David Is Selected to Be the Next King

Text: I Samuel 16:1-23

Samuel Is Sent to Bethlehem - I Samuel 16:1-3

Samuel was upset with how things had turned out with Saul. After all, he was the one who had anointed Saul on God’s behalf, and with Saul’s rejection there would be concern about what would happen to the nation.

God wanted Samuel to appoint a replacement for King Saul, but Samuel was afraid of what Saul would do if he heard that another king was appointed. This gives a hint that Saul has grown obsessed with the prophecy that another would replace him and that Saul was determined to prevent it. Thus, God told Samuel to offer a sacrifice in the town where the next king (David) happened to live. As a result, when people asked Samuel why he was there, he could honestly answer that he was there to offer a sacrifice. He didn't have to mention that his primary purpose was to appoint the next king. There was no dishonesty. Samuel never lied because no one thought to ask him if he was there for other reasons.

From this, we learn that you don't have to reveal everything you know in order to be honest. Some things others just don't need to know or they might cause harm if they are revealed. Sometimes people will tell you things privately that they don't want others to know. "He who goes about as a talebearer reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy conceals a matter" (Proverbs 11:13).  This doesn't mean if someone told you that they are going to rob a bank or commit suicide, you can't tell someone. Those are matters of sin and they need to be revealed to prevent harm from being done. However, if someone told you in confidence that he is in love with Suzy, then he should be confident that you won't tell anyone else.

The best way to keep a secret is to not say anything. It is never appropriate to lie. You cannot accomplish good through sin. "And why not say (as we are slanderously reported and as some claim that we say), "Let us do evil that good may come"? Their condemnation is just" (Romans 3:8). But refusing to speak is not a lie. Or you can say, "I cannot talk about it." But most often people don't think to ask the right questions and you are not required to indicate what question they ought to ask.

David Is Anointed King - I Samuel 16:4-13

Samuel travels to Bethlehem, which causes a stir. The last time Samuel had come out, it was to reprimand Saul. Thus, the elders of Bethlehem are nervous when greeting Samuel. However, Samuel assures them that his visit is a peaceful one. He invites the elders to join him for a sacrifice and includes Jesse and his sons on the guest list. The elders were told to consecrate themselves in preparation for the sacrifice and feast, but Samuel personally consecrated Jesse and his sons.

Samuel greeted the guests as they arrived. When Jesse’s eldest son, Eliab arrived, Samuel was certain that this was the man God had chosen. He shared many physical characteristics with Saul. But God told him not to look at a man’s appearance or height. These qualities are unimportant. God is interested in a man’s heart.

Each of Jesse’s sons was passed over. Yet, God was specific that a son of Jesse was to be the next king. Samuel, thus, asks if Jesse had any more sons who had not come. He was told that the youngest son was left tending the sheep so Samuel insisted that he come for the feast would not take place without him.

Side Topic: How Sons Did Jesse Have?

This brings up a problem. This passage and I Samuel 17:12-14 state that Jesse had eight sons. I Chronicles 2:13-16 lists seven sons and two sisters. The most natural conclusion is to conclude that one of Jesse's sons died at a young age. At the time I Chronicles was written, only seven sons were living. Because I Chronicles is the only passage to list the names of Jesse's sons, we don't know the name of the son who died. The Hebrews were no different than we are today. If a person dies young before he marries, has children, or does something significant in the world, he tends to be skipped.

David was a handsome young man with a healthy glow to his skin (or possibly that he had red hair) and beautiful eyes. God told Samuel this was the one He had chosen. Samuel anointed David with his brothers watching. God’s spirit came strongly on David at that time.

Having completed his mission, Samuel returned to his home in Ramah.

For discussion:

  1. If God looks at a man’s heart, then why had Saul been chosen?

Side Topic: Why Did God Send Saul an Evil Spirit?

I Samuel 16:14 is another passage that is often cited as being contradictory. How can the Holy God send an evil spirit? (Romans 2:11; James 1:13).

