Anointed as King


1 Samuel 16:1–13

The Biblical record of the life of David, the greatest king in the history of the nation of Israel, begins with his anointing by the prophet Samuel to be the king of Israel. This was the first of three anointings for David as king of Israel. The other two anointings occurred when he became king at Hebron over part (the tribe of Judah) of Israel (2 Samuel 2:4) and when he became king over all of Israel (2 Samuel 5:3) seven years later. The first anointing, which is the subject of this first chapter of our book, occurred when David was still a young person. Our text for this study (especially the part about his shepherd work) would indicate that he was somewhere in his teens—some say between sixteen and eighteen.

This text on David’s first anointing is not, however, the first mention of David in Scripture. The first mention of David in Scripture is in the book of Ruth where he is mentioned twice as the great grandson of Ruth. David’s presence in the book of Ruth is the key to the book of Ruth being in the Scripture. And the chief reason for David being in the book of Ruth is in the fact that from the line of David comes the One Who some ten centuries later was "born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord" (Luke 2:11). The book of Ruth is an important connecting link in the Bible in the line of Christ, and this is because David is in it. But though the book of Ruth mentions David, it does not, however, record any events in the life of David. That record is left for other books of the Bible, and it begins with the text for our study in this chapter.

To study this first anointing of David as the king of Israel, we will consider the conditions for the anointing (v. 1), the command for the anointing (vv. 2–5), and the choosing for the anointing (vv. 6–13).


The anointing of David by Samuel came when the conditions in Israel were quite bleak, and as such they underscored the great need for a new king in Israel. Conditions would even get worse before David would actually be seated on the throne of Israel, but God often waits till the situation gets really bad before He brings deliverance. He does this in order to show the glory of His great power. Bad times do not indicate that God is weak and has lost control of things. Rather, bad times indicate that man is weak and has lost control of things; and man becomes weak through wickedness. God, however, is always in control. There is no better proof of that than in the fact that when things are at their worst, God is still able to step in and provide deliverance and straighten things out.

In view of the distressful conditions in the land when David came on the scene, it is worthwhile to mention here that the introduction of David in the Scripture is like that of the introduction of Samuel in Scripture in that these two men (who are the prominent ones in this anointing of David) formed a great contrast to the men they were to replace. Samuel was a great contrast to wicked Eli whom Samuel replaced as judge. And David was a great contrast to the wicked Saul whom David would replace as king. God’s men will always be a great contrast to the evil men of the world.

The bleakness of the conditions in Israel at the time of David’s anointing is especially seen in the mourning of the prophet (Samuel), the misery of the people, the madness of the prince (Saul), and the menace of the Philistines.

1. The Mourning of the Prophet

Samuel mourned "for Saul" (v. 1). When the godly in the land are mourning, conditions in the land are bad. And none were more godly in Israel at this time than the prophet Samuel. Samuel’s mourning for Saul was certainly strong evidence of the need of a new king in Israel and greatly emphasized why it was time for David’s anointing. To examine this mourning by Samuel over Saul, we will note the reasons for the mourning, the rebuke for the mourning, and the remedy for the mourning.

The reasons for the mourning. Samuel had some very good reasons for mourning for Saul. We note the two main reasons why Samuel would mourn for Saul. They were the rebellion of Saul and the rejection of Saul.

First, the rebellion of Saul. Saul began with much promise as Israel’s first king. The great victory over the Amorites, who had threatened much harm to the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead, showed Saul’s compassion for the people of Israel over whom he ruled; and it also showed military courage and skill. It was a very impressive victory. But then shortly thereafter things began to go sour with Saul, for he rebelled against God. It started when he would not wait for Samuel to come to Gilgal to make the appointed sacrifice but did the forbidden and made the sacrifice himself. Then later he rebelled again—this time it was regarding the war with the Amalekites. Saul would not destroy everything that God ordered to be destroyed, and Saul foolishly tried to justify his actions when confronted by Samuel about this rebellion. Scriptures says Saul’s rebellion "grieved" (1 Samuel 15:11) Samuel so much that "he cried unto the Lord all night" (Ibid.). We need to note that the word "grieved" here involves more than just mourning. It also involved great vexation and disgust. Samuel was not only sorrowful over Saul’s rebellion, but he was also very provoked by Saul’s rebellion. Would that all of us would get as upset about rebellion against the Lord, especially when we see it in our own lives.

Second, the rejection of Saul. Saul’s rebellion against God led to his rejection from the throne by God. Rebellion against God will always lead to rejection by God. At Gilgal where Saul did the forbidden by administering the sacrifice, God, through Samuel, gave the first announcement of the rejection of Saul by saying, "Thy kingdom shall not continue" (1 Samuel 13:14). Also again at Gilgal, God made a second announcement regarding Saul’s rejection as king of Israel. This second announcement of rejection was made when Samuel met Saul coming back from the attack of the Amalekites. Through Samuel God said then, "Thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord hath rejected thee from being king over Israel" (1 Samuel 15:26). "No bad man drifts down the rapids . . . unwept" (F. B. Meyer), and the rejection of Saul by God caused Samuel to do much mourning. Though Saul replaced Samuel as Israel’s ruler, Samuel still obviously had taken a liking to Saul and had great hopes for Saul (1 Samuel 10:24). Hence Saul’s rejection by God would cause Samuel to greatly mourn.

This rejection of Saul opened the door for David to be king. With the throne taken away from Saul and his family (1 Samuel 13:13), "the Lord . . . sought him a man after his own heart . . . to be captain over his people" (1 Samuel 13:14); and that man was David, who was "better than thou [Saul]" (1 Samuel 15:28). No man is indispensable. Rebel against God, and He will fill your place with someone who is better than you are.

