1 Samuel 18


David has just finished defeating Goliath and was summoned to Saul who didn’t recognise him. In this chapter, we find the beginning of a beautiful friendship between Saul’s son, Johnathon and David the future king of Israel. This friendship was going to be tested on several occasions but would last for many years to come.

‘After David had finished talking with Saul, Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself. From that day Saul kept David with him and did not let him return home to his family. And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. Jonathan took off the robe he was wearing and gave it to David, along with his tunic, and even his sword, his bow and his belt.’ 1 Samuel 18:1-4

Saul’s Growing Fear Of David

Johnathon and David were great companions and they got on well together. The reason for this was because they were both extremely brave when no one else was. Johnathon and his armour-bearer went out on their own to personally attack the Philistines, 1 Samuel 14:1-14, and David fought lions, bears and Goliath, 1 Samuel 17:28-54.

Because of their common bravery, Johnathon and David became one in spirit and Johnathon loved David as himself, John 13:34 / John 15:13.

While Saul kept David with him, Johnathon and David made a covenant with each other, the giving of the robe, tunic, sword, bow and belt were the seals of the covenant.

‘Whatever mission Saul sent him on, David was so successful that Saul gave him a high rank in the army. This pleased all the troops, and Saul’s officers as well. When the men were returning home after David had killed the Philistine, the women came out from all the towns of Israel to meet King Saul with singing and dancing, with joyful songs and with timbrels and lyres. As they danced, they sang: ‘Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.’ Saul was very angry; this refrain displeased him greatly. ‘They have credited David with tens of thousands,’ he thought, ‘but me with only thousands. What more can he get but the kingdom?’ And from that time on Saul kept a close eye on David.’ 1 Samuel 18:5-9

It’s clear that David has now become Saul’s ambassador, representing Saul whenever he went into battle. We now begin to see how popular David was going to become among Saul’s army and the people in general. David conducted himself wisely in his new high ranking role and didn’t allow the position to go to his head.

As the people were dancing and singing, they sang, ‘Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.’ Someone like Saul, who was filled with pride couldn’t handle what the people were singing. David wasn’t intentionally becoming very popular, whereas Saul wanted to be very popular.

As a result, Saul became angry and very jealous of David’s popularity but he did know that his reign was coming to an end because God rejected him earlier as king, 1 Samuel 15:10-35. We can see the insecurity of Saul, he was emotionally weak, he couldn’t handle being rejected by God and he couldn’t handle being rejected by the people.

There’s a strong possibility that Saul knew that David was going to be the next king of Israel, and so, from this day forward, Saul was going to do everything he could to prevent David from becoming king. He kept a close eye on David, which basically means his jealousy and hatred of David would never come to an end.

‘The next day an evil spirit from God came forcefully on Saul. He was prophesying in his house, while David was playing the lyre, as he usually did. Saul had a spear in his hand and he hurled it, saying to himself, ‘I’ll pin David to the wall.’ But David eluded him twice. Saul was afraid of David, because the LORD was with David but had departed from Saul. So he sent David away from him and gave him command over a thousand men, and David led the troops in their campaigns. In everything he did he had great success, because the LORD was with him. When Saul saw how successful he was, he was afraid of him. But all Israel and Judah loved David, because he led them in their campaigns.’ 1 Samuel 18:10-16

It appears the more Saul grew in jealousy and hatred towards David, the more insane he became. The evil spirit which came from God means that God allowed Saul’s jealousy and hatred to get out of control.

It wasn’t ‘from the Lord’ in the sense that God deliberately afflicted Saul with insanity, but only in the sense that, when God so emphatically withdrew His endorsement and support of him, Saul became more and more depressed. The medical word which describes his condition exactly is ‘melancholia’, which is defined as an ‘emotional mental disease marked by depression and ill-grounded fears’.

Notice that Saul was prophesying in his house, the word used here for ‘prophesying’ is the Hebrew word, ‘naba’, this doesn’t mean he prophesied the Word of God, the word suggests he was out of control, speaking gibberish at the same time.

