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Deeper Commentary

1Sa 19:1 Saul told Jonathan his son and all his servants to kill David. But Jonathan, Saul’s son, delighted much in David-
The simple appeal was that if David was no more, then Jonathan would be king, and the existing courtiers would remain in power. Whereas David, from another tribe, and with every reason for bitterness against Saul, would not remove them from power. But Samuel's words about David were surely known by Jonathan, and he had himself made a covenant to give the kingdom to David (see on 1 Sam. 18:3,4). It could be that Saul "told" them to kill David in a mad outburst of anger whilst throwing one of his tantrums. But those words are here recorded. It could be that Saul was sharing with them a specific plan of killing David the next morning (:2); and I note on :11 that it seems his servants go along with it. Saul had been told that David would be king and he was no longer to be king. To seek to murder David was a foolhardy refusal to accept God's word. Had Saul humbly accepted he was not to serve as king, he could've walked humbly with his God in sure hope of eternal salvation. And saved himself all his mental health issues that clouded the rest of his life and led to his tragic death by suicide.

1Sa 19:2 Jonathan told David, Saul my father seeks to kill you. Now therefore, please take extra care of yourself in the morning; hide in a secret place and stay there-
This is the same word for "hiding place" as in Ps. 119:114: "You are my hiding place and my shield. I hope in Your word". When hiding from Saul in the wilderness [s.w. of David's "hiding places" at this time in 1 Sam. 19:2; 25:20], David hoped in the prophetic word that one day Saul would be no more and David would be king. See on 1 Sam. 20:13.

1Sa 19:3 I will go out and stand beside my father in the field where you are and I will talk with my father about you, and if I find out anything, I will tell you-
The idea seems to be that Jonathan would walk with Saul in the field, the open countryside in Gibeah where David also lived with Michal; and then Jonathan would tell David as soon as possible what he had learned. To facilitate this, David needed to be in the same "field" or area of countryside, so that when Jonathan had finished his chat with his father, he could immediately inform David. Presumably Jonathan wanted to talk with his father out of earshot of anyone else.

1Sa 19:4 Jonathan spoke well of David to Saul his father, and said to him, Don’t let the king sin against his servant David, because he has not sinned against you and he has worked well for you-
Jonathan's intensity of relationship with David meant that he was not ashamed to speak up for him: "Jonathan spake good of David unto Saul his father, and said unto him, Let not the king  sin against his servant... because his works have been to thee-ward very good: for he... slew the Philistine" (19:4,5). Note how he calls Saul "the King", suggesting a certain detachment from him. The vision of David standing triumphant over Goliath still motivated Jonathan, to the extent that he could stand up in that hostile environment and testify to the love of David, the extent of his selfless victory, and the urgent need for this to be recognized by men. The spirit of our preaching only occasionally matches this example. No wonder the record stresses Jonathan as being typical of ourselves.  

1Sa 19:5 he put his life in his hand and struck the Philistine-
David lived permanently in the intensity of that victory (s.w. Ps. 119:109).

And Yahweh worked a great victory for all Israel. You saw it and rejoiced-
Yahweh had earlier "worked deliverance in Israel" through Saul (s.w. 1 Sam. 11:13); but now it was worked through David. It could have been through Saul. It was because David had the faith and humility to do what Saul potentially could have done, that Saul fell into a complex of spiritual jealousy against David. See on 1 Sam. 17:26 for another example. David's confident words that God would deliver him from the Philistines [which Jonathan here quotes] were evidently inspired by Samson, the renowned one-man deliverer from Philistine armies. Both Samson and David wrought "great salvation" for Israel (1 Sam. 19:5 cp. Jud. 15:18).   

That Jonathan saw David as his personal hero, succeeding where he failed, can be found in the following consideration. Jonathan seems to have seen Gideon as his hero [compare 1 Sam. 14:10-20 with Jud. 7:3,10,11,14,22. Jonathan's son was called Merib-baal (1 Chron. 9:40), meaning 'rebellion against Baal', an epithet for 'Gideon']. Yet in 19:5 he says that "David put his life in his hand", exactly as Gideon did (Jud. 9:17). In other words, Jonathan saw David as the perfect fulfilment of all he spiritually wished to be, he felt that David  lived up to the example of his hero Gideon, whereas he did not. Is this how dynamically and intensely we relate to our Lord Jesus?  For this is what the David and Jonathan relationship points ahead to.

