Monday, September 29, 2008

I Samuel 16:14–23

I Samuel 16:14–23: David in Saul’s Service


In the last passage, Samuel anointed David as king. (He didn’t yet become king, he was just anointed.) However, Saul didn’t hear about it; it was a somewhat (although not completely) secret ceremony.

This passage begins with the fact that the Spirit of the LORD has departed from Saul, and an “evil spirit from the LORD” is now tormenting him (verse 14).

So Saul’s servants suggest that he find someone who can play the harp, to soothe him when the evil spirit torments him. Saul agrees, and decides to send his servants to find such a person, but before they even do, one of the servants pipes up and mentions that he knows about a certain son of Jesse who plays the harp. He also happens to be a brave man, and a warrior, not to mention a good speaker and fine looking. Plus the LORD is with him. Sounds like a ringing endorsement! (Of course he’s referring to David, in case that wasn’t clear.)

So Saul sends to Jesse for David, and Jesse loads up a donkey with supplies, and sends David on his way. Once David begins serving Saul, Saul likes him so much that he makes David one of his armour-bearers, and sends word to Jesse asking him to allow David to remain in Saul’s service permanently. And whenever the evil spirit torments Saul, David plays the harp, which soothes him, and causes the evil spirit to leave again.


Based on the NIV footnote for verse 14 and the various other translations I checked the word “evil” could also be translated as “injurious,” “harmful,” or “distressing.” (If I continued to check other versions, I might find other words used.) I kept using the word “evil” in this post, but we shouldn’t take this to mean that the LORD is doing something wrong—or evil—since He cannot do anything which is sinful. I think this is a figure of speech, based on the effect that it’s having on Saul, rather than literally meaning that the spirit is doing evil things. (In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if this turn of phrase, about Saul having “an evil spirit,” just means that he’s suffering from depression.)

Obviously Saul doesn’t yet know about Samuel anointing David to be king, or he wouldn’t have asked David to come into his service. But I think this passage very well illustrates God taking His favour away from Saul, and giving it to David instead.

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