I Samuel 19
SUCCESSIVE ATTEMPTS UPON DAVID’S LIFE FRUSTRATED BY
THE LOVE OF JONATHAN AND MICHAL, AND FINALLY BY FLIGHT
JONATHAN’S LOVE FOR DAVID (vs. 1-7).
1 “And Saul spake to Jonathan his son, and to all his servants, that they should
kill David.” The translation of the last clause is untenable; it really means “about
killing David,” and so both the Septuagint and the Syriac render it. The descent of
men once full of noble impulses, as was the case with Saul, into open crime
is gradual, and with many halts on the way. Saul first gave way to envy,
and instead of struggling against his bad feelings, nourished them. Then,
when scarcely accountable for his actions, he threatened David’s life; and
next, with growing malice, encouraged him in dangerous undertakings, in
the hope that in one of them he might be slain. And now he goes one step
farther. He talks to Jonathan and his officers concerning the many reasons
there were for David’s death; argues that without it there will be no
security for himself and his dynasty; represents David probably as a traitor,
with secret purposes of usurping the throne; and reveals what hitherto had
been but the half-formed wishes of his heart. But even now, probably, he
still spoke of David’s death as a painful necessity, and had many misgivings
in his own mind. But he was really encouraging himself in crime, and by
cherishing thoughts of murder he was gradually descending towards
THE DARK ABYSS INTO WHICH HE FINALLY FELL!
2 “But Jonathan Saul’s son delighted much in David: and Jonathan
told David, saying, Saul my father seeketh to kill thee: now therefore,
I pray thee, take heed to thyself until the morning, and abide in a secret
place, and hide thyself: 3 And I will go out and stand beside my father
in the field where thou art, and I will commune with my father of thee;
and what I see, that I will tell thee.” Until the morning. Rather, “in the
morning.” Saul’s purpose was taking shape, and as there are always men too
ready to commit crime at the bidding of a king, there was the danger that
secret murder might be the quick result of Saul’s open communication of his
wishes to his men of war. Jonathan, therefore, warns David of the king’s
malice, and urges him to hide himself until he has made a last entreaty for
him. This was to take place in the field, the open common land. There was
no idea of David overhearing the conversation, but when the king took his
usual walk Jonathan was to join him, and hold a conference with him apart
in the unenclosed hill pastures. After probing his father’s real feelings he
would continue his walk, and, without awakening any suspicions, would
meet David and communicate to him the result. What I see, that I will tell
thee. More exactly, “I will see what (he says), and will tell thee.”
4 “And Jonathan spake good of David unto Saul his father, and said
unto him, Let not the king sin against his servant, against David;
because he hath not sinned against thee, and because his works
have been to thee-ward very good: 5 For he did put his life in his hand,
and slew the Philistine, and the LORD wrought a great salvation for all
against innocent blood, to slay David without a cause? 6 And Saul hearkened
unto the voice of Jonathan: and Saul swear, As the LORD liveth, he shall not
be slain. 7 And Jonathan called David, and Jonathan shewed him all those
things. And Jonathan brought David to Saul, and he was in his presence,
as in times past.” In the field Jonathan intercedes for David, assures his father
of his friend’s innocence, reminds him of his noble exploit, and of Saul’s
own joy at it, and beseeches him not to shed innocent blood. And Saul,
fickle and selfish, yet not destitute of noble feelings, repents of his purpose,
and with characteristic impetuosity takes an oath that David’s life shall be
spared. Whereupon a reconciliation takes place, and David resumes his
attendance upon the king’s person.
Open Enmity and Open Friendship (vs. 1-7)
The facts are:
1. Saul reveals his purpose to kill David.
2. This being made known to Jonathan, he arranges with David to let him
learn the result of an effort to turn Saul from his purpose.
3. He pleads with Saul David’s good services and personal risks, God’s
approval, and the king’s own joy therein.
4. Saul yields to persuasion, resolves not to shed “innocent blood,” and
recalls David into his personal service.
The historian traces the progress of Saul to ruin, and of David to royal honors,
and here brings out the aroused hostility of Saul on the one side, and the open
services of Jonathan’s friendship on the other. Father and son are at cross
purposes concerning the life of one who in the providence of God is to supplant
both. Each performs his part with perfect naturalness; and in the progress
of the conflict between enmity and friendship there is a revelation not only
of the individual characteristics of the men, but also of principles in
constant operation. We have here an instance of:
seasons of moodiness, Saul’s conduct towards David had not found formal
expression. His servants probably set down his violence (ch. 18:11) to
irritability, and we have seen how cleverly Saul had striven to throw
(ibid. vs.17-30). The frustration of these secret schemes brought out
the fact that the sin so long cherished in the heart, and for very shame
concealed, had, by that very nurture, gained such power over the entire
man as to force its way into open day, regardless of all considerations of
prudence and self-respect. The murder in intent became murder avowed.
The ruling passion of the inner life now became the acknowledged master,
and a public avowal of servitude to it is therefore voluntarily made. Saul’s
experience is but an instance of the experience of multitudes. Progress in
wickedness is from within outwards. Lust, when it hath conceived, brings
forth sin (James 1:15). Every deliberate murder, theft, deed of adultery,
fraud, and rebellion against Christ’s authority was at first germinal in the
heart. Each stage of internal growth lessened the power of the will over its
progress, till at last it revealed its evil nature in open acts. This
psychological genesis of sin is an awful fact, and may well cause those to
tremble whose dalliance with secret evil becomes habitual. Truly he who
committeth sin is “the servant of sin” (John 8:34), and every consideration
of duty and interest should urge us to cry daily for a “clean heart,” and that
sin may have “no more dominion” over us (Psalm 139:23; Romans 6:14).
Facts prove that all sin is a species of madness. Adam and Eve imagined
that a thicket would hide them from God. Saul’s clearness of intellect
suffered by his first public disobedience; and now that the evil passion had
gained ascendancy, extreme stupidity appears in his soliciting the aid, in
the execution of his cruel purpose, of Jonathan, David’s bosom friend
(ch. 18:1-4; 19:1). If he knew nothing of their friendship, which is very
improbable, he ought to have known enough of so good and devout a son
as to be sure that he would be no party to a base and villanous deed. If he
imagined that Jonathan was likely to be actuated by jealousy of a rival, he
performed the stupid act, common to base men, of thinking that reasons
which have force with themselves have force with others. In proportion to
the power of sin over the will is the effect of it on the intellect. Even the
most clever sinners, when seeking to cover their sin from man, manifest
some infatuation or folly which affords the clue to their crime. But it is
especially in relation to God and the future issues of sin that this stupefying
effect appears. It is only this blinded spirit that explains the ease with which
men read of the coming “terrors of the Lord” (II Corinthians 5:10-11; 4:3-4;
sad, heavy heart that Jonathan had witnessed the gradual decay of his
father’s character, but the saddest blow was when the father sought to
make the son partaker in his sin. The grief of the son would be
proportionate to his piety. To be tempted by a father, to have filial
obedience tested in deeds of evil, to see the utter ruin of a parent’s moral
character, was a bitter trial; and, as a true son, Jonathan could not but bear
these sorrows as a fearful secret. In how many families are there sorrows
of this kind! How many a child has to watch the decay of a father’s
reputation, to bear inducements to sin, and to hide deeds and intentions of
evil! A parent is far gone when children are prompted to wrong. A child is
indeed a “child of sorrow” when compelled to carry on a pure heart the
secrets of a sinful home.
that Saul would speak to Jonathan about killing David without pointing out
how dangerous a rival he was to both father and son. It raised in
Jonathan’s mind the conflict of worldly interest and fidelity to a friend. Not
a few have yielded to such temptations. But Jonathan’s pure soul was
equal to the occasion. His conduct was marked by exquisite delicacy of
feeling and wisdom. He would not so degrade his father as to tell David
that he had been asked to slay his friend, while he assured David of his real
danger. While not assuming the tone of an advocate, he skillfully handled
facts so as to achieve the end in view. The point of the temptation was to
sacrifice friendship to private and public interests. There are persons still
subject to the same trial. May we not also see something analogous to the
common temptations of Christians to renounce the “Anointed One” for
reasons pertaining to earthly wealth and glory? Where there is real oneness
of heart with Christ, no blandishments of sin, no prospect of greater
worldly distinction, avail to break the sacred bond.
in a kindly, gentle way, conversed with his father on the matter, and called
his attention to a few facts, — David’s risks, services, and evident approval
by God, and Saul’s own joy in his victories, — and then asks whether such
innocent blood should be shed. The effect even on the impenitent Saul is to
soften his hard heart and draw forth the declaration that he shall be spared.
