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Bible Commentaries
1 Samuel 18

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary

Verse 1


1. When he had made an end of speaking unto Saul That is, after the interview mentioned in the last verse of the preceding chapter, in which David informed Saul of his father. All their conversation on that occasion is not recorded, for it is manifest that that verse contains but a very small part of it. Enough is given, however, to acquaint us with the main subject of their conversation.

The soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David An instance of more touching and tender friendship is not recorded on the page of history, nor even in works of fiction. Here was a fellowship of souls. On the part of Jonathan it was the more remarkable, inasmuch as David became his rival for the throne. But even after this became well known Jonathan’s love never cooled, but rather warmed with intenser devotion to his friend, and he often gave aid and comfort to the son of Jesse in the time of his persecution. 1 Samuel 23:17. Well might the psalmist king say, in his requiem over the fallen hero, (2 Samuel 1:26,) “Thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women.”

On this subject Ewald’s note is fine. “Nothing can establish a true bond between two friends and produce pure friendship except a loftier necessity which stands above them both, and which both alike burn to satisfy with ever-increasing fulness the necessity. namely, of finding and loving in others, if possible in a yet higher degree, the purely divine power already felt within, and thus mutually living under its influence. It is in an age which is possessed, above all things, by a pure aspiration to obtain noble gifts, that the blessing of such a genuine friendship will also most readily be realized; and so the period in Israel’s history with which we are now concerned furnishes, among so many other glorious spectacles, that of a friendship which shines for all ages an eternal type.”

Verse 2

2. Saul… would let him go no more home That is, to remain there in his former occupation. He was doubtless permitted to go and visit his father whenever he desired, but not to resume his charge of the sheep as before. 1 Samuel 17:15.

Verse 4

4. His garments Rather, his armour, as the word מד is rendered, 1 Samuel 17:39. This, we are immediately told, consisted of his sword, bow, and girdle. The giving of this robe and armour was the seal of the covenant between them.

Verse 5


After the battle, and after the covenant between Jonathan and David, the latter was advanced to great honour in the kingdom. The heart of the king, as well as that of the army, turned towards the heroic youth with one common feeling of gratitude and love. But the glories of this youthful warrior are soon to be clouded.

5. Saul set him over the men of war We have no data to determine the exact chronology of the events recorded in this verse. But his appointment over the men of war, and his going out in obedience to Saul’s orders, are probably identical with what is related in 1 Samuel 18:13-14. The writer seems to have inserted them here to show the immediate results of David’s victory and Jonathan’s friendship.

Verse 6

6. All cities of Israel All those near which the returning army passed.

Singing and dancing According to the custom of the Hebrew women after great victories. Compare Exodus 15:20; Judges 11:34.

Instruments of music Margin, three-stringed instruments. שׁלשׁים , as the name of a musical instrument, occurs here only, and signifies, literally, threes. The triangle is probably intended, of which we subjoin an engraving.

Verse 7

7. Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands A neat poetic parallelism. The enthusiastic throng intimate, in an exultant hour, that David’s triumph is of more importance than all Saul’s victories.

Verse 8

8. Saul was very wroth His passionate nature could not brook such insinuations without yielding to foul thoughts and deepest envy,

What can he have more but the kingdom Immediately there flashes upon him the suspicion that this son of Jesse is that neighbour of whom Samuel had spoken, (1 Samuel 15:28,) who was destined to supersede him on the throne.

Verse 9

9. Eyed David from that day Watched all his movements with suspicion and jealousy. And this fact may well account for the king’s failure to reward David and his father’s house according to all that he had promised the one who would succeed in slaying the insolent Goliath. 1 Samuel 17:25.

Verse 10

10. The evil spirit from God came upon Saul He relapsed into that state of demoniac possession described 1 Samuel 16:14.

He prophesied in the midst of the house The verb is here used in the Hithpael the reflective voice he acted the prophet. “In this way it is spoken of the seventy elders, and of Eldad and Medad in the camp, (Numbers 11:25-27;) of the music and dancing of the sons of the prophets, (1 Samuel 10:5;) of Saul’s participation in their exercises, (1 Samuel 10:6; 1 Samuel 10:10; 1 Samuel 10:13;) of the excited cries and violent contortions of the prophets of Baal, (1 Kings 18:29;) of the prophets who prophesied lies at Jerusalem, (Jeremiah 14:14;) and of those at Samaria who professed to be inspired by Baal. Jeremiah 23:13. So, too, it is the word employed by Ahab, who probably regarded with something like contempt the wish of Jehoshaphat to know Jehovah’s will. 1 Kings 22:8; 1 Kings 22:18. Occasionally, therefore, it is used in a good sense, though scarcely ever of real prophecy.” R.P. Smith’s Bampton Lecture, 1869.