The rebuke for the mourning. God rebuked Samuel for his mourning for Saul. It was not a rebuke for mourning per se, but it was a rebuke for mourning too much. This rebuke is seen in the Divine question, "How long wilt thou mourn?" (v. 1). The question is condemning; for God "never says, ‘How long dost thou mourn?’ unless sorrow has deepened into accusation of His providence, or tears have blinded us to the duty that ensues" (Maclaren). Ezekiel 9:4 says, "Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof." And the next two verses in Ezekiel say to smite those who did not sigh and cry for the sins of Jerusalem. "Samuel was one who sighed and cried for the abominations which were done by Saul in his day. But sorrow, however reasonable and becoming, may be carried too far. It may be indulged until it unfits us for duty, or darkens our hope in God; it may disturb our peace and weaken our energies; it may be made an occasion of our halting, and of our neglecting public duty" (R. Steel). As good a man as Samuel was, he still fell into the snare of excessive lamenting. We can understand why he was mourning, for there was plenty to mourn about in Saul as we noted above. But Samuel’s problem was that he focused too much on Saul (which only produced despondency) and not enough on God (which would encourage hope).

The remedy for the mourning. "Fill thine horn with oil, and go" (v. 1). God gave Samuel an excellent antidote for his overmuch sorrow. He gave him some work to do, namely, anointing David as king. "The true cure for overmuch sorrow is work" (Maclaren). Of course, such work must be sanctioned by God. Doing wicked work certainly is no help to mourning but will only increase it. It is our duty that needs to be done which we are talking about here as one of the effective cures to mourning.

When troubles cause us to sorrow, we will be a victim of sorrow if we just sit and brood over the sad developments in our life. In fact, one of the worst things you can do in times of sorrow is to sit and do nothing. If sorrow is dominating your life, seek out your Divine duty and get busy doing it. It will help you as it did Samuel. Samuel needed to stop mourning and start moving. So do many folk today, and doing their duty will help them to end the mourning and energize the moving.

2. The Misery of the People

Samuel was not the only one who was mourning and in misery because of Saul when the anointing of David took place. Many in Israel were also in misery because of Saul’s ruling of the nation. Saul was not much of an inspirer of people during his reign. At times he did inspire, but most of the time he caused despair in the people’s hearts. So we read such things in Scripture as: "the people were distressed" (1 Samuel 13:6), "all the people followed him [Saul] trembling" (1 Samuel 13:7), and "my father [Saul] hath troubled the land" (1 Samuel 14:29). Saul did not help matters either by letting the people disobey God’s command in taking of the forbidden spoil of the Amalekites. Like a poor ruler, Saul encouraged evil in the land. And evil brings misery, not happiness, to mankind. So evil rulers do not bring happiness to a land but cause mourning instead. "When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn" (Proverbs 29:2). The next time you do not think character is necessary in a ruler of a nation (as some seem to think in our day), meditate a while on this verse from Proverbs and on the misery which the Israelites experienced because of Saul’s rule; and you will change your mind in a hurry. Character is the foremost qualification for a good ruler of any nation!

3. The Madness of the Prince

Another bleak condition in Israel at the time of David’s anointing was the madness of Saul. After David was anointed by Samuel, the madness of Saul became much more evident because "the spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord troubled him" (1 Samuel 16:14). This resulted in erratic and threatening behavior by Saul, such as, throwing the javelin several times at David, hunting David’s life incessantly, ordering the killing of a host of priests, and going to a witch for help. But this madness was already evidencing itself before David was anointed. This is especially seen in regards to his decree to have his gallant son Jonathan killed. Saul, who on one occasion mercifully forbad the slaying of those who opposed him (1 Samuel 11:12,13), later demanded the death for his son Jonathan because Jonathan had broken Saul’s stupid order forbidding his army to eat when in a battle against the Philistines (1 Samuel 14:24). Jonathan did not hear the order; so when he found honey, he ate it and was strengthened to do battle (1 Samuel 14:27). Jonathan was the one who caused Israel to win a great battle over the Philistines at that time, yet Saul in his madness wanted to kill Jonathan because Jonathan unwittingly broke Saul’s stupid and disabling order. Jonathan’s fellow-soldiers prevented Saul from killing Jonathan, but such bizarre orders and thinking of Saul showed the great madness of Saul and how poorly he was ruling Israel. His rule did not reflect wisdom or justice. All of this underscored the need for a new king—a need David would fill so well.

4. The Menace of the Philistines

Before Saul became king, Samuel led Israel in a great victory over the Philistines which broke the yoke of dominion which the Philistines had over Israel (1 Samuel 7:13). However, like the devil, the Philistines did not quit pestering the Israelites but continued to periodically attack Israel trying to regain the dominion they had lost when Samuel led Israel to victory over the Philistines. Under Saul’s reign as king, the Philistine menace greatly increased. This menace was increasing when David was anointed king. The increasing of the menace was emphasized by the confrontation of Goliath shortly after David’s anointing. Saul was helpless to do anything about it until David killed the giant. The menace continued to increase after David’s anointing and was not stopped until David became king. Though Saul gained some victories over the Philistines, the Philistines became a bigger and bigger menace; and at the end of Saul’s life and career, they battled their way into the land of Israel as far north and east as Mount Gilboa where they killed Saul in battle (1 Samuel 31). The increasing menace of the Philistines was just one more alarming condition in the land at the time of David’s anointing which emphasized the need Israel had of a new king.


The anointing of David as king was ordered by a Divine command given to the prophet Samuel. As we have just noted, this command got Samuel busy and helped to stop his excessive mourning over Saul. The command is filled with many lessons for all of us. To study the command we will note the preparation in the command, the providing in the command, the prophecy in the command, the perception in the command, the protest about the command, the promise in the command, the performance of the command, the perturbation from the command, and the purification in the command.

