Study Notes

1Samuel 16:1-23


In chapter 15, we saw that God forsook King Saul for his disobedience and lack of repentance.

1Sam. 15:10-11 Then the word of the LORD came to Samuel, saying, "I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following Me, and has not carried out My commands." And Samuel was distressed and cried out to the LORD all night.

Although Samuel spent the entire night crying out to God, when morning came, he was obedient to deliver the message to Saul.

1Sam. 15:35 And Samuel did not see Saul again until the day of his death; for Samuel grieved over Saul. And the LORD regretted that He had made Saul king over Israel.

Samuel was grieving over Saul - mourning, like one mourns over a lost loved one. Samuel had loved Saul, and was sorrowful over his fallen state.

16:1 Grieving Over Saul

God said to Samuel, "How long will you grieve over Saul, since I have rejected him from being king over Israel?"

Solomon tells us that there is an appointed time for everything under heaven.

Eccl. 3:3-4 A time to kill, and a time to heal; A time to tear down, and a time to build up. A time to weep, and a time to laugh; A time to mourn, and a time to dance.

The time for grieving over Saul was past. It was time to continue on with God's plan, and anoint a new king over Israel.

Fill Your Horn With Oil

Ram's horns were not only used for trumpets, but also for drinking vessels. The Lord instructed Samuel to fill his horn with oil and go to see Jesse, who lived in Bethlehem. Samuel understood that he would be anointing one of Jesse's sons to be the new king.


Although we are quite familiar with Bethlehem as the birthplace of Jesus, it's history goes much further back than that. Remember back in the book of Ruth, Jesse's grandparents Ruth and Boaz lived there. As a matter of fact, the reason Jesus was born in Bethlehem was because that is where his human lineage traced back to.

Luke 2:1-5 Now it came about in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. This was the first census taken while Koo-RAY-nee-os was governor of Syria. And all were proceeding to register for the census, everyone to his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register, along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child.

Jesus ended up being born there, because his human ancestors - Ruth, Boaz, Jesse, and David - all lived there.

16:2-3 Samuel's Fear, God's Answer

Although Samuel had grieved over Saul, he also knew that Saul was prone to kill for unrighteous purposes. Remember that in chapter 14, we saw that he would have rather put his own son to death than admit he'd given a foolish command. How much more might he kill Samuel if he thought that another king might be anointed to take his place?

God's solution was to send Samuel to Bethlehem to make a sacrifice. That way, if anyone asked, he would be able to truthfully say, "I've come to sacrifice to the Lord," thus, he would not have to lie to protect himself.

16:4-5 Do You Come In Peace?

Bethlehem was not part of Samuel's regular annual circuit of Bayth-ALE, Ghil-GAWL, and Mits-PAW. When the residents of Bethlehem saw Samuel coming to town, they must have thought that he was here to rebuke their sin and pronounce some terrible judgment upon them. They came, shaking in their shoes, and asked him, "Do you come in peace?"

"Don't worry," he reassured them. "I've come to offer a sacrifice. We'll all have a barbecue."


Samuel told them to consecrate themselves, and he also consecrated Jesse and his sons. What does that mean? It means to make yourself holy, set yourself apart, sanctify yourself. How is that done?

In Exodus 19, the Israelites were consecrated for two days by washing their clothes and having no marital relations. In Exodus 28, the high priest was consecrated by his garments. In Exodus 29, the priests were consecrated by sacrifices, and in Leviticus 6, whoever touched the grain offering was consecrated. In Leviticus 8, the priests were consecrated by being sprinkled with the anointing oil and the blood on the altar.

So the short answer is that I can't tell you how the Bethlehemites consecrated themselves, or how Samuel consecrated Jesse and his sons. However it was done, they were set apart and made holy for the upcoming sacrifice.

16:6-7 God Looks At The Heart

As Jesse's sons entered the place where they had gathered to eat, Samuel fixed his eyes on El-ee-AWB. Tall, well built, handsome - surely this was the next king of Israel, Samuel thought. But while Samuel was looking on the outside, God was looking on the inside, and didn't like what He saw.

When Jesus taught that you cannot serve God and money, the Pharisees were scoffing at Him, because they loved money.

Luke 16:15 And He said to them, "You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God.

Looks be deceiving. So much so that something we place great value on and respect is something that God actually hates!

Most often, God would rather use the despised thing. God would rather use the weak thing. God would rather use short ugly guy. Why? Because when it is successful, glory is given to God rather than the instrument He used! Paul wrote,

1Cor. 1:25-29 ...The foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised, God has chosen, the things that are not, that He might nullify the things that are, that no man should boast before God.

When we were praying about elders to add to the leadership here, Grant Porder's name came up. Grant is successful, intelligent, tall, articulate, and (hopefully he'll forgive me for saying this) strikingly handsome. To be completely honest, I felt that those things were all strikes against him for ministry! But since he passed all the other Biblical tests of eldership, we laid hands on him and made him an elder. But if and when he steps out into full-time ministry, possibly pastoring a church sometime in the future, that will probably be a struggle that he'll have to deal with - people saying, "Oh, yeah - people go to his church because he looks like Superman."

God is constantly looking at our hearts. Don't spend all your time trying to be beautiful on the outside. Spend it on making your heart focused on God.

Prov. 31:30 Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, {But} a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised.

