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I Samuel 18-20     Listen Podcast
Psalm 11; Psalm 59


How about a blood-brother covenant (I Samuel 18:1-5)

1 Now when he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.
2 Saul took him that day, and would not let him go home to his father’s house anymore.
3 Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul.
4 And Jonathan took off the robe that was on him and gave it to David, with his armor, even to his sword and his bow and his belt.
5 ¶ So David went out wherever Saul sent him, and behaved wisely. And Saul set him over the men of war, and he was accepted in the sight of all the people and also in the sight of Saul’s servants.

David has just led Israel to victory over the Philistines with his defeat over Goliath in I Samuel 17 (see notes). Good things happen when you slay a giant! Immediately following David's victory appearance (having killed Goliath) before King Saul, the king's son, Jonathan, is endeared to David - even makes a blood-brother covenant with him. Jonathan seals the covenant by awarding David with his own complete set of clothing as a token of that covenant - even his sword. And Saul places David over Israel's men of war. One day David is delivering supplies to the front where his brothers are fighting Philistines; the next thing he knows he's commander of the whole army - WHAT A COUNTRY!

Those women song writers are trouble (I Samuel 18:6-15)

6 Now it had happened as they were coming home, when David was returning from the slaughter of the Philistine, that the women had come out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with tambourines, with joy, and with musical instruments.
7 So the women sang as they danced, and said:
“Saul has slain his thousands,
And David his ten thousands.”
8 Then Saul was very angry, and the saying displeased him; and he said, “They have ascribed to David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed only thousands. Now what more can he have but the kingdom?”
9 So Saul eyed David from that day forward.
10 ¶ And it happened on the next day that the distressing spirit from God came upon Saul, and he prophesied inside the house. So David played music with his hand, as at other times; but there was a spear in Saul’s hand.
11 And Saul cast the spear, for he said, “I will pin David to the wall!” But David escaped his presence twice.
12 ¶ Now Saul was afraid of David, because the LORD was with him, but had departed from Saul.
13 Therefore Saul removed him from his presence, and made him his captain over a thousand; and he went out and came in before the people.
14 And David behaved wisely in all his ways, and the LORD was with him.
15 Therefore, when Saul saw that he behaved very wisely, he was afraid of him.

After a great victory over Goliath and the Philistines, it's time to head back home - a highlight for the soldiers and especially the victorious king. Saul rides in as the women break out in spontaneous songs of glorious victory praising the king and his army. Those lyrics were insulting to King Saul. They ascribe the greater glory to David rather than to Saul. Verse 9 says, "So Saul eyed David from that day forward." The Hebrew word for "eyed" there means to view with jealousy. Whoa...You get a new job and already your boss is out to get you!

The next day David is playing his music when Saul tries to run him through with his javelin. As a matter of fact, verse 11 seems to indicate that this happened twice. Again, the Hebrew word for the "spirit" that came upon Saul is called a "distressing spirit" i.e. a "troubling" or "adverse" spirit came upon Saul - I'LL SAY! It was mental paranoia schizophrenia. He's had it ever since Samuel turned thumbs down on his kingship and anointed David as the next king back in I Samuel 16:1-13 (see notes). It's first mentioned in I Samuel 16:14. Nonetheless, Saul still thinks he's king, and so do the people of Israel. I Samuel 18:12 sums up Saul's reality, "Now Saul was afraid of David, because the LORD was with him, but had departed from Saul." So, Saul puts David on active duty in charge of a battalion of fighting men. A dangerous job like that will surely get him killed - NOT! Continuing battle success just endears David to the people of Israel - minus Saul, of course.

