PERSONAL RELATIONS OF SAUL AND DAVID (CHS. 18-27).
FRIENDSHIP OF DAVID AND JONATHAN (CHS. 18-20).
I Samuel 18
JONATHAN LOVES DAVID (vs. 1-5).
1 “And it came to pass, when he had made an end of speaking unto Saul, that
the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him
as his own soul.” When he had made an end of speaking. This conversation
took place as soon as the pursuit of the Philistines and the collecting of the
spoil were over. There would then be a muster of the Israelites, and Abner
would naturally present the youthful champion to the king, who is
represented as having virtually forgotten him, and as anxious to learn his
history; nor had his stay been long enough for Abner to remember him. As
this conversation is narrated as an introduction to the account of
Jonathan’s friendship for David, the last four verses of ch. 17. ought to be
prefixed to ch. 18. A new beginning commences with them, in which we
are told of the commencement of this friendship, of the growth of Saul’s
hatred, and of the trials which befell David, proceeding on the king’s part
from bad to worse, till at last he was driven away and compelled to lead
the life of an outlaw. But by his envy, cruelty, and bad government Saul
was alienating the minds of the people from him, and preparing the way for
his own downfall and David’s ultimate triumph. The episode of Jonathan’s
love is as beautiful as Saul’s conduct is dark, and completes our admiration
for this generous and noble hero. The soul of Jonathan was knit with the
soul of David. These kindred spirits had so much in common that, as
David with modest manliness answered the king’s questions, an intense
feeling of admiration grew up in the young warrior’s heart, and a friendship
was the result which ranks among the purest and noblest examples of true
manly affection. The word rendered knit literally means knotted, tied
together firmly by indissoluble bonds.
2 “And Saul took him that day, and would let him go no more home to his
father’s house. 3 Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he
loved him as his own soul. 4 And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that
was upon him, and gave it to David, and his garments, even to his sword, and
to his bow, and to his girdle.” Saul took him that day. Bent solely on war, Saul
gladly took so promising, a young soldier as David to be one of his bodyguard
(ch. 14:52), and henceforward he was constantly with him. Thus
in two ways, first as a musician, and now as a soldier, David was forced
into those intimate relations with Saul, which ended so tragically. For a
while, however, those happier results ensued summed up in ch. 16:21.
Jonathan and David made a covenant. We are not to suppose
that this happened immediately. David continued on friendly terms with
Saul for a considerable period, during which he went on many expeditions,
and grew in military renown (see v. 5). And thus the love which began
with admiration of David’s prowess grew deeper and more confirmed by
constant companionship, till this solemn bond of mutual friendship was entered
into by the two youthful heroes, by which they bound themselves under all
circumstances to be true and faithful to one another. How nobly Jonathan
kept the bond the history proceeds immediately to tell us; nor was David
subsequently unmindful of it (II Samuel 9:l, 7). Jonathan stripped himself
of the robe, etc. In confirmation of the bond Jonathan gave David first his
robe, the meil, which, as we have seen on ch. 2:19, was the ordinary dress of
the wealthier classes; and next his garments, his military dress (see on
ch.17:38-39), worn over the meil, and which here seems to include his
accoutrements, — the bow, sword, and girdle, — though elsewhere
distinguished from them (II Samuel 20:8). In thus clothing David in his own
princely equipments Jonathan was showing his friend the greatest personal
honor (Esther 6:8), and such a gift is still highly esteemed in the East.
Religious Friendship (vs. 1-4)
The facts are:
1. Jonathan, on becoming acquainted with David, forms a strong
attachment for him.
2. Saul, to show his gratitude for David’s aid, constrains him into his
3. Jonathan and David enter into a solemn covenant of friendship.
It is obvious that David desired to retire to the quietude of rural life, thus
displaying simplicity of purpose and freedom from the ambition charged on
him by Eliab (v. 28), as also superiority to the temptation of success.
Saul’s will that he should “go no more home to his father’s house” was
fraught with a long train of consequences which told on the development
of the higher qualities of the coming king. The first of these was the
formation of that beautiful friendship with Jonathan, which shines as a
welcome light amidst the gloom of the last years of Saul’s reign. There are
in this section two matters deserving special attention.
a priori grounds we may conclude that always, in all things, however
apparently clashing, there is an interior harmony in the ordinations and
only enables us to refer the discord to our defective organs of knowledge.
But here, as in some other instances, we can trace the exquisite harmony
between David’s detention by Saul, involving his friendship with Jonathan,
and David’s subsequent entrance on the duties and dignities foreshadowed
by the anointing by Samuel. Unquestionably, as seen in the history and in
the Psalms composed during the period, David’s trials and the public
position arising out of this forced detention by Saul were, in their effects
on his character and abilities, wonderfully harmonious with his preordained
kingship. Moreover, this providential opportunity for forming
personal friendship beautifully harmonizes with both the cutting off of
Saul’s line (ch. 15:27-29) from the succession and the acquisition
by David of the title, in virtue of his religious and general qualities. Such
friendship, formed on the purest religious basis, and before developments
with respect to the succession were made, would save both David and
Jonathan from the possibility of regarding each other as rivals, and would
also be a blessed counterpoise to David’s unmerited sorrows during Saul’s
violent persecutions. Jonathan never lived to see the throne taken by
another; but his life was not embittered by the grief of jealousy, because of
the deep love he had for his friend. David, while in the decree of God
destined to be king, loved Jonathan too well to think of setting him aside.
Beautiful providence that could insure a succession out of the line, and yet
sweeten and ennoble the lives of those whose interests were involved in it!
It would be easy for Jonathan to resign to David, should they both survive
Saul’s decease; for did he not love him with a love passing that of women?
(II Samuel 1:26). And it would be far from David’s desire to set him
aside, seeing the loving esteem in which he was held. Yea, was there not an
instinctive homage paid to David’s character, as though the pure soul saw
in him the coming king, when Jonathan stripped himself of his princely attire
and placed it on David?
had the eye to discern them. Paul’s early training worked into his life’s
mission, though at first tending another way. The flight of Mary and Joseph
Friendship in some degree is a necessity of man’s life. A perfectly solitary
being, whose feelings cling to no one, and around whom no one clings, is
truly lost. Ordinary friendships are based on the existence of natural
affinities and contrarieties. That similarity of mind is the basis of friendship
is only true in a limited sense, for one is drawn to another not only by the
affinity of common tastes and qualities, but because of a recognition and
admiration of qualities that are lacking in self. We seek to supplement the
deficiencies of our own life by taking into ourselves, as far as possible, the
excellences of another life, and friendship is the means to this end. This is
not indeed a full rationale of friendship, nor must it be inferred that cool
calculation of personal profit enters into it. The love, the sympathy, the
tender, undefinable interest and absolute trust cannot be disentangled from
the perception of qualities supplementary to one’s own. The friendship of
David and Jonathan embraced all that enters into ordinary friendship, —
appreciation, love, confidence, tenderness, fidelity, unsuspicious
behavior, — with an additional religious element. This religious
friendship may be considered as to:
Ø Its nature. In David and Jonathan we recognize, besides the usual
essentials of friendship, the responsive action of a common faith in God
and delight in His service. Each saw in the other, as by a higher spiritual
insight, a spiritual kinship. The circumstances of the age intensified this
mutual attraction. As holy, consecrated young men, they cherished a secret
sorrow over the unhappy spiritual condition of their countrymen; and their
joy in the recent victories was joy in God and the holy cause for which
religious feeling operates in the formation and maintenance of friendships.
It is true that ALL ARE ONE IN CHRIST and each sees in every other a
member of the household of faith: religiously there is a common interest in
all (I Corinthians 12:26-27). So far, therefore, there is a friendship subsisting
between each member of Christ’s body and every other, as distinguished
from His interest in men of the world. But affection needs for its own life
concentration; and while, therefore, we are in general friendship with all
Christ’s people, and are conscious of a blessed and indestructible bond, the
necessities of our life lead to the formation of personal friendships in which
all ordinary feelings are intensified and beautified by the infusion of a
spiritual element. Some modification of the view just given is requisite in
friendship of Christ for John and the family at
But although the perfect Saviour saw not in others qualities deficient in
Himself, He did see in the ardent John and the tender sympathy and fine
the family at
of in this rough, unspiritual world. His weary heart delighted to rest in such
pure love and sympathy, and He returned the affection a hundredfold.
Ø Its maintenance. The noblest form of friendship needs culture if it is to
be permanent. How David and Jonathan nourished theirs is a matter of
history, and should be noted. Few things are more sad to reflect on than a
broken friendship — it means the embitterment and sad solitariness of two
human beings. No detailed rules can be set for nourishing that which in its
very nature overleaps all formalities and rigid lines. Ordinarily we may
strengthen our friendships by cherishing a conviction of their sacredness —
not to be rudely handled and lightly thought of; by making it a point to
secure sufficient interaction or interchange of feeling (Proverbs 18:24);
by a studied respect for the minor differences which advancing age and
changed circumstances may develop; by prayer for the blessing of God on
each other; and, if possible, by sharing in some common work for Christ.
Why should not friendships continue through life?
True Friendship (vs. 1-4)
(References: ch. 19:1-5; 20:1-23; 23:16-18.)
1. Friendship is a mutual affection between persons of congenial minds,
arising out of their esteem for each other’s excellence, and expressing itself
in kindly offices. Attachment to kindred is in some respects surpassed by
that which is felt towards the friend “who is even as thine own soul”
(Deuteronomy 13:6). In allusion to it “Abraham was called the friend
of God” (II Chronicles 20:7; Isaiah 41:8; James 2:23) —
possibly in the first instance by God Himself; and “God spake to Moses as a
man to his friend” (Exodus 33:11). The Book of Proverbs abounds in
statements concerning the worth and claims of friendship (Proverbs
17:17; 18:24; 27:6, 9-10, 17). And Jesus said to His disciples, “I have
called you friends” (<431515>John 15:15).
2. Much that is usually called friendship is not worthy of the name. “There
are three things that engender friendship:
The first two do not beget true friendship, for as soon as the profit or pleasure
ceaseth, friendship is gone; but virtue only maketh love and friendship to
3. The true friendship which subsisted between Jonathan and David
“shines for all ages an eternal type.” It is “the first Biblical instance of such
a dear companionship as was common in
Christendom imitated, but never surpassed, in modern works of fiction”
Orestes and Pylades, Damon and Pythias, Nisus and Euryalus.
