd, harper, champion — chapters 16-17.

2.  Courtier and outlaw lifechapters 18-31; II Samuel 1.

3.  Royal life in Hebron and Jerusalem — II Samuel chapters 2-24; 1 Kings

     chapters 1-2; I Chronicles chapters 10-29.)


While Saul pursued his own way at Gibeah, and Samuel mourned for him

at Ramah, there dwelt at Bethlehem (twelve miles from the latter place) a

shepherd youth who was destined to attain peerless renown as “a man of

war,” a ruler over men, an inspired poet and prophet, and (because of his

fulfilling the idea of a truly theocratic king more perfectly than any other) a

type of One to whom is given “a name which is above every name.”

(Philippians 2:9)  Once and again the prophet had declared that Saul would be

replaced by a worthier successor (ch. 13:14; 15:28); but who that successor

should be he knew not until the inner voice said, “Arise, anoint him: for

this is he” (v. 12). David (the beloved) was sixteen or eighteen years of

age. His personal appearance is minutely described. In comparison with the

gigantic Saul, and even his eldest brother, he was of short stature (v. 7).

He had reddish or auburn hair, and a fresh, florid complexion, which were

rare among his black locked and swarthy countrymen; a pleasing

countenance, keen, bright eyes, and a graceful form. He also possessed

great physical strength, courage, intelligence, sagacity, and power of

expression (v. 18); above all, a firm trust in God and ardent love toward

Him. Many influences combined to make him what he was, and to develop

his extraordinary gifts; which, after his anointing, advanced rapidly towards

perfection. “It is impossible to draw a line of distinction between his life

before and after his designation by Samuel; but we may well believe that

those elements of character were already forming which began to shine

forth when the Spirit of Jehovah came upon him.” “Royalty was inborn in

him.” Among the formative influences referred to were those of:




Ø      He belonged to one of the most honorable families in Judah, the

foremost tribe of Israel. His ancestor, Nahshon, was prince of the tribe

(Numbers 2:3; 7:12); another, Salmon, married Rahab, “who received

the spies in peace” (Matthew 1:5); another, Boaz (great-grandfather of

David), married Ruth the Moabitess, “a truly consecrated flower of

heathendom turning longingly to the light of Divine revelation in Israel

(Ruth 4:17). His father, Jesse (Isaiah 11:1), who would often speak

of them, had attained “a good old age” (ch. 17:12), was in

prosperous circumstances, had eight sons, of whom David was the

youngest, and two daughters-in-law (II Samuel 17:25), whose children

Abishai, Joab, and Asabel (sons of Zeruiah), and Amass (son of Abigail)

— were old enough to be his companions. Peculiar physical, mental, and

moral qualities often characterize certain families, are transmitted from one

generation to another, and are sometimes concentrated in a single

individual; and great family traditions tend to excite noble impulses and



Ø      He was connected (through Tamar, Rahab, Ruth) with several Gentile

races. This served to enlarge his sympathies, and accounts for his friendly

intercourse with them (ch. 22:3; I Kings 5:1). “No prince of

Israel was ever on such friendly, intimate terms with the heathen about

him” (‘Expositor,’ 2:9).


Ø      He received a godly training. Jesse was a man of simple piety (vs. 1, 5;

ch. 20:6); his mother (whose name has not been recorded) was

a “handmaid of Jehovah” (Psalm 86:16; 116:16). “How much David

owed to her we cannot doubt. The memory of it abode with him through

all the trials and all the splendors of his subsequent career; and hence,

whilst nowhere does he mention his father, he seems in these passages to

appeal to the memory of his mother’s goodness, as at once a special token

of the Divine favor to himself, and an additional reason that he should

prove himself the servant of God” (W.L. Alexander).


  • ORDINARY OCCUPATION. Whilst his brothers cultivated fields and

vineyards on the slopes of Bethlehem, he kept his father’s sheep “in the

wilderness” of Judah (ch. 17:28), and his lowly occupation:


Ø      Was adapted to nurture physical strength, agility, and endurance; to call

forth energy, self-reliance, and courage amidst numerous perils in a wild

country, from beasts of prey and hill robbers (I Chronicles 7:21); to

make him expert in the use of the sling, like the neighboring Benjamites

(ch. 17:50; Judges 20:16; I Chronicles 12:2); and to prepare him to rule

over men by developing a sense of responsibility, and leading him to

seek the welfare and study the increase and improvement of the flock

(Psalm 78:70-72).


Ø      Left him much alone, and afforded him leisure for meditation and the

cultivation of a taste for music, by playing on the hand harp, which he

could easily carry with him when he “followed the flock,” and the rare

gift of song, in both of which he may have greatly improved, after his

anointing, by attendance at the school of the prophets at Ramah

(ch. 19:18).  To his musical skill he owed his first introduction to the

court of Saul, and by its means he became “the sweet singer of Israel.”

“With his whole heart he sang songs, and loved Him that made him”

(Ecclesiasticus. 47:8).


Ø      Furnished him with the suggestive imagery of many of his psalms,

especially Psalm 23. — ‘The Divine Shepherd.’ “It is the echo of his

shepherd life, and breathes the very spirit of sunny confidence and of

perfect rest in God.”


  • THE NATURAL CREATION. To him the visible universe was a

manifestation of the glory of the invisible, immanent, ever-operating God

(Psalm 104.). He regarded nature “not as an independent and self-subsisting

power, but rather as the outer chamber of AN UNSEEN PRESENCE

a garment, a veil, which the eternal One is ever ready to break through”

(Shairp, ‘Poetic Inter. of Nature’). Brought into direct and constant

communion with it, he felt a boundless delight in contemplating


“The silence that is in the starry sky,

The sleep that is among the lonely hills;”


in listening to its mysterious voices, and watching its ever varying aspects;

and poured forth the thought and feeling of his heart in songs of adoration

and praise; as in Psalm 19:1-13 — ‘The heavens by day;’ Psalm 8. —

‘The heavens by night; Psalm 29. — ‘The thunderstorm.’ “What we call

the love of nature is in fact the love and admiration of the Deity (so far

forth as He is perceived in external nature). The enthusiasm with which men

survey the endless vicissitudes which the spectacle of the universe exhibits

is nothing else than the devotional temper, moderated and repressed by the

slight veil which sensible objects interpose between us and their author”

(D. Stewart).


  • HISTORIC REVELATION. He was instructed in “the law of the

Lord” (Psalm 19:7-14 — ‘The moral law’), and in the wonderful works

which he had wrought on behalf of His people in past time (Psalm 105.);

whilst the scenes amidst which his life was spent formed a pictorial Bible,

by which they were more deeply impressed on his memory. His

acquaintance with the contents of the sacred records then existing would

be greatly increased under the teaching of Samuel. “Thy creatures have

been my books, but thy Scriptures much more” (Bacon).


  • PROVIDENTIAL PRESERVATION. The same special care which

had been exercised by Jehovah over Israel he was taught to recognize in

the lowly course of his own individual life. Once and again he was

preserved in imminent danger (ch. 17:37), and thus his faith in

the ever watchful presence and providence of the Great Shepherd grew

strong. “Every Hebrew might consider himself alone in the presence of

God; the single being to whom a great revelation had been made, and over

whose head an exceeding weight of glory was suspended. His personal

welfare was infinitely concerned with every event that had taken place in

the miraculous order of Providence.   His belief in Him could not exist

without producing, as a necessary effect, that profound impression of

passionate individual attachment which in the Hebrew authors always

mingles with and vivifies their faith in the Invisible” (A.H. Hallam).


  • RELIGIOUS INSPIRATION. Led by Divine grace from his earliest

years into direct and loving communion with Jehovah, he was endowed

with unusual spiritual power, which, as he faithfully surrendered himself to

it, wrought in him more and more mightily, and prepared him for his high

destiny. And all true spiritual life, as well as the peculiar endowments of

the prophets and apostles, is a Divine inspiration (John 3:8; Acts 2:17).

“The morning of his day this extraordinary man spent not in colleges

nor camps nor courts, but in following, the sheep among the pastures of

Bethlehem. There, under the breathings of spring and the blasts of winter;

there, in fellowship with fields and flocks and silent stars; there, with the

spirit of nature and of God fresh upon him; there, in the land of vision,

miracle, and angels — there it was that his character was formed, a

character which afterwards exhibited so rare a combination of simplicity

and grandeur, sensibility and power” (C. Morris).


  • APPLICATION (to the young):


Ø      The morning of life is the appropriate season for education:


o        physical,

o        mental,

o        moral.


If neglected, the evil cannot be repaired.


2 “And Samuel said, How can I go? if Saul hear it, he will kill me.

And the LORD said, Take an heifer with thee, and say, I am come

to sacrifice to the LORD.”  And Samuel said, How can I go? if Saul hear

it, he will kill me.  Saul was actually king, and the anointing of another in his

stead would be regarded as an act of open treason, and the stirring up of civil

war. This was not indeed intended. The anointing of David was a prophetic

indication of the man whom God, in His own way and at His own time,

would place upon Saul’s throne, without either scheming or action thereto

on the part either of Samuel or of David. Its value would chiefly lie in the

careful training he would receive from Samuel; but when David was king,

it would also greatly strengthen his position; for it would be known that

from his boyhood he had been marked out for his high office. Never did

man mount a throne with purer hands than David; and if Saul would have

permitted it, he would have been a faithful and loyal servant to the last. It

was Saul really who thrust the kingdom upon David. As regards Samuel’s

fears, headstrong as Saul was, he owed too much to the prophet to have

put him to death; but he would have visited the act upon Jesse and his

family with revengeful violence, and Samuel would henceforward have lost

all freedom of action, even if he were not cast into prison, or banished from

the land. God therefore commands him to take an heifer with him, and

say, I am come to sacrifice to Jehovah. The question has been asked,

Was there in this any duplicity? In answer we may ask another question: Is

it always necessary, or even right, to tell in all cases the whole truth? If so,

quarrels and ill-feeling would be multiplied to such an extent that social life

would be unendurable. All charitable, well disposed persons suppress

much, and keep a guard over their lips, lest they should stir up strife and

hatred. Now here there was to be no treason, no inciting to civil war.

David, still a child, was to be set apart for a high destiny, possibly without

at the time fully knowing what the anointing meant, and certainly with the

obligation to take no step whatsoever towards winning the crown that was

to descend upon his head. This was his probation, and he bore the trial

nobly. And what right would Samuel have had, not merely to compel

David to be a traitor, but to place Jesse and his family in a position of

danger and difficulty? To have anointed David publicly would have forced

Jesse to an open rupture with the king, and he must have sought safety

either by fighting for his life, or by breaking up his home, and fleeing into a

foreign land. David in course of time had thus to seek an asylum for his

parents (ch. 22:3-4), but it was through no fault of his own, for

he always remained true to his allegiance. Even when David was being

hunted for his life, he made no appeal to Samuel’s anointing, but it

remained, what it was ever intended to be, a secret sign and declaration to

him of God’s preordained purpose, but of one as to which he was to take

no step to bring about its fulfillment. It was a pledge to David, and nothing

but misery would have resulted from its being prematurely made known to

those who had no right to know it. God wraps up the flower, which is in

due time to open and bear fruit, within many a covering; and to rend these

open prematurely is to destroy the flower and the fruit that is to spring

from it. And so to have anointed David openly, and to have made him

understand the meaning of the act, would have been to destroy David and

frustrate the Divine purpose.


