1 Samuel 18
In the course of the foregoing chapter we left David in triumph; now in
this chapter we have,
I. The improvement of his triumphs; he soon became,
1. Saul's constant attendant,
1 Samuel 18:2.
2. Jonathan's covenant friend,
1 Samuel 18:1,3,4.
3. The darling of his country,
1 Samuel 18:5,7,16.
II. The allays of his triumphs. This is the vanity that accompanies
even a right work, that "for it a man is envied,"
So David was by Saul.
1. He hated him, and sought to kill him himself,
1 Samuel 18:8-11.
2. He feared him, and contrived how he might have some mischief done
1 Samuel 18:12-17.
He proposed to marry his daughter to him; but,
[1.] cheated him of the eldest to provoke him
(1 Samuel 18:19),
[2.] Gave him the younger, upon conditions which would endanger his
1 Samuel 18:20-25.
But David performed his conditions bravely
(1 Samuel 18:26,27),
and grew to be more and more esteemed,
1 Samuel 18:28-30.
Still David is rising, but (as all that aim at the crown of life must
expect) he had a great deal of difficulty and opposition to grapple
|Jonathan's Love to David.
||B. C. 1060.|
1 And it came to pass, when he had made an end of speaking unto
Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David,
and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.
2 And Saul took him that day, and would let him go no more home
to his father's house.
3 Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him
as his own soul.
4 And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was upon
him, and gave it to David, and his garments, even to his sword,
and to his bow, and to his girdle.
5 And David went out whithersoever Saul sent him, and behaved
himself wisely: and Saul set him over the men of war, and he was
accepted in the sight of all the people, and also in the sight of
David was anointed to the crown to take it out of Saul's hand, and over
Jonathan's head, and yet here we find,
I. That Saul, who was now in possession of the crown, reposed a
confidence in him, God so ordering it, that he might by his preferment
at court be prepared for future service. Saul now took David home with
him, and would not suffer him to return again to his retirement,
1 Samuel 18:2.
And David having signalized himself above the men of war, in taking up
the challenge which they declined, Saul set him over the men of
(1 Samuel 18:5),
not that he made him general (Abner was in that post), but perhaps
captain of the life-guard; or, though he was youngest, he ordered him
to have the precedency, in recompence of his great services. He
employed him in the affairs of government; and David went out
whithersoever Saul sent him, showing himself as dutiful as he was
bold and courageous. Those that hope to rule must first learn to obey.
He had approved himself a dutiful son to Jesse his father, and now a
dutiful servant to Saul his master; those that are good in one relation
it is to be hoped will be so in another.
II. That Jonathan, who was heir to the crown, entered into covenant
with him, God so ordering it, that David's way might be the clearer
when his rival was his friend.
1. Jonathan conceived an extraordinary kindness and affection for him
(1 Samuel 18:1):
When he had made an end of speaking to Saul he fell perfectly in
love with him. Whether it refers to his conference with Saul before the
(1 Samuel 17:34,37),
or to that after
(1 Samuel 18:51),
in which it is probable much more was said than is there set down, is
uncertain. But, in both, David expressed himself with so much prudence,
modesty, and piety, such a felicity of expression, with so much
boldness and yet so much sweetness, and all this so natural and
unaffected, and the more surprising because of the disadvantages of his
education and appearance, that the soul of Jonathan was
immediately knit unto the soul of David. Jonathan had
formerly set upon a Philistine army with the same faith and bravery
with which David had now attacked a Philistine giant; so that there was
between them a very near resemblance of affections, dispositions, and
counsels, which made their spirits unite to easily, so quickly, so
closely, that they seemed but as one soul in two bodies. None had so
much reason to dislike David as Jonathan had, because he was to put him
by the crown, yet none regards him more. Those that are governed in
their love by principles of wisdom and grace will not suffer their
affections to be alienated by any secular regards or considerations:
the greater thoughts will swallow up and overrule the less.