A great ploy to be rid of David (I Samuel 18:16-30)

16 But all Israel and Judah loved David, because he went out and came in before them.
17 ¶ Then Saul said to David, “Here is my older daughter Merab; I will give her to you as a wife. Only be valiant for me, and fight the LORD’S battles.” For Saul thought, “Let my hand not be against him, but let the hand of the Philistines be against him.”
18 ¶ So David said to 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?”
19 But it happened at the time when Merab, Saul’s daughter, should have been given to David, that she was given to Adriel the Meholathite as a wife.
20 ¶ Now Michal, Saul’s daughter, loved David. And they told Saul, and the thing pleased him.
21 So Saul said, “I will give her to him, that she may be a snare to him, and that the hand of the Philistines may be against him.” Therefore Saul said to David a second time, “You shall be my son-in-law today.”
22 ¶ And Saul commanded his servants, “Communicate with David secretly, and say, ‘Look, the king has delight in you, and all his servants love you. Now therefore, become the king’s son-in-law.’ ”
23 ¶ So Saul’s servants spoke those words in the hearing of David. And David said, “Does it seem to you a light thing to be a king’s son-in-law, seeing I am a poor and lightly esteemed man?”
24 And the servants of Saul told him, saying, “In this manner David spoke.”
25 ¶ Then Saul said, “Thus you shall say to David: ‘The king does not desire any dowry but one hundred foreskins of the Philistines, to take vengeance on the king’s enemies.’ ” But Saul thought to make David fall by the hand of the Philistines.
26 So when his servants told David these words, it pleased David well to become the king’s son-in-law. Now the days had not expired;
27 therefore David arose and went, he and his men, and killed two hundred men of the Philistines. And David brought their foreskins, and they gave them in full count to the king, that he might become the king’s son-in-law. Then Saul gave him Michal his daughter as a wife.
28 ¶ Thus Saul saw and knew that the LORD was with David, and that Michal, Saul’s daughter, loved him;
29 and Saul was still more afraid of David. So Saul became David’s enemy continually.
30 Then the princes of the Philistines went out to war. And so it was, whenever they went out, that David behaved more wisely than all the servants of Saul, so that his name became highly esteemed.

"Here, take my daughter to be your wife!" Saul says. "Not worthy - no dowry to pay," replies David. Saul has this ingenious idea - how about bringing the foreskins of 100 Philistines for a dowry...YUCK, YUCK, DOUBLE YUCK! I mean...killing them is one thing, but then..!!! Saul knows how hard it is to skin a Philistine - certain death for David; it's a suicide mission. Saul, ya' better go ahead and get your glass case ready for your new collection. Oh, better make that two glass cases; David didn't know when to stop - brings back 200! David becomes Saul's son-in-law, and Saul hates him - not the ideal father/son-in-law relationship. So maybe the suicide mission didn't work as Saul planned, but here's Saul's new plan involving his daughter, Michal, in verse 21, "I will give her to him, that she may be a snare to him." Here's the problem with that plan: Michal, Saul's daughter and David's new bride, loves him; that's a good start. David continues to excel in battle and his reputation grows.

A couple of additional points are in order here. First of all, as Michal's husband, David now has a legitimate claim to Saul's throne. Of course, that's after Saul's sons, but a claim, nonetheless. The second point may be more interesting than relevant. According to the Jewish Study Bible, verses 20 and 28 contain the only two references in the Old Testament of a woman loving a man.

At least not everybody wants David dead (I Samuel 19)

