Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 18:1
The bond of friendship which Jonathan formed with David was so evidently the main point, that in Sa1 18:1 the writer commences with the love of Jonathan to David, and then after that proceeds in Sa1 18:2 to observe that Saul took David to himself from that day forward; whereas it is very evident that Saul told David, either at the time of his conversation with him or immediately afterwards, that he was henceforth to remain with him, i.e., in his service. "The soul of Jonathan bound itself (lit. chained itself; cf. Gen 44:30) to David's soul, and Jonathan loved him as his soul." The Chethibh ויּאהבו with the suffix ו attached to the imperfect is very rare, and hence the Keri ויּאהבהוּ (vid., Ewald, 249, b., and Olshausen, Gramm. p. 469). לשׁוּב, to return to his house, viz., to engage in his former occupation as shepherd.
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 18:3
Jonathan made a covenant (i.e., a covenant of friendship) and (i.e., with) David, because he loved him as his soul.
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 18:4
As a sign and pledge of his friendship, Jonathan gave David his clothes and his armour. Meil, the upper coat or cloak. Maddim is probably the armour coat (vid., Sa1 17:39). This is implied in the word ועד, which is repeated three times, and by which the different arms were attached more closely to מדּיו. For the act itself, compare the exchange of armour made by Glaucus and Diomedes (Hom. Il. vi. 230). This seems to have been a common custom in very ancient times, as we meet with it also among the early Celts (see Macpherson's Ossian).
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 18:5
And David went out, sc., to battle; whithersoever Saul sent him, he acted wisely and prosperously (ישׂכּיל, as in Jos 1:8 : see at Deu 29:8). Saul placed him above the men of war in consequence, made him one of their commanders; and he pleased all the people, and the servants of Saul also, i.e., the courtiers of the king, who are envious as a general rule.
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 18:6
Saul's jealousy towards David.
(Note: The section Sa1 18:6-14 is supposed by Thenius and others to have been taken by the compiler from a different source from the previous one, and not to have been written by the same author: (1) because the same thing is mentioned in Sa1 18:13, Sa1 18:14, as in Sa1 18:5, though in a somewhat altered form, and Sa1 18:10, Sa1 18:11 occur again in Sa1 19:9-10, with a few different words, and in a more appropriate connection; (2) because the contents of Sa1 19:9, and the word ממּחרת in Sa1 19:10, are most directly opposed to Sa1 18:2 and Sa1 18:5. On these grounds, no doubt, the lxx have not only omitted the beginning of Sa1 18:6 from their version, but also Sa1 18:9-11. But the supposed discrepancy between Sa1 18:9 and Sa1 18:10 and Sa1 18:2 and Sa1 18:5, - viz., that Saul could not have kept David by his side from attachment to him, or have placed him over his men of war after several prosperous expeditions, as is stated in Sa1 18:2 and Sa1 18:5, if he had looked upon him with jealous eyes from the very first day, or if his jealousy had broken out on the second day in the way described in Sa1 18:10, Sa1 18:11, - is founded upon two erroneous assumptions; viz., (1) that the facts contained in Sa1 18:1-5 were contemporaneous with those in Sa1 18:6-14; and (2) that everything contained in these two sections is to be regarded as strictly chronological. But the fact recorded in Sa1 18:2, namely, that Saul took David to himself, and did not allow him to go back to his father's house any more, occurred unquestionably some time earlier than those mentioned in Sa1 18:6. with their consequences. Saul took David to himself immediately after the defeat of Goliath, and before the war had been brought to an end. But the celebration of the victory, in which the paean of the women excited jealousy in Saul's mind, did not take place till the return of the people and of the king at the close of the war. How long the war lasted we do not know; but from the fact that the Israelites pursued the flying Philistines to Gath and Ekron, and then plundered the camp of the Philistines after that (Sa1 17:52-53), it certainly follows that some days, if not weeks, must have elapsed between David's victory over Goliath and the celebration of the triumph, after the expulsion of the Philistines from the land. Thus far the events described in the two sections are arranged in their chronological order; but for all the rest the facts are arranged antithetically, according to their peculiar character, whilst the consequences, which reached further than the facts that gave rise to them, and were to some extent contemporaneous, are appended immediately to the facts themselves. Thus David's going out whithersoever Saul sent him (Sa1 18:5) may indeed have commenced during the pursuit of the flying Philistines; but it reached far beyond this war, and continued even while Saul was looking upon him with jealous eyes. Sa1 18:5 contains a general remark, with which the historian brings to a close one side of the relation between David and Saul, which grew out of David's victory. He then proceeds in Sa1 18:6 to give the other side, and rounds off this paragraph also (Sa1 18:14-16) with a general remark, the substance of which resembles, in the main, the substance of Sa1 18:5. At the same time it implies some progress, inasmuch as the delight of the people at the acts performed by David (Sa1 18:5) grew into love to David itself. This same progress is also apparent in Sa1 18:13 ("Saul made him captain over a thousand"), as compared with Sa1 18:5 ("Saul set him over the men of war"). Whether the elevation of David into a captain over a thousand was a higher promotion than his appointment over the men of war, or the latter expression is to be taken as simply a more general or indefinite term, denoting his promotion to the rank of commander-in-chief, is a point which can hardly be determined with certainty.)
