1 Samuel 16

1 Samuel 16:1-13
16:1 The Lord said to Samuel [Israel’s first prophet (1 Sam. 3:20-21) and last judge (1 Sam. 7:15)], “How long [a prophetic rebuke] will you mourn [see 15:35] for Saul [perhaps over his loss of the kingdom, his disobedience, or for him personally], since I have rejected him as king over Israel [see 1 Sam. 15:26]? Fill your horn with oil [read Ex. 30:22-25 regarding preparation of anointing oil] and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse [of the tribe of Judah; see Ruth 4:12, 18-22] of Bethlehem [his hometown in Judah]. I have chosen [seen; Saul was the people’s choice; David was God’s choice; 1 Sam. 13:14] one of his sons to be king [see Ps. 75:6-7].”

David is one of the most remarkable and best known characters in the Bible. He is instantly known as the boy who slew the giant (1 Sam. 17) and the man who was felled by his own lust (2 Sam. 11). He also bears the unique distinction of being known as the man after God’s own heart (see 1 Sam. 13:14; Acts 13:22).

The Bible frankly records more information about David’s life than that of any other scriptural character. The details of David’s life are preserved in the pages of Samuel and Chronicles. The testimony of his deep love for God is safeguarded in the treasury of his psalms. David’s life and legacy should inspire us to love and willingly serve God.

David was the youngest of Jesse’s sons and responsible for tending his father’s sheep. He spent many days and nights watching over his father’s flock in lonely desert places. On more than one occasion David acted decisively and courageously to protect the sheep from danger (see 1 Sam. 17:34-36). He also cultivated an intimate relationship with God that found expression in many beautiful psalms.

Someone wisely observed that God prepares us for what He has prepared for us. God had a plan for David’s life. David’s experiences as a shepherd boy helped to prepare him to face the challenges of shepherding a nation (see Ps. 78:70-72). Perhaps you have wondered if God has a plan for your life. God may not call you to lead a nation like He did David, but He nevertheless has expectations and plans for you to serve Him.

God’s plan for David’s life began to unfold when God commanded Samuel to visit David’s hometown (v. 1). Years earlier, Samuel had reluctantly anointed Saul as Israel’s first king. However, because of his acts of disobedience, God eventually rejected Saul as king over Israel (15:23). After mourning for Saul (15:35; 16:1), God instructed Samuel to fill his horn with oil and go to Jesse of Bethlehem (v. 1). God had chosen one of Jesse’s sons to be Israel’s new king (see Ps. 75:6-7). Samuel would soon meet the shepherd boy who is first described in Scripture as a man after God’s own heart (13:14).


God has a plan for your life. His plan includes that you serve Him regardless of your vocation. Perhaps you feel unqualified or unskilled to serve the Lord. Maybe you don’t know how or in what capacity to serve Him. Determine to seek God’s plan for your life. Ask your pastor to suggest ways in which you can serve the Lord. Be willing to serve God even in the small things or behind the scenes. Like David, you may discover that God has been preparing you for a special place of service.

16:2 But Samuel [understandably afraid] said, “How can I go [Samuel wanted to know how he might anoint David without attracting attention]? Saul will hear about it and kill me.” The Lord said, “Take a heifer with you and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice [presumably a fellowship offering; cf. Lev. 3:1] to the Lord.’

16:3 Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I [emphatic] will show you what to do. You are to anoint for me the one I indicate [see Deut. 17:15].”

16:4 Samuel [obediently] did what the Lord said. When he arrived at Bethlehem, the elders of the town trembled [quaked with fear] when they met him [perhaps because they had heard about the recent execution of Agag, the Amalekite king (see 15:33) or because they thought he had come to punish some wrong or sin]. They asked, “Do you come in peace?”

16:5 Samuel [reassuringly] replied, “Yes, in peace; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord. Consecrate yourselves and come to the sacrifice with me.” Then he consecrated [ceremonial cleansing often accompanied by putting on fresh garments to heighten the symbolism; see Gen. 35:2-3; Ex. 19:10-14] Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.