But there are similarities also with Samson. The Spirit came on David as it did on Samson (1 Sam. 16:13); they were both empowered to kill lions, whilst keeping the fact a secret. And in both those acts they were taught that they would deliver God's people from the Philistines (1 Sam. 17:34-37). Indeed, David's confident words that God would deliver him from the Philistines were evidently inspired by Samson, the renowned one-man deliverer from Philistine armies. Both Samson and David wrought "great salvation" for Israel (1 Sam. 19:5 cp. Jud. 15:18). As Samson was characterized by his love of that riddle (the word occurs nine times in Jud. 14:12-19, and Jud. 15:16 Heb. is also some kind of riddle), so David uses the same word to describe how he chose to put forth a riddle (Ps. 78:2). Psalm 3 is full of reference to Samson's fight at Lehi. It was also written at a time when David was betrayed by his own people. And his failures with women would make another parallel.

Why then will you sin against innocent blood, to kill David without a cause?-
The desire to slay innocent blood points forward to the Jewish desire to do the same to the Lord, articulated through Judas (Mt. 27:4).

1Sa 19:6 Saul listened to Jonathan and took this oath: As Yahweh lives, he shall not be put to death-
Yet Saul did try to kill David. He is here taking the Yahweh Name in vain.

Saul obeyed the voice of the people and the voice (s.w.) of the sheep and oxen that he covered (1 Sam. 15:24,24). Later he obeys the voice of Jonathan and promises not to kill David (1 Sam. 19:6) the voice of the witch and of his servants who persuade him against his will to eat (1 Sam. 28:22,23). We have the impression of a man readily persuaded by voices. If he had had a fundamental commitment to obey the voice of Yahweh as he was repeatedly asked, he would not have listened to these other voices. Nor the voices in his own head. Likewise those without a fundamental commitment to God's word are open to all the other voices around them, and likewise have no moral compass nor ethical direction.  The Hebrew for 'to hear' is the same as 'to obey'. Samuel had told Saul he would be made to hear or obey God's word (1 Sam. 9:27 "that I may tell you the message of God" uses the word for to hear / obey, the hint being 'that I may make you hear / be obedient to the message'). But he failed to make use of this because he found the voice of other things more attractive to hearken to. 

1Sa 19:7 Jonathan called David and told him all this.  Jonathan brought David to Saul, and he was in his presence as before-
We may consider both Jonathan and David to have been naive in believing this. But the situation was nuanced because all of them loved each other. Saul had loved David and told Jesse he wanted David as his son. Saul's daughters loved David and he likewise. It was all so interwoven, just as relationships are today, resulting in people doing things or trusting people when to onlookers, this is ridiculously unwise and naive. The record here has absolutely every verisimilitude to real life and is absolutely psychologically credible.

1Sa 19:8 There was war again. David went out and fought the Philistines and killed them with a great slaughter, and they fled before him-
The next verse records Saul suffering from an evil spirit. Clearly what is in view is the spirit of jealousy, arising from his own lack of faith, pride, refusal to accept Yahweh's word about the passing of the kingship to David, indeed a whole nexus of unspirituality. But Yahweh's Spirit worked to confirm that spirit, those wrong psychological positions which Saul allowed to operate and progress within him. Just as the Holy Spirit works positively in the heart / spirit / mind of the spiritual. Likewise in 1 Sam. 18:10, the 'evil spirit' also comes to Saul after a military incident which provoked his jealousy of David. Clearly 'spirit' is being used to refer to the spirit / mind of Saul, and not any external cosmic being. But then we will go on to read how the Spirit of God came upon Saul to influence him to repentance. We see God's careful balancing and working with men's hearts, always leading them to salvation. It's possible, from the use of the terms "that day" and "the morning", that all the events of this chapter up to :18 occurred on the same day and night. We could equally translate that "there had been war again" and David had done these things. The memory of David's recent victory kept re-playing in Saul's mind. And was confirmed by the evil spirit from Yahweh, although through David's psalms, which were of God's Spirit, He sought to ameliorate that.

1Sa 19:9 An evil spirit from Yahweh came on Saul as he sat in his house with his spear in his hand, and David was playing his harp-
Saul's jealousy, confirmed by God psychologically confirming him in it through the Spirit, was on account of David's victories, especially over Goliath, which represented Christ's conquest of sin (1 Sam. 8:7,8; 19:8,9), and his subsequent popularity with the people. 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.

Saul was gripping his javelin or spear, the symbol of his kingship. By doing so his body language was reflecting his desire to grip on to power rather than resign it to David. Perhaps Saul also carried a javelin and held it in his hand at home because he was paranoid he might be assassinated and thus lose his kingdom.  If he had humbly resigned power, he would have avoided all the mental and spiritual health issues.  

