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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary

1 Samuel 16

 

 

Verse 1

1 Samuel 16:1 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.

Ver. 1. How long wilt thou mourn for Saul?] Mourn he might, but it was too long that he mourned. Est modus in rebus: It is not fit to wash stables with sweet water. Ad ignem charitatis incalescente pectore liquefactus intus pietatis adeps foras emanabat per oculos, saith Bernard, (a) speaking of Samuel’s mourning.

Fill thine horn with oil.] See 1 Samuel 10:1. {See Trapp on "1 Samuel 10:1"}

I will send thee to Jesse the Bethlehemite.] First, Samuel was told that God had found him out a man after his own heart; [1 Samuel 13:14] now, that this man shall be one of the sons of Jesse the Bethlehemite; and lastly, that it should be David, after a refusal of his other brethren. God oft revealeth not his will to men, but at sundry times, and by various degrees. So the Messiah was made known to the Church: first, that he should be the seed of the woman; then, that he should be of the posterity of Abraham; then, of the tribe of Judah; then, of the house of David; then, that he should be born of a virgin. [Isaiah 7:14]


Verse 2

1 Samuel 16:2 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.

Ver. 2. And Samuel said, How can I go?] This he might ask, not so much out of diffidence - for he was old and experienced; and if Solon could say, I fear not to oppose Pisistratus the tyrant, because I am old and must shortly die howsoever, much better might Samuel - as out of a desire to be directed, as Luke 1:34.

And say, I am come to sacrifice.] This a prophet might do at any time, and in any place. "In everything give thanks." But when a king was to be anointed, there was a kind of necessity in this service. Neither was Samuel bound to tell all that he came about. Some part of a truth may lawfully be concealed out of civil prudence. See the like done, Jeremiah 38:27.


Verse 3

1 Samuel 16:3 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.

Ver. 3. And call Jesse to the sacrifice.] Who was grandchild to Ruth the Moabitess, [Ruth 4:22] now grown a great lady in Bethlehem, great-grandmother to the king of Israel. So little is there lost by adhering to God and his people.


Verse 4

1 Samuel 16:4 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?

Ver. 4. And the elders of the town trembled at his coming.] Not because they feared him, but themselves, lest guilty of some great sin, or in danger of some grievous judgment, which he came to denounce. They well knew that Samuel was no gadder abroad, and that such a guest came not to them for familiarity. Coming also so unexpectedly and so privately, they might well fear he had fled from Saul, and that evil would befall them for his sake, as it afterwards did to Nob for David’s sake.

Comest thou peaceably?] It is a good thing to stand in awe of God’s messengers, and to hold good terms with them upon all occasions. Zedekiah is blamed for not humbling himself before Jeremiah the prophet, speaking from the mouth of the Lord. [2 Chronicles 36:12]


Verse 5

1 Samuel 16:5 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.

Ver. 5. I am come to sacrifice unto the Lord.] This prophets might do, either upon occasion, or without, for the blessing and comfort of certain places and cities. See 1 Samuel 9:12.

Sanctify yourselves.] By washing your garments; [Exodus 19:14-15] but especially your hearts: [Isaiah 1:16] prepare yourselves both legally and spiritually.

And called them to the sacrifice.] And to the feast that followed the sacrifice with part of the peace offering, kept, likely, at the house of Jesse.


Verse 6

1 Samuel 16:6 And it came to pass, when they were come, that he looked on Eliab, and said, Surely the LORD’S anointed [is] before him.

Ver. 6. He looked on Eliab.] Who was of a goodly stature and presence, but proud and uncourteous. [1 Samuel 17:28] Fronti nulla fides. Samuel had seen how ill Saul proved, though proper and personable.

And said, Surely, &c.] This he said by a human judgment, and not as a prophet. See the like, 2 Samuel 7:3.


Verse 7

1 Samuel 16:7 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.

Ver. 7. Because I have refused him.] Licet primogenitum, pulchrum, et procerum. All these are but as ciphers to God, which signify nothing without some figure set before.