1. The Preparation in the Command

"Fill thine horn with oil, and go" (v. 1). This first sentence in the command addressed some vital preparation which Samuel needed to do in order to perform his duty of anointing David as king. To be able to anoint David as the new king of Israel, Samuel must prepare for it by filling his horn (flask or cruet) with oil. This brief but important preparation order given Samuel is in principle a good exhortation for all servants of God. Preachers especially need to apply this exhortation to their ministry of preaching. So often they come into the pulpit with an empty horn—that is, they do not have much of a message. They are like Ahimaaz (2 Samuel 18:22,23) who wanted to run as a messenger but did not have a message. Preachers need to stay long enough in the study of the Word of God to fill their horn full with a message so that when they arrive at their Bethlehem pulpit, they can do some anointed preaching. Samuel would have been very foolish had he gone to Bethlehem with an empty horn. He could not have done any anointing if such had been the case. Likewise, many a preacher does not do any anointed preaching on Sunday because he has not taken time to "fill thine horn" during the week.

Anointed preaching does not necessarily mean you will be loud and boisterous in the pulpit, but it does mean you will have something worthwhile to say in the pulpit. It means you will open up the meaning of the Word of God when you preach and make good application to the lives of the listeners and bless the receptive heart with much spiritual food. Too many pulpits in our land are like Mother Hubbard’s cupboard because the preacher has not taken time to adequately prepare his messages.

2. The Providing in the Command

"I will send thee to Jesse the Bethlehemite; for I have provided me a king among his sons" (v. 1). God is the Great Provider. This is the oft repeated testimony of the Scriptures. When Abraham needed a lamb to take Isaac’s place on the altar, Abraham said, "God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering" (Genesis 22:8); and God did! The providing was so impressive that Abraham named the place where the sacrifice was made, "Jehovah-jerih" (Genesis 22:14) which means "Jehovah will provide." When Israel was oppressed in Egypt, God provided a deliverer in Moses. When Israel was ready to enter the land of Canaan, God provided a great leader in Joshua. When Israel was oppressed during the times of the judges, God provided great deliverers such as Barak, Gideon, Jephthah, Samson, and Samuel to deliver them from their various oppressions. When the Gospel was to be carried to the Gentiles, God raised up Paul. When the time came for the Reformation, God raised up Luther. And after Saul had made a mess of things in Israel, our text reports that God raised up David to deliver Israel from defeat and despair and to bring some of the most glorious years of all to the nation of Israel. These provisions by God should encourage the godly, for the same God Who provided in the past still lives today which means He can also provide our needs.

3. The Prophecy in the Command

"I have provided me a king among his sons" (v. 1). This statement in the command about providing a son of Jesse to be king is a great prophetic statement. Like many prophetic statements, it has a twofold fulfillment. It has both an immediate fulfillment and a future fulfillment. The immediate fulfillment was in David, one of the sons of Jesse. The future fulfillment is in Jesus Christ, Who is also connected to one of the sons of Jesse, namely, David. David was the most prominent fulfillment for Samuel’s day, but the most significant fulfillment is future in Jesus Christ Who will be the Great King of kings (Revelation 17:14; 19:16) when He rules from Jerusalem on David’s throne.

This statement is very much like the one which Abraham made to Isaac when Isaac asked, "Where is the lamb for a burnt offering?" (Genesis 22:7). Abraham answered, "God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering" (Genesis 22:8). Abraham’s statement, though he did not realize it at the time, was also a double prophecy. The immediate fulfillment was in the provision of a lamb found by Abraham in the bush as a substitute for Isaac. The future fulfillment was in Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God (John 1:29) Who died on Calvary as the substitute for sinners.

4. The Perception in the Command

When we examine the Hebrew word translated "provided" in verse 1, we discover in the word some lessons on perception. The Hebrew word translated "provided" in verse 1 is found some 1,300 times in the Old Testament. But only four times of the 1,300 times is it translated "provided" (or "provide"). One of those times is in verse 1 of our text for this chapter. Interestingly, another of those times is in the Genesis 22:8 passage we referred to above. The main translation of the word is to words concerning vision (see, look, beheld, etc.).When translated "provided," the context gives the word the meaning of "see to it" or "look after it" which, of course, is language that involves the idea of caring and providing.

The "seeing" (perception) meaning of the word really fits this passage on David’s anointing, for it is very much related to verse 7 which speaks about the principles to guide Samuel in choosing a person to be the new king. This relationship is especially obvious when verse 1 is translated, "I have seen [instead of provided] me a king among his [Jesse’s] sons." As we will note more about later, Samuel had trouble seeing (perceiving) which son it was that was to be the new king. And Jesse, David’s father, did not see David as the one to be anointed at all. The reason for the poor perception of Samuel and Jesse is found in verse 7—"The Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart." Significantly, the words "seeth" (second "seeth," for the first "seeth" was added by the translators) and "looketh" in verse 7 are translated from the same word as "provided" in verse 1. The poor perception problem of Samuel and Jesse cleared up when they obeyed God and quit choosing by the outward appearance but by the heart (which here was in the accepting of God’s statement that the choice for a new king was David). Perception is inseparably related to Divine precepts. Obey them and you will see well; disobey them and you will not see well.