To understand what is being said, we need to realize that all human languages contain ambiguity. It is why computers have such a difficult time handling natural language. In this case, the ambiguity comes from the word "evil," which translates the Hebrew word ra'. Ra' has a range of meanings just like the English words "bad" and "evil." For example, I could say "He was a bad boy" and you would conclude that the boy did something naughty or sinful. But if I say "He was a bad ballplayer" you understand that his abilities are poor, but not necessarily that he is sinful.

Not all uses of ra' involve moral badness. For example, "Then behold, seven other cows came up after them from the Nile, ugly and gaunt, and they stood by the other cows on the bank of the Nile" (Genesis 41:3). The word "ugly" translates the Hebrew word ra'. Or, "'Bad, bad,' says the buyer, But when he goes his way, then he boasts" (Proverbs 20:14). The word "bad" is the word ra' again. Hard times or adversity are also "evil" or ra'. "He says to himself, 'I will not be moved; throughout all generations I will not be in adversity'" (Psalms 10:6). Even something that is good for a person, such as discipline, can be bad because of the temporary pain it brings. "Grievous punishment is for him who forsakes the way; he who hates reproof will die" (Proverbs 15:10). "Grievous" translates ra'.

But one class of meaning involves someone being in a bad mood. "So he asked Pharaoh's officers who were with him in the custody of his lord's house, saying, ‘Why do you look so sad today?’" (Genesis 40:7). "Sad" is translating ra'. Being depressed is to have a ra' heart, "Like one who takes off a garment on a cold day, or like vinegar on soda, is he who sings songs to a troubled heart" (Proverbs 25:20). I believe it is in this latter meaning that is being described as happening to Saul. God took away His spirit and replaced it with a spirit of doom, gloom, and depression. In fact, in another passage, the same ra' spirit is translated differently: "And it happened on the next day that the distressing spirit from God came upon Saul, and he prophesied inside the house. So David played music with his hand, as at other times; but there was a spear in Saul's hand" (I Samuel 18:10).

This didn't just happen to Saul. "God sent a spirit of ill will between Abimelech and the men of Shechem; and the men of Shechem dealt treacherously with Abimelech" (Judges 9:23). Even the New Testament warns that it can happen today to people who don't love truth. "For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness" (II Thessalonians 2:11-12). Notice that in all these cases, God didn't send the bad mood, the evil spirit, until after the person fully chose to follow sin. It serves as a punishment and a wake-up call that many, because of their choices, simply ignore. As Job understood, sometimes we need hard times to grow. "But he said to her, ‘You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity’" In all this Job did not sin with his lips" (Job 2:10). "Adversity" is that word ra' again.

Additional passages to consider are Lamentations 3:38-41; Isaiah 45:7; and Hebrews 12:5-14.

God is impartial in His judgments as Romans 2:11 relates. But the fact that I face hard times because I chose to sin or because I need to grow, doesn't mean that God is treating me differently from other people in the world. Nor does God push people into doing things morally evil as James 1:13 points out. But that doesn't mean that God can’t make use of the evil that exists in the world to accomplish His will. "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28). (By the way, that is the theme of the book of Habakkuk.)

David Is Brought to Calm Saul with His Music - I Samuel 16:14-23

God withdrew His Spirit from Saul and Saul fell into depression. Saul’s servants suggested that he should hire a musician to play soothing music to calm him. Saul liked the idea and told the servants to find someone. One young man suggested a son of Jesse in Bethlehem. He happened to know that this young man was a skillful musician as well as being courageous, a warrior, prudent in his words, handsome, and, by the way, God is with him. Likely Saul focused on the idea that the young man showed the traits of a warrior. Saul accepted the recommendation and sent for the shepherd, David.

Jesse sent off his youngest son with food, drink, and a young goat as a gift to the king. It appears that the custom at that time was to bring a present when appearing before a superior (Exodus 23:15; Deuteronomy 16:16).

Here we see God’s providence at work. There are too many coincidences to account for how David would end up in Saul’s court, but by being there, David was able to see from the sidelines how the kingdom operated.

Saul loved David and eventually made David his armorbearer. Saul sent word to Jesse and asked that David be allowed to remain in Saul’s court. Anytime Saul fell into depression, David would play and Saul would improve.

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