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 unto thee.

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.”    Call Jesse to the sacrifice. The word used is zebach, and

means a sacrifice followed by a feast, at which all the elders of the town,

and with them Jesse and his elder sons, would be present by the prophet’s

invitation. It is plain that such sacrifices were not unusual, or Saul would

have demanded a reason for Samuel’s conduct. As the ark remained so

long in obscurity at Kirjath-jearim, and the solemn services of the

tabernacle were not restored until Saul at some period of his reign removed

it to Nob, possibly Samuel may have instituted this practice of occasionally

holding sacrifices, now at one place and now at another, to keep alive a

sense of religion in the hearts of the people; and probably on such

occasions he taught them the great truths of the law, thus combining in his

person the offices of prophet and priest. Nevertheless, the elders of the

town trembled at his coming. More literally, “went with trembling to

meet him.” Very probably such visitations often took place because some

crime had been committed into which Samuel wished to inquire, or because

the people had been negligent in some duty. And though conscious of no

such fault, yet at the coming of one of such high rank their minds

foreboded evil. He quiets, however, their fears and bids them sanctify

themselves; i.e. they were to wash and purify themselves, and abstain from

everything unclean, and put on their festal garments (compare ch. 21:5 with

Exodus 19:10). It is added, He sanctified Jesse and his sons, i.e. he took

especial care that no legal impurity on their part should stand in the way of

the execution of his errand.



Recalled to the Path of Duty (ch. 15:25-16:4)


“Go, I will send thee to Jesse the Bethlehemite.”


1. The greatest and best of men experience seasons of sorrow, depression,

and doubt, and sometimes fail in the fulfillment of duty. It was thus with

Abraham, Moses, and Elijah, and with others in later ages. It was the same

with Samuel, though to a less extent than almost any other. His grief for

Saul was excessive. He surrendered himself to it without seeking the

consolation and help by which it might be mitigated, and suffered it to

interfere with the work which he might yet accomplish on behalf of Israel;

and hence he was reproved by God. “The excellent prophet here displays

something of human weakness. Samuel here looked on the vessel, made by

the invisible hand of God himself, utterly broken and diminished, and his

emotion thereat shows his pious and holy affection; yet he is not without

sin” (Calvin).


2. The failure of good men often appears in those things in which they are

pre-eminently excellent. Samuel exhibited extraordinary sympathy with the

purposes of God concerning His people, unquestioning obedience to every

indication of His will, and strong faith, and hope, and dauntless courage in

its fulfillment. Yet here we find him a prey to “the grief that saps the mind,”

apparently hopeless and desponding, and smitten with fear like Elijah when

“he arose and went for his life” (I Kings 19:3) on hearing the threat of Jezebel.

“Such things would seem designed by God to stain the pride of all flesh, and to

check all dependence upon the most eminent or confirmed habits of

godliness” (A. Fuller). The strongest are as dependent on God as the



3. A higher voice than that of their own troubled and fearful hearts speaks

to men of sincerity, and in communing with it they are led into a clearer

perception of duty and to gird themselves afresh for its performance. The

“spirit of faith” regains its ascendancy over them. And in going forth to

active service they find new strength and hope at every step. The night

gives place to the morning dawn, and


“They feel, although no tongue can prove,

That every cloud that spreads above

And veileth love, itself is love

(Tennyson, ‘The Two Voices’).


Consider the way of duty, trodden by the good man, as:


  • PRESCRIBED BY GOD, whose will is the rule of human life, and is:


Ø      Indicated in many ways — the word of truth, providential

circumstances, reason, and conscience, and “that awful interior light which

the dying Saviour promised, and which the ascending Saviour bestowed —

the Spirit of God.”


Ø      Sometimes obscured by frustrated effort, grievous disappointment,

immoderate grief, desponding and doubtful thoughts (Matthew 11:2-3;

Acts 18:9; 23:11).


Ø      Never long hidden from those who are sincerely desirous of doing it, and

seek for the knowledge of it with a view to that end (vs. 2-3; I Kings



  • BESET BY DANGER. “How can I go? If Saul hear of it, he will kill

me.” The question was not simply an inquiry for direction, but also an

expression of fear; and it may possibly have arisen from indications of

Saul’s willfulness such as afterwards appeared (ch. 19:22).


Ø      Danger is sometimes formidable, even to the bravest of men.


Ø      It is exaggerated by despondency, doubt, and fear.


“Thy soul is by vile fear assailed, which oft

So overcasts a man, that he recoils

From noblest resolution, like a beast

At some false semblance in the twilight gloom”



Ø      No danger in the way of duty is equal to that which will be certainly

found in departing from it. “In the way of righteousness there is life,

and in the pathway thereof there is no death.” (Proverbs 12:28)


  • PURSUED WITH FIDELITY. “And Samuel did that which the Lord

spake (v. 4). His hesitation was only for a moment, and with further

light his faith revived and was displayed in fearless devotion. Fidelity to



Ø      Demands the renunciation of self and many cherished plans and



Ø      Appears in trustful, practical, and unreserved obedience. Samuel went in

dependence upon the promise, “I will show thee what thou shalt do,” etc.


Ø      Sometimes necessitates a prudent reserve. There was no deception in

withholding a reason for the action directed, beyond that which lay on the

surface of the action itself. To reveal it would be to defeat the end

designed. And fidelity is sometimes best shown by silence.




Ø      Threatened danger is averted.

Ø      Promised guidance is obtained.

Ø      A brighter day dawns, and


“God’s purposes will ripen fast,

Unfolding every hour.”


Samuel returns to Ramah in peace, and with renewed zeal devotes his

remaining days to the work of training a body of younger prophets (ch.

19:20), whose influence, together with a change of dynasty, will save the

nation and promote the establishment of the kingdom of God. “Let us ask

ourselves whether the Jewish nation would have played any part as a ‘main

propelling agency of modern cultivation,’ if its monarchy had been allowed

to take the form which Saul would have given it, if he had made religion a

creature of the kingly power, and war an instrument of rapine, and not of

justice, and we shall see that Samuel’s view of the matter was the true one,

and in accordance with the proper vocation of a prophet” (Strachey,

‘Jewish Hist. and Politics’).



The Progression of Providence (vs. 1-5)


The facts are:


1. Samuel is aroused from his sorrow for Saul by a command from God to

anoint a son of Jesse.

2. Being in fear, he is directed to go and offer sacrifice and await further


3. Arriving at Bethlehem, he quiets the trembling elders and makes

preparation for the sacrifice. It was natural for Samuel in his retirement to

cherish sorrow for Saul; and his brooding over disappointment would

become more habitual as no active measures were as yet taken to provide a

successor. The section before us introduces a new phase in the

development of God’s purposes. The part which Samuel was called on to

play, and the spirit in which he set about it, bring out some truths of

general import.




FAILURES. Saul was a failure; Samuel was disappointed; and to human

appearance a pause of very uncertain duration must be made in the

progress of events. The attitude of Samuel was one of sorrowful waiting.

He could only nurse his grief. To man it was as though a break had

occurred in the continuous unfolding of the Divine purposes in relation to

the Messianic kingdom. But this was only in appearance. God will not have

His great purpose in Christ arrested in realization by the failure of one or

the brooding grief of another. During the separation of Samuel from Saul

the unseen hand had been guarding and guiding a youth at Bethlehem, and

now that his age and the circumstances of the family were ripening for

action, the sorrowing prophet must rouse himself to share actively in the

coming order of events. In every age God has His purposes to fulfill, and

they continue to unfold notwithstanding the unfaithfulness of some and the

complaining voice of others. The changes experienced by men are only

incidents of a moment; the providence of God is one and continuous. In the

process of establishing the Messianic kingdom, one by one men and

kingdoms rose and disappeared, — the people raged and submitted, wept

and rejoiced, were now true and now false, — but all the while the One

Will was working on to the setting of the true King in Zion. In the history

of the Christian Church, men of the type of Saul have been discarded and

others of Samuel’s spirit have wept in solitude; but neither the failure nor

the protracted sorrow have been allowed to arrest the silent, sure

progression towards the goal of human existence. A careful survey shows,

that as the wholesome economy of the globe is preserved and its ultimate

issue being attained amidst and even by the storms of life, so there is a wise

and merciful Providence working on in unbroken lines towards the

realization of the promise made to Abraham: “In thy seed shall all the

nations of the earth be blessed.”  (Genesis 22:18)



PROGRESSION OF HIS PROVIDENCE. Men of Samuel’s type must

rouse themselves and join freely and confidently in the blessed progression.

New conditions are daily arising. The instruments for the realizing of the

Divine purpose are limited only by His creative power. The earth is His, and

He raises up a David when a David can best furnish the next link in the

unbroken chain. Faculties and aptitudes need only circumstances to

develop them into direct forces in the Messianic line. Samuel must brace

himself to this aspect of things, and share in the honor and the toil of

covering the failures of some by drawing out the better qualities of others.

We must guard against the tendency to settle down into a mournful,

inactive mood because, forsooth, the lines of Providence seem to us to be

involved and past all disentanglement. There are men whose delight it is

always to sing in the minor key. They overlook the fact that God’s will is

being wrought out in spite of necessarily imperfect creatures. There is a

voice calling on all such to arise, to cease to feed their soul on regrets, to

believe that the “covenant is ordered in all things, and is sure.”  (II Samuel




BASED ON PARTIAL KNOWLEDGE. The fear of Samuel finds its

counterpart in the fear of many when called to undertake arduous duties. In

his case it was based on partial information, and, therefore, while natural,

was unreasonable. He appears to have concluded beforehand that he was

to go and at once set up an actual king, and summon Israel to turn their

allegiance from Saul to the new monarch. No doubt this would be

exasperating to Saul, and by many might be regarded as treason. His

reference to Saul’s killing him would not, therefore, express mere fear of

death so much as his view of consequences which it was desirable to avoid

by a less obtrusive policy. Samuel had no right to prejudge the appointment

of God. He was simply told to go to Bethlehem with his horn of oil, for

that a king was to be forthcoming from the sons of Jesse. We possess only

partial information concerning many of the purposes and methods of God.

We are not justified in forming a judgment of all His acts by what is made

known to us. The morality of all He commands is ever the same, whatever

the future developments may be. Every day will bring its light. We must

not put more into God’s words than He intends. If he says, “Fill thine horn

with oil and go to Jesse,” we must not make that mean that we are to raise

a standard of rebellion and place ourselves in peril. Men do put into

Scripture what is not there (.... “if any man shall add unto these things,

God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book.” -  

Revelation 22:18), and then see consequences which arouse anxiety.



