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David Guzik :: Study Guide for 1 Samuel 18

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Conflict Between Saul and David

A. David, Jonathan, and Saul.

1. (1Sa 18:1-4) The friendship between David and Jonathan.

Now when he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. Saul took him that day, and would not let him go home to his father's house anymore. Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul. And Jonathan took off the robe that was on him and gave it to David, with his armor, even to his sword and his bow and his belt.

a. When he had finished speaking to Saul: When David finished the "after-killing-Goliath" conversation with Saul, his fame and renown in Israel was assured. He had performed a remarkably heroic deed, and was initially received by the leadership of Israel.

b. The soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul: We have met Jonathan, the son of Saul, before in 1 Samuel. He is the remarkably brave man of faith who initiated a one-man war against the Philistines (1 Samuel 14).

i. Jonathan was a lot like David. They were approximately the same age, though Jonathan was probably at least five years older. They both were bold, they both were men of great trust in God, and they both were men of action. Most of all, they both were men who had a real relationship with God.

ii. At the same time, Jonathan and David were different. Jonathan was the first-born son of a king (1 Chronicles 9:39), and David was the last-born son of a farmer. This made Jonathan more than a prince, he was the crown prince. Jonathan would, by everyone's expectation, be the next king of Israel.

c. What was it that knit their souls together? Notice that it happened after Davidhad finished speaking to Saul. Jonathan heard David give an extended explanation of his heart, his faith in the living God, and Jonathan knew that he and David had the same heart. They could not be such close friends until Jonathan knew that about David.

i. Most people long for true, deep friendships, but give little heed to how they select their friends. Jonathan chose David for a friend because his words to Saul revealed David's heart - and it was heart full of love, and trust, and joy in God. Probably, at that moment he heard David speaking to his father King Saul, God spoke to Jonathan's heart and said, "This one will be the next king of Israel."

ii. "No doubt but David spake much more than is here expressed, abasing himself, and exalting God, as sole Author of the victory over Goliath." (Trapp)

iii. The way most people think, Jonathan was the one who had the most to fear from David's success. Yet he loved David, because what they had in common - a real relationship with the LORD God - was bigger than any difference.

d. Saul took him that day: David would never again be "just" a shepherd. David still had a shepherd's heart, but never again would he only be a shepherd.

e. Then Jonathan and David made a covenant: Jonathan, by all human expectation, would be the next king. David was anointed by the LORD, through the prophet Samuel, to be the next king. Yet they made a covenant of friendship that would prove stronger than jealousy, stronger than envy, stronger than ambition.

i. Trapp on made a covenant: "Hebrew, Cut a covenant; for the covenanters first sware, and then cut a beast in twain, passing between the parts thereof, and wishing so to be cut in pieces if ever they falsified."

f. Jonathan took off the robe that was on him and gave it to David, with his armor, even to his sword and his bow and his belt: When Jonathan gave David the robe and his armor, he said, "You will be the next king of Israel. You should be dressed and armed as the crown prince. God's hand is one you, and these rightfully belong to you." Because Jonathan surrendered to God, he could see the hand of the LORD upon David. He knew David's destiny, and was perfectly willing to set aside his ambition to honor the LORD's choice.

i. "In our political world, where power plays such an important role, what would be thought of a prince who voluntarily renounced his throne in favour of a friend whose character and godly faith he admired?" (Baldwin)

g. For his part, David received the robe and Jonathan's armor. But he did not then say or think, "Good Jonathan. We all see who is boss around here. Now get out of my way because I'm going to replace your father as soon as I can." It would be some 20 years until David took the throne of Israel and replaced Saul. If Jonathan was ready to recognize David as God's choice for the next king, David was willing to let God put him on the throne, and in God's timing. Both of these men were thoroughly submitted to the LORD!

i. David couldn't receive Saul's armor. It didn't fit him physically, but more importantly it didn't fit him spiritually. He and Saul lived for, and were trusting in, different things. But David could receive Jonathan's armor, not only because they were more similar in size. More importantly, they shared the same soul. They both loved God, and lived more Him and for others more than themselves. David and Jonathan both knew that if the circumstances were reversed, David would do the exact same thing for Jonathan - because they had the same soul.

