1 Kings xvi.
Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. How long. It seems his tears were not soon dried up, as he lamented the fall of one whom he had formerly so much admired, and perceived what evils would ensue. (Salien) — He had hoped that the decree might have been revokable. But God now convinces him of the contrary, by ordering him to go and anoint a successor. — Horn. Such vessels were formerly very common, and were used to contain liquor, and instead of cups, 3 Kings i. 39. (Horace, ii. Sat. 2.) The ancient silver cups, at Athens, resembled horns. (Athen. xi. 7.) But the northern nations, particularly Denmark, &c., used horns to drink, as the Georgians still do. The rims are ornamented with silver, &c. (Pliny, [Natural History?] xi. 37.) (Chardin) (Calmet) — A fragile vile was not used, but a horn, to denote the duration and abundance of David’s reign. (Rupert) (Menochius)
Ver. 2. Of the herd. Hebrew, “a heifer in thy hand.” (Haydock) — Females might be employed as peace-offerings, Leviticus iii. 1. — Lord. This was one, though not the principal reason. No one doubted but that he might lawfully offer sacrifice, at a distance from the tabernacle, as he was guided by God. The Jews allow that prophets have this privilege, and may dispense with the ceremonial law, (Grotius) when they act by God’s authority, as we ought to believe they do, as long as there is no proof to the contrary. (Haydock)
Ver. 3. Sacrifice, to partake of the feast, (Menochius) which must be consumed in two days, or thrown into the fire, Leviticus vii. 16. (Calmet)
Ver. 4. Wondered. Hebrew, “trembled,” being full of consternation, (Haydock) as the prophet did not now stir much from home; and fearing lest he had some bad news to impart, or had incurred the king’s displeasure, (Calmet) unless he came to punish some of the people at Bethlehem. (Menochius)
Ver. 5. Sanctified, prepared by aspersions, washing, and continence, Exodus xix 14. What sorts of uncleanness excluded from the feast, are specified, Leviticus xxii. (Menochius) — Samuel arrived in the evening, and announced that sacrifice would be offered the ensuing morning. (Tirinus)
Ver. 6. Him. Hebrew, “surely the Lord’s anointed is in his presence.” This he spoke by his own spirit, judging from the comeliness of Eliab. (Calmet) — But the beauty of Saul’s body had concealed a deformed soul. (Haydock)
Ver. 7. Rejected, or not chosen. (Menochius) — God had positively rejected this eldest son, as his pride seems to have been the greatest, chap. xvii. 28. (Haydock) — Heart. This is one of God’s perfections. Glorified saints see man’s heart in his light, for their own and our advantage, (St. Gregory, Mor. xii. 11.; St. Augustine) as the prophets have sometimes done, 3 Kings xiv. (Worthington)
Ver. 10. Seven. David was absent. Isai had eight sons, chap. xvii. 12. Yet only seven are mentioned, 1 Paralipomenon ii. 13. Perhaps one of those whom he produced on this occasion, might be a grandson, or one is omitted in Chronicles [Paralipomenon]. (Calmet)
Ver. 11. Young son, (parvulus,) “a little one;” (Haydock) or the youngest, who might be about 15, (Calmet) or 28. (Seder. olam. iii.) (Menochius)
Ver. 12. Ruddy, like the spouse, Canticle of Canticles v. 10. Some explain it of his hair. So Alexander [the Great] is said to have had reddish or golden locks. — Behold. Hebrew, “with the beauty of the eyes.”