POSITION TO OBTAIN FURTHER LIGHT. Samuel, instead of dwelling

on his fear, arising from an unwise prejudgment of God’s acts, was

directed to go and do the one thing, and then look out for what next to do

(v. 3). He was to obey, and so be in a position to learn whether the next

step was to raise publicly a standard of rebellion around a new king, or

privately to anoint the coming man and let him await the removal by death

of the people’s leader. We have here an important practical rule. By doing

each duty fully as it comes we qualify for more light and greater aptitude

for succeeding duties. When bent on the performance of duty, which in its

issues may involve consequences serious and untraceable, it is well to

associate religious exercises with them. It is as true for us as for Samuel

that, in our sphere, the Lord will show us what next to do. Faithfulness day

by day in small things will make us keen to recognize the Divine voice with

reference to greater things.


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.” When they were come. I.e. to the house of Jesse,

apparently in the interval between the sacrifice and the feast. The latter we

learn in v. 11 did not take place until after David had been sent for. But

many hours would elapse between the sacrifice and the feast, as the victim

had to be skinned and prepared for roasting, and finally cooked. This

interval was spent in Jesse’s house; and when he saw there Eliab, the first

born, and observed his tall stature and handsome face, qualities which

Samuel had admired in Saul, he said, i.e. in himself, felt sure, that the

goodly youth was Jehovah’s anointed (see on ch. 2:10, 35;10:1, etc.),

but is warned that these external advantages do not necessarily

imply real worth of heart; and as Jehovah looketh on the heart, his

judgment depends, not on appearances, but on reality. As Eliab is thus

rejected, Jesse makes his other sons pass before the prophet. Next

Abinadab, who has the same name as a son of Saul (ch. 31:2);

then Shammah, so called again in ch. 17:13, but Shimea in II Samuel

13:3, and Shimma in I Chronicles 2:13, where, however, the Hebrew is

exactly the same as in II Samuel 13:3. After these four other sons

follow, of whom one apparently died young, as only seven are recorded in

I Chronicles 2:13-15, whereas these with David make eight. To all

these seven the Divine voice within Samuel gave no response, and he said

unto Jesse, Jehovah hath not chosen these.



God’s Regard to the Heart (v. 7)  


The heart is the center of


a.  the bodily life;

b. the spiritual-psychical life — will and desire, thought and conception,

    the feelings and the affections; and

c.  the moral life, so that all moral conditions — from the highest mystical

    love of God to the self-deifying pride and the darkening and hardening —

    are concentrated in the heart as the innermost life circle of humanity”

    (Delitzsch, ‘Bib. Psychology,’ p. 295). The declaration that “Jehovah

    looketh on the heart” is profitable for:


  • THE CORRECTION OF ERRORS into which we too commonly fall in

relation to others.


Ø      The adoption of an imperfect standard of human worth:“the

outward appearance;”


o        personal strength and beauty;

o        wealth and social position;

o        cleverness,

o        education, and refinement of manners;

o        external morality,

o        ceremonial observances, and religious zeal.


These things are not to be despised, but they may exist whilst the chief

thing is wanting — a right state of heart. “One thing thou lackest.”

(Mark 10:21)


Ø      The assumption that we are competent judges of the character and

worth of others. But we cannot look into their hearts; and what we see is

an imperfect index to them, and liable to mislead us.


Ø      The formation of false judgments concerning them. How common this is

our Lord’s words indicate (Matthew 7:1).


  • THE INCULCATION OF TRUTHS which are often forgotten in

relation to ourselves.


Ø      That we are liable to be deceived concerning the real state of our hearts,

and to think of ourselves “more highly than we ought to think”

(Romans 12:3).


Ø      That the heart of each of us lies open to the inspection of God: certainly,

directly, completely, and constantly. He beholds its deepest motive, its

supreme affection and ruling purpose. However we may deceive ourselves

or others, we cannot deceive him (I Chronicles 28:9; Psalm 44:21;

Proverbs 15:11; Jeremiah 17:9-10; Luke 16:15; Revelation 2:23).


Ø      That only a right state of heart can meet with His approval. It is the

effect of His grace, and He cannot but take pleasure in His own work; but

“the heart of the wicked is little worth” (Proverbs 10:20).


  • THE ENFORCEMENT OF DUTIES which ought to be diligently

fulfilled in relation both to ourselves and others.


Ø      To seek supremely that our own hearts be set right; and kept right — by

self-examination, self-restraint, and fervent prayer to him “who searcheth

the reins and the hearts” (Psalm 51:10; 139:23-24; Jeremiah 31:33).


Ø      To endure patiently the wrong judgments that others may form and

utter concerning us. If we sometimes judge wrongly of them, need we

wonder that they should judge wrongly of us? “Unto God would I commit

my cause” (Job 5:8).


Ø      To judge charitably of their motives, character, and worth. (Charles

Stanley said in our judgment, it is best to give others “the benefit of

the doubt.”) A judgment must sometimes be formed (Matthew 7:15-20);

but “let all your things be done with charity” (I Corinthians 16:14).


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.”

Are here all thy children? The word literally is lads,

na’arim. The elder sons must have been nearly or quite grown up, but

David was probably a mere boy, and as such had not been thought worthy

of an invitation, but had been left with the servants keeping the sheep. The

prophet now orders him to be summoned, and marks his value in God’s

sight by saying, We will not sit down till he come hither. The verb

literally means, we will not surround, i.e. the table, though at this time the

Jews did sit at meals, instead of reclining on couches, as in the days of

Amos and our Lord. We gather, moreover, from Samuel’s words that the

selection of the son that was to be anointed took place while the

preparations were being made for the feast. At the prophet’s command

David is fetched from the flock, which was probably near the house, and on

his arrival the prophet sees a ruddy boy, i.e. red-haired, correctly rendered

in the Vulgate rufus, the color loved by all painters of manly beauty, and,

from the delicacy of complexion which accompanies it, especially admired

in the East, where men are generally dark-haired and sallow-faced.

Moreover, he was of a beautiful countenance. The Hebrew says, “with

beautiful eyes,” and so the Syriac and Septuagint rightly. He was also

goodly to look to, i.e. to look at. These last words give the general idea of

the beauty of his face and person, while his bright hair and delicate

complexion and the beauty of his eyes are specially noticed in the Hebrew.


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.”

Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the

midst of his brethren. Did he or they understand the meaning of the act?

We think not. Certainly Eliab (ch. 17:28) had no idea of any

special greatness being in store for his brother. Most probably both Jesse

and his sons regarded David as simply selected to be trained in Samuel’s

schools; and there can be little doubt that he was so trained. Samuel gave

unto David that which Saul had not received — long and careful training;

and David profited by it, and at Naioth in Ramah perfected his skill, not

only in reading and writing, but in poetry and music. Saul and David were

both men of extraordinary natural ability; but the one is always shy,

awkward, and with all the defects of an uneducated man; while David is

altogether the contrary. But Samuel gave his youthful pupil something

better than accomplishments — he carefully educated him in the law of

God, and led his mind onward to all that was good. It was Samuel’s last

and crowning work. Prophecy and monarchy were both of his institution,

as orderly elements of the Jewish state; he also trained the man who more

nearly than any other approached unto the ideal of the theocratic king, and

was to Israel the type of their coming Messiah. It was Samuel’s wisdom in

teaching his young men music which gave David the skill to be the sweet

singer of the sanctuary; and we may feel sure also that when David

arranged the service of the house of God, and gave priests and Levites their

appointed duties (I Chronicles chapters 23-26), the model which he set before

him was that in which he had so often taken part with Samuel at Ramah.

As Eliah, Abinadab, and Shammah were but lads (v. 11), David must

have been very young, and many years have elapsed between his anointing

and his summons to Saul’s presence and combat with Goliath; and they

were thus well spent in the prophet’s company, whence at, proper intervals

he would return to his father’s house and resume his ordinary duties. The

Spirit of Jehovah came upon David from that day forward (compare

ch.10:6, 9). In modern language we should say that David’s

character grew and developed nobly, both intellectually and morally. With

far more ethical truth the Israelites saw in the high qualities which

displayed themselves in David’s acts and words the presence and working

of a Divine Spirit. It was a “breathing of Jehovah” which moved David

onward, and fostered in him all that was morally great and good, just as it

was “the breath of God” which at the creation moved upon the face of the

waters to call this earth into being (Genesis 1:2). Samuel rose up and

went to Ramah. His mission was over, and he returned to his ordinary

duties; but, doubtless, first he made arrangements that David should in due

time follow him thither, that he might be trained for his high office under

Samuel’s direct influence and control.



David Chosen and Anointed (vs. 4-13)


“Arise, anoint him: for this is he” (v. 12). In the exercise of his prophetic

office Samuel appears to have been accustomed to visit one place or

another, rebuking crime and sin. Hence his presence at Bethlehem (clad in

a mantle, his white hair flowing over his shoulders, holding a horn of

consecrated oil in his hand, and attended, perhaps, by a servant), driving

before him a heifer for sacrifice, filled the elders with consternation. Having

quieted their fears, he showed special honor to Jesse and his sons by

inviting them to be his principal guests at a sacrificial feast. By the express

direction of God he allowed his seven sons, who were introduced to him,

to pass by without any mark of distinction; and, having delayed the feast

until his youngest son came, poured upon his head the sacred oil, and

“anointed him from amongst his brethren.” “As far as outward appearances

go he simply chooses him as his closest companion and friend in the

sacrifice” (Ewald). The act may have been regarded as “somehow

connected with admission to the schools of the prophets, or more probably

with some work for God in the future, which at the proper time would be

pointed out.” Its main significance was known only to the prophet, and was

not revealed by him at the time to any one else. Consider the Divine choice

of David (representing that of others) to eminent spiritual service and

honor, as;



They are accustomedAAAAAAAA;


Ø      To judge according to the outward appearance” which alone is clearly

perceived, which is often deemed of greater worth than properly belongs

to it, and which is erroneously supposed to be united with corresponding

inward reality. On this account Saul suited the popular desire.


Ø      To prefer the eldest before the youngest; an arrangement which is an

imperfect one, and often set aside by the choice of God, who thus exhibits

His superior knowledge and maintains His sovereign right.


Ø      Even the oldest and wisest of men fall into error when left to themselves.

Not only did Jesse and the brethren of David look upon him as unfit for

anything but the lowliest occupation  (ch. 17:28), and unworthy

to be called to the sacred feast, but Samuel himself thought at first that in

Eliab the Lord’s anointed was before him. The stone which the builders

refuse becomes (by the operation of God, and to the surprise of men) “the

head stone of the corner.”  (Psalm 118:22)




Ø      In the sight of God is of greater value than anything else, and essential

to the worth of everything else.  (“My son, give me thine heart.” –

Proverbs 23:26)


Ø      Implies such qualities as sincerity, humility, trust, fidelity, courage,

purity? and unselfish, generous, entire devotion, which were eminently

displayed by David.


Ø      Renders capable of noble service, prompts to it, and prepares for the

highest honor. “Is thy heart right?” (II Kings 10:15). Whatever great

things may lie in the future, right heartedness is the first condition of

attaining them.




Ø      By his separation from others, and by directing their attention to his

worth, which had been previously unrecognized. “We will not sit down till

he come hither.” Circumstances often constrain attention to those who

have been despised. “The stone which is fit for the building will not be left

in the road.”


Ø      By indications of his being providentially destined to future eminence.

