Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

1 Samuel 18:10

Now it came about on the next day that an evil spirit from God came mightily upon Saul, and he raved in the midst of the house, while David was playing the harp with his hand, as usual; and a spear was in Saul's hand.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Dart;   David;   Demons;   Holy Spirit;   Insanity;   Jealousy;   Malice;   Prudence;   Spear;   Thompson Chain Reference - Javelin;   Music;   Musicians;   Players on Instruments;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Arms, Military;   Malice;   Spear;  
Dictionaries:
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Harp;   Prophets;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - David;   Music;   Saul, king of israel;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Demon;   Disease;   Evil;   Charles Buck Theological Dictionary - Prayer;   Easton Bible Dictionary - David;   Harp;   Javelin;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - David;   Harp;   Minstrel;   Neginah;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Arms and Armor;   David;   Devil;   Samuel, Books of;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Armour, Arms;   David;   Evil Spirits;   Possession;   Samuel, Books of;   Sin;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Madness;   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Javelin;   Smith Bible Dictionary - Minstrel;   Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary - Spirit;  
Encyclopedias:
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Affliction;   Holy Spirit;   King;   Mad;   Merab;   Music;   Samuel, Books of;   Saul;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

The evil spirit from God - See on 1 Samuel 16:14; (note), etc.

He prophesied in the midst of the house - He was beside himself; made prayers, supplications, and incoherent imprecations: "God preserve my life," "Destroy my enemies," or such like prayers, might frequently escape from him in his agitated state. The Arabic intimates that he was actually possessed by an evil spirit, and that through it he uttered a sort of demoniacal predictions.

But let us examine the original more closely: it is said that Saul prophesied in the midst of his house, that is, he prayed in his family, while David was playing on the harp; and then suddenly threw his javelin, intending to have killed David. Let it be observed that the word ויתנבא vaiyithnabbe is the third person singular of the future hithpael; the sign of which is not only to do an action on or for one's self, but also to feign or pretend to do it. The meaning seems to be, Saul pretended to be praying in his family, the better to conceal his murderous intentions, and render David unsuspicious; who was, probably, at this time performing the musical part of the family worship. This view of the subject makes the whole case natural and plain.

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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 18:10". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/1-samuel-18.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

He prophesied - This, as the effect of the evil spirit coming upon him, is singular as regards Saul, but is borne out by what we read in 1 Kings 22:22. (Compare Acts 16:16-18; Acts 19:15; 1 John 4:1-3). It is impossible to give the sense of “raving” to the word “prophesied,” as though a merely natural state of frenzy were intended. The “prophesying” here was as directly the effect of the coming of the evil spirit upon Saul, as the “prophesying” in 1 Samuel 10:10 was the effect of the Spirit of God coming upon him. At the same time it is quite true that “madness” and “prophesyings” were considered as near akin (see Jeremiah 29:26; 2 Kings 9:11).

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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 18:10". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/1-samuel-18.html. 1870.

Coffman Commentaries on the Bible

SAUL'S FIRST ATTEMPT TO MURDER DAVID

"And on the morrow an evil spirit from God rushed upon Saul, and he raved within his house, while David was playing the lyre, as he did day by day. Saul had his spear in his hand; and Saul cast the spear, for he thought, "I will pin David to the wall." But David evaded him twice."

"Saul raved within his house." (1 Samuel 18:10). That `evil spirit' that came upon Saul bore a remarkable resemblance to paranoid insanity; but it was nevertheless a punishment inflicted by God Himself upon the wicked Saul. David might well have thought that the attempt of Saul to kill him was merely due to a temporary fit of madness, otherwise, he would hardly have exposed himself a second time to Saul's murderous actions.

"David was playing the lyre, as he did day by day" (1 Samuel 18:10). Notice that there is no war in progress at this point, giving strong support to the understanding that the preceding celebration that aroused Saul's jealousy came at the termination of an important phase of the Philistine war.

