1 Samuel 19:9 Commentary: Saul’s Descent

Then a harmful spirit from the Lord came upon Saul, as he sat in his house with his spear in his hand. And David was playing the lyre.

1 Samuel 19:9, ESV

1 Samuel 19:9 Commentary

1 Samuel 19:9 is a verse situated in the heart of the tumultuous relationship between David and King Saul, occurring within a narrative that is crucial not only to the book of Samuel but also to the overarching story of Israel’s monarchy as depicted in the Hebrew Bible.

King Saul, once chosen by God through the prophet Samuel to lead Israel, is now tormented by an evil spirit. This incident happens in the context of Saul’s growing jealousy and fear of David, who has been anointed by Samuel as the next king and has gained popularity for his military victories, including the defeat of Goliath (1 Samuel 17).

The narrative context here is significant: The “evil spirit from the Lord” is a complex theological concept. In ancient Israelite thought, God was seen as the ultimate source of everything that happens, both good and evil. This perspective is echoed elsewhere in the Old Testament, such as in Isaiah 45:7. The presence of the evil spirit signifies God’s departure from Saul and serves as a divine judgment against him for his disobedience (1 Samuel 15).

Ethically and morally, this verse raises questions about divine justice and the nature of God’s involvement in human affairs. Theologically, it emphasizes the theme of divine sovereignty and judgment, contrasting Saul’s rejection by God with David’s divine favor.

For the contemporary Christian, 1 Samuel 19:9 can be reflected upon in the context of leadership and the consequences of actions, serving as a warning about the dangers of jealousy, pride, and disobedience to God’s will.

Cross-referencing this verse with others in the Bible helps to deepen our understanding:

  • For example, the story of Saul’s decline and David’s rise is paralleled in the New Testament by the contrast between the Pharisees and Jesus, where the religious leaders, jealous of Jesus, plot against Him (John 11:47-53).

1 Samuel 19:9 is not just a historical account but a verse rich with moral, and contemporary implications. It serves as a reminder of the consequences of turning away from God and the complexities of divine justice and favor.

The verse is also a pivotal moment in the larger narrative of Israel’s history, setting the stage for the eventual kingship of David and the establishment of a dynasty that would lead to the birth of Jesus, as foretold in the prophecies (2 Samuel 7:12-16; Matthew 1:1).

Read 1 Samuel 19:9 in Additional Translations

And the evil spirit from the Lord was upon Saul, as he sat in his house with his javelin in his hand: and David played with his hand.

1 Samuel 19:9, KJV

But an evil spirit from the Lord came on Saul as he was sitting in his house with his spear in his hand. While David was playing the lyre

1 Samuel 19:9, NIV

But one day when Saul was sitting at home, with spear in hand, the tormenting spirit from the Lord suddenly came upon him again. As David played his harp

1 Samuel 19:9, NLT

Now the distressing spirit from the Lord came upon Saul as he sat in his house with his spear in his hand. And David was playing music with his hand.

1 Samuel 19:9, NKJV

Now an evil spirit sent from the Lord came on Saul as he was sitting in his palace holding a spear. David was playing the lyre

1 Samuel 19:9, CSB