Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

1 Samuel 18:18

But David said to Saul, "Who am I, and what is my life or my father's family in Israel, that I should be the king's son-in-law?"
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Armies;   David;   Humility;   Jealousy;   Malice;   Merab;   Prudence;   Thompson Chain Reference - Humble;   Humility;   Humility-Pride;   Leaders;   Religious;  
Dictionaries:
Charles Buck Theological Dictionary - Prayer;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - David;   Saul;   Holman Bible Dictionary - David;   Merab;   Samuel, Books of;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Marriage;  
Encyclopedias:
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - David;   Samuel, Books of;  

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

What is my life - i. e., condition, or means of living (Proverbs 27:27 margin).

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

The Biblical Illustrator

1 Samuel 18:18

What is my life?

The grandeur of life

“Who am I?” and “What is my life?” Am I only like some larger ephemera on the leaves of the green bay tree of existence, born in the morning and gone at evening? Is the inner world of memory, conscience, and hope, only some mocking dreamland of existence? Are all its agonies of remorse, its stretchings-forth into the infinite, its feelings of accountability, only the workings of a diseased imagination? Or am I what I feel to be--a soul--an immortal soul--a responsible soul; having, after the close of life’s brief stewardship, to give account of myself to God? Now there are really two questions involved in this text. The first is, What is life? The second is, “What is my life?” If the Christian ideal be a true one, if each man carries within him the grandeur of immortality, how am I acting with my own great nature? Am I despising and treading under foot my birthright? Am I weaving it into a vestment of beauty, or into a garment of shame?

I. Is my life a new life? Amongst the Hebrews the birth of a child was an occasion of gladdest joy. Its birthday was a festival. So now “there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.” If we are in Christ we are new creatures, old things are passed away; old ideas of life, old habits of life, old associations of life--all things are become new. Another world has come into sight, as clearly as this world came into the view of the blind man to whom Jesus gave sight. I do not say the old life is altogether gone. No. The silkworm’s winter skin clings to the moth until it is ready to spread its wings and soar away, and much of the old nature clings to the Christian till he is ready to “depart and be with Christ, which is far better.” Paul felt the old man still clinging to him. “O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” So shall we. But for all this, the new life is there. We love prayer, we love God’s house, we love to talk with Christ; we bear the blossoms in us of the better life--the fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace.

II. Is my life a dignified life? Yes! Dignified! Have we come to this, that we think ermine-clad judges, and purple-clad rulers, alone have dignified estate? Let me hope not! It was once thought a great dignity to be a Roman citizen--but there was a greater dignity. I am a man! sounds a deeper depth of dignity than I am a Roman citizen. Yes, and what the world wants just now is to feel this: the dignity of life, as life. Why the greatest physical wonder in creation is man; and the greatest moral wonder is man. Do you think if men and women felt this, that our towns and cities would be disgraced as they are by lascivious songs and dances at our places of public entertainment, or by debasing drunkenness, or by hollow-hearted profanity, which misnames itself wit? Do you think, if the dignity of life itself was properly estimated, that men would not rather be bankrupt in cash, than bankrupt in character? Men would say, Think what manner of men we are; and pointing to the lofty hills, or the all-surrounding sea, they would say: these shall perish, but we shall remain.

III. Is my life a Divine vocation? I hold, with Mr. Ruskin, that we were never sent into this world to do anything into which we cannot put our hearts. That is a serious statement, and not to be adopted without reflection; but I for one believe it to be quits true. Now let us remember that every honourable vocation is a Divine vocation; that circumstances and fitnesses constitute the calling of God, the voice speaking to us and saying “Son, go there.” If we miss this, we shall come to artificial ideas of vocation.

