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1 Samuel 16:7 – Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover

Summary

God's and Samuel's criteria for who should rule are not necessarily the same.

Analysis

Samuel was initially attracted to Eliab, Jesse's eldest son, because of his impressive height or physical prowess. God's warning to Samuel that a person's stature is not a reliable measure of an individual's qualifications is, on the surface, reminiscent of Samuel's earlier experience with Saul, who was also remarkable for his height (9:2; 10:23) but also rejected by the Lord (15:23).

A theological principle, however, is also involved in this memorable verse. Samuel's limited perspective arose out of his inability to see beyond outward appearances. Since Eliab (and Saul!) had apparently been blessed with good looks, it was natural to assume that God's blessing would extend to leadership. But God states very clearly that there is much more involved: "The LORD looks on [better: "into"] the heart." In the thought world of the Old Testament, the "heart" represents what we would call "the mind"--the seat of the will, the intellect, and decision making--attributes that Samuel could not "see," but which were of the utmost importance and divinely discernible. God will be the one to choose Israel's king, and it will be on the basis of God's criteria.

1 Samuel 16:7

7But 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.’

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10 February 2011

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