David did not himself understand the chief purpose of his anointing, but he

must have inferred from it that he was not always to continue in “the

sheepfolds” (Psalm 68:70), and have been impelled to look forward to

a higher service on behalf of Israel. Possibly it was afterwards explained to

him by Samuel in more familiar conversation.


Ø      By communications of Divine grace and strength to his inner life. “And

the Spirit of Jehovah came upon David from that day forward.” It is

recorded of Samson that “the Spirit of Jehovah began to move him at times

in the camp of Dan;” it was the same in the case of David (ch. 17:34),

and in a much higher manner (see  ibid. ch. 10:1, 10; 11:6).

“The natural basis for this symbolism of oil is its power to dispense;


o        light

o        life,

o        joy and

o        healing;


 by which it sets forth the Spirit’s dispensation of light and life, and the

gifts and powers therein contained” (Bahr).



Many years must sometimes elapse before one who is chosen by God for a

special work is fully called to its performance. Why such delay? For:


Ø      The removal of obstacles that lie in his path. Saul must be suffered to go

to the natural termination of his melancholy career.


Ø      The occurrence of circumstances that make it necessary and cause it to

be generally desired. The people must learn by experience the folly of their

former choice, and their need of another and different kind of ruler.


Ø      His own instruction, discipline, and preparation. The proper course for

him who is impelled to higher service is patiently to bide his time in the

humble and faithful discharge of the duty that lies immediately before him.

“David’s peculiar excellence is that of fidelity to the trust committed to

him; a firm, uncompromising, single-hearted devotion to the cause of God,

and a burning zeal for His honor. This characteristic virtue is especially

illustrated in the early years of his life. Having borne his trial of obedience

well, in which Saul had failed, then at length he was entrusted with a sort of

discretionary power to use in his Master’s service” (J.H. Newman).



Human and Divine Judgments Contrasted (vs. 6-13)


The facts are:


1. Samuel, being impressed with the appearance of Eliab, concludes that he

is the coming king.

2. An intimation is given that Eliab is not the man, and the reason assigned

for the imperfect judgment of Samuel is, that man looks on the outward

appearance, but God on the heart.

3. It being found that the other sons were not chosen of God, inquiry is

made concerning the absent one.

4. On the youngest being brought, Samuel at once recognizes him as the

chosen of God, and, in obedience to the voice of God, anoints him in the

midst of the family.

5. Henceforth the Spirit of the Lord rests on David. We have here the

introduction of an entirely new feature in the development of Israel’s

mission in the world. The former choice of a king was virtually man’s. The

initiation of the choice was taken in the desire to have a king to embody

their idea of government (ch. 8:5, 19-20). In this case the people

are not consulted or heeded. God selects the man according to His

knowledge of what is best. The human device had failed; the Divine choice

can now come in with impressiveness. Yet human instrumentality brings to

pass God’s purpose. Samuel, however, is influenced by the appearance of

things, and has to learn that even the judgment of the wise and good is

liable to err. The essential imperfection of man s judgment as compared

with God’s is explained by the fact that man’s knowledge does not enter

into the realities of things as does God’s.


  • LIFE IS A SERIES OF JUDGMENTS. In every act of perception there

is involved an intuitive judgment; and in every comparison of different

objects, as also in every course of silent reasoning, a decision is arrived at

which helps to form the stock of ideas constituting our knowledge. Thus

do we acquire opinions respecting the value of men and things. In some

persons there is a tendency to criticize human actions and words, and to

proceed from what is clear to the senses to a deliberate judgment on the

invisible; but in all there is a necessity of nature by which, apart from

criticism, some estimate is formed of every one coming under our

observation. This necessity of our nature is full of advantage. It is the

means of enrichment to the mind; it furnishes a basis for friendship; it

preserves from treachery; it facilitates the intercourse of life; and when the

series of judgments is formed, under the guidance of such light as Christ

gives, it constitutes an imperishable fount of enjoyment when this life is

past.  (Of which the unbeliever has no clue, nor frame of reference.  CY –



  • GOD ALSO HAS HIS JUDGMENT OF THINGS. It is not correct to

speak of God’s knowledge in the terms applicable to man; for He does not

pass from the small to the great, the obscure to the clear, the sensible to the

invisible. Yet it may be said of God that there is in His mind a clear

judgment respecting each, as to what it essentially is, and what its value in

the great economy of the universe. To say that God knows us altogether is

another way of saying that He has a judgment of our character and position.

It is a solemn fact for us that the Eternal adjudges our actions and thoughts

one by one as they arise (Revelation 20:12), and the day of judgment

will be a summary of the judgments passed on our actions one by one as

they occur. If men only had more faith in God, and did but let a knowledge

of His estimate of actions influence their lives, what wonders we should see!



VERY DIFFERENT. Possibly, while the distinction between infinite and

finite exists, there can never be a perfect coincidence of the human and

Divine judgment, in the strictest sense of the term. But apart from this

there are several aspects of the truth affirmed and illustrated in the case of



Ø      The constitution of things. We know and judge only of the appearance

of things. The material universe, even when subjected to the scrutiny of the

most correct scientific appliances, and reduced to the last analysis of

elements, is only known on the outside. What the ultimate relation of the

primary forces to THE ONE ALMIGHTY POWER and why they work in

certain observed lines to which we give the name “laws,” we know not.

The same is true of mind. It is a vast world, on the outer fringe only of

which we at present can gaze. Not so God’s. As AUTHOR AND

UPHOLDER OF ALL He has an estimate of the internal, essential

constitution of things more perfect than our estimate of the outward

appearance. Hence the folly of men professing to say what cannot be;

or that the universe, as seen by us in operation, is to be and has been always

thus. Hence the wisdom of submitting to the revealed truth of God when it

touches on His relation to the order of things and the mysteries of His own

ineffable Being (Matthew 28:19; John 7:28).


Ø      The worth of lines of action. Man’s judgment is freely expressed in

reference to certain lines of action pursued by what are called the “great.”

The heroes of the world have often won admiration for deeds which, had

man’s judgment been based on a finer perception of what constitutes

greatness, would have been buried in oblivion. Have not the most costly

monuments been raised to warriors? Is not the world’s idea of “glory” that

of conquering by force of arms, or the enjoyment of wealth and splendor?

The judgment of God is not thus. He looks on the heart of things. True

greatness lies in saving, healing, curing, elevating, purifying, binding in

bonds of peace and goodwill. Imagine Jesus Christ raising an Arc de

Triomphe! Imagine Him conferring highest honors on men of great and

bloody victories! Imagine Him pointing to wealth as the goal of a youth’s

ambition! The noblest men are those who best reproduce THE SPIRIT



Ø      Human character. Man’s judgment of character is necessarily imperfect;

for words are not always a revelation of the inner man, but the reverse, and

the seat of motive is not pierced by the human eye. There is often a worse

heart than appears on the surface of a man’s conduct, and, also, a better

heart than a man sometimes gets credit for, We are too apt to be

influenced by prejudice, social considerations, personal interests, and to

estimate the principles of others by the narrow standard of our own. Some

men are suspicious, or self-righteous, or limited in their area of

observation, and therefore they can never be sure of their judgment of

other men. Others are easily caught by what is fair and conformable to

custom, and, like Samuel, they spring to hasty conclusions. It is better

often to fall into the hands of God than of man. On the other hand, God’s

judgment of us is perfect. The most secret avenue of thought and feeling is

naked and open to his eye. He reads us entirely. His knowledge is not

inferential from words and actions, but is that of the disposition and hidden

motive (Psalm 139; Hebrews 4:13).  (This on a day  in which a committee of

the House of Representatives and the head of the Federal Bureau of

Investigation are the discussing the intent of a matter concerning a former

Secretary of State and a candidate for the presidency of the United States

of America?  This being July 7, 2016 – CY)


Ø      Fitness for position. Samuel was in error in supposing that the qualities

which might be inferred from his outward appearance to exist in Eliab

would enable him to perform the part required of a true king in Israel. God

alone knew the high spiritual work to be done by the coming king, and he

alone could see the latent qualities in David by which it could be

performed. At best our judgment is guess work. We especially feel this in

seeking to fill up secular offices, and more so when making appointments

to spiritual duties (Acts 1:24; I Timothy 5:22).




Ø      There is abundant scope in life for caution, patience, charity in our

estimate of others.


Ø      We should make an effort to be inwardly such as God will approve,

and then all else will follow in due course.


Ø      It should be a spring of comfort to the sincere that God knows them and

approves when man errs in judgment.



The Coming King (vs. 12-13)


The facts are:


1. The personal appearance of David is pleasing.

2. Samuel is instructed to anoint him as the chosen of God.

3. Subsequent to the anointing the Spirit of God rests on David.

4. Samuel, having performed this important duty, retires to Ramah.


Samuel, like many a servant of God in public affairs, carried in his heart a

great secret. He sought the coming king, but not a word was said to

indicate to the family of Jesse the specific object of his mission. For

anything they knew, the selection of one of the family might be designed

for some purpose connected with Samuel’s work not yet made plain. The

command to anoint was based, not on any discovery of qualities from mere

outward appearance, though these were not unfavorable, but on God’s

knowledge of the inner life. Man’s king had been chosen because of his

being an average representative of the age, and an embodiment of the

physical and mental qualities agreeable to the people. The coming king was

chosen because God knew him to be the best representative of the spiritual

vocation of Israel in the world. The coming king may be regarded as:


  • A TYPE. Events under the Old Testament dispensation were so ordered

of God as to shadow forth the Christ, and both Old and New Testaments

especially speak of David as the type of the true King in Zion. This is seen

in several respects.


Ø      In qualities. Of course no man, no words, no institutions can adequately

set forth the qualities of the “express image” of the Father’s person.

(Hebrews 1:3)  But, in comparison with others, David certainly shadowed

forth more than any one some of the features of character so prominent in



o        Negatively, there was an absence of the qualities on which men were

accustomed to depend.  Great physical strength, lofty stature,

overpowering physique were not his.  And so in Christ there was an

absence of the outward form which men of low type count powerful.

He was not apparently competent to subdue the world by the only

force which men take count of. But:


o        Positively, there was in this coming king an adumbration of the higher

spiritual qualities which shone so brightly in Christ. The allusions to

his personal appearance are both to indicate that he was not the

embodiment of mere physical force, and that he did possess what was

of more value, namely:


§         vigor and freshness, capable of buoyant effort  in any good


§         grace of spirit — gentle, approachable, one of whom the poor

and needy need not be afraid;

§         sincerity and ingenuousness of mind, free from double motives

and self-seeking;

§         love of what is right and good because right and good,

uncorrupted by long and dubious association with  the world’s


§         sympathy with God that finds joy in quiet fellowship with

Him by prayer or holy psalm;

§         aspirations after the future elevation of mankind to a holier


§         subordination of spirit to a higher will, for the working out of

the covenant made with His people.


He who sees not as man sees knew that these qualities were actually

or germinally in the youngest son of Jesse. How fully the same were

in Christ is evident from His life and words and sacrificial work.


