I Samuel 18

The Word Made Fresh

1After David had spoken with Saul, Saul’s son Jonathan became David’s soul mate, and they were good friends who truly loved one another. 2Saul brought David into his family that day and wouldn’t let him return home to his father Jesse. 3Then Jonathan, because he loved David, made a pact with him that day, 4took off his robe and gave it to him along with his armor, including his bow and his sword and his bow and belt. 5Wherever Saul sent David, he was successful, and Saul eventually put him in charge of his army. And the people, even Saul’s servants, were pleased.

6When the troops were returning home with David after he had slain the Philistine, women came out of the towns they passed along the way, singing and dancing. They wanted to see king Saul and brought tambourines and sang joyfully with stringed instruments. 7But as they danced and sang to each other, they sang, “Saul has killed thousands, but David has killed tens of thousands.” 8Saul was definitely displeased with that and thought, “They credit me with thousands and David with tens of thousands. What is left for him but the throne?” 9And from that day Saul watched David closely.

10The next day Saul was overcome with a mean spirit, an attitude God had noticed in him, and began to pitch a fit while David played the lyre as he had been doing day to day. But this time Saul happened to be holding his spear, 11and he threw it at David, meaning to pin him to the wall. Twice David eluded him.

12Saul’s fear of David was based on his feeling that the LORD had rejected him and had begun to favor David. 13Because of this Saul decided not to keep him in service in his house, and made him the commander of a battalion, and David came and went, leading his troops. 14The LORD was with David, and David did well at everything he tried. 15Saul was afraid of him because of his success, 16and the people loved David as they watched him going out and returning with the army.

17Then Saul told David, “Here is my daughter Merab. I give her to you to be your wife. All I ask is that you be courageous and fight the LORD’s battles. He was thinking, “I don’t have to harm him; let the Philistines take care of that.”

18David’s response was, “But who am I? And who is my father in Israel to qualify me to be the king’s son-in-law?” 19So, when the time came for her to be given in marriage, she was given instead to Adriel of Meholah.

20However, Saul’s daughter Michal was in love with David. Someone told it to Saul, and he was pleased. 21He thought to himself, “I’ll give her to him, and she will distract him, and the Philistines will be able to overcome him.” So, he said to himself, “Now David will indeed become my son-in-law.”

22This is how Saul arranged it: he told his servants to pull David aside and tell him, “Look, the king is pleased with you, and all of us his servants admire you. Why not agree to become the king’s son-in-law?” 23When they spoke to David, his response was, “Do you think it’s a simple matter to marry into the king’s family? I’m a poor man. I have nothing to recommend me.”

24When the servants reported back to Saul, 25he said, “Tell him that the only thing the king expects for a wedding gift is a hundred Philistine foreskins as the king’s vengeance on his enemies.” That was how Saul planned to have the Philistines kill David.

26When the servants told this to David, he was happy to become the king’s son-in-law, and before the deadline arrived for the bridal gift, 27he led his soldiers out and they killed two hundred Philistines. David brought their foreskins and counted out the full number the king demanded for the honor of marrying his daughter.

So, Saul gave his daughter Michal to David as his wife. 28However, when Saul saw that the LORD continued to be with David, and that his daughter Michal loved him, 29he was even more afraid than ever. From that time on Saul was David’s enemy.

30The Philistines continued to threaten, and whenever they came to fight, David was more successful than all the other leaders appointed by Saul, and his fame grew and grew.

Commentary

1-5: They are still in the field where David has triumphed over Goliath. Jonathan, you will recall, has already exhibited courage in the fight against the Philistines and now David has done the same, and the two young men (although David is painted as a boy in the Goliath story, here he is clearly more mature) bond as comrades and friends. David can’t wear Saul’s armor but seems comfortable in Jonathan’s – perhaps the king’s armor was much heavier, being designed to protect the country’s ruler. Saul makes him commander over the army – but surely not the head general; that job still belongs to Abner, and Jonathan has some command responsibilities as well.

6-11: But now things quickly change. When they return from the battlefield, at each little town along the route they are greeted. The women sing praises to Saul and to David, but David’s praise is more grandiose, and Saul is jealous. He is thrown into a black mood in which he actually tries to kill David, but his aim is off. Here we are told that David plays the lyre for Saul as he did in the earlier account from chapter 16.

12-19: Saul’s suspicions and fears grow as David’s fame grows. He puts David over a battalion because David can produce the results he needs, but with each victory David wins in the field, Saul becomes more convinced that God is abandoning him in favor of David. Perhaps as a political ploy, he offers his daughter Merab to David and David seems flattered, but protests that he cannot afford a bridal gift the king would expect. When the time comes for a public announcement to be made, though, Saul gives the girl to another man.

20-29: The palace intrigues only intensify as the field is now left clear for another daughter, Michal, to claim David. Saul is pleased with this because he again sees it as an opportunity to goad David into greater deeds of daring against the Philistines and get himself killed.  He sends word that, for Michal’s hand, David is to go on a quest and present 100 Philistine foreskins as a bride price. I suppose that is the equivalent of scalping on the American frontier. David is delighted at the challenge and succeeds in the quest, likely counting out all 100 (or 200?) of them one by one in Saul’s presence. He marries Michal and becomes the king’s son-in-law, but the king, as is sometimes the case with fathers-in-law, becomes an arch enemy.

30: The war with the Philistines still rages, but David and his battalion are never defeated.

Takeaway

These chapters are a build-up to the approaching kingship of David. David’s character will be bolstered with phenomenal successes and reports of his modesty. Of course, after he becomes king, he will slip a bit. Absolute power, you know.