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1 Samuel 18:1. The soul of Jonathan was knit— We shall have occasion in the close of this history to speak particularly concerning this amiable and virtuous friendship. It is plain from the 2nd verse, that David had gone back to his father's house after his first introduction to Saul; which confirms the remarks made respecting this history in the former chapter.
1 Samuel 18:3. Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, &c.— That is, entered into a treaty or agreement of perpetual friendship. See 2 Samuel 1:26.
1 Samuel 18:4. And Jonathan stripped himself— Princes do not only order caffetans to be given to those whom they would honour; they have sometimes presented such persons with their own garments. D'Herbelot informs us, that when sultan Selim, the son of Bajazet, had defeated Canson Gauri, sultan of the Mamelukes of Egypt, he assisted at prayers in a mosque at Aleppo upon his triumphant return to Constantinople; and that the imam of the mosque having added at the close of the prayer these words, "May God preserve Selim Khan, the servant and minister of the two sacred cities of Mecca and Medina!" the title was so very agreeable to the sultan, that he gave the robe which he had on to this imam, and from that time forward the Othoman emperors have always used it in their letters patent, as kings of Egypt. Thus 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. See Observations, p. 182.
1 Samuel 18:5. And David went out whithersoever, &c.— Saul himself, highly pleased with David, intrusted him with the management of various affairs. Charged with divers expeditions, he signalised his prudence and his courage with such success, that Saul set him over the men of war, that is, raised him to a very distinguished rank among the officers of his army, of which Abner continued general; and he always gained the esteem of those about him, except of some few who envied his preferment.
1 Samuel 18:6-9. The women came out—singing and dancing— See Exodus 1:20. Saul probably received his first suspicion that David was that neighbour of his who was better than himself, to whom the Lord, as Samuel had told him, had given the kingdom, ch. 1Sa 15:28 from these acclamations of the women; which, I suppose, brought this declaration of the prophet to his remembrance, without which he would have treated this exalted encomium with neglect. This appears probable from his saying, And what can he have more but the kingdom? 1Sa 18:8 and from what is further added, Saul eyed David from that day.
1 Samuel 18:10. And he prophesied— Houbigant renders this, And he was out of his senses; after the Chaldee, which has it, And he was mad: for it is not proper; says he, to render the original word, prophesied: התנבא hithnabbe, in Hith-pael, is different from נבא naba, in Kal, to prophesy, at least in this place; because it is here used in a bad sense, whereas to prophesy is never used but in a good one. The Arabic version has it, "he prophesied, i.e. delivered the words of the Pytho, or evil spirit." We may observe in the next verse another instance of anticipation, where it is said, that David avoided (or escaped) out of his presence twice; referring to what happened chap. 1 Samuel 19:10.
1 Samuel 18:13. Therefore Saul removed him from him— Jealous of David, Saul could no longer bear him at his court; and therefore he gave him a command which employed him abroad, and subjected him to dangers, some of which he hoped might deliver him from a person grown so offensive to him.
1 Samuel 18:21. And Saul said, &c.— Houbigant renders this, But Saul determined that he would propose to give her to him, that he might be ensnared by means of her, and fall into the hands of the Philistines. It is not to be imagined that Michal, who loved David, would lay any snares for him: Saul prepared the snare by means of her; hoping, that when David should undertake to fight the Philistines for her sake, he would fall in battle. The latter clause of the verse he renders thus: Thou shalt this day be my son-in-law, on another condition. His first condition was, the conquest of Goliath; his second, an hundred foreskins of the Philistines. Nothing can be more despicable than the shuffling, base, and insidious conduct of Saul, throughout this whole transaction. Ludolf, in his History of Ethiopia, b. 1 Chronicles 16:0 informs us, that it is to this day the custom in Ethiopia to judge of the number of the dead in a battle, not by the heads, but by those signs of victory which Saul demanded from David.
1 Samuel 18:23. David said, Seemeth it to you a light thing? &c.— These words express the difficulty of obtaining a king's daughter for his wife in his circumstances, with an intent to find out the condition of the offer; for thus they run, according to the original: "Do you think it an easy matter to be a king's son-in-law, since I am a poor man, and lightly esteemed? Can I easily obtain the king's daughter, "who have no riches nor honours?" And to this sense the answer of Saul's servants leads us: "The king desireth no dowry but an hundred foreskins of the Philistines." That the word נקל nekel, rendered light, frequently signifies easy, appears from 2 Kings 3:18. This is but a light thing in the sight of the Lord; i.e. an easy thing for God to do; again, Proverbs 14:6 knowledge is easy to a man of understanding; i.e. easy to be obtained. It has been objected, that the destruction of these Philistines impugns David's moral character, and represents him as inhuman and delighting in blood. But the objectors should consider, that the Hebrews and Philistines were in a perpetual state of war during the whole reign of Saul; chap. 1 Samuel 14:52. David had a regiment of soldiers; and Saul, in hopes of getting rid of the man he hated, sends him upon an expedition to execute his vengeance upon his enemies; and tells him, that if he was so successful as to destroy a hundred of them, he should be his son-in-law. What does our young hero do? He accepts the offer, takes his men, attacks the enemy, obtains a much greater advantage over them than Saul expected, and slays two hundred of them instead of one. Saul's asking David for a hundred foreskins did not limit him to that number. It was not to be less. And if it was no argument of David's delight in blood that he killed a hundred of Saul's enemies because he required it of him, it could be no argument of his delight in blood to kill two hundred of them because he had no orders to the contrary, and knew that it would be agreeable to the will of his master. The only just reasons which could vindicate Saul in commanding, and David in executing his command to cut off a hundred Philistines, were either God's order, or their being at war with the Philistines, or the necessity of it to weaken their enemies, the safety of their country, the security of their liberty, or similar motives: and if these motives concurred to justify David in accepting the condition of becoming Saul's son-in-law by bringing the hundred foreskins, his bringing more was yet a higher service to the public; and, so far from being any breach of the rules of religion and morality, was a proof of real patriotism and public spirit, which highly merited the thanks of the king and country, and rendered him worthy of the honour intended him. The men whom David destroyed were the enemies of his country, in a state of actual war with his prince and people, and therefore lawful prize wherever he could lay hold of them; and in every expedition wherein he was employed, it was his duty to harass and destroy them. See Joseph. Antiq. lib. 6: cap. 10 sect. 2.