Happy the son who has such influence with an unhappy, wicked father! In
dealing with hardened sinners three things are necessary.
Ø Truth to present to the conscience. That David was innocent Saul knew;
but ordinarily passion blinded him to the due recognition of it. If we can
hold forth “the word of life,” the actual truth concerning Christ, so that it
shall shine straight in upon the conscience, men cannot but acknowledge its
power, and it will exercise some restraint on their conduct.
Ø A kindly, unaffected manner. It was the manner of Jonathan that secured
an attentive hearing and disarmed Saul’s suspicion. Harsh language tends
to arouse antagonism. The secret of success lies in so presenting the truth
that it stands forth alone, unmixed with disturbing elements from our
personality. (“And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle
unto all me, apt to teach, patient.” – II Timothy 2:24; and to speak the
“truth in love” – Ephesians 4:15 – CY – 2016) “He that winneth souls
is wise” (Proverbs 11:30).
Ø Prayerfulness of spirit. We may be sure that Jonathan as well as David
prayed in spirit on this occasion. The tone of our mind is wonderfully
affected by prayerfulness. We then speak for God and man with a gentle
force which guilty men cannot but feel.
The Proof of True Friendship (vs. 1-7)
Adversity is the touchstone of friendship, as of many other things; and its
experience, sooner or later, is certain. Notwithstanding the secret jealousy
and plotting of Saul, the prosperity of David continued to increase; and at
length, unable to endure the sight of it, he “spoke to Jonathan his son, and
to all his servants, about killing David.” Persons in high places are
generally attended by some men who, like Doeg (ch. 21:7; 22:22) and
Cush (Psalm 7, inscription), are ready to carry out their evil wishes.
TITLE. "Shiggaion of David, which he sang unto the Lord, concerning
the word of
the Benjamite."—"Shiggaion of David." As far as we can gather from the observations of
learned men, and from a comparison of this Psalm with the only other Shiggaion in the
Word of God, (Habakkuk 3:1), this title seems to mean "variable songs," with which also
the idea of solace and pleasure is associated. Truly our life-psalm is composed of variable
verses; one stanza rolls along with the sublime meter of triumph, but another limps with the
broken rhythm of complaint. There is much bass in the saint's music here below. Our
experience is as variable as the weather in
of the composition of this song. It
appears probable that
David to Saul of treasonable conspiracy against his royal authority. This the king would be
ready enough to credit, both from his jealousy of David, and from the relation which most
probably existed between himself, the son of
He who is near the throne can do more injury to a subject than an ordinary slanderer.
This may be called the SONG OF THE SLANDERED SAINT. Even this sorest of evils
may furnish occasion for a Psalm. What a blessing it would be if we could turn even the
most disastrous event into a theme for song, and so turn the tables upon our great enemy.
Let us learn a lesson from Luther, who once said, "David made Psalms; we also will make
Psalms, and sing them as well as we can to the honor of our Lord, and to spite and mock
the devil." (excerpt from Treasury of David, C.H. Spurgeon - # 1255 – this website –
CY – 2016)
The danger of David was now imminent. And with the revelation
of it to him by Jonathan his troubles began. Whilst adversity shows the
insincerity and worthlessness of false friends, it also shows the sincerity and
worth of true. “In adverse hours the friendship of the good shines most.”
The proof of true friendship appears in:
delighted much in David.” Notwithstanding:
Ø Misrepresentation on the part of enemies. There can be no doubt that
Saul spoke of David as treacherously aiming at the throne. The mouths of
others were full of detraction and calumny, by which they sought to
destroy him as with sharp swords (Psalm 59:7).
Ø Urgent claims on the part of friends and kindred. A father’s wishes are
sometimes opposed to a friend’s welfare.
Ø Self-interest. If David were spared Jonathan’s accession to the throne
would be jeopardized. But true friendship stands the test. It “thinketh
no evil” (I Corinthians 13:5) of a friend, will do him no wrong,
nor admit the least feeling of jealousy or envy. The wintry storm
only serves to strengthen its attachment. “Yet these two charges
of inconstancy and of weakness condemn most men: either in their
prosperity they despise a friend, or in his troubles they desert him”
Jonathan told David,” etc. (vs. 2-3).
Ø It reveals the whole truth and conceals nothing. “If you think any one
your friend in whom you do not put the same confidence as in yourself
you know not the real power of friendship” (Seneca).
Ø It gives the best counsel in its power.
Ø It promises aid as it may be needed.
spake good of David,” etc. (vs. 4-5).
Ø It undergoes personal risk in undertaking the cause of a friend.
Ø It makes earnest entreaty on behalf of the absent one; asserting his
innocence, enumerating his services, setting forth his claims upon
gratitude and esteem, and remonstrating against his being injured
“without cause” (v. 5; John 15:25).
Ø It shows a prudent and respectful regard for those whom it wishes to
influence. In Jonathan prudence and principle were combined. “Prudence
did not go so far as to make him silent about the sin which Saul was
purposing to commit; principle was not so asserted as to arouse his father’s
indignation” (W.M. Taylor).
etc. (vs. 6-7). “How forcible are right words!” (Job 6:25) Even the heart
of Saul is moved, and his better feelings gain the ascendancy. How often
by a generous and prudent attempt at peace making is:
Ø A threatening evil averted.
Ø A reconciliation, of the alienated effected.
Ø Communion between friends renewed, “as in times past.” “Blessed
are the peacemakers,” etc. (Matthew 5:9). “There are four, young
man” (says an Eastern sage), “who, seeming to be friends, are
enemies in disguise:
o the rapacious friend,
o the man of much profession,
o the flatterer, and
o the dissolute companion.
These four, young man, are true friends:
o the watchful friend,
o the friend who is the same in prosperity and adversity,
o the friend who gives good advice, and
o the sympathizing friend.”
RENEWED ATTEMPT TO SLAY DAVID FRUSTRATED BY MICHAL
8 “And there was war again: and David went out, and fought with the
Philistines, and slew them with a great slaughter; and they fled from him.
9 And the evil spirit from the LORD was upon Saul, as he sat in his
house with his javelin in his hand: and David played with his hand.
The — more correctly an — evil spirit from Jehovah. The
friendly relations between Saul and David continued for some time; but
when at length war broke out again, David acquitted himself with his usual
ability and success, whereupon Saul’s envy and jealousy returned, and fits
of melancholy, deepening into insanity, once again over clouded his
reason. It is no longer called “an evil spirit from God,” as in ch.18:10, but
from Jehovah, as in ch. 16:14, suggesting that it was no longer a natural
influence, but that Saul, having broken his covenant relations with Jehovah,
was now punished by Him. While in this moody state the same temptation to
slay David with his javelin came over him, but with such violence that he was
no longer able to restrain his evil intent.
10 “And Saul sought to smite David even to the wall with the javelin:
but he slipped away out of Saul’s presence, and he smote the
javelin into the wall: and David fled, and escaped that night.
11 Saul also sent messengers unto David’s house, to watch him, and
to slay him in the morning: and Michal David’s wife told him, saying,
If thou save not thy life to night, to morrow thou shalt be slain.
12 So Michal let David down through a window: and he went, and
fled, and escaped.” Saul sought to smite David. The verb used here is
not that rendered cast in ch.18:11, where probably we had the
record of a purpose threatened, but not carried out. Here Saul actually
threw his javelin at David with such violence that it was fixed into the wall.
But David, though playing some instrument of music at the time, was on
his guard, and slipped away. And David fled, and escaped that night. As
usual, the historian gives the ultimate results of Saul’s violence first, and
then returns and gives the particulars; for plainly David first went home,
and it was only when he found that the house was surrounded by Saul’s
emissaries that he fled away to find refuge with Samuel. Saul also sent
messengers. As is often the case, this outbreak of violence on Saul’s part
broke down all the former restraints of upright feeling and conscience. He
had lost his self-respect, was openly a murderer as regards everything but
the success of his attempt, and he determined that that should not be long
wanting. He sends persons, therefore, to watch David’s house, with orders
that when in the morning he came out, suspecting no danger, they should
fall upon him and slay him. But Michal in some way or other became aware
of her husband’s danger. Possibly she had been at her father’s house in the
afternoon, and with quick observation had noticed that more than usual
was going on, and seeing that her own house was the object of these
preparations, had divined their intent; or possibly Jonathan may have given
her information, and so she warned David of his danger. As the entrance
was guarded, he was let down through a window, like Paul afterwards
(Acts 9:25), and so began the weary life of wandering which lasted
through so many troubled years.