Ø      In object. Saul’s reign was a failure in so far as concerned the elevation

of the nation to its proper position. The object for which the coming king

was anointed was to deliver Israel from thraldom, fear, and degradation,

and enable them to more worthily serve the ulterior spiritual ends of

their existence as a nation. In large measure David did this. In this he was

certainly a type of Him who was chosen for the deliverance of a larger

community from worse evils; and that, too, with reference to a permanent

order of things stretching beyond the day of judgment (John 17;

I Corinthians 15).


Ø      In call and preparation. Leaving out the fact that Bethlehem was the

place of birth to David and Christ, we may notice two or three

correspondences. This youth was specially chosen of God irrespective of

popular voice; he grew up in quietude, awaiting the opening of events

before entering on his predestined work; and was anointed with the abiding

presence of the Holy Spirit, and so gradually became qualified for his

important duties. Emphatically, Christ was “the Chosen One,” “Elect,”

“Precious;” in youth He grew in wisdom and stature, far removed from the

worries of public business, and received the anointing of the Spirit “without

measure.”  (Luke 2:52; John 3:34)


  • A MODEL. Confining attention to the qualities of this coming king,

and the objects that in due course he set before himself, he may be

regarded as the model king. It had been well for Israel had all subsequent

kings shared these qualities and kept before them the same lofty spiritual

ends. And although civilization in the West differs from that of the East in

David’s age, yet it would be a great boon to the nations if all kings and

queens would adopt and manifest the same principles, and seek to

harmonize all the people’s habits and aspirations with Messiah’s kingdom.

Likewise, as each Christian is to be a “king” unto God (Revelation 1:6),

we may see in the qualities and aspirations of this model king what

manner of persons we ought to be.


  • A CONTRAST. This is obvious. Saul was man’s man; David was

God’s. Saul was man’s device for saving the people (ch. 8:5, 19-20);

David was God’s provision for raising them to the Messianic standard.

Man’s device failed — the instrument partook too largely of the

weaknesses of the people to be raised; God’s provision succeeded, in so far

as related to national freedom, higher spiritual elevation, and actual

furtherance of Messianic purposes. The contrast is suggestive of a wider

expedient and a more blessed provisions. Mankind was in need of

deliverance from the evils consequent on sin. During long ages the human

expedient of “wisdom’’ was tried, but in vain. But “after that in the

wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the

foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.”  (I Corinthians 1:21)

The CHRIST has become the Deliverer. His gospel is the power of God

unto salvation. (Romans 1:16)  ByHim the highest and most blessed issues

are wrought out for mankind. The contrast may be traced, also, in respect

to our personal deliverance and elevation to the loftiest position attainable

by human nature. Our bare human reason, human morality, human force of

will must issue in trouble.  We need the Anointed One, the God given

Saviour. He transfusing our natural powers with His glorious energy,

will make us “more than conquerors.”  (Romans 8:37)  To God’s true

servants the Holy Spirit comes as abiding Helper, to teach, sanctify,

comfort, and elevate.



The Chosen One (vs. 12-13)


The Lord is never without resource. If Saul fails, the God of Israel has

another and a better man in training for the post which Saul discredited.

This new personage now appears on the page of history, and he will

occupy many pages. It is David, the hero, the musician, the poet, the

warrior, the ruler, a many-sided man, a star of the first magnitude.


1. Not chosen according to the thoughts of men. Samuel, who at first

hesitated to go to Bethlehem on so dangerous an errand as the Lord

prescribed to him? when he did go was inclined to be over hasty. Assuming

that a new king who should supplant Saul ought to be not inferior to him in

stature and strength, the prophet at once fixed on Eliab, the eldest son in

Jesse’s family, as the one who should be the Lord’s anointed. Here was a

man able to cope with, or worthy to succeed, the almost gigantic son of

Kish. But the Lord corrected His servant’s mistake. The time was past for

choosing a leader on the score of “outward appearance.” The Lord sought

for the regal position a man whose heart would be true and obedient. Now

Eliab’s heart, as the next chapter shows, was small, though his body was

large; his temper was vain and overbearing. So he had to pass; and all his

brothers who were present at the feast had to pass. Not one of them had

such a heart as the Lord required; and it is a significant fact that we never

read of any of these men in after years as playing any honorable or

memorable part in the history of their country, unless the Septuagint

reading of I Chronicles 27:18 be right, and the Eliab here mentioned

held the office of a tribal chief under his royal brother.


2. Chosen according to the thoughts of God. When the young shepherd,

being sent for by his father, entered the chamber with his bright hair and

fair countenance, fresh from the fields, the Lord bade Samuel anoint him.

“This is he.” The selection of the youngest son is in keeping with what we

find in many Bible stories. Divine choice traversed the line of natural

precedence. The Lord had respect to Abel, not to Cain; to Jacob rather

than to Esau; to Joseph above his elder brethren. Ephraim was blessed

above Manasseh; Moses was set over Aaron; Gideon was the youngest in

his father’s house. In this there is something so pleasing to the imagination

that it has passed into the tales and legends of many nations. Of three

brothers, or seven brothers, it is always the youngest who surpasses

everyone, accomplishes the difficult task, and rises to be a king. David’s

superiority to his brothers was intrinsic, and the result not of luck, but of

grace. The Lord had drawn his heart to Himself in the days of youth.

Accordingly, where such men as Saul and Eliab were weak David was

strong. He revered and loved the Lord, and could therefore be depended

on to do God’s will. “To whom also,” says Paul, “he gave testimony,

and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart,

who shall fulfil all my will.”  (Acts 13:22)  The last clause in this extract shows

what is intended by the one which goes before. David was a man after the Lord’s

heart in loyally doing His will. He was not without fault; he certainly

displeased God more than once; but he thoroughly apprehended what Saul

never could understand — that a king of Israel must not be an autocrat, but

should without question or murmur carry out the paramount will of God.

In this respect David never failed. He had many trials and temptations,

afflictions that might have made him discontented, and successes that might

have made him proud; but he continued steadfast in his purpose of heart to

be the Lord’s, to consult the Lord about everything, and carry out His

revealed will.


3. Prepared in retirement for future eminence. There is a sort of augury of

his career in his father’s words, “Behold, he keepeth the sheep.” Saul first

came before us going hither and thither in search of asses that were astray,

and not finding them. So, as a king, he went up and down, restless and

disappointed. But David kept the flock entrusted to him, and, as a king, he

shepherded the flock of God. “So he fed them according to the integrity of

his heart, and guided them by the skillfulness of his hands.”  (Psalm 78:72)


  1. As a shepherd David formed habits of vigilance. He had to think for the

flock, lead the sheep to pasture, see that they were regularly watered,

watch that none strayed or were lost, and look well after the ewes and the

tender lambs. All this served to make him in public life wary, prudent,

thoughtful for others, a chieftain who deserved the confidence of his

followers. Saul had little or none of this. He went to and fro, and fought

bravely, but evinced none of that unselfish consideration for his people

which marks a kingly shepherd. David showed it all through his career. He

watched over his subjects, thought for them, instructed and led them. Near

the end of his reign he committed an error which brought disaster on Israel;

and it is touching to see how the true shepherd’s heart was grieved that the

flock should suffer through his fault. He Cried to the Lord, “Lo, I have

sinned, and have done wickedly; but these sheep, what have they done?”

            (II Samuel 24:17)


  1. As a shepherd David proved and improved his courage. Shepherds in

Palestine, in those days, were obliged to protect their flocks from prowling

beasts of prey. How many encounters of this kind David may have had we

do not know; but we learn from himself that, while yet a stripling, he had

fought and slain both a lion and a bear rather than give up one lamb or kid

of the flock. His was the best sort of courage — natural intrepidity of a

true and brave spirit, sustained and elevated by unquestioning trust in God.

While encountering the wild beasts in defense of his flock David was being

fitted, though he knew it not, to face an armed giant in behalf of Israel, and

in many battles afterwards to beat down the enemies of his country. The

springs of his courage were in God. “Jehovah is my light and my salvation:

whom shall I fear? Jehovah is the strength of my life: of whom shall I be

afraid?”  (Psalm 27:1)


  1. As a shepherd David had leisure for music and poetry. As he kept the

sheep he learned to play on his harp with a skill which was the occasion of

his first rise from obscurity; and he composed and sang sweet lyrics:


1.      pious and

2.      patriotic.


Whether he looked up to the sky, or looked round on the hills and valleys,

or recalled to mind famous passages of his nation’s history, everything

gave him a song to Jehovah. Every poet writes juvenile pieces,

which, though defective, show the bent of his genius; and in after

years, if he has not rashly published them, he is able to recast them into

new and more perfect forms as his mind grows and his skill improves. So,

doubtless, the son of Jesse, in the pastoral solitude at Bethlehem, began to

compose lyrics which in more mature life, under the guidance of the Holy

Spirit, he threw into the forms of those Psalms which carry down his fame

to the end of time. What a contrast to the unhappy son of Kish! Saul had

the impulse of music and song upon him more than once; but he had to be

acted on by others, and his own spirit had no inward harmony. As the years

advanced his life became more and more unmelodious and out of tune;

whereas David’s early addiction to devout song and minstrelsy prepared

him to be something better than a gruff warrior in his manhood. Born with

genius and sensibility, he grew up a man of some accomplishment, and

when called to the throne, elevated the mental and spiritual tone of the

nation, and was, through a long reign, himself a very fountain of musical

culture and sweet poetic thought.


4. Anointed without and within. Samuel anointed the youth outwardly,

pouring oil over his head; Jehovah anointed him inwardly, for “the Spirit of

the Lord came upon David from that day forward.” The old prophet is a

figure of John the Baptist, another Nazarene, and one who came to prepare

the way of the King. David suggests Another, a descendant of his own,

born in the same Bethlehem, and, like himself, lightly esteemed. As Samuel

poured oil on the head of David, so John poured water on the head of

Jesus, the Good Shepherd. Then Samuel retired from view. So John too

retired, and made way for Him whom he had baptized. “He must increase,

but I must decrease.” (John 3:30)  The parallel goes still further. David had been a

child of grace, but on that day the Spirit of the Lord came upon him, and he got

what Samuel could not impart — a Divine qualification for the work and

dignity to which he was destined. Jesus had been holy, harmless, and

undefiled from his mother’s womb; but on the day of His baptism the Spirit,

as a dove, descended and rested upon Him, and He got what John could not

impart — the Divine qualification of His humanity for the work and dignity

to which He was destined as THE CHRIST, THE LORD’S ANOINTED!

 “Now know I that the Lord saveth His anointed.” (Psalm 20:6)  Therefore

He will save  us who follow the King. Only let the name of the King be our

watchword, His righteousness our righteousness, His strength our strength,

His mind our mind, His anointing our anointing. So shall we see Him and

be with Him in His kingdom and glory.