1 Now Saul spoke to Jonathan his son and to all his servants, that they should kill David; but Jonathan, Saul’s son, delighted greatly in David.
2 So Jonathan told David, saying, “My father Saul seeks to kill you. Therefore please be on your guard until morning, and stay in a secret place and hide.
3 And I will go out and stand beside my father in the field where you are, and I will speak with my father about you. Then what I observe, I will tell you.”
4 ¶ Thus Jonathan spoke well of David to Saul his father, and said to him, “Let not the king sin against his servant, against David, because he has not sinned against you, and because his works have been very good toward you.
5 For he took his life in his hands and killed the Philistine, and the LORD brought about a great deliverance for all Israel. You saw it and rejoiced. Why then will you sin against innocent blood, to kill David without a cause?”
6 ¶ So Saul heeded the voice of Jonathan, and Saul swore, “As the LORD lives, he shall not be killed.”
7 Then Jonathan called David, and Jonathan told him all these things. So Jonathan brought David to Saul, and he was in his presence as in times past.
8 ¶ And there was war again; and David went out and fought with the Philistines, and struck them with a mighty blow, and they fled from him.
9 ¶ Now the distressing spirit from the LORD came upon Saul as he sat in his house with his spear in his hand. And David was playing music with his hand.
10 Then Saul sought to pin David to the wall with the spear, but he slipped away from Saul’s presence; and he drove the spear into the wall. So David fled and escaped that night.
11 ¶ Saul also sent messengers to David’s house to watch him and to kill him in the morning. And Michal, David’s wife, told him, saying, “If you do not save your life tonight, tomorrow you will be killed.”
12 So Michal let David down through a window. And he went and fled and escaped.
13 And Michal took an image and laid it in the bed, put a cover of goats’ hair for his head, and covered it with clothes.
14 So when Saul sent messengers to take David, she said, “He is sick.”
15 ¶ Then Saul sent the messengers back to see David, saying, “Bring him up to me in the bed, that I may kill him.”
16 And when the messengers had come in, there was the image in the bed, with a cover of goats’ hair for his head.
17 Then Saul said to Michal, “Why have you deceived me like this, and sent my enemy away, so that he has escaped?” ¶ And Michal answered Saul, “He said to me, ‘Let me go! Why should I kill you?’ ”
18 ¶ So David fled and escaped, and went to Samuel at Ramah, and told him all that Saul had done to him. And he and Samuel went and stayed in Naioth.
19 Now it was told Saul, saying, “Take note, David is at Naioth in Ramah!”
20 Then Saul sent messengers to take David. And when they saw the group of prophets prophesying, and Samuel standing as leader over them, the Spirit of God came upon the messengers of Saul, and they also prophesied.
21 And when Saul was told, he sent other messengers, and they prophesied likewise. Then Saul sent messengers again the third time, and they prophesied also.
22 Then he also went to Ramah, and came to the great well that is at Sechu. So he asked, and said, “Where are Samuel and David?” ¶ And someone said, “Indeed they are at Naioth in Ramah.”
23 So he went there to Naioth in Ramah. Then the Spirit of God was upon him also, and he went on and prophesied until he came to Naioth in Ramah.
24 And he also stripped off his clothes and prophesied before Samuel in like manner, and lay down naked all that day and all that night. Therefore they say, “Is Saul also among the prophets?”

It's tough when the King is bent on your death, but at least when the King's son and heir apparent (Jonathan) wants you to live - well, that's gotta be some sort of a plus. Saul even makes a vow/oath in I Samuel 19:6, "So Saul heeded the voice of Jonathan, and Saul swore, “As the LORD lives, he shall not be killed." Do you recall how sacred these vows were to the Israelites? An oath was an oath; back then you just didn't break an oath. Come to think of it, Saul broke an ill-conceived vow when he spared Jonathan's life back in I Samuel 14:24-46 (see notes); remember the honey episode? Anyway, for now, Jonathan arranges for David to be returned back to good standing with Saul. However, this good standing didn't seem to last very long before David has great success in battle against the Philistines again, and Saul's resentment toward David intensifies. FORGET THE VOW! After Saul has another bout with that "distressing spirit" in verse 9, followed by a near miss from Saul's javelin (verse 10), David flees from Saul.

And then there's Michal, Saul's daughter (David won her "fair and square"), she wants David alive as well. Knowing that Saul has sent for David to bring him in for execution, she helps David escape and does the ol' fake-a-person-in-the-bed trick on Saul's men using (of all things) a family idol and fake hair from a goat.. Hey! Aren't those things (idols) supposed to be bad for you? The messengers return to Saul with this message from Saul's daughter, "David can't come in to be executed today, he's too sick." That's when the story becomes even more amusing. Saul tells the messengers to go ahead and bring the whole bed back with David on it; Saul himself will do the slaying. Apparently they got the bed all the way back to Saul without realizing they were carrying an idol's head with a goat-hair wig; Saul makes the discovery and rebukes Michal for deceiving him, but Michal covers her tracks by adding yet another lie in verse 17...that David threatened to kill her if she did not help him escape. So, David escapes to Samuel's place, a prophet's college established by Samuel near Ramah, at a place called Naioth.