13 “And Michal took an image, and laid it in the bed, and put a pillow
of goats’ hair for his bolster, and covered it with a cloth.”
Michal took an image. Literally, “the teraphim,” a plural
word, but used here as a singular. Probably, like the corresponding Latin
word penates, it had no singular in common use. It was a wooden block
with head and shoulders roughly shaped to represent a human figure.
Laban’s tera-phim were so small that Rachel could hide them under the
camel’s furniture (Genesis 31:34), but Michal’s seems to have been
large enough to pass in the bed for a man. Though the worship of them is
described as iniquity (ch. 15:23), yet the superstitious belief that
they brought good luck to the house over which they presided, in return
for kind treatment, seems to have been proof against the teaching of the
prophets; and Hosea describes the absence of them as on the same level as
the absence of the ephod (Hosea 3:4). A pillow of goats’ hair for his
bolster. More correctly, “a goat’s skin about its head.” So the Syriac and
Vulgate. The object of it, would be to look at a distance like a man s hair.
The Septuagint has a goat’s liver, because this was supposed to palpitate
long after the animal’s death, and so would produce the appearance of a
person’s breathing. But this involves a different reading, for which there is
no authority; nor was Michal’s deception intended for close observation.
She would of course not let any one disturb David, and all she wanted was
just enough likeness to a man to make a person at a distance suppose that
David was there. Soon or later her artifice would be found out, but her
husband would have had the intervening time for effecting his escape. As
the word rendered pillow, and which is found only here, comes from a root
signifying “to knot together,” “to intertwine,” some commentators think
that it means a network of goats’ hair, perhaps to keep off flies. But this is
a mere guess, and not to be set against the combined authority of the two
versions. With a cloth. Hebrew, beged. This beged was David’s every day
dress, and would greatly aid Michal in her pious artifice. It was a loose
mantle, worn over the close-fitting meil (see ch. 2:19). Thus Ezra (Ezra
9:3,5) says, “I rent my beged and my meil,” which the Authorized Version
with characteristic inexactness translates “my garment and my mantle.” In
Genesis 28:20, where it is rendered raiment, Jacob speaks of it as the
most indispensable article of dress; and in ibid. ch. 39:12, where it is
rendered garment, we find that it was a loose plaid or wrapper. In those
simple days it was used for warmth by night as well as for protection by
day, and it is interesting to find David in his old age still covered up for
warmth in bed by his beged (I Kings 1:1), where it is translated clothes.
14 “And when Saul sent messengers to take David, she said, He is sick.
15 And Saul sent the messengers again to see David, saying, Bring
him up to me in the bed, that I may slay him. 16 And when the messengers
were come in, behold, there was an image in the bed, with a pillow of goats’
hair for his bolster. 17 And Saul said unto Michal, Why hast thou deceived
me so, and sent away mine enemy, that he is escaped? And Michal answered
Saul, He said unto me, Let me go; why should I kill thee?” When, after waiting
till the usual hour for David’s appearance, he came not, the watchers send and
inform Saul, who now orders his open arrest. But Michal despatches a messenger
to tell her father that he is sick. Upon this Saul orders bed and all to be brought,
that he may slay him. As an Oriental bed is usually a mere strip of carpet, this
would be easy enough. But when the messengers force their way through, in
spite of every obstruction which Michal can devise to waste time, and come up
close to the sleeping figure, “Lo, teraphim in the bed, and a goatskin at its
head.” They carry the news to Saul, who sends for Michal, and reproaches
her for letting his enemy go. And she, afraid of bringing her father’s anger
upon herself, answers with a falsehood, such as we find David also too
readily having resort to; for she tells Saul that his flight was David’s own
doing, and that she had taken part in it only to save her life. Why should I
kill thee? She pretends that David had told her not to force him to kill her
by refusing to give her aid in his escape. Saul, no doubt, saw that she had
been a willing agent; but as she professed to have been driven to do what
she had done by David’s threats, he could say no more.
Revived Sins and Troubles (vs. 8-17)
The facts are:
1. The fresh fame of David arouses the latent ill-will of Saul, who seeks in
vain to smite him with a javelin.
2. David fleeing to his house, Saul sends men to lie in wait for and slay him.
3. Michal warns him of danger, and during the night aids his escape.
4. By a clever device she diverts his enemies from an immediate pursuit,
and on being accused of aiding her father’s enemy, she pleads self-preservation.
The troubles of life are but temporarily overcome. It was destined for David to
smite the national enemy, since he went forth as none other did, strong in the
“name of the Lord.” The fame of his exploits no sooner reached the ears of
Saul than the effect of Jonathan’s recent endeavor to reconcile him to David
was utterly lost; and hence arose a series of new troubles for persecutor and the
persecuted. We see here:
GUARANTEE OF CONDUCT AND CHARACTER. The change
wrought in Saul by Jonathan’s recent presentation of truth was only
superficial. The old sin was loved and not confessed! The nature of the
man was alienated from the life of God; and hence on the slightest
approach of temptation the old spirit broke forth. It is universally true that:
Ø no intellectual recognition of truth,
Ø no acquiescence of conscience in the injustice of a course,
Ø no reformation consequent on human influence over the feelings or
Ø the intelligence,
will make man, or enable him TO BE WHAT HE OUGHT TO BE!
The fundamental disposition must be renewed. (As Jesus said, “Ye must
be born again!” - John 3:7 – CY – 2016) There are instances of this in
Christian history. The lion becomes a lamb. A Saul of Tarsus becomes an
apostle of Christ. It is in the nature of things that so it should be. For in the
ordained subordination of the powers of the mind there is a ruling disposition
to which all bend: if it be pure all will move in a holy direction; if it be impure
the whole life will he stained. Out of the heart are the issues of life. (Proverbs
4:23) It is the weakness of all systems of morality that they exalt virtue
and teach the evils of vice, but furnish no adequate power to render the life
virtuous in the highest sense of the term. Moralists may be immoral.
The doing of truth is not involved in a knowledge of it. Here it is
that the New Testament comes in to supplement man’s knowledge, and to
perfect codes of morality. By the gift of the Holy Spirit He builds up
outward character from within, and insures that at last sin shall have no
dominion over us. There is danger of men overlooking this truth, especially
when many run to and fro, and knowledge is increased. (Daniel 12:4)
Civilization, by securing a presentable exterior, diverts attention from the
“hidden man of the heart.” (I Peter 3:4) The indirect effect of Christianity is
to incorporate with the ordinary character many of the virtues nourished only by
itself, and hence men imagine that society would be what it is without
Christianity. It is extremely important, therefore, to insist on the New Testament
teaching of the need of a radical change by the power of the Holy Spirit; to
seek to bring our children early under His renewing power, and to pray
constantly that men may be renewed and become new creatures in
OF GOD PUT A SEVERE STRAIN ON THEIR FAITH. If Psalm 59 was
written in reference to this persecution, we can see the propriety of the
assertion, “Not for my transgression, and not for any sin of mine”
(Psalm 59:3), do they “set themselves.” To a young man conscious of
his integrity, and not without hope of being accepted of God, it must have
seemed a strange providence which allowed his life to be so troubled.
Could Samuel’s anointing really have a Divine significance? (ch. 16:13).
Was it not a mistake to have left the quiet sheepfold for the scene
of conflict? (ch. 17:20). Would it not be well even now to retire
into private life? Why should an innocent, sincere soul have such constant
reason to cry, “Awake to help me, and behold?” (Psalm 59:4). The
experience is not confined to David. One greater than David, when in
pursuit of His higher work in the world, was a “Man of sorrows, and
acquainted with grief.” (Isaiah 53:3) And likewise for many a year His
Church, when pursuing her holy and beneficent course, was exposed to
relentless persecution. It is still true that “many are the afflictions of the
righteous” (Psalm 34:19) but the Lord delivereth out of them all, and that
“through much tribulation” (Acts 14:22) we enter the kingdom. But all
this is not a matter of chance, nor an indication of imperfect wisdom and
love. The world is evil, and goodness can only live in it by conflict. It is
part of the great battle of the universe that sin shall be exterminated by
endured sorrows. History proves that the purest lives and most
beautiful virtues have flourished in times and by means of severe trial.
Every sufferer knows how blessed it is to be driven nearer to God. The
tribulation is only for a brief space, and works out a far more exceeding
and eternal weight of glory. (II Corinthians 4:17) Hence faith can bear
the strain; the more so as God does succor and delight the soul with His
comforts (Psalm 59:17; 94:19).