ii. If the issue of "who will be the next king?" were not settled in the hearts of Jonathan and David, they could never have had this kind of close love and friendship. They loved each other more than the throne of Israel, because they loved the LORD more than the throne of Israel.

h. The story of Jonathan and David shows many enduring principles about real love, love on a human level, and love between God and us.

i. Real love wants a commitment, and commitment will show itself in a covenant.

ii. Real love will not hide its covenant or commitment.

iii. Real love will give and receive gifts.

iv. Real love will clothe the poor with the robes of royalty.

v. Real love will give armor to fight with.

i. Some people read a homosexual relationship into the love between David and Jonathan. They suppose that two men can not love each other without it being what the Bible clearly says is immoral. But the relationship between David and Jonathan shows that the Bible doesn't condemn real love between men, only a sexual relationship between men.

2. (1Sa 18:5-9) Saul's jealousy of David.

So David went out wherever Saul sent him, and behaved wisely. And Saul set him over the men of war, and he was accepted in the sight of all the people and also in the sight of Saul's servants. Now it had happened as they were coming home, when David was returning from the slaughter of the Philistine, that the women had come out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with tambourines, with joy, and with musical instruments. So the women sang as they danced, and said: "Saul has slain his thousands, And David his ten thousands." Then Saul was very angry, and the saying displeased him; and he said, "They have ascribed to David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed only thousands. Now what more can he have but the kingdom?" So Saul eyed David from that day forward.

a. David went out wherever Saul sent him, and behaved wisely: David was fully submitted to Saul, and sought to serve Saul wisely in every way. David knew the way to be blessed was to work hard to be a blessing to his boss, King Saul. He would not undercut Saul's position or authority in any way.

i. Where did Saul send David? Saul set him over the men of war. This is a remarkable promotion - a man not older than his young twenties is now a "general" in the army of Israel.

b. He was accepted in the sight of all the people and also in the sight of Saul's servants: David quickly becomes popular, both among the people and among the leaders (Saul's servants). This was not because David was a yes-man-people-pleaser-sycophant kind of man. David did not seek this popularity at all, and certainly did not depend on any of those carnal tools. David became popular because he was a man after God's own heart and people could see the love, the wisdom, and the peace of God in him.

i. We might imagine that Saul's initial reaction was positive. "Good," he thought. "My new assistant is well received. Everyone will think I made a brilliant choice in bringing him on staff. This is working out well."

c. But David had just begun to be popular. When the people of Israel started singing, Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands, both David and Saul knew David was more popular than Saul was.

i. When women sing and dance in your honor, you are popular. When it happens in all the cities of Israel, you are popular. This song was the number one hit in Israel!

d. How did David react to this sudden popularity? He received it well, because 1 Samuel 18:14 says of this period in David's life, And David behaved wisely in all his ways, and the LORD was with him. In this environment of praise and popularity, David behaved wisely in all his ways.

i. When you are praised and popular, it isn't wise to let it go to your head. David was no doubt happy to hear these affirming words, but he didn't let it dominate his thinking or change his opinion of himself. He kept the heart and the mind of a shepherd, even in a season of great success.

ii. This wasn't easy. This was a test, one that the devil wanted to use to bring David down, and one that the LORD wanted to use to build David up. David never received this kind of affirmation when he was keeping the sheep. The sheep never danced and sang a song praising him! Now David faces the challenge of success. Many people who could handle adversity well enough fall under the challenge of success.

iii. But because David could be so content, and so happy before the LORD in keeping sheep with no praise or popularity, it put his heart in the right place to handle it when he received praise and popularity. Out in the shepherd's field, David had his heart set: "I'm doing this for the LORD. I love the LORD, and my reward is from Him." Because his heart was right in the shepherd's field, David behaved wisely in all his ways when praise and popularity came.

iv. We also see this by David's reaction to the scorn and criticism from his brother Eliab (1 Samuel 17:28-30). When Eliab gave David the opposite of scorn and criticism, David didn't like it, but it didn't crush him. It didn't deter him. Most people are corrupted by praise and popularity to the same degree they are crushed by scorn and criticism. Because of what God built in him out in the shepherd's field, David could live his life more for the LORD than for people. It wasn't that David didn't care about people or what they thought, but he could put the opinion of man in the right perspective because he cared more about the opinion of God.

