Commented Bible Passages

These Bible meditations are meant as a way of seeking God in silence and prayer in the midst of our daily life. During the course of a day, take a moment to read the Bible passage with the short commentary and to reflect on the questions which follow. Afterwards, a small group of 3 to 10 people can meet to share what they have discovered and perhaps for a time of prayer.

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1 Samuel 16:1,6-13: Discerning God’s Presence
The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.” (…) When Jesse and his sons arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.” But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” Then Jesse called Abinadab and had him pass in front of Samuel. But Samuel said, “The Lord has not chosen this one either.” Jesse then had Shammah pass by, but Samuel said, “Nor has the Lord chosen this one.” Jesse had seven of his sons pass before Samuel, but Samuel said to him, “The Lord has not chosen these.” So he asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?” “There is still the youngest,” Jesse answered. “He is tending the sheep.” Samuel said, “Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives.” So he sent for him and had him brought in. He was glowing with health and had a fine appearance and handsome features. Then the Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; this is the one.” So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David. (1 Samuel 16:1,6-13)

Sometimes the Bible seems very complicated. Why do the Books of Samuel describe so many political rivalries, the failure of a king, the accession of his successor? Why does it look at the same reality from so many different and sometimes contradictory angles? Why retain different versions of the same event, without attempting to unify the whole? Where is the Word of God in the midst of all this?

The biblical authors re-read the history of their people while looking for God’s presence in it. In this re-reading, they wanted to understand how God, despite appearances, was guiding his people or, conversely, how he was not behind this or that human project, for which only hardened hearts and deafness to the divine call were responsible. A re-reading of history in faith allowed them to understand some events differently. The transition from tribal life to the monarchy occupies an important place in this story, with mixed views on the monarchy. This is where King David comes to the fore. It is remarkable that in these stories, which intend to speak of God’s plan, to show what the divine will is, the human dimension is not negated. Documents from different periods do not hide the power struggles, the political tensions and the human weaknesses, as if the various authors of the Bible knew that God’s will works itself out in the midst of an often ambiguous human history, as if the readers were asked to accept that contradictions are part of the landscape.

The Books of Samuel want to stress that David became king by the will of God. The ultimate explanation of his success is not his political or military skill. Rumors had circulated that perhaps he came to power by shedding innocent blood or by ruthlessness. These texts give the lie to such statements. David has not usurped the crown, it was given to him.

Recognizing God’s presence or absence is not easy. The prophet Samuel came to Bethlehem and had to anoint one of the sons of Jesse which God has chosen. Eliab, the first one who appeared, has the right look, and Samuel unwisely dares a "surely" (v. 6). But as the seven sons of Jesse appear one after another, the prophet’s becomes more cautious. Finally, he can only wait for a word from God to indicate his choice, however unexpected it might be. One day, others with whom God has been in touch will come to Bethlehem. They will be called to recognize God’s presence in a child and later on, in Jerusalem, to see a king in a young man nailed to a cross. The prophets knew that appearances are deceiving. God is often where no one expects him to be.

- How can not giving too much importance to appearances be a source of freedom?

- Letting God surprise us: why is such an attitude so important for anyone wishing to discern God’s presence?

Other bible meditations:

Last updated: 1 December 2022