top of page

Poole on 1 Samuel 16:18-23: David Summoned

Verse 18:[1] Then answered one of the servants, and said, Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Beth-lehemite, that is cunning in playing, and (1 Sam. 17:32, 34-36) a mighty valiant man, and a man of war, and prudent in matters (or, speech[2]), and a comely person, and (1 Sam. 3:19; 18:12, 14) the LORD is with him.

[One of the lads] The Hebrews imagine that this was Doeg, who said these things out of hatred for David, so that Saul might summon him, and at length kill him. I myself think that, since with the anointing David also received other gifts that were quite rare, he was well known to his neighbors. For those gifts were both excellent, and unforeseen and new (Sanchez).

[Behold, I have seen] I have seen far off (Junius and Tremellius). I have discovered (Piscator).

[A son of Jesse, לְיִשַׁי] That is, in the house of Jesse (Vatablus). He is a son to Jesse (Junius and Tremellius).

[Bellicose] Hebrew: a man of war,[3] that is, most mighty, or highly skilled in the art of war (Vatablus).

[Prudent in words, וּנְב֥וֹן דָּבָ֖ר] And prudent, or wise, in speech (Septuagint, similarly Montanus, Syriac, Arabic). Verbatim: and understanding in matters, that is, understanding what things it is necessary to do, a man of the very best counsel (Vatablus). Prudent of matters (Castalio), or in conducting matters (Munster, Vatablus, Junius and Tremellius).

[And a handsome man, וְאִ֣ישׁ תֹּ֑אַר] And a man of form (Montanus, Vatablus), understanding, good[4] (Vatablus), handsome in appearance (Jonathan, Arabic, Syriac). Some observe that from these things, on account of which David is here commended, it is fairly concluded that he had already previously killed Goliath; whence it appeared that he was a man of war, and that God was with him: for, before he had killed the Philistine, David does not appear tho have shown any specimens of war. Whence they think that this history followed the killing of Goliath: but that it is placed here proleptically, which the very words indicate (Malvenda out of Junius, Piscator).

I have seen a son of Jesse, etc.: Wonder not that David was so suddenly advanced, from a poor contemptible shepherd, to so great reputation; for these were the effects of that Spirit of the Lord, which he received when he was anointed; though some would hence infer, that the things related in this chapter happened after the history of 1 Samuel 17, though it be placed before, such transpositions being not unusual in historical relations. The Lord is with him, that is, directs and prospers all his undertakings.

Verse 19:[5] Wherefore Saul sent messengers unto Jesse, and said, Send me David thy son, (1 Sam. 16:11; 17:15, 34) which is with the sheep.

Verse 20:[6] And Jesse (see 1 Sam. 10:27; 17:18; Gen. 43:11; Prov. 18:16) took an ass laden with bread, and a bottle of wine, and a kid, and sent them by David his son unto Saul.

[He brought an ass full of bread, etc., וַיִּקַּ֙ח יִשַׁ֜י חֲמ֥וֹר לֶ֙חֶם֙ וגו״] And he took an ass, bread, etc. (Montanus). It is a defective speech (Hebrews in Vatablus). An ass bearing bread (Pagnine, Hebrews in Vatablus); an ass laden with bread (Jonathan in Vatablus, Munster, English, similarly the Syriac, Arabic); an ass with bread (Junius and Tremellius, Dutch). A governed noun often denotes an adjunct adhering, and connected with the subject. Thus in Isaiah 51:20,כְּת֣וֹא מִכְמָ֑ר, as a wild bull of a net, that is, caught in a net; in Matthew 26:7, an alabaster box of ointment,[7] that is, filled with ointment (Glassius’ “Grammar” 110). To some this expression appeared unusual; yet it occurs in Sosibius, who was a tragic poet, not inelegant: Ἔσθει μὲν ἄρτων τρεῖς ὄνους, etc., he eats three asses of cakes, etc. Three times in a brief day, he eats three asses of cakes, that is, the burden of three asses, as the great Casaubon[8] rightly observed in his Readings in Theocritus[9] 12 (Bochart’s A Sacred Catalogue of Animals 1:2:13:184). An ass of bread is used in the same manner as a sack of bread, a skin of wine, a pitcher of water (Sanchez). [Others otherwise:] γόμορ ἄρτων, an homer of cakes[10] (Septuagint, Hebrews in Bochart’s A Sacred Catalogue of Animals). That is, they had maintained that חֲמוֹר/chamor/ass here is the same thing as חוֹמֵר/homer (Bochart’s A Sacred Catalogue of Animals 1:2:13:184). Others explain it as a heap, a mound of bread, as in Judges 15:16[11] (Malvenda). Others thus: Jesse taking an ass, bread, etc. (Tigurinus).