e. Then Saul was very angry: Knowing his character, we are not surprised by Saul's reaction. Saul did not have a right relationship, or a close relationship, with the LORD. All he had to affirm his heart was the praise of man, so when David was more praised than he, it really bothered Saul.

i. It is a bad sign in a leader when they resent or feel threatened by the success of one of their subordinates. It is a certain sign of weakness in that leader.

ii. Now what more can he have but the kingdom? This is a typical kind of over-reaction seen in the proud and insecure. Saul could have thought, "David has done well, and he has his glory today. I'll keep serving the LORD and I'll have this kind of praise and popularity another day." Instead, he over-reacts, and says "Now what more can he have but the kingdom?"

iii. However, there is another dynamic at work in Saul: a guilty conscience. He remembered the prophet Samuel told him, "The LORD has rejected you from being king over Israel." Saul knew his sin had disqualified him from being king, and he was hanging on to the throne in the energy of his flesh. An honorable man would have stepped down, but if Saul were an honorable man, he wouldn't be in this mess! Instead, Saul constantly worried, "When will God cast me off the throne? Who will He raise up to replace me?" This insecurity, borne of guilt, also made Saul over-react to the praise and popularity given to David.

iv. And what an over-reaction! The crowds did praise Saul. They did sing, "Saul has slain his thousands." What's wrong with that? Isn't it enough to slay thousands? For Saul, it wasn't enough as long as someone else was slaying his ten thousands.

v. In fact, Saul should have been grateful! Saul was treated better than he deserved, and he still resented it! He was angry "without cause: for as Chrysostom observeth, the women ascribed to Saul more than he deserved, - for he suffered the Philistine to vaunt himself forty days together, and yet cowardly sat still." (Trapp)

f. So Saul eyed David from that day forward: Now Saul's mind is filled with suspicion towards David. He will begin to hear most everything David says with suspicious ears. He will look at most all David's actions with suspicious eyes. His thoughts about David will be twisted by suspicion.

i. "He gave way to that devilish vice of envy, which was henceforth as a fire in his bosom, as a worm continually gnawing upon his entrails … He looked upon him with an evil eye: prying into all his actions, and making the worst of everything." (Trapp)

ii. "Among the most terrible of human sins is jealousy - the parent of the darkest and blackest crimes that have disgraced the annals of our race." (Meyer)

iii. We can know that when a person in power has this mind and this heart against a person like David, it is going to be hard for David. But God will use it! God wasn't on vacation when all this was going on in Saul's mind. God had the power to either change Saul's mind, or take him out of the way. But God allowed it all to do a special work in David and to accomplish His eternal purpose. We want to say to David, "Look out! Danger ahead! But trust in God, because He is still in control."

B. Saul's first attempt to kill David.

1. (1Sa 18:10) The scene in Saul's royal court.

And it happened on the next day that the distressing spirit from God came upon Saul, and he prophesied inside the house. So David played music with his hand, as at other times; but there was a spear in Saul's hand.

a. And it happened on the next day: Saul had a suspicious heart towards David, and his suspicious heart lays the foundation for this attempt to kill David's.

b. The distressing spirit from God came upon Saul: This distressing spirit was first mentioned in 1 Samuel 16:14. It came upon Saul, permitted by the LORD, when the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul (1 Samuel 16:14). David was brought into Saul's royal court to play music, so that Saul would be ministered to and soothed when suffering from the distressing spirit.

c. And he prophesied inside the house: Why would a distressing spirit make Saul prophesy? Saul wasn't speaking from the LORD at all, and prophesied is a bad translation here. The Hebrew grammar used here can be used of idle ravings as well as of prophecy from the LORD. Saul was simply babbling like a man not in his right mind.

i. "He was beside himself; made prayers, supplications, and incoherent imprecations: 'God preserve my life,' 'Destroy my enemies,' or such like prayers, might frequently escape from him in his agitated state. The Arabic intimates that he was actually possessed by an evil spirit, and tht through it he uttered a sort of demoniacal predictions." (Clarke)

d. So David played music with his hand: The same hands that had killed Goliath, and carried the trophy of his severed head, were now sweetly playing music unto the LORD, ministering to a king troubled by a distressing spirit!

i. David obviously had skillful hands, both in war and in music ministry. But what a humble heart David has! Most men, after the fame that came to David, would consider this kind of service "beneath" them. David was a general in the army, famous in all Israel, and had women dancing and singing his praises. Yet he will perform this job of personally ministering to Saul in music.

e. But there was a spear in Saul's hand: David held a harp, and played music with his hand. But there was violence in Saul's hand. He held a spear. What a contrast between David and Saul!

2. (1Sa 18:11) Saul throws a spear at David.

And Saul cast the spear, for he said, "I will pin David to the wall!" But David escaped his presence twice.

a. And Saul cast the spear: If a spear is in your hand, you'll probably use it! As Saul held that spear, the distressing spirit moved upon him, and instead of receiving ministry from David's music, the distressing spirit prompted Saul to strike out at David.

i. We must say that the distressing spirit did not "make" Saul do this. But the spirit prompted it. Saul was able to choose, "Will I do this or not?" and he chose to cast the spear.

ii. This same music ministry once soothed Saul, and made him refreshed and well, giving him relief from the distressing spirit (1 Samuel 16:23). Now, it is of no effect at all, and Saul even responds to David's music ministry with a murder attempt! What has changed? Was it David's music, or David's heart? No, it was Saul. Saul refused to receive from David's ministry, and that refusal set the stage for this kind of violence.

b. For he said, "I will pin David to the wall with it." This wasn't an accident. As we will see, there's little doubt that Saul wanted it to seem like an accident. Though he wouldn't admit it, his heart was set on finishing off David. He didn't want to just frighten David, or wound David. When you want to pin David to the wall, you want the spear to deliver a fatal blow, completely through the body.

c. But David escaped his presence: Saul threw the spear, and it missed David. Perhaps Saul's aim was bad, affected by his poor mental and emotional state. Perhaps David saw the spear and ducked. Perhaps God simply supernaturally guided the spear to miss. However it happened, the spear missed and lay on the floor. And what did David do? David escaped his presence.

i. Of most of us, it would be written, "And so-and-so picked the spear up off the floor, went over to Saul, and said, 'If Goliath couldn't scare me, you sure can't. If Goliath couldn't kill me, you sure can't.' And with one thrust of the spear, so-and-so pinned Saul to the wall."

ii. But David didn't pick up the spear. He didn't throw it back. He simply escaped his presence. No one could blame David if he struck back; it could easily be called self-defense. But David had a different heart. It wasn't a matter of what he could get away with, but it was a matter of what God's heart wanted. David was determined to leave the situation in God's hands, and not take the throne himself. God would have to take care of Saul, because David wouldn't do it!

iii. Why? Was it because David lacked courage? No, he demonstrated his courage in the battle against Goliath. You can bet that if almost anyone else had thrown a spear at David, he would have picked it up and killed the man who tried to kill him. But David knew the principle of Romans 13:1 before it was ever written: Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. David said, "LORD, you put Saul on the throne. And I know I'm supposed to the be next king, because You have given me Your promise and Your anointing. But getting Saul out of the way is Your business. I won't touch it, because he is an authority appointed by You. You started his reign, so You have to end it."

iv. Let Saul act in the flesh. Let Saul take matters into his own hands. Let Saul throw spears. David will have none of it. David will trust the LORD. In doing so, David will not only dodge the spear that could end his life. David will also dodge the spear that could ruin his soul. When one is pinned to the wall with a physical spear, blood pours out and you die. When one is pinned to the wall with an intangible spear, bitterness pours out and you die. David dodged both kinds of spears.

v. Gene Edwards, in his wonderful book Tale of Three Kings, says that David understood something that few of even the wisest men in David's day understood, and even fewer today. David understood that "God did not have, but wanted very much to have, men who would live in pain. God wanted a broken vessel."

d. But David escaped his presence twice: Perhaps the most remarkable word in this chapter is twice. This means that Saul threw the spear twice. This means that Saul missed twice. This means that after the first miss, David came back and played again!

i. This is where many of us will draw the line. "Look, I'll sit with the bulls-eye on my chest once, and I'll dodge the spear. I'll even leave the spear on floor and resist the temptation to throw it back. But one spear whizzing by my head is enough. One miss and I've paid my dues. Once is submission to the LORD. Twice is stupidity!"

ii. We might even say that David's submission didn't even begin until he sat back down to play for Saul again after the first attempt on his life. Now he knew the danger, now he knew Saul's heart, and now he had to trust God.

iii. What was at stake? What would have happened if David had struck back after resisting that temptation the first time? We can suppose that David still would have become king. We can suppose that we still would be admiring David's heart in not throwing the spear back the first time, and we would have understood how he struck back the second time. But if David would have done this, he would have surrendered his destiny to be the greatest king of Israel. He still would be a king, but not the king the LORD destined him to be.

iv. "In doing this small feat of returning thrown spears, you will prove many things. You are courageous. You stand for the right. You boldly stand against the wrong. You are tough and can't be pushed around. You will not stand for injustice or unfair treatment. You are the defender of the faith, the keeper of the flame, detector of all heresy. You will not be wronged. All of these attributes then combine to prove that you are also obviously a candidate for kingship. Yes, perhaps you are the Lord's anointed. After the order of King Saul." (Gene Edwards, Tale of Three Kings)

3. (1Sa 18:12-16) David is transferred from the palace to the army.

Now Saul was afraid of David, because the LORD was with him, but had departed from Saul. Therefore Saul removed him from his presence, and made him his captain over a thousand; and he went out and came in before the people. And David behaved wisely in all his ways, and the LORD was with him. Therefore, when Saul saw that he behaved very wisely, he was afraid of him. But all Israel and Judah loved David, because he went out and came in before them.

a. Now Saul was afraid of David, because the LORD was with him: Saul had the spear, but because David would not pick the spear up off the floor, David had the LORD. Saul knew he was outmatched. All the spears in the world couldn't defeat David, because the LORD was with him. Somehow, Saul knew all this, and it made Saul afraid of David.

i. By all outward appearance, Saul is in control. Saul has the throne. Saul has the army. Saul has the spears. Yet Saul was afraid of David because the LORD was with him.

b. But it wasn't only that the LORD was with David. It was also that the LORD had departed from Saul. This made Saul uncomfortable with David, and made it hard for Saul to have David around (Therefore Saul removed him from his presence).

c. In all this, Saul made him his captain. Here is your promotion, David! But Saul's desire was not to bless David, but to set him up for harm. Saul's jealousy has made him manipulative, working a hidden, secret agenda on David.

i. "This was under pretence of doing him honour, when it was in effect only to rid himself of the object of his envy." (Clarke)

ii. "This seeming preferment was indeed a persecution; for hereby David, being valorous and venturous, was exposed to no small danger in fighting against the enemies. Uriah lost his life by such means." (Trapp)

d. David behaved wisely in all his ways, and the LORD was with him: It isn't easy to behave wisely when spears are being thrown at you. It isn't easy to behave wisely when you are put out of the palace. It isn't easy to behave wisely when you have powerful and determined enemies. But even in the midst of all those terrible circumstances, you can behave wisely in all your ways as the LORD is with you.

i. Again, it says Saul was afraid of him. Why wasn't Saul happy that David behaved very wisely? Because Saul's wisdom and David's wisdom were very different. Saul was wise when it came to spears. David was wise when it came to trusting God. David's wisdom seemed like foolishness to Saul, but it was real wisdom from God and something in Saul knew it and was afraid of it.

e. But all Israel and Judah loved David: Because God was with David, he became even more popular. David was tempted to use this popularity as a spear against Saul, but because he behaved wisely in all his ways, he refused.

i. "If only jealous people would ponder such a story as this, surely they would see the uselessness of their malignant attempts to injure those who may seem destined to take their place. It is not thus that the peril can be met." (Meyer)

f. Because he went out and came in is a Hebrew figure of speech meaning, "David conducted successful military operations." God's hand of success was with David, even though Saul was against him. Saul might attack and pain David in any number of ways, but God would not allow Saul to have the victory.

i. David was never a victim. He looked like a victim, because he was attacked. When there are spears stuck in the wall behind you, and laying about on the floor, you sure look like a victim! But David behaved wisely in all his ways, so he did not give into the victim's state of mind, thinking that his fate was in the hands of the one attacking him. David knew his fate was in God's hands, and could have peace in that.

C. Saul sets a trap for David but he escapes and is blessed.

1. (1Sa 18:17-19) Saul intends to kill David.

