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Barnes' Notes on the Bible
1And 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.
2And 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.
It was the purpose of God that David should be anointed at this time as Saul's successor, and as the ancestor and the type of His Christ. It was not the purpose of God that Samuel should stir up a civil war, by setting up David as Saul's rival. Secrecy, therefore, was a necessary part of the transaction. But secrecy and concealment are not the same as duplicity and falsehood. Concealment of a good purpose, for a good purpose, is clearly justifiable. There is therefore nothing in the least inconsistent with truth in the occurrence here related. Compare Exodus 7:16; Exodus 8:1; Exodus 9:13.
3And 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.
4And 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?
Trembled - There was evidently something unusual in Samuel's coming to Bethlehem; and the elders, knowing that Samuel was no longer at friendship with Saul, foreboded some evil.
5And 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.
6And it came to pass, when they were come, that he looked on Eliab, and said, Surely the LORD'S anointed is before him.
7But 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.
8Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. And he said, Neither hath the LORD chosen this.
9Then Jesse made Shammah to pass by. And he said, Neither hath the LORD chosen this.
10Again, Jesse made seven of his sons to pass before Samuel. And Samuel said unto Jesse, The LORD hath not chosen these.
Seven - i. e., including the three who had already passed. It appears that Jesse had eight sons; but in 1 Chronicles 2:13-15, only seven are ascribed to him.
11And 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.
We will not sit down ... - . literally, we will not turn round to sit at the table.
12And 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.
13Then 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.
The Spirit ... came upon David - The exact phrase used of the Judges and Saul. See 1 Samuel 10:6, note; Judges 3:10, note; Judges 6:34, note; Judges 11:29, note; Judges 14:18, note; Judges 15:14, note.
14But the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD troubled him.
15And Saul's servants said unto him, Behold now, an evil spirit from God troubleth thee.
The "evil" or "melancholy" spirit here spoken of was "the Spirit of God," or "of Jehovah," as being God's messenger and minister, sent by Him to execute His righteous purpose upon Saul (see 1 Kings 22:19-22 note).
16Let 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.
The medicinal effects of music on the mind and body, especially as appeasing anger, and soothing and pacifying a troubled spirit, are well known. It is deeply interesting to have the youthful David thus brought before us, as using music for its highest purpose, that of turning the soul to the harmony of peace and love. We may infer that some of his Psalms, such e. g. as Psalm 23:1-6, were already composed.
17And Saul said unto his servants, Provide me now a man that can play well, and bring him to me.
18Then 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.
A mighty valiant man ... - David's reputation for courage, skill, discretion, and manly beauty, was already great. Since "the Spirit of the Lord came upon him," his natural qualities and powers had been greatly enhanced. His feat of killing the lion and the bear (see the marginal references) had been performed, like Samson's feats of strength Judges 14:6, Judges 14:19; Judges 15:14, under the same supernatural influence, and was probably more or less known.
19Wherefore Saul sent messengers unto Jesse, and said, Send me David thy son, which is with the sheep.
20And Jesse took an ass laden with bread, and a bottle of wine, and a kid, and sent them by David his son unto Saul.
21And David came to Saul, and stood before him: and he loved him greatly; and he became his armourbearer.
The difficulty of reconciling this verse with 1 Samuel 17:55-58, is met thus: The words here are the ultimate sequence of David's first visit to Saul, and of his skill in music, and are therefore placed here; but they did not really come to pass until after David's victory over Goliath (see 1 Samuel 18:2). It is quite conceivable that if David had only played once or twice to Saul, and then returned to his father's house for some months, Saul might not recognize him.
22And Saul sent to Jesse, saying, Let David, I pray thee, stand before me; for he hath found favour in my sight.
23And 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.