Samuel did as the Lord instructed him and journeyed to Bethlehem. When Samuel arrived at Bethlehem, “the elders of the town trembled when they met him” (16:4). Perhaps they feared the renowned prophet had come to punish some wrong or sin. Samuel reassured the concerned elders that he had come peacefully “to sacrifice to the Lord.” The prophet then “consecrated Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.” The process of consecration probably involved ceremonial cleansing and putting on clean garments (see Gen. 35:2-3; Ex. 19:10,22).

16:6 When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab [David’s oldest brother (17:28); name means: “My God Is Father”] and thought [surely this guy is “king material”], “Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before [in the presence of] the Lord.”

Samuel was eager to begin the process of selecting and anointing Israel’s next king. When he saw Eliab, Jesse’s oldest son, Samuel decided he surely was the Lord’s choice for king (v. 6). Eliab, a soldier in Saul’s army (17:13), made an immediate impression on Samuel because of his outward appearance. Samuel must have thought, “This guy is definitely king material, after all, he certainly does have kingly features!” Perhaps Eliab was ruggedly handsome or a tall individual like King Saul (see 10:23). Eliab’s impressive outward appearance almost caused Samuel to make a serious mistake.

16:7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height [as in case of Saul; 1 Sam. 9:2], for I have rejected [as a choice for king, not as an individual] him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at [people are usually deceived by what their eyes tell them]. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart [godliness, attitude, character].”

The Lord told Samuel that Eliab was not His choice for king (v. 7). He cautioned Samuel about selecting leaders based merely on outward appearance or height (v. 7). Like Samuel, we too can be easily deceived by what our eyes tell us.

Our society places considerable importance on physical attractiveness. From infancy, we are saturated with images and messages that define the ideal look and dress. We must be careful that we do not make determinations about others based on their outward appearance. We must not allow outward features to overshadow or cause us to overlook important inward qualities.

The Lord told Samuel that, unlike man, He looks at the heart (v. 7). He is able to see what we so easily overlook or fail to see in ourselves and others. An essential element for serving God well is a godly and willing heart. We should not judge our own or other’s capacity to serve God by thinking only of physical appearances or other outward qualities. We must determine to make a godly heart our priority.

16:8 Then Jesse called Abinadab [Jesse’s second oldest son; name means: “My (Divine) Father Is Noble”] and had him pass in front of Samuel. But Samuel said, “The Lord has not chosen this one either.”

16:9 Jesse then had Shammah [Jesse’s third oldest son; name probably means: “Heard by God”] pass by, but Samuel said, “Nor has the Lord chosen this one.”

16:10 Jesse had seven of his sons pass [probably in the order of their birth] before Samuel, but Samuel said to him, “The Lord has not chosen these [God is never ignorant of what we are best suited for].”

God always makes responsible choices that are best for all concerned. The Lord rejected Eliab as a candidate for king but not as an individual. God knows what we are best suited for. God did not see in Eliab’s heart the right stuff to lead a nation. Jesse then called his son Abinadab and had him pass in front of Samuel (v. 8). Abinadab, also a soldier in Saul’s army (17:13), was not chosen by God. Jesse’s third son Shammah, a soldier like his older brothers (17:13), passed in front of the prophet but was not chosen either. Jesse had all of his sons pass before Samuel, but none of them were chosen (v. 10).

16:11 So he asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?” “There is still the youngest [or smallest; this “nobody” was really a “somebody” in God’s eyes],” Jesse answered, “but he is tending the sheep [no one thought David possessed any kingly qualities, yet God would use David’s skills as a shepherd for eternal purposes].” Samuel said, “Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives.”