For man looketh on the outward appearance.] He seeth but the surface of things - his knowledge is but skin-deep. The Antiochians chose Nectarius for their bishop - next after Nazianzen - for no other reason than this, that he was veneranda canitie, et vultu sacerdote digno, a goodly old man, and a comely person. So did the Constantinopolitans, Arsatius, next after Chrysostom. (a)

But the Lord looketh on the heart.] Cor camera Omnipotentis Regis.


Verse 8

1 Samuel 16:8 Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. And he said, Neither hath the LORD chosen this.

Ver. 8. Then Jesse.] Who was now made of the council.


Verse 9

1 Samuel 16:9 Then Jesse made Shammah to pass by. And he said, Neither hath the LORD chosen this.

Ver. 9. Then Jesse made Shammah.] Called elsewhere Shimeah; [2 Samuel 13:3] and Shimma. [1 Chronicles 2:13]


Verse 10

1 Samuel 16:10 Again, Jesse made seven of his sons to pass before Samuel. And Samuel said unto Jesse, The LORD hath not chosen these.

Ver. 10. Again, Jesse made seven of his sons.] For he had eight in all, [1 Samuel 17:12] though one of them likely died without issue, and is not therefore reckoned. [1 Chronicles 2:13]


Verse 11

1 Samuel 16:11 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.

Ver. 11. Are here all thy children?] God will say to such as make not a full confession of their sins, Are here all?

There remaineth yet the youngest, and, behold, he keepeth the sheep.] Him God called "from following the ewes great with young, to feed Jacob his people, and Israel his inheritance." [Psalms 78:71] {See Trapp on "Psalms 78:71"} Our vocation likewise to glory and virtue is gratuita, et inopinata [Ephesians 1:5]


Verse 12

1 Samuel 16:12 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.

Ver. 12. Now he was ruddy, and withal of a beautiful countenance.] Not rufus, red haired, as Pellicau and Junius render it, but rubicundus, cherry-cheeked, as we say, [Lamentations 4:7 Song of Solomon 5:10] sanguine and spiritful.


Verse 13

1 Samuel 16:13 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.

Ver. 13. Then Samuel took the horn of oil.] Not a cruse or phial, as when Saul and Jehu were anointed, to show the short continuance of their kingdom, say some.

And anointed him in the midst of his brethren,] i.e., Amongst them all, as Deuteronomy 18:15, Exodus 33:5. Not in the presence of them all; for then Saul might soon have heard all. Seven may keep counsel, if six be away.

And the Spirit of the Lord came upon David.] Not the spirit of felicity only, as R. Levi, but the spirit of fortitude, of prudence, of prophecy, and of piety, whereby he became, as his name David signifieth, dilectus et desiderabilis, amiable and acceptable to all, able to do great exploits, and famous for them; so that the courtiers took notice of him, and commended him to their prince. [1 Samuel 16:18]


Verse 14

1 Samuel 16:14 But the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD troubled him.

Ver. 14. But the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul.] He lost his royal abilities and achievements; he that was before in bellis acer et victor, factus est imbellis, ignavus, iners, nec quidquam praeclare gessit. (a) And the like befell Henry IV of France after that he turned Papist once. Bonus Orbi, but afterwards Orbus Boni, as they wittily anagrammatised his name Borbonius.

And an evil spirit from the Lord troubled him.] Or, Terrified him, scared him, vexed him. That old man-slayer - permittente Deo aut immittente - assaulted him, and perhaps possessed him, tormented his mind and body, working upon his melancholy and discontent, which is the devil’s bath, and casting him into fits of frenzy and fury. He had preferred his own reason, saith a grave interpreter, (b) before God’s directions in the business of the Amalekites, and so made an idol of his own wisdom and reason: and now God deprives him of the use of his reason, and breaks, as it were, this his idol in pieces.


Verse 15

1 Samuel 16:15 And Saul’s servants said unto him, Behold now, an evil spirit from God troubleth thee.

Ver. 15. And Saul’s servants.] That is, His physicians. "And Joseph commanded his servants the physicians." [Genesis 50:2] Yεραποντας θεραπευοντας.