1Sa 19:10 Saul sought to pin David to the wall with the spear-
Saul "sought" David, implying a great level of mental effort (1 Sam. 19:10; 23:14,15,25; 24:2; 25:26,29; 26:2,20; 27:1,4; 2 Sam. 4:8). In the type of Christ, the Jews sought to kill the Lord (Mt. 21:46; Mk. 11:18; 12:12; 14:1,11,55; Lk. 19:47; 20:19; 22:2,6; Jn.5:16,18; 7:1,11,25,30; 8:37,40; 10:39; 11:8,56; 18:4,7,8).

But he slipped away out of Saul’s presence, and the spear went into the wall. David fled, and escaped that night-
Compare this with the Lord Jesus Christ slipping away from Jews bent on killing him, Jn. 8:59; 7:19. The stress on "that night" suggests the events of this chapter all happened on the same day and night. David fled- but just down the hill to his own house, because Saul later asks for him to be brought "up" to him.

1Sa 19:11 Saul sent messengers to David’s house to watch him and to kill him in the morning-

We wonder why Saul wanted to wait until morning to arrest and slay David. Possibly the plan was to do as was done to Nabal, to falsely accuse him before a court and slay him. This would explain David's frequent complaint in the Psalms that he was the victim of false accusation. 

LXX "It came to pass in that night, that Saul sent messengers to the house of David to watch him, in order to slay him in the morning". "That night" means the same night after the morning referenced earlier: "please take extra care of yourself in the morning". The events of this chapter all happened the same day. Saul had planned to murder David in the morning, Jonathan knew that and warned David of what would happen "in the morning". But then Saul repented and Jonathan and David believe this, and David stays at his home that night. This is psychologically credible; because Saul had loved David, he was a family member and friend, and Saul's behaviour against David would have been brushed off by them all as one of his bad turns caused by his mental illness.


They presumably didn't charge into the house and murder David there because Saul feared a public uproar if he did so. David's escape to his house implies he didn't think Saul would follow him there; he assumed this was just another temper tantrum. Ps. 59 refers to this time, and seems to speak of Saul's thugs roaming the streets looking to kill David. For the first time, the servants of Saul become proactively aggressive, having accepted his charge to kill David given in :1.

Michal, David’s wife, told him, If you don’t save your life tonight, tomorrow you will be killed-
Ps. 130:6 seems to allude here: "My soul longs for the Lord more than watchmen long for the morning; more than watchmen for the morning". Watching for the morning is the phrase used about the plot to slay David by morning (1 Sam. 19:2,11). Ps. 130:6 would therefore have originated with David's reflections that whatever the careful watchings of man to destroy him, his focus was upon longing for the Lord.

1Sa 19:12 So Michal let David down through the window. He fled and escaped-
Escape through a window and down a wall is something experienced by the spies in Jericho (Josh. 2:15), and Saul in Damascus (2 Cor. 11:33). Again we note how 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. See on 1 Sam. 18:20. It is circumstantially likely that the house was on the town wall, repeating the situation of Rahab and Saul.  For surely the house was surrounded by Saul's men.

1Sa 19:13 Michal took an idol and laid it in the bed-
This speaks so much of her unspirituality and that of her father. The use of teraphim was common in Israel at the time (Jud. 17:5; 18:14) and continued until the time of Josiah (2 Kings 23:24) and then were used even in exile (Zech. 10:2). These teraphim were often life size male images. Michal was barren (2 Sam. 6:23 implies she never had a child), and she may well have had this particular one as an idol for fertility, which involved using it as a kind of sex toy. Yet David, the man after Go's own heart, had fallen in love with this unspiritual woman and married her.

Put a pillow of goats’ hair at its head, and covered it with the clothes-
Heb. "Put the quilt of goat’s hair at its head, and covered it with the coverlet". She wrapped the head of the image in a hairy rug to resemble a man’s hair, and then covered it with a square piece of woollen cloth.