Samuel, perhaps a little confused, asked Jesse, Are these all the sons you have? (v. 11). After all, God had told Samuel He had chosen one of Jesse’s sons to be king (16:1). Jesse replied that his youngest (perhaps smallest) son was tending the sheep. No one had thought of calling the youngest family member in from the fields. Perhaps no one thought he possessed any kingly qualities (see 17:28). Samuel instructed Jesse to send for the youngest son. We will not sit down, said the prophet, until he arrives.

16:12 So [at Samuel’s request] he sent and had him brought in [see Ps. 78:70-72]. He was ruddy [red or auburn-haired; handsome with a reddish complexion], with a fine appearance [literally, beautiful eyes] and handsome features [pleasant to look at]. Then the Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; he is the one.”

Jesse immediately sent for his youngest son and had him brought in (v. 12). David had no idea that the journey from the sheep pens to his father’s house would change the course of his life (see Ps. 78:70-72). He had no idea that his heart had attracted the attention of God.

The Bible describes David as having a reddish complexion, beautiful eyes, and handsome features (v. 12). More importantly, God saw in David’s heart the right stuff for the task of ruling a nation.

When Samuel saw David, the Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; he is the one.” The young shepherd boy had proven himself faithful in his service to his father. In the solitude of the sheep pens and grazing areas, David had quietly nurtured his relationship with God. When the time came to anoint a new king, David did not promote himself. Instead, God sought out and promoted the young shepherd boy.

God takes notice of our service. I once heard someone say that those who feel they are too big to do a small job are too small to do a big job. Sometimes God leads us into new kinds of service that involve changes in life direction. Serving God faithfully in present situations is a strong indication that God can count on us to serve well in new kinds of service. Like David, determine to be faithful in your present work. After all, you never know who is going to take notice!

16:13 So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed [Heb. mashach from which we get our word Messiah] him [oil symbolized anointing with the Holy Spirit] in the presence of his brothers [witnesses], and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came upon David [first mention of his name in the books of Samuel; name means: “Beloved of the Lord”] in power. Samuel then went to Ramah [and David returned to sheep field].

Samuel waited patiently for Jesse’s youngest son to arrive from the fields. As David approached, Samuel noticed that he was a handsome boy like his older brothers. However, Samuel did not act until the Lord instructed him to do so (v. 12). Only then did the aging prophet take the horn of oil to anoint David in the presence of his brothers (v. 13). The Jewish historian Josephus wrote that Samuel whispered in David’s ear that God had chosen him to be Israel’s next king.

After David was anointed by Samuel, the Spirit of the Lord came upon him in power. David experienced the Spirit’s powerful presence from that day on. God had set David apart to lead a nation. The young shepherd boy would certainly need the power of God’s Spirit to fulfill his responsibilities. Once Samuel anointed David, the prophet returned to Ramah, his hometown. David returned to the sheep fields where he continued to faithfully serve until the insults of a Philistine giant beckoned him out of obscurity into the public arena.


The Holy Spirit is the Person of power. He enables believers today to serve with confidence. The Holy Spirit empowers Billy Graham to stand before thousands to preach the gospel. He also empowers people like you and me to quietly share the gospel with neighbors and friends. The Holy Spirit strengthens missionaries serving in remote areas of the world. He also strengthens believers faithfully serving God through the ministries of their local churches. Every believer can count on the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. But can the Holy Spirit count on our willingness to serve? We can serve God with confidence when we depend upon the power of God’s Holy Spirit.


Note: You Can Serve God Well If You Will Use…
• Your Heart: Cultivate intimacy in your relationship with God by spending time alone with Him. Set aside time daily to pray and to read God’s Word.
• Your Head: Be observant. Look at the needs around you. Consider how God might use you to meet some of the needs in your world.
• Your Hands: Roll up your sleeves and get to work. Be willing to do anything for the sake of advancing God’s kingdom.
• Your Home: Jesse’s sons were raised in a home that encouraged them to love and serve God. Determine to provide a home that will encourage your children to love and serve God.

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