- Saul had no sooner attached the conqueror of Goliath to his court, than he began to be jealous of him. The occasion for his jealousy was the celebration of victory at the close of the war with the Philistines.
"When they came," i.e., when the warriors returned with Saul from the war, "when (as is added to explain what follows) David returned from the slaughter," i.e., from the war in which he had slain Goliath, the women came out of all the towns of Israel, "to singing and dancing," i.e., to celebrate the victory with singing and choral dancing (see the remarks on Exo 15:20), "to meet king Saul with tambourines, with joy, and with triangles." שׂמהה is used here to signify expressions of joy, a fte, as in Jdg 16:23, etc. The striking position in which the word stands, viz., between two musical instruments, shows that, the word is to be understood here as referring specially to songs of rejoicing, since according to Sa1 18:7 their playing was accompanied with singing. The women who "sported" (משׂחקות), i.e., performed mimic dances, sang in alternate choruses ("answered," as in Exo 15:21), "Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands."
Saul was enraged at this. The words displeased him, so that he said, "They have given David ten thousands, and to me thousands, and there is only the kingdom more for him" (i.e., left for him to obtain). "In this foreboding utterance of Saul there was involved not only a conjecture which the result confirmed, but a deep inward truth: if the king of Israel stood powerless before the subjugators of his kingdom at so decisive a period as this, and a shepherd boy came and decided the victory, this was an additional mark of his rejection" (O. v. Gerlach).
From that day forward Saul was looking askance at David. עון, a denom. verb, from עין, an eye, looking askance, is used for עוין (Keri).
The next day the evil spirit fell upon Saul ("the evil spirit of God;" see at Sa1 16:14), so that he raved in his house, and threw his javelin at David, who played before him "as day by day," but did not hit him, because David turned away before him twice. התנבּא does not mean to prophesy in this instance, but "to rave." This use of the word is founded upon the ecstatic utterances, in which the supernatural influence of the Spirit of God manifested itself in the prophets (see at Sa1 10:5). ויּטל, from טוּל, he hurled the javelin, and said (to himself), "I will pierce David and the wall." With such force did he hurl his spear; but David turned away from him, i.e., eluded it, twice. His doing so a second time presupposes that Saul hurled the javelin twice; that is to say, he probably swung it twice without letting it go out of his hand, - a supposition which is raised into certainty by the fact that it is not stated here that the javelin entered the wall, as in Sa1 19:10. But even with this view יטל is not to be changed into יטּל, as Thenius proposes, since the verb נטל cannot be proved to have ever the meaning to swing. Saul seems to have held the javelin in his hand as a sceptre, according to ancient custom.
"And Saul was afraid of David, because the Spirit of Jehovah was with him, and had departed from Saul;" he "removed him therefore from him," i.e., from his immediate presence, by appointing him chief captain over thousand. In this fear of David on the part of Saul, the true reason for his hostile behaviour is pointed out with deep psychological truth. The fear arose from the consciousness that the Lord had departed from him, - a consciousness which forced itself involuntarily upon him, and drove him to make the attempt, in a fit of madness, to put David to death. The fact that David did not leave Saul immediately after this attempt upon his life, may be explained not merely on the supposition that he looked upon this attack as being simply an outburst of momentary madness, which would pass away, but still more from his firm believing confidence, which kept him from forsaking the post in which the Lord had placed him without any act of his own, until he saw that Saul was plotting to take his life, not merely in these fits of insanity, but also at other times, in calm deliberation (vid., Sa1 19:1.).
As chief commander over thousand, he went out and in before the people, i.e., he carried out military enterprises, and that so wisely and prosperously, that the blessing of the Lord rested upon all he did. But these successes on David's part increased Saul's fear of him, whereas all Israel and Judah came to love him as their leader. David's success in all that he took in hand compelled Saul to promote him; and his standing with the people increased with his promotion. But as the Spirit of God had departed from Saul, this only filled him more and more with dread of David as his rival. As the hand of the Lord was visibly displayed in David's success, so, on the other hand, Saul's rejection by God was manifested in his increasing fear of David.
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 18:17
Craftiness of Saul in the betrothal of his daughters to David. - Sa1 18:17. As Saul had promised to give his daughter for a wife to the conqueror of Goliath (Sa1 17:25), he felt obliged, by the growing love and attachment of the people to David, to fulfil this promise, and told him that he was ready to do so, with the hope of finding in this some means of destroying David. He therefore offered him his elder daughter Merab with words that sounded friendly and kind: "Only be a brave man to me, and wage the wars of the Lord." He called the wars with the Philistines "wars of Jehovah," i.e., wars for the maintenance and defence of the kingdom of God, to conceal his own cunning design, and make David feel all the more sure that the king's heart was only set upon the welfare of the kingdom of God. Whoever waged the wars of the Lord might also hope for the help of the Lord. But Saul had intentions of a very different kind. He thought ("said," sc., to himself), "My hand shall not be upon him, but let the hand of the Philistines be upon him;" i.e., I will not put him to death; the Philistines may do that. When Saul's reason had returned, he shrank from laying hands upon David again, as he had done before in a fit of madness. He therefore hoped to destroy him through the medium of the Philistines.
