Bible Commentaries
1 Samuel 16

The Church Pulpit CommentaryChurch Pulpit Commentary

Verse 11


‘Send and fetch him.’

1 Samuel 16:11

David displays in his personal character that very temper of mind in which his nation, or rather human nature itself, is especially deficient. Pride and unbelief disgrace the history of the chosen people, the deliberate love of this world which was the sin of Balaam, and the presumptuous wilfulness which was exhibited in Saul. But David is conspicuous for an affectionate, a thankful, a loyal heart towards his God and Defender, a zeal which was as fervent and as docile as Saul’s was sullen, and as keen-sighted and pure as Balaam’s was selfish and double-minded.

I. Consider what was, as far as we can understand, David’s especial grace, as faith was Abraham’s distinguishing virtue, meekness the excellence of Moses, self-mastery the gift especially conspicuous in Joseph. From the account of David’s office in Psalms 78:71-72, it is obvious that his very first duty was that of fidelity to Almighty God in the trust committed to him. Saul had neglected his Master’s honour, but David, in this an eminent type of Christ, ‘came to do God’s will.’ As a viceroy in Israel, and as being tried and found faithful, he is especially called ‘a man after God’s own heart.’ David’s peculiar excellence is that of fidelity to the trust committed to him.

II. Surely the blessings of the patriarchs descended in a united flood upon ‘the lion of the tribe of Judah,’ the type of the true Redeemer who was to come.—He inherits the prompt faith and magnanimity of Abraham; he is simple as Isaac; he is humble as Jacob; he has the youthful wisdom and self-possession, the tenderness, the affectionateness, and the firmness of Joseph. And as his own especial gift he has an overflowing thankfulness, a heroic bearing in all circumstances, such as the multitude of men see to be great, but cannot understand.


(1) ‘The great lesson to be drawn from this story is that God’s method of working is not ours. We see this in the choice of Samuel rather than of Eli, in the choice of Saul rather than one of the national leaders, in the choice of David rather than Saul, and rather than his elder brethren. “Man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.” It was this same David who prayed, “Create in me a clean heart, O God! and renew a right spirit within me.” ’

(2) ‘Greatly astonished must Jesse and his other sons have been to see Samuel pouring on the ruddy stripling the holy oil, and anointing him for whatever the office might be. But it has ever been God’s way to find His agents in unexpected places. Here a great king is found in his sheepfold. In Joseph’s time a prime minister of Egypt was found in the prison. Our Lord found His chief apostle in the school of Gamaliel. God is never at a loss for agents, and if the men fail that might naturally have been looked for to do Him service, substitutes for them are not far to seek. Out of the very stones He can raise up children to Abraham.’

(3) ‘ “Arise, anoint him, for this is he.” It was a new leaf in Hebrew history that turned over at these words. But how little men thought of it! Looking for the Sauls men are apt to miss the Davids. Now here is a completed purpose. God has brought it to pass step by step. There has been an outbreak. In the quietest way possible a new thing has been set apart. But how far back we have to travel if we mean to trace this purpose back to its origin? When Ruth, the Moabitess, said to Naomi, “Whither thou goest, I will go,” she took the first step in the fulfilment of God’s will for Israel. Jesse, the father of David, was her grandson. A simple resolve to serve God and to choose our company among His people may start us in the way that leads to a throne and a kingdom.’

(4) ‘ Saul was a man who could not learn. His sin at Gilgal showed how the wind of his temper blew, and then it seemed as if it might have veered, but here we see it set in the same wrong direction. He has not learned from his past failure. When Samuel came to him after the battle, he was perfectly sincere in saying that he had performed his task. He had no intention to deceive Samuel; it was simply that he had not learned the lesson of his former fall, that obedience to God must be unquestioning and absolute. His frank unconsciousness of anything wrong, until he was smitten by Samuel’s words of irony, shows us Saul’s pathetic inability to grasp the meaning of what had gone before. David, too, had many a mighty fall, but he could read his own heart—he could learn, and his power to learn was his salvation; for the soul that stumbles on through life without learning from its falls is doomed.’

Bibliographical Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 16". The Church Pulpit Commentary. 1876.