OF GOD ARE SOMETIMES CAUGHT IN THEIR OWN DEVICES. In
the exercise of his low cunning Saul gave Michal to David that she might
be a snare to him (ch.18:21), her character and tendencies being such as
might in his judgment bring him into trouble. It now turned out that
the snare for David became a snare for Saul (Psalm 7:14-15). Wicked
men cannot always reckon safely on their instruments. Men laid snares for
Christ, but were entangled in their own talk (Matthew 22:15-22).
Pharaoh thought he would find
14:3), and he found himself ensnared therein to his own destruction. Snares
are laid for the
doubtless prove the reverse of the original intent. We are invited with
persuasive voice to enter the pathway of severe historical criticism and of
physical science, and it is hoped thereby to disenchant us of the fascination
of a supernatural Christianity. Men are as confident of the result as was
Saul when he gave Michal to David (ch. 18:21); but we have
nothing to fear, for criticism and science thus far only bring out the truth
that the CHRIST is unexplainable on any hypothesis but that of the
supernatural; and hence, on the ordinary principles of scientific research,
men are bound to accept that hypothesis, or else declare themselves
unscientific. “He must reign till He hath put all enemies under His feet”
(I Corinthians 15:25).
SUBSERVE THE INTERESTS OF GOD’S SERVANTS, IT
NEVERTHELESS IS DISHONOURING TO THEM. Michal acted a lie,
and also told deliberate lies, in order to shield David and then herself. The
issue was advantageous to David, as it put a wide distance between him
and his pursuers. The statement of the facts in Scripture is by no means
identical with approval of them. God’s purposes have sometimes been
furthered by the actions of imperfect men, but the actions have been their
own, and never have had Divine approval. It is true still that many a
defective “earthen vessel” is the instrument of good. Indeed, were God to
refrain from working out His blessed purposes of mercy till we were all
pure as the angels, the prospects of the world would be dark enough. The
safe rule is “not to do evil that good may come.” (Romans 3:8) Good does
come often in spite of evil, as when God’s truth is diffused in spite of the
mixed motives and strife of those engaged in His service, and when comfort
and joy flow to the poor from money given even for purposes far from
benevolent. The command of God is “Lie not one to another” (Leviticus
19:11). It is not for us to say that dangers will be avoided by occasional lies.
The principle involved in truth speaking is of vast importance in all times and
places, and is worth the sacrifice of much for its vindication. Suppose a
man is slain rather than utter a lie, does not his martyrdom for truth, in the
enduring moral sphere, bring greater good to moral beings and himself than
could have come from trampling on a sacred principle for a present
advantage? God, moreover, does not leave His servants when they do right.
Had Michal stated the facts she would have saved her husband from
slander, and there were ten thousand ways by which God could have
frustrated the purpose of the men and shielded David. Our duty is to be
true and leave consequences to God. GOD DOES NOT LIE! — We are
children of God; CHRIST DID NOT LIE! — We are followers of Christ.
We may be sure that permanent good must ensue on our being conformed
TO CHRIST, THE IMAGE OF GOD! There is a gain which is loss, and a
loss which is gain (Psalm 37:3-8, 27-28; Mark 8:36; Ephesians 5:9; 6:14).
We need not fret and be uneasy about the snares of the wicked if only
we are in God’s service, as time is on our side (Psalm 37). Christians
should strive to put down all practical forms of falsehood prevalent in
society (thereby fulfilling the charge of Christ to be “the salt of the earth!”
(Matthew 5:13), and train children in a severe love of truth at any cost.
Michal (vs. 11-17)
The women mentioned in the Books of Samuel are, for the most part,
distinguished for their eminent piety. But what shall be said of Michal, the
wife of David? She was a daughter of Saul, inherited much of his
temperament and disposition, and (unlike Jonathan) was without the
religious principle by which they might have been controlled and sanctified.
1. Impressionable and impulsive. Fascinated by his personal appearance
and popularity, the young princess “loved David,” and made no secret of
her affection; but she does not appear to have perceived anything of his
highest qualities. The relation of husband and wife, no less than that of
friends, is firmest when sanctified by common faith and love toward God.
2. Capable of a noble action. Under the influence of strong feeling she
warned David of his danger and aided his escape, at the risk of her own life.
3. Designing and deceptive. Her quick wittedness devised the means of
escape, deceived the messengers of Saul to gain time, and invented a ready
story to disarm her father’s wrath. Her fear of her father was greater than
her love for truth; and her love for her husband greater than her hatred of
sin. “She could tell lies for David, but she had not the courage and the faith
to go with him into suffering, or to tell the truth for him” (W. M. Taylor).
4. Superstitious. Teraphim (ch.15:23). See Bible Dictionaries. It
is not said that David knew of her possession of these idolatrous objects.
This word occurs only in the plural, and denotes images connected with magical rites.
seems to be intended by the plural. The teraphim, translated "images" in the Authorized
Version, carried away from Laban by Rachel were regarded by Laban as gods, and it
would therefore appear that they were used by those who added corrupt practices to the
patriarchal religion. Teraphim again are included among Micah’s images. (Judges 17:3-5 ;
(Zechariah 10:2 ) compare ch.15:22-23; here vs.13,16, Septuagint, Judges 18:5-6; and
II Kings 23:24 and by the Babylonians in the case of Nebuchadnezzar. ( Ezekiel 21:19-22 )
(Smith’s Bible Dictionary)
5. Changeable and wayward. During the wanderings of David she was
given in marriage to Phalti, apparently without reluctance (ch.25:44); and
(as appears when restored to David) “she had evidently gained
his affections; he most likely had won hers” (II Samuel 3:16).
6. Proud, jealous, and scornful. Proud of her birth and rank, jealous of her
rivals, Abigail and Ahinoam (II Samuel 6:16, 20-23; Blunt, ‘Script.
Coincidences,’ p. 126), and scornful toward her husband. “She despised
him in her heart.”
“Preceding the blest vessel, onward came,
With light dance leaping, girt in humble guise,
Less and yet more kingly. Opposite
At a great palace, from the lattice forth
Looked Michal, like a lady full of scorn
And sorrow” (Dante, ‘Purg.’ 10.).
7. Unspiritual, and destitute of sympathy with the feelings of boundless
gratitude, joy, and adoration expressed before the Lord.
DAVID’S FLIGHT TO SAMUEL AT RAMAH
18 “So David fled, and escaped, and came to Samuel to Ramah, and told
him all that Saul had done to him. And he and Samuel went and dwelt
in Naioth.” David...came to Samuel. We have seen that there is every
reason to believe that David had been taught and trained by Samuel among
the sons of the prophets, and now, conscious of his innocence, he flees for
refuge to his old master, trusting that Saul would reverence God’s prophet,
and give credence to his intercession and his pledge that David was
guiltless. He and Samuel went and dwelt in Naioth. Rather in Nevayoth,
as in the written text. This is not the name of a place, but signifies
“dwellings,” “lodgings,” and is always translated in the Chaldee “house of
study,” i.e. student’s lodgings. Somewhere near to Ramah Samuel had
erected buildings to receive his young men, who were called “sons of the
prophets,” not because their fathers were prophets, but because they were
under prophetic training, with prophets for their teachers, though not
necessarily intended to be prophets themselves. At first Samuel, we may
suppose, built one nevath, one simple hospice for his students, and then, as
their numbers grew, another, and yet another, and so the plural, nevayoth,
came into vogue as the name of the students’ quarters.
David’s Escape from Court (vs. 8-18)
“And David fled, and escaped that night” (v. 10). “There was war again”
(ch. 17.; 18:5, 30), victory by David again, an evil spirit upon Saul
again (ch. 16:23; 18:10); and, as David once more sat in the palace,
“playing with his hand,” the king not merely brandished his spear as
before, but hurled it at him. It was his last attempt of the kind. After what
had taken place he might not be trusted again; and David fled, first to his
own house, and during the night from the city. It is one of the memorable
nights of the Bible.
1. That night was the commencement of his open persecution by Saul, and
of the long and varied troubles he experienced as an outlaw. He had been at court
some three or four years, and now at three and twenty went forth to his seven years’
wanderings (II Samuel 5:5: “He lived seventy years” - Josephus).
2. That night was, as is commonly thought, the occasion of the
composition of the first of David’s psalms. PSALM 59., ‘the refuge of the
persecuted,’ “is perhaps the oldest of the Davidic psalms that have come
down to us” (Delitzsch). It is not necessary to suppose that it was actually
written on the night of his escape. The thoughts and feelings then
entertained may have been penned subsequently; perhaps while he
continued at Ramah with Samuel and “the prophets” (vs. 18, 20). Other
psalms have been referred by some to the same occasion — viz., Psalm 6.,
7., 11. “His harp was his companion in his flight, and even in the midst of
peril the poet’s nature appears which regards all life as materials for song,
and the devout spirit appears which regards all trials as occasions of
praise” (Maclaren). How wide and deep was the stream of sacred song of
which this was the commencement!
