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1 Samuel 18:6-20:42 – David Flees Saul

Summary

As David's support grows, Saul becomes increasingly more jealous, and he seeks to take David's life, forcing David to flee. Fortunately, David will receive help from all those around him.

Analysis

David's success caused Saul to "eye" him with suspicion "from that day on" (18:5-9). This chronological reference signals a major literary break in the narrative and hints at the growing rift between Saul and David that will continue. As Saul sinks deeper into his depression, even his own family members throw their support to David, who marries Saul's daughter, Michal (18:17-30). There follows a series of five episodes designed to drive home the point that David's only choice is to flee from a Saul blinded by jealousy:

  • 19:1-7. When Saul explicitly informs Jonathan of his intention to kill David, Jonathan mediates between the antagonists.
  • 19:8-10. Saul's second attempt to kill David fails when David escapes Saul's spear.
  • 19:11-17. Saul's third attempt to kill David is foiled when Michal deceives her father with an "idol" placed in David's bed after David's escape through the window.
  • 19:18-24. Saul's fourth attempt to kill David is thwarted by Samuel in the only meeting of these three.
  • 20:1-42. This long account shows how Jonathan relinquished his claim to the throne (v. 13). His signal to David warns David of Saul's evil intent so that David can flee yet again. As did Michal, his sister, Jonathan deceives his father to save his friend.

1 Samuel 18:6-20:42

6 As they were coming home, when David returned from killing the Philistine, the women came out of all the towns of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with tambourines, with songs of joy, and with musical instruments.* 7And the women sang to one another as they made merry,
‘Saul has killed his thousands,
   and David his tens of thousands.’
8Saul was very angry, for this saying displeased him. He said, ‘They have ascribed to David tens of thousands, and to me they have ascribed thousands; what more can he have but the kingdom?’ 9So Saul eyed David from that day on.

Saul Tries to Kill David

10 The next day 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; 11and Saul threw the spear, for he thought, ‘I will pin David to the wall.’ But David eluded him twice.

12 Saul was afraid of David, because the Lord was with him but had departed from Saul. 13So Saul removed him from his presence, and made him a commander of a thousand; and David marched out and came in, leading the army. 14David had success in all his undertakings; for the Lord was with him. 15When Saul saw that he had great success, he stood in awe of him. 16But all Israel and Judah loved David; for it was he who marched out and came in leading them.

David Marries Michal

17 Then Saul said to David, ‘Here is my elder 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, ‘I will not raise a hand against him; let the Philistines deal with him.’ 18David said to Saul, ‘Who am I and who are my kinsfolk, my father’s family in Israel, that I should be son-in-law to the king?’ 19But at the time when Saul’s daughter Merab should have been given to David, she was given to Adriel the Meholathite as a wife.

20 Now Saul’s daughter Michal loved David. Saul was told, and the thing pleased him. 21Saul thought, ‘Let me give her to him that she may be a snare for him and that the hand of the Philistines may be against him.’ Therefore Saul said to David a second time,* ‘You shall now be my son-in-law.’ 22Saul commanded his servants, ‘Speak to David in private and say, “See, the king is delighted with you, and all his servants love you; now then, become the king’s son-in-law.” 23So Saul’s servants reported these words to David in private. And David said, ‘Does it seem to you a little thing to become the king’s son-in-law, seeing that I am a poor man and of no repute?’ 24The servants of Saul told him, ‘This is what David said.’ 25Then Saul said, ‘Thus shall you say to David, “The king desires no marriage present except a hundred foreskins of the Philistines, that he may be avenged on the king’s enemies.” ’ Now Saul planned to make David fall by the hand of the Philistines. 26When his servants told David these words, David was well pleased to be the king’s son-in-law. Before the time had expired, 27David rose and went, along with his men, and killed one hundred* of the Philistines; and David brought their foreskins, which were given in full number to the king, that he might become the king’s son-in-law. Saul gave him his daughter Michal as a wife. 28But when Saul realized that the Lord was with David, and that Saul’s daughter Michal loved him, 29Saul was still more afraid of David. So Saul was David’s enemy from that time forward.

30 Then the commanders of the Philistines came out to battle; and as often as they came out, David had more success than all the servants of Saul, so that his fame became very great.

Jonathan Intercedes for David

19Saul spoke to his son Jonathan and to all his servants about killing David. But Saul’s son Jonathan took great delight in David. 2Jonathan told David, ‘My father Saul is trying to kill you; therefore be on guard tomorrow morning; stay in a secret place and hide yourself. 3I will go out and stand beside my father in the field where you are, and I will speak to my father about you; if I learn anything I will tell you.’ 4Jonathan spoke well of David to his father Saul, saying to him, ‘The king should not sin against his servant David, because he has not sinned against you, and because his deeds have been of good service to you; 5for he took his life in his hand when he attacked the Philistine, and the Lord brought about a great victory for all Israel. You saw it, and rejoiced; why then will you sin against an innocent person by killing David without cause?’ 6Saul heeded the voice of Jonathan; Saul swore, ‘As the Lord lives, he shall not be put to death.’ 7So Jonathan called David and related all these things to him. Jonathan then brought David to Saul, and he was in his presence as before.

Michal Helps David Escape from Saul

8 Again there was war, and David went out to fight the Philistines. He launched a heavy attack on them, so that they fled before him. 9Then an evil spirit from the Lord came upon Saul, as he sat in his house with his spear in his hand, while David was playing music. 10Saul sought to pin David to the wall with the spear; but he eluded Saul, so that he struck the spear into the wall. David fled and escaped that night.

