Evil spirit from the LORD

Could someone explain the text in 1 Sam 16:14 where it says Saul was tormented by an evil spirit from the LORD. How does this contrast with the statement that God is good and it is people’s evil desires that cause us to Sin in the New Testament.
Secondly, in chap 16 David is introduced to Saul as his musician but later when he kills Goliath Saul enquires of Abner as to who is David ?


Hello @Kishore_Hanani, great question. Most who see this verse interpret it to mean that this spirit was not sent by God but allowed by God to torment Saul. This was a result of Saul’s rebellion against God and also when God removed his spirit from Saul.

Dr. Thomas L. Constable put it like this:

Verse 14 describes God’s relationship to Saul following the Lord’s rejection of him. Yahweh had less and less contact with His faithless representative. His empowering Spirit left him without the divine enablement that he had once enjoyed (cf. Judg. 9:23; 16:20; 1 Kings 22:21-23; Ps. 51:11)."When YHWH’s Spirit came upon David his anointer[Samuel] left, leaving him in good hands. When YHWH’s Spirit left Saul an evil spirit came upon him, leaving him in dire straits."3 The evil spirit that Yahweh permitted to trouble Saul has been the subject of considerable interest among Bible students. It may have been a spirit of discontent (cf. Judg. 9:23), an angel from the LORD who afflicted him periodically (cf. 1 Kings 22:20-23), or a demon who indwelt or influenced him from then on. 4 In any case this “spirit” was a discipline for departing from God. When people depart from God, their troubles really begin.

You can read the rest of this commentary here:

Also because of this situation, this allowed David to be introduced to Saul. Here’s how GotQuestions explains it.

Second, the evil spirit was used to bring David into the life of Saul. This account is recorded immediately following David’s anointing as the future king of Israel. The reader would be wondering how a shepherd boy would become king. First Samuel 16 reveals the first step in this journey. When the king’s servants saw the torment Saul was enduring, they suggested, “See, an evil spirit from God is tormenting you. Let our lord command his servants here to search for someone who can play the lyre. He will play when the evil spirit from God comes on you, and you will feel better” (1 Samuel 16:15–16).

One of the king’s servants referred David to the king, describing the youth as a great harp player, among other things (verse 18). Saul called David to come and found him to be a great comfort: “David came to Saul and entered his service. Saul liked him very much, and David became one of his armor-bearers. Then Saul sent word to Jesse, saying, ‘Allow David to remain in my service, for I am pleased with him.’ Whenever the spirit from God came on Saul, David would take up his lyre and play. Then relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him” (1 Samuel 16:21–23).

You can read the entire article on it here:

One thing to note about this situation with Saul is that the evil spirit wasn’t permanent. It would come and go. To me, this means that Saul had plenty of opportunities to reconcile himself with God. If David can reconcile with God after murdering a man after sleeping with his wife Saul could be forgiven as well and worked on his relationship with the Lord. The biggest difference I think between the two kings is that David knew of God’s mercy even in those times. This shows you why God chose David to be King.


@Kishore_Hanani Great question :slight_smile: I think that if we take all of the Biblical accounts of God sending an evil spirit together, we begin to understand something about the ancient Hebrew mind. In their mind, evil spirits cannot act apart from God’s allowance. We even see in the New Testament that clearly the evil spirits must obey Jesus. And yet when the evil spirits act God still works all things for the good of His people and orchestrates history in order that men might seek Him. So is it God or the evil spirit that is acting?

And I think this is the key - in the ancient Hebrew mind, it was both! But there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • in the case of Saul and Ahab, the evil spirit was sent in judgment because they had rejected God and God had rejected them as King over Israel
  • in the case of Job, God was demonstrating the righteousness of His servant
  • in the case of David, God was testing his heart

We see in Deuteronomy 13 that it explicitly says that God tests the hearts of men in this manner:

Deuteronomy 13:1-3 - If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a sign or wonder, and if the sign or wonder spoken of takes place, and the prophet says, “Let us follow other gods” (gods you have not known) “and let us worship them,” you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The Lord your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul.

2 Chronicles 32:31 - But when envoys were sent by the rulers of Babylon to ask him about the miraculous sign that had occurred in the land, God left him to test him and to know everything that was in his heart.

So what we see is this - God may send an evil/deceiving spirit either to test men’s hearts or in judgment on men with evil hearts, but God never never does so without first revealing the truth. God does not lie, but He does test men’s hearts and bring judgment on evil men.

Why did Saul not Recognize David?

The following article provides several possible explanations for this text. I think the most important point is that the text does not say that Saul did not recognize David; only that Saul wanted additional information about his family. Given that Saul was a King, it would not be surprising if he forgot whose household one of his former servants belonged to or at least wanted to double check to verify.

Finally, one must realize that the text does not even actually say that Saul did not know David . It only records that Saul asked, “Whose son is this youth?” (1 Samuel 17:55; cf. vss. 56,58). It is an assumption to conclude that Saul did not recognize David. The king simply could have been inquiring about David’s family. Since Saul had promised to reward the man who killed Goliath by giving “ his father’s house exemption from taxes in Israel” (17:25), Saul might have been questioning David in order to ensure the identity of David’s family. Furthermore, 18:1 seems to presuppose an extended conversation between the two, which would imply that Saul wanted even more information than just the name of David’s father.