To the Chief Musician. Strange that the painful events in David's life
should end in enriching the repertoire of the national minstrelsy. Out of a
sour, ungenerous soil spring up the honey bearing flowers of psalmody.
Had he never
been cruelly hunted by
after ages would have missed this song. The music of the sanctuary is in no
small degree indebted to the trials of the saints. Affliction is the tuner of the
harps of sanctified songsters. Altaschith. Another "destroy not" Psalm.
Whom God preserves Satan cannot destroy. The Lord can even preserve
the lives of his prophets by the very ravens that would naturally pick out
their eyes. David always found a friend to help him when his case was
peculiarly dangerous, and that friend was in his enemy's household; in this
instance it was Michal, Saul's daughter, as on former occasions it had been
Jonathan, Saul's son. Michtam of David. This is the Fifth of the Golden
Secrets of David: God's chosen people have many such. When Saul sent,
and they watched the house to kill him. Great efforts were made to carry
the Psalms away to other authors and seasons than those assigned in the
headings, it being the fashion just now to prove one's learning by
disagreeing with all who have gone before. Perhaps in a few years the old
titles will be as much reverenced as they are now rejected. There are
spasms in these matters, and in many other things among the would be
"intellectuals" of the schools. We are not anxious to show our readiness at
conjecture, and therefore are content with reading this Psalm in the light of
the circumstances here mentioned; it does not seem unsuitable to any
verse, and in some the words are very appropriate to the specified
occasion. (excerpt from Treasury of David, C.H. Spurgeon - # 1308 – this website –
CY – 2016)
3. That night afforded one of the most remarkable instances of the
protecting and guiding providence of God by which the life of David was
manifestly ordered. Notice:
attended (vs. 11, 14, 17, compared with Psalm 59.). Adversity:
Ø Often follows closely upon prosperity. In the morning David occupied a
position of high honor as the king’s son-in-law, the successful general,
the popular hero; at night he was hiding in secret and fleeing for his life.
Vicissitude is the law of life; and none, however exalted, may boast of their
security or continuance (Job 29:18).
Ø Appears sometimes to fall most heavily upon the godly man. “Not for
my transgression nor for my sin” (Psalm 59:3). Why should it be
permitted? To test, manifest, strengthen, and perfect his character. David
had been tried by prosperity, he must also be tried by adversity.
Ø Is due, in great measure, to the opposition and persecution by the
ungodly. What a picture is here presented of the enemies of David, “when
Saul sent messengers, and they watched the house to kill him”! (Psalm
59:3, 6, 14). And what a revelation does it make of the wickedness of the
human heart, which was consummated in THE CRUCIFYING OF THE
LORD OF GLORY! “As then he that was born after the flesh,” etc.
(Galatians 4:29). The conflict is renewed in every age and in every
individual life. “All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer
persecution!” etc. (II Timothy 3:12).
Ø Leads the good man to more entire trust in God and more earnest
prayer. This is one of its chief purposes.
“Deliver me from mine enemies, O my God!…
God of hosts, God of
O my Strength, on thee will I wait,
For God is my Fortress?’
Ø Is never so bitter to him as trouble to the wicked, for he has peace
within and undying hope. How different was it with David in this respect
from what it was with Saul]
Ø However long the good man may suffer from the persecution of the
wicked, his deliverance is certain for “God is Ruler in Jacob unto
the ends of the earth.” (Psalm 59:13). “By Him actions are weighed.”
Ø Is not made without the watchful and diligent use of appropriate means.
David did not presumptuously wait in the palace or his own house, but
availed himself of the opportunity of escaping. “When they persecute you,”
etc. (Matthew 10:23).
Ø Is shown in turning to good what was meant for evil. The snare that was
woven for his soul (v.11; ch.17:21; Psalm 59:3) aided his escape.
Ø Often fills the wicked with disappointment and confusion when most
confident of success (v. 17).
Ø Provides a home for the good man when driven out of their society.
“Came to Samuel and told him all,” etc. That night he was received by his
revered friend, to whose instructions he had doubtless often listened; and
with whom else could he have found such sympathy and shelter?
Ø Causes him to render praise to God.
“But, as for me, I will sing of thy strength,
Yea, I will shout aloud of thy mercy in the morning;
For thou hast been a Fortress to me,
And a Refuge in the day when I was in distress:
O my Strength, unto thee will I harp,
For God is my Fortress, my merciful God.”
Ø Conduces to the benefit of many. These Psalms of David — the result
(under “an unction from the Holy One”) of his distresses and deliverances
— are among our greatest spiritual treasures. “They are for all time. They
never can be outgrown. No dispensation while the world lasts and
continues what it is can ever raise us above the reach or the need of them.
They describe every spiritual vicissitude, they speak to all classes of minds,
they command every natural emotion. They are:
o deprecatory; they are:
ü soft as the descent of dew;
ü low as the whisper of love;
ü loud as the voice of thunder;
ü terrible as the almightiness of God!
(Binney, ‘Service of Song in the House of the Lord’).
19 “And it was told Saul, saying, Behold, David is at Naioth in Ramah.
20 And Saul sent messengers to take David: and when they saw the company
of the prophets prophesying, and Samuel standing as appointed over them,
the Spirit of God was upon the messengers of Saul, and they also prophesied.”
On hearing where David was, Saul sends messengers to
arrest him, and we thus incidentally gain a most interesting account of the
inner condition of Samuel’s schools. Evidently after Saul had become king
Samuel devoted his main energies to this noble effort to
the barbarous depths into which it had sunk; and when the messengers
arrive they enter some hall, where they find a regularly organized choir,
consisting not of “sons of the prophets,” young men still under training, but
of prophets, men who had finished their preparatory studies, and arrived at
a higher elevation. The Chaldee Paraphrast calls them scribes; and
doubtless those educated in Samuel’s schools held an analogous position to
that of the scribes in later days. And Samuel himself was standing — not
as appointed over them; he was the founder and originator of these
schools, and all authority was derived from him. What the Hebrew says is
that he was “standing as chief over them,” and they, full of Divine
enthusiasm, were chanting psalms to God’s glory. So noble was the sight,
that Saul’s messengers on entering were seized with a like enthusiasm, and,
laying aside their murderous purpose, joined in the hearty service of the
prophetic sanctuary. Instead of they saw the Hebrew has “he saw,” but as
all the versions have the plural, it is probably a mere mistake. The Hebrew
word for company is found only here. By transposing the letters we have
the ordinary word for congregation, but possibly it was their own technical
name for some peculiar arrangement of the choir.
Samuel the President (v. 20)
Of Samuel one more glimpse is afforded before his life closes. After his
separation from Saul he appears to have devoted himself to the training of
a body of younger men to carry on his prophetic work. The flight of David
to him shows that an intimate relationship had previously subsisted
between them. He went to him for counsel and sanctuary, and the
meeting of the young hero with the old prophet is full of suggestion.
Samuel might have advised him to make armed resistance against the
godless tyranny of Saul; in which, with his great popularity, he might have
succeeded, but only at the cost of a long and ruinous civil war. As at the
rejection of Saul he avoided violent measures in support of the theocracy,
so now he counseled the same course, and took David with him from his
own house to Naioth (dwellings), or the common residence of “the
company of the prophets” (ch. 10:10), in the neighborhood of
Ramah. It was the chief home of order, light, and religion; the center of
spiritual influence. “He found there only temporary safety, indeed, from
Saul’s persecution, but abiding consolation and strength in the inspired
prophetic word, in the blessings of the fraternal community, and in the
consoling and elevating power of the holy poetic art, whereby he doubtless
stood in peculiarly intimate connection with the community” (Erdmann).
“God intended to make David not a warrior and a king only, but a prophet
too. As the field fitted him for the first and the court for the second, so
Naioth shall fit him for the third (Hall). How long he continued is not
stated; but, on hearing of his refuge, Saul sent three times to take him by
force, and ultimately went himself for the purpose. The messengers found
an assembly (lahak, used here only, probably by a transposition of letters,
i.q. kahal — Gesenius) of prophets engaged in religious exercises under
the presidency of Samuel. It is not necessary to suppose that the service,
which may have had a special character, was conducted in a large hall,
though there may have been such; it was probably in the open air, and
capable of being seen and heard from a distance (v. 22). With respect
more particularly to Samuel, notice:
as leader; not probably appointed by any official act of theirs, but generally
recognized and honored, and directing their holy exercises. The honor in
which he was held was due to:
Ø The pre-eminent authority he possessed as a prophet of the Lord (ch. 3:19).