Saul sends three sets of messengers, one group after another, to fetch David and bring him back for execution. Instead, they all get caught up in prophesying and fail to return. Saul himself heads for Naioth. He also breaks into prophesying...naked, all-night prophesying. Just tell me where you get a better story line than I Samuel 19; sometimes reality is just more interesting than fiction.

By the way, this was not Saul's first bout with prophesying. You will recall a similar incident nearly 40 years earlier when he was called by Samuel to be King of Israel back in I Samuel 10:10-12 (see notes).

Those are some harsh words to your son there, Saul (I Samuel 20)

1 Then David fled from Naioth in Ramah, and went and said to Jonathan, “What have I done? What is my iniquity, and what is my sin before your father, that he seeks my life?”
2 ¶ So Jonathan said to him, “By no means! You shall not die! Indeed, my father will do nothing either great or small without first telling me. And why should my father hide this thing from me? It is not so!”
3 ¶ Then David took an oath again, and said, “Your father certainly knows that I have found favor in your eyes, and he has said, ‘Do not let Jonathan know this, lest he be grieved.’ But truly, as the LORD lives and as your soul lives, there is but a step between me and death.”
4 ¶ So Jonathan said to David, “Whatever you yourself desire, I will do it for you.”
5 ¶ And David said to Jonathan, “Indeed tomorrow is the New Moon, and I should not fail to sit with the king to eat. But let me go, that I may hide in the field until the third day at evening.
6 If your father misses me at all, then say, “David earnestly asked permission of me that he might run over to Bethlehem, his city, for there is a yearly sacrifice there for all the family.’
7 If he says thus: “It is well,’ your servant will be safe. But if he is very angry, be sure that evil is determined by him.
8 Therefore you shall deal kindly with your servant, for you have brought your servant into a covenant of the LORD with you. Nevertheless, if there is iniquity in me, kill me yourself, for why should you bring me to your father?”
9 ¶ But Jonathan said, “Far be it from you! For if I knew certainly that evil was determined by my father to come upon you, then would I not tell you?”
10 ¶ Then David said to Jonathan, “Who will tell me, or what if your father answers you roughly?”
11 ¶ And Jonathan said to David, “Come, let us go out into the field.” So both of them went out into the field.
12 Then Jonathan said to David: “The LORD God of Israel is witness! When I have sounded out my father sometime tomorrow, or the third day, and indeed there is good toward David, and I do not send to you and tell you,
13 may the LORD do so and much more to Jonathan. But if it pleases my father to do you evil, then I will report it to you and send you away, that you may go in safety. And the LORD be with you as He has been with my father.
14 And you shall not only show me the kindness of the LORD while I still live, that I may not die;
15 but you shall not cut off your kindness from my house forever, no, not when the LORD has cut off every one of the enemies of David from the face of the earth.”
16 So Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying, “Let the LORD require it at the hand of David’s enemies.”
17 ¶ Now Jonathan again caused David to vow, because he loved him; for he loved him as he loved his own soul.
18 Then Jonathan said to David, “Tomorrow is the New Moon; and you will be missed, because your seat will be empty.
19 And when you have stayed three days, go down quickly and come to the place where you hid on the day of the deed; and remain by the stone Ezel.
20 Then I will shoot three arrows to the side, as though I shot at a target;
21 and there I will send a lad, saying, “Go, find the arrows.’ If I expressly say to the lad, ‘Look, the arrows are on this side of you; get them and come’—then, as the LORD lives, there is safety for you and no harm.
22 But if I say thus to the young man, “Look, the arrows are beyond you’—go your way, for the LORD has sent you away.
23 And as for the matter which you and I have spoken of, indeed the LORD be between you and me forever.”
24 ¶ Then David hid in the field. And when the New Moon had come, the king sat down to eat the feast.
25 Now the king sat on his seat, as at other times, on a seat by the wall. And Jonathan arose, and Abner sat by Saul’s side, but David’s place was empty.
26 Nevertheless Saul did not say anything that day, for he thought, “Something has happened to him; he is unclean, surely he is unclean.”
27 And it happened the next day, the second day of the month, that David’s place was empty. And Saul said to Jonathan his son, “Why has the son of Jesse not come to eat, either yesterday or today?”
28 ¶ So Jonathan answered Saul, “David earnestly asked permission of me to go to Bethlehem.
29 And he said, “Please let me go, for our family has a sacrifice in the city, and my brother has commanded me to be there. And now, if I have found favor in your eyes, please let me get away and see my brothers.’ Therefore he has not come to the king’s table.”
30 ¶ Then Saul’s anger was aroused against Jonathan, and he said to him, “You son of a perverse, rebellious woman! Do I not know that you have chosen the son of Jesse to your own shame and to the shame of your mother’s nakedness?
31 For as long as the son of Jesse lives on the earth, you shall not be established, nor your kingdom. Now therefore, send and bring him to me, for he shall surely die.”
32 ¶ And Jonathan answered Saul his father, and said to him, “Why should he be killed? What has he done?”
33 Then Saul cast a spear at him to kill him, by which Jonathan knew that it was determined by his father to kill David.
34 ¶ So Jonathan arose from the table in fierce anger, and ate no food the second day of the month, for he was grieved for David, because his father had treated him shamefully.
35 ¶ And so it was, in the morning, that Jonathan went out into the field at the time appointed with David, and a little lad was with him.
36 Then he said to his lad, “Now run, find the arrows which I shoot.” As the lad ran, he shot an arrow beyond him.
37 When the lad had come to the place where the arrow was which Jonathan had shot, Jonathan cried out after the lad and said, “Is not the arrow beyond you?”
38 And Jonathan cried out after the lad, “Make haste, hurry, do not delay!” So Jonathan’s lad gathered up the arrows and came back to his master.
39 But the lad did not know anything. Only Jonathan and David knew of the matter.
40 Then Jonathan gave his weapons to his lad, and said to him, “Go, carry them to the city.”
41 ¶ As soon as the lad had gone, David arose from a place toward the south, fell on his face to the ground, and bowed down three times. And they kissed one another; and they wept together, but David more so.
42 Then Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace, since we have both sworn in the name of the LORD, saying, ‘May the LORD be between you and me, and between your descendants and my descendants, forever.’ ” So he arose and departed, and Jonathan went into the city.