This lesson concerning obedience and perception is also prominent in Abraham’s case in Genesis 22 which passage we looked at a bit earlier. When Abraham said God would "provide" (Genesis 22:8) a lamb, the word "provide" is translated from the same Hebrew verb as "seeth," "looketh," and "provided" in our text from First Samuel. So Abraham’s statement could also be translated God "will see" a lamb. This translation is most fitting, for it took Abraham a while to see the lamb that was caught in the bush behind him. What caused him to finally see the lamb? It was his obedience to Divine precepts that caused him to see it. When Abraham manifested his obedience by his readiness to slay Isaac, God opened Abraham’s eyes. Then "Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns" (Genesis 22:13). The word "looked" in that verse is the same word translated "provided" in verse 1 of our text in First Samuel and "provide" in Genesis 22:8. Abraham, like Samuel, became able to perceive when he obeyed. All men will experience the same.

5. The Protest About the Command

"Samuel said, How can I go? if Saul hear it, he will kill me. And the Lord said, Take an heifer with thee, and say, I am come to sacrifice to the Lord" (v. 2). To study some details of this protest, we note the excuse of Samuel, the evil of Saul, the example of salvation, and the explanation of secrecy.

The excuse of Samuel. Samuel’s protest was an excuse for not obeying God. God gave him a command, but Samuel countered by giving an excuse for not doing the command. Trying to excuse oneself from Divine duty is not unusual among people, though it was unusual in the case of Samuel. God gives us commands, but we often protest doing them. In protesting the commands, we act as though we know more about the situation than God. Our excuses may sound very plausible, as did Samuel’s excuse that Saul might kill him; but no reason is justifiable for disobeying God. Even if our life is endangered, it is not sufficient reason to disobey God; for Christ was "obedient unto death, even the death of the cross" (Philippians 2:8). If Christ obeyed even though it cost Him His life, we certainly cannot claim the threatening of our life as an excuse for not obeying. Furthermore, if many soldiers serving our nation in the military have obeyed even though it cost them their lives, how much more ought we to be willing to serve Christ even if it costs us our life. The peril of losing one’s life is simply not an acceptable excuse for disobeying God. Of course, we are not to throw our lives away carelessly. But when God’s commands are plain, obedience is more important than preservation of life. Are you dedicated enough to God to lay down your life for Him?

Samuel’s failure here reminds us that the best of men are still just men at their best. It also reminds us that without the help of God, none of us will be able to stand faithfully. Furthermore, Samuel’s failure also reminds us of the peril of mourning too much. Samuel had been too taken up with mourning instead of looking to God, and this did not help him obey and serve God. A despondent spirit does not produce a dedicated spirit.

The evil of Saul. Samuel’s protest reveals how evil Saul had become. Samuel knew Saul well, and Samuel’s fear for his life was not unjustified. As we noted earlier, Saul’s evil began sometime before David’s anointing; and after Saul was rejected of God, his behavior deteriorated more and more. Nothing was sacred anymore to Saul. No one was exempt from Saul’s mad and murderous decrees. If Saul got upset at you, your life could be snuffed out in short order. As an example, many priests were later slain at Saul’s decree (1 Samuel 22). Furthermore, Saul continuously sought to kill David as we will see in later studies in our book. So Saul would be the kind to view the anointing of another for king as an act of treason and would not tolerate such an act.

Saul indeed had become very evil. The longer he reigned the greater his evil. He certainly fell a long ways from his early days as king. But he rejected God’s word and thus rejected God. When you start rejecting God’s Word, your life will only become increasingly decadent.

The example of salvation. To answer Samuel’s protest of fear of being killed by Saul, God told Samuel, "Take an heifer with thee, and say, I am come to sacrifice to the Lord" (v. 2). In this provision of safety, we have a wonderful example of soul salvation. Samuel was under the threat of death. But God in mercy provided a means whereby Samuel would escape death. The means was a sacrifice. Samuel was to take a heifer to Bethlehem to offer as a sacrifice there. This would keep Saul from evil suspicions of Samuel’s conduct and would spare Samuel from Saul’s murderous wrath. Thus Samuel was saved by a sacrifice that was connected to Bethlehem and that was planned and ordered by God

In like manner, the sinner, who is in danger of death because of his sin, is saved by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, a sacrifice which was connected to Bethlehem because that is where Christ was born. This sacrifice to save those in peril of soul damnation was also planned and ordered by God as "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Revelation 13:8) indicates.

The explanation of secrecy. This action by Samuel of taking a heifer to Bethlehem when going there to anoint David may be viewed by some as an excuse to lie and deceive. But that is not the case at all. Samuel was not deceiving Saul, for Samuel was indeed going to have a God-ordered religious convocation in Bethlehem—for the word God used that is translated "sacrifice" means "a sacrifice followed by a feast" (R. P. Smith). In this order God provided a legitimate means by which Samuel could go to Bethlehem safely. F. C. Cook gave a good explanation of this secrecy when he said, "There is here an appearance of duplicity sanctioned by divine authority which it is important to examine. It was the purpose of God that David should be anointed at this time as Saul’s successor, and as the ancestor and type of His Christ. It was not the purpose of God that Samuel should stir up a civil war, by setting up David as Saul’s rival. Secrecy, therefore, was a necessary part of the transaction. But secrecy and concealment are not the same as duplicity and falsehood . . . In the Providential Government of the world, and in God’s dealings with individuals, concealment of His purpose, till the proper time for its development, is the rule rather than the exception, and must be so. There is therefore nothing in the least inconsistent with Truth in the occurrence here related."

6. The Promise in the Command

When God first gave Samuel his orders to go to Bethlehem to anoint a new king, God did not tell Samuel everything about his duty—God seldom does that with anyone. God simply promised Samuel, "I will show thee what thou shalt do" (v. 3). Samuel "gets light enough for the next step, but no more . . . Duty opens by degrees, and the way to see farther ahead is to go as far as we can see" (Maclaren). If Samuel was like most of us, he would have preferred that God would have told him at the time of the giving of his orders who exactly it was that he was to anoint. But God did not do that. He did not tell Samuel which of Jesse’s sons it was until Samuel had eliminated all of Jesse’s older sons. But the Divine promise given Samuel in God’s command that "I will show thee what thou shalt do" would compensate for all the unknowns Samuel experienced in serving God.

