Read the Passage: 1 Samuel 16
Samuel Sent (16:1–3)
Because of Saul’s disobedience in selfishly offering a sacrifice (cf. 1 Sam. 13:9), as well as selfishly sparing the Amalekites (cf. 1 Sam. 15:20), both of which were symptomatic of his turning away from the Lord (cf. 1 Sam. 15:11), God removed the kingdom from Saul and promising to raise up “a man after his own heart” (1 Sam. 13:14; cf. Acts 13:22). Saul’s sins caused the Lord great regret (cf. 1 Sam. 15:11) and moved Samuel to mourn for Saul. This mourning was as if Saul had died. Indeed, as was recorded in 1 Sam. 15:35, the prophet was so distressed that “Samuel went no more to see Saul until the day of his death.” As 1 Sam. 16 begins, after a long period of time, it is reported that Samuel is still in a state of mourning for Saul. This prompted the Lord to ask, “How long will you mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel?” (1 Sam. 16:1).
That which God asked Samuel to do was, “Fill your horn with oil and go; I am sending you to Jesse the Bethlehemite. For I have provided Myself a king among his sons” (1 Sam. 16:2). Because the town of Bethlehem was not part of his preaching circuit (cf. 1 Sam. 7:16), the fact that Saul’s unbalanced emotional state was already known to Samuel, and because the road from Ramah to Bethlehem passed through Gibeah where Saul resided (cf. 1 Sam. 10:26; 11:4), Samuel questioned the wisdom of God’s command. Note the arguably self-centered nature of Samuel’s objection sheds light upon the irrationality of his mourning. In response, the Lord graciously instructed Samuel that in case he met Saul, or one of his representatives, he was to say, “I have come to sacrifice to the Lord” (1 Sam. 16:2). Such an explanation would have pacified any who questioned the reason for Samuel’s travels.
David Anointed (16:4–13)
Samuel was told that the king whom the Lord would choose was a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite (cf. 1 Sam. 16:1). Jesse was the grandson of Boaz and Ruth (cf. Ruth 4:17). This is interesting, for Ruth was a Moabite and the Moabites were the enemies of Israel throughout much of the Old Testament era. Indeed, Saul had even fought against Moab at this time (cf. 1 Sam. 14:47). Moreover, Boaz was the son of Salmon and Rahab (cf. Matt. 1:5), a former prostitute and Canaanite, who were also enemies of the Jews (cf. Josh. 2:1). Therefore, while the choice of a king was the Lord’s prerogative (cf. Deut. 17:15), and while David was a man after God’s own heart (cf. 1 Sam. 13:14; 16:7; Acts 13:22), he nevertheless had a genetic heritage that included two foreign women, at least one of whom had an immoral background (cf. Matt. 1:3, 5, 6, 16).
After being instructed by the Lord, and reassured of God’s divine protection, “Samuel did what the Lord said, and went to Bethlehem” (1 Sam. 16:4). On account of his spiritual standing (cf. 1 Sam. 12:18), the fact that he had earlier killed king Agag of the Amalekites (cf. 1 Sam. 15:33), and because his appearance with a heifer may have suggested that a murder had taken place (cf. Deut. 21:1–9), the people of Bethlehem “trembled at his coming” (1 Sam. 16:4). After a time of consecration, Samuel proceeded to survey Jesse’s eight sons to see which one was chosen of the Lord to be king. Like many people, at first Samuel was deceived by their appearance, as he thought Eliab, the first born, would be king. The Lord, however, reminded Samuel that he looks at the heart (cf. 1 Sam. 16:7). Finally, the youngest, David, was chosen and rather unceremoniously anointed by Samuel as king.
Saul Distressed (16:14–23)
Just as it is surprising that Saul’s reign did not end as soon as the Lord had declared it over, so it is surprising that David’s reign did not begin as soon as he was anointed king of Israel. In fact, David has three separate times of anointing over a period of several years (2 Sam. 2:7; 5:3). The first was before his family (cf. 1 Sam. 16:13), the second before his tribe (cf. 2 Sam. 2:1–7), and the third before all of Israel (cf. 2 Sam. 5:1–5). As a way of foreshadowing his coming reign, however, the author notes that just as the Spirit rested upon David from his first anointing, so “the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul” (1 Sam. 16:14). Furthermore, Saul began to be tormented by a distressing spirit, which was also sent by the Lord (cf. 1 Sam. 16:14–15). The only cure for Saul’s distress, it seems, was for him be in David’s company, listening to soothing music, played by David. Indeed, being around God’s people can oftentimes comfort sinners.
- If Israel’s desire for a king was sinful (cf. Hos. 8:7; 12:17, 19), why did God anoint David king when Saul’s reign failed?
- Was Samuel’s deep mourning for Saul appropriate? How do you react in the face of disappointment and/or trouble?
- In light of the fact that God cannot lie (cf. Titus 1:2; Heb. 6:18), how do you explain the Lord’s reply to Samuel?
- Why does God choose the weak things of the world to confound the wise (cf. Ps. 8:2; Matt. 11:25; 18:3–4; 1 Cor. 1:27)?
- What characteristics do you consider to be non-negotiable in regard to spiritual leadership (cf. 1 Tim. 3:1–13; Titus 1:5–9)?