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.”  From this time forward David is the

central figure of the history. Saul has been rejected, and though, as being the

actual king, he must still play his part, more especially as his decline goes

on side by side with David s growth in every kingly quality, yet the record of

it is no longer given on Saul’s account. Interesting, then, as may be the

information concerning the mental malady with which Saul was visited, yet

the object of this section is to acquaint us with the manner in which David

was first brought into connection with him. From the description given of

David in v. 18 it is evident that there has been a considerable interval of

time between this and the previous section. David is no longer a child, but

a “mighty valiant man.” The connection is ethical, and lies in the contrasted

moral state of the two men, as shown in the two parallel statements: “the

Spirit of Jehovah came upon David;” “the Spirit of Jehovah departed from

Saul.” There was a gradual decline and debasement of his character; and as

David grew from a child into a hero in war and a scholar in peace, so Saul,

from being a hero, degenerated into a moody and resentful tyrant. An evil

spirit from Jehovah troubled him. Really, as in the margin, terrified him;

that is, Saul became subject to fits of intense mental agony, under which

his reason gave way, and temporary insanity, accompanied by outbreaks of

violence, came on. It is very difficult for us with our richer language to

give the exact force of the Hebrew; for the word rendered spirit is literally

wind, air, breath. A student of Hebrew can trace the word ruach through

all its modifications, from its physical signification as the material wind, to

its metaphysical meaning as an influence from God; and then still onward

up to the beings who minister before God, and of whom the Psalmist says,

“He maketh his angels to be winds” (Psalm 104:4); till finally we reach

up unto the third person of the blessed Trinity: and then, as with this full

knowledge of the Divine nature we read backward, we find the presence of

the Holy Ghost indicated, where to the Israelite probably there was

mention only of a material agency. Jost, in his ‘History of the Jews since

the time of the Maccabees,’ vol. 1. p. 12, says that Saul suffered under that

form of madness called hypochondria, and that the Jews gave this the

name of bad air, the words translated here “evil spirit;” for they held, he

says, that “the devil inhabited the air.” So Paul speaks of the “wicked

spiritual beings that are in high places,” i.e. in the loftier regions of the

atmosphere (Ephesians 6:12). A study of Saul’s character makes it

probable that, as is often the case with men of brilliant genius, there was

always a touch of insanity in his mental constitution. His joining in the

exercises of the prophets (ch. 10:10-12) was an outburst of

eccentric enthusiasm; and the excitement of his behavior in the

occurrences narrated in ch. 14. indicate a mind that might easily be thrown

off its balance. And now he seems to have brooded over his deposition by

Samuel, and instead of repenting to have regarded himself as an ill-used

man, and given himself up to despondency, until he became a prey to

melancholy, and his mind was overclouded. His servants rightly regarded

this as a Divine punishment, but their words are remarkable. Behold, an

evil spirit from God terrifieth thee. And so again, in v. 16, the evil

spirit from God, as if they were unwilling to ascribe to Jehovah, their

covenant Deity, the sending of this evil “influence,” while rightly they saw

that evil as well as good must come from the Almighty, inasmuch as all

things are in His hand, and whatever is must be by His permission. The

writer of the book has no such scruples; he calls it “an evil spirit from

Jehovah,” because it was Jehovah, their own theocratic King, who had

dethroned Saul, and withdrawn from him His blessing and protection.


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.  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.”  A cunning player on an harp.

Literally, one skilful in striking the chords on the harp. In Saul’s case music

would have a soothing influence, and turn the current of his thoughts. His

officers suggest, therefore, that search should be made for an expert musician,

and Saul consents; whereupon one of the servants recommended the son of

Jesse. The word used here is not the same as that found in vs. 15-17. There

we have Saul’s officers; here it is na’arim, “young men.” Thus it was a

youth of David’s own age, who had probably been with him at Naioth in

Ramah, that described him to Saul. The description is full and interesting,

but it has its difficulties. David is not only skilful in music, of which art he

would have had ample scope to manifest his powers in the service of the

sanctuary at Ramah, but he is also a mighty valiant man, and a man of

war, and prudent in matters, or, rather, intelligent in speech (see

margin), as well as handsome and successful. Nevertheless, in ch.17:33-36

David appears as a youth about to make his first essay in fighting;

and though the two exploits mentioned there, of killing the lion and the

bear, might justify his friend in calling him a mighty valiant man, literally,

“a hero of valor,” they do not justify the words a man of war. It is

strange, moreover, that Saul should be so entirely ignorant of David’s

person and lineage as he is represented in the narrative in ch. 17, if thus

David was court musician, though reference is made there to this visit of

David to Saul in v. 15. Possibly, however, David and this youth may

have served together in repelling some marauding expedition of the

Philistines, and though David may not have actually done much, —

nothing, at all events, so well worth repeating to Saul as the combats with

the wild beasts, — yet he may have achieved enough to convince his friend

that he had in him the qualities of a man of war, i.e. of a good soldier. For

the rest, we must conclude that this first visit of David was a very short

one, and that after playing before Saul and being approved of, he then

returned home, ready to come again whenever summoned, but that Saul’s

malady did not immediately return, and so a sufficient interval elapsed for

Saul not to recognize him when he saw him under altered circumstances.

Saul’s question, “Whose son is this stripling?” (ch.17:56) seems

to imply that he had a sort of confused idea about him, without being able

exactly to recall who he was. The ultimate consequences of this

introduction to Saul, as well as its immediate effect, are all narrated here

after the usual manner of Old Testament history (see ch.7:13).



Mental and Moral Effects of Transgression (vs. 14-16)


The soul is an arena where light and darkness, good and evil, heaven and

hell, strive for mastery. But it is not an unconscious scene or passive prize

of the conflict. It is endowed with the power of freely choosing right or

wrong, and, with every exercise of this power, comes more or less under

the dominion of the one or the other. Saul was highly exalted, but by his

willful disobedience sank to the lowest point of degradation. His sin was

followed by lamentable effects in his mental and moral nature, and (since

soul and body are intimately connected, and mutually affect each other)

doubtless also in his physical constitution. His malady has been said to be

“the first example of what has been called in after times religious madness”

(Stanley). His condition was, in many respects, peculiar; but it vividly

illustrates the mental and moral effects which always, in greater or less

degree, flow from persistent transgression, viz.: —



Jehovah departed from Saul” (v. 14).


Ø      His presence in men is the source of their highest excellence. What a

change it wrought in Saul, turning him into “another man.” He imparts:


o        enlightenment,

o        strength,

o        courage,

o        order,

o        harmony, and peace;

o        restrains and protects; and,

o        in the full measure of His influence,

§         quickens,

§         sanctifies, and

§         saves (Isaiah 11:2; Galatians 5:22; Ephesians 5:9).


Ø      His continuance in them depends on the observance of appropriate

conditions. He is often compared with the wind, water, and fire, the most

powerful forces of the natural world; and as there are conditions according

to which they operate, so there are conditions according to which He puts

forth His might. These are:


o        humble and earnest attention to the word of the Lord,

o        sincere endeavor to be true, just, and good, and believing and

o        persevering prayer.


Ø      His departure is rendered necessary by the neglect of those conditions.

They rebelled and vexed His Holy Spirit,” etc. (Isaiah 63:10; Acts

7:51; Ephesians 4:10; I Thessalonians 5:19). And with His

departure the effects of His gracious influence also depart. Hence David

prayed so fervently, “Take not thy Holy Spirit from me.”  (Psalm 51:11)


  • SUBJECTION TO AN EVIL INFLUENCE. “And an evil spirit from

Jehovah troubled him.” The expression is only used once before

(Judges 9:23), — “God sent an evil spirit between the men of

Abimelech and the men of Shechem (producing discord, treachery, and

strife), — and denotes a breath, influence, agency, or messenger (I Kings

22:22) which:


Ø      Prevails only after the withdrawal of the Divine Spirit. When the soul

ceases to be governed by God, it lies open to the power of evil, and comes

under its dominion.


Ø      Is sent in just retribution for sin. “No man living needs a heavier

chastisement from the Almighty than the letting his own passions loose

upon him” (Delany). But the expression means more than this. “It is a

spiritual agency of God, which brings to bear upon Saul the dark and fiery

powers of Divine wrath which he has aroused by sin” (Delitzsch). Even

that which is in itself good becomes evil to those who cherish an evil

disposition. As the same rays of the sun which melt the ice harden the clay,

so the same gospel which is “a savor of life unto life” in some is “a savor

of death unto death” in others (II Corinthians 2:16). And it is God who

appoints and effectuates the forces of retribution. “The punitive justice of

God is a great fact. It is stamped on all the darker phenomena of human life:


o        disease,

o        insanity, and

o        death.


It is in the nature of sin to entail suffering, and work itself, as an element of

punishment, into all the complicated web of human existence” (Tulloch).


Ø      Implies the domination of the kingdom of darkness. Josephus, speaking

according to the common belief of a later age, attributes the malady of Saul

to demoniacal agency. “It was probably a kind of possession, at least at

times, and in its highest stage. As a punishment for having given himself

willingly into the power of the kingdom of darkness, he was also

abandoned physically to this power” (Henstenberg). How fearful is that

realm of rebellion, evil, and disorder to which men become allied and

subject by their sin!  (Is this not what is happening in the drug culture

of today? – CY – 2016)



him” — terrified, choked him.


Ø      In connection with the working of peculiar and painful thoughts:

brooding over the secret of rejection, which might not be revealed to any

one; the sense of disturbed relationship with God, and of His displeasure,

the removal of which there was no disposition to seek by humble penitence

and prayer.


Ø      In the darkening aspect of present circumstances and future prospects;

suspicion and “royal jealousy, before which vanish at last all consistent

action, all wise and moderate rule” (Ewald).


Ø      In occasional melancholy, despondency, and distress, irrational

imaginations and terrors (Job 6:4), and fits of violent and ungovernable

passion (ch. 18:10-11). “There are few more difficult questions

in the case of minds utterly distempered and disordered as his was than to

determine where sin or moral disease has ended, and madness or mental

disease has begun” (Trench). Sin not only disturbs the moral balance of the

soul, but also disorders the whole nature of man. It is itself a kind of

madness, from which the sinner needs to “come to himself” (Luke

15:17). “Madness is in their hearts,” etc. (Ecclesiastes 9:3; II Peter 2:6).




Ø      In the case of the malady occasioned by sin there is no self-healing

power in man, as in many bodily diseases, but it tends to become worse

and worse.


Ø      Its fatal course may often be distinctly marked. “These attacks of

madness gave place to hatred, which developed itself in full consciousness

to a most deliberately planned hostility” (Keil). His courage gave place to

weakness and cowardice; general fear and suspicion fixed on a particular

object in envy and hatred, displayed:


o        at first privately,

o        afterwards publicly, and then

o        becoming an all-absorbing passion.


“The evil spirit that came upon him from or by permission of the Lord was

the evil spirit of melancholy, jealousy, suspicion, hatred, envy, malice, and

cruelty, that governed him all the after part of his life; to which he gave

himself up, and sacrificed every consideration of honor, duty, and interest

whatsoever” (Chandler).


Ø      It is, nevertheless amenable to the remedial influences which God, in His

infinite mercy, has provided.


“All cures were tried: philosophy talked long

Of lofty reason’s self-controlling power;

He frowned, but spake not. Friendship’s silver tongue

Poured mild persuasions on his calmer hour:

He wept; alas! it was a bootless shower

As ever slaked the desert. Priests would call

On Heaven for aid; but then his brow would lower

With treble gloom. Peace! Heaven is good to all;

To all, he sighed, but one, — God hears no prayer for Saul.