4. The friendship of Jonathan toward David (the formation of which is here
described) was Divinely provided as a means of guarding the life of the
latter from the attacks of Saul, and of preserving his loyalty to the king and
his faith in God. “Thy love to me was wonderful” (II Samuel 1:26). On
the other hand, that of David toward Jonathan exerted an elevating and
sanctifying influence upon him. Of true friendship observe that:
virtuous, generous, and devout. They were one in “the love of virtue and
the fear of God.” Persons destitute of these principles can neither esteem
the excellence of others nor be esteemed for their own. “We are so formed
by nature that there should be a certain social tie among all; stronger,
however, as each approaches each. Now friendship is nothing else than a
complete union of feeling on all subjects, Divine and human, accompanied
by a kindly feeling and attachment. The entire strength of friendship
consists in an entire agreement of inclinations, pursuits, and sentiments”
“A generous friendship no cold medium knows,
Burns with one love, with one resentment glows”
“A good man is the best friend, and therefore soonest to be chosen, longest
to be retained, and, indeed, never to be parted with, unless he ceases to be
that for which he was chosen” (Jeremiah Taylor).
made an end of speaking unto Saul,” in which he doubtless said much more
than is recorded, the soul of Jonathan was knit (linked or chained) with the
soul of David, etc. (v. 1). Nothing is said of Jonathan at the time of
David’s conflict with Goliath. He may have been absent; or, if present, not
permitted to risk his life in the encounter. Perhaps his faith and courage
were not strong enough. But “he loved that which went beyond his own
spirit, yet was of the same heroic order. He saw in David a higher and
greater Jonathan, the ideal of his own actual life, himself transfigured and
perfected. What he had dreamed he might be he beheld in David” (B. Kent).
He admired the faith, courage, modesty, and moral excellence which lay
beneath the “outward appearance.” “Now they are worthy of friendship in
whom there exists a reason why they should be loved; a rare class, for in
truth all that is excellent is RARE” (
loved him as his own soul” (vs. 1, 3; ch. 20:17); with the same
kind and the same measure of affection. Hence the sympathy, generosity,
fidelity, and constancy which he displayed. A friend is “another self.”
“Though judgment must collect the materials of the goodly structure of
friendship, it is affection that gives the cement” (Melmoth). “It really seems
to consist in loving rather than being loved. It is the wishing a person what
we think good for his sake, and not for our own, and, as far as is in our
power, the exerting ourselves to procure it. And a friend is he who
entertains and meets a return of this feeling” (Aristotle, ‘Ethics,’ 8.;
‘Rhetoric,’ 2). “I hope I do not break the fifth commandment if I conceive
I may love my friends before the nearest of my blood, even those to whom
I owe the principles of life. I have loved my friend as I do virtue, my soul,
my God” (Sir T. Browne, ‘Religio Medici’).
firmly joined, grappled together “as with hooks of steel.” “A friend loveth
at all times” (Proverbs 17:17) in adversity as well as in prosperity; and his
friendship endures the strain caused by conflicting interests, misrepresentation,
and many imperfections; it may even be said to be “one soul dwelling in two
bodies.” “Now the foundation of that steadfastness and constancy which we
seek in friendship, is sincerity; for nothing is steadfast which is INSINCERE”
composed of the best elements of nature, is not exempt from its mutability
and frailty; but friendship founded on religion is spiritual, and therefore
unchanging and imperishable” (R. Hall, ‘Works,’ 5.).
David made a covenant,” etc. (v. 3; ch. 20:16-17). In it they gave and
received assurance of affection, agreed to be faithful to each other
under all circumstances, and called the Lord in whom they trusted to
be witness between them; to it they were impelled by the strength of their
love and “a loftier necessity of finding and loving in one another, if possible
in a yet higher degree, the purely Divine power already felt within, and thus
mutually living under its influence” (Ewald); and by it their friendship was
rendered sacred and strong and permanently established. In times when
“the love of many waxes cold and iniquity abounds” (Matthew 24:12),
men of a common faith and love toward God do well to draw closely
together and strengthen each other’s hearts and hands by sacred vows.
stripped himself of the robe that was upon him,” etc. (v. 4). He gave him
what best expressed the gift of himself, and what would continually remind
David of his friend and increase his confidence and love. It was little that
David could give him in return of an outward kind, but he gave him
confidence for confidence, love for love, life for life. Friendship is practical,
self-sacrificing, and helpful, and gives of its best. “David is seen in
Jonathan’s clothes that we may take notice he is Jonathan’s second self.
Our Lord Jesus Christ has thus showed His love to us, that He stripped
Himself to clothe us, humbled Himself to enrich us. Nay, He did more than
Jonathan — He clothed himself with our rags, whereas Jonathan did not put
on David’s” (Matthew Henry). MAY WE VALUE THE FRIENDSHIP
OF CHRIST BEYOND ANY OTHER!
Divine Friendship (v. 4)
“He loved him as his own soul” (v. 3). Human friendship is a shadow of
Divine. The greatest and best Friend is GOD IN CHRIST JESUS! Happy is
every one who can say from the heart, “This is my beloved, and this is my friend”
(Song of Solomon 5:16). Consider:
Ø Rationality: capacity of thought, voluntary choice, moral esteem.
“Amidst the ashes of our collapsed nature there slumber certain sparks of
celestial fire” (Owen).
Ø Reconciliation; inasmuch as man is alienated from God, and under
Ø Renewal in righteousness and true holiness, so that we may be
“partakers of the Divine nature” (II Peter 1:4). “Friendship is a
union of souls, and souls can be united only where there is more
or less accord” (Amos 3:3).
render it in every respect transcendently excellent. But notice more
Ø Its disinterestedness. “He first loved us,” with a pure, free,
condescending, self-sacrificing love. “Greater love hath no man,” etc.
Ø Its faithfulness.
Ø Its constancy. “The love of friends of this world is defective in three
respects — they begin to love late, cease early, love little. But the
love of God is an UNEQUALLED LOVE! He loves us:
o without beginning,
o without intermission, and
o without end” (Nouet).
fellowship with Him.
Ø Counsel, warning, rebuke. Reproofs are “the graver looks of love.”
Ø Defense, support, and effectual help.
Ø Sympathy, encouragement, and everlasting consolation. “And now,”
said Jonathan Edwards, on his death bed, turning from his earthly
friends toward the
approaching darkness, “where is Jesus
my true and never failing Friend?”
desire their continuance.
Ø To cherish proper feelings toward Him — confidence, affection, and
delight in talking with him.
Ø To do those things that please him. “Ye are my friends if ye do
whatsoever I command you.” (John 15:14)
Ø Not to be ashamed of Him, but to confess His name before men;
to love and serve His friends for His sake, and to seek in all things
HIS HONOR AND GLORY!
5 “And David went out whithersoever Saul sent him, and behaved
himself wisely: and Saul set him over the men of war, and he was
accepted in the sight of all the people, and also in the sight of
Saul’s servants.” David went out. I.e. went on military expeditions (compare
v. 30). As the verb has thus a technical signification, it makes a complete
sense, and the verse should be translated, “And David went forth (i.e. on
warlike enterprises); whithersoever Saul sent him he prospered, and Saul
set him over the men of war.” These expeditions were not upon a very
large scale; for it is not until v. 13 that we read of David being made
“captain over a thousand.” Still, even while only a centurion in rank, yet, as
being in constant attendance upon the king, he would often temporarily
have the command of larger bodies of men, or would go on campaigns as
one of the king’s officers. As it is mentioned that his promotion caused no
envy because of his great merits, it follows that it was rapid enough to have
given occasion to ill will under ordinary circumstances. Behaved himself
wisely. This is the primary meaning of the verb; but as success is the result
of wise conduct, it constantly signifies to prosper. This verse is a summary
of events which may have occupied a very considerable space of time. It
was only gradually that David’s fame became so great as to rouse all the
worst feelings in Saul’s mind.
SAUL’S HATRED OF DAVID (vs. 6-16).
6 “And it came to pass as they came, when David was returned from
the slaughter of the Philistine, that the women came out of all cities
joy, and with instruments of musick.” When David was returned from the
slaughter of the Philistine. Or more probably, as in the margin, “of the
Philistines.” The allusion is not to the combat with Goliath, but to one of the
expeditions referred to in v. 5, in which David had gained some decisive victory.
The women would not have described the slaughter of one champion as the
slaying of ten thousand, nor would there have been any contrast between
this act and the military enterprises of Saul. Probably he too would have
looked with indifference upon this Oriental exaggeration of the daring
bravery of a boy; but what galled him was David’s continual success in
repeated campaigns. The Philistine means the whole people of that name;
and as the war between them and Saul lasted all the days of Saul’s life, and
was his main kingly work, he saw with envy the rapid growth of David’s
reputation; and when, after some noble achievement, the women gave
David an ovation, and declared in their songs that he had achieved a
success ten times as great as Saul, an outburst of ill feeling was the result.
Saul suddenly became aware that the young captain on whose shoulders he
had devolved the chief labors of the war had supplanted him in the
popular estimation, and hatred took the place of the good feeling which he
had previously entertained towards him. The women came out of all
grand occasion, and probably to the conclusion of a peace between the two
nations. The battle in the
years of warfare, during which David developed those great military
qualities which made him subsequently the founder of the wide empire over
which Solomon reigned. It was unendurable for Saul, himself a great
soldier, to find, when the war at last was over, that the people recognized
in his lieutenant higher military qualities than they had discovered in
himself. With tabrets. See on ch. 10:5. With joy. As this is
placed between the names of two instruments of music, it must mean some
kind of joyous shouting or singing to the sound of their tabrets. With
instruments of music. Hebrew, with triangles, a very ancient but effective
instrument for an outdoor procession accompanied with dancing.
7 “And the women answered one another as they played, and said,
Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands.”
