1 Samuel 16:1-13
1 The LORD said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul? I have rejected him from being king over Israel. Fill your horn with oil and set out; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.” 2 Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears of it, he will kill me.” And the LORD said, “Take a heifer with you, and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the LORD.’ 3 Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; and you shall anoint for me the one whom I name to you.” 4 Samuel did what the LORD commanded and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city came to meet him trembling, and said, “Do you come peaceably?” 5 He said, “Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the LORD; sanctify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.” And he sanctified Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.
6 When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the LORD’s anointed is now before the LORD.” 7 But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the LORD does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” 8 Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. He said, “Neither has the LORD chosen this one.” 9 Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “Neither has the LORD chosen this one.” 10 Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, and Samuel said to Jesse, “The LORD has not chosen any of these.” 11 Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here.” 12 He sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. The LORD said, “Rise and anoint him; for this is the one.” 13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the spirit of the LORD came mightily upon David from that day forward. Samuel then set out and went to Ramah.
The authors of the Book of Samuel were also the authors of the books of Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges and Kings, books that were given their final form around 550 BCE – long after the events they described.
These authors artfully wove together the multiple stories in the Deuteronomic Corpus from numerous sources. They used the stories in these books to demonstrate that that God controls history and to assert that it was the failures of the kings of Israel and the kings of Judea to worship YHWH and obey God’s commands that led to the conquest of Northern Israel in 722 BCE by the Assyrians and the conquest of Judea by the Babylonians in 597 BCE. (The conquests were not seen as the result of the Assyrians’ and Babylonians’ greater wealth and more powerful armies.)
The chronological dating of the stories in Chapters 15 and 16 of 1 Samuel (assuming David’s sole reign over Israel began around 1005 BCE) would be in the period from 1025 to 1015 BCE. The reign of Saul is generally thought to have begun around 1025 BCE.
In Chapter 15, just before today’s reading, YHWH (through Samuel) directed Saul, the first king of a united Israel, to attack the Amalekites and kill every person and animal. Saul obeyed in large measure by killing all the Amalekites but he brought back the King of the Amalekites and some of the best sheep and cattle which he said he would offer as a sacrifice to YHWH.
because Saul disobeyed Him, YHWH told Samuel he regretted that he made Saul king. Some scholars see the story of YHWH’s displeasure at Saul as a later insert intended to reflect the position that only priests (not kings) could make animal sacrifices. Consistent with the views of some later prophets (Amos, Hosea, Micah), Samuel did not attribute paramount importance to sacrifices but emphasized obedience to YHWH.
Samuel is regarded as the first of the prophets, and he was (quite literally) the “kingmaker” in that he anointed Saul as king (1 Sam. 10) and anointed David as king. Some scholars interpret this first anointing of David (in today’s reading) as making David the king of Judea and that his later public anointing (2 Sam.5:1-5) in Hebron made him king of all Israel.
The books of Samuel are thought to be from at least two sources – one that took the position that having a king for a unified Israel was a good development because it would allow Israel to defeat its enemies (1 Sam. 8:19-22). The other position was that having a king (instead of being a theocracy) would make Israel “like other nations” and that the king would abuse his power (1 Sam. 8:10-18) and take advantage of the people by effectively enslaving them. (This is what happened in the last years of Solomon’s reign and led to the breakup of Israel in 930 BCE.)
In today’s reading, YHWH told Samuel to go to Bethlehem to anoint a new king from among Jesse’s sons (v.1). Samuel realized this would be a treasonous act because Israel already had a king, Saul (v.2a). But – according to the story – YHWH told Samuel to engage in a subterfuge and pretend he was going to Bethlehem to offer a sacrifice for YHWH (vv.2b and 3). The elders of the city met Samuel – obviously a person of great influence – and were concerned to know if he came in peace (v.4).
Samuel met Jesse’s seven oldest sons, but none of them was approved by YHWH, even though Eliab’s appearance and stature were reminiscent of Saul’s stature (1 Sam. 9:2). Jesse finally called for his eighth and youngest son, the shepherd boy David, and YHWH told Samuel to anoint David as king. Samuel did so with only David’s brothers present so the anointing would be secret. (In 1 Chronicles 2:13-15, it says that Jesse had seven sons, reflecting another tradition about David.)
According to The New Oxford Annotated Bible, the word translated as “ruddy” also means “red haired.” The selection of the youngest son follows a common motif in the Hebrew Bible of younger sons being preferred to the elder: Abel to Cain, Isaac to Ishmael, Jacob to Esau, Jacob to Reuben. Once anointed, the spirit of YHWH came mightily upon David (v.13).
At this point, Israel had two anointed kings – Saul and David. Much of the rest of 1 Samuel reflected the tensions and conflicts between Saul and David. 1 Samuel ended with the death of Saul. According to The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, the collection of stories about David in the Books of Samuel were carefully arranged to show that the events that brought David to the throne were the will of God.
8 Once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light— 9 for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true. 10 Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to mention what such people do secretly; 13 but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, 14 for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore, it says, “Sleeper, awake! Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”
Ephesus was a large and prosperous city in what is now western Turkey. In the Acts of the Apostles and 1 Corinthians, Paul is said to have visited there. In Ephesus, there were Jesus Followers who were Jews and Jesus Followers who were Gentiles, and they didn’t always agree on what it means to be a Jesus Follower. This letter was written by one of Paul’s disciples and was intended to unify the Ephesus community.
