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Deeper Commentary

1Sa 18:1 When David had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan became bound to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul-
See on 1 Sam. 17:1; 23:16,18. Saul loved David. David had spiritually helped him (1 Sam. 16:23), and the very special relationship between the spiritual helper and the helped had fully developed. Yet in such cases it isn't uncommon for there to arise a bitterness between the convert and the converter; exactly as happened with David and Saul. In response to his victory over Goliath, "Jonathan loved him as his own soul. And Saul  took him that day, and would let him go no more home to his father's house" (18:1,2). This seems to show Saul's response to David as parallel with Jonathan's response. Saul's possessiveness towards David was surely an indication of how closely he felt towards him. That he wouldn't allow him to return to his father's house suggests that Saul wanted to have David as his adopted son. His delight that David was in love with Michal was a strange mixture of motivations; genuine joy at having David as his son-in-law, and also glee that perhaps David would die whilst raising that strange dowry. See on :20.


It must be significant that straight after the fight between David and Goliath, representing Christ's conquest of sin on the cross, "the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul...then Jonathan and David made a covenant" (1 Sam. 18:1,3). After the cross, a new covenant was made between Jesus and us, making Jonathan representative of us. The extraordinary bond between David and Jonathan then becomes a type of our relationship with Jesus after his victory on the cross. To confirm the covenant, "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", pointing forward to our total divesting of human strength and giving it to our Lord when we appreciate the greatness of his victory without those things (cp. 1 Sam. 17:39).  A good example of how the souls of David and Jonathan were spiritually knit together is shown by the identical style of prayer they had (1 Sam. 20:12 cp. 23:10; the question arises: Who influenced whom?). After Christ's victory on the cross, He entered into a covenant with us His church. The intricately related friendship between David and Jonathan thus becomes typical  of that between the Lord Jesus and ourselves. The idea of souls being knit together occurs in Col. 2:2,19, concerning how our hearts and souls are knit together with the Lord Jesus Christ. This alone encourages us to see Jonathan as typical of ourselves.

1Sa 18:2 Saul took him that day and would not let him go home to his father’s house-
This seems to show Saul's response to David as parallel with Jonathan's response. Saul's possessiveness towards David was surely an indication of how closely he felt towards him. That he wouldn't allow him to return to his father's house suggests that Saul wanted to have David as his adopted son. His delight that David was in love with Michal was a strange mixture of motivations; genuine joy at having David as his son-in-law, and also glee that perhaps David would die whilst raising that strange dowry. David was "pleased" to be Saul's son in law, as Saul too was "pleased" at the prospect (1 Sam.. 18:20,26, the same Hebrew word is used); this indicates the complexity of  the relationship.  


1Sa 18:3 Then Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as his own soul-
See on :1,2. We are not told what were the terms of that covenant, but I suggest it was that Jonathan as the heir to the throne resigned that to David, aware that God had chosen David and not himself to replace his father. This shows a great humility towards God's word, requiring the resignation of human advantage in this life.


1Sa 18:4 Jonathan stripped himself of the robe he was wearing and gave it to David with his tunic and even his sword, his bow and his belt-
I suggested on :3 that the covenant was to the effect that Jonathan agreed that David should replace Saul as king, rather than the throne going to himself. To give clothes to another suggests giving of an office, as we see in the experiences of Joseph and Daniel. He gave the clothes appropriate to the next in line to the throne to David. For his / the robe- see on 2 Sam. 1:23. Jonathan stripped himself of his "robe... and his garments, even to his sword, and to his bow, and to his girdle" (1 Sam. 18:4 AV). The triple phrase "and / even to..." indicates the totality of this stripping. "Bow" and "sword" often occur together as almost an idiom for human strength (Gen. 48:22; Josh. 24:12; 2 Kings 6:22; 1 Chron. 5:18; Hos. 1:7). Not only did he give David the weapons of his human strength (cp. 1 Sam. 13:22), but he appears to have stripped himself almost physically bare (cp. Mic. 2:8). Stripping like this is almost always associated with shame. The same word occurs in relating how the Philistines stripped Jonathan of his clothes and weapons, as he lay slain on Gilboa (1 Sam. 31:8,9). This all seems to suggest that Jonathan was saying to David: "I deserve to have been killed by Goliath (cp. the devil), so in a sense I will 'die' now by entering into a covenant with you, knitting my life / soul with yours. Rather than the Philistines (cp. our sins) killing, shaming and stripping me, I'll do it to myself'. Isn't  this exactly our response to the cross in the ongoing 'baptism' we commit ourselves to? And of course we shouldn't miss the connection with Israel stripping themselves, deeply conscious of their sins, and then entering into covenant with God (Ex. 33:6). Yet does the cross of Christ really fill us with that sense of shame, that desire to throw away all our human strength and knit our souls with that of Christ...?  

