Bible Commentaries
1 Samuel 16

Sermon Bible CommentarySermon Bible Commentary

Verse 1

1 Samuel 16:1


I. The reason of Saul's rejection from the throne of Israel. Saul's failure may be traced to three things. (1) He was a disobedient king. (2) He was an untruthful king. (3) He was a hypocritical king.

II. The manner of David's appointment to the throne of Israel. The want of the age was a truly devout man, with a strong hand and a brave heart. Three things in this undertaking of Samuel's claim attention. (1) It was a dangerous mission. (2) It was a responsible mission. (3) It was a successful mission.

III. The declaration of David's fitness for the throne of Israel. "I have provided Me a king among his sons." The secret of David's success is explained by three things. (1) There was a Divine choice. (2) There was a Divine preparation. (3) There was a Divine calling. God makes the choice, qualifies the man, and appoints the office.

Parker, City Temple, vol. i., p. 23.

References: 1 Samuel 16:1 . F. M. Krummacher, David the King of Israel, p. 1; R. Lorimer, Bible Studies in Life and Truth, p. 93. 1 Samuel 16:1-13 . W. M. Taylor, David King of Israel, p. 1; Sunday Magazine, 1886, p. 28.

Verse 7

1 Samuel 16:7

I. God's knowledge of human nature, according to the passage before us, is immediate and direct.

II. Being immediate and direct, God's knowledge of man is perfect.

III. Because God's knowledge is direct and perfect, it surpasses men's knowledge of each other and of themselves.

Consider: IV. The life-lessons yielded by the text. (1) The folly of permitted self-delusion. (2) The utter uselessness of all hypocrisy. (3) The exposed position of all our sins. (4) The duty of being passive under Divine discipline. (5) The reasonableness of our acting on God's judgment of men. (6) A motive to diligence in keeping the heart.

S. Martin, Westminster Chapel Pulpit, 5th series, No. xxiii.

There is something in the character of Eliab which makes him unfit for the office of king. Eliab seems to have become a great man afterwards. We read of him as a prince of the tribe of Judah, and of his daughter or his granddaughter as the queen of Rehoboam. But, though the eldest son of the house and of the tribe, there was wanting in him the especial spirit of David; he showed, though in less degree, the fault of Saul, and the very next thing we find him doing is exhibiting the contrary character to Samuel's and David's, and saying and doing exactly what Saul might have done. It is an instance of envy, of harsh, uncharitable judgment. When David came down with a message from his father, Eliab, utterly misunderstanding the case, caring nothing to know the rights of it, heedless of justice or of feeling, forgets that the boy has been sent by his father, sent for his good and sent at a risk, and he shows penetration, as he thinks, in accusing David of coming down merely to see the battle. How prone we all are to ascribe our neighbour's act to self-seeking and self-conceit and self-indulgence, while for our own faults we find excuses, justifications, easy assertions. There are pleasures greater than triumphs, clearer insight than worldly penetration. Let us rejoice over each other's good and discern each other's goodness, because "charity envieth not, seeketh not her own, thinketh no evil."

Archbishop Benson, Boy Life: Sundays in Wellington College, p. 74.

Consider the necessity we lie under, if we would be Christians indeed, of drawing our religious notions and views, not from what we see, but from what we do not see and only hear, or rather the great mistake under which men of the world lie of judging religious subjects merely by what the experience of life tells them. We must believe something; the difference between religious men and others is, that the latter trust this world, the former the world unseen. Both of them have faith, but the one have faith in the surface of things, the other in the word of God.

I. We see this truth in a doctrine much debated, much resisted, at this day the doctrine of baptismal regeneration. Here we find that experience is counter to the word of God, which says that except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he is no member of Christ's kingdom. We have here a trial of faith the faith which alone overcomes the world.

II. Another trial of faith is the success which attends measures or institutions which are not in accordance with the revealed rule of duty. In every age and at all times, the Church seems to be failing and its enemies to be prevailing.

