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I Samuel 16:1-13, Two; The Spirit "Jumps" on David

The elders of the city wanted to know if Samuel’s business was peaceful, and he assured them it was.  Then the parade of brothers begins before him (vv 6-10). We get the picture that Samuel is focusing both on the brothers passing before him but also on hearing a word from the Lord that THIS one or THIS one is truly the Lord’s anointed.  We understand a bit of Samuel’s jumpiness as the first son passes in front of him.  He says, about Eliab, in rather convoluted language in Greek, “Indeed before the Lord is his anointed one.” But Samuel was wrong, and God tells him so, in the famous verse 7:


καὶ εἶπεν κύριος πρὸς Σαμουηλ μὴ ἐπιβλέψῃς ἐπὶ τὴν ὄψιν αὐτοῦ μηδὲ εἰς τὴν ἕξιν μεγέθους αὐτοῦ ὅτι 

ἐξουδένωκα αὐτόν ὅτι οὐχ ὡς ἐμβλέψεται ἄνθρωπος ὄψεται ὁ θεός ὅτι ἄνθρωπος ὄψεται εἰς πρόσωπον ὁδὲ θεὸς ὄψεται εἰς καρδίαν


“And the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Don’t look at how he looks/his outward appearance, nor at his actual physical size, because the Lord has rejected him (the same verb, ἐξουδενέω, used to describe God’s rejection of Saul in v 1), because the Lord will see not as a person will see, for a person will look at the face but God will see the heart.”


This is a favorite and oft-quoted verse to describe the superiority of the interior life before God.  That is what God is interested in—beauty on the inside.  Ok, and so Samuel’s search continues, but now with this extra piece of advice—that God looks on the heart.  One might think that this would provide an even bigger hurdle for Samuel, since most people aren’t especially skillful at looking at another person’s heart. And so he gets to the end of the seven sons by verse 10, but realizes that God has chosen none of these. 


So, Samuel asks Jessie the question in v 11:  “Have any children been omitted/left out” (ἐκλελοίπασιν)?  Lots of stuff gets “left out” in the LXX, and the verb appears more than 150 times in the Bible. As we know, of course, there is one little guy who has been left out.  But we are surprised that when he is called and his physical beauty and striking handsomeness is described.  That description is in verse 12:


καὶ ἀπέστειλεν καὶ εἰσήγαγεν αὐτόν καὶ οὗτος πυρράκης μετὰ κάλλους ὀφθαλμῶν καὶ ἀγαθὸς ὁράσει κυρίῳ καὶ εἶπεν κύριος πρὸς Σαμουηλ ἀνάστα καὶ χρῗσον τὸν Δαυιδ ὅτι οὗτος ἀγαθός ἐστιν.


“And he sent and brought him (David) in.  And this one was ruddy red in his features with beautiful eyes, and was pleasant/good in appearance before the Lord.  And the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Rise and anoint David because this is the good one.’”


Now one could argue that David wasn’t chosen for his attractive physical appearance, since the Lord looks on the heart, but it is interesting that three of those attractive physical features are mentioned:  his skin tone, eyes, and general appearance. It is like saying in 2023, ‘Our policy as a magazine is not to talk about women’s physical features or attire when writing a story about them because those are traditional categories that can be used to denigrate the thought component of what a woman can offer,’ and then opening the story about her with, ‘Her attractive hat neatly matched her eyelids and pink dress. . . ‘


In any case, we have an attractive young man standing before Samuel, and he is the one who needs to be anointed.  Verse 13 describes this momentous occurrence:


καὶ ἔλαβεν Σαμουηλ τὸ κέρας τοῦ ἐλαίου καὶ ἔχρισεν αὐτὸν ἐν μέσῳ τῶν ἀδελφῶν αὐτοῦ καὶ ἐφήλατο πνεῦμα κυρίου ἐπὶ Δαυιδ ἀπὸ τῆς ἡμέρας ἐκείνης καὶ ἐπάνω καὶ ἀνέστη Σαμουηλ καὶ ἀπῆλθεν εἰς Αρμαθαιμ. . .


“And Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers.  And the Spirit of the Lord jumped on/leapt on David from that day forward, and Samuel arose and departed to Harmathaim.”


The verb that is the focus of these two essays appears in this verse, and is derived from εφαλλομαι (it is an aorist middle here), which is rare in both the LXX and New Testament, but is best rendered as “jump on” or “spring upon.”  It also appears in I Samuel 10:6 in a similar context, where the Spirit of God comes on/jumps on Saul. But the one appearance in the New Testament puts a more hostile “spin” on the word.  In Acts 19 the Apostle Paul had an extraordinarily successful healing ministry.  Even handkerchiefs touched by the Apostle Paul could heal people.  Well, some exorcists tried to imitate the power of Paul by rebuking the evil spirits.  Two of them tried to exorcise a demon and said to a spirit-possessed man, “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims” (Acts 19:13).  But they got their violent comeuppance when that man reacted as follows:


16 καὶ ἐφαλόμενος ὁ ἄνθρωπος ἐπ’ αὐτοὺς ἐν ᾧ ἦν τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ πονηρόν, κατακυριεύσας ἀμφοτέρων ἴσχυσεν κατ’ αὐτῶν ὥστε γυμνοὺς καὶ τετραυματισμένους ἐκφυγεῖν ἐκ τοῦ οἴκου ἐκείνου.


“The man, in whom was the evil spirit, jumped on (εφαλλομαι is the verb again) them, and overcoming both of them beat them up, so that they retreated naked and traumatized from that house.”


It is interesting that the Spirit of God doesn’t “descend” on the anointed or “fall” upon him in the LXX, but actually “jumps” on him.  The most memorable example of the Spirit coming upon a person in the New Testament is in Luke 3:22, where the Spirit “descended” (verb is καταβαίνω, literally “I go down”) on Jesus in a bodily form as a dove.  The same verb is used in the parallel passage in Matt 3:16, though the “bodily form” isn’t mentioned. Thus, the coming of the Spirit was in a quiet form.  Much more violent is the coming of the Spirit in Acts 2.  Indeed, the word used in Acts 2:2 to describe the Spirit’s descent is like a wind that is βίαιος, “violent.”




The language of the LXX can sometimes be vigorous and pointed, and the description of the Spirit’s coming upon David in I Samuel 16 is one of those times. The Spirit “jumped on” David (the underlying verb άλλομαι also means “to jump”), just as the spirit-possessed man in Acts 19 will jump on the fake exorcists. We don’t know exactly what that means but you can be sure that when the Spirit “jumps” on a person that their life will never be the same thereafter.

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