1Sa 18:5 David went out wherever Saul sent him and behaved himself wisely, and Saul set him over the men of war, which pleased all the people and Saul’s servants-
 We get the sense that David pitted his wisdom against Saul's anger and bitter persecution; David's wisdom is mentioned in tandem with Saul's anger against him (1 Sam. 18:5,11,15,30). "David behaved himself wisely (AVmg “prospered”) in all his ways; and the Lord was with him" runs like a refrain through 1 Sam. 18:5,14,15,30. These words are referring back to Dt. 29:9: "Keep therefore the words of this covenant, and do them, that ye may prosper in all that ye do" . David's charmed life and prospering despite all manner of plotting against him was due to his single-minded devotion to the Law; to those very chapters which tired Bible readers are wont to skip over as boring and not motivating. Yet David found something immensely inspiring and practical about the Law. The word made him wiser than his foes (Ps. 119:98), and Ps. 119 was written at the time of Saul’s persecution. 


1Sa 18:6 When David and the men returned from the slaughter of the Philistine the women came out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul with tambourines, with joy, and with instruments of music-
See on 2 Sam. 1:23. The women were of course attracted to David, the young, handsome bashful hero. Yet ostensibly they came out to greet Saul; whereas the focus was clearly upon David. It was a perfect set up for Saul's jealousy.


1Sa 18:7 The women sang one to another as they played, Saul has slain his thousands and David his ten thousands-
It became a kind of proverb in Israel that David was worth ten thousand; it was said right towards the end of his life (2 Sam. 18:3). This further developed Saul's jealousy, because he failed to perceive that the whole conflict was about the glory of God and not the human channel through which that was achieved.  


1Sa 18:8 Saul was very angry; this song displeased him and he said, They have ascribed to David ten thousands and to me they have ascribed only thousands. What more can he have but the kingdom?-
We have a record here of what he said in his heart. He kept recycling those words in his mind, and it made him jealous and bitter. We too must beware of recycling upsetting words in our hearts. Saul was "displeased", the word used in Is. 15:4 of how "life shall be grievous unto him". But it was the fault of his own jealousy and lack of humility towards God's plans for David. 


1Sa 18:9 Saul eyed David from that day and onward-
Saul was precious in the eyes of David (1 Sam. 26:21 s.w.), although Saul's eyes were only to destroy David. We see the chasmic difference in outlook, in "eyes", or worldview between these two men.

1Sa 18:10 The next day an evil spirit from God came mightily on Saul, and he prophesied in his house. David played his harp, as he did day by day. Saul had his spear in his hand-
In Old Testament times, an evil or unclean spirit referred to a troubled mental state (Jud. 9:23; 1 Sam. 16:14; 18:10); and in every Old Testament reference to evil spirits, they were sent by God, not an orthodox ‘Devil’. In New Testament times, the language of evil spirit/demon possession had come to refer to those suffering mental illness. The association between demons and sickness is shown by the following: “They brought unto him (Jesus) many that were possessed with demons: and He cast out the spirits with a word… that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses” (Mt. 8:16-17). So human infirmities and sicknesses are described as being possessed by “demons” and “evil spirits”. It is absolutely understandable that the day after the women greeted David as having slain his ten thousands, Saul suffered an attack of jealousy, depression and bitterness. It was his own fault, originating in his pride and narcissism. But because he didn't resist it and fed it, God confirmed him in the mental attitudes he chose, to the point that his evil spirit / disposition was sent by God. This is how the Spirit works, and also positively, through the Holy Spirit. See on 1 Sam. 19:8,9.


1Sa 18:11 and he threw the spear saying, I will pin David to the wall! David escaped from his presence twice-
See on 1 Sam. 17:58. As noted on :8, the Biblical record states the self talk of people as if it is their actual spoken words. As the Lord Jesus was to later teach, thoughts are as culpable as the words and actions. Samuel’s comment about Eliab was presumably to himself (1 Sam. 16:6); Saul’s “I’ll strike [David] to the wall” was surely said to himself (1 Sam. 18:11); likewise his explanation of his plan to trap David through his daughter Michael was all hatched out within his own brain (1 Sam. 18:21); other examples in 1 Sam. 27:12; 1 Kings 12:26 etc. Only God knew what those men ‘said in their heart’; and yet He has recorded it in His inspired word for all generations to see. In this alone we see how ultimately, nothing remains secret; at the day of judgment, what we spoke in darkness (i.e. In our own minds) will be heard in the light of God’s Kingdom (Lk. 12:3).