Michal has many similarities to Rachel in the book of Genesis. They each had an older sister who was set up to be their husband's wife. The fathers were both obsessive and unpleasant, and both fathers pursued after their husbands. Both women present as not very spiritual in that they had teraphim [household idols], which they both use to deceive their fathers to save their own skin, and to help their husbands save their lives from the murderous intent of their fathers. They both lie to their fathers. In the teraphim incident, Rachel claims to be sick and Michal claims David is sick. Both have husbands who work for their father, who deceives their husbands. Both had to chose their husbands over their fathers. Both had an older sister, Leah cp. Merab. The fathers of both women made an agreement with the sons in law [David and Jacob] to give them their daughters in marriage for a dowry [years of labour, killing Goliath], but deceived them. David effectively paid two dowries in order to marry Michal- slaying Goliath, and then 100 Philistine foreskins. Jacob also pays two dowries, each of seven years labour. Each woman had a time of infertility. In Michal's case this is recorded in 2 Sam. 6:23 "Michal, daughter of Saul, had no child to the day of her death". That could imply she had a child the die she died- she died in childbirth. Which would be another parallel with Rachel. This verse however stands in tension with 2 Sam. 21:8 "the five sons of Michal the daughter of Saul, whom she bore to Adriel" (NEV). The translations squirm around this by translating "bore" as "brought up for", or by appealing to a changed text which read "Merab" for Michal. But the Hebrew is simply as NEV- that Michal had five children by the man whom her older sister was married off to rather than David, and then she marries David. All spaghetti junction in terms of relationships, and all reminiscent of the Jacob-Rachel-Leah mess. All so mixed up and intertwining it's hard to get any mental map of it. Apparently both Michal and Merab were at one point married to the same man, Adriel. By the intrigue of their father. Just as with Laban and his daughters Rachel and Leah.

Clearly Jacob, Laban and Rachel are reflected in David, Saul and Michal. All these connections cannot be mere coincidence. We naturally enquire why such similarities constantly occur between the lives of God's people. We see the same thing today, the deeper we engage with other believers and get to know them. The repeated circumstances occur over time [between us and earlier believers we meet in the Bible] and also horizontally between us and present believers whom we know. We see the same Divine hallmark and way of operating in our lives, as comfort that indeed man is not alone- not least because our apparently unique situations aren't in fact so unique.

1Sa 19:14 When Saul sent messengers to take David she said, He is sick-
LXX adds: “they [the messengers] brought word that he was sick”. This sounds a rather lame response by men who had been sent by Saul to kidnap David from his own home and then murder him somewhere (see on :1,11). Clearly they baulked at actually performing what they had agreed to do.

1Sa 19:15 Saul sent the messengers to see David, saying, Bring him up to me in the bed so that I can kill him-
"Bring him up" may mean that Saul's home / palace was on the hill of Gibeah, and David’s in the lower town. Saul now wanted to personally murder David; whereas it seems from :1,11 that the plan originally had been for his servants to do the job, and that is also the impression given in Ps. 59, which has a title assigning it to this time. We sense Saul drunk with the obsession of jealousy, with the hatred in his heart which leads to murder.

1Sa 19:16 When the messengers came in, there was just the idol in the bed, with the pillow of goats’ hair at its head-
After this incident, circumstances repeat for Saul. He again sends messengers to take David at Naioth, but they are overcome by the Spirit; and then he goes himself. And still doesn't get David. He was unwilling to perceive the clear patterns in his life which reflected Yahweh's Spirit.

1Sa 19:17 Saul said to Michal, Why have you deceived me like this and let my enemy go, so that he has escaped? Michal answered Saul, He said to me, ‘Let me go! Why should I kill you?’-
We are surely intended to compare her response to that of her brother Jonathan, who stood up for David (:1) and was prepared to die for it at the hands of his father. "Why have you deceived me?" is word for word what Saul was later asked by the witch at Endor on the last night of his life (1 Sam. 28:12). Saul's words were to return to him, placed in the mouth of another woman. For by our words we are judged. The deceiver was deceived, as happened with Jacob.

1Sa 19:18 Now David fled and escaped, and came to Samuel to Ramah, and told him all that Saul had done to him. He and Samuel went and lived in Naioth-
"Naioth" means "the dwellings" and seems to refer to a kind of college of instruction Samuel had built up at his home in Ramah. The Targum renders the word “house of instruction”. It would have been the first of the schools of the prophets. This would account for the prophets appearing at that place (:20).

1Sa 19:19 Saul was told, David is at Naioth in Ramah!-
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 19:20 Saul sent messengers to take David, and when they saw the company of the prophets prophesying and Samuel standing as head over them, the spirit of God came on the messengers of Saul and they also prophesied-
As explained on :18, there was a school of the prophets at Naioth, headed up by Samuel. This incident is looking ahead to the experience of the enemies of the Lord Jesus in Jn. 7:46. These messengers were those mentioned in :1 and :11, the servants of Saul who had agreed to murder David. They, Saul and everyone involved is here given a taste of the power of God's Spirit. He is able to take over the human mind by His Spirit, and make us spiritual; but as discussed on :24, He will not treat us as robots, overpowering us so that we have no choice but to be saved. We are to follow onwards in the path His Spirit sets us upon.