It is interesting that Jonathan doesn't seem to know that Saul has already made some serious attempts at killing David when he says in verse 2, "By no means! You shall not die! Indeed, my father will do nothing either great or small without first telling me. And why should my father hide this thing from me? It is not so!"

Jonathan determines to take care of David with regard to his dad's strong desire to see him dead. Look at I Samuel 20:4, "So Jonathan said to David, 'Whatever you yourself desire, I will do it for you.'" Jonathan pledges his friendship to David. He also requires of David preferred treatment for himself and his family after David is in a position to do so (verse 15). Obviously, Jonathan realizes that a kingship is in David's future. How else do you explain all of David's near-death experiences?

You know those big family dinners where everybody sits around the table and just fellowships? Well, it's the beginning of the month and time for one of those in Saul's house per Numbers 28:11-15 (see notes). It takes some of the fun out of it when your father-in-law is devising ways to kill you. On the first day of the feast, Saul assumes that David's absence must have something to do with the "unclean" rule of Leviticus 15:16-18 (see notes). However, Jonathan and David had determined it best if David skips the meals, and both conspire a little cover story (a lie) to account for David's absence on the second day - one involving family obligations back in Bethlehem. It's hard to have a conversation with Saul about David without Saul getting a little testy. When Saul finds out that Jonathan is a party to David's absence, he lets loose some pretty strong language on Jonathan - even throws the ultimate insult at Jonathan's mama in verse 30 when he says of Jonathan, "You son of a perverse, rebellious woman!" Watch it Saul; that's your wife you're talking about there! Saul angrily tells Jonathan that he ought to want David dead as well - no kingdom for Jonathan as long as David lives (verse 31). Then, he hurls his javelin at Jonathan. Saul's really in need of some anger-management classes. Has Saul ever really hit anything with that javelin?