"Saul had his spear in his hand" (1 Samuel 18:10). "It seems that Saul held this weapon in his hand as a scepter, according to an ancient custom."[5]

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Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
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Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 18:10". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/1-samuel-18.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

And it came to pass on the morrow,.... After the women had met him with their music and dancing, and when returned home:

that the evil spirit from God came upon Saul; thinking on the above things that had passed, he became melancholy:

and he prophesied in the midst of the house; either really, delivering out divine songs, as the prophets did; according to Abarbinel, he foretold that David would be king, and the kingdom would be taken from him, and given to him; or he feigned himself a prophet, mimicking their motions and gestures; or, as the Targum, acted like a mad man, or a fool, uttering foolish words, and using ridiculous gestures, which seems most agreeable to the evil spirit in him:

and David played with his hand as at other times; upon his harp, to remove the evil spirit, or melancholy disposition from Saul; for though he was now advanced at court, and an officer in the army, and high in the affections and applause of the people: yet he did not think it below him to act as a musician, to do service to his prince; of such an humble, kind, and ingenuous disposition was he:

and there was a javelin in Saul's hand; a kind of spear, or half pike, which he had taken into his hand on purpose to kill David while playing; for persons in such circumstances as his, as they are very mischievous, so very subtle at contriving.

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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 18:10". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/1-samuel-18.html. 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

And it came to pass on the morrow, that the evil spirit from God came upon Saul, and he e prophesied in the midst of the house: and David played with his hand, as at other times: and [there was] a javelin in Saul's hand.

(e) That is, spoke as a man beside himself for so the people abused this word, when they could not understand.
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Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 18:10". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/1-samuel-18.html. 1599-1645.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

1 Samuel 18:10-12. Seeks to kill him.

on the morrow, that the evil spirit from God came upon Saul — This rankling thought brought on a sudden paroxysm of his mental malady.

he prophesied — The term denotes one under the influence either of a good or a bad spirit. In the present it is used to express that Saul was in a frenzy. David, perceiving the symptoms, hastened, by the soothing strains of his harp, to allay the stormy agitation of the royal mind. But before its mollifying influence could be felt, Saul hurled a javelin at the head of the young musician.

there was a javelin in Saul‘s hand — Had it been followed by a fatal result, the deed would have been considered the act of an irresponsible maniac. It was repeated more than once ineffectually, and Saul became impressed with a dread of David as under the special protection of Providence.

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This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.
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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 18:10". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/1-samuel-18.html. 1871-8.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

And it came to pass on the morrow, that the evil spirit from God came upon Saul, and he prophesied in the midst of the house: and David played with his hand, as at other times: and there was a javelin in Saul's hand.

The evil spirit, … — His fits of frenzy returned upon him. The very next day after he conceived envy at David, the evil spirit was permitted by God to seize him again. Such is the fruit of envy and uncharitableness.

Prophesied — That is, he used uncouth gestures, and signs, as the prophets often did.

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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
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Wesley, John. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 18:10". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/1-samuel-18.html. 1765.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

1 Samuel 18:10 And it came to pass on the morrow, that the evil spirit from God came upon Saul, and he prophesied in the midst of the house: and David played with his hand, as at other times: and [there was] a javelin in Saul’s hand.

Ver. 10. The evil spirit from God came upon Saul.] By discontent and envy the devil windeth himself into the heart, and setteth all on a hurry.

And he prophesied in the midst of the house.] As those heathen enthusiasts, the sibyls, and other like, did in a wild, raving, and raging sort, when acted and agitated by the devil. These Plato and Plutarch (a) call prophets. The Chaldee here hath it, And he was mad in the midst of the house: More desipientium aliena et absurda loquebatur, he spake as one distracted.

And there was a javelin in Saul’s hand.] Which he carried always for his own defence, being ever in fear; and now more terrible to himself, than ever he had been to others.

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 18:10". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/1-samuel-18.html. 1865-1868.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

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.

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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 18:10". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/1-samuel-18.html. 1801-1803.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Saul’s envy, and jealousy, and discontent revived his melancholic distemper, which the devil, according to his wont, struck in with.

He prophesied, or, he feigned himself to be a prophet, for so the Hebrew verbs in Hithpahel oft signify, i.e. he used uncouth gestures, and signs, and speeches, as the prophets, or sons of the prophets, used to do; for which they were by the ignorant and ungodly sort reputed madmen, 2 Kings 9:11. And it may seem probable that Saul did now speak of Divine things politicly, that thereby he might lull David asleep, and kill him before he suspected any danger.

There was a javelin in Saul’s hand, which he kept there for the following purpose.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on 1 Samuel 18:10". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/1-samuel-18.html. 1685.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

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.

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 18:10". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/1-samuel-18.html. 1874-1909.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Prophesied. Acted the prophet in a mad manner, (Challoner) like an enthusiast, (Calmet; 2 Kings ix. 11.) or one possessed by the devil, as the Sybil was agitated by Apollo. Et rabie fera corda tument. (Virgil, Æneid vi.) To alleviate his distress, David took up his harp. (Haydock) --- Spear. With this weapon he was generally armed, chap. xix. 10., and xxvi. 7. "It was used as a diadem formerly, and the ancients adored spears as gods." (Justin. xliii.)

