Containing The Interval Of Thirty Two Years.
From The Death Of Eli To The Death Of Saul.
How, Upon Saul's Trangression Of The Prophet's Commands, Samuel Ordained Another Person To Be King Privately, Whose Name Was David, As God Commanded Him.
1. NOW Saul being sensible of the miserable condition he had brought himself into, and that he had made God to be his enemy, he went up to his royal palace at Gibeah, which name denotes a hill, and after that day he came no more into the presence of the prophet. And when Samuel mourned for him, God bid him leave off his concern for him, and to take the holy oil, and go to Bethlehem, to Jesse the son of Obed, and to anoint such of his sons as he should show him for their future king. But Samuel said, he was afraid lest Saul, when he came to know of it, should kill him, either by some private method or even openly. But upon God's suggesting to him a safe way of going thither, he came to the forementioned city; and when they all saluted him, and asked what was the occasion of his coming, he told them he came to sacrifice to God. When, therefore, he had gotten the sacrifice ready, he called Jesse and his sons to partake of those sacrifices; and when he saw his eldest son to be a tall and handsome man, he guessed by his comeliness that he was the person who was to be their future king. But he was mistaken in judging about God's providence; for when Samuel inquired of God whether he should anoint this youth, whom he so admired, and esteemed worthy of the kingdom, God said,
"Men do not see as God seeth. Thou indeed hast respect to the fine appearance of this youth, and thence esteemest him worthy of the kingdom, while I propose the kingdom as a reward, not of the beauty of bodies, but of the virtue of souls, and I inquire after one that is perfectly comely in that respect; I mean one who is beautiful in piety, and righteousness, and fortitude, and obedience, for in them consists the comeliness of the soul."
When God had said this, Samuel bade Jesse to show him all his sons. So he made five others of his sons to come to him; of all of whom Eliab was the eldest, Aminadab the second, Shammall the third, Nathaniel the fourth, Rael the fifth, and Asam the sixth. And when the prophet saw that these were no way inferior to the eldest in their countenances, he inquired of God which of them it was whom he chose for their king. And when God said it was none of them, he asked Jesse whether he had not some other sons besides these; and when he said that he had one more, named David, but that he was a shepherd, and took care of the flocks, Samuel bade them call him immediately, for that till he was come they could not possibly sit down to the feast.
Now, as soon as his father had sent for David, and he was come, he appeared to be of a yellow complexion, of a sharp sight, and a comely person in other respects also. This is he, said Samuel privately to himself, whom it pleases God to make our king. So he sat down to the feast, and placed the youth under him, and Jesse also, with his other sons; after which he took oil in the presence of David, and anointed him, and whispered him in the ear, and acquainted him that God chose him to be their king; and exhorted him to be righteous, and obedient to his commands, for that by this means his kingdom would continue for a long time, and that his house should be of great splendor, and celebrated in the world; that he should overthrow the Philistines; and that against what nations soever he should make war, he should be the conqueror, and survive the fight; and that while he lived he should enjoy a glorious name, and leave such a name to his posterity also.
2. So Samuel, when he had given him these admonitions, went away. But the Divine Power departed from Saul, and removed to David; who, upon this removal of the Divine Spirit to him, began to prophesy. But as for Saul, some strange and demoniacal disorders came upon him, and brought upon him such suffocations as were ready to choke him; for which the physicians could find no other remedy but this, That if any person could charm those passions by singing, and playing upon the harp, they advised them to inquire for such a one, and to observe when these demons came upon him and disturbed him, and to take care that such a person might stand over him, and play upon the harp, and recite hymns to him. (16) Accordingly Saul did not delay, but commanded them to seek out such a man.
And when a certain stander-by said that he had seen in the city of Bethlehem a son of Jesse, who was yet no more than a child in age, but comely and beautiful, and in other respects one that was deserving of great regard, who was skillful in playing on the harp, and in singing of hymns, [and an excellent soldier in war,] he sent to Jesse, and desired him to take David away from the flocks, and send him to him, for he had a mind to see him, as having heard an advantageous character of his comeliness and his valor. So Jesse sent his son, and gave him presents to carry to Saul. And when he was come, Saul was pleased with him, and made him his armor-bearer, and had him in very great esteem; for he charmed his passion, and was the only physician against the trouble he had from the demons, whensoever it was that it came upon him, and this by reciting of hymns, and playing upon the harp, and bringing Saul to his right mind again. However, he sent to Jesse, the father of the child, and desired him to permit David to stay with him, for that he was delighted with his sight and company; which stay, that he might not contradict Saul, he granted.
(16) Spanheim takes notice here that the Greeks had such singers of hymns; and that usually children or youths were picked out for that service; as also, that those called singers to the harp, did the same that David did here, i.e. join their own vocal and instrumental music together.