2. He testified his love to David by a generous present he made him,
1 Samuel 18:4.
He was uneasy at seeing so great a soul, though lodged in so fair a
body, yet disguised in the mean and despicable dress of a poor
shepherd, and therefore takes care to put him speedily into the habit
of a courtier (for he gave him a robe) and of a soldier, for he gave
him, instead of his staff and sling, a sword and bow, and, instead of
his shepherd's scrip, a girdle, either a belt or a sash; and, which
made the present much more obliging, they were the same that he himself
had worn, and (as a presage of what would follow) he stripped himself
of them to dress David in them. Saul's would not fit him, but
Jonathan's did. Their bodies were of a size, a circumstance which well
agreed with the suitableness of their minds. When Saul put these marks
of honour on David he put them off again, because he would first earn
them and then wear them; but, now that he had given proofs of the
spirit of a prince and a soldier, he was not ashamed to wear the habits
of a prince and a soldier. David is seen in Jonathan's clothes, that
all may take notice he is a Jonathan's second self. Our Lord Jesus has
thus shown his love to us, that he stripped himself to clothe us,
emptied himself to enrich us; nay, he did more than Jonathan, he
clothed himself with our rags, whereas Jonathan did not put on David's.
3. He endeavored to perpetuate this friendship. So entirely satisfied
were they in each other, even at the first interview, that they made a
covenant with each other,
1 Samuel 18:3.
Their mutual affection was sincere; and he that bears an honest mind
startles not at assurances. True love desires to be constant. Those who
love Christ as their own souls will be willing to join themselves to
him in an everlasting covenant.
III. That both court and country agree to bless him. It is but seldom
that they agree in their favourites; yet David was accepted in the
sight of all the people, and also (which was strange) in the
sight of Saul's servants,
1 Samuel 18:5.
The former cordially loved him, the latter could not for shame but
caress and compliment him. And it was certainly a great instance of the
power of God's grace in David that he was able to bear all this respect
and honour flowing in upon him on a sudden without being lifted up
above measure. Those that climb so fast have need of good heads and
good hearts. It is more difficult to know how to abound than how to be
|David Honoured by the People; Saul Troubled with an Evil Spirit.
||B. C. 1060.|
6 And it came to pass as they came, when David was returned
from the slaughter of the Philistine, that the women came out of
all cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet king Saul,
with tabrets, with joy, and with instruments of music.
7 And the women answered one another as they played, and
said, Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands.
8 And Saul was very wroth, and the saying displeased him; and
he said, They have ascribed unto David ten thousands, and to me
they have ascribed but thousands: and what can he have more
but the kingdom?
9 And Saul eyed David from that day and forward.
10 And it came to pass on the morrow, that the evil spirit from
God came upon Saul, and he prophesied in the midst of the house:
and David played with his hand, as at other times: and there
was a javelin in Saul's hand.
11 And Saul cast the javelin; for he said, I will smite David
even to the wall with it. And David avoided out of his presence
Now begin David's troubles, and they not only tread on the heels of his
triumphs, but take rise from them, such is the vanity of that in this
world which seems greatest.