1Sa 19:21 When Saul was told, he sent other messengers, and they also prophesied. Saul sent messengers again the third time and they also prophesied-
We wonder if the content of the prophesy here mentioned was that David would be king.

1Sa 19:22 Then he went himself to Ramah, and came to the great well that is in Secu, and he asked, Where are Samuel and David? Someone said, They are at Naioth in Ramah-
LXX "the well of the threshing-floor that is in Sephi (or, the hill)". If we go with the LXX, we note that a well is not usually on a hill [LXX "the hill"], whereas a threshing floor is typically in an elevated area where the wind can blow the chaff away; the Hebrew can equally mean a cistern, perhaps for gathering rain water. And threshing is associated with judgment. He was brought to realize that in his attitude to David, he was facing judgment. And there was, unusually, water next to it, the symbol of cleansing. For there was a well or cistern next to this threshing floor. It was a nudge towards his repentance, and he apparently followed this for a short time and was confirmed in it by the Spirit.  Or if Secu is the same as Shocoh of 1 Sam. 17:1, this was the scene of David's victory over Goliath. Again this would have prodded Saul's conscience, and the Spirit confirmed him in responding to this prodding. 

Saul ought to have learnt from experience. He had sent messengers to take David from his own house and murder him, but when they failed, he went himself; and failed to find David. Now circumstances repeated, as they do in lives where God is at work. When he is calmly told that David is at Naioth, and realizes that his messengers have been overcome by the Spirit; he ought to have realized that he would not prevail alone. But he continues; and despite his headlong folly, by pure grace, God's Spirit attempts to yet again burst into his life and turn him around.

1Sa 19:23 So he went towards Naioth in Ramah. Then the spirit of God came on him also, and he went on and prophesied until he came to Naioth in Ramah-
See on :24. This overpowering by the Spirit was not due to encounter with people or some kind of group psychology. We get the impression Saul had come alone; and now on the final stage of the journey, he was overcome by the Spirit in a deeply personal meeting with God. See on :24.

1Sa 19:24 He stripped off his clothes and he also prophesied before Samuel, and lay down naked all that day and all that night. Therefore they say, Is Saul also among the prophets?
The Spirit of God usually confirms the human spirit in the way the person wishes to go. But here we see how God at times makes a direct entrance into a person's life through His Spirit, as He had initially with Saul as he was out looking for lost donkeys. Twice God had told him that he was rejected from the kingship for his disobedience. But God dearly loved Saul, and really wanted their relationship to work, despite his mental illness and unspirituality. We marvel at God's desire to save and not to condemn, to accept rather than reject; and His tireless attempts to work even with the proud who have apparently turned away from God. For here God yet again comes into Saul's life and tries to almost force him to be humble.

To take off his kingly clothes before Samuel represented his willingness to resign the kingship for the sake of Samuel's prophetic word about David replacing him. We noted how Jonathan had willingly done this of his own initiative. But time and again, Saul refuses to follow on from the path God's Spirit placed him upon. Although the kingship had been removed from him, Saul still could have been saved and lived a Spirit filled life. But he was now obsessed with retaining what he had, his status as king, and personal salvation and relationship with God simply didn't figure in his thinking. But God at this point forces Himself again upon Saul by giving him His Spirit, so eager to still have him as His child. And David seems to have recognized this abiding involvement of God's good Spirit in Saul's life, in that he refuses to kill Saul when given the opportunity- exactly because he is still Yahweh's anointed, the Spirit is still on him, as it were. We must remember that when dealing with God's fallen people; His Spirit is still working with them, nobody is totally abandoned by Him, He will still be trying with that person. So we see God on one hand pushing Saul downwards through His evil spirit, and yet countering that push with the influence of His spirit the other way. The question of course is how strong are those respective movements or pushes or influences. We cannot measure them as we have no metric for them, but we are assured that their respective strengths are in a perfect balance and proportion that can only be called Divine.

Saul removed his royal clothes and laid on the earth in penitence, moved by the Spirit. I suggest this was what happened and not some ecstatic trance or being slain in the Spirit in the style of modern Pentecostalism. This explains why in 1 Sam. 20, Jonathan believes his father now has no malice towards David as he's over it, and why David was even willing to come near Saul's court.