Then Saul said to David, "Here is my older daughter Merab; I will give her to you as a wife. Only be valiant for me, and fight the Lord's battles." For Saul thought, "Let my hand not be against him, but let the hand of the Philistines be against him." So David said to Saul, "Who am I, and what is my life or my father's family in Israel, that I should be son-in-law to the king?" But it happened at the time when Merab, Saul's daughter, should have been given to David, that she was given to Adriel the Meholathite as a wife.

a. Here is my older daughter Merab: Saul had promised to give … his daughter to the man who killed Goliath (1 Samuel 17:25). Now, Saul makes good on the promise, offering his older daughter Merab to David.

b. This seemed like a gesture of kindness and goodness on Saul's part. David was supposed to believe, "Saul has forgiven. He has let bygones be bygones. He threw two spears at me before, but all of that is over now." But Saul wasn't thinking that way at all. In his heart was a different motive: Let my hand not be against him, but let the hand of the Philistines be against him.

i. How would taking Merab in marriage bring the Philistines against David? Because of the dowry that Saul would demand. In that day, a dowry was required whenever a man married. The dowry would be paid to the bride's father, and the more important and prestigious the bride and her family, the higher the dowry price would be. The purpose of the dowry was twofold. First, it compensated the bride's family for the loss of a family "worker." Second, the father held a dowry as life insurance or "alimony in advance." That is, if the husband died or divorced his wife, and she had to go back to her father's household, there would be something to support her. Since David was a man from a humble family, there was no way he could pay the monetary value for a daughter of a king. Saul knew this, and would demand that David kill 100 Philistines as a dowry. Saul figured that the job was too big and dangerous for David, and he would be killed gaining the dowry to marry a king's daughter.

ii. Saul still wanted David dead and gone. But now, instead of throwing spears himself, he will use cunning and manipulation to have David killed. He thought, "The Philistine spears and swords are just as sharp as mine. I can let them do the work for me." From a fleshly standpoint, this was a pretty smart plan on Saul's part!

iii. It was smart in the flesh, but God would not honor Saul's manipulation. Manipulation uses hidden agendas and concealed motives. It is sneaky and secretive. Manipulation tries to maneuver people and events to accomplish this hidden agenda. It can be smart in the flesh, but will never be blessed by God.

c. Only be valiant for me, and fight the LORD's battles: Saul is working as a clever manipulator. He takes advantage of David's loyalty and patriotism (only be valiant for me). He takes advantage of David's courage and heart for the LORD (fight the LORD's battles).

i. In the flesh, Saul could even justify his manipulation. "I do want David to be valiant for me. I do want David to fight the LORD's battles. There is nothing wrong in me asking for those things." But that was dishonest, not because it was an outright lie, but because it didn't tell the whole truth. Sure, Saul wanted David to be valiant for him and to fight the LORD's battles. But more than that, he wanted David dead. That was his greater motivation than anything else was.

d. So David said to Saul, "Who am I … that I should be son-in-law to the king?" David was not out-maneuvering Saul. David had no idea what was going on in Saul's heart. David simply had a humble heart before the LORD, and God protected him against Saul's manipulation.

i. The question "Who am I?" shows David's humble heart. He was nationally famous. All Israel loved him. All Saul's staff loved him. The crown prince Jonathan loved him. All over Israel, women sang and danced in his honor. Yet when the hand of Merab is offered to David, he doesn't think, "Well, this is about time. I'm glad someone noticed."

ii. There was a time when Saul had a humble heart also. When Samuel first told him God had chosen him to be king, he said "Why then do you speak like this to me?" (1 Samuel 9:21). But that was a long time ago for Saul, and now his heart is hardened in pride.

iii. The Bible says God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. It says it three times! (Proverbs 3:34, James 4:6, and 1 Peter 5:5) God was showing His grace to the humble heart of David by protecting David.

iv. Though God could see Saul's thoughts, David could not. And if he suspected it and confronted Saul, we can bet Saul would have denied it all. In the flesh, by all outward appearance, David is at a tremendous disadvantage. But as he kept a humble heart before the LORD, God protected him.

e. At the time when Merab, Saul's daughter, should have been given to David, that she was given to Adriel: When David was initially hesitant to marry Merab, Saul tried another strategy. He suddenly gave her to another man, to try and make David angry or jealous.

