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Bible Commentaries

Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary

1 Samuel 18

Verses 1-2

The bond of friendship which Jonathan formed with David was so evidently the main point, that in 1 Samuel 18:1 the writer commences with the love of Jonathan to David, and then after that proceeds in 1 Samuel 18:2 to observe that Saul took David to himself from that day forward; whereas it is very evident that Saul told David, either at the time of his conversation with him or immediately afterwards, that he was henceforth to remain with him, i.e., in his service. “ The soul of Jonathan bound itself ( lit. chained itself; cf. Genesis 44:30) to David's soul, and Jonathan loved him as his soul.” The Chethibh ויּאהבו with the suffix ו attached to the imperfect is very rare, and hence the Keri ויּאהבהוּ (vid., Ewald, §249, b., and Olshausen, Gramm. p. 469). לשׁוּב , to return to his house, viz., to engage in his former occupation as shepherd.

Verse 3

Jonathan made a covenant (i.e., a covenant of friendship) and (i.e., with) David, because he loved him as his soul.

Verse 4

As a sign and pledge of his friendship, Jonathan gave David his clothes and his armour. Meil, the upper coat or cloak. Maddim is probably the armour coat (vid., 1 Samuel 17:39). This is implied in the word ועד , which is repeated three times, and by which the different arms were attached more closely to מדּיו . For the act itself, compare the exchange of armour made by Glaucus and Diomedes (Hom. Il. vi. 230). This seems to have been a common custom in very ancient times, as we meet with it also among the early Celts (see Macpherson's Ossian).

Verse 5

And David went out, sc., to battle; whithersoever Saul sent him, he acted wisely and prosperously ( ישׂכּיל , as in Joshua 1:8: see at Deuteronomy 29:8). Saul placed him above the men of war in consequence, made him one of their commanders; and he pleased all the people, and the servants of Saul also, i.e., the courtiers of the king, who are envious as a general rule.

Verses 6-16

Saul's jealousy towards David.

Saul was enraged at this. The words displeased him, so that he said, “ They have given David ten thousands, and to me thousands, and there is only the kingdom more for him ” (i.e., left for him to obtain). “In this foreboding utterance of Saul there was involved not only a conjecture which the result confirmed, but a deep inward truth: if the king of Israel stood powerless before the subjugators of his kingdom at so decisive a period as this, and a shepherd boy came and decided the victory, this was an additional mark of his rejection” ( O. v. Gerlach).

1 Samuel 18:9

From that day forward Saul was looking askance at David. עון , a denom. verb, from עין , an eye, looking askance, is used for עוין ( Keri).

1 Samuel 18:10-11

The next day the evil spirit fell upon Saul (“ the evil spirit of God;” see at 1 Samuel 16:14), so that he raved in his house, and threw his javelin at David, who played before him “ as day by day,” but did not hit him, because David turned away before him twice. התנבּא does not mean to prophesy in this instance, but “ to rave.” This use of the word is founded upon the ecstatic utterances, in which the supernatural influence of the Spirit of God manifested itself in the prophets (see at 1 Samuel 10:5). ויּטל , from טוּל , he hurled the javelin, and said (to himself), “ I will pierce David and the wall.” With such force did he hurl his spear; but David turned away from him, i.e., eluded it, twice. His doing so a second time presupposes that Saul hurled the javelin twice; that is to say, he probably swung it twice without letting it go out of his hand, - a supposition which is raised into certainty by the fact that it is not stated here that the javelin entered the wall, as in 1 Samuel 19:10. But even with this view יטל is not to be changed into יטּל , as Thenius proposes, since the verb נטל cannot be proved to have ever the meaning to swing. Saul seems to have held the javelin in his hand as a sceptre, according to ancient custom.

1 Samuel 18:12-13

And Saul was afraid of David, because the Spirit of Jehovah was with him, and had departed from Saul; ” he “ removed him therefore from him,” i.e., from his immediate presence, by appointing him chief captain over thousand. In this fear of David on the part of Saul, the true reason for his hostile behaviour is pointed out with deep psychological truth. The fear arose from the consciousness that the Lord had departed from him, - a consciousness which forced itself involuntarily upon him, and drove him to make the attempt, in a fit of madness, to put David to death. The fact that David did not leave Saul immediately after this attempt upon his life, may be explained not merely on the supposition that he looked upon this attack as being simply an outburst of momentary madness, which would pass away, but still more from his firm believing confidence, which kept him from forsaking the post in which the Lord had placed him without any act of his own, until he saw that Saul was plotting to take his life, not merely in these fits of insanity, but also at other times, in calm deliberation (vid., 1 Samuel 19:1.).

1 Samuel 18:14-16

As chief commander over thousand, he went out and in before the people, i.e., he carried out military enterprises, and that so wisely and prosperously, that the blessing of the Lord rested upon all he did. But these successes on David's part increased Saul's fear of him, whereas all Israel and Judah came to love him as their leader. David's success in all that he took in hand compelled Saul to promote him; and his standing with the people increased with his promotion. But as the Spirit of God had departed from Saul, this only filled him more and more with dread of David as his rival. As the hand of the Lord was visibly displayed in David's success, so, on the other hand, Saul's rejection by God was manifested in his increasing fear of David.