After two attempts to kill David with a spear, Saul became to fear David because he knew God was with David and not with him. Saul then makes David commander of a thousand men, not because he thought David was so wonderful but because he thought David would be killed in any battle which came up.

An army of one thousand would certainly go up against an army of a few thousand and so Saul thought the bigger the battle, the more chance that David would be killed or fail.

Although Saul wanted David killed on the battlefront, God took full advantage of each military campaign and made David successful. God once again, proved that He was with David and once again, Saul became afraid of David because he knew God was with David and the people began to fall in love with David because of his success.

‘Saul said to David, ‘Here is my older daughter Merab. I will give her to you in marriage; only serve me bravely and fight the battles of the LORD.’ For Saul said to himself, ‘I will not raise a hand against him. Let the Philistines do that!’ But David said to Saul, ‘Who am I, and what is my family or my clan in Israel, that I should become the king’s son-in-law?’ So when the time came for Merab, Saul’s daughter, to be given to David, she was given in marriage to Adriel of Meholah. Now Saul’s daughter Michal was in love with David, and when they told Saul about it, he was pleased. ‘I will give her to him,’ he thought, ‘so that she may be a snare to him and so that the hand of the Philistines may be against him.’ So Saul said to David, ‘Now you have a second opportunity to become my son-in-law.’ Then Saul ordered his attendants: ‘Speak to David privately and say, ‘Look, the king likes you, and his attendants all love you; now become his son-in-law.’ They repeated these words to David. But David said, ‘Do you think it is a small matter to become the king’s son-in-law? I’m only a poor man and little known.’ When Saul’s servants told him what David had said, Saul replied, ‘Say to David, ‘The king wants no other price for the bride than a hundred Philistine foreskins, to take revenge on his enemies.’ Saul’s plan was to have David fall by the hands of the Philistines. When the attendants told David these things, he was pleased to become the king’s son-in-law. So before the allotted time elapsed, David took his men with him and went out and killed two hundred Philistines and brought back their foreskins. They counted out the full number to the king so that David might become the king’s son-in-law. Then Saul gave him his daughter Michal in marriage. When Saul realised that the LORD was with David and that his daughter Michal loved David, Saul became still more afraid of him, and he remained his enemy the rest of his days. The Philistine commanders continued to go out to battle, and as often as they did, David met with more success than the rest of Saul’s officers, and his name became well known.’ 1 Samuel 18:17-30

Once again, we see that Saul continues plotting to get rid of David, he decides if he can’t kill him, then the Philistines will do the job for him. Saul offers David, his oldest daughter Merab to David in marriage if he continues to fight against the Philistines, even though he had already promised his daughter in marriage to the person who would defeat Goliath, 1 Samuel 17:25.

Here is a desperate father, who is willing to use his own daughter just to get his own way, how low can one become.

Because of his humble background, David didn’t feel that he should marry into the royalty of Saul’s family. It is possible that he didn’t love Merab, and he didn’t want to marry her just for political reasons.

The dowry was a gift to the father for one’s bride, Exodus 22:16-17. In an effort to have David killed by the Philistines, Saul asked for 100 foreskins of the Philistines, but this didn’t work, it appears that David knew what Saul was up to because David brought back 200 foreskins. In other words, he didn’t want to become Saul’s son-in-law.

God, through all these battles, was preparing and equipping David for the many years of struggles against Saul, which would also help him in his role as king of Israel.

For some reason, Saul failed to honour his promise of giving David his daughter Merab. It could be because David, as he did later regarding the dowry for Michal, indicated that he was unable to provide a suitable dowry, Exodus 22:16-17. Merab was given to Adriel instead of to David.

When Saul learned that his other daughter, Michal loved David, this only added fuel to the fire, his hatred of David just grew stronger. Interestingly, Saul didn’t ask for a dowry from David for his marriage to Michal.

The more Saul tried to get rid of David, the more successful David became. It’s clear that the Lord was with David and Saul knew it, Saul became increasingly afraid of David and hated him all the more because he probably knew by this time that David was to become his successor. Saul’s reign as king of Israel is coming to end and he knows that God is behind it.

Go To 1 Samuel 19