I Samuel 18





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

unfoldings of Providence. In many instances we seem to hear discord; faith

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? Harmonies of Providence are constant, if only we

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

into Egypt no doubt checked a premature notoriety of the child Jesus.



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

Israel was chosen out from among the nations. Among Christians the same

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

considering the friendship of Christ for John and the family at Bethany.

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

appreciation of the family at Bethany that which He was so eagerly in quest

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:


  1. profit,
  2. pleasure,
  3. virtue.


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

continue” (Willet).


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 Greece, and has been since in

Christendom imitated, but never surpassed, in modern works of fiction”

(Stanley). The most celebrated of the instances referred to were those of

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:


  • IT EXISTS ONLY IN NOBLE SOULS. Both Jonathan and David were

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”

(Cicero, ‘On Friendship’).


“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” (Cicero).



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’).


  • IT UNITES IN A STEADFAST BOND. Knit — sincerely, closely,

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”

 (Cicero). Friendship founded on worldly principles is natural, and, though

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




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:


  • ITS CONDITIONS, on the part of man.


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).


  • ITS CHARACTERISTICS, on the part of the Lord. All His perfections

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.

(John 15:13).


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).


  • ITS BENEFITS, or the blessings enjoyed by those who have

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 of Nazareth,

my true and never failing Friend?”


  • ITS CLAIMS, or the duties of those who enjoy such benefits and

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



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.





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

of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet king Saul, with tabrets, with

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

cities of Israel… to meet king Saul. It is evident that this refers to some

grand occasion, and probably to the conclusion of a peace between the two

nations. The battle in the valley of Elah was probably followed by several

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 Israel’s national war 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 Bethlehem was ended, and could never be

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.


  • JONATHAN’S LOVE. If there was a man in Israel who had reason to

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 deliver Israel, it was Jonathan whom he would

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

leader in Israel ought to be. It was good for David, too, to find that he was

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.


  • SAUL’S JEALOUSY. At first it appeared as though David was to

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 Kish

stepped up to the throne of Israel with very little difficulty. But this was really

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 Israel in single combat, so Jesus in youth, and on the

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 well of Bethlehem, and three heroes dashed through 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

Tarsus, and engage the all-enduring loyalty and love of Paul? And are there

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

ministered to Him in Galilee! Paul, who had not seen Him in the flesh, loved

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:


  • MISINTERPRETED PROSPERITY. The decisive words of Samuel

(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 Israel. It is a good

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).



PROVIDENCE, TO FALL INTO NEW SINS. We have seen (ch. 15:24-31)

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

all envy.


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

(John 7:20).


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 Israel and Judah loved

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

mention of Israel and Judah is an indication of the Books of Samuel having

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).




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



  • IT TAKES ROOT IN AN EVIL HEART. In the case of Saul the soil

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

ours” (Blair).


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      Unreasonableness.


Ø      In most cases ingratitude. David had conferred a great benefit on Saul

and Israel by his victory over Goliath; he “went out whithersoever 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”

(Bacon, ‘Essays’).



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 —



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



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.)






            (vs. 17-30).



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 Israel, that I should be son in law to the king?

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

scope for:




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

to military expeditions (vs. 5, 13, 30) against the enemies of Israel, and

ultimately from loyal obedience to royal rule.


  • ACQUAINTANCE WITH MEN, and the knowledge of human nature.

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.


  • THE TRIAL OF PRINCIPLE. David, no less than Saul, must be put

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

and brightness.


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

by temptation.


Ø      When endured aright, in faith and obedience, trial, however painful, is

morally beneficial.


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.


  • ADVANCEMENT IN POPULAR FAVOR (vs. 7, 16, 30), which,

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:


  • BESET BY THE WORKING or CRAFT. Having given way to envy,

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

the Philistines.”


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?


  • DISPLAYED IN THE MIDST OF CRAFT. The snares that were

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.”

                   (Even the United States of America  has reaped from this for

                        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

(v. 29).


Ø      Instead of being deprived of the love of the people of God (v. 16: “All

Israel and Judah loved David”), he is more completely enthroned in their

hearts (v. 30).


  • Ponder:


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

enemies of Israel.

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 United States of America as an entity!

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.


  • THE CHARACTERISTICS OF THE PLOT. Did we not know Saul’s

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

holy name?


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



o        The attempt to make Providence subservient to a secret intent. Saul

dare not lay hands on David, but he dare lay a train of circumstances

by which Providence should be charged with doing what all men would

deplore except himself. Man would make God the servant of his vile

designs. Cowards wish Providence to do what they have not the

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

gave him greater influence with Israel (v. 30). He became a greater

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).


  • THE GENERAL TRUTHS IT TEACHES. Among the many truths set

forth in the plot of Saul and escape of David, the following may be

specially noticed:


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

became king.


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

capacity for affairs far in advance of others (v. 30). Newton was not a

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

promised blessing of God, should, when called by Providence to any

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

be because Providence has other work for them to do; or if only a few rise

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)


  • EXEMPLARY CONDUCT UNDER TRIAL. One can hardly imagine a

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 Bethlehem; and David’s gift

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 Israel was destined

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

of Egypt. It was because the Lord was with him (Genesis 39:2, 23).

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 Israel. Happy

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 Israel; and, following him to

the caves among the rocks of Judah, and even to the land of the

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 Israel turned to him, he could be gracious

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 Bethlehem was far the

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

furious jealousy!



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

arrived in Israel. Men were forced to choose between Saul and David, for

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 Israel,

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 liesfor 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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