The women answered. I.e. they sang alternately. It was this
alternate singing which led to the psalms being composed in parallel
sentences, and not in metre; and we from the temple service have inherited
our method of chanting antiphonally. As they played. The word is
ambiguous, and to an English reader would suggest the idea of the women
playing upon the musical instruments. It usually refers to merriment, and so
in Zechariah 8:5 it is used of the children playing in the streets, but
especially it refers to dancing. Thus in II Samuel 2:14 it is used of a war
dance ending in a real conflict; and again (ibid. ch. 6:5, 21; IChronicles 13:8;
15:29) of David dancing to instruments of music, before the ark. Michal
probably would not have despised David for playing an instrument of music
during a religious ceremony; it was the posturing of the dance which seemed
to her beneath the dignity of a king. So these women danced in alternate
choruses to the beating of their tambourines and triangles. In Judges 16:25,
where, however, it is in a different conjugation, the verb is translated “to make
sport.” Really Samson
was compelled to dance
before the Philistines.
8 “And Saul was very wroth, and the saying displeased him; and he
said, They have ascribed unto David ten thousands, and to me they
have ascribed but thousands: and what can he have more but the
kingdom? 9 And Saul eyed David from that day and forward.”
What can he have more? etc. Literally, “And there is
beside for him only the kingdom. Though many years had passed since
Samuel pronounced Saul’s deposition, and the choice of another in his
place (ch. 15:28), yet it was not a thing that a king could ever
forget. No doubt he had often looked out for signs of the person destined
to be his successor; and now, when he had stood powerless before the
enemy, a shepherd boy had stepped forth and given him the victory. And
this stripling, taken to be his companion in arms, had shown so great
qualities that the people reckoned him at ten times Saul’s worth. Had Saul
been the high-minded man he was when appointed to the kingdom
(ch. 11:13), he would have thrust such thoughts from him. But his mind
had become cankered with discontent and brooding thoughts, and so he
eyed David from that day and forward. In many nations the eye of an
envious man is supposed to have great power of injury. Here it means that
Saul cast furtive glances at David full of malice and ill will.
Love and Jealousy (vs. 1-9)
One great exploit performed in the sight of two armies took David at once
and forever out of obscurity. Thenceforth he was a man much observed.
The quiet pastoral life at
resumed. Sudden success brings rapid distinction, but also brings trials and
risks from which the obscure are free. David leaped at a bound into honor
and fame, but for that very reason he found himself at the beginning of his
troubles. Well that, before those troubles began to press him, he knew the
Lord as his refuge; well, too, that he won to himself in the very sphere of
danger a loving and faithful friend.
be jealous of David, it was the Prince Jonathan. He was a gallant soldier,
and here was a greater hero to eclipse him. He had by personal valor
gained a signal victory over the Philistines, and here was a personal
courage still more brilliant, and a discomfiture of the enemy more easy and
more complete. He was the heir to the throne, and if this youth should
aspire to rule as well as
supplant. Yet in this generous prince there appeared not even a shade of
envy. He saw in the young shepherd a congenial spirit — a temper
adventurous as his own, with a faith in God firm and ardent as his own.
The soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David. It was good for
Jonathan to find a friend who could evoke an admiration and affection so
intense. He could no longer look up to his own father with respect or
confidence. In the circle or court about the king the finer qualities of
Jonathan’s nature found no harmony, no encouragement. But here was one
who could understand him, and in whom he could see and admire what a
cared for, that his pure and devout patriotism was appreciated, and that he
had the fraternal sympathy of at least one in that higher grade of life on
which he was now so suddenly to enter. The time was at hand when such
strong and faithful love would be very precious.
have nothing but honor. The king obeyed his good impulse, and gave the
young hero high promotion among his officers, with the evident approval
of the soldiers and all the people. But a black cloud of jealousy soon
gathered. Saul could not bear to hear this new champion praised more than
himself; and he began to brood over the thought that this might be the man
at whom Samuel hinted, to whom the Lord would give the kingdom.
“What can he have more but the kingdom? And Saul eyed David from that
day forward.” We soon read of the jealous king trying to take David’s life.
Oh, cruel envy! No worthiness, no goodness is a defense against it. The
sight of good excites it to evil. It is the passion of a mean spirit; or, if it
fastens on a character which has some great qualities, it tends to weaken
and degrade it. Indeed, no more wretched fate can befall any man than to
be filled with envy, and so to chafe and jibe at all who surpass him; to
become a prey to jealousy, and mistrust or disparage all who seem to
please God or man more than he. How fatal for Saul himself was this
jealous passion! By the help of David the king might have recovered
something of his lost health and happiness, and repaired some of the errors
of his reign. But once jealousy took possession of him all this was
impossible. Saul became gloomy, crafty, and cruel; and the more David did
for the kingdom, behaving himself wisely in camp and court, the more was
he watched with envious eyes, and pursued with sullen hatred. “Wrath is
cruel, and anger is outrageous; but who is able to stand before envy?”
(Proverbs 27:4) This seemed an ominous beginning for David; but it served
its purpose in the training through which God meant him to pass. After Saul
was anointed he was put through no such ordeal. The slight opposition which
was made to his sudden elevation
was soon surmounted, and the son of
stepped up to the throne of
ominous. It was a sign that God was to have little service or glory from
King Saul. The son of Jesse had a higher destiny, and therefore he was
tried and proved. His faith was tested as by fire; his discretion was ripened
by the knowledge that jealous eyes were watching him; his patience was
perfected; his staying power developed through an experience hard and
David in his youth, and on the threshold of his public career, overcame the
strong enemy of
threshold of His public life, encountered the adversary of the people of
God, and overcame the tempter in the wilderness. Then, as David endured
much before he reached the throne, so Jesus Christ endured much before
God raised Him up and gave Him glory. And during that time of His lowly
suffering Jesus was, like his human ancestor David, solaced by love and
pursued by envy.
Ø Loved. The Son of David had the applause of the multitude, and bore
Himself so wisely that the keenest observers could find no fault in him.
Withal He had the power of knitting souls to Himself, so as to make them
willing to forsake all for His sake. Now this was always a strong
characteristic of David — a charm of character and bearing which attached
to him many lovers and friends. Jonathan loved him in youth as his own
soul. His warriors were so devoted to him, that he had but to wish for
water from the
ranks of the Philistines to draw water and bring it to their chief. Ittai the
Gittite and others are evidences that David retained this attaching power
even in old age. And did not the Son of David, with an attraction which we
cannot analyze or define, draw to Himself the sons of Zebedee, and the sons
of Jonas, the brother and sisters at Bethany, Mary of Magdala, and many
more who found in His companionship and favor all that their hearts
desired? Did he not afterwards draw to Himself the persecutor, Saul of
not thousands on thousands who, though they have not seen Him, love Him,
and in whose eyes He is never more worthy of love than when
contemplated as One despised and rejected of men, “a Man of sorrows,
and acquainted with grief”? (Isaiah 53) It was a solace to Jesus in His
deepest suffering that they who knew Him best loved Him. How often He
dwelt on it, on the night in which He was betrayed! “If ye love me keep
my commandments” “He that loveth me shall be loved of my Father.”
“The Father Himself loveth you, because ye have loved me.” Just as it
comforted David when hunted and proscribed to know that Jonathan loved
him truly and well, so it comforted the Son of David, that though men might
hate and kill Him, there were those who loved Him truly and well, and
whom neither death nor life could separate from His love. (Romans 8:38-39)
Ø Hated. We have seen how David’s courage and discretion stirred Saul’s
jealousy. A man so rare in his qualities, so evidently fitted for greatness,
drew after him eyes of cruel envy. So it befell the Son of David. Because
Jesus drew to Him disciples and friends, the priests and rabbis hated Him.
Because He was followed by multitudes, the rulers took counsel together
against Him. Because He answered and acted wisely, the scribes and
Pharisees were filled with malice against Him. Wherever He went, jealous
eyes watched Him, and crafty questions laid wait for Him. The Scripture
was fulfilled: “They hated me without a cause.” Pontius Pilate easily
detected the motive (no just cause)which led the Jewish Council to arraign
the Son of David at His judgment seat. “He knew that for envy they had
delivered him.” So it is today. Jesus Christ is proclaimed as mighty to save.
The world is being filled with His name, and everywhere cries ascend of
“Hosanna to the Son of David.” And how is it taken? Some love, but some
also hate. Some feel as Jonathan did. They are quite drawn out of
themselves TO THE LORD JESUS. He is, He must be, their Beloved and
their Friend. And how significant of His greatness it is that He, now unseen,
awakens in human hearts a faith as strong, an attachment as ardent, as
thrilled the breasts of apostles who accompanied Him and women who
Him as truly and served Him as enthusiastically as Peter and John, who had.
Christians of the eleventh century, like Bernard of Clairvaux, or of the
fifteenth, like him who wrote as Thomas a Kempis, clave to Him as
devoutly as the Fathers who lived within a few generations of the apostles.
And comparative moderns, like Herbert, Bengel, Rutherford, Madame
Guyon, Brainerd, Whitefield, the Wesleys, Toplady, Hervey, Henry
Martyn, McCheyne, Adolph Monod, have held him as precious as did the
most fervent spirits of earlier times. (Consider Moody, Spurgeon, in our
day, Billy Graham, Charles Stanley, and those who have served being
nameless to all EXCEPT TO GOD! - CY – 2016) Jesus Christ has always
known how to draw men to Himself, and hold them by cords of spiritual
attraction, so that they have loved Him as their own souls. Others, however,
eye Him as Saul eyed David, in order to find fault with Him. Oh, what a
triumph it would give to a certain class of men if they could only find a blot
in the Lord Jesus; if they could show Him to have been no better or higher
than other men! But it cannot be done. HIS WAY IS PERFECT! His
character, however closely scrutinised, reveals NO FLAW! It comes to
this, that men hate Him because He is so good. They love the darkness
rather than the light, BECAUSE THEIR DEEDS ARE EVIL!
10 “And it came to pass on the morrow, that the evil spirit from God
came upon Saul, and he prophesied in the midst of the house: and
David played with his hand, as at other times: and there was a
javelin in Saul’s hand. 11 And Saul cast the javelin; for he said, I will smite
David even to the wall with it. And David avoided out of his presence twice.”