I. He was too much magnified by the common people. Some time after the
victory Saul went a triumphant progress through the cities of Israel
that lay next him, to receive the congratulations of the country. And,
when he made his public entry into any place, the women were most
forward to show him respect, as was usual then in public triumphs
(1 Samuel 18:6),
and they had got a song, it seems, which they sang in their dances
(made by some poet or other, that was a great admirer of David's
bravery, and was more just than wise, in giving his achievements in the
late action the preference before Saul's), the burden of which was,
Saul had slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands. Such
a difference as this Moses made between the numbers of Ephraim and
II. This mightily displeased Saul, and made him envy David,
1 Samuel 18:8,9.
He ought to have considered that they referred only to this late
action, and intended not to diminish any of Saul's former exploits; and
that in the action now celebrated it was undeniably true that David, in
killing Goliath, did in effect slay all the Philistines that were slain
that day and defeated the whole army; so that they did but give David
his due. It may be, he that composed the song only used a poetic
liberty, and intended not any invidious comparison between Saul and
David; or, if he did, it was below the great mind of a prince to take
notice of such a reflection upon his personal honour, when it appeared
that the glory of the public was sincerely intended. But Saul was very
wroth, and presently suspected some treasonable design at the bottom of
it: What can he have more but the kingdom? This made him eye
David as one he was jealous of and sought advantages against
(1 Samuel 18:9):
his countenance was not towards him as it had been. Proud men cannot
endure to hear any praised but themselves, and think all their honour
lost that goes by themselves. It is a sign that the Spirit of God has
departed from men if they be peevish in their resentment of affronts,
envious and suspicious of all about them, and ill-natured in their
conduct; for the wisdom from above makes us quite otherwise.
III. In his fury he aimed to kill David,
1 Samuel 18:10,11.
Jealousy is the rage of a man; it made Saul outrageous against
David and impatient to get him out of the way.
1. His fits of frenzy returned upon him. The very next day after he
conceived malice against David the evil spirit from God, that had
formerly haunted him, seized him again. Those that indulge themselves
in envy and uncharitableness give place to the devil, and
prepare for the re-entry of the unclean spirit, with seven others more
wicked. Where envy is there is confusion. Saul pretended a religious
ecstasy: He prophesied in the midst of the house, that is, he
had the gestures and motions of a prophet, and humoured the thing well
enough to decoy David into a snare, and that he might be fearless of
any danger and off his guard; and perhaps designing, if he could but
kill him, to impute it to a divine impulse and to charge it upon the
spirit of prophecy with which he seemed to be animated: but really it
was a hellish fury that actuated him.
2. David, though advanced to a much higher post of honour, disdained
not, for his master's service, to return to his harp: He played with
his hand as at other times. Let not the highest think any thing
below them whereby they may do good and be serviceable to those they
are obliged to.
3. He took this opportunity to aim at the death of David. A sword in a
madman's hand is a dangerous thing, especially such a madman as Saul
was, that was mad with malice. Yet he had a javelin or dart in his
hand, which he projected, endeavouring thereby to slay David, not in a
sudden passion, but deliberately: I will smite David to the wall
with it, with such a desperate force did he throw it. Justly does
David complain of his enemies that they hated him with a cruel
No life is thought too precious to be sacrificed to malice. If a
grateful sense of the great service David had done to the public could
not assuage Saul's fury, yet one would think he should have allowed
himself to consider the kindness David was now doing him, in relieving
him, as no one else could, against the worst of troubles. Those are
possessed with a devilish spirit indeed that render evil for good.
Compare David, with his harp in his hand, aiming to serve Saul, and
Saul, with his javelin in his hand, aiming to slay David; and observe
the meekness and usefulness of God's persecuted people and the
brutishness and barbarity of their persecutors. The bloodthirsty
hate the upright, but the just seek his soul,
4. David happily avoided the blow twice (namely, now, and afterwards,
1 Samuel 19:10);
he did not throw the javelin at Saul again, but withdrew, not fighting
but flying for his own preservation; though he had both strength and
courage enough, and colour of right, to make resistance and revenge the
injury, yet he did no more than secure himself, by getting out of the
way of it. David, no doubt, had a watchful eye upon Saul's hand, and
the javelin in it, and did as bravely in running from it as he did
lately in running upon Goliath. Yet his safety must be ascribed to the
watchful eye of God's providence upon him, saving his servant from the
hurtful sword; and by this narrow escape it seemed he was designed for
|David Marries Saul's Daughter; Saul's Jealousy of David.
||B. C. 1059.|
12 And Saul was afraid of David, because the LORD was with him,
and was departed from Saul.
13 Therefore Saul removed him from him, and made him his
captain over a thousand; and he went out and came in before the
14 And David behaved himself wisely in all his ways; and the
LORD was with him.
15 Wherefore when Saul saw that he behaved himself very wisely,
he was afraid of him.
