1 Samuel 16


Samuel is sent from Ramah to Bethlehem, to anoint David, 1-13.

The Spirit of the Lord departs from Saul, and an evil spirit

comes upon him, 14.

His servants exhort him to get a skilful harper to play before

him, 15, 16.

He is pleased with the counsel, and desires them to find such a

person, 17.

They recommend David, 18.

He is sent for, comes, plays before Saul, and finds favour in

his sight, 19-23.


Verse 1. Fill thine horn with oil] Horns appear to have been the

ancient drinking vessels of all nations; and we may suppose that

most persons who had to travel much, always carried one with them,

for the purpose of taking up water from the fountains to quench

their thirst. Such a horn had Samuel; and on this occasion he was

commanded to fill it with oil, for the purpose of consecrating a

king over Israel from among the sons of Jesse.

Verse 2. Take a heifer with thee, and say, I am come to

sacrifice] This was strictly true; Samuel did offer a sacrifice;

and it does not appear that he could have done the work which God

designed, unless he had offered this sacrifice, and called the

elders of the people together, and thus collected Jesse's sons.

But he did not tell the principal design of his coming; had he

done so, it would have produced evil and no good: and though no

man, in any circumstances, should ever tell a lie, yet in all

circumstances he is not obliged to tell the whole truth, though in

every circumstance he must tell nothing but the truth, and in

every case so tell the truth that the hearer shall not believe a

lie by it.

Verse 3. Call Jesse to the sacrifice] The common custom was,

after the blood of the victim had been poured out to God, and the

fat burnt, to feast on the flesh of the sacrifice. This appears to

have been the case in all, except in the whole burnt-offering;

this was entirely consumed.

Verse 4. The elders of the town trembled at his coming] They

knew he was a prophet of the Lord, and they were afraid that he

was now come to denounce some judgments of the Most High against

their city.

Verse 5. Sanctify yourselves] Change your clothes, and wash your

bodies in pure water, and prepare your minds by meditation,

reflection, and prayer; that, being in the spirit of sacrifice, ye

may offer acceptably to the Lord.

Verse 7. Man looketh on the outward appearance] And it is well

he should, and confine his looks to that; for when he pretends to

sound the heart, he usurps the prerogative of God.

In what way were these communications made from God to Samuel?

It must have been by direct inspirations into his heart. But what

a state of holy familiarity does this argue between God and the

prophet! I believe Moses himself was not more highly favoured than


Verse 10. Seven of his sons] This certainly was not done

publicly; Samuel, Jesse, and his children, must have been in a

private apartment, previously to the public feast on the

sacrifice; for Samuel says, 1Sa 16:11,

We will not sit down till he (David) come.

Verse 12. He was ruddy] I believe the word here means

red-haired, he had golden locks. Hair of this kind is ever

associated with a delicate skin and florid complexion.

Verse 13. The Spirit of the Lord came upon David] God qualified

him to be governor of his people, by infusing such graces as

wisdom, prudence, counsel, courage, liberality, and magnanimity.

Verse 14. The Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul] He was

thrown into such a state of mind by the judgments of God, as to be

deprived of any regal qualities which he before possessed. God

seems to have taken what gifts he had, and given them to David;

and then the evil spirit came upon Saul; for what God fills not,

the devil will.

An evil spirit from the Lord] The evil spirit was either

immediately sent from the Lord, or permitted to come. Whether this

was a diabolic possession, or a mere mental malady, the learned

are not agreed; it seems to have partaken of both. That Saul had

fallen into a deep melancholy, there is little doubt; that the

devil might work more effectually on such a state of mind, there

can be but little question. There is an old proverb, Satan

delights to fish in troubled waters; and Saul's situation of mind

gave him many advantages.

The theory of Dr. Scheuchzer, in his Physica Sacra, on the

malady of Saul, is allowed to be very ingenious. It is in

substance as follows: Health consists in a moderate tension of the

fibres, which permits all the fluids to have an entire freedom of

circulation, and to the spirits, that of diffusing themselves

through all the limbs; on the contrary, disease consists in

tensions of the fibres morbidly weak or morbidly strong. This

latter seems to have been the case of Saul; and as the undulations

of the air which convey sound communicate themselves to and

through the most solid bodies, it is easy to suppose that by the

modulations of music all the fibres of his body, which were under

the influence of the morbidly increased tension, might be so

relaxed as to be brought back into their natural state, and thus

permit the re-establishment of a free and gentle circulation of

the fluids, and consequently of the animal spirits, and thus

induce calmness and tranquillity of mind. I believe this theory to

be correct, and I should find no difficulty to amplify and to

illustrate the subject. Even a skilful playing upon the harp was

one means to bring a disordered state of the nervous and fibrous

system into a capacity of affording such uninterrupted

tranquillity to the mind as to render it capable of receiving the

prophetic influence; see the case of Elisha, 2Ki 3:14, 15. It has

been said:-

"Music hath charms to sooth the savage breast."