Verse 16

1 Samuel 16:16 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.

Ver. 16. Let our lord now command.] Here the good providence of God beginneth to work for the bringing of David to the court, that he might appear to be a man fit to govern the kingdom, to wear that diadem whereunto his head was destinated after Saul’s death.

And thou shalt be well.] Thy melancholy malady shall be much mitigated and allayed by the music, and the voice of the sacred hymn sung therewith shall cause an intermission of Satan’s work. Although it may well be thought that Saul’s counsellors and courtiers took care only for his corporal ease; for else they would have advised him in the first place to send for Samuel to have prayed for him, and with him, and advised him the best way for his soul. Without this, music and other such like diversions would work but a palliate cure, and be but as a cup of cold water to him that is in a high fever. Charles IX of France, after the Parisian massacre acted by him upon his Protestant subjects, was so haunted by the furies of his own evil conscience, that he could neither sleep nor waken without music, which what was it else but the devil’s anodyne, or whistle, to call him off from the practice of repentance, that would soon have settled his mind by that peace of God which passeth all understanding! But this was hid from his eyes. (a)


Verse 17

1 Samuel 16:17 And Saul said unto his servants, Provide me now a man that can play well, and bring [him] to me.

Ver. 17. Provide me now a man.] Not a wise man, as they call wizards, or a white witch, - Saul, as bad as he was, was yet an utter enemy to such, [1 Samuel 28:9] - but a man that can play well. Musica maestae medicina mentis, (a) Pythagoras cured a frantic young man by music, saith Seneca. (b) And Xenocrates lymphatos carminum modulis a dementia liberavit, saith another, (c) Elisha called for a musician to settle his distempers. [2 Kings 3:15] And what strange alterations that excellent minstrel Timotheus could work in great Alexander, either to enrage or appease him, is well known out of historians. (d)


Verse 18

1 Samuel 16:18 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.

Ver. 18. Then answered one of the servants.] Junius thinketh this might be Jonathan; Lyra, that it might be Doeg. But it is not likely that it was either, but another who had heard of David’s great acts and worth, since the Spirit of God came upon him. [1 Samuel 16:13]


Verse 19

1 Samuel 16:19 Wherefore Saul sent messengers unto Jesse, and said, Send me David thy son, which [is] with the sheep.

Ver. 19. Which is with the sheep.] Saul might easily remember that himself was once of a like employment, and not now so contemptuously speak of it, as if David should therefore be sent him, because he could better prefer him. Shepherdy is ancient and honourable:

Pascebatque suas ipse Senator oves. ” - Ovid.


Verse 20

1 Samuel 16:20 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.

Ver. 20. And Jesse took an ass laden with bread.] Great men love and look for presents, whereby men testify their respects unto them. Reges Parthos non potest quisquam salutare sine munere, saith Seneca. (a)

And sent them by David.] Whom he might well have feared to send to Saul; but he trusteth God with him, submitting to his good pleasure and providence.


Verse 21

1 Samuel 16:21 And David came to Saul, and stood before him: and he loved him greatly; and he became his armourbearer.

Ver. 21. And he loved him greatly.] But better he had loved him little, so he had loved him long. Trust not in princes. [Psalms 146:3] Alvarez de Luna told them that admired his fortune and great favour with the king of Castile, You do wrong to commend the building before it is finished.


Verse 22

1 Samuel 16:22 And Saul sent to Jesse, saying, Let David, I pray thee, stand before me; for he hath found favour in my sight.

Ver. 22. Let David, I pray thee.] This kindness lasted not long; for David was sent home again shortly after, and loves his hook the better since he saw the court. (a)


Verse 23

1 Samuel 16:23 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.

Ver. 23. David took a harp.] This music disabled the instrument of Saul’s distemper - melancholy, (a) Not the agent - the devil; unless David withal sang psalms to his harp, as Josephus saith he did; or prayed heartily there while, as others think. See 2 Kings 3:15.

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 16:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/1-samuel-16.html. 1865-1868.

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