But David replied with true humility, without suspecting the craftiness of Saul: "Who am I, and what is my condition in life, my father's family in Israel, that I should become son-in-law to the king?" חיּי מי is a difficult expression, and has been translated in different ways, as the meaning which suggests itself first (viz., "what is my life") is neither reconcilable with the מי (the interrogative personal pronoun), nor suitable to the context. Gesenius (Thes. p. 471) and Bttcher give the meaning "people" for חיּים, and Ewald (Gramm. 179, b.) the meaning "family." But neither of these meanings can be established. חיּים seems evidently to signify the condition in life, the relation in which a person stands to others, and מי is to be explained on the ground that David referred to the persons who formed the class to which he belonged. "My father's family" includes all his relations. David's meaning was, that neither on personal grounds, nor on account of his social standing, nor because of his lineage, could he make the slightest pretension to the honour of becoming the son-in-law of the king.
But Saul did not keep his promise. When the time arrived for its fulfilment, he gave his daughter to Adriel the Meholathite, a man of whom nothing further is known.
(Note: Sa1 18:17-19 are omitted from the Septuagint version; but they are so, no doubt, only because Saul's first promise was without result so far as David was concerned.)
Michal is married to David. - The pretext under which Saul broke his promise is not given, but it appears to have been, at any rate in part, that Merab had no love to David. This may be inferred from Sa1 18:17, Sa1 18:18, compared with Sa1 18:20. Michal, the younger daughter of Saul, loved David. When Saul was told this, the thing was quite right in his eyes. He said, "I will give her to him, that she may become a snare to him, and the hand of the Philistines may come upon him" (sc., if he tries to get the price which I shall require a dowry; cf. Sa1 18:25). He therefore said to David, "In a second way (בּשׁתּים, as in Job 33:14) shalt thou become my son-in-law." Saul said this casually to David; but he made no reply, because he had found out the fickleness of Saul, and therefore put no further trust in his words.
Saul therefore employed his courtiers to persuade David to accept his offer. In this way we may reconcile in a very simple manner the apparent discrepancy, that Saul is said to have offered his daughter to David himself, and yet he commissioned his servants to talk to David privately of the king's willingness to give him his daughter. The omission of Sa1 18:21 in the Septuagint is to be explained partly from the fact that בּשׁתּים points back to Sa1 18:17-19, which are wanting in this version, and partly also in all probability from the idea entertained by the translators that the statement itself is at variance with Sa1 18:22. The courtiers were to talk to David בּלּט, "in private," i.e., as though they were doing it behind the king's back.
David replied to the courtiers, "Does it seem to you a little thing to become son-in-law to the king, seeing that I am a poor and humble man?" "Poor," i.e., utterly unable to offer anything like a suitable dowry to the king. This reply was given by David in perfect sincerity, since he could not possibly suppose that the king would give him his daughter without a considerable marriage portion.
When this answer was reported to the king, he sent word through his courtiers what the price was for which he would give him his daughter. He required no dowry (see at Gen 34:12), but only a hundred foreskins of the Philistines, i.e., the slaughter of a hundred Philistines, and the proof that this had been done, to avenge himself upon the enemies of the king; whereas, as the writer observes, Saul supposed that he should thus cause David to fall, i.e., bring about his death by the hand of the Philistines.
But David was satisfied with Saul's demand, since he had no suspicion of his craftiness, and loved Michal. Even before the days were full, i.e., before the time appointed for the delivery of the dowry and for the marriage had arrived, he rose up with his men, smote two hundred Philistines, and brought their foreskins, which were placed in their full number before the king; whereupon Saul was obliged to give him Michal his daughter to wife. The words "and the days were not full" (Sa1 18:26) form a circumstantial clause, which is to be connected with the following sentence, "David arose," etc. David delivered twice the price demanded. "They made them full to the king," i.e., they placed them in their full number before him.
The knowledge of the fact that David had carried out all his enterprises with success had already filled the melancholy king with fear. But when the failure of this new plan for devoting David to certain death had forced the conviction upon him that Jehovah was with David, and that he was miraculously protected by Him; and when, in addition to this, there was the love of his daughter Michal to David; his fear of David grew into a lifelong enmity. Thus his evil spirit urged him ever forward to greater and greater hardness of heart.
The occasion for the practical manifestation of this enmity was the success of David in all his engagements with the Philistines. As often as the princes of the Philistines went out (sc., to war with Israel), David acted more wisely and prosperously than all the servants of Saul, so that his name was held in great honour. With this general remark the way is prepared for the further history of Saul's conduct towards David.