III. Another instance in which experience and faith are opposed to each other is to be found in the case of those who deny the doctrine of the Trinity, or the Incarnation, or the Atonement, or original sin.

IV. A fourth instance is the difficulty of believing the words of Scripture that the impenitent shall go into fire everlasting. We feel it a hard saying that even the most wicked should be destined to eternal punishment. But we must accept the truth, as an act of faith towards God and as a solemn warning to ourselves.

J. H. Newman, Sermons on Subjects of the Day, p. 63.

References: 1 Samuel 16:7 . Parker, vol. vii., p. 71; A. F. Reid, Dundee Pulpit, 1872, p. 92; Bailey, Contemporary Pulpit, vol. vi., p. 53; J. Van Oosterzee, Year of Salvation, vol. ii., p. 427; S. Baring-Gould, One Hundred Sermon Sketches, p. 84. 1 Samuel 16:11 . Outline Sermons for Children, p. 39; T. Coster, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xix., p. 150; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. viii., p. 345. 1 Samuel 16:11 , 1 Samuel 16:12 . J. Vaughan, Sermons to Children, 5th series, p. 1.

Verse 13

1 Samuel 16:13

David was not only the topmost man of his century, but also the climax of the best life of the chosen people of God, the consummate flower of the religion of Moses in its best days. He was a man of striking mental and moral opulence; rich in gifts and richer in achievements; a poet and a politician; a chief of brigands and a champion of the armies of God; a vassal of the Philistines and the creator of the Hebrew fatherland; simple as a child in his hunger for love, in beautiful humility, and in frank self-avowal, but prudent, cautious, and self-controlled in the thick onset of danger; tender-hearted, even to folly, as a father, but wise, sagacious, and powerful as a ruler of men, as is proved by his knitting together the scattered tribes of Israel into an invincible unity. What then is the full tale of this man's upbuilding?

I. Remember: (1) Man is a spirit. (2) "That which is born of the flesh is flesh." Spirit builds spirit; soul makes soul. The Hebrew historian accounts for David for all he was and all he did by the simple and comprehensive statement, "The Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward."

Whatever David is that is spiritual and Godlike is due to that benignant advent, and whatever he accomplishes that advances the well-being of Israel results from that invisible presence.

II. Why is it that David, of all the sons of Jesse and of all the children of Israel, is elected by the prophet for this special consecration to kingly place and power? The answer is that God sees in that lad the Tightness of heart which is the only basis for the building up of a true character, the manifest "set" of the inward life in its faith and hope, its yearning and passion, towards God and goodness, which is before all things the qualification for a redeeming and renewing career amongst men. Evermore God's unseen educating ministry goes forward. He is always preparing the world's kings. True rulers are never absent. When the clock of time strikes, and their hour is come, they take their place and do their work, and we are debtors all.

III. Nothing more eradicably rooted itself in David's mind or found more pathetic expression in his songs than the immense educational influence of his family and shepherd life. That influence was the salt of his career. It brought him face to face with reality, and developed an inwardness of being that brought peace and power for evermore.

J. Clifford, Daily Strength for Daily Living, p. 163.

References: 1 Samuel 16:13 . Bishop Walsham How, Plain Words to Children, p. 68; J. M. Neale, Sermons in Sackville College, vol. ii., p. 39.

Verse 14

1 Samuel 16:14

Saul, self-willed and capricious, had shown himself unfit for his position, so the Spirit of God was taken from him, and an evil spirit from the Lord terrified or troubled him.


I. Men must either have the Spirit of God or an evil spirit. (1) God loves to dwell in the human heart. That is His chosen temple. The sky is vast, and its canopy is thick with worlds, but that is not the temple that God seeks. The earth is beautiful and sublime, but God does not choose that temple. Man rears lofty piles, but God's chosen temple is not there. His temple is in the lowly heart, in the bosom of the meanest of the sons of men who cries out for God. (2) But if man will not have God, he cannot shut the door of his heart against other visitors. Spirit cannot isolate itself from spirit, any more than matter can from matter. But the spirit can decide whether it will ally itself with the good or the evil. If God is not received, evil spirits enter, being invited by the sympathies and affinities of the soul. Man is like a house situated between two winds. Every one must decide to which side he is going to open. Both doors cannot be shut. You can only get the dismal, fatal door shut by opening wide the door that looks to the sea of eternity and the sunshine of God. The wind blowing in through this open door keeps the door of ruin shut.

