1 Samuel 16:1-13

The Anointing of David (1 Samuel – 16:1-13)

What caused the city elders to be terrified (vs. 4) at the unexpected visit of Samuel? Did they think that this was a disciplinary visit? Had Samuel gotten wind of some injustice or wickedness in their community? Did they think this put the city in a dangerous position? Everyone knew of the big, falling-out between Samuel and Saul. If they received Samuel, would Saul take revenge on the city? Did they just react to Samuel’s seriousness? No one knows for sure what they were thinking. They were just plain terrified!

Fortunately, Samuel calms their fears by telling them that he came in peace. He came to sacrifice to the Lord. He instructs them to consecrate themselves and come to the feast with him (vs. 5).

There is still something hidden here. No one in the city dreamed that Samuel had come to anoint one who would rule God’s kingdom in this world. But even Samuel lacked the whole story. God had only told him that he would find the one from among Jesse’s sons. Just like the city elders, Samuel was a spectator in God’s choice of a new king. That is the theme of Chapter 16 – God’s choice. [1]

The Hope in God’s Choice (vs. 1)

Saul’s failure (“for Saul”) weighed heavily on Samuel. Wherever he went, it followed him like a dark cloud. It could have been sorrow over Saul’s rebellion and rejection. It could have been mourning that this sin could result in Israel’s disintegration. In either case, the grief prompted God to ask: “How long will you go on mourning for Saul?” (vs. 1)

Fortunately, God’s orders answer Samuel’s grief and fears. “Fill your horn with oil and go; I want to send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have seen among his sons a king for me.” Or as The New-England Primer states for the letter “S” – “Samuel anoints whom God appoints.” [2]

There it is – God’s answer. I have found for me a king [3]. God has a plan for a new beginning. The true King never loses control. God’s answer, God’s choice spells H-O-P-E.

Practical Application – Isn’t there something proper in Samuel’s grief. He was not upset over a loss of his favorite pro football team. He was not upset that he had been overlooked for a promotion. He was not upset over the fact that he still is driving a 5 year-old car. “Rather, he was distressed over the spiritual disaster of a promising instrument of God, over the welfare of God’s people, over their condition and security. Do we ever mourn over such matters? Do we mourn or gossip over the sins of others? Do we ever grieve over the biblical and ethical ignorance among professing believers?…..There is something commendable, instructive, in Samuel’s distress.” [1]

The Wisdom in God’s Choice (vv. 6-7)

Jesse’s sons come along with the rest of their neighbors to the sacrifice. Samuel has an immediate, intuitive hunch about whom God has in mind. As the text says:

“When they came, he saw Eliab, and he thought, ‘Surely his anointed one stands before Yahweh!’” (vs. 6)

“One can understand Samuel’s thinking. Eliab was doubtless an impressive hunk of manhood. Around 6’ 2” perhaps, about 225 pounds, met people well, all man but with social grace, excellent taste in after-shave lotion, and so on. Perhaps he’d starred as wide receiver for Bethlehem High School football. Probably made the All-Judean All-Star team. Samuel was not alone in his estimate of Eliab.” [1]

If we are mesmerized, God is not. He can see clearly. “It’s not what man sees – for man looks at the outward appearance but Yahweh look on the heart.”

What might have happened had Samuel used his (and our) basis for making a selection of the next King of Israel? Would it have sounded like:

“…Saul, a handsome young man. There was not a man among the people of Israel more handsome than he; from his shoulders and upward he was taller than any of the people.” (10:23-24)

And if it had sounded like that, if God had not chosen the king, Israel would have suffered Saul – Act II. [1]

Practical Application – Verse 7 is a warning. We need to be careful to not allow the outward appearance, the impressiveness of speech, and the wittiness of pastoral candidates to dazzle us. We need to ask: How does he pray? How does he treat his wife? How does he treat those who serve him?

The Surprise in God’s Choice (vv. 8-12)

Seven times, Samuel meets a son of Jesse. Each time, Samuel hears the same answer: “Yahweh has not chosen this one.” Samuel asks: “Are there any others.” Sheepishly, Jesse says there is yet one more but he is keeping the sheep (vs. 11). Samuel’s order is short and sweet – “Send a man and get him.”

David, one who was ruddy with beautiful eyes and good looking, is there but a few seconds when God says – “Arise and anoint him, for this is he!”

Again we see God’s way of trampling on human thinking. Again we see how God chooses the most unlikely people to do His will. Again we are surprised with God’s choice.

Practical Application“Perhaps at no time did the living God disclose a more flabbergasting choice than in the case of David’s greater Descendent. The folks at home said, ‘He’s just one of us’ (Mark 6:3). Others complained, ‘He has too much fun’ (Matt. 11:18-19), and still others objected, ‘He’s not from the right place’ (John 7:41-42). But the clincher for many was: ‘Messiah’s don’t suffer’ (Matt. 27:42-43). And what did this opinion pack? None. ‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner’ (Ps. 118:22). What should we deduce from that? We should realize God made His choice (Ps. 118:23a) and we should relish it (Ps. 118:23b).” [1]

The Costliness of God’s Choice (vs. 13)

God both chooses David for kingship and equips him for that work. But the gift of God’s Spirit is not merely gracious; it is severe. No sooner does the Spirit touch David than he is catapulted into endless trouble. He is hunted, he is betrayed, he faces envy and anger. He hides in caves, lives in exile, and is driven to the edge. The Spirit comes, the trouble begins…..

So it was for David’s Son and David’s Lord. As soon as the Spirit comes down in the form of a dove (Mark 1:10-11), the Spirit drives Christ into the wilderness (Mark 1:12-13). There he faces the enemy, wild beasts, and temptation.

Practical Application – The servants of David’s Lord find the same pattern (Acts 14:22). If we remember David and his Descendant we begin to understand that this conflict is not a sign of our sin but a mark of our sonship. [1]


End Notes

 [1] Dale Ralph Davis, “1 Samuel – Looking on the Heart”

[2] Tremper Longman III & Daivd E. Garland, “The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: 1 Samuel – 2 Kings”

[3] David Toshio Tsumura, “The First Book of Samuel”

[4] Robert Deffinbaugh: “David and Goliath” (1 Samuel 17:1-58)

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