Ver. 13. Brethren. Some say, without informing him, (Calmet) or them, (Menochius) what the unction meant. If he told the brothers, he would no doubt take the necessary precautions to keep it secret, as the whole family would have been in imminent danger, if the transaction had come to the ears of Saul, ver. 2. Josephus says, that Samuel only informed Isai in private: and David’s brothers treated him with no peculiar distinction. Whence it is inferred, that they had not been present when he was anointed. Some witnesses seem, however, to have been requisite, as the title of David to the regal dignity depended on this ceremony, and none were more interested than his own family to assert his pretensions. He now had a right to the kingdom, but not the possession; being like a son expecting his father’s estate as his future right, of which, as yet, he cannot dispose. (Calmet) — Came upon, to make him prosper. (Menochius) — Hebrew, “came with prosperity; (Septuagint) impetuosity.” God endued him with all those graces which might render him fit to command. (Calmet) — So David prays himself, “with a princely spirit confirm me;” (Psalm l. 14.) or, strengthen me with a perfect spirit. Salien observes, that he did not now receive the spirit of charity, as if he had hitherto been in enmity with God, (chap. xiii. 14.) but he began to advance in virtue with more rapid strides, while Saul became every day more criminal and abandoned to the devil. (Haydock) — David received the spirit of fortitude and of prophecy, of which Saul had formerly had some experience, when he was first elevated to that high dignity, chap. x. He was changed into a new man, and adorned with all that could render a king most glorious. Though he returned to his wonted occupations, the spirit of the Lord enabled him to destroy wild beasts, as in play, (Ecclesiasticus xlvii. 3.) and to compose and sing many of those divine canticles [the Psalms] which we still admire. (Salien, the year of the world 2969.) — Whether he composed all the Psalms, as St. Chrysostom endeavours to prove, (præf.) we shall examine hereafter. (Haydock)
Ver. 14. From the Lord. An evil spirit, by divine permission, and for his punishment, either possessed or obsessed him. (Challoner) — We no longer behold in Saul any generous sentiments. He falls a prey to melancholy, anger, suspicion, and cruelty. “He was seized with an illness, inflicted by the devil, says Josephus, ([Antiquities?] vi. 9.) so that he seemed to be choking; nor could the physicians discover any other means of alleviating his distress, except by employing some person skilled in music…. David alone could bring the king to his right senses, by singing hymns with the sound of the harp. Wherefore Jesse consented that his son should remain with the king, since he was so much delighted with his company.” (Haydock) — The Jews, and many Christians, suppose that Saul’s illness was melancholy, or “madness,” as St. Chrysostom calls it. It was inflicted by an evil, or even by a good angel, as the minister of God’s vengeance, (Exodus xi. 4.; Calmet) who punished his former pride and rebellion, by reducing him to so mean a condition. (Haydock) — St. Augustine and Ven. Bede suppose, that the evil spirit troubled him by God’s permission. (Worthington)
Ver. 16. Easily. The effects which have been produced by music are truly surprising, if we may believe what the ancients have related. Our music may not at present be so striking, or we may keep a greater restraint upon our passions, and moderate the exterior demonstrations of our sentiments more than they did. (Calmet) — But, in the present case, there was probably some miraculous interference. (Haydock) — The disciples of Pythagoras lay a great stress on music, to calm the passions, (Quintil. ix. 4.; Menochius) or to rouse them. (p. 439.) (Haydock) — It may also frequently contribute to restore health. (Gallien, &c.) See chap. x. 10., and 4 Kings iii. 15. (Calmet) — But God made it so efficacious here, to shew the virtue of David, and the injustice of Saul. (Worthington) — Thus, by the prayers of the Church, the devil is expelled. (Theodoret) (Tirinus)
Ver. 18. Him. Some think that this took place before David’s victory over Goliath; others believe, that David was only made armour-bearer to Saul, after that event. We must not disturb the order of the sacred historian without some cogent reason: and the courtiers might already have heard of David’s prowess and virtue, of which he gave such evident proofs, after he was confirmed by the Holy Spirit, ver. 13. (Calmet)
Ver. 20. Laden. So Chaldean. (Menochius) — Literally, plenum, “full of.” (Haydock) — Septuagint, “a gomor,” which they seem to have read instead of the Hebrew chamor, “an ass of bread,” as Sosibius says, “he eats three asses’ panniers of loaves.” (Calmet) — Protestants supply, “laden.“
Ver. 21. Bearer. This was an honourable office. (Haydock) — Cyrus had been employed by his grandfather Astyages in the same capacity, before he came to the empire. (Athen. xiv.) (Calmet)
Ver. 22. Sight. He had sent him back, as people of a melancholy temper are often hard to please; (Menochius) and before David married Michol, he did not remain with the king, but only came when his presence was deemed necessary. (Calmet)
Ver. 23. Departed from him. Chased away by David’s devotion. (Challoner) — “The melody of David’s harp, as some of the Fathers remark, represents that sweet and engaging demeanour, which should distinguish the peaceful ministers of the gospel,…whether they strive to allay the rage, or dispel the fears of a troubled mind.” (Reeves) — Nothing can equal the divine harmony of those sublime truths which are contained in the Psalms of David, and nothing can so powerfully contribute to drive away the spirit of pride from our hearts, and awaken them to the voice of heaven. (St. Augustine) — Some of these truths might make some passing impression even on the mind of Saul; and the devil could not bear to hear the praises of God. (Haydock)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
Samuel is sent to Bethlehem, where he anointeth David: who is taken into Saul’s family.