This has been literally proved: a musician was brought to play on

his instrument while they were feeding a savage lion in the tower

of London; the beast immediately left his food, came towards the

grating of his den, and began to move in such a way as to show

himself affected by the music. The musician ceased, and the lion

returned to his food; he recommenced, and the lion left off his

prey, and was so affected as to seem by his motions to dance with

delight. This was repeatedly tried, and the effects were still the


Verse 18. I have seen a son of Jesse] Dr. Warburton supposes the

story is anticipated from 1Sa 16:14-23, and that the true

chronology of this part of David's life is the following:- 1.

David is anointed by Samuel; 2. Carries provisions to his brethren

in the army; 3. Fights with and kills Goliath; 4. Is received into

the king's court, 5. Contracts a friendship with Jonathan; 6.

Incurs Saul's jealousy; 7. Retires to his father's house; 8. Is

after some time sent for by Saul to sooth his melancholy with his

harp; 9. Again excites Saul's jealousy, who endeavours to smite

him with his javelin. This anticipation between the 14th and 23d

verse comes in, in the order of time, between verses 9 and 10,

1Sa 18:9, 10, where the breach is apparent.

Verse 20. Took an ass laden with bread] He must send a present

to Saul to introduce his son, and this was probably the best he

had. Dr. Warburton pleads still farther on the propriety of his

rectification of the chronology in this place. David had at this

time vanquished the Philistine, was become a favourite with the

people, had excited Saul's jealousy, and retired to shun its

effects. In the interim Saul was seized with the disorder in

question, and is recommended by his servants to try the effects of

music. They were acquainted with David's skill on the harp, and

likewise with Saul's bad disposition towards him; the point was

delicate, it required to be managed with address, and therefore

they recommend David in this artful manner: "As you must have one

constantly in attendance, both in court and on your military

expeditions; to be always at hand on occasion, the son of Jesse

will become both stations well; he will strengthen your camp and

adorn your court, for he is a tried soldier and of a graceful

presence. You have nothing to fear from his ambition, for you saw

with what prudence he went into voluntary banishment when his

popularity had incurred your displeasure." Accordingly Saul is

prevailed on, David is sent for, and succeeds with his music; this

dissipates all former umbrage, and, as one who is ever to be in

attendance, he is made Saul's armour-bearer. This sunshine still

continued till his great successes awakened Saul's jealousy

afresh, and then the lifted javelin was to strike off all

obligations. Thus we see what light is thrown upon the whole

history by the supposition of an anticipation in the latter part

of this chapter; an anticipation the most natural, proper, and

necessary, for the purpose of the historian. Thus reasons Bishop

Warburton, and with very considerable plausibility, though the

intelligent reader may still have his doubts.

Verse 23. The evil spirit from God] The word evil is not in

the common Hebrew text, but it is in the Vulgate, Septuagint,

Targum, Syriac, and Arabic, and in eight of Kennicott's and

De Rossi's MSS., which present the text thus: ruach

Elohim raah, spiritus Domini malus, the evil spirit of God. The

Septuagint leave out θεου, of God, and have πνευμαπονηρον,

the evil spirit. The Targum says, The evil spirit from before

the Lord; and the Arabic has it. The evil spirit by the permission

of God; this is at least the sense.

And the evil spirit departed from him.] The Targum says, And the

evil spirit descended up from off him. This considers the malady

of Saul to be more than a natural disease.

THERE are several difficulties in this chapter; those of the

chronology are pretty well cleared, in the opinion of some, by

the observations of Bishop Warburton; but there is still something

more to be done to make this point entirely satisfactory. Saul's

evil spirit, and the influence of music upon it, are not easily

accounted for. I have considered his malady to be of a mixed kind,

natural and diabolical; there is too much of apparent nature in

it to permit us to believe it was all spiritual, and there is too

much of apparent supernatural influence to suffer us to believe

that it was all natural.

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