The promise given here simply states that when it is time, God will show us what we are to do. Thus, God leads us step by step. The flesh does not like that, of course; but being led step by step really promotes faith. And it is faith that we need, for "without faith it is impossible to please him [God]" (Hebrews 11:6). God is in the business of promoting our faith, not pampering our flesh. We all would be smart to do likewise.

7. The Performance of the Command

"Samuel did that which the Lord spake" (v. 4). It is always instructive to observe in Scripture how men respond to the commands of God. Samuel’s response here was to perform God’s commands right to the letter. One cannot perform any better than that. Samuel did, of course, at first protest God’s command, but not for long; for after God spoke some more to him, Samuel stopped protesting and started performing God’s command with faithful attention to the details.

When it comes to God’s commands, it matters not whether you become famous or have fun or make a fortune. What matters is, are you faithful in obeying them? Samuel’s life was characterized by faithfulness to God’s commands. Therefore, he was a good man to do the anointing of David. God looks for faithfulness in a person before He assigns important duties. Faithfulness is vital if you are going to properly and successfully carry out God’s commands. Had Samuel not been faithful in his obedience to God’s commands, he could easily have anointed the wrong person, for he had much opportunity to anoint someone other than David. It was only his faithfulness to God’s orders that kept Samuel from anointing anyone other than David. Lack of faithfulness will cause us to make many mistakes and create many problems not only for ourselves but also for many others.

8. The Perturbation From the Command

"And the elders of the town trembled at his coming, and said, Comest thou peaceably? And he said Peaceably: I am come to sacrifice unto the Lord" (vv. 4, 5). Samuel’s arrival at Bethlehem brought fear to the elders of the town. We note the rejection in the fear, the reason for the fear, and the removal of the fear of the elders of Bethlehem.

The rejection in the fear. The fear of the people in seeing Samuel said the people did not want Samuel around. Therefore, since Samuel was coming to Bethlehem as a result of obedience to God’s command, Samuel’s obedience was being rejected by this fear. Many times obedience is rejected as Samuel was here. Live a life of obedience to God and the world around you will reject you one way or another. The way the Bible and prayer are being pushed out of public places, such as our schools, shows the fear of the "elders" of our land for obedience to God. How very strange that we should fear obedience to God. What we really need to fear is disobedience to God, not obedience to God. We need to fear disobedience to God like the plague.

The reason for the fear. "Why should the elders have thought that he [Samuel] came with a rod? Because they knew that they and their fellow-villagers deserved it" (Maclaren). The fear of the men of the town of Bethlehem betrayed the unfaithfulness of their lives. When the Word of God is rejected, as it was by Saul and also by the people (as seen in their conduct regarding Amalek), peace is not going to be prominent. Bethlehem’s fear of Samuel is the fear that lawbreakers have of policemen and other authority when it shows up on the scene. It is the same fear that filled Jerusalem when the people there heard about the birth of Christ: "When Herod the king had heard these things [about the birth of Christ], he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him" (Matthew 2:3). Guilt causes fear and destroys peace. "There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked" (Isaiah 57:21).

The removal of the fear. The removal of fear in the hearts of the people in Bethlehem and the restoration of peace came through a sacrifice. When Samuel announced that he had come to make a sacrifice, it indicated that he was come "Peaceably" (v. 5). Here is another foreshadowing of the Gospel of Christ in this text. The sacrifice of Christ is what removes fear and brings the greatest peace to mankind. "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ [Who was the Great Sacrifice on the cross]" (Romans 5:1).

9. The Purification in the Command

To perform the command to sacrifice, Samuel had to order the people at Bethlehem to "sanctify yourselves, and come with me to the sacrifice" (v. 5). These people were going to engage in worship (the worship revolved around a sacrifice which says we cannot worship without focusing on the sacrifice, Jesus Christ), and Samuel told them to clean up for it. Purity was a prerequisite for worship and service at Bethlehem. While the Israelites sanctifying here was chiefly outward such as the washing of their clothes (cp. Exodus 19:10), it represents the important need of inward purifying, too.

Like those in Bethlehem, we also need to sanctify ourselves before we worship and serve the Lord. People often go to a lot of preparation for worship and service that does not have anything to do with purity. We are not criticizing the other areas of preparation, but purity of heart is the prime preparation needed. While we should prepare ourselves outwardly to attend a service (there seems to be a great lack in this matter today—the sloppy dress practices indicate that worship is not very important to many), yet the important preparation is that of the heart.


We noted earlier that when God ordered Samuel to go to Bethlehem that God did not reveal to Samuel at that time that David was the choice for the next king. It was not until after Samuel had obeyed God and gone to Bethlehem that God revealed to Samuel that the choice for Israel’s next king was David. Obedience is a great help to illumination.

The revelation that David was the choice for Israel’s next king was made step by step as Samuel sought to know which of Jesse’s sons was to be anointed. This process of choosing David and other factors involved in the choosing all furnish us with many good instructions regarding our walk with God. To discover these instructions, we will study the place of the choosing, the principles in the choosing, the problems in the choosing, the patience in the choosing, the proclaiming of the choosing, and the person for the choosing.