Saul first became signalized among his neighbours by ecstatic prophesying, (1 Samuel 10:11,) but that former ecstasy was inspired by the holy Spirit of God. Now that Spirit has left him, and a foul demon occupies his place, and, accordingly, instead of hallowed ecstasy, his religious exercises resemble the frantic ravings of a madman. He utters impassioned cries, and, perhaps, falls prostrate on the floor and breathes forth his inner ravings like one holding communion with an unseen world. “The prophets, when under the power of inspiration, appear to have been greatly agitated, and to have exhibited writhings and spasmodic affections of the body like delirious persons. Hence the true prophet in 2 Kings 9:11, is called in scorn insane, a madman; and in Jeremiah 29:26 the two ideas are conjoined, raving and prophesying, spoken of a pretended prophet. For a like reason the Greeks and Latins apply words connected with raving, μαντις , furor, to the frenzied manner of soothsayers, poetic oracles,” etc. Gesenius.

David played… as at other times Seeking, as before, (1 Samuel 16:16,) to quell the mental ravings of the king, and drive out the demon that possessed him.

Verses 10-30


Here commences the record of those fell persecutions by which, during the rest of Saul’s lifetime, the conqueror of Goliath was continually harassed.

It forms a suggestive period of Israelitish history, and presents in striking contrast the development of Saul’s heart-wickedness on the one hand, and of David’s many excellences on the other. These persecutions, however, were a most useful discipline for the psalmist king.

Verse 11

11. I will smite David even to the wall Literally, I will smite in David and in the wall; that is, nail him to the wall by the javelin. Twice he made the deadly attempt, and twice the agile youth avoided the blow. Compare

1 Samuel 19:10.

Verse 12

12. Saul was afraid of David He became sensible that he was fighting against God, and this feeling bred terror, and continued to disturb him more and more. Compare 1 Samuel 18:15; 1 Samuel 18:29.

Verse 13

13. Made him his captain over a thousand This is probably the same appointment as that referred to in 1 Samuel 18:5. David was not made the leading officer over all the host, for this position Abner held, (1 Samuel 17:55,) but he was made captain of a regiment.

Verse 17

17. My elder daughter Perceiving the growing popularity and influence of David, Saul feels under obligation to redeem his promise, recorded 1 Samuel 17:25.

Let not mine hand be upon him In his calmer moods, when his madness had departed, he shrunk from openly attempting to destroy David; but, disguising his fell purpose under fair pretentious, he darkly plotted against his life.

Verse 18

18. David said unto Saul David’s words in this verse not only show his unsuspecting innocency and humility of soul, but seem also to indicate that he himself understood Saul’s offer of his daughter to be in accordance with his promise.

Verse 19

19. She was given unto Adriel In shameful violation of the king’s word.

The Meholathite Perhaps a native of Abel-Meholah, the home of Elisha, (1 Kings 19:16,) and whither Gideon’s three hundred men pursued the Midianites. Judges 7:22. The sons of this marriage were subsequently put to death by the Gibeonites. 2 Samuel 21:8.

Verse 20

20. Michal… loved David Keil infers from this that perhaps one reason why Saul broke his promise was that Merab did not love David.

The thing pleased him For, as the next verse shows, he hoped to make it a snare for David’s life.

Verse 21

21. In the one of the twain Better, In the second shalt thou become my son in law this day. That is, by means of the second daughter; or, thou shalt become doubly my son in law, for the first (Merab) was lawfully thine, and now the second shall certainly be given thee.

This day Some day designated for the marriage.

Verse 22

22. Commune with David secretly This intrigue of Saul by means of his servants indicates that David had paid little or no attention to the words of the king himself. He had maintained a most prudent reticence.

Verse 23

23. I am a poor man And therefore unable to pay such a dowry as the daughter of the king deserves. In the East the dowry paid to the father of a bride was proportioned to her rank.

Verse 25

25. A hundred foreskins This demand savours of the spirit and manners of that age, and reminds one of the American Indians preserving as trophies the scalps of their victims.

Verse 26

26. The days were not expired The days required by custom or designated by the king (1 Samuel 18:21) for the consummation of the marriage.

Verse 27

27. Two hundred men Twice the number required. “This was another great exploit far more arduous, although less renowned, than the overthrow of Goliath. It must have attracted great attention at the time, and have conduced in no small degree to the public estimation in which David was held.” Kitto.

Verse 29

29. Saul became David’s enemy continually By the circumstances here recorded the king’s enmity became deep and settled, and the historian has thus prepared the way for his readers to understand the further history of Saul’s conduct towards David.

Verse 30

30. The Philistines went forth To battle against the armies of Israel.

David behaved himself more wisely than all the servants of Saul Showed more prudence, skill, and prowess in all the tactics of war.

Much set by Exceedingly honoured.

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 18". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/1-samuel-18.html. 1874-1909.
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