1 And *the Lord said to Samuel: How long wilt thou mourn for Saul, whom I have rejected from reigning over Israel? fill thy horn with oil, and come, that I may send thee to Isai, the Bethlehemite: for I have provided me a king among his sons.
2 And Samuel said: How shall I go? for Saul will hear of it, and he will kill me. And the Lord said: Thou shalt take with thee a calf of the herd, and thou shalt say: I am come to sacrifice to the Lord.
3 And thou shalt call Isai to the sacrifice, and I will shew thee what thou art to do, and thou shalt anoint him whom I shall shew to thee.
4 Then Samuel did as the Lord had said to him. And he came to Bethlehem, and the ancients of the city wondered, and meeting him, they said: Is thy coming hither peaceable?
5 And he said: It is peaceable: I am come to offer sacrifice to the Lord, be ye sanctified, and come with me to the sacrifice. And he sanctified Isai and his sons, and called them to the sacrifice.
6 And when they were come in, he saw Eliab, and said: Is the Lord’s anointed before him?
7 And the Lord said to Samuel: Look not on his countenance, nor on the height of his stature: because I have rejected him, nor do I judge according to the look of man: for man seeth those things that appear, *but the Lord beholdeth the heart.
8 And Isai called Abinadab, and brought him before Samuel. And he said: Neither hath the Lord chosen this.
9 And Isai brought Samma, and he said of him: Neither hath the Lord chosen this.
10 Isai therefore brought his seven sons before Samuel: and Samuel said to Isai: The Lord hath not chosen any one of these.
11 And Samuel said to Isai: Are here all thy sons? He answered: There remaineth yet a young one, who keepeth the sheep. And Samuel said to Isai: Send, and fetch him: for we will not sit down till he come hither.
12 He sent therefore and brought him. Now he was ruddy and beautiful to behold, and of a comely face. And the Lord said: Arise, and anoint him, for this is he.
13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil, *and anointed him in the midst of his brethren: and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward: and Samuel rose up, and went to Ramatha.
14 But the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord troubled him.
15 And the servants of Saul said to him: Behold now an evil spirit from God troubleth thee.
16 Let our lord give orders, and thy servants who are before thee, will seek out a man skilful in playing on the harp, that when the evil spirit from the Lord is upon thee, he may play with his hand, and thou mayst bear it more easily.
17 And Saul said to his servants: Provide me then some man that can play well, and bring him to me.
18 And one of the servants answering, said: Behold I have seen a son of Isai, the Bethlehemite, a skilful player, and one of great strength, and a man fit for war, and prudent in his words, and a comely person: and the Lord is with him.
19 Then Saul sent messengers to Isai, saying: Send me David, thy son, who is in the pastures.
20 And Isai took an ass laden with bread, and a bottle of wine, and a kid of the flock, and sent them by the hand of David, his son, to Saul.
21 And David came to Saul, and stood before him: and he loved him exceedingly, and made him his armour-bearer.
22 And Saul sent to Isai, saying: Let David stand before me: for he hath found favour in my sight.
23 So whensoever the evil spirit from the Lord was upon Saul, David took his harp, and played with his hand, and Saul was refreshed, and was better, for the evil spirit departed from him.
1: Year of the World about 2934, Year before Christ 1070.
7: Psalm vii. 10.
13: 2 Kings vii. 8.; Psalm lxxvii. 70. and lxxxviii. 21.; Acts vii. 46. and xiii. 22.