It came to pass on the morrow. The day had been a time
of public triumph, and yet one of the chief actors goes home to a sleepless
couch, because he thinks that another has received higher honor than
himself. His melancholy deepens till a fit of insanity comes on. For the evil
spirit from God came upon Saul. Literally, “ an evil spirit (breath) of
God descended mightily upon Saul” (see ch. 16:15). Just as all
mighty enthusiasms for good come from God, so do strong influences for
evil, but in a different way. In all noble acts men are fellow workers with
God; when evil carries them away it is of God, because He it is who has
made and still maintains the laws of our moral nature; but it is by the
working of general laws, and not by any special gift or grace bestowed by
Him. Saul had brooded over his disappointment, and cherished feelings of
discontent at his own lot and of envy at the good of others to such an
extent that his mind gave way before the diseased workings of his
imagination. And so he lost all control over himself, and prophesied. The
conjugation employed here (Hithpahel) is never used of real, true prophecy
(which is always the Niphal), but of a bastard imitation of it. Really Saul
was in a state of frenzy, unable to master himself, speaking words of which
he knew not the meaning, and acting like a man possessed. In all this there
was something akin to the powerful emotions which agitated the true
prophet, only it was not a holy influence, but one springing from violent
passions and a disturbed state of the mind. In order to soothe him David
played with his hand, as at other times, but without the desired effect.
On the contrary, Saul brandished the javelin, which he carried as a sort of
sceptre in his hand, with such violence that David twice had to escape from
this threat of injury by flight. It is not certain that Saul actually threw the
javelin. Had he done so it would be difficult to account for David escaping
from it twice. After such an act of violence he would scarcely have trusted
himself a second time in Saul’s presence. Instead of Saul cast the javelin,
the Septuagint in the Alexandrian codex and the Chaldee render lifted, i.e.
retaining the same consonants, they put vowels which refer the verb to
another root. But even with the present vowels it may mean “made as
though he would cast,” or aimed “the javelin.” On a later occasion Saul
actually threw the javelin, and struck the wall where David had been sitting
Some Dangers of Persistent Sin (vs. 5-11)
The facts are:
1. David, behaving wisely in his public position, wins favor with the
people, and in the welcome to him on his return from the battle the women
ascribe to him, in their song, higher praise than to Saul.
2. The fact excites Saul’s envy henceforth.
3. In a fit of envious rage Saul seeks to smite David.
The victory over Goliath brought Saul and David into a proximity highly favorable to
the development of their respective characters. Their mutual influence acted
powerfully on the main springs of life; and as these were so utterly different
in moral quality, so the sequel reveals very diverse conduct, We have in
this section an instance of:
(ch. 15:26) and his entire separation from Saul (ibid. vs. 34-35), as also the
threatening attitude of the Philistines, were certainly enough to depress the
spirit of the king; and his melancholy was but the outward sign to men of his
painful secret. But the appearance of David, and the consequent defeat of the
enemy, was an unlooked for gleam of light, and at once raised hopes which of
late had been lost. He even set David over his men of war. The old prosperity
was returning; the kingdom was saved; Saul was not dishonored in battle. After
all, with such helpers as David, might not the dreaded doom be avoided? Thus
do we see a man, conscious of moral degeneracy, and sensible of being rejected,
putting an interpretation on events according to his wishes, and not from a
perception of their real bearing. The heart, when destitute of the spirit of true
repentance, obstinately clings to unwarranted hope, and, by its own
perverse ingenuity, obliterates or weakens the force of hard facts and moral
laws (ibid. vs. 26-29). In the eye of God the recent victory was the
public presentation of the “neighbor,” as a preliminary to his supplanting
Saul; in the eye of Saul it was the postponement, if not the rendering void,
of the dreaded doom. The tendency thus to misinterpret facts is common
to sinful men. An impenitent heart is unwilling to believe in the vindication
of justice. Not being in moral sympathy with the purposes of God, it will
not, if possible, see those purposes in process of realization. The very
riches of goodness are perverted into an occasion for persistence in sin
(Romans 2:4), and the temporal prosperity of life, despite the voice of
conscience and the clear word of God, is supposed to be a sign that the
issue will not be so fearful as was anticipated (Psalm 10:6, 11; Hebrews 2:3).
The mass of the people were quick in recognizing the fact
that David was the hero of the day, and only expressed the real truth in
ascribing to him his “ten thousands,” and to Saul his “thousands.” Their
instincts led them to honor above the king the man who was proved to be
better than the king. But while correct in their appreciation of fact, they
had no adequate, if any, perception of the moral bearings of it. Samuel,
probably Jesse, and a few other devout men, would trace in David’s
exaltation of the “name of the Lord” (ch. 17:45-47) a spiritual
power and a spiritual man
destined to work wonders for
philosophy that trusts the popular mind in reference to the recognition of
the broad facts of life. It is this faith which lies at the foundation of
constitutional governments and the judicial administration of our own
country. The common sense of mankind is a safe guide in ordinary matters
of fact. But by reason of the low condition of man’s spiritual life, and his
inveterate proneness to look at the “things that are seen” (II Corinthians 4:18),
the mass of men do not recognize quickly the moral and spiritual bearings of
facts. There is a moral and spiritual “intention,” to use a logical term, in
human facts; they carry with them qualities that determine the future; they
exhibit to the spiritually enlightened powers that will germinate, and that,
too, not always in the form desired by the populace (Matthew 16:3).
that Saul cherished impenitent feelings when told of his sin. As a consequence,
he tried not to believe that the threatened disaster would come. One of the
consequences of this mental condition was, that as soon as he heard the
honest, popular approval of David’s prowess, he, dreading lest after all
the decree might be fulfilled, eyed David as a rival, and fell into the
grievous sin of ceaseless and cruel ENVY! The grievous character of this
sin is seen if we notice its manifestation, and the main features are true of
Ø It blinded him to actual facts. It was true that David had slain “his ten
thousands,” as compared with Saul’s “thousands;” but to the envious eye
this was as though it were not. Its reality must not be tolerated. The
Pharisees in like manner were willfully blind to the fact that Christ had
opened the eyes of the blind.
Ø It led to the imputation of base motives. He at once charged David with
readiness for treasonous designs on the kingdom. The pure man was
deemed impure. This is the common practice of narrow and base men, as
appeared in the instance of Joseph (Genesis 37:8, 11), and of Christ
Ø It made himself perfectly wretched. His life lost all joy and hope, and
suspicion and fear entered in. And whoever falls into this sin finds that it
slayeth him (Job 5:2), and is as rottenness to the bones (Proverbs 14:30).
Ø It impelled to deeds of blood. The thrust of the javelin was virtual
murder. The same process wrought in the heart of Cain, of the scribes and
Pharisees (Matthew 27:18; Mark 15:10), and is active in many who
are guilty of no overt act (I John 3:15). The dark thoughts, the
unspoken intents of envious minds; who shall declare them? How true it is
that he who hardeneth his heart, not bowing in true penitence, submissive
to all God’s judgments, falleth into mischief (Proverbs 28:14) again and
again, till at last he is destroyed suddenly and without remedy
(compare ch. 31:3-4; Proverbs 29:1;).
The key to the future of the individual and national life is to be sought in
moral conditions. It is important that the popular mind should be trained to estimate
things in their moral relations.
12 “And Saul was afraid of David, because the LORD was with him,
and was departed from Saul. 13 Therefore Saul removed him from him, and
made him his captain over a thousand; and he went out and came in before
the people. 14 And David behaved himself wisely in all his ways; and the
LORD was with him. 15 Wherefore when Saul saw that he behaved himself
very wisely, he was afraid of him. 16 But all Israel and Judah loved David,
because he went out and came in before them.” Saul was afraid of David.
A new feeling. To his jealousy succeeded a sense of powerlessness, as knowing
that a higher power was with David, while he had lost the Divine protection.
This miserable feeling grew upon the unhappy king, till before the battle of
Gilboa we find him with all his old heroic spirit gone, a miserable wreck, seeking
for comfort at the hands of a woman of the most worthless kind (ch.28:5, 7, 20).
In this despondent state of mind he dismisses David from attendance
upon him, but in an honorable manner, giving him the command of a
thousand men, at the head of whom he went out and came in before the
people, i.e. in a public capacity, as an officer of state. As Saul seems
entirely to have neglected the internal administration of the kingdom, this
would refer to military expeditions (see on v. 5); and in these David
behaved himself wisely. Rather, “prospered” (see on v. 5). His great
success only increased Saul’s fears; but both
David, now that in this higher command they had full opportunities for
judging of his high qualities. Thus again his removal from his place in
Saul’s bodyguard only served to make him better known. The separate
been written at a post-Solomonic date, though the distinction was a very
old one (see on ch. 11:8).
The Disturbing Power of Goodness (vs. 12-16)
The facts are:
1. Saul, seeing the signs of God’s presence with David, fears him, and
removes him to a distance.
2. Increasing wisdom of David adds to Saul’s fear, and secures the favor
of the people.
3. The departure of God from Saul explains his self-abandonment to the
influence of this fear.
We have here a statement of the diverse relation of God to David and Saul, He was
with the one and was departed from the other, — and the consequences ensuing
thereon in their respective lives. Each man made his own position, and was
answerable for the state he was in and attained to; nevertheless, the presence
and absence of God accounted for much. Thus, also, we have the diverse effect
of the same wise and holy life upon different persons — the diversity arising
from the moral condition of the persons acted upon.
THE SAME. There are certain natural relationships which God sustains to
all men, in all time, irrespective of their character. His power upholds them
in life; His equitable rulership is never withdrawn. All this was true in
reference to David and Saul, while it was equally true that God was to the
one what He was not to the other. There was the relation of moral nearness
and support to David, and of moral abandonment and disapproval to Saul.
The Lord “knoweth the way of the righteous” (Psalm 1:6). His delight
is in His people (ibid. ch. 22:8). “The proud He knoweth afar off”
(Psalm 138:6), and is “angry with the wicked every day” (Psalm 7:11).
The effects of moral nearness and support are seen in the instance of
David: — piety was sustained and rendered beautiful in development;
abilities, under such favoring influences, were more fully and evenly
exercised; the vision being cleared, practical sagacity found wider scope;
and the Divine energy acting everywhere in harmony with moral ends,
opportunities would be created for usefulness, and the minds of men
disposed to favor. On the other hand, moral nearness and support being
wanting to Saul, the evils long cherished found more unrestrained exercise;
conscience became more remorseful; natural abilities were impaired in their
development, and foolish deeds became habitual.
