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Bible Commentaries

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

1 Samuel 16

Verses 1-23

1 Samuel 16:7 . The Lord said to Samuel. A cloud of proofs demonstrate, that the Eternal Word did personally accompany the holy prophets, and talk with them by voice in open vision. What nation had God so nigh unto them?

1 Samuel 16:13 . Anointed him. David certainly knew that this was the regal unction, and he felt the Spirit accompany it. But critics agree that his brethren did not then so understand it.

1 Samuel 16:15 . An evil spirit from the Lord troubled him. Afterwards, the evil spirit departed, or ascended from him: 1 Samuel 16:23. The LXX in both places have evil spirit, which is followed in the Latin and English From God, Arabic, “by the permission of God.” The fathers say that this spirit was a demon, but the moderns think it was a demon exciting melancholy, fury, and anger; a spirit of fear and jealousy.

1 Samuel 16:23 . David took a harp and played. Ovid celebrates the fame of Orpheus, who could so play on the lute and the harp, that the rivers stopped their courses to listen; the rocks, the woods and forests were moved, and joined in the song. The lions, the tigers and bears forgot their natural ferocity, and were tamed. Metam. 10 . 11. The moral is, that Orpheus, by the powers of music and song, softened the hearts and ferocious manners of the Thracians. Birds and beasts are often affected by the powers of music.


Truly it is not of him that willeth nor of him that runneth. When God had a great work to do in the earth, he called the instruments from the treasures of his providence. Holy men had no hand in their call and elevation. The Lord fixed his eye on David, a youth ruddy in person; and in soul a man after his own heart. He was under twenty years of age, as appears from his not being numbered for war.

Mark the hallowed secresy with which heaven proceeded in its work. Samuel’s mourning is at last superseded by a revelation that God had elected a new king; and his fears are allayed by a command to sacrifice a peace-offering at Bethlehem. Here the dying prophet would revive. He would now see, according to Jacob’s prediction, the sceptre invested in Judah, from whom it should not depart till the advent of the true Shiloh. Now Samuel would hope for his country, and hope for the church. Never did he take a journey with so willing a mind, or apparently with steps so light. He regarded this mission as the glorious and crowning act of all his tears and toils for Israel. He had seen little but a succession of troubles; little but darkness and clouds on his country; but now the morning star arose, and with a brilliancy which augured eternal day.

Samuel taking up his lodging with Jesse, contemplated his seven tall and hopeful sons. Happy fruits of Rahab’s faith; happy progeny of virtuous Ruth; once aliens to the covenant, but honoured by piety above the freeborn virgins of the land. With the fine appearance of Eliab, in person not inferior to Saul, Samuel was particularly struck. Surely, said he, the Lord’s anointed is before him. Mark hence, that revelation was sparingly given; the wisest of prophets knew nothing of futurity but what the Lord revealed. Revelation by vision was totally distinct from the most abstracted course of thought; so much so that it counteracted all Samuel’s thoughts and prepossessions. It said, the Lord hath not chosen these. Then David, the youngest and the absent was enquired for; and so eager was Samuel to see him, that he averred he would not eat till he came. And oh the emotions which would swell the prophet’s soul, on a sight of the lovely youth! He saw farther than the wondering family: he saw in him Israel’s glory and salvation. He saw the Messiah’s glory; but could not decypher the unutterable language of the Spirit. He therefore anointed him in presence of all his brethren; but his silence left them to learn in future the object of this unction. They would surmise that David was either to be a prophet or a judge, for they could not then have the most distant hope of the regal dignity.

This anointing of Samuel, it presently appeared, was richly attended with correspondent endowments of the Spirit; for music, and the composition of Psalms. Fear, in a manner, forsook him. While keeping his father’s flock, a lion came and took away a lamb, and in the ardour of his soul he smote and rent him in pieces. A bear he served in the same way; for God would gradually lead him to the exercise of courage, and the acquisition of glory. Yea, so much was he endowed with excellent gifts, that Eliab, excited to envy, reproached him with neglect of the flock, and ambition to see the battle. Thus, from the beginning, we see in David, that is, beloved, a figure of our Saviour in his name, in his profession, and in the place of his birth. But how very singular and instructive is the consideration, that as David rose, Saul sunk; as the one received the Spirit, the other lost it. A ferocious melancholy seized the soul of the guilty and desponding king, a melancholy of which Satan took particular advantage. The lives of his family, his courtiers and guards, were often insecure. The anointed youth was brought to the court, and introduced into those circles of society which contributed to his future elevation. He succeeded by the powers of music, in charming the king into a happier temper. All ancient nations have admitted its powers in the cure of various diseases, in composing anger, and affording pleasure in cases of melancholy. What a pity that Satan should almost wholly engross it to compose the guilty conscience, and to hold the dissipated by a fatal charm, till the vengeance of heaven transform its melody to mourning, and the bitter howlings of eternal woe.

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Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 16". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. 1835.