At length one spake of Music”



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.”  Saul sent messengers to fetch David, the description of

him as a brave soldier being even more to the king’s liking (see ch.14:52)

than his skill in music. As a great man might not be approached without a

present (ch. 9:7; 10:4), Jesse sends one consisting of produce from his farm.

It consisted of an ass of bread — a strange expression; but there is little doubt

that a word has been omitted, and that we should read, with the Syriac,

“And Jesse took an ass, and laded it with bread, and a skin of wine, and a kid.”

It was not an ass laden with bread, as in the Authorized Version, but all three

things were placed upon the animal.



Setting Out in Life (vs. 19-20)


David, setting out from his father’s house at Bethlehem to go to the court

of Saul at Gibeah (a distance of about ten miles), presents a picture of

many a youth leaving home for more public life — to enter a profession,

learn a business, or occupy a responsible position. Notice:




Ø      Some such step is necessary. A young man cannot always continue

under the paternal roof. He must go forth into the world, be thrown on his

own resources, and make his own way.


Ø      Its nature and direction are commonly determined by his ability and

tastes, and the use he makes of early advantages (v. 18).


Ø      It is also greatly influenced by the wishes of others. David was sent for

by Saul, and sent to him by his father.


Ø      It is ordered by Divine providence. This was plainly the case with David.

And we are as truly the children of providence as he was. God has a

purpose concerning each of us.


“There’s a Divinity that shapes our ends,

Rough hew them as we will.”


Ø      It opens a wider field for the exercise of natural or acquired abilities, and

the attainment of desired objects.


Ø      It determines in most instances, the subsequent course of life. It is like

the commencement of a river; or like the rolling of a stone down the

mountain side, the course of which is determined by the direction and

impulse which it first receives.




Ø      Due consideration; not thoughtlessly or rashly.

Ø      Lowly and loyal obedience to rightful claims.

Ø      Cheerful anticipation of new scenes, duties, and enjoyments.

Ø      Not unmingled with misgiving and self-distrust at the prospect of new

difficulties and trials, and watchfulness against new and strong


Ø      Simple trust in God and fervent prayer for HIS GUIDANCE!

Ø      Firm determination to be true to oneself faithful to God, and useful to



“Now needs thy best of man;

For not on downy plumes, nor under shade

Of canopy reposing, fame is won;

Without which whosoe’er consumes his days

Leaveth such vestige of himself on earth

As smoke in air, or foam upon the wave”

(Dante, ‘Inferno,’ 24.).




1. That life itself is a setting out in a course which will NEVER TERMINATE!

2. That the manner in which this step is taken will decide your FUTURE DESTINY!


21 “And David came to Saul, and stood before him: and he loved him

greatly; and he became his armorbearer.  22 And Saul sent to Jesse, saying,

Let David, I pray thee, stand before me; for he hath found favor in my sight.

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.”

David came to Saul, and stood before him. The latter

phrase means, “became one of his regular attendants.” This, and his being

appointed one of Saul’s armor bearers, happened only after the lapse of

some time. The armor bearer, like the esquire in the middle ages, had to

carry his lord’s lance, and sword, and shield, and was always a tried

soldier, and one whom the king trusted. It was apparently after the combat

with Goliath that Saul sent to Jesse, and asked that David might be always

with him; and until his jealousy burst forth David was very dear to him, and

his music exercised a soothing influence upon his melancholy. At first,

probably, these fits of insanity came upon Saul only at distant intervals, but

afterwards more frequently, and with such loss of self-control that he more

than once tried to murder David, and even Jonathan, his own son. We

have, then, here a summary of the relations of Saul to David until the

unfortunate day when the king heard the women ascribe to the youthful

soldier the higher honor (ch. 18:7); and thenceforward these

friendly feelings gave way to a growing dislike which deprived Saul of a

faithful servant, and finally cost him his crown and life on Mount Gilboa.



Disquietude Caused by Sin (vs. 14-23)


The facts are:


1. Saul, being left to himself, is troubled by an evil spirit from the Lord.

2. His servants, in their concern for his peace, suggest music as an

alleviation, and obtain permission to provide it.

3. David, being famed for music, is sent for, and finds favor with Saul.

4. The music of David brings relief to Saul’s troubled spirit. The narrative

relates the effect of God’s judicial abandonment of Saul to the impenitent

spirit he had deliberately cherished (ch.15:23-29). The transaction between

him and Samuel in reference to his sin and rejection had been private, and

during the interval from the departure to Ramah (ibid. v. 34) up to the date of

the reference in v.14 (here), the secret knowledge of this fact had wrought

its subjective effect on the mind of Saul. The secrecy of the business is a clue

to much that follows. It matters not to our purpose what sense be put on

“an evil spirit from the Lord;” the fact is clear that disquietude of mind

follows on transgression duly brought home to conscience yet not repented of,

and that this disquietude is aggravated by secrecy.


  • THE CAUSES OF MENTAL DISQUIETUDE. There are instances of

mental disquietude (Psalm 42:5; John 12:27; 14:1) differing in

character and cause from that before us. In the case of Saul there was a

strange blending of:


Ø      sullen remorse,

Ø      despondency,

Ø      instability,

Ø      passion,

Ø      fear, and

Ø      desperation.


He was sometimes beyond self-control, and his outbursts aroused the

apprehensions of his attendants. The manifestations of a disquieted spirit will

be partly determined by natural temperament, and partly by external conditions,

and partly by bodily health. But of the class of which Saul’s is an example, the

general causes are akin to those which operated in him.


Ø      A secret consciousness of sin. That Saul had done wrong in the matter

of the sacrifice (ch. 13:13), the rash vow (ibid. ch. 14:45),

and the Amalekites (ibid. ch. 15:18-19) he knew full well; that the

people knew that something was amiss with him is evident from their

deliverance of Jonathan and Samuel’s slaying of Agag; but that their

knowledge of Saul’s conduct was coextensive with his own is not

probable. The more private interviews with Samuel had brought him face

to face with sin as it appeared to the Lord. His admission, “I have sinned”

(ibid. v. 24), being a conviction without true repentance, remained in his

memory after his final separation from Samuel. The fact that his people did

not know all only served to make the sad secret of guilt more distressing.

Now it is impossible for a man’s spirit to be at ease when he carries with

him at home and abroad a thorough conviction of being guilty before God.

His sin haunts him as a ghost. It creates a desire to flee from himself. It

causes him to feel theft he is a disgraced, degraded being, the bearer of a

dark secret, the subject of a remorse that will not die.


Ø      Knowledge of loss of a goodly heritage. Saul’s mind dwelt much in the

past. He remembered the comparative innocence of rural life, when seeking

his father’s asses; the unexpected honor shadowed forth by the prophet;

the private anointing; the bestowment of special gifts that won the

confidence of the sons of the prophets; the high and elevating interview

concerning the manner of the kingdom, and the solemn proclamation of his

kingship over the chosen race. Now all that was gone. It was of the past in

a double sense. The splendid prospects had faded; the rejection by God had

been privately announced by one whose word never failed. But the future

had to be feared, and Saul, when daring to look into it, saw and felt that

Providence was against him. The same elements of disappointment, bitter

regret, and fearful foreboding enter into the life of others. How many a

man in crowded cities is forced by conscious secret guilt to look back on a

splendid heritage of good gone forever! How many feel that, though

friends and the world may flatter, God has turned away His face, and that,

being bent on their secret guilty way, the whole force of Providence is

against them in the future!


Ø      Fear of exposure. Samuel took no steps to dethrone Saul or to alienate

the people from him.. He kept the secret of rejection, and expressed the

Divine will only in ceasing to hold official intercourse with Saul, and in

quietly selecting David as one favored of God. Saul knew his coming

doom in rough outline. The dread of this was foreshadowed in the prayer

that Samuel would not openly dishonor him before the people (ch. 15:30).

A moody temperament, naturally subject to impulse, would

easily be urged, under this dread, now to desponding and melancholy, and

now to the sudden grasping at a shadow of hope; and the alternations of

hope and despair could not but induce a nervous condition which, while a

guilty secret was covered, might express itself in painful irritability. The

fear of exposure drives men in upon themselves, and induces an abnormal

condition of mind and nerve. Guilty men, who will not sincerely repent and

seek rest in Christy KNOW THAT JUDGMENT IS COMING but they take

care to hide that truth from others, and often bear a terrible strain on their spirits.


Ø      Secret persistence in wrong. Saul had said, “I have sinned,” but he never

repented. No doubt he regretted the consequences that flowed from his

preference of self to the will of God; but he still loved to have his own way.

The spirit that prompted to set aside God’s command for his own choice

was unchanged. It in itself was a state of war; but still it was restive,

unsubdued; it chafed under restraint and conviction of rejection, and

sometimes would break out in fury that its preferences should thus be

chastised. “As a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke.” (Jeremiah 1:18)

It is this element of cherished sin, this persistent continuance in the original

state of mind that contracted guilt, which poisons THE ENTIRE LIFE!  

It sets the whole man at war with God, and renders irksome what to a penitent,

lowly heart would be meekly borne. Truly when men sin, and “will have it so,”

they are so far left to themselves as to work out in their life all manner of




The servants of Saul were true philosophers in seeking diversion for their

master. In cases of trouble, diversion from self and the causes of trouble

always affords relief. (I have been depressed twice in my life and both times

I only wanted to think of myself.  When the Lord brought me out of that

vicious cycle, then I became normal again! - CY – 2016) This is recognized

by guilty men, who seek diversion in business, or pleasure, or public affairs.

It is a rule with some wicked men to plunge more deeply into .public or private

business in proportion as conscience has to be quieted. The diversion was of a

nature to soothe the nervous system. Music has in it something refined and pure

and remote from the turmoil and confusion of sinful life. As a curative or

alleviative element in certain sicknesses its power has not been sufficiently

developed.  Saul felt the charm, and for a while the irritation consequent on

internal conflict was toned down. The diversion would have increased effect

if associated with spiritual song. There is evidence that David cultivated

psalmody in his early years; and who can tell the subduing influence on the

restless Saul as David poured forth to his harp strains of love and trust and

hope in God! We see constantly that even the boldest of impenitent sinners

are touched by sweet, simple hymns, which seem to call back a lost purity,

and open up a gleam of hope for the most depraved. The songs of Zion are

as the echo to many of long lost music. Their power over men should be

diligently used. But in all cases of mere diversion the benefit is transitory.

The old enmity remains. The old fears come back in force. The true remedy

has not been sought.



have been the course of Providence had he truly repented we know not.

But looking at his sin and the rejection from the kingdom in the light of

Scripture, we can see what would have been the safe and happy course.

Had Saul been true to the passing impulse of tenderness, he would have

ceased in his persistence in sin, and have humbled himself before God, and

sought mercy IN THE APPOINTED WAY!   Retirement to private life

would then have been no great burden, but rather a willing, loving homage

to the holiness of God. The troubled spirit would have found rest. The cure

for the internal miseries of men lies in self-renunciation and placing the soul

at the mercy of the great Saviour. We must cease to seek rest and peace



We should faithfully search out how much of our restlessness in daily life

is due to unforgiven sin.  In all our efforts to alleviate mental distress we should

pay due regard to moral causes.  The longer the delay in repenting of sin, the more

difficult it becomes.