MAN’S PREVIOUS CONDUCT. The recent history of David shows that
from a youth he had quietly and consistently followed the measure of light
vouchsafed to him; while Saul’s course reveals a deliberate and persistent
preference of his own will to the revealed will of God. Grace was added to
valued grace. LIGHT disregarded had become DARKNESS! In this diverse
consequence there is nothing unusual. It is the New Testament law that “to
him that hath shall be given, and from him that hath not shall be taken away
even that he hath” (Matthew 13:12; Hosea 11:8; Luke 19:42; John 12:35-40;
I Timothy 4:8).
MAN IS AN OCCASION OF TROUBLE TO THE DELIBERATELY
WICKED. While David won the affection of the mass of the people, his
name and presence were disturbing to Saul. “Saul was afraid of David,
because the Lord was with him, and was departed from Saul.” The reasons
for this effect on Saul are obvious. David’s holy life and glorying in the
name of the Lord (ch. 17:45-47) revealed by contrast the
spiritual condition of Saul to himself; and, being destitute of the spirit of
repentance, he trembled under the silent rebuke. There was also a reminder
of joys and privileges once within reach, but now gone forever; and he
could not but associate the rising character of David with the predicted
doom of his own monarchy. It is a well known fact that goodness does
exercise a disturbing influence in the domain of sin. Goodness in its own
nature is a repellant power. It creates a commotion whenever it enters the
realms of darkness. The powers of evil know it as their natural foe, and
quail in consciousness of its predestined triumph. There appears to have
been fear and excitement among the evil spirits when the holy Saviour
drew near to their sphere of influence on earth (Matthew 4:1-11; 16:18;
Mark 5:7; Luke 22:53; Colossians 2:15). While the natural effect of
embodied goodness on minds not bent on sin is to soothe, to
cheer, and to gladden, as when Christ drew near to the poor and needy, the
sick and penitent, and as we all feel when a very wise and holy man enters
a home or a sick chamber, yet the effect is the reverse when sin is being
deliberately practiced. It is in this way that we may understand Herod’s fear
on mention of the name of John, Ahab’s fear of Elijah, and the evident
uneasiness of scribes and Pharisees at the presence of Christ.
We see the value to the ordinary affairs of life of a consciousness of the
favour of God (Psalm 30.). We must expect the actual antagonism of those who
have rejected God in so far as we come into contact with them, but this should
be regarded as proof of the truth of our religion.
Envy (vs. 6-16)
“And Saul eyed David from that day forward” (v. 9). How extraordinary
are the moral contrasts which are often presented in human life! The
friendship of Jonathan here stands in opposition to the envy of Saul. Hardly
had David experienced the one before he was exposed to the other. “His
victory had a double issue, Jonathan’s love and Saul’s envy, which God so
mixed that the one was a remedy of the other” (Hall). On the day of public
rejoicing the seeds of jealousy, envy, and hatred were sown in his heart. He
eyed David not with favor, as before, but with dislike on account of the
honor given to him beyond himself. The general suspicion which he
entertained in consequence of the intimations of Samuel concerning his
successor also seems to have fastened on him as the man; and henceforth
he looked upon him as a dangerous rival. “Mingling with his constitutional
malady, it poisoned his whole future relations with David.” Of envy notice
was congenial and ready prepared by:
Ø Alienation from God and conviction of His disfavor.
Ø Selfishness and morbid concentration of thought upon himself.
Ø Self-will, pride, and worldly ambition, still continuing and increasing.
Ø Wrathful passion. He was very wroth, and the saying displeased him
(v. 8). “He who is apt to feel indignation, feels pain at those who are
undeservedly successful; but the envious man, going beyond him,
feels pain at every one’s success” (Aristotle, ‘Ethics’). (Envy shoots
at others but wounds herself)
Ø Popular estimation. “They have ascribed unto David ten thousands,”
etc. (v. 8). “What properly occasions envy is the fruit of the
accomplishments of others; the pre-eminence which the opinion of the
world bestows, or which we dread it will bestow, on their talents above
Ø Successful achievements, from which such preference proceeds. “The
bright day brings out the adder.” Prosperity is generally attended by envy.
Ø Personal excellences. David:
o “behaved himself wisely” (v. 5);
o “very wisely” (v. 15);
o “more wisely than all the servants of Saul” (ver. 30).
He acted prudently, cautiously, skillfully, and therefore prosperously.
“Base envy withers at another’s joy,
And hates the excellence it cannot reach”
Ø Divine approval, which appears in prosperous enterprises. “And Saul
was afraid of David, because the Lord was with him,” etc. (v. 12). “And
Cain was very wroth,” etc. (Genesis 4:5; I John 3:12). The envy felt
at the favor shown to another by God is peculiarly criminal, because of
its opposition to God Himself.
Ø In most cases ingratitude. David had conferred a great benefit on Saul
sent him” (v. 5), and fought his battles; and often soothed his melancholy
with the music of his harp (v. 10).
Ø Injustice. He did him “shame” (ch. 20:34) by entertaining
suspicions of his loyalty and treating him as a traitor.
Ø Ungodliness and all uncharitableness. “Charity envieth not.”
(I Corinthians 13:4) “Envy is the worst of all passions, and feedeth
upon the spirits, and they again upon the body; and so much the more
because it is perpetual, and, as it is said, keepeth no holidays”
to others (Proverbs 27:4) and to the envious man himself (ibid. ch. 14:30);
partly of hatred and partly of grief. “As it shows itself in hatred it
strikes at the person envied; but as it affects a man in the nature of grief it
recoils and does execution upon the envier. It lies at the heart like a worm,
always gnawing and corroding and piercing it with a secret, invisible sting
and poison” (South, ‘Sermons,’ 58.). In Saul it produced:
Ø unrest of soul,
Ø increased subjection to the power of evil — “it came to pass on the
morrow,” etc. (v. 10);
Ø ungovernable rage — “he poised the javelin” twice;
Ø craft and hypocrisy; fear (vs. 11, 15);
Ø continual enmity (v. 21);
Ø deliberate avowal of murderous intentions (ch. 19:1);
Ø open and unceasing persecution;
Ø despair and self-destruction.
“When in the last judgment envy is placed at the bar of God, what an
indictment will he laid against the evil spirit!
Ø The insulting anger of Eliab,
Ø the cruelty of Joseph’s brethren,
Ø the murderous wrath of Cain, and
Ø the greatest share in the greatest crime in the world —
THE CRUCIFYING OF THE LORD OF GLORY!
To cast this demon out of our bosoms before that final condemnation is
one purpose of Jesus, and with all our hearts we should pray for HIS
COMPLETE AND SPEEDY VICTORY! (C Vince).
CONCLUSION: In order to the cure or prevention of this evil passion, seek
a renewed heart; dwell much on the Divine love “that spurns all envying in
its bounty;” estimate aright temporal advantages; entertain lowly thoughts
of self; learn to admire excellence in others, and regard it as if it were your
own; check the first impulse of jealous or envious feeling; and “commit thy
way unto the Lord.” (Psalm 37:5)
“O man! why place thy heart where there doth need
Exclusion of participants in good?
Heaven calls, And, round about you wheeling, courts your gaze
With everlasting beauties. Yet your eye
Turns with fond doting still upon the earth.
Therefore He smites you who discerneth all”
(Dante, ‘Purg.’ 14.)
SAUL, UNDER PRETENCE OF A MARRIAGE
WITH HIS DAUGHTER, PLOTS DAVID’S DEATH
17 “And Saul said to David, Behold my elder daughter Merab, her will
I give thee to wife: only be thou valiant for me, and fight the LORD’s battles.
For Saul said, Let not mine hand be upon him, but let the hand of the Philistines
be upon him. 18 And David said unto Saul, Who am I? and what is my life, or
my father’s family in
Behold my elder daughter Merab. Saul had promised that he would give his daughter
in marriage to whosoever should slay the giant (ch.17:25); and not only was there in
this the honor of a close alliance with the royal house, but, as it was usual to give
large presents to the father in return for the daughter’s hand, the gift had also a
substantial value. After long delay Saul now refers to this promise, not so
much with the intention of fulfilling it, as of leading David on to enterprises
which might cost him his life. The marriage may have been deferred at first
on account of David’s youth; the subject is now revived, but with evil
intentions. My eider daughter is literally “my daughter, the great one,”
while Michal is “the little one,” a way of speaking used only where there
are but two daughters. Be thou valiant, etc. This exhortation would be
natural under the circumstances; but Saul hoped that David, in order to
secure so great a prize, would be encouraged to undertake rash adventures.
For Saul said. I.e. in himself; his purpose was to urge David to perpetual
fighting, that so in some rash undertaking he might be slam. Thus Saul s
malice grows, and though not prepared as yet to put David to death
himself, he would have felt relief if he had died by the fortune of war.
David answers modestly and discreetly that he is not worthy of so great an
honor. We are not to suppose that he discerned Saul’s treachery, which
only came-to light afterwards. What is my life, — i.e. my condition, — or
my father’s family? The or is not in the Hebrew, and the meaning is,
What is my condition, even my father’s family? etc. David’s condition or
rank in life was settled by the rank which his father held.
19 “But it came to pass at the time when Merab Saul’s daughter should have
been given to David, that she was given unto Adriel the Meholathite to wife.”
Merab… was given unto Adriel. A large dower was doubtless offered to Saul in
return for his daughter, and, as he had never wished David to have her, he proved
untrue to his word. For the unhappy death of the sons of Merab and Adriel (Michal?)
see II Samuel 21:8.
20 “And Michal Saul’s daughter loved David: and they told Saul, and
the thing pleased him. 21 And Saul said, I will give him her, that she may
be a snare to him, and that the hand of the Philistines may be against him.
Wherefore Saul said to David, Thou shalt this day be my son in law in the
one of the twain.” Michal… loved David. Probably there was some short
lapse of time between Merab’s marriage and the growth of this affection,
the news of which pleased Saul. He was not an ungenerous man, and
possibly may have felt ashamed at having acted so meanly by David after
having exposed him to danger. And yet evil thoughts again are uppermost,
and his purposes are selfish; for either way Saul will be the gainer. David
will probably be slain, he thinks, in trying to get the dowry asked of him;
and if not, at all events he will himself be cleared of the stain of public
dishonesty now resting upon him. Therefore Saul said to David. Not in
person, which accounts for David giving no answer, but through his
servants, as is recounted more fully afterwards.