i. David could have thought, "This was my woman to marry. She was promised to me because I beat Goliath. This was my way to marry into the royal family and get closer to the throne. This isn't fair!" And it wasn't fair. But the LORD had his hand in it and was watching out for David.

ii. Saul "treacherously withdrew the offer as the time of nuptials approached - the intention being to arouse his ardent spirit to retaliate, and so become liable to the charge of treason. But all his efforts failed to arouse even a transient impulse for revenge." (Meyer)

iii. "This was an act of great injustice and perfidiousness; and accordingly this marriage was accursed by God, and the children of it were by God's appointment cut off, 2 Samuel 21." (Poole)

iv. "This affront and disgrace was done to David purposely to provoke him (as is probable) to do or say something that might bring him under censure, and give Saul some colour to cut him off. But David was too hard for him that way too: leaving it to God to right his wrongs." (Trapp)

v. The plan failed. If David was angry or vengeful at losing Merab to another man, he just gave it to the LORD and went on. Since this didn't succeed, we should understand this as a warning to Saul. In this failed plan, God told Saul, "Your manipulation will not work. My hand is on David. Stop trying to kill him or have him killed." Would Saul listen?

2. (1Sa 18:20-25) David's agreement to marry Michal.

Now Michal, Saul's daughter, loved David. And they told Saul, and the thing pleased him. So Saul said, "I will give her to him, that she may be a snare to him, and that the hand of the Philistines may be against him." Therefore Saul said to David a second time, "You shall be my son-in-law today." And Saul commanded his servants, "Communicate with David secretly, and say, 'Look, the king has delight in you, and all his servants love you. Now therefore, become the king's son-in-law.'" So Saul's servants spoke those words in the hearing of David. And David said, "Does it seem to you a light thing to be a king's son-in-law, seeing I am a poor and lightly esteemed man?" And the servants of Saul told him, saying, "In this manner David spoke." Then Saul said, "Thus you shall say to David: 'The king does not desire any dowry but one hundred foreskins of the Philistines, to take vengeance on the king's enemies.'" But Saul thought to make David fall by the hand of the Philistines.

a. Now Michal, Saul's daughter, loved David: Saul was happy to hear this (the thing pleased him). It doesn't surprise us that Michal was attracted to David, because of his character, qualities, and fame. But as is evident later in David's marriage to Michal, she was not really attracted to David's heart for the LORD.

b. That she might be a snare to him: This may be meant in two ways. First, obviously Saul wanted David to be snared by the dowry. But it may also be that Saul knew Michal's character and heart, and knew that she would be snare for him as a wife, as turned out to be the case in some regard (2 Samuel 6:16-23).

c. Therefore Saul said to David a second time, "You shall be my son-in-law today." Saul did not receive God's warning. He is rushing through the warning signs God gave him. He tries this manipulative plan again.

d. Communicate to David secretly: See how this reeks of manipulation! It is all about behind-the-back secret communication. It is all about hidden agendas and clever traps (the king has delight in you). But David still responded with humility (I am a poor and lightly esteemed man).

i. How could David say, "I am a poor and lightly esteemed man"? Because David didn't believe all his press clippings. Because David knew there was a difference between fame and being truly esteemed. Because David was always more focused on where he was before God than where he was in the opinion polls.

e. The king does not desire any dowry but one hundred foreskins of the Philistines: Now, Saul builds on his clever plan. "David won't marry Michal because he doesn't have a big enough dowry. He's too humble to ask me for terms, so I will suggest them." Even the way he phrases it is clever: "The king does not desire any dowry." That makes it sound like Saul doesn't want anything from David. "But one hundred foreskins of the Philistines." That makes it sound like Saul isn't asking for much, when he is really asking for something far greater than a lot of money. He asks David to put his life in great jeopardy, because Saul wants him dead!

i. Even the specific request - one hundred foreskins of the Philistines - was manipulative. It was designed to goad David on ("Go get those uncircumcised Philistines"). It was designed to be difficult, because the Philistines would obviously have to be dead. And it was designed to make the Philistines completely outraged at David, because from their perspective, not only were their men killed, but their dead bodies were desecrated.

ii. "Here is a fair glove drawn upon a foul hand." (Trapp)

3. (1Sa 18:26-27) David fulfills Saul's request for a dowry and marries Michal.