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 18:10". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/1-samuel-18.html. 1859.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

evil. See note on 1 Samuel 16:16.

spirit. Hebrew. ruach. App-9.

God. Hebrew. Elohim. App-4.

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 18:10". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/1-samuel-18.html. 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

And it came to pass on the morrow, that the evil spirit from God came upon Saul, and he prophesied in the midst of the house: and David played with his hand, as at other times: and there was a javelin in Saul's hand.

On the morrow, that the evil spirit from God came upon Saul. This rankling thought brought on a sudden paroxysm of his mental malady.

He prophesied, [ wayitnabee' (Hebrew #5012)]. The term denotes one under the influence either of a good or a bad spirit. In the present instance it is used to express that Saul was in a frenzy-a violent raving (cf. 1 Samuel 19:24). [The Septuagint, mistaking the sense-has proefeeteusen, prophesied, which our translators borrowed. But it is an unhappy translation.] David, perceiving the symptoms, "played with his hand" (1 Samuel 16:23} - i:e., hastened, by the soothing effects of his harp, to allay the stormy agitation of the royal mind. But ere its mollifying influence could be felt, Saul hurled a javelin at the head of the young musician.

There was a javelin in Saul's hand. It was the royal sceptre, which he always had. Had it been followed by a fatal result, the deed would have been considered the act of an irresponsible maniac. It was repeated more than once ineffectually, and Saul became impressed with a dread of David as under the special protection of Providence.

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 18:10". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/1-samuel-18.html. 1871-8.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(10) The evil spirit.—The evil spirit comes now over the unhappy king in quite a new form. Hitherto, when the dark hour came upon Saul the madness showed itself in the form of a dull torpor, a hopeless melancholia, an entire indifference to everything connected with life, as well in the lower as in the higher forms. This earlier phase of the soul’s malady has been exquisitely pictured by Browning in his poem of “Saul.” Now the madness assumes a new phase, and the king is consumed with a murderous jealousy, that fills his whole soul, and drives him now to open deeds of ruffianly violence—now to devise dark plots against the life of the bated one. What a fall for the hero- king of Israel, the anointed of the Lord, whose reign had begun so brilliantly and successfully!

And he prophesied.—In his wild phrenzy—under the control of a power higher than himself, had he not by his breaking off all communion with God, left his soul defenceless and prepared for the presence of the evil spirit?—in his wild phrenzy we read “Saul prophesied.” The Dean of Canterbury well calls attention here to the conjugation employed in the original Hebrew of the word rendered “prophesied”—the Hith-pael, which is never used by an Old Testament writer of real true prophecy, this being always expressed by the Niphal conjugation. This of Saul’s was but a bastard imitation.

Saul was in a state of phrenzy, unable to master himself, speaking words of which he knew not the meaning, and acting like a man possessed. In all this there was something akin to the powerful emotions which agitated the true prophet: only it was not a holy influence, but one springing from violent) passions.

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 18:10". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/1-samuel-18.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

And it came to pass on the morrow, that the evil spirit from God came upon Saul, and he prophesied in the midst of the house: and David played with his hand, as at other times: and there was a javelin in Saul's hand.
the evil spirit
16:14,15; 19:9; 26:19
and he prophesied
Wyyithnabbai, rather, "and he pretended to prophesy; for the verb is in Hithpaël, the signification of which conjugation is not only reflex action, but also affectation of the action: Jer 29:26, 27. The meaning seems to be, that Saul, influenced by the evil spirit, feigned to be prophesying, the better to conceal his murderous intentions, and to render David unsuspicious.
19:24; 1 Kings 18:29; 22:12,20-23; Jeremiah 28:2-4,11; Zechariah 13:2-5; Acts 16:16; 2 Thessalonians 2:11
played
16:16,23
and there was
Wehachanith beyad Shäool, rather, "and the javelin was in the hand of Saul;" for the javelin or spear was the emblem of regal authority; and kings had it always in their hand, as may be seen represented on ancient monuments. In ancient times, says Justin, kings used a spear instead of a sceptre.
Reciprocal: Numbers 25:7 - a javelin;  Numbers 35:20 - by laying;  Judges 9:23 - God;  1 Samuel 19:7 - in times past;  1 Samuel 22:6 - spear;  2 Kings 3:15 - bring me

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 18:10". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/1-samuel-18.html.