[And a flask of wine, וְנֹ֣אד יַ֔יִן] A skin of wine (Malvenda). [Why should it not be translated in the ablative, in this manner, he took an ass laden with bread, and with a skin of wine, etc. For it is not probable that David himself carried these.] He sent this to Saul as a sign of his deferential regard, according to the custome of those times. A gift, great for his poverty, meager for a King. Nevertheless, in the camp, which does not always abound in necessities, it is not wont to be despised. It is well known with what spirit Artaxerxes received the water drawn from the river by the hands of a certain rustic.[12] In this manner, Jacob sent the small gift to the prefect of Egypt. See Genesis 43:11 (Sanchez).

And Jesse took, etc.: This present, though in our times it would seem contemptible, yet was very agreeable to the usage of those times, and to the condition of Jesse, which was but mean in the world. And it seems to have been the custom of those times, as it is yet in the eastern countries (when they made their appearance before princes or great persons, to bring a present: see Genesis 32:20; 43:25, 26, and elsewhere); to which civil custom that religious precept seems consonant, Exodus 23:15; Deuteronomy 16:16, None shall appear before me empty. And he might send it, partly as a testimony of his respect to his sovereign, and partly to gain David favour and acceptance with him, being sensible that he was going into a place and state of hazard; but knowing Saul’s furious temper, he durst not refuse to send him; and he sent him the more willingly, because this seemed a most likely means to accomplish God’s promise of the kingdom, and to prepare him for it.

Verse 21:[13] And David came to Saul, and (Gen. 41:46; 1 Kings 10:8; Prov. 22:29) stood before him: and he loved him greatly; and he became his armourbearer.

[He stood before him] That is, he stood by him, ministering (Vatablus).

Stood before him, that is, ministered unto him; or (as we use to speak) waited upon him, as that phrase oft signifies; as Deuteronomy 1:38; 10:8.

[And he was made his armorbearer] Because it was less honorific to the King, if he had David before him only for this reason, that he was mollifying his disease, and singing to him when he was raving (Menochius out of Sanchez). Therefore, he designated him armorbearer; but he is never read to have exercised this office; because, before war came on from the Philistines, he had returned to his home (Sanchez).

He became his armourbearer; he had that place conferred upon him, though we do not read that he ever exercised it; for it seems he was gone back to his father upon some occasion not related, and had abode with him some considerable time before the war described, 1 Samuel 17, happened.

Verse 22:[14] And Saul sent to Jesse, saying, Let David, I pray thee, stand before me; for he hath found favour in my sight.

[He sent to Jesse, saying, Let David stand in my sight] He recalls David, whom he had sent back, supposing himself freed from the disease; or, because war was coming on, there was appearing to be no place for music in the camp; or, because the nature of melancholics is hard to please, they sometimes seek and want, sometimes flee and reject, the same things (Menochius almost out of Sanchez). Saul gave clear documents of his unstable and inconstant nature, both towards David, and towards Jonathan, 1 Samuel 20:33 (Sanchez).

Verse 23:[15] And it came to pass, when (1 Sam. 16:14, 16) the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, that David took an harp, and played with his hand: so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him.

[Whenever the evil spirit from God was seizing Saul,בִּֽהְי֤וֹת רֽוּחַ־אֱלֹהִים֙ אֶל־שָׁא֔וּל] When the spirit (understanding, evil [Septuagint, Jonathan, Syriac, Arabic, Munster) of God was upon Saul (Pagnine, Tigurinus, Munster), before Saul (Jonathan, Piscator), in Saul (Junius and Tremellius). For such evils are wont to have their own intervals. See what things are on Matthew 4:24; 17:15 (Grotius). The malignant spirit is called a spirit of God, either, 1. because it had its nature from God; or rather, 2. Because it was a minister of divine justice (Estius). It was evil on account of sin; it was of God on account of service (Gataker’s[16]Cinnus 164 out of Pseudo-Augustine).

And the evil spirit departed from him: To wit, for a season. And the reason of this success may be partly natural and common; of which see on verse 16; and partly supernatural and special, respecting David, whom God designed by this means to bring into favour with the king and his court, and so to smooth the way for his advancement.