So when his servants told David these words, it pleased David well to become the king's son-in-law. Now the days had not expired; therefore David arose and went, he and his men, and killed two hundred men of the Philistines. And David brought their foreskins, and they gave them in full count to the king, that he might become the king's son-in-law. Then Saul gave him Michal his daughter as a wife.

a. It pleased David well: David has such a pure, humble heart that he seems to be blind to Saul's manipulation and cunning. How can a simple man like this ever survive? Because God is with him!

i. Again, notice David's humble heart. Many men would have said, "Dowry? You want a dowry? You promised to give your daughter to the man who killed Goliath. If you want to see my dowry, go look at the ten-foot grave in the Valley of Elah. That's enough of a dowry. I demand my rights!"

b. Therefore David arose and went, he and his men, and killed two hundred men of the Philistines: What did David do with Saul's attempt at manipulation? He took control of the situation by being a humble servant, and by giving more than what was required.

i. We often think that being a humble servant and being in control contradict each other. We wrongly think that if you are a humble servant, then you must be at the mercy of events. But the example of Jesus, who was completely in control (always submitting that control to God the Father), yet always a humble servant shows us differently.

ii. Jesus told us how to take control in this kind of situation. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. (Matthew 5:40-41) In this, Jesus showed how to take command of evil impositions by making a deliberate choice to give more than we are required. Roman law commanded Jews to carry the pack of any Roman soldier, but only for one mile. Jesus is saying "Go beyond the one mile required by law and give another mile out of a free choice of love." This is how we change someone's attempt to manipulate us into our free act of love.

iii. The only limit to this kind of sacrifice is the limit that love itself will impose. It isn't love to give into someone's manipulation without our transforming it into a free act of love. It isn't always love to give what is demanded.

c. And David brought their foreskins, and the gave them in full count to the king: There are many times we wish we had a visual Bible, or could see Biblical events exactly as they happened. This is one instance where we are happy the Bible is not illustrated.

4. (1Sa 18:28-30) David's constantly growing popularity.

Thus Saul saw and knew that the LORD was with David, and that Michal, Saul's daughter, loved him; and Saul was still more afraid of David. So Saul became David's enemy continually. Then the princes of the Philistines went out to war. And so it was, whenever they went out, that David behaved more wisely than all the servants of Saul, so that his name became highly esteemed.

a. Thus Saul saw and knew that the LORD was with David: Having this understanding, how did Saul react? Did he stop trying to kill David, and leave it all in the LORD's hands? Did he find it in his heart to respect David, and make a way for the LORD's choice to smoothly come to the throne? No. The closer David got to the LORD, the further he got from Saul, and so Saul was still more afraid of David.

i. How tragic! So Saul became David's enemy continually. He knew that the LORD was with David, yet because Saul was making himself the enemy of the LORD, he was also the enemy of David. It didn't have to be like this, but Saul's heart was set on this destructive course.

b. Then the princes of the Philistines went out to war: Saul's cunning plan against David continues. No doubt, the Philistines went out to war against David in retaliation for what they felt was a terrible disgrace against the Philistine people. Saul wanted to make David a marked man, and he succeeded.

i. On a human level, David had a lot more to fear from Saul than he did from the Philistines! But David wasn't walking on a human level. He was walking in the Spirit, walking with the LORD. So the LORD kept him safe from both the "attack you right up front" enemies like the Philistines, and kept him safe from the "manipulate and stab you in the back" enemies like Saul.

c. David behaved more wisely than all the servants of Saul, so that his name became highly esteemed: Saul's plan has completely backfired. David is not only alive, but more popular and closer to the LORD than ever. But Saul isn't finished, and will use more manipulation, cunning, and outright violence to attack David.

i. David's wise behavior and high esteem were both closely connected to his humble heart. The same is true (in a far greater sense) of the Son of David, Jesus Christ. Philippians 2:9 says of Jesus, Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name. Why was it that the name of Jesus became highly esteemed? Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. (Philippians 2:5-8) This mind, this heart, was in David. This mind, this heart, is in Jesus. God wants this mind, this heart, to be in each of us.

© 2001 David Guzik - No distribution beyond personal use without permission

CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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