Oh, how we need to learn to look with God's eyes!

16:8-11 A Son Not Present

Next, Jesse called his son Ab-ee-naw-DAWB, but God told Samuel no dice. Then came Jesse's son Sham-MAW, but again, no deal. After seemingly all of Jesse's sons had passed before Samuel, God had not chosen any of them. Samuel couldn't understand it. Hadn't God called him to Bethlehem to anoint one of Jesse's sons?

Now, I want you to notice Samuel's faith here, for it will help you by example when you're serving in ministry. God told Samuel to go and anoint one of Jesse's sons, yet here Samuel had come to what seemed like the end. Could God have been wrong? Could Samuel have misunderstood God's direction? Could the whole thing just have been a fluke? No. That's not the way it works in the kingdom. You are told to

2Cor. 5:7 ...walk by faith, not by sight

Remember Abraham was told by God to sacrifice his son Isaac on Mount Moriah. Aside from the moral difficulty Abraham faced, there was another problem: God had promised that through Isaac, Abraham would have countless offspring. But Isaac had not fathered any children yet. If Abraham obeyed God by killing him, then that presented quite a problem!

The writer of Hebrews said,

Hebr. 11:17-19 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac; and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son; it was he to whom it was said, "IN ISAAC YOUR DESCENDANTS SHALL BE CALLED." He considered that God is able to raise {men} even from the dead...

What a man of faith! Knowing that both words were from God, Abraham figured it was God's problem as to how it all worked out. Obviously, in order for God to keep His promise, He'd have to raise Isaac from the dead - and that was up to God, not to Abraham.

In the same way, Samuel knew that God had told him that one of Jesse's sons was going to be anointed king. When none of the ones he saw was the guy, Samuel knew by faith that there must be another.

Now, this is all academic until we apply it to our own lives. What has God told you in His Word, but you are struggling with believing. He's promised to take care of something, but since you can't see what He's doing, you've got your hands all over it, trying to take care of it yourself. He's promised to provide for you, but you just can't believe enough to let Him do it in His way and His time. Have the faith of Abraham, have the faith of Samuel. Let God do what He's said He's going to do, and walk in by faith, not by sight.

16:12 David Enters

There are only two red-heads mentioned in Scripture that I am aware of. The first was Esau who was born,

Gen. 25:25, all over like a hairy garment...

He turned out to be not such a godly man. But now here's David - a redhead with a heart after God! As a redhead myself, I now feel vindicated!

Plus, he is described as having beautiful eyes and a handsome appearance. Some people don't think redheads are handsome. But the Word of God clearly shows that it is at least possible!

As soon as he walked in, the Lord said, "This is the guy that's going to be the new king. Anoint him."

16:13 Anointing And The Spirit

The anointing of oil is symbolic of being anointed with the Spirit - a physical demonstration of what is going on spiritually. We talked about this in depth back in chapter ten.

16:14 An Evil Spirit From The Lord

I must admit, that every time I read this verse, I leave in confusion. What does "an evil spirit from the Lord" terrorizing Saul mean? The word "spirit" in Hebrew here is "ROO-akh," and it is used twice in the verse. The "ROO-akh Yahweh" departs from Saul and a "Rah ROO-akh Yahweh" terrifies him.

The questions arise: Could God have a Holy Spirit and an evil Spirit? Did God send a demon to terrorize Saul? Or was it Saul's own troubled spirit that afflicted him?

The Hebrew word "ROO-akh" and the Greek word "NYOO-mah" mean "wind, breath, mind, or spirit." They are translated almost 600 times in the Bible as the "spirit" or "spirits," always falling into one of three categories: God's spirit, evil spirits, or human spirits.

For example, the gospel of Matthew uses the word NYOO-mah with the three applications successively:

Matt. 4:1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.

Matt. 5:3 "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Matt. 8:16 And when evening had come, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed; and He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were ill

The first time is used of the Holy Spirit, the second of man's spirit, the third is used of evil spirits.

Again, the book of Acts uses the word in it's three applications successively:

Acts 7:59 And they went on stoning Stephen as he called upon {the Lord} and said, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!"

Acts 8:7 For {in the case of} many who had unclean spirits, they were coming out {of them} shouting with a loud voice; and many who had been paralyzed and lame were healed.

Acts 8:15 who came down and prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Spirit.

The first time is used of Stephen's spirit, the second of evil spirits, the third of the Holy Spirit.

The problem of interpretation comes when the application is not obvious. For example, the spiritual gift called "the distinguishing of spirits" mentioned in 1Corinthians 12:10.

Is this a supernatural ability to distinguish supernatural, evil spirits, or to distinguish a man's spirit? My personal belief is that it speaks of man's spirit - to tell who is a wolf in sheep's clothing among the body. But there are others who believe it to be discerning of spirits in the spiritual realm. That is an area that I don't believe will be reconciled completely this side of heaven.

And here, in Saul's case, I believe we must come to the same conclusion. God may have sent a demon to terrorize Saul, or he may have afflicted Saul with a troubled spirit. Either way, Saul was repeatedly in torment.

16:15-23 The Evil Spirit Would Depart

Saul's servants figured that harp music would settle him down when he was having an episode of terror from this spirit.

It was no coincidence that the young shepherd son of Jesse had spent years in the fields becoming skillful on the harp.

Go to next study

Go to previous study