1. The Place of the Choosing

The place of the choosing was Bethlehem (v. 1). Bethlehem was a very small place. It was so small that it was not even mentioned in the list of cities of Judah in the book of Joshua (Joshua 15:20–63; compare the description given of Bethlehem in Micah 5:2). But smallness is not a handicap to greatness. Bethlehem is a very significant location regardless of its size. It was where Rachel gave birth to Benjamin and died in the process. It was where Boaz courted and married Ruth the great grandmother of David. And many centuries after David was anointed there, Jesus Christ was born there. Today at Christmas time, Bethlehem is big in the news and is often sung about in Christmas music.

We will note later that David was like Bethlehem, the place of the choosing, in that he was considered small and unimportant in the eyes of man. But that did not stop him from greatness. You may be a Bethlehem in the eyes of the world; you may be small and unnoticed and not on anyone’s map of important people; but that will not stop you from being used greatly in God’s service. God is not concerned about your bigness in the eyes of man. He is chiefly concerned about how big your dedication to Him is.

2. The Principles of the Choosing

The principles involved in choosing David for king are very instructive for us regarding the making of decisions and choices in our life. If we will give heed to the lessons from the principles in the choosing of David, we will avoid many headaches and heartaches in our life. To examine the principles involved in choosing David for Israel’s next king, we note the wrong principle used at first and the right principle used afterward.

The wrong principle. "He looked on Eliab, and said, Surely the Lord’s anointed is before him" (v. 6). When it came time for Samuel to choose one of Jesse’s sons for the anointing as king, Samuel began by looking over the eldest son who was named Eliab. When Samuel viewed him, he was impressed. In view of what verse 7 says, we can conclude that Eliab was impressive to look at from a physical standpoint. Because of the impressive appearance of Eliab, Samuel said [obviously to himself], "Surely the Lord’s anointed is before him" (Ibid.). Samuel thought that for sure Eliab was the choice for the new king because outwardly he looked so kingly. But Samuel had used the wrong principle for choosing a king; therefore, God quickly corrected Samuel’s thinking by saying, "Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature, because I have refused him" (v. 7). Looks are not everything!

"It is strange that Samuel, who had been so wretchedly disappointed in Saul, whose countenance and stature [1 Samuel 9:2] recommended him as much as any man’s could, should be so forward to [again] judge of a man by that rule" (Henry). And as Maclaren said, "Had not Samuel had enough of kings of towering stature?" The attractive outward appearance of Eliab, however, was impressive to the eye of the flesh; and Samuel had difficulty refusing it; for "in those old days, the world’s monarchs had to be men of thews and sinews, for power rested on mere brute force" (Maclaren). But God had different attributes in mind for choosing a king. "God’s chosen had to rule, not by the strength of his own arm, but by leaning on God’s. [And] The genius of the king determined the principle of selection of its king" (Maclaren). Samuel used the wrong principle in choosing Eliab and had to learn to use a different principle than the world used in selecting their monarchs.

Samuel is not the only one who gets so excited about the outward appearance that it is the basis for one’s decisions and choices. Men universally have this problem, and they have had the problem from the very beginning of their existence, for it started in Eden. The outward appearance deceived Eve, for the fruit of the forbidden tree "was pleasant to the eyes" (Genesis 3:6). But, oh how unpleasant it was in the curse it brought upon man. Outward appearance was also a problem with Achan (Joshua 7:20,21), and it corrupted David in his affair with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11:2). Outward appearance has seduced multitudes in every age. "There is scarcely any rule so deceptive as the rule of appearance" (M. Baxter). It is certainly not a good criteria for making choices in important matters. Satan is gifted in the matter of cosmetics, and he has trapped many who make their decisions and choices primarily according to outward appearances. Even the church has problems in this matter, for "sometimes we covet attractive and talented people for the Lord’s work, but they turn out to be heartaches because they are not among God’s chosen" (Redpath).

"Were men to be guided by appearance of things only, in forming their judgment, how erroneous and deceptive would it be! The sun would be no more than a few miles distance and a few inches in diameter; the moon would be a span wide and a half mile away; the stars would be little sparks glistening in the atmosphere, the earth would be a plain, bounded by the horizon a few miles from us, the sun would travel and the earth stand still" (M. Baxter). "There is a flower known by the name of ‘Imperial Crown,’ which is admired on account of its showy appearance, but you throw it away because of its unpleasant perfume" (W. Birch). Eliab may be impressive to the eye, but he was not impressive where it counted the most as we will see in later Scripture. So he was rejected of God.

The right principle. "The Lord looketh on the heart" (v. 7).-The principle that must guide our choices is a good heart. The emphasis on the heart is the message of Christ Who said, "Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment" (John 7:24). Judging by the heart principle means that in making choices, the character of a person is more important than the countenance, faith is more important than the face, morals are more important than what you see in the mirror. Judging only by appearance and ignoring the heart is like buying a house without checking the condition of the insides of the house. It is like buying a car without checking on the condition of the motor. We need to apply this heart principle to many areas of our life. We need to apply it to such matters as the choosing of our job, the selection of church officers, the choice of a college, the selection of teachers in our Christian schools, and in the choosing of friends. We need to apply it in the matter of voting for political offices, too. Charisma, eloquence, and good looks should not determine our vote; but character should. One of the most important areas in which this heart principle especially needs to be applied is in the matter of marriage. Many marriage partners have been chosen primarily on the basis of outward appearance. If the outward appearance is impressive and exciting, many folk in choosing a marriage partner foolishly ignore character deficiencies. Immorality, divorce, drinking and gambling problems and other deficiencies are often ignored in choosing a mate as long as the looks are good. But this makes for terrible mistakes; for if character is lacking, the marriage will not be either loving or lasting. The heart principle simply cannot be beat. Follow it and you will make wise choices. But ignore it and you will make wretched choices.

3. The Problems in the Choosing

Making right choices is not easy. Samuel experienced this fact here, for he ran into some sizeable problems in choosing David as king. These problems included the opportunity for compromise, the opposition of Jesse, and the obscurity of David.

