1 Samuel 16:1-23

Daybreak for Students

1 Samuel 16:1-23

1 Samuel 16
But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart. — 1 Samuel 16:7

The man was tall and gangling; most people said he was homely. His life was marked by numerous disappointments. In his early years, he lived in poverty, and had little formal education. His mother died when he was young. Later, he failed in business and lost repeatedly when running for political office. Looking at these facts alone, one might conclude that the man was a failure. However, history records that Abraham Lincoln was truly a great man, one who led the United States of America through its most crucial national crisis.

How many times have we been disappointed or surprised when we based our opinions on what we could see? What problems could arise if an employer hired an employee by how he or she looked, rather than checking the resume for qualifications? How many people have chosen a mate because of physical attraction, only to find after marriage that the person had traits that were quite difficult to live with? Man often judges by sight, but God does not — He looks on the heart. We may see how people look, but God knows what they are.

Samuel, going to the house of Jesse to anoint a king, at first did as most people in that position would do. When the first son came before him, he looked at the height of his stature and his countenance, and deeming those qualities favorable, thought Eliab was the man to be king. However, God rejected him. God sees differently than man. He sees the disposition of the heart. He recognizes the willingness, faithfulness, obedience, and purity of the soul, or the absence of those attributes. He reads the thoughts, efforts, motives and attitudes of each individual. God often exalts those that men wouldn’t even think of.

Rather than operating by sight, let us look to God in faith to lead in every aspect of our daily lives. His evaluations are perfect, and His directions are unfailingly right!


Because of Saul’s disobedience, God rejected him from being king over Israel. The prophet Samuel loved Saul, and Saul’s failure to repent caused Samuel to mourn. In the original language, the word mourn meant “to mourn for the dead.” This shows how deeply Samuel was grieved. Eventually, God said that Samuel had mourned long enough.

God sent Samuel to Bethlehem to the house of Jesse, and told him to anoint one of Jesse’s sons to be the next king. Samuel’s home was in Ramah, and in order to get to Bethlehem, he had to take a road that went by Gibeah, the location of Saul’s headquarters. At the Lord’s direction, Samuel concealed his chief purpose for the trip, and took a heifer to offer sacrifices as he usually did when on his duties as circuit rider. The directions for “sanctifying” as used in this text were given in the Law and included bathing and changing clothes.

As the sons of Jesse came before Samuel, he may have been looking for someone with a stature similar to Saul’s, but God had already made His choice by looking at the heart. The Bible indicates that David was handsome. “Ruddy” means red. It may mean that David had red hair, or it may indicate that he was fair-skinned. Either characteristic would have been unusual among the Hebrews. In the East at that time, red hair was considered “a rare mark of beauty.” “Of a beautiful countenance” may refer to David’s eyes, indicating that they were penetrating, keen, lively, and warm.

David was chosen by God because of his inner qualities, and Samuel anointed him in a simple ceremony before his brothers. This was not a public appointment. Legally, Saul continued as the king, and David respected him as God’s anointed until Saul’s death. The Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward to guide and empower him, making him strong and efficient. God helped David to behave wisely and with courage.

The Spirit of the Lord departed from King Saul. The evil spirit that God allowed to come upon him caused a mental condition near to insanity. His servants thought that music might soothe him. Harps were part of Israel’s musical culture, and were known for their ability to soothe. At this time, simple harps were made from curved pieces of wood or two wood pieces fastened to each other at right angles. Strings were from twisted grass or animal intestines that were dried. Some harps had as many as forty strings. David was a skillful harpist and also wrote songs, many of which are recorded in the Book of Psalms.

In verse 18, “a mighty valiant man” may refer to David having killed wild beasts while shepherding. In the original language, “prudent in matters” referenced David’s ability with words; he was eloquent.

The events in the Book of 1 Samuel are not always listed chronologically. Therefore, it is possible that David did not immediately become Saul’s armor bearer. While serving Saul, David had the opportunity to learn about a royal household and being a national leader.


(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
II.   The reign of Saul
     B.   The decline of King Saul and the rise of David
           1.   David in the court of Saul
                 a.   The anointing of David (16:1-23)
                       (1)   The Lord’s instructions to Samuel (16:1-3)
                       (2)   Samuel’s selection of the Lord’s anointed (16:4-13)
                       (3)   David in Saul’s court (16:14-23)


  1. What caused Samuel to believe that Eliab was the one to be king?

  2. What is the difference between man’s evaluation and God’s evaluation of a person?

  3. What basis should we use when we evaluate people or situations?


It is easy to react to what we can observe. However, it is good to remember that we can see only the surface. God can see the heart!