Jonathan goes to meet David out in the field to deliver the bad news, "My Dad really, really hates you." But David and Jonathan seal a deal between themselves in verse 42, "Then Jonathan said to David, 'Go in peace, since we have both sworn in the name of the LORD, saying, "May the LORD be between you and me, and between your descendants and my descendants, forever."' So he arose and departed, and Jonathan went into the city."

Hmmm...since Samuel anointed David King of Israel back in I Samuel 16 (see notes), life hasn't really rolled along that smoothly for David, wouldn't you agree? Yet, it was God who selected David. There's a lesson for us in this process. The Apostle Paul wrote in I Corinthians 16:9 (see notes), "For a great and effective door has opened to me, and there are many adversaries."'s that lesson: The road to God's will for your life isn't always paved. state it plainly: Obeying God's will in your life does not mean you won't have adversity in the process. David certainly had his adversity on the way to his crown.

God loves the righteous (Psalm 11)

¶ To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David.
1 ¶ In the LORD I put my trust;
How can you say to my soul,
“Flee as a bird to your mountain”?
2 For look! The wicked bend their bow,
They make ready their arrow on the string,
That they may shoot secretly at the upright in heart.
3 If the foundations are destroyed,
What can the righteous do?
4 The LORD is in His holy temple,
The LORD’S throne is in heaven;
His eyes behold,
His eyelids test the sons of men.
5 The LORD tests the righteous,
But the wicked and the one who loves violence His soul hates.
6 Upon the wicked He will rain coals;
Fire and brimstone and a burning wind
Shall be the portion of their cup.
7 For the LORD is righteous,
He loves righteousness;
His countenance beholds the upright.

While impossible to say for certain, it is likely that David wrote this Psalm while Saul was seeking his death. Hmmmm...I wonder who is the righteous and who is the wicked about whom David speaks here. Regardless, God has a special punishment in store for the wicked.

They're watching your house, David (Psalm 59)

¶ To the Chief Musician. Set to “Do Not Destroy.” A Michtam of David when Saul sent men, and they watched the house in order to kill him.
1 ¶ Deliver me from my enemies, O my God;
Defend me from those who rise up against me.
2 Deliver me from the workers of iniquity,
And save me from bloodthirsty men.
3 For look, they lie in wait for my life;
The mighty gather against me,
Not for my transgression nor for my sin, O LORD.
4 They run and prepare themselves through no fault of mine.
Awake to help me, and behold!
5 You therefore, O LORD God of hosts, the God of Israel,
Awake to punish all the nations;
Do not be merciful to any wicked transgressors.
6 At evening they return,
They growl like a dog,
And go all around the city.
7 Indeed, they belch with their mouth;
Swords are in their lips;
For they say, “Who hears?”
8 But You, O LORD, shall laugh at them;
You shall have all the nations in derision.
9 I will wait for You, O You his Strength;
For God is my defense.
10 My God of mercy shall come to meet me;
God shall let me see my desire on my enemies.
11 Do not slay them, lest my people forget;
Scatter them by Your power,
And bring them down,
O Lord our shield.
12 For the sin of their mouth and the words of their lips,
Let them even be taken in their pride,
And for the cursing and lying which they speak.
13 Consume them in wrath, consume them,
That they may not be;
And let them know that God rules in Jacob
To the ends of the earth.
14 And at evening they return,
They growl like a dog,
And go all around the city.
15 They wander up and down for food,
And howl if they are not satisfied.
16 But I will sing of Your power;
Yes, I will sing aloud of Your mercy in the morning;
For You have been my defense
And refuge in the day of my trouble.
17 To You, O my Strength, I will sing praises;
For God is my defense,
My God of mercy.

According to the subtitle, the occasion that probably inspired this Psalm is found in I Samuel 19:11-18 (see above). Saul sent messengers to David's house to kill him, but Michal (David's wife and King Saul's daughter) helped David escape. So David had descended in Saul's kingdom from army commander to fugitive. How's that for a setting to write poetry? So, when David asks God to deliver him from his enemies; he's actually talking about Saul's messengers. Perhaps that is why David asks God not to kill them in verse 11. However, ultimately our lives are in God's hands - a fact that David acknowledges in verse 17, "To You, O my Strength, I will sing praises; For God is my defense, My God of mercy."