22 “And Saul commanded his servants, saying, Commune with David
secretly, and say, Behold, the king hath delight in thee, and all his
servants love thee: now therefore be the king’s son in law.
23 And Saul’s servants spake those words in the ears of David. And
David said, Seemeth it to you a light thing to be a king’s son in
law, seeing that I am a poor man, and lightly esteemed?”
Commune, etc. This is a more full and exact account of
what was said summarily in v. 21. We cannot suppose that Saul first
spoke to David himself, and then told his servants to coax him, as this
would also require us to suppose that when offered her by Saul, David
refused Michal in marriage. But we may well believe that he was displeased
at having been deceived, and that the renewed proposal of marriage with
one of the king’s daughters had to be made carefully, as he might naturally
think that there was danger of his being cajoled a second time. David
replies, in fact, very discreetly, saying that to be the king’s son-in-law was
indeed a great honor, but that he was too poor to provide a sufficient
dowry. Strictly the promises given in ch.17:25 bound Saul to
give her without dowry; but it appears quite plainly from David’s words
that he had lost Merab because not able to purchase her as Adriel had
done. For the custom of giving large sums to the bride’s father see
Genesis 34:12; Exodus 22:16-17.
24 “And the servants of Saul told him, saying, On this manner spake
David. 25 And Saul said, Thus shall ye say to David, The king desireth
not any dowry, but an hundred foreskins of the Philistines, to be avenged
of the king’s enemies. But Saul thought to make David fall by the hand
of the Philistines.” David’s answer exactly fell in with Saul’s purposes, and
he forthwith asked as a dowry proof of David having slain a hundred
Philistines. As this slaughter would have to be effected not in regular
warfare, but in a sort of private raid, there would be every likelihood of
David being overpowered by a rapid gathering of the Philistines and slain in
attempting it. It marks the unscrupulous character of ancient warfare that
the lives of enemies should thus be taken, without any public provocation,
for private purposes (compare Judges 14:19).
26 “And when his servants told David these words, it pleased David
well to be the king’s son in law: and the days were not expired.
27 Wherefore David arose and went, he and his men, and slew of the
Philistines two hundred men; and David brought their foreskins,
and they gave them in full tale to the king, that he might be the
king’s son in law. And Saul gave him Michal his daughter to wife.”
Besides the great honor, David, not suspecting any malicious purpose on
Saul’s part, may have hoped that this relationship would put an end to the
miserable state of things which existed between him and Saul. He
harbored no treasonable purposes, and would have gladly served Saul
faithfully if he had been permitted. The nature also of the dowry fell in with
his adventurous and war-loving disposition. The days were not expired.
Wherefore, etc. A difficulty arises here from the wrong division of the
verses, and from our translators having rendered the clauses as if they were
independent of each other. The Hebrew is, “And the days were not full,
and David arose, etc. The dowry was to be given within a fixed time, and
before it had expired David, who had been forming his plans, set out with
his men and made an incursion into the Philistine territory, whence he
brought back to the king twice as many foreskins as had been stipulated;
and thereupon Michal became David’s wife.
28 “And Saul saw and knew that the LORD was with David, and that
Michal Saul’s daughter loved him. 29 And Saul was yet the more afraid
of David; and Saul became David’s enemy continually.” It pleased David
well to he the king’s son-in-law. The failure of his evil purpose, and the
knowledge that Michal loved her husband, and would protect him against his
intrigues, and that the marriage had brought rank and influence to David,
(“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love
God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28),
made Saul hate him all the more bitterly, because he could not now openly
put to death one so closely connected with him.
30 “Then the princes of the Philistines went forth: and it came to pass,
after they went forth, that David behaved himself more wisely than
all the servants of Saul; so that his name was much set by.”
The princes of the Philistines went forth. See on v. 5. This
new war was the result of David’s raid, but it only led to an increase of his
fame and popularity. For he behaved himself more wisely. I.e. was more
successful and skillful than any of Saul’s other officers.
David’s Life at Court (vs. 1-30)
On his victory over Goliath, David was conducted by Abner (ch. 14:50) into the
presence of Saul, “with the head of the Philistine in his hand.” He appears to
have been unrecognized by the king, perhaps because of the alteration that had
taken place in his personal appearance. Henceforth he resided at Gibeah (v. 2),
where he remained for two or three years. The court of Saul, while unlike that
of Solomon, half a century later, was not destitute of worldly show, and was
marked by the obsequiousness, self-seeking, emulation, and intrigue which
too often prevail in such places, especially when the monarch is capricious,
proud, and without the fear of God (ch. 22:6-7). David’s connection
with it was of great importance in relation to the position which he was
destined by Divine providence to occupy; continued his education for it;
and afforded (as every promotion to high place does in its measure a wider
Ø Outward circumstances, though they may not create eminent ability,
serve to call it forth. Much excellence doubtless exists, but is never
displayed on account of the absence of favorable conditions.
Ø Great genius is shown in one who has the faculty of adapting himself to
varied positions in life and their varied requirements.
Ø The proper use of power strengthens it and develops it to perfection.
Ø The humble, faithful, and efficient discharge of duty in one position
prepares the way for another and a higher. It was thus with David, who
passed from the narrow circle of private life to the wider one of public life,
from the sheepfold to the palace, from contending against a lion and a bear
expeditions (vs. 5, 13, 30) against the enemies of
ultimately from loyal obedience to royal rule.
David was familiar with “fields, and flocks, and silent stars,” but needed
training in another school.
Ø There are few things more valuable than an accurate and extensive
knowledge of men: their divers temperaments, tendencies, and capacities;
their peculiar excellences and defects; their varied wishes and aims; and
underneath all the great principles of humanity that are the same in all.
Ø Some circumstances afford special opportunity for the attainment of
such knowledge. What a field of observation were the court and camp of
Saul to one of such mental activity and profound insight as David!
Ø The knowledge of men produces in the heart that is sincere, devout, and
acquainted with itself a large sympathy with them in their sorrows, joys,
imperfections, and strivings after higher things. Of this sympathy the
psalms of David are a wonderful expression.
Ø It is necessary to the knowledge of the most effectual methods of
dealing with them — one of the most needful and desirable
qualifications in a ruler.
to the test, and his fidelity to Jehovah tried as silver “in a furnace of earth.”
Ø Trial is needful to prove the reality of principle, and manifest its strength
Ø One trial is often followed by another and a greater. The royal favor
into which David was suddenly raised was as suddenly succeeded by royal
jealousy, hatred, and craft. Surely no man was ever more fiercely assailed
Ø When endured aright, in faith and obedience, trial, however painful, is
Ø The victory which is gained over one temptation is an earnest of a
victory over the next. The triumph of humility in David was followed by
that of simplicity, patience, and forbearance.
in the case of David, paved his way to the throne; though he neither
coveted nor, during the life of Saul, put forth any effort to gain that object.
Ø A course of wise and prosperous action, as it well deserves, so it
generally obtains the approbation of the people.
Ø Such a course of action ought to be aimed at, rather than the popular
favor with which it is attended.
Ø The favor of the people is to be valued only in subordination to the
favor of God, and in so far as it accords with it.
Ø Popular favor should be regarded not as an end in itself, but as a means
of promoting the Divine glory and human welfare.
Simplicity (vs. 17-30)
There is a simplicity which springs from ignorance, and is displayed in folly
and presumption (Proverbs 22:3). There is also a simplicity which is the
fruit of innocence, truthfulness, and goodness, and appears in an ingenuous
mind, a guileless disposition, and straightforward speech and conduct. In
its best sense (simplicitas — without fold or twist) it is opposed to
duplicity, deception, and “cunning craftiness” (Romans 12:8; 16:19;
II Corinthians 1:12; 11:3); and it was exemplified, in an eminent degree,
by David, especially in his earlier interactions with Saul; for, through
familiarity with court life, and much more in consequence of the straits to
which he was reduced by the craft and persecution of the king, the simpleminded,
open-hearted shepherd youth once and again turned aside from the
right path (ch. 21:2). Consider simplicity as:
and in a violent fit of madness threatened the life of David, Saul continued
to hate and fear him (Mark 11:18), and sought to get rid of him, though
indirectly from restraint of conscience and secretly from fear of the people
(ibid. ch. 6:20; Luke 22:2). Sin works in the dark. Malicious craft often:
Ø Seeks to accomplish ends which it may not dare to avow. Springing
from jealousy for personal position and renown, it aims at the depreciation
of every one by whom they seem to be endangered; and at his removal,
whether accidentally by the hands of others, or by his committing some
overt act which may justify his open punishment (vs. 17, 21, 25). And
toward these ends it works with ever greater directness and less
concealment; for that which is hidden in the heart must sooner or later
come to light.
Ø Makes use of fair professions, and uses pretexts which are specious,
false, and hypocritical. David was assured that no harm was really meant
him, and made “captain over a thousand” (v. 13); whereas he was
removed from the presence of the king because he was hated and feared,
and that he might be exposed to greater danger. His not receiving the
fulfillment of Saul’s promise (ch. 17:25) was probably accounted
for by his lack of wealth and social status (v. 25); but the promise was
repeated insincerely. “Only be thou valiant for me” (expose thyself to
every hazard), “and fight the Lord’s battles” (with zeal for Jehovah, which
I know thou hast), and (sub voce) “let not my hand be upon him,” etc.
(v. 17). On the loss of Merab he was consoled by the promise of Michal
(v. 21), but only as “a snare,” and her love was made use of for the purpose.
And at length (when the king had formed his plan, and felt sure of its
success), he was told by his servants (as if in confidential communication),
“Behold, the king hath delight in thee,” etc. (v. 22), “desireth not any
dowry,” etc. (v. 25); “but Saul thought to make David fall by the hand of
Ø Adopts means which are unworthy, base, and godless. Scheming,
plotting, murderous attempts on life under the sanctities of affection and
religion; at heart, infatuated opposition to the will of God. If it were not
the Divine purpose that David should be king, why fear him? if it were, of
what avail would resistance be?
woven around David seem plain enough to us; but there is no reason to
suppose that they were at first observed by him. The simple-hearted man:
Ø Is accustomed to look upon others as sincere like himself, regards their
statements and assurances as truthful, and is slow to suspect their evil
intentions. Even to the last David could hardly believe that Saul, of his own
accord, sought his life (ch. 26:19). He is “simple concerning evil.”