1Sa 18:12 Saul was afraid of David because Yahweh was with him but had departed from Saul-
Saul came to this conclusion from observing things great and small in his life, as well as in his internal awareness of God's presence; and his watching of David (:9) revealed to him that the Spirit of Yahweh was surely with this man and not him. David was the fulfilment of Samuel's words to him about a replacement being raised up. To try to murder him was therefore not only futile but a blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, going against God's clearly demonstrated intentions. And yet David in depression felt that Saul would one day kill him (1 Sam. 27:1), despite all the evidence in the bigger picture that God's Spirit was working to establish him.

 
1Sa 18:13 Therefore Saul sent David away from him and made him his captain over a thousand, and David went out and came in before the people-
See on :16. The idea perhaps was that he sent David off with some symbolic responsibility, to some outpost where he would not be in the public eye. To fire him from kingly service would provoke the wrath of the masses.


1Sa 18:14 David behaved himself wisely in all he did, and Yahweh was with him-
That Ps. 119 was written at this time is evident. It mentioned David as a young man devoting himself to the word rather than riches(:72)- the riches which could have been his if he mentally surrendered to Saul, or if he killed Saul and took the kingdom. He often laments how he is in exile from Yahweh's word (:43,46,54), which would have been on account of his being away from the sanctuary at Gibeah. He pleads the promise of the word that he would be preserved from Saul's persecution (v.41,58), and several times mentions Saul's attempts on his life (v.87,95,109,110). The following verses are evidently relevant to this period: 61,63,67,79,84 (= 1 Sam. 27:1),95,98 (= 1 Sam. 18:14,15),110 (cp. the 'snaring' with Michal),119 (the emphasis is on 'You will destroy the wicked like Saul- one day),125 (David is often called Saul's servant),150,154 (= 1 Sam. 24:15),157,161,165,176. Therefore in the face of such hatred and pain, feeling he must be careful of every step he took, emotionally and physically, David could rejoice: "I will walk at liberty (AVmg. 'at large'): for I seek thy precepts".


1Sa 18:15 When Saul saw that he behaved himself very wisely, he stood in awe of him-
Saul's jealousy was on account of David's spirituality and victories, especially over Goliath, which represented Christ's conquest of sin (1 Sam. 18:7,8; 19:8,9), and his subsequent popularity with the people. This was because these things were potentially possible for Saul, but he had refused to rise up to them. Saul watched David's spirituality, observing the close fellowship David had with God (1 Sam. 18:15,28). The Jews were jealous of the evident moral perfection of the Lord Jesus, and his popularity with the people which he seemed to effortlessly achieve. Joseph's brothers had a similar motivation to Saul. David as a type of Christ comes out clearly here. But "stand in awe" is also translated 'gathered together' in the context of Saul's persecution of David (Ps. 56:6; 59:3).


1Sa 18:16 But all Israel and Judah loved David, for he went out and came in before them-
The people wanted a king to "go out before us and fight our battles" (1 Sam. 8:20), but they were disappointed in Saul ultimately. For it was effectively David who went out before the people to fight their battles (s.w. 1 Sam. 18:13,16). And David was only successful because he recognized that it was Yahweh who 'went out before' to fight his battles (s.w. 2 Sam. 5:24), rather than any human king or leader. The victories granted him were clearly setting him up to be a popular king. 


1Sa 18:17 Saul said to David, here is my elder daughter Merab; I will give her to you as a wife. Only be valiant for me, and fight Yahweh’s battles-
"Yahweh's battles" is a repeat of David's phrase in 1 Sam. 17:47, where he triumphed that "the battle is Yahweh's" and therefore would not be won by human valiance or strength. Saul again is shown to be alluding to spiritual ideas, but getting things absolutely the wrong way around.

Saul thought, Don’t let my hand be against him, but let the hand of the Philistines be against him-
Again as noted on :8 and :11, we have recorded the inward words, the self talk, of a man who lived thousands of years ago. The thoughts of Saul are recorded in Heaven, and in this case are recorded in God's inspired word. Our self talk is no less significant to God.