16 But all Israel and Judah loved David, because he went out
and came in before them.
17 And Saul said to David, Behold my elder daughter Merab, her
will I give thee to wife: only be thou valiant for me, and fight
the LORD's battles. For Saul said, Let not mine hand be upon him,
but let the hand of the Philistines be upon him.
18 And David said unto Saul, Who am I? and what is my life,
or my father's family in Israel, that I should be son in law to
19 But it came to pass at the time when Merab Saul's daughter
should have been given to David, that she was given unto Adriel
the Meholathite to wife.
20 And Michal Saul's daughter loved David: and they told Saul,
and the thing pleased him.
21 And Saul said, I will give him her, that she may be a snare
to him, and that the hand of the Philistines may be against him.
Wherefore Saul said to David, Thou shalt this day be my son in
law in the one of the twain.
22 And Saul commanded his servants, saying, Commune with
David secretly, and say, Behold, the king hath delight in thee,
and all his servants love thee: now therefore be the king's son
23 And Saul's servants spake those words in the ears of David.
And David said, Seemeth it to you a light thing to be a
king's son in law, seeing that I am a poor man, and lightly
24 And the servants of Saul told him, saying, On this manner
25 And Saul said, Thus shall ye say to David, The king desireth
not any dowry, but a hundred foreskins of the Philistines, to be
avenged of the king's enemies. But Saul thought to make David
fall by the hand of the Philistines.
26 And when his servants told David these words, it pleased
David well to be the king's son in law: and the days were not
27 Wherefore David arose and went, he and his men, and slew of
the Philistines two hundred men; and David brought their
foreskins, and they gave them in full tale to the king, that he
might be the king's son in law. And Saul gave him Michal his
daughter to wife.
28 And Saul saw and knew that the LORD was with David, and
that Michal Saul's daughter loved him.
29 And Saul was yet the more afraid of David; and Saul became
David's enemy continually.
30 Then the princes of the Philistines went forth: and it came
to pass, after they went forth, that David behaved himself more
wisely than all the servants of Saul; so that his name was much
Saul had now, in effect, proclaimed war with David. He began in open
hostility when he threw the javelin at him. Now we are here told how
his enmity proceeded, and how David received the attacks of it.
I. See how Saul expressed his malice against David.
1. He was afraid of him,
1 Samuel 18:12.
Perhaps he pretended to be afraid that David would do himself mischief,
to force his way to the crown. Those that design ill against others are
commonly willing to have it thought that others design ill against
them. But David's withdrawal
(1 Samuel 18:11)
was a plain evidence that he was far from such a thought. However, he
really stood in awe of him, as Herod feared John,
Saul was sensible that he had lost the favourable presence of God
himself, and that David had it, and for this reason he feared him.
Note, Those are truly great and to be reverenced that have God with
them. The more wisely David behaved himself the more Saul
1 Samuel 18:15,
1 Samuel 18:29.
Men think the way to be feared is to hector and threaten, which makes
them feared by fools only, but despised by the wise and good; whereas
the way to be both feared and loved, feared by those to whom we would
wish to be a terror and loved by those to whom we would wish to be a
delight, is to behave ourselves wisely. Wisdom makes the face to
shine and commands respect.
2. He removed him from court, and gave him a regiment in the country,
1 Samuel 18:13.
He made him captain over 1000, that he might be from under his eye,
because he hated the sight of him; and that he might not secure the
interest of the courtiers. Yet herein he did impolitely; for it gave
David an opportunity of ingratiating himself with the people, who
therefore loved him
(1 Samuel 18:16)
because he went out and came in before them, that is, he
presided in the business of his country, civil as well as military, and
have universal satisfaction.
