The evil spirit from God - The word evil is not in the common Hebrew text, but it is in the Vulgate, Septuagint, Targum, Syriac, and Arabic, and in eight of Kennicott's and De Rossi's MSS., which present the text thus: רעה אלהים רוח ruach Elohim raah, spiritus Domini malus, the evil spirit of God. The Septuagint leave out Θεου, of God, and have πνευμα πονηρον, the evil spirit. The Targum says, The evil spirit from before the Lord; and the Arabic has it. The evil spirit by the permission of God; this is at least the sense.
And the evil spirit departed from him - The Targum says, And the evil spirit descended up from off him. This considers the malady of Saul to be more than a natural disease.
There are several difficulties in this chapter; those of the chronology are pretty well cleared, in the opinion of some, by the observations of Bishop Warburton; but there is still something more to be done to make this point entirely satisfactory. Saul's evil spirit, and the influence of music upon it, are not easily accounted for. I have considered his malady to be of a mixed kind, natural and diabolical; there is too much of apparent nature in it to permit us to believe it was all spiritual, and there is too much of apparent supernatural influence to suffer us to believe that it was all natural.
When King Saul realized that he had been rejected by God, and when he felt the force of the words of denunciation that had been addressed to him by the prophet, he was filled with bitter rebellion and despair. It was not true repentance that had bowed the proud head of the king. He had no clear perception of the offensive character of his sin, and did not arouse to the work of reforming his life, but brooded over what he thought was the injustice of God in depriving him of the throne of Israel and in taking the succession away from his posterity. He was ever occupied in anticipating the ruin that had been brought upon his house. He felt that the valor which he had displayed in encountering his enemies should offset his sin of disobedience. He did not accept with meekness the chastisement of God; but his haughty spirit became desperate, until he was on the verge of losing his reason. His counselors advised him to seek for the services of a skillful musician, in the hope that the soothing notes of a sweet instrument might calm his troubled spirit. In the providence of God, David, as a skillful performer upon the harp, was brought before the king. His lofty and heaven-inspired strains had the desired effect. The brooding melancholy that had settled like a dark cloud over the mind of Saul was charmed away. PP 643.1Read in context »