Ø The high character he had so long sustained in that office, and the
course of labor he had pursued.
Ø The special work he had accomplished in gathering around him such
young men as seemed to be qualified by their gifts and piety to act as
He was the venerable founder of their order, and reaped the reward of his
labors in their reverence and affection, and still more in their devotion to
Jehovah and their zeal for His honor.
or disciples “of the prophets” (II Kings 2:3), who seem to have
occupied in later times a more dependent and inferior position. They were
a union or free association of men “endowed with the Spirit of God for the
purpose of carrying on their work, the feeble powers of junior members
being directed and strengthened by those of a higher class” (Kitto, ‘Cyc. of
Bib. Lit.’). Among them probably were Gad (ch. 22:5; II Samuel 24:11),
Nathan (ibid. ch. 7:2; 12:1), and Heman, the grandson of Samuel
(I Chronicles 6:33; 25:5; “the king’s seer,” etc.).
Ø They had been under his instruction in the knowledge of God and his
law, and, as subservient to this, in reading and writing, poetry, music, and
singing. “Education is not a panacea for all human ills, but it is an
indispensable condition both of individual and of national progress”
Ø They were in sympathy with his purposes concerning the true welfare of
compact phalanx to stand against the corruption which had penetrated so
deeply into the nation, and to bring back the rebellious to the law and the
Ø They were endowed, like Samuel himself, with a peculiar measure of the
Divine Spirit for the accomplishment of their work. By His influence they
were drawn together, variously gifted, and sometimes impelled to ecstatic
took part with them in “prophesying,” or uttering with a loud voice the
praises of God. His last recorded act was one of worship, and under his
influence David’s intense love for public worship was probably acquired.
The service was:
Ø Accompanied with music (as in ch. 10:10). “A principal part
of their occupation consisted — under the guidance of some prophet of
superior authority, and more peculiarly under the Divine influence, as
moderator and preceptor — in celebrating the praises of Almighty God, in
hymns and poetry, with choral chants, accompanied by stringed
instruments and pipes” (Lowth).
2. Edifying. Whilst their utterance expressed their inward feeling, it was
also the means of teaching and exhorting one another, and of “awakening
holy susceptibilities and emotions in the soul, and of lifting up the spirit to
God, and so preparing it for the reception of Divine revelations.”
3. United. Which tends by the power of sympathy to intensify feeling,
strengthen faith, enlarge desire, and perfect those dispositions in
connection with which worship is acceptable to God.
messengers,” etc. The immediate effect was to transform these men, to
protect David from their power, and to afford a sign of the opposition of
God to the designs of Saul. More generally, the influence of Samuel was
put forth in and through the “company of prophets” for:
Ø The maintenance of the principle of the theocracy, which was imperiled
by the conduct of Saul. The prophets were its true representatives and
upholders in every subsequent age.
Ø The elevation of the people in wisdom and righteousness. Their work
was to teach, reprove, and exhort those with whom they came into contact;
and “through such a diffusion of prophetic training the higher truths of
prophecy must have been most rapidly diffused among the people, and a
new and higher life formed in the nation” (Ewald).
Ø The preparation of men for a better time:
o the advent of Christ,
o the outpouring of the Spirit, and
o the proclamation of the gospel.
The prophets, not the priests, were the true forerunners of
the gospel ministry.
21 “And when it was told Saul, he sent other messengers, and they
prophesied likewise. And Saul sent messengers again the third
time, and they prophesied also. 22 Then went he also to Ramah, and
came to a great well that is in Sechu: and he asked and said, Where are
Samuel and David? And one said, Behold, they be at Naioth in Ramah.
23 And he went thither to Naioth in Ramah: and the Spirit of God was
upon him also, and he went on, and prophesied, until he came to Naioth in
Ramah. 24 And he stripped off his clothes also, and prophesied before
Samuel in like manner, and lay down naked all that day and all that night.
Wherefore they say, Is Saul also among the prophets?”
Saul sends messengers a second and even a third time with
the same result, and finally determines to go in person. Having set out, he
came to a — more correctly the — great well that is in Sechu — more
probably the cistern or tank there. From the value of water it was no doubt
a well known spot at the time, but in the present ruined state of the country
all such works have perished. Sechu, according to Conder (‘Handbook’),
was probably on the site of the present ruin of Suweikeh, immediately
south of Beeroth. Having there made inquiries whether Samuel and David
were still at Ramah, courageously awaiting his coming, he proceeds on his
way. But even before arriving in Samuel’s presence, with that
extraordinary susceptibility to external impressions which is so marked a
feature in his character, he begins singing psalms, and no sooner had he
entered the Nevavoth than he stripped off his clothes — his beged and
meil — and lay down naked — i.e. with only his tunic upon him — all
that day and all that night. His excitement had evidently been intense,
and probably to the chanting he had added violent gesticulation. But it was
not this so much as the tempest of his emotions which had exhausted him,
and made him thus throw himself down as one dead. And once again the
people wondered at so strange an occurrence, and called back to mind the
proverb, Is Saul also among the prophets? (ch. 10:11) When first used
Saul’s enthusiasm was an outburst of piety, genuine but evanescent,
and which had long since passed away. What was it now? The Chaldee, as
explained by Rashi, says he was mad. More probably, in the violent state of
excitement under which Saul had for some time been laboring, the
thought of seeing Samuel, from whom he had been so long separated,
brought back to his mind the old days when the prophet had loved and
counseled him, and made him king, and been his true and faithful friend.
And the remembrance overpowered him. What would he not have given to
have continued such as he then was! And for a time he became once again
the old Saul of Ramah; but the change was transient and fitful; and after
these twenty-four hours of agony Saul rose up, full perhaps of good
intentions, but with a HEART UNCHANGED, and certain, therefore,
very quickly to disappoint all hopes of real amendment, and to become
a still more moody and relentless tyrant.
Saintly Refuge and Spiritual Restraint (vs. 18-24)
The facts are:
1. David takes refuge with Samuel at Naioth in Ramah.
2. The messengers sent by Saul to take David are restrained in the presence
of Samuel and the prophets, and themselves begin to prophesy.
3. Other messengers come under the same influence.
4. Saul, venturing to go himself, on approaching the place, also falls under
the prophetic influence, and is utterly overcome by it in the presence of
Human wisdom may be almost confounded by the prominent facts
of this section, but this must not be taken as proof of our infallibility, nor of
the unfitness of the event with the order of Divine providence. Had it been
left to man to invent and regulate the process by which the earth and life
upon it arrived at the forms now familiar to us, would he have introduced
some of those ancient physical conditions and changes which must have
been so utterly unlike what now prevail? The convulsions, the
transformations, the climatic conditions, the huge forms of life of some
past ages are as much unlike the present facts as the spiritual
manifestations of the prophetic schools are unlike the orderly course of
Christian influence. It is only of late years that men have in some degree
traced the naturalness of the physical process, and even now there is
diversity of opinion on the subject. It is not to be wondered at, therefore,
if, in man’s comparative ignorance of the unseen spiritual sphere in which
the great development of God’s purpose in Christ really occurs, he should
not be able to supply all the links connecting the spiritual manifestations of
the era of Samuel with the rigid legal era of Moses and the more calm and
orderly methods of the Christian dispensation.
“Blind unbelief is sure to err,
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.”
Looking at the teaching of the section, we see:
AMIDST THE TURMOIL OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS. While battles were
being fought, and the kingdom was troubled with the unsatisfactory
condition of the court, Samuel was quietly gathering around himself a band
of men who, devoting attention to the records of
exercise of psalmody and music, and the spiritual interests of men, were
becoming a power to influence the national life in days to come. The extent
and strength of that influence cannot be minutely traced, because of its
spiritual nature; but the higher tone of national life during the reigns of
David and Solomon was doubtless largely due to it. Centers of spiritual
influence are formed when the great political world is intent on its wars
and intrigues. Notably, Christianity arose and found its first nourishment
amidst the quiet valleys and hills of
intent on conquests and ignorant almost of its existence. The band of men
and women who met for prayer in an upper room (Acts 1:13-14)
cultivated there the power which afterwards penetrated into all parts of the
respects were the seats of an influence which the world could ill spare.
During the close of the last century (18th) small bodies of Christians nourished
here and there the missionary spirit which has since affected the destinies of
millions in the East and South. Amidst all the conflicts of politics and
controversies of science and worry of commerce there are quiet fellowships
of Christians devoted to the nourishment of a life destined to conserve and
elevate the national life. The Christian Church has need to form and
sustain “schools of the prophets” to meet the demands of the age.
