Saul’s Jealousy of David
Text: I Samuel 18:1-20:42
The Friendship of Jonathan and David - I Samuel 18:1-4
Jonathan was present when David returned from killing Goliath and presented himself before King Saul (I Samuel 17:57-58). He found David to be an admirable young man as David displayed traits similar to his own. The two young men quickly became close friends. The word “knit to the soul” means to be bound together and was used to describe Jacob’s love for his youngest son (Genesis 44:30). Such as close friendship is also mentioned as part of a law in Deuteronomy 13:6).
Saul took David in and made him a part of his household. Soon Jonathan made a covenant with David. The terms of that covenant are not stated, but we gather that they swore loyalty and protection to each other from later verses in I Samuel 20. A common feature of covenants is that something is given to show that the covenant is in force. In this case, Jonathan gave David his robe, armor, and weapons. This act also gave David suitable clothing and weapons as a member of Saul’s household.
- Discuss the difference between Saul giving David his armor and Jonathan giving David his armor.
- Supporters of homosexuality cite this verse to claim that Jonathan and David were sexually involved with each other. Why is that conclusion unreasonable?
David’s Success in Battles - I Samuel 18:5-9
Wherever Saul sent David on a military campaign, David prospered. Eventually, David was placed over the warriors. Since I Samuel 18:13 mentions that David was then placed over a thousand men, This verse likely means that David was put in charge of a hundred men. David turned out to be popular with Saul’s staff and all of Israel.
On one occasion, when Saul returned from battling the Philistines and David was with him, the women came out to meet the returning soldiers. They played, danced, and sang in joy. One of the things sung was that Saul has slain thousands and David has slain ten thousand. The Hebrew indicates that this was sung alternatively; that is, one group made a statement and another group responded. The song angered Saul that he was being upstaged in the people’s eyes. In Saul’s view, David had everything but the kingship and that very thought planted suspicion in Saul’s mind.
- Why would Sault put such a young man in charge of seasoned warriors?
Saul Attempts to Kill David Twice - I Samuel 18:10-11
The day after they returned from battle, Saul had fallen into depression again. As usual, David took up his lyre to play soothing music, but Saul was not calmed. Likely, he kept thinking about how David might be the man God chose to replace him with. As Saul raged through the house, he took up a spear and hurled it at David to pin him against the wall. However, David managed to avoid the spear. Saul tried it again, and David escaped him a second time.
- Why didn’t David simply leave Saul and go home?
Saul Tries to Get David Killed in Battle- I Samuel 18:12-30
These escapes just made Saul all the more afraid of David. He saw that God was protecting David, though God was no longer with Saul. As a result, Saul no longer had David attend to him. As he saw David continue to prosper and to be popular with the people, Saul hatched a scheme to get David killed.
Saul offers his eldest daughter, Merab, to be David’s wife on the condition that David fight the Philistines. The problem here is that Saul had already offered his daughter to the man who killed Goliath (I Samuel 17:25); thus, Saul had not kept his past promise. It might have been deferred because of David’s youth, but now Saul revives the offer in hopes that David will die in battle. David is honored by the offer because he believes he is too lowly to become Saul’s son-in-law. However, when the time came that Merab should have been married to David, Saul gave her to Adriel, the son of Barzillei, the Meholathite instead (II Samuel 21:8).
Saul’s second daughter, Michal, loved David so Saul decided to use her against David. He offers her to David as a second chance to be his son-in-law, but David's response is not recorded. It appears that he remains reluctant. Saul, therefore, has his servants attempt to persuade David to marry Michal. David points out that it isn’t a trivial matter to become the king’s son-in-law. This might hint that Adriel had paid a large dowry in order to marry Merab. Thus, Saul offers David to pay a dowry of a hundred Philistine foreskins. Since this would not be willingly given, Saul figures that David would eventually be killed by the Philistines.
However, David finds the offer a worthy task to earn the right to marry Michal. Apparently, there was a time limit on the proposal, but David and his men set out well before the time passed. He and his men killed two hundred Philistines and brought back their foreskins. Thus, Saul gave Michal to be David’s wife. Saul realized that God was clearly with David (unlike himself). He wasn’t able to use Michal against David because she truly loved David. Instead of submitting to God’s purpose, Saul becomes David’s enemy.
David continues to distinguish himself in battles against the Philistines, and he earns the respect of Saul’s servants.
- Why do you suppose Saul didn’t keep his promise at the last moment regarding Merab?
- Why was Saul pleased that Michal loved David? (I Samuel 18:20)
- Why would Saul offer Michal in marriage to David indirectly through his servants?
Jonathan Protects David from His Father - I Samuel 19:1-7
Eventually, Saul orders his servants and his son, Jonathan, to put David to death. Jonathan loved David and refused to follow Saul’s orders. Instead, he warns David and asks him to hide in a field. Jonathan planned to speak to Saul about David and promised to relay anything he learned to David.
Jonathan told Saul that he was sinning against a man who had benefitted Saul in many ways. He reminded Saul that David risked his life to kill Goliath. Israel has been delivered from the oppression of the Philistines and Saul rejoiced in that fact. So, why, Jonathan asked, was Saul looking to kill an innocent man?
Saul agreed with his son and stated that David would not be put to death. Jonathan thought the matter settled and told David what had transpired. As a result, David returned to his former position in Saul’s household.
Michal Intervenes to Protect David - I Samuel 19:8-17
Another war broke out with the Philistines. David went out to battle and had a resounding victory over the Philistines.
After David returned to Saul’s home, Saul was afflicted by an evil spirit of depression from God once again. David was playing to soothe Saul, but Saul took up a spear and attempted to pin David to the wall with it. It wasn’t a light throw. The spear stuck to the wall. David managed to escape and fled into the night.