The King and the Minstrel (v. 23)



Saul was the victim of cerebral disease, but not an innocent victim. His

unhingement of mind was due in large measure to causes for which he was

morally responsible. The expression, “an evil spirit from the Lord was upon

him,” is just an Old Testament way of saying that the state into which he

fell, as a result mainly of his own misconduct, bore the character of a

Divine retribution. From the beginning there seems to have been a morbid

tendency in the mind of Saul. He was at once very impulsive and very

obstinate; and as his troubles and anxieties increased, the original weakness

or unhealthiness of his brain became more and more apparent.

He had an evil conscience because of his disobedience to Divine

commands, and though faithfully reproved by the prophet Samuel, he does

not appear to have ever sought pardon or healing. (“He that being often

reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that

without remedy!”  - Proverbs 29:1 – CY – 2016)  Thus the purpose of

God to give the kingdom to another and a better man weighed on him as a

dreadful secret, and his native melancholy deepened. The thing preyed on

his mind till he became wretchedly suspicious and jealous, and at times

gave way to homicidal mania. For considerable periods, as during the

active struggle with the Philistines, this evil spirit left the king; but he fell

back into his passionate gloom. As we trace his course, the better lines of

his character fade away, and the worse become deeper and more obvious.



so far as there was mental disease, the case called for medical treatment; in

so far as it was complicated with and grounded on moral disorder, it

needed a moral corrective. But even if there had been any scientific

treatment of insanity known at the period, it would have been difficult to

apply it to King Saul, and it occurred to his attendants to try the soothing

charm of music. This might be the opiate to assuage the anguish of the



“The soft insinuating balsam, that

Can through the body reach the sickly soul.”


So David was brought to the court to allay, if he could not cure, the

malady of the king by his skillful minstrelsy. It was a wise experiment. From

the readiness of Saul to catch the fervor and join in the strains of the sons

of the prophets, and from the fact that in his frenzy he “prophesied in the

midst of the house,” we infer that his temperament was peculiarly open to

musical impression, and are not surprised that the sounds of David’s lyre

and voice, especially when chanting some Divine and lofty theme, affected

and in some degree controlled the unhappy king. As he listened his spirit

became more tranquil, and wicked thoughts and jealousies lifted from off

him, as clouds lift from a mountain for a while, even though they gather

again. The refining and calming effect of music and song no wise man will

disparage. It is not religion, but it may legitimately and powerfully conduce

to moral and religious feeling. Elisha called for a minstrel, that his mind

might be attuned and prepared to receive the prophetic impulse. Martin

Luther found the inspiration of courage in the same manner. “Next to

theology,” he said, “I give the first place and the greatest honor to

music.” Milton, too, delighted in such musical service


“As may with sweetness, through mine ear,

Dissolve me into ecstasies,

And bring all heaven before mine eyes.”


David sang before the clouded face of Saul, and “played with his hand.” So

let sweet and sacred minstrelsy confront the sin and sorrow of the world. It

is better than the fabled power of Orpheus, who, when he touched his lyre,

moved the very trees and rocks, and gathered the beasts of the forest to

listen to his notes. Another myth regarding Orpheus has indeed a noble

meaning beneath the surface of the story. When the Argonauts passed the

island of the sirens, Orpheus, on board their ship, loudly chanted the

praises of gods and heroes, so as to drown the voices from the shore, and

so he and his comrades passed the fatal spot in safety. The moral is

obvious. The sirens represent pleasures of sense, which begin with

blandishment, but end in cruel destruction; and a powerful resistance to

sensual temptation is to be found in preoccupation of mind and heart with

holy and heroic song. Yet the moral power thus exerted has its limit, and

we see this clearly in the case of Saul. The king was acutely sensitive to the

influence of David’s minstrelsy, but he was only charmed, not cured; and

even while the youth played before him he attempted to take his life in a

paroxysm of jealousy. So is many a man thrilled with delight by sacred music

wedded to holy words in an oratorio or in Church service who is not delivered

thereby from some evil spirit or base passion that has mastered him. Alas,

how many men of musical taste and sensibility, some of them of poetic

capacity also, have been quite unable to shake off the yoke of that most

conspicuous evil spirit of our time and nation, the love of strong drink!

This infatuation may be quieted or checked for a time, but it is not expelled

by music ever so good and true. The harp, even David’s harp, cannot

subdue the power of sin. This requires the power of David’s GOD!   There is

need of a prayer of David, such as Saul seems never to have offered up:

“Create in me a clean heart; Lord, renew a right spirit within me.”

(Psalm 51:10)  There is need to apply to the Son of David, who cast out

unclean spirits by His word, and brought men to their right mind, and now

in the power of the Holy Spirit not only controls, but corrects and cures all

the evils which prey on the mind or defile the heart of man:


Ø      the blackness of envy,

Ø      the foulness of hatred,

Ø      the demons of deceit, avarice, intemperance, and cruelty


are expelled by nothing less than THE GRACE OF JESUS CHRIST!


“And His that gentle voice we hear,

     Soft as the breath of even,

That checks each fault, that calms each fear,

     And speaks of heaven.”



The Soothing Influence of Music (v. 23)


(As I organize this, I am a the local church, within hearing distance of the church

choir as they practice and this title is a true statement!  CY – July 8, 2016)


All men, with rare exceptions, are susceptible to the influence of music;

some men peculiarly so. It was thus with Saul (ch. 10:10; 19:23);

and on this account, perhaps, his servants suggested the sending for a

skilful musician to soothe his melancholy. The visit of David had the

desired effect, and he “went and returned” (was going and returning) “to

feed his father’s sheep at Bethlehem” (vs. 21-22; ch. 17:15, 55-58—

a general, and to some extent prospective, summary of his early

relations with Saul). Consider the soothing influence of music as:


  • PROVIDED BY DIVINE PROVIDENCE. It is one of the manifold

indications of the goodness of God in the adaptation of man to his

surroundings so as to derive enjoyment from them. The world is full of

music. In trouble and agitation especially it soothes and cheers. “It brings a

tone out of the higher worlds into the spirit of the hearer” (Koster). Its

direct influence is exerted upon the nervous system, which is intimately

connected with all mental activity. As the condition of the brain and nerves

is affected by it, so also it affects the state of the mind.


“There is in souls a sympathy with sounds;

Some chord in unison with what we hear

Is touched within us, and the heart replies”



“Pythagoras quieted the perturbations of the mind with a harp” (Seneca,

‘On Anger’). Elisha, when chafed and disturbed in spirit, called for a

minstrel, and was prepared by the soothing strains of his harp for prophetic

inspiration (II Kings 3:5). Divine providence ordered the visit of David

to Saul, over whom mercy still lingered. He was not only freed from the

immediate pressure of fear and despondency, but also restored to a mental

condition which was favorable to repentance and return to God. Music is

a means of grace, and when rightly used conveys much spiritual benefit to

men. It is “one of the fairest and most glorious gifts of God, to which

Satan is a bitter enemy; for it removes from the heart the weight of sorrow

and the fascination of evil thoughts” (Luther). “It is a language by itself,

just as perfect in its way as speech, as words; just as Divine, just as blessed.

All melody and all harmony, all music upon earth, is beautiful in as far as it

is a pattern and type of the everlasting music which is in heaven” (C.




refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him.” “The music

was more than a mere palliative. It brought back for the time the sense of a

true order, a secret, inward harmony, an assurance that it is near every

man, and that he may enter into it” (Maurice).


“He is Saul, ye remember in glory, — ere error had bent

The broad brow from the daily communion; and still, though much spent

Be the life and the bearing that front you, the same, God did choose,

To receive what a man may waste, desecrate, never quite lose”

(Browning, ‘Saul’).


Many other instances of a similar nature, both in ancient and modern times,

have been recorded. One of the most noteworthy is that of Philip V. of

Spain, who was restored from profoundest melancholy by the magical

voice of Farinelli (see Bochart; Burton, ‘Anat. of Mel.;’ Kitto, ‘D.B. Illus.;’

Jacox, ‘Script. Texts Illus.;’ Bate, ‘Cyc. of Illus.’). “Psalmody is the calm

of the soul, the repose of the spirit, the arbiter of peace. It silences the

wave and conciliates the whirlwind of our passions. It is an engenderer of

friendship, a healer of dissension, a reconciler of enemies. It repels the

demons, lures the ministry of angels, shields us from nightly terrors, and

refreshes us in daily toil” (Basil).



musician. David’s harp was the accompaniment of his voice as he sang

“psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” (see Josephus), expressive of the

sympathy, confidence, hope, and joy of his soul; “the prelude to the

harpings and songs which flowed from the harp of the future royal singer.”

His musical and poetic gifts were great, and they were consecrated (as all

such gifts should be):


o       to the GLORY OF GOD and

o       the good of men.


“Did the music banish the demon? Not so. But the high frame of mind into

which the king was brought by it sufficed to limit at least the sphere of the

operation of the evil spirit within him; while the full, clear, conscious life of

faith on the part of Saul would have altogether destroyed the power of the

wicked one. Besides, the silent intercessions of David sent up to heaven on

the wings of the music of his harp must have contributed not a little to the

results with which his melodies were crowned” (Krummacher). “The Lord

was with him” (v. 18).



Saul was not completely cured of his malady. A breathing space was

afforded him for seeking God, and if he had faithfully availed himself of it

he might have been permanently preserved from its return. But he failed to

do so. On the indulgence of envy, “the evil spirit from God came upon

him” again (ch.18:10; 19:10) with greater power than before

(Matthew 12:45), and that which formerly calmed and gladdened him

now excited him to demoniacal frenzy and murderous passion. “It is said

that the evil spirit departed, but not that the good spirit returned. Saul’s

trouble was alleviated, but not removed. The disease was still there. The

results of David’s harp were negative and superficial. So is it with the

sinner still. There are many outward applications which act like spiritual

chloroform upon the soul. They soothe and calm and please, but that is all;

they do not go below the surface, nor touch the deep seated malady within.

Our age is full of such appliances, literary and religious, all got up for the

purpose of soothing the troubled spirits of men. Excitement, gaiety, balls,

theaters, operas, concerts, ecclesiastical music, dresses, performances,

what are all these but man’s appliances for casting out the evil spirit and

healing the soul’s hurt without having recourse TO GOD’S REMEDY!

 (Bonar, ‘Thoughts and Themes’).


  • LEARN:


1. That the excellent gift of music should excite our admiration of

    the Giver, “the First Composer,” and our devout thankfulness to Him.

2. That it ought not to be perverted from its proper intention, and

     employed, as it too frequently is, in the service of sin (Isaiah 5:12;

         Amos 6:5).

3. That the soothing and elevating effect of a “concord of sweet sounds”

     must not be mistaken for the peace and joy of true religion.

4. That nothing but the gospel of Christ and the power of His Spirit can

     effect the moral and spiritual renewal of man, and restore him to

     “his right mind” (Mark 5:15).



"Excerpted text Copyright AGES Library, LLC. All rights reserved.

Materials are reproduced by permission."


This material can be found at:


If this exposition is helpful, please share with others.