(This occurred during the early
years of the
the elite universities were basically seminaries, i.e. – Yale, Harvard,
Samuel’s course and the injunctions of Paul to Timothy (I Timothy
3:1-7; 5:21-22; II Timothy 2:4; compare Ephesians 4:11-15) suggest that
it is the duty of the Church as a whole, and not to be left as a private
enterprise to a few zealous individuals, to provide for the training of men
for spiritual service. Had more care been devoted to this in years past it
had been well for the world.
AND TROUBLES OF LIFE IN FELLOWSHIP WITH THE DEVOUT.
It was a spiritual instinct that drew David to Samuel. The penalties of
public life had already fallen heavily upon him. He had found, even in the
beginning of his career of service to mankind, that “offences must needs
come.” (Matthew 18:7) The whole tone of life around the throne was out of
accord with his most cherished aspirations. He was conscious of being mis-
understood and misrepresented. The earlier days of quiet service and holy
communion with God were now but sweet memories, bringing the bitter
realities of daily life into stronger relief. With bounding heart and rapid
flight, therefore, did he seek consolation, counsel, and rest with the honored
man who once anointed him to some unexplained service. Many have been,
and still are, in full sympathy with the troubled David. The devout heart is
brave, and dares not shun to fight the holy battles of the Lord in daily life.
Religion is to flourish in face of evil and care, and not away in solitude.
The business of life must not be left to the greedy and the vile. The great
prayer was not that the disciples should be taken from the world, but that
they should be kept from its evil (John 17:15; compare I Corinthians
5:10). Yet human nature cries out under the strain; the spiritual mind is
disgusted with the sins it witnesses; the sense of belonging to a higher
citizenship rises in force; sympathy with kindred spirits is longed for; the
support of stronger natures is a pressing need; and opportunities for
prayer and for contemplation on the loftier aims of life are earnestly
desired. Under this common inspiration, Jacob and Moses and Elijah sought
each his “
present cares. It was in the same participation in human infirmities and
sorrows that Christ loved to retire from the alien world to seek solace with
His Father and with His people (Matthew 14:23; 17:1; Mark 6:31;
John 11:3, 32-36; 12:1-2; Hebrews 5:7). For the same reason we
love to retire from the turmoil of life to the fellowship of a pious home, a
meeting for prayer and counsel, and the service of the sanctuary. It is
helpful to court occasional retirement. The “communion of saints” should
be more than an article in our creed.
SERVANTS. Saul’s wicked desperation was great when he sent to Naioth
to take David, and at its highest pitch when, after three despatches of men,
he ventured to go to the abode of Samuel on a cruel errand. Hitherto Saul
appeared to be fighting solely against David; but now that the mysterious
spirit of prophecy came upon his messengers and rendered them harmless,
it ought to have been obvious to him that in persecuting David he was at
war with God. The knowledge of this mysterious restraint on them could
not but add to his mental confusion, though it was not sufficient to the
subjugation of his wild passion. Yet Saul was not bereft of reason; and
could he have traveled to Ramah on such an errand without passing in
review events prior and subsequent to his last contact with Samuel?
(ch.15:26-35). Must he not have gone back in thought to the
fearful day when the prophet declared the doom of his reign; the earlier
days when as king he received the cheers of the people and the instructions
of the prophet (ch. 10:24-25); and the still earlier time when,
fresh from his anointing, on meeting a band of prophets, the spirit of
prophecy came on him and turned him into another man? (ch. 10:5-9).
And now, after long separation, he was drawing near to that
revered man of God and the company of the prophets, not the former Saul,
full of hope and courage, but a man sinking deeper and deeper in sin, and
with only the courage bred of remorse. If he was to be restrained and
rendered harmless, what more natural method — more in harmony with the
characteristics of the age and locality, and the psychological facts — than
that for a season the old prophetic excitement should come upon him? It is
no solitary fact that the mental and moral atmosphere of a place exercises
power over men. The main truth, however, is that God restrains. Divine
restraint enters into all things. The nature of things is but their limit
assigned by God. The original relation of forces in the physical world is so
settled by God that their interaction shall be bounded by definite results.
To every effect wrought out in the development of the material universe it
has been virtually said, “Thus far shalt thou go, and no farther.” (Job 38:11)
Scripture makes known the restraint which God puts on’ hearts and on moral
Ø Lions dare not touch a Daniel.
Ø Evil spirits beg permission of Christ before they can go forth.
Ø Men sent to seize the Saviour were unable to fulfill their mission
(John 7:46), and
Ø soldiers were powerless in His presence (John 18:3-6).
The history of the Church and of individual Christian life
brings out instances of the restraining power which silently lays hold of
man and renders his enmity innocuous. “It shall not come nigh thee”
(Psalm 91:7) has often been verified. In all these instances we have but
glimpses of that unseen Power by which in due time all principalities and
powers, and whatever opposeth itself to God and His Church, shall be
either turned unto Him or deprived of their power of injury (Isaiah 11:9;
35:9-10; I Corinthians 15:24-26; Philippians 2:9-11; Colossians 1:19-20;
The Meeting of Three Remarkable Men (vs. 22-24)
This appears to have been the only occasion on which Samuel, Saul, and
David were present at the same time and place. The meeting was a notable
one, and may be compared with others:
Ø Pharaoh, Moses and Aaron (Exodus 10:16);
Ø Obadiah, Ahab and Elijah (I Kings 18:16;
Ø Festus, King Agrippa and Paul (Acts 25:24).
Besides the three men just mentioned, there was also present
ONE infinitely greater, and, although invisible, His power was
displayed in a marvelous manner. Considered in relation to the Divine
power, the narrative sets before us:
danger was great. What Saul might do may be judged from the fear which
Samuel expressed on a former occasion (ch. 16:2), and from
what he actually did not long afterwards (ch. 22:18-19). But the
prophet went on with his holy service calm and undismayed. He was
inwardly sustained by Divine power, as others have since been in danger
and suffering (Acts 16:25). Such fearlessness is possessed by God’s
servants in connection with:
Ø A firm persuasion that they are in the path of duty. They have within “a
peace above all earthly dignities, a still and quiet conscience.” If conscience
“does make cowards of us all,” it also makes us heroes. And
“He that hath light within his own clear breast
May sit in the centre and enjoy bright day;
But he that hides a dark soul and foul thoughts
Benighted walks under the midday sun”
Ø A vivid realization of the presence and might of the Lord. Faith “sees
Him who is invisible” (Hebrews 11:27) and “the mountain full of horses
and chariots of fire” (II Kings 6:17).
Ø A strong assurance of deliverance from their adversaries.
ENTHUSIAST. The Divine power was exerted first upon Saul’s
messengers and then upon himself. In a somewhat similar manner, if not to
the same extent, it is often exerted upon evil and persecuting men:
Ø In connection with the utterances of the praises of God by His servants
(II Chronicles 20:22; Psalm 149:6). Instances are not unknown in
which “one that believeth not” has come into their assembly, and, hearing
their praises, has fallen down on his face and worshipped God (I Corinthians
14:24-25). This was not the first time that Saul was so affected, and the
recollection of his earlier experience had probably some influence upon him.
But then it was a sign that the power of God was for him, now that it was
Ø In order to restrain the wicked from carrying out their evil designs. He
who holds the hearts of men in His hand thereby says, “Do my prophets no
harm” (I Chronicles 16:22).
Ø In order to restore them to the right way. It was to Saul more than a
warning that he was fighting against God. “He was seized by this mighty
influence of the Spirit of God in a more powerful manner than his servants
were, both because he had most obstinately resisted the leadings of Divine
grace, and also in order that, if it were possible, his hard heart might be
broken and subdued by the power of grace. If, however, he should
nevertheless continue obstinately in his rebellion against God, he would
then fall under the judgment of hardening, which would be speedily
followed by his destruction” (Keil).
DESTRUCTION. David was saved from the hand of Saul, and even (as it
would appear) formally reconciled to him (ch. 20:18, 27). The
putting forth of the power of God was to him:
Ø An indication of the varied and abundant resources of God to protect in
the greatest peril.
Ø An assurance of Divine approval in the way of trust and obedience.
Ø An encouragement to patient endurance. He might be tempted to reach
the goal for which, as he was now probably fully aware, he was destined
(ch. 20:15; 23:17) by violent measures; but ever as he thought on
this scene, together with the counsel and the whole course of the
venerable prophet, he would feel that “the way of order is the best.”
“The way of order, though it lead through windings,
Is the best. Right forward goes the lightning
And the cannon ball; quick, by the nearest path,
They come, opening with murderous crash their way
To blast and ruin! My son, the quiet road
Which men frequent, where peace and blessings travel,
Follows the river’s course, the valley’s bendings;
Modestly skirts the cornfield and the vineyard,
Revering property’s appointed bounds,
And leading safe, though slower, to the mark”
Religious Consolation and Religious Excitement (vs. 18-24)
The consolation was tasted by David; the excitement was shown by Saul.
driven from his house by the deadly malice of the king, betook himself to
the prophet Samuel at his residence in Ramah. In reporting the treatment
he had received to the venerable prophet, he reported it to God, whose
authority was represented by Samuel. The path of his life seemed to be
blocked by the undeserved ill will of Saul. Was there any further instruction
for him from the Lord? There is no evidence that Samuel had held any
communication with David from the time of his visit to
anoint the young shepherd; but it may be assumed that he had kept a
watchful eye on his career, and prayed much for a youth with so great a
destiny. Some painter ought to show us their meeting: the aged prophet,
his countenance traced with sorrow for his own unworthy sons, and not
less for the untoward career of Saul, receiving with outstretched arms and
ready sympathy the fugitive David, in the very perfection of his gallant
youth, yet coining with weary steps and dejected visage. The old man took
the young chief to shelter with him in Naioth, where was a settlement of
prophets — a group of dwellings where servants of God lived in retreat
and cultivated sacred song and fraternal fellowship. David was not to tarry
long in such a refuge, but it was good for him to visit it. It solaced and
strengthened his spirit in God. Undisturbed by the jealousies of the court
and the dangerous frenzy of the king, surrounded by an atmosphere of
devotion, mingling not merely with aged seers like Samuel, but also with
young men of his own age whose time was spent in sacred study and
brightened with music and song, David must have been in his best element.
He was a good soldier, and happy at the head of his troops, charging the
Philistines. But he was still more a thinker, a poet, a minstrel, a prophet, a
man of fervent spirit toward God, and so must have been happier in the
goodly fellowship of the prophets at Naioth than in the rush of battle and
the pride of victory. There is no record of the words of consolation and
counsel which Samuel spoke to him; but doubtless we have traces and
echoes of them in those psalms in which David has discussed the afflictions
of the servants of Jehovah, and sung of their ultimate deliverance and
reward. Psalm 59. is traditionally ascribed to the period when the armed
men sent by Saul surrounded David’s house to put him to death. As it is
highly artificial in structure, it can hardly have been composed on the spur
of the moment. Very probably it was written at Naioth while the
impression of the danger was fresh, and was sung among the prophets
there. In the case of David we read of no agitation or excitement. It would
be little surprising if he, fleeing for his life, had been overcome by emotion
when he found himself in safeguard. But all we read of his bearing is
rational and calm.
Saul himself, that a religious excitement appeared. Three successive bands
were dispatched by the king to seize his son-in-law, but with a strange
result. As each band saw the venerated Samuel stand forth at the head of
the prophets, they feared to do violence to one under such august
protection. Nay, more; the spiritual enthusiasm of the prophets
communicated itself to them and overmastered them, so that they forgot
their errand and joined in the burst of holy song. King Saul himself,
provoked by the failure of his emissaries, went to Naioth, and he was more
completely overpowered than they. We have seen already that his
temperament was exceedingly amenable to the impressions of music and
song. We remember how he had flung himself among the prophets in the
very outset of his history; and although sadly deteriorated in character, he
still retained his early sensibilities. Indeed, through the very disorder of his
faculties he had become more susceptible than ever of religious excitement;
so when he reached Naioth he was quite beyond himself. The spiritual
electricity of the place was too much for him, and he fell into a very
paroxysm of enthusiasm. At first when, on the way to Naioth, he lifted his
voice m some sacred chant, it was well, and the historian does not hesitate
to say that “the Spirit of God was upon him.” But at Naioth he behaved
like a fanatical devotee of some heathen god, or a wild dervish of the East.
He threw off his royal tunic, and after long and exhausting exercise of body
and spirit lay in nothing but his under dress, prone and probably
motionless, on the ground for “all that day and all that night.” But though
“among the prophets,” he was not of them. It was a mere fit of fervor
soon to pass away. The heart of Saul was by this time hopelessly “jangled
and out of tune.” The subject of temporary religious excitement needs to
be carefully thought out and discreetly handled. But it can never be fully
explained — at all events not till more is known of the action of the
nervous system, and till more light falls on the mysterious question of
contagious emotion and imitative cerebral stimulation. One or two things,
however, are plain enough, and deserve to be noted; e.g.:
Ø There is a religious excitation which carries with it no moral influence
whatever. It is not feigned or insincere. He who is the subject of it is really
lifted up or carried along as with a rush of earnest feeling. He cries for
mercy; he prays with strong supplication; or he sings of pardon and of
unutterable joys. His emotions are all aglow, and his brain is stirred to
unusual activity. This occurs the more easily if one who is constitutionally
accessible to such gusts of feeling falls among others who are much in
earnest. He finds himself where prayers burst forth from importunate souls,
and hymns are sung with a swing of enthusiasm. At once he feels as those
around him do. Yet there is no change of his moral nature; he is merely a
person of susceptible or imitative constitution, who has caught the
contagion of religion from others, yet has not come, and may never come,
to repentance. It is not for a moment to be denied that in many cases a real
moral and spiritual change is produced in the midst of much excitement;
but the excitement is only an accompaniment of the change — perhaps
necessary for some minds, but always fraught with some degree of danger.
The only thing of lasting value is the exercise of conscience, and the
turning of the affections and will TO GO IN CHRIST!
Ø The degree in which new religious emotion overpowers the body is
generally proportioned to the previous ignorance of the mind, or its
estrangement from God. David at Naioth fell into no frenzy, lay in no
swoon, because he was a man of God, and devout feeling flowed through
him unimpeded, found in him a congenial heart. But Saul had been in an
evil mood; envy and murder were in his breast. So, when a pure and sacred
impulse came upon him, it met resistance; and there were bodily
manifestations which, far from being marks of grace, were signs of a moral
state at variance with the Spirit of God. This case should teach caution in
ascribing any religious value to prostrations, trances, and long fasts. These
things most frequently recur in cases of a morbid hysterical temperament,
or in very ignorant persons who are disturbed and terrified, or in instances
where religious feeling, suddenly flowing in on unprepared minds,
encounters obstinate obstruction. When the mind is thoughtful and refined,
or when the heart is gentle and open to any good influx, religious fervor
seldom causes any disorder in the nervous system or the physical
constitution. We may be reminded here that David could show no small
for he danced before the ark in the sight of all
(II Samuel 6:14). True; but in all the enthusiasm of that great occasion King
David was sober minded and self-possessed. He had good reasons for
leading the sacred processional dance, as may afterwards be shown; but,
far from giving way to excitement, or losing his senses like Saul, he went
calmly through the duties of an eventful and fatiguing day. He offered
burnt offerings and peace offerings. Then he blessed the people, causing
provisions to be distributed among them. And after all this “David returned
to bless his house.” Such is the enthusiasm we desire. To be full of joy
before the Lord, but at the same time to be of a healthy mind, ready for
public or private duty hour by hour. But we see no good in nervous
excitement or hysterical ecstasy. When we consider that the Bible is a
collection of Eastern books, and that the East has always been the home of
strange religious extravagances, we recognize in the well balanced sobriety
of mind which pervades the Bible a new proof of its Divine inspiration. It
takes notice of the varied phenomenal effects of strong religious feeling on
the human frame; it tells of long prostrations, excited movements, and
prophetic trances; but it always attaches moral significance and value not
to such abnormal conditions, but to the effects which appear and remain in
character and life. The greatest of all, the Man Christ Jesus, the Lord
whom we are to love and follow, is shown to us full of a sublime
enthusiasm, but full at the same time of meekness and of wisdom. The
Scriptures teach us to be calm and fervent, fervent and calm. If rushes of
devout emotion come upon us, be it so. If men who have no faith call us
fanatical and mad, be it so. Such men said of our Master, “He rageth, and
hath a demon” (John 10:20); and Festus said of Paul, “Thou art beside
thyself.” (Acts 26:24) But let the evidence of our Christian faith and
principle be found not in any moods of excitement, but in:
o the moral excellence we exhibit, and
o the fruit of the Spirit we bring forth.
So shall we find consolation and strength when others only expose their
weakness; and every pause at Naioth, or the place of prayer and holy
fellowship, will brace our spirits for the trials that must yet befall
us before we are perfected and “we all come in the unity of the faith,
and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto
the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ!” (Ephesians 4:13)
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