The opportunity for compromise. In Samuel’s effort to find the right one for king, he had much opportunity to compromise. Jesse had seven sons that Samuel looked over before he saw David. When the eldest son Eliab was refused by God, Samuel then went on to Abinadab, the next son of Jesse. When this one was rejected by God, Samuel then examined the third son Shammah and on through the first seven sons of Jesse. When he finished going through these seven sons, there seemed to be no other sons. If Samuel had been like many folk, he would have disregarded God’s instructions and compromised by selecting one from the seven. But Samuel did not do that. Rather, he asked Jesse, "Are here all thy children?" (v. 11). This question discovered for Samuel another son of Jesse who was David. He was the one God wanted Samuel to anoint. But had Samuel compromised, he would not have discovered David.

Compromising on our choices is so easy, for the devil sees to it that compromise choices are abundant and near at hand. But compromise choices will not satisfy for long; therefore, we must not be satisfied to take a compromise choice. Keep pursuing the right choice as did Samuel.

The opposition of Jesse. In response to Samuel’s question about another son, Jesse answered, "There remaineth yet the youngest, and, behold, he keepeth the sheep" (v. 11). Jesse’s answer kept hope alive, but his answer also stated some things about David that would dampen the hope. Jesse was obviously not enthused about David being chosen to be anointed. Therefore, he emphasized that David was young ("the youngest"), that he was busy ("he keepeth the sheep"), and that he was lowly (keeping sheep was considered a lowly task). These three features, as far as Jesse was concerned, surely would exclude one from the anointing honor. Jesse’s answer implied that Samuel need not bother with David, for David was not available and would not qualify for any anointing if he was available.

Do not be surprised when other people around you try to dampen your enthusiasm for seeking the right choice. You must keep God’s standards in mind and not give up. Be earnest. Samuel was, and he insisted that David be brought to Samuel regardless of Jesse’s dim view of David (v. 11).

The obscurity of David. David lived in obscurity in Bethlehem before his anointing. This obscurity was pronounced, preferred, and providential.

First, it was a pronounced obscurity, David was not even present for the religious ceremony which Samuel conducted in Bethlehem. The other seven sons of Jesse were present, but David was left in the fields with the sheep. No one seemed concerned about getting someone to take his place in the field so he could come to the ceremony. Had not Samuel asked Jesse about having other sons, David would not have been seen by Samuel. "David’s insignificance in Jesse’s eyes was such that his father would never have remembered his existence but for the question" (Maclaren). But obscurity is not a hindrance to a Divine anointing as we have noted before. God knows where you are; and if the heart is right, He will bring you front and center when the time is right.

Second, it was a preferred obscurity. Jesse, David’s father, seemed to prefer that David remain in obscurity. And David’s brothers desired his obscurity even more. This attitude of the brothers comes out later when David was sent on a mission to take supplies to his three older brothers in the war which eventually resulted in David killing Goliath. When Eliab heard David visiting with some of the soldiers about Goliath, Eliab got angry and said to David, "Why camest thou down hither? and with whom hast thou left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know thy pride, and the naughtiness of thine heart; for thou are come down that thou mightest see the battle" (1 Samuel 17:28). Eliab preferred that David remain home stuck out in the fields of obscurity with the sheep. When God advances you to prominence, do not be surprised when others ardently oppose it.

Third, it was a providential obscurity. Obscurity is not a curse. Anyone who knows anything about the problems of being in the limelight will readily recognize the advantages of obscurity. But the advantage is a lot more than just being away from the demands of the public. It affords much opportunity for meditation and study and the development of one’s skills. Therefore, David’s obscurity was very providential in that "his solitary shepherd life taught him many precious lessons, and . . . gave him the priceless gift of solitude, which is the nurse of piety, heroism, and religion" (Maclaren). God was preparing David for the throne, and the first preparation had to do with the heart. Obscurity can be a great advantage for this vital preparation.

4. The Patience in the Choosing

Samuel was willing to wait for the right choice. This is especially seen in his announcement to Jesse about waiting for David to be brought in from the fields:-"Samuel said unto Jesse, Send and fetch him; for we will not sit down till he come hither" (v. 11). The statement "we will not sit down till he come" is a statement of patience. Impatience ruins many souls who will not wait for God’s choice. God sometimes delays revealing the right choice to test us to see just how earnest we are to have the right choice. People often take the first thing that comes along rather than wait patiently for God’s choice. This is so often the case in marriage. As an example, many girls, if they do not have a "steady" by sixteen, fear they will be an old maid and so they take anything that is available instead of waiting for the right one. What heartaches in marriage this has produced! We can afford to wait God’s choice. But we can never afford to not wait.

5. The Proclaiming of the Choosing

"Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brethren" (v. 13). Once Samuel knew God’s choice for the next king, he proclaimed it. We note the ceremony and the courage in the proclaiming.

The ceremony in the proclaiming. This proclaiming who was to be the next king was done by anointing David with oil before his family. Anointing one with oil was a simple but solemn and recognized practice in those days for officially designating someone to an important position. As we noted at the beginning of this chapter, it was the first of three anointings David received for king. The other two anointings simply confirmed this first anointing. While ceremony can be a substitute for substance and often is in some churches, yet proper ceremony has its place in church. The ceremony of ordination services, as an example, helps to show the respect by others of the call to the ministry which needs much respect.