3. He stirred him up to take all occasions of quarrelling with the
Philistines and engaging them
(1 Samuel 18:17),
insinuating to him that hereby he would do good service to his prince
(be thou valiant for me), and good service to his God (fight
the Lord's battles), and a kindness to himself too, for hereby he
would qualify himself for the honour he designed him, which was to
marry his eldest daughter to him. This he had merited by killing
Goliath, for it was promised by proclamation to him that should do that
(1 Samuel 17:25);
but David was so modest as not to demand it, and now, when Saul
proposed it, it was with design of mischief to him, to make him venture
upon hazardous attempts, saying in his heart, Let the hand of the
Philistines be upon him, hoping that he would some time or other be
the death of him; yet how could he expect this when he saw that God was
4. He did what he could to provoke him to discontent and mutiny, by
breaking his promise with him, and giving his daughter to another when
the time came that she should have been given to him,
1 Samuel 18:19.
This was as great an affront as he could possibly put upon him, and
touched him both in his honour and in his love. He therefore thought
David's resentment of it would break out in some indecency or other, in
word or deed, which might give him an advantage against him to take him
off by the course of law. Thus evil men seek mischief.
5. When he was disappointed in his, he proffered him his other daughter
(who it seems had a secret kindness for David,
1 Samuel 18:20),
but with this design, that she might be a snare to him,
1 Samuel 18:21.
(1.) Perhaps he hoped that she would, even after her marriage to David,
take part with her father against her husband, and give him an
opportunity of doing David an unkindness. However,
(2.) The conditions of the marriage, he hoped, would be his
destruction; for (so zealous will Saul seem against the Philistines)
the conditions of the marriage must be that he killed 100 Philistines,
and, as proofs that those he had slain were uncircumcised, he must
bring in their foreskins cut off; this would be a just reproach upon
the Philistines, who hated circumcision as it was an ordinance of God;
and perhaps David, in doing this, would the more exasperate them
against him, and make them seek to be revenged on him, which was the
thing that Saul desired and designed, much more than to be avenged on
the Philistines: For Saul thought to make David fall by the
1 Samuel 18:25.
[1.] What cheats bad men put upon themselves. Saul's conscience would
not suffer him, except when the evil spirit was actually upon him, to
aim at David's life himself, for even he could not but conceive a
horror at the thought of murdering such an innocent and excellent
person; but he thought that to expose him designedly to the Philistines
had nothing bad in it (Let not my hand be upon him, but the hand of
the Philistines), whereas that malicious design against him was as
truly murder before God as if he had slain him with his own hands.
[2.] What cheats they put upon the world. Saul pretended extraordinary
kindness for David even when he aimed at his ruin, and was actually
plotting it: Thou shalt be my son-in-law, says he
(1 Samuel 18:21),
notwithstanding he hated him implacably. Perhaps David refers to this
he speaks of his enemy as one whose words were smoother than butter,
but war was in his heart. It is probable that Saul's employing his
servants to persuade David to enter into a treaty of a match with his
(1 Samuel 18:22)
arose from an apprehension that either his having cheated him about his
(1 Samuel 18:19)
or the hardness of the terms he intended now to propose would make him
II. See how David conducted himself when the tide of Saul's displeasure
ran thus high against him.
1. He behaved himself wisely in all his ways. He perceived
Saul's jealousy of him, which made him very cautious and circumspect in
every thing he said and did, and careful to give no offence. He did not
complain of hard measure more make himself the head of a party, but
managed all the affairs he was entrusted with as one that made it his
business to do real service to his king and country, looking upon that
to be the end of his preferment. And then the Lord was with him
to give him success in all his undertakings. Though he procured Saul's
ill-will by it, yet he obtained God's favour. Compare this with
where it is David's promise, I will behave myself wisely; and
that promise he here performed; and it is his prayer, O, when wilt
thou come unto me? And that prayer God here answered: The Lord
was with him. However blind fortune may seem to favour fools, God
will own and bless those that behave themselves wisely.
2. When it was proposed to him to be son-in-law to the king he once and
again received the proposal with all possible modesty and humility.