IV. Is my life a personal accountability? Is it like imprisoned air, that once released returns to the universal atmosphere? Is it like the tiny mountain rill which flows into the great river, and thence into the wide sea? Is it, that is to say, in any personal sense mine? Upon our answer to this depends our deliverance from all these Pantheistic ideas of God, which make Him the great Spirit of the Universe; all life being His life, and our own spirits only part of the great spirit, departing at death to its central source. Now the Bible declares emphatically our personal and unalterable individuality, and our consciousness accords with this. We are, in the strictest sense of the word, separate existences, and when we depart hence we shall be separate existences still. Any property we may possess, be it large or small, changes hands at death; we brought nothing into the world, and it is certain we shall carry nothing out. But we do not lose ourselves; thought, conscience, memory, remain the same, I cannot change my life for yours, nor can you change with your brother. “What is my life?” Is it a dreary fatalism? Our inner life answers with swift decision,--No! Is it the result of influences which have helplessly overborne us? No. The Spirit of the Living God has been nigh to every one of us. Had this poor man cried, the Lord would have heard him and delivered him out of all his troubles.

V. Is my life a redeemed life? It depends upon which side of Redemption you look at it. In one sense, all lives are redeemed lives. Christ is “the propitiation not for our sins only, but for the sins of the whole world.” Christ “died for all.” So far then as the Great Atonement is concerned, the oblation was for all. “Once in the end of the world Christ appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.” But on the other side of the Redemption comes in our personality again. “Whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.” Faith then, as you well know, is the condition of redemption, and faith is the trust of the soul in the redeeming Christ. Surely we know whether we have trust or not. In human affairs it is not so hard to tell. I saw a diamond this week, and held it in my hand, which at the African diggings was sold for three thousand five hundred pounds; it had been consigned to an agent here, far away from its finder and possessor. Could that man, across the seas, have any difficulty in deciding if he had trusted his agent here? I trow not And what does Paul say, “I know in whom I have believed, and that He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him unto that day.” Beautiful are human trusts--in love, in commerce, in friendship--there is poetry enough in human trusts. But there may be failure here. Alas, there often is! But Christ never deserted or failed the soul committed to Him. Never!

VI. Is my life a mortal life. Here again it depends upon which side you study it. On one side it is, “For what is your life, it is even as a vapour which appeareth for a little time and then passeth away.” Yes! “All flesh is grass.” Yes! “The wind passeth over it and it is gone, and the place thereof shall know it no more.” Sad enough on this side is human life. The fairest forms and faces lie tonight amid the clods of the valley. Tennyson’s little May Queen sees the hawthorn blossom no more, and the Pride of the Village becomes the prey of worms. It has been ever so. The dark Egyptian beauties, the fair Grecian forms, the proud Roman damsels, descend to the dust. Pharoahs leave their palaces for the pyramids. Caesars leave their purples for the same chambers that their meanest slaves occupy. There, the rich and the poor--the strong and the weak--the servant and the master--all meet together. Few of us like to think of it. The tabernacles we have dwelt in so long, tended so carefully, adorned so constantly, and have come to consider part of our very selves--these must not only die, but become the subjects of corruption tool. “The grass withereth, the flower thereof falleth away.” And is this, we may ask, all of life? Did God introduce us into this world, where temptation tries, care wearies, doubt perplexes, sorrow burdens, sickness weakens, bereavement embitters--only to pass through much tribulation to the tomb! Oh! it cannot be! All the teachings of Scripture, all the promises of Christ, all the undying hopes of the human heart, tell us it cannot be. Immortality is the birthright of humanity, and though, during long ages the light of this truth burned dimly, Christ “came to bring light and immortality to light through the Gospel.” My life is mortal--and it is immortal too. (W. H. Statham.)