Verses 17-30

Craftiness of Saul in the betrothal of his daughters to David. - 1 Samuel 18:17. As Saul had promised to give his daughter for a wife to the conqueror of Goliath (1 Samuel 17:25), he felt obliged, by the growing love and attachment of the people to David, to fulfil this promise, and told him that he was ready to do so, with the hope of finding in this some means of destroying David. He therefore offered him his elder daughter Merab with words that sounded friendly and kind: “ Only be a brave man to me, and wage the wars of the Lord.” He called the wars with the Philistines “ wars of Jehovah,” i.e., wars for the maintenance and defence of the kingdom of God, to conceal his own cunning design, and make David feel all the more sure that the king's heart was only set upon the welfare of the kingdom of God. Whoever waged the wars of the Lord might also hope for the help of the Lord. But Saul had intentions of a very different kind. He thought (“ said,” sc., to himself), “ My hand shall not be upon him, but let the hand of the Philistines be upon him;” i.e., I will not put him to death; the Philistines may do that. When Saul's reason had returned, he shrank from laying hands upon David again, as he had done before in a fit of madness. He therefore hoped to destroy him through the medium of the Philistines.

1 Samuel 18:18

But David replied with true humility, without suspecting the craftiness of Saul: “ Who am I, and what is my condition in life, my father's family in Israel, that I should become son-in-law to the king?חיּי מי is a difficult expression, and has been translated in different ways, as the meaning which suggests itself first (viz., “ what is my life ”) is neither reconcilable with the מי (the interrogative personal pronoun), nor suitable to the context. Gesenius ( Thes. p. 471) and Böttcher give the meaning “ people ” for חיּים , and Ewald ( Gramm. §179, b.) the meaning “ family.” But neither of these meanings can be established. חיּים seems evidently to signify the condition in life, the relation in which a person stands to others, and מי is to be explained on the ground that David referred to the persons who formed the class to which he belonged. “ My father's family ” includes all his relations. David's meaning was, that neither on personal grounds, nor on account of his social standing, nor because of his lineage, could he make the slightest pretension to the honour of becoming the son-in-law of the king.

1 Samuel 18:19

But Saul did not keep his promise. When the time arrived for its fulfilment, he gave his daughter to Adriel the Meholathite, a man of whom nothing further is known.

Saul therefore employed his courtiers to persuade David to accept his offer. In this way we may reconcile in a very simple manner the apparent discrepancy, that Saul is said to have offered his daughter to David himself, and yet he commissioned his servants to talk to David privately of the king's willingness to give him his daughter. The omission of 1 Samuel 18:21 in the Septuagint is to be explained partly from the fact that בּשׁתּים points back to 1 Samuel 18:17-19, which are wanting in this version, and partly also in all probability from the idea entertained by the translators that the statement itself is at variance with 1 Samuel 18:22. The courtiers were to talk to David בּלּט , “ in private,” i.e., as though they were doing it behind the king's back.

1 Samuel 18:23

David replied to the courtiers, “ Does it seem to you a little thing to become son-in-law to the king, seeing that I am a poor and humble man? ” “ Poor,” i.e., utterly unable to offer anything like a suitable dowry to the king. This reply was given by David in perfect sincerity, since he could not possibly suppose that the king would give him his daughter without a considerable marriage portion.

1 Samuel 18:24-25

When this answer was reported to the king, he sent word through his courtiers what the price was for which he would give him his daughter. He required no dowry (see at Genesis 34:12), but only a hundred foreskins of the Philistines, i.e., the slaughter of a hundred Philistines, and the proof that this had been done, to avenge himself upon the enemies of the king; whereas, as the writer observes, Saul supposed that he should thus cause David to fall, i.e., bring about his death by the hand of the Philistines.

1 Samuel 18:26-27

But David was satisfied with Saul's demand, since he had no suspicion of his craftiness, and loved Michal. Even before the days were full, i.e., before the time appointed for the delivery of the dowry and for the marriage had arrived, he rose up with his men, smote two hundred Philistines, and brought their foreskins, which were placed in their full number before the king; whereupon Saul was obliged to give him Michal his daughter to wife. The words “ and the days were not full ” (1 Samuel 18:26) form a circumstantial clause, which is to be connected with the following sentence, “ David arose,” etc. David delivered twice the price demanded. “ They made them full to the king,” i.e., they placed them in their full number before him.

1 Samuel 18:28-29

The knowledge of the fact that David had carried out all his enterprises with success had already filled the melancholy king with fear. But when the failure of this new plan for devoting David to certain death had forced the conviction upon him that Jehovah was with David, and that he was miraculously protected by Him; and when, in addition to this, there was the love of his daughter Michal to David; his fear of David grew into a lifelong enmity. Thus his evil spirit urged him ever forward to greater and greater hardness of heart.

1 Samuel 18:30

The occasion for the practical manifestation of this enmity was the success of David in all his engagements with the Philistines. As often as the princes of the Philistines went out (sc., to war with Israel), David acted more wisely and prosperously than all the servants of Saul, so that his name was held in great honour. With this general remark the way is prepared for the further history of Saul's conduct towards David.

Copyright Statement
The Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary is a derivative of a public domain electronic edition.
Bibliographical Information
Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 18". Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary. 1854-1889.