The Journal of Biblical Accuracy

1 Samuel 16 and how Samuel was led by the Lord (PDF) PDF version

1 Samuel 16 and how Samuel was led by the Lord

This article is mainly concerned with 1 Samuel 16. Saul, the first king of Israel, was commanded by God to utterly destroy the Amalekites for all they had done to Israel on its way out of Egypt. However, he did not perform what he was commanded (1 Samuel 15:11). This in turn made God to start looking for another king. Thus, 1 Samuel 16:1 tells us:

1 Samuel 16:1
"Now the Lord said to Samuel, "How long will you mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go; I am sending you to Jesse the Bethlehemite. For I have provided myself a king among his sons."

God’s replacement for the king’s position was one of the sons of Jesse. Hence, Samuel was commanded to go there and anoint him. A look at the interaction between God and Samuel regarding the question of the next king shows the following:

i) The Lord appointed Saul to be a king and Samuel anointed him (1 Samuel 10:1).

ii) The Lord rejected Saul, because of his disobedience, and Samuel announced it to him (1 Samuel 15:26).

iii) The Lord appointed David to be the new king, and Samuel was commanded to go and anoint him (1 Samuel 16:1).

As it can be seen, Samuel always did what the Lord had first decided. To tell it differently, Samuel was not a decision maker but a decision executor. This is truly very instructive for those of us who, like Samuel, want to serve God. Like him, our role is not the role of a decision maker but the role of a performer of what God has already decided. Samuel did not make up his mind to anoint Saul, nor did he later decide to tell him that he was rejected by God. Similarly, he was not the one that determined to go to Jesse's house. ALL were God’s decisions, and Samuel simply executed them.

Moving to us now, the Word says that as born again believers, we are members of the one body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-31), whose head is Christ (Colossians 1:18). Therefore, as our physical members are under complete subjection to the head, so also we, as members of the body of Christ, should be under complete subjection to the Head of this body, the Lord. He is the Boss, we are His servants. He makes decisions, we execute them. Returning to Samuel, the Lord directed him to Jesse the Bethlehemite. Yet, he still had some questions. Verses 2-3 tell us:

1 Samuel 16:2-3
"And Samuel said, "How can I go? If Saul hears it, he will kill me." But the Lord said, take a heifer with you, and say, "I have come to sacrifice to the Lord." Then invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; you shall anoint for Me the one I name to you."

God not only told Samuel what to do (1 Samuel 16:1), but He also told him in the above passage how to do it (1 Samuel 16:2-3). Thus, He instructed him to go there with a heifer for a supposed sacrifice, while the true reason of his visit was to anoint the new king.

Having received all the information that he needed, Samuel moved to action. 1 Samuel 16:4-5 tells us:

"So Samuel did what the Lord said, and went to Bethlehem. And the elders of the town trembled at his coming, and said, "Do you come peaceably?" and he said, "Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord. Sanctify yourselves, and come with me to the sacrifice." Then he consecrated Jesse and his sons, and invited them to the sacrifice"

The Lord gave directions to Samuel, and Samuel acted on them. Thus, he went to Bethlehem and soon he had seven of Jesse's sons before him. As we may remember, the Lord had told him that the next king would be one of Jesse's sons, without however telling him right from the beginning, who exactly this would be. What did Samuel do to find it out? He simply contacted the Boss, the Lord:

1 Samuel 16:6-7
"So it was, when they came, that he looked at Eliab and said, "Surely the Lord's anointed is before Him!" But the Lord said to Samuel, "Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart "

First in the line, was Eliab, the eldest son of the family. He was probably handsome and his appearance suitable for a king, for when Samuel saw him, he thought that he was the one ("SURELY the Lord's anointed is before Him" (1 Samuel 16:6), he said). However, when he presented him to the Lord he got a negative reply. As the passage tells us, the Lord, looking at the heart, refused him. Many times it happens to us too. We like something, it looks perfect to our physical eyes and thus we are led to believe that it is also the will of God for us. However, we should never make a decision based on the outer appearance. Had Samuel done this, he would have anointed the wrong man. Instead, we should always consult the One that sees where our senses cannot see: at the heart. Returning to Samuel, after God's negative reply for Eliab he moved ahead to the next in the "queue". 1 Samuel 16:8-10 tell us:

1 Samuel 16: 8-10
"So Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. And he said, "Neither has the Lord chosen this one. Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, "Neither has the Lord chosen this one" Thus Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel. And Samuel said to Jesse, "The Lord has not chosen these."

Samuel presented to the Lord all the sons of Jesse that were there and for all he got a negative reply. Yet, he did not give up:

1 Samuel 16:11-13
"And Samuel said to Jesse, "Are all the young men here?" Then he said, "There remains yet the youngest, and there he is, keeping the sheep." And Samuel said to Jesse, "Send and bring him. For we will not sit down till he comes here." So he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, with bright eyes, and good looking. And the Lord said, "Arise, anoint him; FOR THIS IS THE ONE!" Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward. So Samuel arose and went to Ramah"

Samuel heard the desired "this is the one", not for the first in the "queue" (1 Samuel 16:6), the one that he expected to be the chosen one, but for the last in the "queue" (1 Samuel 16:12), and only after he heard seven "no". The reason I point this out is because sometimes we may find ourselves in the same position i.e. we present to God choices for things that we know as His will, and the replies we get are negative. "Why Lord?", we say. However, the reason is the same with the reason for which God rejected Eliab (1 Samuel 16:6-7): God looks at the heart and makes decisions based on the heart. When therefore He rejects something He does not do it because He wants to......torture us but because, looking at the heart, at the inner part of the matter, sees that it is not the best for us. As Psalms 84:11 says:

Psalms 84:11
"NO good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly."

Also James 1:17 affirms us:
"Every GOOD gift and every PERFECT gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning"

If God denies something to us, it is only because He loves us and wants us to have the best. Samuel heard seven "no" before the desired positive reply. However, looking back do you think that his faithfulness was worthless? I do not think so. Though he didn’t anoint the first in the "queue", he certainly anointed THE BEST in the "queue".

Finally, keep in mind that neither Samuel nor David were the leading parts of the story. The former was mourning for Saul, while the latter was keeping the sheep of his father. Instead the leading part of the story was the Lord, who gave revelation to Samuel to go to Bethlehem and anoint a man that he never knew before. Similarly, it was the Lord who, some chapters earlier (1 Samuel 9), acted with Saul and through the temporary loss of his donkeys and the instruction of his servant, eventually brought him before Samuel to anoint him as a king. In other words, the Lord has all the power to only perform His will. When something is His will then HE is the leading part and we only have to simply follow Him.


In this study we went through the first 13 verses of 1 Samuel 16, to see how Samuel was being led by the Lord and how he was making decisions. Samuel was a servant of God and some of us want to be the same. As any servant, so also Samuel and so also we, have to obey the master. We are to do what the master says and only this. Samuel, as we too, could walk with his five senses. For example, he could have anointed Eliab as king, because he seemed fitting to his eyes. But he did not. Instead he turned to the Lord and did only what he was instructed. Let us do the same. Let’s allow the Lord to be in charge. Let Him be Lord! He is the Boss, the Master!

Anastasios Kioulachoglou