Because the letter contains many terms not used in Paul’s other letters and gave new meanings to some of Paul’s characteristic terms, most scholars believe that this letter was written by one of Paul’s disciples late in the First Century. The first three chapters are theological teachings and the last three chapters consist of ethical exhortations.
Today’s reading is part of a longer ethical exhortation that contrasted the ungodly ways of the Gentiles to the ethical implications of life in the body of the Christ. It relied on apocalyptic imagery for the hostile spiritual powers (darkness) (v.11) and God and Christ (light) (v.14). The NJBC compares these verses to similar writings found at Qumran, including the duty to “expose” (or in some translations, “reprove”) those who exhibit darkness.
Scholars have speculated that verse 14 was part of a Baptismal hymn in use at the time.
1 As Jesus walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. 4 We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 6 When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, 7 saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see. 8 The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” 9 Some were saying, “It is he.” Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” 10 But they kept asking him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” 11 He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ Then I went and washed and received my sight.” 12 They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.”
13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. 14 Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. 15 Then the Pharisees also began to ask him how he had received his sight. He said to them, “He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see.” 16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not observe the sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And they were divided. 17 So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.” He said, “He is a prophet.”
18 The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight 19 and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” 20 His parents answered, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; 21 but we do not know how it is that now he sees, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” 22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. 23 Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”
24 So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, “Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner.” 25 He answered, “I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” 26 They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” 27 He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” 28 Then they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29 We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” 30 The man answered, “Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. 32 Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” 34 They answered him, “You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?” And they drove him out.
35 Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36 He answered, “And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.” 37 Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.” 38 He said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped him. 39 Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.” 40 Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not blind, are we?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.”
The Fourth Gospel is different in many ways from the Synoptic Gospels. The “signs” (miracles) and many stories in the Fourth Gospel are unique to it, such as the Wedding at Cana, Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well, and the Raising of Lazarus.
The chronology of events is also different in the Fourth Gospel. For example, the Temple Event (“Cleansing of the Temple”) occurred early in Jesus’ Ministry in the Fourth Gospel, rather than late as in the Synoptic Gospels. In the Synoptic Gospels, the Last Supper was a Passover Seder, but in the Fourth Gospel, it occurred the day before the first day of Passover so that Jesus (who was described as “the Lamb of God” in the Fourth Gospel) died at the same time lambs were being sacrificed at the Temple for the Passover Seder to be held the night he died.
Most scholars agree that the Gospel was written by an anonymous author around 95 CE, at a time when the “parting of the ways” between the Jesus Follower Movement and Rabbinic Judaism was accelerating.
Today’s story is another symbolic story of the spiritual journey from darkness to light, from unbelief to belief.
In the First Century (and even today to some extent) suffering was seen the result of bad actions on the part of the person suffering or those close to the person (such as parents) – notwithstanding the lessons of the Book of Job. More in tune with Job, Jesus deflected his disciples’ question and focused on suffering as an opportunity for “God’s work” (v.3). He then went on to confirm that all of us are to be part of God’s work (v.4).
The New Oxford Annotated Bible points out that saliva was seen as having medicinal value, and that the Pharisees understood that making mud (v.11) was “work” and therefore a violation of the Sabbath laws. The Jewish Annotated New Testament notes that “Siloam” (v.7) is the Greek word for the Hebrew word “Shiloh” which was the end point of the tunnel that King Hezekiah built to provide Jerusalem with water when the city was besieged by the Assyrians in 701 BCE.
Like the woman at the well in Samaria, this man described Jesus as a “prophet” (v.17) – a person who speaks for God.
In saying the parents were “afraid of the Jews” (v.22), the author of the Gospel used shorthand. “The Jews” should be understood as the Temple Authorities (which included the priests and some Pharisees), not the Jewish people as a whole. Being “put out of the synagogue” (v.22) was the equivalent of ostracization because local synagogues were not only places for worship, but also the locale’s gathering place for residents.
According to The NAOB, that the Pharisees “drove him out” (v.34) “reflected the author’s concern — or experience — that those in positions of religious control in his own setting might force Christian believers from community fellowship.”
The JANT contests this understanding and the Gospel statements that Christ-confessors/Jewish Jesus Followers were excluded from synagogues. It says: “Exclusion of Christ-confessors from the synagogue would be anachronistic for the time of Jesus, and for that reason the verse has often been understood as a reference to the historical experience of the Johannine community at the end of the first century CE. It is understood not as a one-time event but as a type of excommunication that would involve not only the exclusion from participation in worship but also social ostracism. Yet this interpretation is problematic on many grounds and whether it has any historical referent at all cannot be demonstrated.”
The NAOB notes that the Pharisees’ demand to the man that he “Give Glory to God” was “a technical phrase adjuring the man to tell the truth” and was based on Josh 7:19. The New Jerome Biblical Commentary adds that the phrase implied that the speaker had to confess his guilt.
The encounter concluded with the man calling Jesus “Lord” (v.38) although the NRSV translator’s note says the Greek word can also be translated at “Sir.” The use of “Son of Man” – the most popular of the Messianic titles – was the basis for the man to “worship” Jesus (v.38) as a person in whom God was present. In the final exchange with the Pharisees, Jesus said they were blind, and that their “sin” was disbelief (see 8:24).
In The Fourth Gospel: Tales of a Jewish Mystic, Bishop Spong interprets the blind man as a corporate figure representing the Johannine community that once lived in darkness but now lives in light.