II. The stress of inward temptation and trouble is often peculiarly fitted and evidently intended to drive men to God.

Of temptations and troubles which have this adaptation in a marked degree may be mentioned first: (1) Melancholy. Saul's was a very conspicuous and overmastering melancholy. Melancholy is essentially the feeling of loneliness, the sense of isolation, of having a great burden of existence to bear. It is the soul's fear, and shrinking, and chill in the vast solitude of its house. It has driven many souls to God. (2) A feeling of the vanity of existence is another great temptation and trouble. This is the cause of much feebleness of purpose, and want of principle, and bitterness, and cynicism. There is no remedy for it but in faith in God and an eternal future. (3) The mystery of life weighs on others what Wordsworth calls "the weight and mystery of all this unintelligible world." When the night of mystery comes down and closes round us, let us press close to Christ. (4) The gloom and desolation of doubt and unbelief constrain men to turn to God. (5) Fierce temptations to evil drive many souls to God.

J. Leckie, Sermons Preached at Ibrox, p. 244 (see also Contemporary Pulpit, vol. iv., p. 25).

References: 1 Samuel 16:14 . Phillips Brooks, Twenty Sermons, p. 297; F. W. Hook, Parish Sermons, p. 44; I. Williams, Characters of the Old Testament, p. 171; R. D. B. Rawnsley, A Course of Sermons for the Christian Year, p. 281. 1 Samuel 16:14-23 . W. M. Taylor, David King of Israel, p. 13.

Verse 18

1 Samuel 16:18

In this passage we meet with David when he was still but a young man, and there are five distinct things mentioned about him which we may find it useful to consider.

I. Notice first his person, his pleasing and attractive presence or address. He had an admirable physique, had his head screwed on the right way, and was of immense strength and agility. The prominent feature about him was his manliness. There was nothing little about him. As we read the story of his life we smell the breath of the new-mown hay, and hear the bleatings on the Bethlehem hills.

II. His pastime. David's favourite pastime was music. He consecrated that great gift of his to the highest ends, and found music to be most enjoyable when linked with sacred themes. We should learn from him, not only to cultivate our faculties, but to employ them in the service and for the glory of God.

III. His patriotism. David's courage and chivalry were not confined to camps and battlefields, but characterised his whole life. No mere ambitious self-seeker was David; he was as genuine a patriot as ever lived. A healthy and unselfish public spirit needs to be cultivated. The first and most obvious duty which a man owes to the commonwealth is to see that he is no burden to it. It is in vigilant industry and sound common-sense, employed about a man's daily calling, that he makes his first contribution to the nation's wealth and weal.

IV. His prudence. The text describes him as "prudent in matters" i.e., a young man of sound judgment and of sterling common-sense. Even as a mere lad he showed singular judgment. Many a youth would have fairly lost his head when taken from the sheepfolds to the palace. David did not. Three times over it is declared of him that "he behaved himself wisely."

V. His piety. "And the Lord was with him." This was his noblest recommendation; he carried God with him into all the minutest details of life. He was "a man after God's own heart." Learn from his life to decide what the principles of your life are to be, and stand by them at any cost.

J. Thain Davidson, The City Youth, p. 19.

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 78:70-72 , 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.

J. H. Newman, Parochial and Plain Sermons, vol. iii., p. 44.

References: 1 Samuel 16:23 . F. W. Krummacher, David the King of Israel, p. 20; T. Coster, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xix., p. 166 S. Cox, The Bird's Nest, p. 99.

Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 16". "Sermon Bible Commentary".