[1] Hebrew: וַיַּעַן֩ אֶחָ֙ד מֵהַנְּעָרִ֜ים וַיֹּ֗אמֶר הִנֵּ֙ה רָאִ֜יתִי בֵּ֣ן לְיִשַׁי֮ בֵּ֣ית הַלַּחְמִי֒ יֹדֵ֣עַ נַ֠גֵּן וְגִבּ֙וֹר חַ֜יִל וְאִ֧ישׁ מִלְחָמָ֛ה וּנְב֥וֹן דָּבָ֖ר וְאִ֣ישׁ תֹּ֑אַר וַיהוָ֖ה עִמּֽוֹ׃ [2] Hebrew: דָּבָר. [3] Hebrew: וְאִ֧ישׁ מִלְחָמָ֛ה. [4] That is, of good form. [5] Hebrew: וַיִּשְׁלַ֥ח שָׁא֛וּל מַלְאָכִ֖ים אֶל־יִשָׁ֑י וַיֹּ֕אמֶר שִׁלְחָ֥ה אֵלַ֛י אֶת־דָּוִ֥ד בִּנְךָ֖ אֲשֶׁ֥ר בַּצֹּֽאן׃ [6] Hebrew: וַיִּקַּ֙ח יִשַׁ֜י חֲמ֥וֹר לֶ֙חֶם֙ וְנֹ֣אד יַ֔יִן וּגְדִ֥י עִזִּ֖ים אֶחָ֑ד וַיִּשְׁלַ֛ח בְּיַד־דָּוִ֥ד בְּנ֖וֹ אֶל־שָׁאֽוּל׃ [7] Greek: ἀλάβαστρον μύρου. [8] Isaac Casaubon (1559-1614) began his career as Professor of Greek at Geneva and finished his career as a prebendary of Westminster and Canterbury. He was a learned critic, and he produced annotated editions of Greek and Latin authors. He was among those that sought a reunion between the Protestant and Roman churches. [9] Theocritus was a Greek poet of the third century BC. [10] The homer was approximately three and a half liters. [11] Judges 15:16: “And Samson said, With the jawbone of an ass, heaps upon heaps, with the jaw of an ass (בִּלְחִ֣י הַחֲמ֔וֹר חֲמ֖וֹר חֲמֹרָתָ֑יִם בִּלְחִ֣י הַחֲמ֔וֹר) have I slain a thousand men.” [12] Plutarch’s Life of Artaxerxes 5. [13] Hebrew: וַיָּבֹ֤א דָוִד֙ אֶל־שָׁא֔וּל וַֽיַּעֲמֹ֖ד לְפָנָ֑יו וַיֶּאֱהָבֵ֣הֽוּ מְאֹ֔ד וַֽיְהִי־ל֖וֹ נֹשֵׂ֥א כֵלִֽים׃ [14] Hebrew: וַיִּשְׁלַ֣ח שָׁא֔וּל אֶל־יִשַׁ֖י לֵאמֹ֑ר יַעֲמָד־נָ֤א דָוִד֙ לְפָנַ֔י כִּֽי־מָ֥צָא חֵ֖ן בְּעֵינָֽי׃ [15] Hebrew: וְהָיָ֗ה בִּֽהְי֤וֹת רֽוּחַ־אֱלֹהִים֙ אֶל־שָׁא֔וּל וְלָקַ֥ח דָּוִ֛ד אֶת־הַכִּנּ֖וֹר וְנִגֵּ֣ן בְּיָד֑וֹ וְרָוַ֤ח לְשָׁאוּל֙ וְט֣וֹב ל֔וֹ וְסָ֥רָה מֵעָלָ֖יו ר֥וּחַ הָרָעָֽה׃ [16] Thomas Gataker (1574-1654) was an English churchman, theologian, and critic, of great reputation in his own day. On account of his great learning, he was invited to sit as a member of the Assembly of Divines at Westminster. His abilities as a critic are on display in his commentaries on Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Lamentation, found in the English Annotations.

Recent Posts

See All


Dr. Dilday
Dr. Dilday
Aug 25, 2022

Matthew Henry: 'Here is David made a physician to Saul, and by this means brought to court, a physician that helped him against the worst of diseases, when none else could. David was newly appointed privately to the kingdom. It would be of use to him to go to court and see the world; and here his doing so is brought about for him without any contrivance of his own or his friends. Note, Those whom God designs for any service his providence shall concur with his grace to prepare and qualify for it. Saul is distempered; his servants have the honesty and courage to tell him what his distemper is (1 Samuel 16:15), an evil spirit, not by chanc…


Dr. Dilday
Dr. Dilday
Aug 25, 2022

Study 1 Samuel with Matthew Poole!

bottom of page