1Sa 18:18 David said to Saul, Who am I, and what is my clan or my father’s family in Israel, that I should be son-in-law to the king?-
This reflects David's humility. He could easily have argued that by slaying Goliath, Saul should have given him his daughter for free as promised. But humility often involves not making the obvious argument, true as it may be.


1Sa 18:19 But when Merab, Saul’s daughter, should have been given to David, she was given to Adriel the Meholathite as his wife-
There's a repeated circumstance of a woman promised in marriage to a man being given to another- in the lives of Samson and David. Circumstances repeat between the experiences of God's children; and if we perceive that, then we will realize that man is not alone. No experience is so awfully unique or without precedent. This is the value of the histories God chose to record in the Bible. It could possibly be inferred from :25 that Adriel paid Saul a large dowry for his daughter.


1Sa 18:20 Michal, Saul’s daughter, loved David, and when they told Saul he was pleased-
David was "pleased" to be Saul's son in law, as Saul too was "pleased" at the prospect (18:20,26, the same Hebrew word is used); this indicates the complexity of  the relationship.   See on :1,2. As Jonathan's close friend, it was inevitable that David got to know his sister, Michal. David and Michal began their relationship on this basis. Jonathan's spiritual side would have had some reflection in his sister. For even Saul their father had a spiritual side, and it is fair to assume that Jonathan's mother was also a spiritual woman. It is easily overlooked that David later married Saul's wives (2 Sam. 12:8)- including the mother of Jonathan and Michal. So now we can reconstruct the complex spiritual and emotional situation. David without doubt experienced a state of 'in-loveness' with Jonathan. His lament of 2 Sam. 1 is proof enough of this. The spirituality which was in Jonathan was also seen in Michal his sister. And David loved Saul, too. Again, his lament over him is proof of this- it shows that David's loving respect for him was not just the result of a steely act of the will, forcing himself to patiently respect Saul. There was something in him which he loved. And we can assume that David did not just marry women whom he didn't spiritually  love. There was therefore something in Saul's wives which was spiritual. And the whole thing was not just one way. Jonathan loved David, " Michal, Saul's daughter loved David" (18:20), and Saul clearly had love-hate feelings for David; there was something about him which he deeply loved and respected. The intensity of his hatred of David must have been psychologically connected to a deep-seated love. "He loved him greatly" is the comment of 16:21. The seeds of the love between David and the house of Saul would have begun early on. The reason why  all this information is included is to provide comfort for us in the incredible emotional and spiritual complexities which we find ourselves in. In the flesh, David cannot have known which way to turn, mentally, spiritually, emotionally. Yet in the Spirit he could turn to his Heavenly Father, whose mind can totally fathom our pain, who can know in totality our every situation.


1Sa 18:21 Saul said, I will give her to him so that she can be a snare to him, and so that the hand of the Philistines may be against him. Therefore Saul said to David, You shall this day have a second opportunity to be my son-in-law-
See on :11. By describing his daughter as a "snare" to a righteous man, Saul shows his insensitivity to the way the law of Moses warned against women who were as snares. Even in the cynicism of Ecclesiastes, written in Solomon’s later life, he still uses words and phrases which have their root in his father David- e.g. his description of women as snares in Ecc. 7:26 goes back to how his father dealt with women who were a snare (1 Sam. 18:21). And the whole description of old age in Ecc. 12 is based on his father’s experience with Barzillai (2 Sam. 19:35). The lack of true amongst many raised as believers may be related to all this too. We each need to seriously examine ourselves in this connection, and know the meaning of personal conversion. 


1Sa 18:22 Saul commanded his servants, Speak to David secretly and say, ‘Look, the king is pleased with you, and all his servants love you; now therefore be the king’s son-in-law’-
All this intrigue was so far from the shepherd boy who simply loved God. See on 1 Sam. 20:13. It is quite clear that David distrusted Saul, and so he communicates through his servants. But it is all rather simplistic and primitive as it was obvious they had been set up by Saul. And if Saul were genuine, he would have fulfilled his promise and given David his daughter freely.


1Sa 18:23 Saul’s servants told David this. David said, Does it seem to you a light thing to be the king’s son-in-law, since I am a poor man-
They only had a "few sheep" (1 Sam. 17:28); David was not from a wealthy family, he was "a poor man" as he says himself. His later abuse of the "poor man" Uriah once he was rich (2 Sam. 12:3 s.w.) was therefore the more culpable.