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Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "1 Samuel 18:18". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/1-samuel-18.html. 1905-1909. New York.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

And David said unto Saul,.... Surprised at the offer Saul made him, yet not refusing it, but expressing himself with great modesty and humility:

who am I? as to his person, parentage, and employment, mean and despicable, at least in his own eyes, a type of the lowly Jesus, Matthew 11:29,

and what is my life? keeping sheep, for from thence was he taken and advanced; though some think his meaning is, that to hazard his life, as Saul proposed, was not equivalent to such an honour he meant to confer upon him, and that he was ready to do it at all times:

or my father's family in Israel; though in an honourable tribe, and was an honourable family, yet it seems not to be very great, at least was not in David's esteem worthy of such high advancement, as that one of it should be so nearly related to the king; Ben Gersom thinks David has reference to the original of his family, Ruth the Moabitess:

that I should be son in law to the king? as he would be by marrying his daughter.

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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 18:18". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/1-samuel-18.html. 1999.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

And David said unto Saul, Who am I? and what is my life, or my father's family in Israel, that I should be son in law to the king?

What is my life — How little is my life worth, that by the exposing of that to some hazard, I should purchase a king's daughter! In these expressions David sheweth not only his humility, but also his wisdom, in discovering so deep a sense of his own meanness, that Saul might see how far he was from aspiring at the kingdom.

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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.
Bibliographical Information
Wesley, John. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 18:18". "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 18:18 And David said unto Saul, Who [am] I? and what [is] my life, [or] my father’s family in Israel, that I should be son in law to the king?

Ver. 18. And David said unto Saul, Who am I?] Time was, when Saul, being of a better spirit, could say as much as David here doth, viz., when he was first anointed by Samuel to be king. But now it was otherwise, Honores mutant mores. David here without dissimulation abaseth himself, as unfit for such a marriage. And what just cause had Saul to fear so modest and lowly minded a man?

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

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

My life, i.e. my manner of living. How obscure is that condition in which I was born, and have been bred! Or rather thus, How little is my life worth, that by the exposing of that to some hazard (which Saul required of him). I should purchase a king’s daughter! In these expressions David showeth not only his humility, but also his wisdom, in discovering so deep a sense of his own meanness, that Saul might see how far he was from aspiring at the kingdom, and might have no occasion to suspect that he was already anointed thereto.

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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on 1 Samuel 18:18". 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

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.

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

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

1 Samuel 18:18. David said, Who am I? and what is my life? — How little is my life worth, that by the exposing of that to some hazard, I should purchase a king’s daughter! In these expressions David showeth not only his humility, but also his wisdom, in discovering so deep a sense of his own meanness, that Saul might see how far he was from aspiring at the kingdom. Or my father’s family in Israel? — In riches, for otherwise David’s family was as noble as any in Israel. That I should be son-in-law to the king — This was not a refusal of the honour but a modest acknowledgment how unworthy he was of it; and it indicates such modesty and prudence, that, considering David’s youth, and all other circumstances, we may well conclude that nothing but the Spirit of the Lord being with him could have made him act so wisely.

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Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 18:18". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/1-samuel-18.html. 1857.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Life. What exploits have I performed deserving such an honour? or what offices have my relations yet enjoyed? (Calmet) --- David considers only his abject condition, and forgets his victories. (Haydock)

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

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(18) What is my life?—These words in David’s modest and wise answer have been variously interpreted. (a) They have been taken to refer to David’s personal life; but surely that has been alluded to in the preceding words, “Who am I?” (b) As referring to the condition of life in which he was born and to which he was accustomed; so Keil; but it is doubtful if the Hebrew word here used ever has this significance. (c) With a reference to David’s family; so Ewald and Lange. Ewald would translate, “What are my folks or relations?” Of these (c) is undoubtedly the preferable meaning.

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

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

And David said unto Saul, Who am I? and what is my life, or my father's family in Israel, that I should be son in law to the king?
Who am I
23; 9:21; Exodus 3:11; Ruth 2:10; 2 Samuel 7:18; Proverbs 15:33; 18:12; Jeremiah 1:6
Reciprocal: 1 Kings 4:15 - the daughter;  Psalm 12:8 - when;  Proverbs 25:6 - in the presence

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