Large experience makes men cautious; but it is better to be deceived a
hundred times than to lead a life of continual suspicion.
Ø Entertains modest and lowly views of himself, takes contempt and
disappointment without complaint, and accepts humbly and cheerfully
whatever honor may be conferred upon him (vs. 18, 23). “Seekest thou
great things for thyself? seek them not” (Jeremiah 45:5). “A pious man
is even in prosperity humble in heart.”
Ø Is intent upon the honest, faithful, and efficient discharge of the duty
that lies before him, and fears danger little because he fears God much
(vs. 5, 14, 27). “David’s calm indifference to outward circumstances
affecting himself were very strikingly expressed in his conduct. Partly from
his poetic temperament, partly from his sweet, natural unselfishness, and
chiefly from his loving trust IN GOD, he accepts whatever happens with
equanimity, and makes no effort to alter it” (Maclaren). It has been
remarked that “genius is simply the carrying into the maturity of our
powers the simplicity and ardor of childhood.”
means of preservation, inasmuch as:
Ø It affords the least occasion for an adversary to take an advantage.
Although the ingenuous man may appear to lie open to attack, yet he is
really most effectually guarded against it.
Ø It attracts the respect of other men (v. 16), gains the love of those who
warn and help him (v. 28; ch.19:11), and makes it difficult for
his enemies to prevail over him.
Ø It insures the favor of God. “The Lord was with him” (vs. 12, 14, 28)
to guide, defend, and help him (Psalm 37:24, 33). “In thee do I trust.”
our motto is “IN GOD WE TRUST!” – CY – 2016)
Ø Instead of returning no more from the conflict, he returns in triumph,
and receives an unwilling honor from the hand that was lifted up against
him (vs. 27-28; Revelation 3:9).
Ø Instead of being less an object of terror to the wicked, he is more so
Ø Instead of being deprived of the love of the people of God (v. 16: “All
hearts (v. 30).
Ø How ineffectual are the devices of the wicked against “the upright in
Ø How beneficial may even their devices become when met with
“simplicity and godly sincerity.”
Ø How inexpressibly beautiful is the character of the Son of David —
“meek and lowly in heart.”
Ø How necessary is the “anointing of the holy One,” that we may become
like unto Him.
The Plot and Its Lessons (vs. 17-30)
The facts are:
1. Saul, in hopes of compassing the death of David, promises him his eldest
daughter to wife, on condition that he is valiant against the Philistines.
2. David expresses his unworthiness of so great an honor.
3. Saul, having broken this promise by giving Merab to Adriel, offers
David his daughter Michal.
4. On David intimating that, being poor, he was not able to provide a
becoming dowry, Saul is content with proof of the death of a hundred
5. David presents double the number required, and takes Michal to wife.
6. In spite of his devices, Saul sees the growing prosperity of David, and
becomes more than ever afraid of him.
This section further unfolds, on the one side, the downward progress of the man
who has wilfully sinned under circumstances favorable to obedience, and has
consequently been left to the tendencies of his impenitent heart; (I am afraid
that this is what has happened to the
CY – 2016) and, on the other side, the steady advance in wisdom and aptitude
for affairs of the man who gloried only in the “name of the Lord of hosts.” The
narrative relates events as they appeared to observers at the time, and introduces
statements of the sacred historian designed to indicate how those events were
regarded by God. The outward acts are connected with the hidden motive, and
so made to bear their proper moral character.
entire history, there is much in the narrative of this section which might
suggest to a casual reader no thought of a plot. The addition of statements
unveiling the hidden purpose of his words and deeds changes the moral
bearing of the whole, and sets forth the triple characteristics of the plot.
Ø Cleverness. It is said that insane persons often display unusual cunning
and skill in compassing their ends; and also the “devices” of the wicked,
both in relation to God and to man, are in Scripture proverbial (Job 5:12;
Psalm 10:2; 33:10). The incipient madness and settled wickedness
of Saul at this period of his life indicate the truth of these remarks; for
consider the plausibility of his conduct.
o There was a fair appearance of truthfulness. He had virtually promised
his daughter to the man who should slay Goliath (ch. 17:25). To
keep one’s word was becoming a king and due to a youthful hero.
o There was an obvious display of magnanimity. For the recent violent
attempt on the life of David (v. 11) must have produced an impression
of injustice on both David and the people. What then more proper than
that a fit of unreasonable anger should be followed by some expression
of the wrong done, and some effort to render compensation.
o Religions feeling was conspicuous. Had not David appeared on the
arena to fight the battle of the Lord? (ch. 17:47). Was it not
proper, after the signal victory in the Lord’s name, that the king should
recognize the conflict with the heathen oppressor in its theocratic
aspect, and encourage the valiant youth still to go forth in the same
o Personal interest was natural. Saul’s instructions to the courtiers to
endeavor to induce David to accept of Michal had an appearance of
naturalness, as it was important to honor so able a man and to ally him
with the interests of the monarchy, as also to remove any chagrin on
account of Merab having been given, probably for state reasons, to
o There was a kindly consideration for David’s position. A sense of
poverty is hard to bear when it stands in the way to honor and influence.
David felt that, despite his services, he was too poor to comply with
custom in offering as dowry what became a suitor to a king’s daughter.
It was, therefore, very thoughtful on the part of Saul to ask as dowry
what certainly few men could provide, but what the conqueror of
Goliath would, no doubt, readily and with increasing honors secure.
A kindly, considerate bearing disarms suspicion. The plot was
clever, like all the plots whereby our great adversary, the devil,
seeks to ensnare the innocent. A parallel might be developed
without much difficulty.
Ø Vileness. The cleverness is discovered by tracing the course apparent to
men; the vileness by the light thrown upon that course by the Searcher of
hearts. We are enabled to look beneath the surface, and to estimate words
and deeds by their relation to motive. The vileness is seen in:
o The deliberate intent to commit murder. The whole procedure
originated in a determination to insure David’s death. Blood was
shed in intent. The true universe is the unseen, for it is enduring.
In that sphere Saul slew, before the clear, searching eye of God,
the best friend he ever had next to Samuel.
o The covering of murderous intent, with professions of kindness and
esteem. Open hostility is bad enough in an evil cause, but to play the
hypocrite for compassing a cruel purpose is the blackest of crimes
(Psalm 10:7). To be clothed as an angel of light is not confined to
dare not lay hands on David, but he dare lay a train of circumstances
deplore except himself. Man would make God the servant of his vile
courage to avow.
Ø Foolishness. It is no uncommon thing for the cunning and skill of the
wicked to turn out the veriest foolishness. Such is the force of right and
justice, that wicked wisdom is always found in the issue to be mad folly.
That it was so in this case is seen by observing:
o God knew all from the first. It is a proof of the utter stupidity of the
sinful heart that it acts as though God were not. This unreasonableness
enters into all sin. The wicked heart retires into its own darkness, and
says, “He will never see it” (Psalm 10:11).
o The plot secured to David the special protection promised to the
innocent.’ God pledges His care to the poor and needy when they walk
in innocency. He “saveth the upright in heart (Psalm 7:10). The “needy
shall not alway be forgotten” (ibid. ch. 9:18; 37:32-33). Saul ought to
have known that a holy man, one who had been blessed in conflict,
would not be left to himself in the day of danger.
o It issued in David’s advantage. Saul really fell into a pit prepared for
another. The man who was to be put down rose higher, while Saul
himself sank in the esteem of all. The scheme brought out in clear
and beautiful form David’s personal integrity (vs. 18, 23). Its issue
greater influence with
terror to his enemies (v. 27), and his marriage with Michal
subsequently proved a great help in escaping the snares of Saul
(v. 21; compare ch. 19:12).
forth in the plot of Saul and escape of David, the following may be
Ø The moral value of conduct is seen when the light of God shines on it.
Saul’s conduct, as watched by casual observers ignorant of the secret
between him and Samuel (ch. 15:26-28, 30), would have attached
to it a moral value quite inconsistent with real truth. It is the light
which God enabled the historian to pour on the inner motive that reveals
the whole as vile. Our estimate of conduct is necessarily approximate. A
measure of doubt or suspense attends our judgments of character. There is
no principle more clearly held than that the secret intent, the private,
unexpressed, and often inexpressible motive, is the real determinant of
moral character in actions. Yet such are the depths and intricacies of
human thought and feeling, that every man is largely an unknown being to
his fellows. This uncertainty creates a belief in a future manifestation of
character, when every man shall receive from all exactly his due. (Luke
12:2-4) Otherwise justice is defeated, and moral worth is cheated of its
honor. Scripture assures us of the truth that the day will come when the true
spring of conduct shall be manifested; the inner real man will be known.
The day is coming on when men shall see themselves and others in that
all-revealing light (Ecclesiastes 12:14; Matthew 10:26; 25:31-32). Hence the
good cheer of the upright in heart whose actions are misinterpreted, whose
position is obscure, who suffer from the scorning of the proud, and whose
outward success in life is not commensurate with the largeness and purity
of their desires. Hence, also, the warning for those who cover up a defiled
heart beneath an attractive exterior.
Ø Integrity is the best human defense against wicked craft. The manifest
integrity of David in all his relations to Saul and the people was better to
him than all possible contrivances to cunningly checkmate the movements
of his enemy. There was a moral power in his blameless, unaffected
conduct which caused his secret foe to dwell in fear. Looking back on this
period, he could say, “I have walked in mine integrity” (Psalm 26:1);
and doubtless, knowing the value of such defense in the past, he could say,
in view of future dangers, “Let integrity and uprightness preserve me”
(ibid. ch. 25:21). It is ever so. As simple truth is mightier than all
ramifications of falsehood, so an upright heart, an innocent life, is, in the
issue, more than a match for all cunning combinations of evil. Were men
more simple in purpose, less given to mere policy, keeping their hearts free
from petty jealousies and ambitions,
o their foot would be less often caught in a snare, and
o their reputation would take care of itself.