REFLECTIONS.—1st. David is now fixed at court.
1. Saul resolves to keep him about his person, advances him to the command of a troop, and employs him often in his affairs of state; in all of which David approves himself a faithful and diligent servant. Thus he learnt to obey before he came to rule.
2. Jonathan, Saul's son, is charmed with those excellencies which appear in him, and from his behaviour conceives the warmest affection for him; probably their ages were nearly equal, their manners similar, and their souls, as generous spirits always are, susceptible of the tenderest feelings of friendship. To give him an immediate mark of his regard, Jonathan carries him to his tent, strips off his own clothes, even to his sword and his girdle; and, as David must appear at court, will have him dressed as a courtier; and suitable to his high deserts. There, to perpetuate the bands of friendship, a solemn covenant is made between them, to be faithful to each other till death. Note; (1.) A faithful friend is among the greatest of human blessings. (2.) True friendship is constant, and startles not at assurances. (3.) They who are Christ's friends will bind themselves to be his for ever.
3. David's conduct procured him universal esteem; his valour made him loved abroad, and his humility kept him from being envied at court. Note; In high stations, it is a difficult part so to act as to acquire honour without provoking envy.
2nd, To allay the joy of his preferment, his troubles quickly follow.
1. Saul becomes jealous of his growing greatness; having made a triumphant progress through the cities of Israel after the victory, and being met by the women singing the praises of the conquerors, his soul is stung with envy to hear ten thousands slain ascribed to David, and to himself but thousands. From that day forward his look of complacence changed into the frown of displeasure, and dark suspicions troubled him, conscious that his kingdom was forfeited, and fearing that this was his rival who would dethrone him. Note; (1.) The praises of merit are, in the ears of envy, grating discord. (2.) An evil and malignant eye betrays the rancour of the heart.
2. He attempts to destroy him. Brooding all night over these dark thoughts, next day his former demoniacal phrenzy returns upon him. David, observing his unhappy case, ran to his harp, which before had soothed his rage; but Saul, mad with envy, hurls his javelin at him. Note; (1.) They who indulge the evil thoughts of their own hearts, invite the devil to take possession of them. (2.) Jealousy is cruel as the grave, and thirsts for the precious life.
3rdly, What Saul cannot perpetrate by open violence, he seeks to accomplish by secret fraud.
1. His fears, the more increased by the evident blessing of God upon David, put him upon removing him from court. But this he seeks to do in such a way as, under pretence of preferment, to expose him to danger and death; he, therefore, sends him out to fight the Philistines, and to whet his ardour, the more to endanger his life, promises to bestow on him his eldest daughter to wife if he return victorious, and approve himself in deeds of valour. This, indeed, was what he before deserved, though he had not claimed her, and now modestly professes himself unworthy of such an honour; ready, however, to obey his sovereign, and zealous for Israel's glory, his exploits serve to spread his fame, and ingratiate him with the army, while his prudent conduct engages the regard of all. Note; (1.) God can over-rule the most wicked designs of our enemies for our good, and to the confusion of their authors. (2.) Modest worth shines with double lustre.
2. The more David prospers, the more Saul fears; therefore, to exasperate him into some rash word or false step, he affronts him, by giving his daughter to another, perhaps on the very day fixed for the bridal feast.
3. Saul lays a new snare for him. Though he had robbed him of one daughter, he would entice him with the other, and sets his courtiers to encourage him to hope for the honour of being yet the king's son-in-law, pretending the pleasure that Saul took in him, and proposing the dowry which Saul expected, a hundred foreskins of the Philistines. He hoped that this expedition might prove fatal to him, as the Philistines would be exasperated at such an insult offered them, and he should thus get rid of his enemy.
4. David at first declined the hints of the courtiers, and behaved the more cautiously, as he saw them wait for his halting. He humbly urges the greatness of the honour, and his own unworthiness of it, whose fortune or condition was not, in anywise, answerable to such a match; but seeing, at last, that it was really the king's mind, he liked the proposal very well, and ere the time proposed was expired, he doubled the number of foreskins, that, since this was to be the dowry, he might not appear deficient: and now he has Michal's hand, as he before possessed her heart. Note; (1.) Kings never want wicked instruments to further their basest designs. (2.) True humility will make a man rather undervalue than over-rate his own importance. (3.) If it be such an honour to be a king's son-in-law, how much greater to become the sons and heirs of the eternal King, as every believer is who is joined to the Lord!
5. His marriage kept him not from the field. He distinguished himself again beyond all the servants of Saul against the princes of the Philistines, and gained a great name among the people, while Saul's envy increased in proportion with David's eminence. So will God confound the wise in their own craftiness, and in spite of every danger exalt the man whom he delighteth to honour.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 18". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany