I Samuel 16:1–13: Samuel Anoints David
This passage introduces King David—although he’s still just David, at this point. He won’t be king for a while.
The passage starts with the LORD coming to Samuel, chastising him for mourning for Saul, and instructing him to go to the home of Jesse in Bethlehem, where Samuel is to anoint the new king. Samuel is worried about this because he’s afraid that Saul will hear about it and kill him, but God tells Samuel to claim that he’s just offering a sacrifice and inviting Jesse to go with him.
So Samuel goes to Bethlehem, and when the elders of the town meet him, they start to tremble, and ask if he’s come in peace. He assures them that he has, and invites them to consecrate themselves and join him at the sacrifice. He then goes and consecrates Jesse and his sons.
When they arrive at the feast, Samuel see’s Jesse’s son Eliab, and, based on his appearance, assumes that he is the man the LORD has chosen. Not so:
But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (verse 7)
Jesse has seven of his sons pass in front of Samuel, but the LORD tells Saul that He has rejected each one. So Saul asks Jesse if these are all of the sons he has, and Jesse responds that there is still the youngest, who’s out tending the sheep. So Samuel has Jesse send for David, saying that they won’t sit down to eat until he arrives.
So they send for the youngest son, who is David. Samuel sees that he is “ruddy, with a fine appearance” (verse 12), and the LORD confirms that this is the man who is to be anointed. So Samuel anoints David in front of his brothers, and from this day on, the Spirit of the LORD is upon him in power.
The text doesn’t say how long Samuel spends mourning for Saul, but verse 1 indicates that he spends too long doing it. Since the LORD has rejected Saul, He doesn’t seem to want Samuel wasting too much mourning time on him.
It’s interesting that the elders of Bethlehem get nervous when they see Samuel, and ask him if he’s come in peace. Obviously it has become common knowledge that the LORD and Samuel have rejected Saul; I wonder if the elders expected Samuel to come advocating sedition—which, in a way, he is. I wonder what they think when he anoints David as king! He does it in front of David’s brothers, and even if the elders weren’t there, I’m sure word got around. Word obviously doesn’t reach Saul, however, as we’ll see in the next passage.