The courage in the proclaiming. It took much courage for Samuel to proclaim David as king. There are many times when it takes much courage to make the right choice. Samuel certainly needed courage to anoint David "in the midst of his brethren" who had all been rejected. "One can fancy the looks of his brothers as they bitterly watched the anointing with hearts full of envy, contempt, and rage. 1 Samuel 17:28 shows what they felt to David" (Maclaren). Samuel having to anoint David "in the midst of his brethren" is an illustration of the fact that we will often have to confess our faith in Jesus Christ in a hostile situation. When you choose God’s Anointed, Jesus Christ, as your Savior, you will have to confess Him before many folk who may oppose your devotion to Christ. It will take much courage at times to live a godly life before the ungodly. But pray for the courage, for the problems involved in refusing to confess your faith before a hostile people is much greater than confessing your faith before them.

6. The Person for the Choosing

Here we look at some features of David and note why he was a great choice for Israel’s next king. When you choose according to God’s principles, you will not come up short in the matter of quality! We note this fact here in five ways regarding David. They concern his approval, attractiveness, activity, age, and ability.

His approval. "The Lord said, Arise, anoint him; for this is he" (v. 12). The most important feature about David that made him an excellent, yea, the prime choice for the next king is the fact that he was approved by God. We have had in our land for many years a well known organization for approving products. It is the Underwriters Laboratories. They examine various products made by manufacturers. If the product passes their examination, Underwriters Laboratories will put a seal on the product which indicates their approval. It is generally a round seal with a "UL" in the middle. When you see a product with that seal on it, you can normally be assured that the product has acceptable quality. But the best seal of approval does not come from Underwriters Laboratories. It comes from God. And David had that seal upon him; for regarding the next king, God said, "This is he." Let us be careful that God’s seal of approval is on something before we choose it. Do not put a ring on a girl unless God approves. Do not take a job unless God approves. Do not engage in conduct that God does not approve.

His attractiveness. Scripture states that David was "ruddy, and withal of a beautiful countenance, and goodly to look to" (v. 12). David was not chosen primarily on the basis of looks, but he did not lack quality in his looks. It is not wrong to be attractive outwardly. Beauty is not sin. The problem regarding outward attractiveness in regards to choices is to let outward attractiveness be the main guideline in making a choice. The important guideline, as we learned above, concerns the heart. Character is much more important than outward appearance. But choosing on the basis on character does not mean you have to sacrifice beauty. Turning down good looking Eliab does not mean God’s choice will be inferior, ugly, weak, and repulsive. David not only had heart; but he was handsome, too! All of this says God’s choices will not be disappointing. Therefore, when making choices and decisions, be chiefly concerned about the heart and let God worry about the handsomeness of the choice. Be chiefly concerned about purity and let God take care of the pretty business. Be chiefly concerned about character and let God take care of the countenance matter. You will not come up short when you practice this priority. The principle is "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matthew 6:33).

His activity. "He keepeth the sheep" (v. 11). "He chose David . . . and took him from the sheepfolds; from following the ewes great with young he brought him to feed Jacob his people, and Israel his inheritance" (Psalm 78:70,71). Another aspect about David which made him an excellent choice for king was David’s activity as a shepherd. For one thing it said David was not a lazy boy who (to use today’s language) spent his time watching TV and partying as so many young people do today. David was busy keeping sheep. This means he was industrious, trustworthy, disciplined, and faithful. These are certainly excellent qualities which help make David an excellent choice for Israel’s next king.

Keeping sheep also helped prepare him to be a good king. "As a shepherd, keeping his father’s sheep, the sense of responsibility to another was powerfully called into exercise. The flock was not his own. The servant-feeling thus beautifully called into play, was transferred, in full integrity, to the higher sphere of the kingdom . . . Further, the shepherd occupation of David led him, from its very nature, to seek the welfare of the flock . . . In view of duty to the flock . . . Self-sacrifice for the welfare of others was the ruling principle at once of the shepherd and of the king" (W. G. Blaikie). God is not in the habit of putting unprepared people in places of high responsibilities. The shepherd duties of David did much to help prepare him for being a good king.

Others have pointed out instructively that a contrast between David and Saul is seen symbolically in what each was doing when Samuel anointed them as king. David was keeping sheep; Saul was looking for lost donkeys. The contrast in the animals (sheep and donkeys) and their condition (sheep in the fold but donkeys lost) represents well the contrast of these two men in character.

His age. The excellence of David is also emphasized in his age. While his specific age is not stated here (and that is not where the lesson is anyway), Scripture does state that he was the "youngest" (v. 11) of Jesse’s sons. This meant that David was the eighth son of Jesse, for Jesse had seven sons besides David (v. 10, see also 1 Samuel 17:12). The number eight speaks of a new beginning. As an example, a week has seven days; so the eighth day begins a new week. Also, an octave in music consists of seven notes; so the eighth note is the beginning of a new octave. Thus, David being the eighth son spoke of a new beginning. Indeed he was a welcomed new beginning regarding the kingdom of Israel. Saul made a mess of things, but David brought great improvement to the condition of Israel. In like manner, Jesus Christ, Whom David foreshadows, provides mankind with a new beginning. "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature" (2 Corinthians 5:17). That is the best new beginning of all!

His ability. "The spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward" (v. 13). This great endowment from God certainly made David an excellent person to be the next king of Israel. The presence of this Divine endowment will be manifested many times in David’s life. It will be seen in his slaying Goliath, in his gallant efforts in fighting the Philistines, and in his wise administration of the nation. "Some think [and we agree] that his courage, by which he slew the lion and the bear, and his extraordinary skill in music, were [also] the effects and evidences of the Spirit’s coming upon him" (Henry).

Listening to God and thus choosing on the basis of the heart, Samuel made an excellent choice in David as these excellent qualities of David attest. We, too, can make excellent choices if we emulate Samuel’s conduct in his choosing of David. Excellent choices do not come by accident. They come by listening to God’s instructions regarding choosing.