Uncovering the Depths of 1 Samuel 16

In this comprehensive commentary on the 16th chapter of the first book of Samuel, we delve deep into the transformative period of Israel’s history where Saul’s trajectory declines and David’s ascension to kingship begins.

As we evaluate and interpret this critical biblical text, we will ponder the words of the prophet Samuel, anointing young David, amidst seven of his brothers, marking a significant transition in Israel’s divine narrative. Aligning actions with God’s will, 1 Samuel 16 sets the stage for His grand plan, where David’s life resonates with every follower’s spiritual journey. As 1 Samuel 16:7 reminds us, “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

The theological insights imbedded in this chapter offer profound lessons on obedience, discernment, and God’s sovereign plan, that are as relevant today as they were during the era of Kings.

Uncovering the Depths of 1 Samuel 16

Understanding the Divine Anointing in 1 Samuel 16:1

The text of 1 Samuel 16:1 in the English Standard Version says, “The Lord said to Samuel, ‘How long will you grieve over Saul, since I have rejected him from being king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and go. I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.’” This passage heralds the divine anointing of young David, a shepherd boy, who was chosen by God to be king of Israel in place of Saul.

The practice of anointing in the Old Testament serves multiple purposes. Firstly, it signifies a divine appointment or consecration for a particular service or office. With the God’s instructions to Samuel, the anointing replaces human sorrow and longing with divine purpose and instruction (Exodus 40:13; 1 Kings 19:16).

Secondly, it represents the empowerment or endowment of God’s Spirit to enable the appointee to fulfill the divine mandate efficiently and victoriously (Judges 3:10; 1 Samuel 10:6). Lastly, it is indicative of God’s favor and blessings being poured out (Psalms 23:5).

The divine anointing in 1 Samuel 16:1 is unique however, as it highlights God’s sovereignty and unmerited favor in His choice of David. God does not choose based on outward appearances or human standards, but looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16: 7).

This emphasizes that the divine anointing is undeserved, but purely an act of God’s graciousness. Even more so, it signifies a transition – a shift from the old (represented by Saul) to the new (represented by David). It underscores God’s ultimate authority in displacing and replacing kings, thereby deviating from human tradition or political procedures, hence demonstrating His supreme rule over His people.

Uncovering the Mystery Behind God’s Selection of David (1 Samuel 16:7)

The Bible reveals that when God instructed Samuel to anoint a new king for Israel, He intentionally chose David over his older, more seemingly qualified brothers. This surprising choice perplexed even the prophet Samuel, who had anticipated God’s selection to be Eliab, David’s eldest brother. The Biblical account in 1 Samuel 16:7 provides insight into God’s wisdom and selection criteria.

In the verse, the Lord advises Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” This profound statement underscores three critical truths about God’s selection of David:

  • Divine perspective: God’s selection is not based on human standards. He looks beyond the superficial – physical appearance, age, or social status that society often values.
  • Critical dimension of the heart: God’s primary concern is the condition of one’s heart. It suggests that character, integrity, humility, faithfulness and a heart that seeks God are of utmost priority to Him.
  • Difference in judgment: God’s judgment is vastly different from human judgment. While humans tend to form assessments based on external factors, God examines the inner person – the heart.

This event decodes a significant spiritual principle – God’s selection is always driven by a divine wisdom beyond human comprehension. He does not make selections as people do, nor does He prioritize the same values as earthly societies.

While humans may select leaders based on worldly credentials and external factors, God selects based on internal qualities that are congruent with His divine will and purpose. This truth illuminates God’s exceptional choice in favor of David, who despite not being the obvious earthly choice, was a spiritual giant in the eyes of God, a man after His own heart. (Acts 13:22)

Exploring the Power of Obedience and Humility in 1 Samuel 16:11-13

In the narrative strand of 1 Samuel 16:11-13, we see an evident portrayal of obedience and humility that unfolds as Samuel obediently follows God’s instructions and anoints a young shepherd boy named David.

After God rejects Saul as king, He guides Samuel to Jesse of Bethlehem, and among his sons, David is chosen, an occurrence that highlights David’s humble beginnings. The power of obedience and humility radiate through this narrative, as David, being the youngest and least obvious choice, is exalted due to his heart attitude and not his external qualifications (1 Samuel 16:7).

The line, “Rise and anoint him; this is the one,” (1 Samuel 16:12) demonstrates the divine election and the role obedience plays in that selection. It’s important to note that Samuel obediently fulfills his divine assignment without question, despite the potentially overwhelming emotion tied to the task.

Jesse obediently presents all his sons, even having David brought in from tending sheep. Lastly, David’s willingness asserts his obedience, portraying the importance of willingness to submit even without a clear understanding of the entire scenario. This act of obedience notifies us that it’s not necessary to comprehend every detail of God’s plan for obedience to be fruitful.

Humility also shines in this scripture as a significant character trait in God’s chosen leader. David, the youngest son of Jesse, was an unassuming shepherd boy. He was not the first thought for a King; his humble beginnings were in stark contrast to the regality ordinarily associated with a monarchy.

