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Bible Commentaries

Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary

1 Samuel 16

Verse 1


This chapter is the first in the history of David. And as this man forms so distinguishing a character in the word of God, in every point of view, as a patriarch, prophet, writer, warrior, king, and above all, as a type of the Lord Jesus, everything respecting him becomes interesting and important. The history doth not open with the birth of David, but takes up the relation with his anointing by Samuel, as king of Israel, and the successor to Saul. Here is related in this chapter, the Lord's sending Samuel to Bethlehem to anoint one of the sons of Jesse. All the sons of Jesse are made to pass before Samuel. David is chosen. Samuel pours the horn of oil upon him: Samuel returns to Ramah. An evil spirit from the Lord troubles Saul. David is sent for, as one that played well upon an instrument, to divert him.

1 Samuel 16:1

(1) ¶ And the LORD said unto Samuel, How long wilt thou mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? fill thine horn with oil, and go, I will send thee to Jesse the Bethlehemite: for I have provided me a king among his sons.

If we compare what was said of Samuel in the close of the foregoing chapter, with what is said of Samuel (in 1 Samuel 19:20 ) presiding over the younger prophets, it should seem that the man of God had retired from court, and all public services, excepting the sanctuary, to attend to the instruction of the college. But the Lord now calls him to another commission, and this seems to have been the last, and which was to go in quest of Saul's successor among the sons of Jesse. I detain the Reader to mark in this verse, the expression fill thine horn with oil: and then beg him to remember the opening of the hymn of Zecharias, in allusion to the Lord Jesus when under the teaching of the Holy Ghost, he declared that glorious event of the coming Saviour, to be, that he had raised up an horn of salvation for his people in the house of his servant David. See Luke 1:67-69 .

Verses 2-3

(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. (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.

This expression of fear on the part of Samuel, and the encouragement given on the part of the Lord, serves to throw a light upon the history, and to show us that affairs were become very desperate with Saul. Probably his anger and hatred against Samuel was grown to great height. Alas! the progress of iniquity must be so.

Verses 4-5

(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.

The observation made upon the foregoing verses, is more confirmed in these. Wherefore should the men of Bethlehem tremble at the appearance of Samuel, had it not been that they feared the jealousy of Saul. I beg the Reader not to lose sight of the most interesting part in this history, I mean, its reference to the Lord Jesus; but remember that Bethlehem-Judah was the very spot, where in after ages, the glorious David, of whom this David was but a type, was born. And doth not the Reader recollect, that in the first appearance of Jesus, at his birth at Bethlehem, Herod, and all Jerusalem with him was troubled. Matthew 2:1-3 . It is hardly necessary for me to detain the Reader with observing, that to sanctify the household or persons of a family, was among the offices of God's servants. Our dear Lord was pleased to sanctify himself for his people. John 17:19 .

Verses 6-7

(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.

There is somewhat very interesting in this account of the review of Jesse's sons. The prophet is not acquainted on whom the Lord's lot will fall, but they are all to be brought before him. So is it in the ministry of the word. The commission of the gospel is; Go out to every creature. But, we are told, while many are called few are chosen. The minister, like Samuel, knows not when he goes forth, to whom it will prove the savor of life unto life, or of death unto death. 2 Corinthians 2:15-16 . In the conclusion Samuel made in favor of Eliab, we see how apt men are, and even the wisest of men, to be taken with things outward. He had been deceived in this once before, in the case of Saul. And though indeed this was by God's appointment, yet the Reader should remember that the appointment of Saul was to gratify the people; not to please the Lord; whereas the choice to be made now, was to please himself. Dearest Jesus! do thou choose for me, and guide me in my all supposed choice of things, that I may behold thee in everything!

Verses 8-10

(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.

The whole seven of Jesse's sons, are brought before the prophet in the order of their birth-right. But Samuel discovered, perhaps by the Spirit's guidance, which operated upon his mind in his holy seasons of prophecy, that none of these were, in the Lord's mind, appointed for the kingdom.

Verses 11-13

(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. (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.

How wonderful are the ways and works of the Lord! I pass over several otherwise very interesting circumstances in this account, which might be largely dwelt upon, both in respect to the mind of the prophet, and of Jesse the father, to attend wholly to him, whom the Lord singled out from the rest. And as everything in the life of David is memorable, from the very many views of him, in which he stands forth as a type of our glorious David; it is here chiefly in the opening of his history, I would beg the Reader's more awakened attention. First then, when we are told concerning him, that he was ruddy and of a beautiful countenance; doth it not suggest to the Reader somewhat of his features, of whom the Church sings so sweetly, when she saith; my beloved is white, and ruddy, the chiefest among ten thousand. Song of Solomon 5:10 . And doth not the very name of David, which means beloved, instantly, when known, direct our hearts to him, who is by way of eminency, called the only begotten and beloved of the Father, in whom his soul is well pleased. Matthew 12:18 . Moreover, when we see all the sons of Jesse passed by, and the youngest who was so little regarded, as to be sent to the humblest employment in the family, chosen of God and approved; how is it possible to overlook the Lord Jesus, that stone (as the apostle calls him) which was set at nought by the builders, and which is become the head of the corner. Acts 4:11 . And when we see the poor, overlooked, and forgotten son of Jesse thus gathered out from among his brethren; surely we cannot but call to mind Jesus, who is introduced in that humble, low, and despised state when entering on his ministry, that even his brethren did not believe on him. John 7:5 . Yes! dearest Lord! I would desire to trace even the minutest points of the signalized characters in thy word, which represent thee, somewhat to lead to thee. And as I know, from thine own authority, that thy goings forth have been from of old from everlasting, when thou wentest forth for the salvation of thy people: so I behold the outlines of thy sweet features of character, as the Mediator and Redeemer of thy people, in these and numberless other instances marked in thy types and servants. As the Lord designed David to the kingdom; so from everlasting the Lord Jehovah set up our Jesus as the King in Zion. And as David was anointed with the holy oil; so Jesus had the Spirit poured out without measure. John 3:34 .