Ø God takes care of His faithful servants who have a work to do in the
world. David’s innocence was an object of interest to God, and received
His protection; but David was a chosen servant in course of unconscious
preparation for high and important duties. He, therefore, was cared for by
God in the midst of unknown dangers. Nor was there anything exceptional
in this, for such is the heritage of all who fear the Lord. Bodily suffering,
and even death, may come on the innocent and true, but these are not the
worst of evils. There is a more fearful fall; and in this respect, such is the
care of God, that though a thousand fall at the side of the faithful, the great
spiritual evil does not touch him (Psalm 91:7, 14). Every one has a
charmed life in Christ’s service as long as his work is not finished.
o No weapon formed against David could prosper before he
o No power was allowed to take away our Saviour’s life till He had
finished the work the Father gave Him to do.
o No stones and lying in wait of wicked men were of any avail
against Paul before he had preached the gospel to the Gentiles
(Acts 9:15, 23-25; II Corinthians 11:24-27).
Ø The ulterior object of a sinful course is never attained. One object of
Saul s cunning was to get rid of David. History tells us how this object was
frustrated. The Lord was with David. Disappointment, vexation, intense
misery were the result to Saul. It is not too wide an assertion to affirm that
the ulterior object is never attained in a sinful course. A careful analysis of
the workings of sin in every instance will show that the end in view is to
secure a pleasure deemed greater and more welcome than any supposed to
result from OBEDIENCE TO GOD’S WILL! If sin in its origin be self-
assertion, as against conformity to a supreme will, the object in view is
evidently to attain to a state of being superior to that involved in conformity.
It seeks a rise, and, behold, it is itself a fall. It is always self-defeated. This
can be shown to be true of all who willfully refuse to have rest in God —
they miss THE BLISS they sought in rebellion; of all who prefer to be
saved by other means than by the one Mediator — they never attain to
the pardon and purity which alone constitute salvation; of all who
sacrifice Christian principle to acquire wealth or power — they get the
wealth and power, but not the satisfaction of soul which their possession
was believed to insure. It cannot be insisted on too strongly, that not only
is sin essentially evil and degrading, however fascinating its form, but is
also in its issue a bitter disappointment. “He that sinneth against me
wrongeth his own soul’ (Proverbs 8:36). The desire, the expectation, the
way of the wicked “shall perish” (Psalm 1:6; 112:10; Proverbs 10:28).
Ø Exalted piety and simplicity of life are consistent with pre-eminence in
secular affairs. It is often supposed that a very pious man, and one of
simple purpose in life, cannot compete with men less spiritual in character.
The language of Christians has sometimes given sanction to this belief. But
facts and reason are against it. David, the most pious of men, attained to a
affairs far in advance of others (v. 30).
worse mathematician and astronomer for his deep and simple piety. It is
reasonable that a mind pure, devout, calm in sense of God’s favor, free
from the distraction induced by waywardness of will, and enjoying the
blessing of God, should, when called by
sphere of activity, excel those of equal natural powers, but destitute of the
spiritual tone. If such men do not attain to highest public stations, it may
to pre-eminence, it may be because the combination of great piety and
great natural aptitude for special pursuits is rare.
David Proved and Tried (vs. 29-30)
course of events more likely to turn a young man’s head and make him
giddy with elation than the rapid promotion of the youthful David. Brought
at once from comparative obscurity into the full blaze of public admiration
as a national hero, appointed as an officer of high rank in the army, made
son-in-law to the king, and at the same time trusted and honored by the
people, the son of Jesse had much to tempt him to self-complacence. It is a
sign that the Lord was with him that he bore himself meekly,
circumspectly, and with “sublime repression of himself.” A man who is
conscious of fitness for a great position can afford to wait. It must come to
him, if he lives long enough; and if he is not to live, why should he fret his
few years with an idle ambition? David had something better than such a
consciousness; he knew himself to be anointed and ordained of God to fill
an eminent place in His service. True, that nothing seems to have been said
about the kingship at the
private anointing in
of sacred song seemed to point him out as successor of Samuel rather than
of Saul. But kings, not prophets, were anointed; and the thought of being
king, especially after the exploit at Elah, must have passed and repassed
through the young hero’s mind. Yet because he believed God he did not
make haste. If the high and perilous
seat of a king of
for him, let it come; but he would not grasp it, or climb into it by
dispossessing its first occupant. Not by him would Saul be dethroned, or
any dishonor done to a head which had received a holy anointing. God
would give what He pleased, as and when He might see fit. Enough that
David should act wisely and justly in the station to which he was assigned.
This was no fatalism. The history shows that David used all lawful (and
some rather questionable) endeavors to preserve his own life, and that he
missed no opportunity to advance his public interest. He was far from
inferring that, as God had marked out for him a destiny, he must not give
any heed to his way or to his safety, because God would bring His own
purpose to pass. On the contrary, he knew that the fulfillment of the destiny
must be through his own discretion, valor, and proved fitness for the royal
dignity. Therefore, while David would not push his way ambitiously to the
throne, he was careful to do nothing that would make such promotion
impossible. In fact David took the course which may be recommended to
every young man who desires to rise in the esteem and confidence of
others. He did well whatever was given him to do. He behaved himself
wisely as a minstrel, as a soldier, as a prince. The historian marks the steps
of his advance “wisely,” “very wisely,” “more wisely than all the servants
of Saul” (vs. 14-15, 30). If we read “prospered,” “prospered
exceedingly,” prospered more, the lesson remains the same. We are
reminded of the youthful Joseph, always prosperous in administration,
whether in Potiphar’s house, in charge of the prison, or in the government
Yet the promotion of Joseph was through his well approved discretion and
fidelity winning for him more and more confidence (ibid. v. 21).
So David prospered; every step of his elevation bringing out more clearly
to view his fine combination of boldness and discretion, and his consequent
fitness to rise yet higher, and
to be the leader and ruler of all
the nation where such proved fitness counts for more than the highest birth
or the strongest interest! If survival of the fittest be a rule in nature,
selection of the fittest is the true principle for the public service. Not that
every one who holds an inferior position well is fit to hold a higher and rise
toward the highest. Men have their range, beyond which they are ill at ease
and incapable. But this is certain, that men who not fit for a leading position
will reveal their capacity while serving in a subordinate place. Only in
judging of this account must be taken not of brain power and acquired
knowledge merely, but of character, and that moral influence which
character and conduct give. Is it not on this principle that God promotes
the heirs of glory? All who have received His grace are anointed ones; but
they have to serve before they rule, and to be tested in labors and patience
before they can reign with Christ. Has not our Saviour taught in parables
that his people must be servants till He returns, and that only good and
faithful servants are to enter into the joy of their Lord? Has not Paul
spoken of eternal life as given to those “who by patient continuance in well
doing seek for glory, honour, and immortality”? (Romans 2:7) Behold the
way to “the honor that comes from God only.” (John 5:45) Behave wisely
in the present sphere of duty. Do well, and do it with patience. Make not
your advancement in this world, or even in the world to come, a matter of
passionate anxiety. Foster and obey the sense of duty, attend conscientiously
to the obligations of your present station, and fear not but the Lord will give
you as much elevation as is good for you in this present time, and in the age
to come a place and a portion with the King and with His saints.
Ø On the people. They were captivated by his gallantry and his discretion.
Both in martial skill and in civil administration he surpassed all the public
men of his country, and was fast becoming a popular idol. It is too true
that, notwithstanding this, Saul was able to drive him into exile, and found
soldiers enough to pursue him for his life. Popular favor did not protect
him from such outrage. Yet two facts are worth noting.
o That David gave clear evidence of a man who could, and therefore
should, sooner or later, lead his countrymen. This early approval of
himself to all observers, however obscured or disparaged during the
days of his persecution, was not forgotten by the people, and helped
his ultimate elevation to the throne.
o That, though many turned against him at the bidding of Saul, David
from this very time drew to himself friends that would not forsake
him, for they
saw in him the hope of
the caves among
the rocks of
Philistines, were the companions, first of his tribulation, and then
of his kingdom and glory.
Ø On the king. The effect of David’s well doing on Saul was sinister and
shameful. The good points which had once appeared in this unhappy man
now recede from view, and the bad points of his character come out in
strong relief under the baleful influence of jealousy. When he was himself
the sole hero,
and the eyes of all
and even humble in his bearing. But elevation had made him proud; power
had made him willful; and a bad conscience made him hate and fear a well
doer near the
throne. He felt that this youth from
better man, and he suspected that the nation thought so too. Envy
completed the moral ruin of Saul. As the worm seeks out the best fruit to
eat the heart of it, so envy fastens on the best and noblest persons to hate
and hurt them. It goes by quick steps to injury — even to murder. “Saul
spake to Jonathan his son, and to all his servants, that they should kill
David.” (ch. 19:1) O cursed envy! O hideous ingratitude! O foul and
Son of David lived unblamably, answered discreetly, behaved Himself
wisely. The people gathered to Him in multitudes, with eyes and ears of
admiration. They judged Him worthy to be made their king. It is true that
the fickle populace took part with their rulers against our Lord, just as the
fickle subjects of Saul took part with him against the son of Jesse. But, in
the one case as in the other, some hearts clave to the persecuted One. And
as all the malice that pursued David failed to keep him from the kingdom to
which God had destined him and for which God had fitted him, so the
rejection, betrayal, and crucifixion of Jesus could not keep Him from the
throne far above all principality and power which was His in virtue of an
eternal covenant. The rulers hated him without a cause; His very wisdom
and goodness irritated them, and they took counsel together how they
might slay him. For envy they delivered Him up to judgment, and demanded
that he should be crucified. At the period described in our text a crisis had
these were contrary the one to the other, and could not live in unity. We
know what side such a man as Doeg took. But David had his friends, who
dared everything rather than renounce his cause. Better, in their opinion, to
be exiles and pilgrims with him than to remain with the moody tyrant from
whom the Lord had
departed. So, in the days of His showing to
many refused Jesus, but some clave to Him. Better, in their opinion, to be
cast out of the synagogues, to go forth without the gate, bearing His
reproach, than to take part with the world that hated Him, especially with
that hard and gloomy Judaism from which the Lord had departed. The
crisis continues. Before all men the alternative lies — for Christ, or against
Him. Oh, receive Him whom the world has rejected; give Him your heart;
identify and associate yourself with the “once despised Jesus.”
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