Yet, it was precisely these humble origins and heart that God could work through. The world may fixate on appearance and status, but God prioritizes the heart’s humility and receptiveness (1 Samuel 16:7). This passage in 1 Samuel profoundly demonstrates that it is through obedience and humility, not our abilities or status, that one can truly serve and lead in the kingdom of God.

Spiritual Implications of the Departure of the Spirit of the Lord in 1 Samuel 16:14

In the context of 1 Samuel 16:14, we discern a significant spiritual implication from the departure of the Spirit of the Lord. This is a profound moment in Scripture where it is stated, “Now the Spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord tormented him.”

The words indicate a distressing reality: Saul lost the divine blessing and anointing. The Spirit’s departure led to a spiritual vacuum, allowing an evil spirit to torment the once anointed king of Israel. This is indicative that God’s divine Spirit is the source of guidance, protection, and overall wellness, hence its departure results in adverse consequences. The sovereignty of God is also depicted here, where He permits the evil spirit to affect Saul, underscoring the consequences of unfaithfulness in stewarding God’s spiritual graces.

From this passage, there are also spiritual implications related to obedience and repentance. Saul persistently acted in disobedience against God’s commandments, the root cause of the departure of God’s Spirit. 1 Samuel 15:23 clearly states, For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has rejected you as king.

If Saul had truly repented, it could have averted the departure of the Spirit of the Lord. The segment illustrates the spiritual principle that willful disobedience and unrepentance can result in spiritual loss, including the withdrawal of divine favor.

Furthermore, there is an implicit demonstration of God’s divine grace and mercy within this narrative. It is seen in the anointing of David, a shepherd boy, as the new king. Even after the Spirit of God had departed from Saul, God makes a way to ensure His divine plan for Israel continues, showing his unending mercy and grace.

In 1 Samuel 16:13, we read, “So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David.” This scenario signifies that, even in the face of our failures, God’s gracious character remains unchanging and He can raise the lowly to accomplish His divine purposes.

Analyzing David’s Divine Appointment with King Saul (1 Samuel 16:23)

The biblical account of David’s divine appointment with King Saul found in 1 Samuel 16:23 marks a pivotal turn in the history of Israel. This story presents an intricate and unexpected orchestration of divine destiny, woven together by God’s sovereignty and David’s humble obedience.“And whenever the tormenting spirit from God troubled Saul, David would play the harp. Then Saul would feel better, and the tormenting spirit would go away” (1 Samuel 16:23, NLT). When an evil spirit tormented Saul, young David, anointed yet unrecognized, was summoned into the service of the king.

The underlying dynamics of this narrative provide valuable insights for believers today:

  • God’s preparation in hidden seasons: David, initially a shepherd boy, was prepared by God in obscurity before he was revealed to the kingdom. This suggests that God often grooms His chosen ones in hidden seasons, and our faithfulness in these times can determine our future roles in His divine plan.
  • The power of worship to disperse darkness: David’s harp playing would bring relief to Saul from his oppressive torment. This highlights the potent impact of worship in dispelling the powers of darkness and restoring peace.
  • The interplay of divine providence and human obedience: The unfolding of David’s destinies depended heavily on his obedience to divine instructions. This teaches us that whilst divine providence establishes our purpose, our willingness to obey God’s guidance is crucial in fulfilling our divine assignments.

The story of David’s interaction with Saul serves as a compelling template for discerning our own divine appointments. God strategically positions us in certain environments at certain times to fulfill His divine purpose. Just as David’s harp playing brought relief to King Saul, we too, have been given gifts and abilities to serve others and bring glory to God. The extraordinary begins when the ordinary submits to the will of God, confirming that our seemingly small deeds, when anointed by God, can have far-reaching impacts in His kingdom.


In conclusion, 1 Samuel 16 is a chapter that speaks volumes about God’s sovereignty and his mysterious ability to view the heart beyond human perceptions. It affirms, as stated in 1 Samuel 16:7 (NKJV), “But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. The Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.'”

This profound wisdom is a call to us, even today, to stay away from judgments based on what can be externally perceived. It serves as a reminder that God’s vision transcends our earthly understanding and that His ways are not our ways.

Moreover, the anointing of David marks an epoch in the divine plan, revealing to us God’s choice of a shepherd boy who would become a king after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22). Through the oil poured upon his head, David was consecrated, not by human vote but by divine ordination. God’s indefatigable mission in our lives often begins in the unlikeliest of ways – in ordinary settings, and through ordinary people.

The discussion surrounding the ‘evil spirit’ tormenting Saul, which is open to various interpretations, forces us to confront not merely the supernatural elements in the text, but also the delicate reality of our spiritual battles and the need for God’s grace.

As we journey through the narrative of 1 Samuel, may we be encouraged by David’s story and inspired to seek a heart like his – one that was fully yielded and obedient to the will of the God. In doing so, we align ourselves to the lived reality of 1 Samuel 16 – bearing witness to a God who sees beyond our exterior, equips the unequipped, and who, in His mysterious ways, works everything for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28).

As we close this chapter, let’s ponder these transformations, trusting in God’s ability to reframe our perceptions, refine our hearts and redeem our stories for His glory.

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