And little known?-
"Lightly esteemed" is the word David will later use in Ps.  38:7 about being "loathsome" after his sin with Bathsheba. What had been mere words expressing theoretical humility were now translated into actual ownership. Our expressions of humility likewise are brought into reality by God's hand, often working through our own sins.

1Sa 18:24 The servants of Saul told him what David said-
Saul had a network of spies watching David (1 Sam. 18:20,24; 19:11,19; 23:7,13,25; 24:1; 27:4). In the type of Christ, this looks ahead to Mk. 3:2; Lk. 6:7; 14:1; 20:20; Jn. 11:57.


1Sa 18:25 Saul said, Tell David, ‘The king desires no dowry except one hundred foreskins of the Philistines, to be avenged on the king’s enemies’. Saul thought to make David fall by the hand of the Philistines-
This could possibly suggest that Saul had given Merab to Adriel rather than David because Adriel paid a large dowry. That David casually killed 200 men instead of 100 reflects his failure to perceive the value and the meaning of the human person, even if they were Gentiles.


1Sa 18:26 When his servants told David this, he was pleased to be the king’s son-in-law. Before the allotted time-
David was "pleased" to be Saul's son in law, as Saul too was "pleased" at the prospect (1 Sam. 18:20,26, the same Hebrew word is used); this indicates the complexity of  the relationship. See on :2.

There can be few men who do not have at least some attraction to the father and family of their wife. David really loved Saul's daughter, indeed the prospect of marrying her may have been a large motivator behind his zeal in fighting Goliath and the Philistines (1 Sam. 17:26,30; 18:26). Saul was not a totally unspiritual man; there are many hints that he had a spiritual side. It's rare indeed that a totally unspiritual person can love a highly spiritual person like David. And yet this fine relationship ended in an intense love-hate affair. So many of the Psalms contain references to Saul's smear campaign against David (Ps. 27:12; 31:13; 109:23 cp. 1 Sam. 26:19). This frequency of reference in itself indicates the weight with which this tragedy rested upon David's mind.  

 
1Sa 18:27 David arose and went with his men and killed two hundred of the Philistine men, and David brought their foreskins-
We see here the beginning of hints that David sunk into blood lust, culminating in the comment that he couldn't build the temple because of his attitude to shedding blood. He need not have murdered these men in order to get their foreskins. And he did so "that he might" marry Michal. Rather than for any more spiritual motive. If he had circumcised them rather than murdering them, he might have brought them within the hope of Israel. 

 

And gave them in full number to the king so that he might be the king’s son-in-law. Saul gave him Michal his daughter as his wife-
A more arrogant man than David would have insisted that Saul keep his offer, that the man who slew Goliath could freely marry his daughter. He could likewise have insisted that Saul give him Merab as promised. But he instead is zealous to meet Saul's new demands, bringing 200 and not just 100 foreskins, and doing it earlier than the deadline given (:26). 

1Sa 18:28 Saul saw and knew that Yahweh was with David, and Michal, Saul’s daughter, loved him-
See on 1 Sam. 17:58. The fact his own daughter was one of the many daughters in Israel who loved David was all so hard for Saul. If he had accepted God's rejection of him as king, he could still have built a personal relationship with God and lived in sure hope of eternal salvation in the Kingdom. But he didn't, and only hoped that he would somehow be able to destroy David and establish his own kingdom, despite God's word to the contrary.


1Sa 18:29 Saul was yet the more afraid of David, and Saul was David’s enemy continually-
The more Saul perceived the hand of God in David's life, the more he feared and hated him. He realized, as he thought about it, that the man set to replace the king... was now the king's son in law. But by the king's own device and encouragement. It seems that spiritual jealousy, the cancer which stalks churches and Christian relationships, is the worst form of jealousy. It knows no bounds.


1Sa 18:30 Then the princes of the Philistines went forth and whenever they did so, David behaved himself more wisely than all the servants of Saul, so that his name was highly esteemed
-
David's commentary upon this is in Psalm 8, written in reflection upon his victory: "Yahweh our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth!" (Ps. 8:9). It was David's name which was much set by (1 Sam. 18:30); but David's desire was it should be Yahweh's Name which was now made majestic after the defeat of Goliath, and not his name. The ide seems to be that David was more successful in the field of battle than the other servants of Saul; instead we read that he behaved himself more wisely than them. This is to equate his victories with his wisdom, rather than his own strength or felicity in combat.