1 Samuel 16 – “David is Anointed as King; David Alleviates Saul’s Pain”

Hebrew-English Text
I. Summary
God sends Samuel on a mission to anoint David as the future king. Saul is plagued by an “evil spirit,” and it is alleviated by David’s music.
II. Photo
David alleviates Saul’s pain with his music: “Whenever the [evil] spirit of God came upon Saul, David would take the lyre and play it; Saul would find relief and feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him.” (v. 23)

III. Important Verses
6-7: When they arrived and he saw Eliab, he thought: “Surely the LORD’s anointed stands before Him.” But the LORD said to Samuel, “Pay no attention to his appearance or his stature, for I have rejected him. For not as man sees [does the LORD see]; man sees only what is visible, but the LORD sees into the heart.”
11-13:  Then Samuel asked Jesse, “Are these all the boys you have?” He replied, “There is still the youngest; he is tending the flock.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send someone to bring him, for we will not sit down to eat until he gets here.” So they sent and brought him. He was ruddy-cheeked, bright-eyed, and handsome. And the LORD said, “Rise and anoint him, for this is the one.” Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the spirit of the LORD gripped David from that day on. Samuel then set out for Ramah.
14-18: Now the spirit of the LORD had departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD began to terrify him. Saul’s courtiers said to him, “An evil spirit of God is terrifying you. Let our lord give the order [and] the courtiers in attendance on you will look for someone who is skilled at playing the lyre; whenever the evil spirit of God comes over you, he will play it and you will feel better.” So Saul said to his courtiers, “Find me someone who can play well and bring him to me.” One of the attendants spoke up, “I have observed a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite who is skilled in music; he is a stalwart fellow and a warrior, sensible in speech, and handsome in appearance, and the LORD is with him.”
23: Whenever the [evil] spirit of God came upon Saul, David would take the lyre and play it; Saul would find relief and feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him.

IV. Outline
1-3. God tells Samuel to anoint another king
4-5. Samuel travels to Bethlehem
6-10. God tells Samuel that Jesse’s oldest sons are not to be king
11-13. Samuel anoints David as king
14. An evil spirit flows through Saul
15-20. David is brought to play music
21-23. Saul takes a liking to David

V. Comment
Chapter 16 introduces the reader to the character of David: “[David] was ruddy-cheeked, bright-eyed, and handsome.” (v. 12) David’s rise to power will be the subject of the rest of 1 Samuel and the first few chapters of 2 Samuel. As was the case with Saul’s rise to power, many modern scholars question the unity of the Biblical texts that describe David’s rise to power. For example, Collins writes: “There is more than one account of how David became king. First he is anointed by Samuel (1 Sam 16:1-13). This story follows a familiar biblical pattern in the exaltation of the lowly (cf. the Song of Hannah). Saul was taken from the lowly, and recently humiliated, tribe of Benjamin; David is the youngest of the sons of Jesse, and initially thought to be of no account. The moral is articulated by Samuel: ‘The Lord does not see as mortals see. They look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart’ (16:7). Yet the story of Saul would seem to show that the Lord too can make a mistake.” (226-227)

Collins describes the “second account” as follows: “First Samuel 16:14-23 gives a different account of the discovery of David. He is picked out because of his skill as a musician. Saul has now lost the spirit of the Lord, and instead is afflicted by ‘an evil spirit from the Lord’ (16:14). In modern parlance, this would be described as a psychological illness, perhaps manic depression or bipolar disorder. It should be noted that evil spirits are supposed to come from the Lord. In Deuteronomic theology, there is no other power that might be responsible for them. Saul’s behavior becomes increasingly erratic, but this is quite intelligible in view of the way he has been frustrated by Samuel. David is summoned to court to soothe the king his music. Saul, of course, is unaware that David has been anointed as his replacement.” (227) Scholars such as Collins see more accounts in the next chapter as well. Thus, according to this view, 1 Samuel 16-17 is the amalgamation of four different historical sources. Indeed, as Klein says, “The exact way in which David first came to prominence in Israel may not be discoverable by us.” (167)

VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)
Collins, John J. “Introduction to the Hebrew Bible,” (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2004).
Klein, Ralph W. “1 Samuel” Word Biblical Commentary vol. 10 (Waco, Texas: Word Books, 1983).
McCarter, P. Kyle, Jr. “1 Samuel,” Anchor Bible vol. 8 (New York: Doubleday, 1980).
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