When Saul proposed his elder daughter to him
(1 Samuel 18:18)
he said, Who am I, and what is my life? When the courtier
proposed the younger, he took no notice of the affront Saul had put
upon him in disposing of the elder from him, but continued in the same
(1 Samuel 18:23):
Seemeth it a light thing to you to be a king's son-in-law, seeing
that I am a poor man and lightly esteemed? He knew Michal loved
him, and yet did not offer to improve his interest in her affections
for the gaining of her without her father's consent, but waited till it
was proposed to him. And then see,
(1.) How highly he speaks of the honour offered him: To be
son-in-law to the king. Though his king was but an upstart, in his
original as mean as himself, in his management no better than he should
be, yet, being a crowned head, he speaks of him and the royal family
with all due respect. Note, Religion is so far from teaching us to be
rude and unmannerly that it does not allow us to be so. We must
render honour to whom honour is due.
(2.) How humbly he speaks of himself: Who am I? This did not
proceed from a mean, abject, sneaking spirit, for when there was
occasion he made it appear that he had as high a sense of honour as
most men; nor was it from his jealousy of Saul (though he had reason
enough to fear a snake under the green grass), but from him true and
deep humility: Who am I, a poor man, and lightly esteemed? David
had as much reason as any man to value himself. He was of an ancient
and honourable family of Judah, a comely person, a great statesman and
soldier; his achievements were great, for he had won Goliath's head and
Michal's heart. He knew himself destined by the divine counsels to the
throne of Israel, and yet, Whom am I, and what is my life? Note,
It well becomes us, however God has advanced us, always to have low
thoughts of ourselves. He that humbleth himself shall be
exalted. And, if David thus magnified the honour of being
son-in-law to the king, how should we magnify the honour of being sons
(not in law, but in gospel) to the King of kings! Behold what
manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us! Who are we that we
should be thus dignified?
3. When the slaying of 100 Philistines was made the condition of
David's marrying Saul's daughter he readily closed with it
(1 Samuel 18:26):
It pleased David well to be the king's son-in-law upon those
terms; and, before the time given him for the action had expired, he
doubled the demand, and slew 200,
1 Samuel 18:27.
He would not seem to suspect that Saul designed his hurt by it (though
he had reason enough), but would rather act as if Saul had meant to
consult his honour, and therefore cheerfully undertook it, as became a
brave soldier and a true lover, though we may suppose it uneasy to
Michal. David hereby discovered likewise,
(1.) A great confidence in the divine protection. He knew God was with
him, and therefore, whatever Saul hoped, David did not fear falling by
the Philistines, though he must needs expose himself much by such an
undertaking as this.
(2.) A great zeal for the good of his country, which he would not
decline any occasion of doing service to, though with the hazard of his
(3.) A right notion of honour, which consists not so much in being
preferred as in deserving to be so. David was then pleased with the
thoughts of being the king's son-in-law when he found the honour set at
this high price, being more solicitous how to merit it than how to
obtain it; nor could he wear it with satisfaction till he had won
4. Even after he was married he continued his good services to Israel.
When the princes of the Philistines began to move towards another war
David was ready to oppose them, and behaved himself more wisely than
all the servants of Saul,
1 Samuel 18:30.
The law dispensed with men from going to war the first year after they
but David loved his country too well to make use of that dispensation.
Many that have shown themselves forward to serve the public when they
have been in pursuit of preferment have declined it when they have
gained their point; but David acted from more generous principles.
III. Observe how God brought good to David out of Saul's project
1. Saul gave him his daughter to be a snare to him, but in this respect
that marriage was a kindness to him, that his being Saul's son-in-law
made his succeeding him much the less invidious, especially when so
many of his sons were slain with him,
1 Samuel 31:2.
2. Saul thought, by putting him upon dangerous services, to have him
taken off, but that very thing confirmed his interest in the people;
for the more he did against the Philistines the better they loved him,
so that his name was much set by
(1 Samuel 18:30),
which would make his coming to the crown the more easy. Thus God makes
even the wrath of man to praise him and serves his designs of kindness
to his own people by it.