Saul posted men to watch David’s house to keep David from escaping. Saul planned to execute David in the morning. David’s wife, Michal, warned David that he had to flee that night to avoid Saul’s plot. Thus, Michal lowered David through a window and he fled.
Meanwhile, took an image that was in the house, put it into David’s bed, put a goat skin quilt on top to make it look like hair, and then covered it up.
Side Topic: Why was there an idol in David’s house?
The Hebrew word teraphim is often translated as a "household idol," but some translators, such as Koehler-Baumgartner, think that it is better translated as an image. The argument is that the word applies to any statue of a human or a human bust. Now, many idols were made as human-like statues, but it doesn't follow that all statues were idols. You'll find that the New King James Version takes the more neutral approach of translating the word as "image" instead of imposing an implication that might not be proper.
But if it was true that the image was an idol, then it is further evidence that idolatry remained a problem in Israel. I would have to assume it was there because of Michal and not David.
The next morning, Saul sent messengers to arrest David, but Michal delayed them by telling the messengers that David was sick. Saul sent the men back to take David regardless of his condition because he was going to be put to death anyway. However, the messengers found the decoy instead of David. When Saul demanded to know why his daughter sided with his imagined enemy, Michal lied again and said that David threatened her with death if she didn’t help him escape.
- Why did Saul wait until morning to arrest David and put him to death?
- Was Michal’s lies justified?
David Runs to Samuel, and God Intervenes to Protect David - I Samuel 19:18-24
David decides to go see Samuel at Ramah and tell him what was happening in Saul’s house. He and Samuel then go to a place called Naioth (“dwelling,” possibly where the prophets lived) that is in Ramah. One commentator suggests that Naioth was on Mount Ephraim.
Word reaches Saul that David is at Naioth in Ramah, so he sent men to arrest David. When the messengers arrived they found a group of prophets prophesying and Samuel presiding over them in the middle of the group. As the messengers approached, the Spirit caused them to join the prophets and begin prophesying.
Once again, word returned to Saul that his men had joined Samuel’s prophets, so Saul sent a second group with the same results. Saul then sent a third group and the same thing happened.
Finally, Saul personally comes to Ramah. He gets to the well that is in the area called Secu in Ramah and asks where he can find Samuel and David. Someone at the well told him that they were in Naioth. As Saul approached Naioth, the Spirit caused Saul to prophesy as he walked. When he arrived, he stripped off his clothes, laid down before Samuel, and prophesied all that day and all that night. Once again, the proverb “Is Saul also among the prophets?” was given new life (I Samuel 10:10-12).
David Tells Jonathan that Saul is Trying to Kill Him - I Samuel 20:1-42
David ran from Naioth to go see Jonathan while Saul was preoccupied. He wanted to know what sin he had committed that would cause Saul to seek him out to kill him.
Jonathan did not believe David. Saul always told Jonathan what his plans were (I Samuel 19:1) and he had said nothing. However, David pointed out that since Saul knows that Jonathan and he are friends, he would not tell Jonathan this particular plan. David insists that he is just a step away from death.
Jonathan asks what he can do for David. David points out that tomorrow would be the New Moon festival and that he is expected to be at the king’s table. David proposes to instead hide in a field for the next three days. If Saul asks about what happened to David, Jonathan is to say that David had asked for time off to attend his family’s yearly sacrifice. Depending on Saul’s reaction to that message, Jonathan will know whether Saul planning to harm David or not.
David also told Jonathan that because of the covenant between them, if David had sinned, he wants Jonathan to put him to death instead of turning him over to Saul. However, Jonathan said that if he finds out that Saul intends to harm David then Jonathan would tell David. But David is uncertain that Jonathan will be able to get a message to David. Jonathan then vows that if in the next three days, he learns that Saul has no ill will toward David, then he will let David know. And if Saul intends to harm David, Jonathan will let David know so he can flee to safety.
Jonathan also asks David to treat him kindly in the future if he remains alive and to show mercy to his household, even when God cuts off all of David’s enemies. David renewed his covenant with Jonathan. It appears Jonathan knows that David is destined to become king of Israel. He accepts it gladly, unlike his father.
Jonathan then proposes a way to let David know what he finds out about Saul. He asks David to hide behind a rock in a field. The stone is called “Ezel” which means “stone of departure.” Jonathan will come out for shooting practice. If he tells the boy who is gathering the arrows that they are closer to Jonathan then it is safe for David to return. If he tells the boy that the arrows are further away then David knows he needs to flee.
At that evening’s dinner, when David did not come, Saul decided that it must be because he was unclean. On the second evening, Saul asked Jonathan why David had not come to the dinner. Jonathan gave his father the excuse David had proposed: that David had gone to a family sacrifice.
This angered Saul. He curses Jonathan’s mother and accuses Jonathan of choosing David over his own family to the shame of his own family. Saul points out that as long as David lives, Jonathan will not have a kingdom. Saul demands that Jonathan bring David to Saul so he can be put to death.
Jonathan asks his father why David should be put to death. He wants to know what David had done to deserve death. But Saul’s answer was to attempt to kill his own son by throwing his spear at him. Jonathan finally realized that his father was determined to kill David. He angrily left without eating.
The next morning he went out to shoot arrows and call to the lad that the arrow was further out. He also yelled out that he should hurry and not stay. After bringing the arrow back, Jonathan handed the boy his weapons and told him to take them back into the city.
After the lad left, David bowed three times before his friend. They wept as they said their goodbyes. Jonathan assured David that God would be watching over them both and their descendants. David then left while Jonathan returned to the city.