Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

1 Samuel 18:23

So Saul's servants spoke these words to David. But David said, "Is it trivial in your sight to become the king's son-in-law, since I am a poor man and lightly esteemed?"
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Armies;   David;   Humility;   Jealousy;   Malice;   Michal;   Philistines;   Prudence;  
Dictionaries:
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Michal;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Benjamin;   David;   Michal;   Charles Buck Theological Dictionary - Prayer;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Marriage;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - David;   Saul;   Holman Bible Dictionary - David;   Dowry;   Michal;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Marriage;   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Michal ;  
Encyclopedias:
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Dowry;   Esteem;   Poor;   Samuel, Books of;  

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

A poor man and lightly esteemed - Compare Psalm 119:141. Poor, and therefore unable to pay a sufficient dowry. See 1 Samuel 18:25.

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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 18:23". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/1-samuel-18.html. 1870.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

And Saul's servants spake these words in the ears of David,.... Those before related, which Saul commanded them to speak, which they delivered exactly according to their orders, with an audible voice, clearly, plainly, and distinctly, so that David might hear and understand them:

and David said, seemeth it to you a light thing to be a king's son in law; a small a trifling matter, an easy thing to come into, every thing requisite to it:

seeing that I am a poor man; and not able to give a dowry suitable to the daughter of a king; it being usual in those times for a man to give a dowry to, and not receive a portion with a wife; and which also was the custom of the Germans, as TacitusF24De Moribus German. c. 18. relates; and this was to be according to the rank and quality of the person married, and which in this case David was not equal to:

and lightly esteemed? not by the people of Israel and Judah, who loved him, as he was loved even by the servants of Saul, at least in profession; but by Saul himself, who had slighted him in giving his elder daughter to another man, when he had promised her to him, which was discouraging to David, and resented by him.

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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 18:23". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/1-samuel-18.html. 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

And Saul's servants spake those words in the ears of David. And David said, k Seemeth it to you [a] light [thing] to be a king's son in law, seeing that I [am] a poor man, and lightly esteemed?

(k) Meaning, that he was not able to endow his wife with riches.
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Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 18:23". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/1-samuel-18.html. 1599-1645.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

1 Samuel 18:23 And Saul’s servants spake those words in the ears of David. And David said, Seemeth it to you [a] light [thing] to be a king’s son in law, seeing that I [am] a poor man, and lightly esteemed?

Ver. 23. Seeing that I am a poor man, and lightly esteemed.] Poverty is vilified and slighted: Pauper ubique iacet. Arrian hath observed that in a tragedy there is no place for a poor man, but only to dance. (a)

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 18:23". 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 18:23. 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 18:23". 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

And therefore neither have estate nor credit to give (according to the manner, Genesis 34:12 Exodus 22:16,17) a dowry suitable to her quality.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on 1 Samuel 18:23". 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

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.

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 18:23". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/1-samuel-18.html. 1874-1909.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ability, or riches. Septuagint, "without glory." (Haydock) See ver. 18.

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 18:23". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/1-samuel-18.html. 1859.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

man. Hebrew. "ish. App-14.

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 18:23". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/1-samuel-18.html. 1909-1922.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(23) I am a poor man.—David dwells upon this fact of his utter inability to give the expected costly offering for the princess. He evidently attributes to his poverty and his successful rival’s wealth his former disappointment in the case of Merab.

And lightly esteemed.—David looked upon himself as a mere successful soldier of fortune among the wealthy chiefs who surrounded Saul. His father—though, no doubt, “head man” or sheik in tiny Bethlehem—was, compared with the elders of Israel who formed the Court of Saul, a poor man.

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 18:23". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/1-samuel-18.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

And Saul's servants spake those words in the ears of David. And David said, Seemeth it to you a light thing to be a king's son in law, seeing that I am a poor man, and lightly esteemed?
a light
1 John 3:1
a poor man
9:21; Proverbs 14:20; 19:6,7; Ecclesiastes 9:15,16
and lightly
Psalms 119:141
Reciprocal: Numbers 16:9 - Seemeth it but;  Judges 1:12 - And Caleb;  Judges 6:15 - my family is poor;  1 Samuel 18:18 - Who am I;  Psalm 131:1 - my heart

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 18:23". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/1-samuel-18.html.