With Saul’s rejection as king, the Lord bids Samuel to anoint the next king. This Samuel does when he goes to the house of Jesse. An interesting thing occurs. Samuel feared Saul’s response to this deed so the Lord gives Samuel an additional reason for going. Some have troubled over this because God had Samuel hide the primary reason for his travel to the house of Jesse. The Lord gave Samuel this reason for his benefit, not the Lord’s. Samuel anoints the next king (David was a young man; some think he was between the ages of 10 and 15 at this point) and immediately the Lord’s Spirit came upon David. As the Lord’s Spirit came upon David, Saul had a troubling spirit from the Lord (16:14). The nature of this troubling spirit can only be learned from the context of its location. The NET gives a translator note that might be helpful: “Or ‘an injurious spirit’; cf. NLT ‘a tormenting spirit.’ The phrase need not refer to an evil, demonic spirit. The Hebrew word translated ‘evil’ may refer to the character of the spirit or to its effect upon Saul. If the latter, another translation option might be ‘a mischief-making spirit.’” ArtScroll calls it a spirit of melancholy (p. 105). To help Saul in relief of this spirit David is called to the king to play on a harp.
Application: Samuel was the Lord’s prophet and one might be hard pressed to find fault in anything that the Record gives where he had done wrong. However, it would be a mistake to think such things; Samuel was a mortal man and no mortal man can live in this world without being plagued by sin (except one). We read that God’s prophet judged Israel’s next king from the outside (his physical stature) rather than where the Lord taught him he needs to judge – but in truth only the Lord can do that (16:7). Samuel’s point of reference for a king was his observation of the nations around him and the king of his own nation. Sometimes our point of reference is out of place.