Verse 14

(14) ¶ But the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD troubled him.

We turn to a very awful contrast in this account of Saul. Reader! what can equal that distress of soul which ariseth from the Lord's withdrawing his Holy Spirit. Man is then open and exposed to all the fiery darts of the enemy. Lord I would pray both for myself and reader; take not, oh! take not thine Holy Spirit from us.

Verses 15-16

(15) And Saul's servants said unto him, Behold now, an evil spirit from God troubleth thee. (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.

Alas! though the servants, it should seem, knew their lord's malady, yet instead of recommending a cure, they recommended somewhat to palliate the disease. Similar to those men who make religion a form, and desire not the power of godliness.

Verses 17-18

(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.

It is somewhat singular that David should have been so well known at court by Saul's servants, for it appears by the after history of David, (1 Samuel 17:55 , etc.) that Saul did not know him. But probably, the account of Jesse's son having killed a lion, and a bear which took a lamb from his flock. (see 1 Samuel 17:34-35 ), might have been related in Saul's palace among the servants. And if so, this accounts also, for the servants speaking of him as a mighty valiant man: for David at this time could not have been more than from 20 to 25 years of age. And as David began to reign when he was thirty years old, Saul's reign continued five years at least after this event: or if David was but 20 when he was anointed, it must have been ten years. See 2 Samuel 5:4 .

Verses 19-23

(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. (21) And David came to Saul, and stood before him: and he loved him greatly; and he became his armourbearer. (22) And Saul sent to Jesse, saying, Let David, I pray thee, stand before me; for he hath found favour 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.

I think it more than probable, that Saul had no knowledge at this time, of Samuel's having anointed David as his successor in the kingdom. Neither do I conceive that the family of Jesse understood thoroughly the purport of Samuel's visit. It is said indeed, that Samuel anointed him in the midst of his brethren. But might it not be supposed (as the words will well bear) from among, his brethren: that is perhaps, took him into another apartment privately; by which neither Jesse nor his sons knew anymore at present, than that Samuel had particularly noticed David. I do not presume to say that this was the case. But as Samuel's fears, on account of Saul, were overruled by the Lord allowing him to cover over the main design of visit to Jesse, by telling him that he was come to sacrifice: and as Eliab, as it appears in the next chapter, (see verse 28) when David came to visit his brethren in the camp, did not advert to it, but on the contrary reproved David for his supposed pride: and as Saul received Da v id so kindly, and loved him so greatly: these circumstances taken altogether, I am led to think that David's anointing (or at least the purport of it was known only to Samuel and himself. He indeed, could not but know it, because from that time, we are told, the Spirit of the Lord came upon him. Reader! it is precious to trace the Spirit's season of regeneration, from his gracious work upon the heart. This sweet earnest of the Spirit, is what Paul calls, the seal of the promised inheritance. Ephesians 1:13-14 .

Verse 23


HERE my soul, in the view of Samuel's commission to anoint David king of Israel, do thou learn the infinite importance of singling out thy Almighty David, as thy king and chosen from among his brethren. Fear not all the Sauls which would oppose thee, but boldly put the sacred crown of thy redemption upon his holy Head; and let the world know that him, whom thy God and Father hath chosen as thy Sovereign, is thy chosen also. The Lord's Christ, is thy Christ; and his anointed, thine anointed from among ten thousand.

And as for thee, thou blessed, holy, Anointed One; to thee it belongs, both by thy natural right, as one with the Father, over all God blessed forever, and by thy appointed and acquired right, as Mediator, to reign over thy church and people. Do thou take to thee thy great power, and rule in my heart, and over my whole soul and body forever. Though like David, thou art taken from the lowest state of poverty, so that when on earth thou hadst not where to lay thine head; yet art thou placed above all thy brethren. Thou art he, whom all shall praise: and all thy Father's children shall bend before thee. The Father hath solemnly put all things into thine hand, and declared that men shall be blessed in thee, and all nations shall call thee blessed. Before thee, therefore, would I bow the knee and join with every creature to confess, that Jesus Christ is Lord of all, to the glory of God the Father.

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Bibliographical Information
Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 16". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". 1828.