11 Saul sent messengers to David’s house to keep watch over him, planning to kill him in the morning. David’s wife Michal told him, ‘If you do not save your life tonight, tomorrow you will be killed.’ 12So Michal let David down through the window; he fled away and escaped. 13Michal took an idol* and laid it on the bed; she put a net* of goats’ hair on its head, and covered it with the clothes. 14When Saul sent messengers to take David, she said, ‘He is sick.’ 15Then Saul sent the messengers to see David for themselves. He said, ‘Bring him up to me in the bed, that I may kill him.’ 16When the messengers came in, the idol* was in the bed, with the covering* of goats’ hair on its head. 17Saul said to Michal, ‘Why have you deceived me like this, and let my enemy go, so that he has escaped?’ Michal answered Saul, ‘He said to me, “Let me go; why should I kill you?”

David Joins Samuel in Ramah

18 Now David fled and escaped; he came to Samuel at Ramah, and told him all that Saul had done to him. He and Samuel went and settled at Naioth. 19Saul was told, ‘David is at Naioth in Ramah.’ 20Then Saul sent messengers to take David. When they saw the company of the prophets in a frenzy, with Samuel standing in charge of * them, the spirit of God came upon the messengers of Saul, and they also fell into a prophetic frenzy. 21When Saul was told, he sent other messengers, and they also fell into a frenzy. Saul sent messengers again the third time, and they also fell into a frenzy. 22Then he himself went to Ramah. He came to the great well that is in Secu;* he asked, ‘Where are Samuel and David?’ And someone said, ‘They are at Naioth in Ramah.’ 23He went there, towards Naioth in Ramah; and the spirit of God came upon him. As he was going, he fell into a prophetic frenzy, until he came to Naioth in Ramah. 24He too stripped off his clothes, and he too fell into a frenzy before Samuel. He lay naked all that day and all that night. Therefore it is said, ‘Is Saul also among the prophets?’

The Friendship of David and Jonathan

20David fled from Naioth in Ramah. He came before Jonathan and said, ‘What have I done? What is my guilt? And what is my sin against your father that he is trying to take my life?’ 2He said to him, ‘Perish the thought! You shall not die. My father does nothing either great or small without disclosing it to me; and why should my father hide this from me? Never!’ 3But David also swore, ‘Your father knows well that you like me; and he thinks, “Do not let Jonathan know this, or he will be grieved.” But truly, as the Lord lives and as you yourself live, there is but a step between me and death.’ 4Then Jonathan said to David, ‘Whatever you say, I will do for you.’ 5David said to Jonathan, ‘Tomorrow is the new moon, and I should not fail to sit with the king at the meal; but let me go, so that I may hide in the field until the third evening. 6If your father misses me at all, then say, “David earnestly asked leave of me to run to Bethlehem his city; for there is a yearly sacrifice there for all the family.” 7If he says, “Good!” it will be well with your servant; but if he is angry, then know that evil has been determined by him. 8Therefore deal kindly with your servant, for you have brought your servant into a sacred covenant* with you. But if there is guilt in me, kill me yourself; why should you bring me to your father?’ 9Jonathan said, ‘Far be it from you! If I knew that it was decided by my father that evil should come upon you, would I not tell you?’ 10Then David said to Jonathan, ‘Who will tell me if your father answers you harshly?’ 11Jonathan replied to David, ‘Come, let us go out into the field.’ So they both went out into the field.

12 Jonathan said to David, ‘By the Lord, the God of Israel! When I have sounded out my father, about this time tomorrow, or on the third day, if he is well disposed towards David, shall I not then send and disclose it to you? 13But if my father intends to do you harm, the Lord do so to Jonathan, and more also, if I do not disclose it to you, and send you away, so that you may go in safety. May the Lord be with you, as he has been with my father. 14If I am still alive, show me the faithful love of the Lord; but if I die,* 15never cut off your faithful love from my house, even if the Lord were to cut off every one of the enemies of David from the face of the earth.’ 16Thus Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying, ‘May the Lord seek out the enemies of David.’ 17Jonathan made David swear again by his love for him; for he loved him as he loved his own life.

18 Jonathan said to him, ‘Tomorrow is the new moon; you will be missed, because your place will be empty. 19On the day after tomorrow, you shall go a long way down; go to the place where you hid yourself earlier, and remain beside the stone there.* 20I will shoot three arrows to the side of it, as though I shot at a mark. 21Then I will send the boy, saying, “Go, find the arrows.” If I say to the boy, “Look, the arrows are on this side of you, collect them”, then you are to come, for, as the Lord lives, it is safe for you and there is no danger. 22But if I say to the young man, “Look, the arrows are beyond you”, then go; for the Lord has sent you away. 23As for the matter about which you and I have spoken, the Lord is witness* between you and me for ever.’

24 So David hid himself in the field. When the new moon came, the king sat at the feast to eat. 25The king sat upon his seat, as at other times, upon the seat by the wall. Jonathan stood, while Abner sat by Saul’s side; but David’s place was empty.

26 Saul did not say anything that day; for he thought, ‘Something has befallen him; he is not clean, surely he is not clean.’ 27But on the second day, the day after the new moon, David’s place was empty. And Saul said to his son Jonathan, ‘Why has the son of Jesse not come to the feast, either yesterday or today?’ 28Jonathan answered Saul, ‘David earnestly asked leave of me to go to Bethlehem; 29he said, “Let me go; for our family is holding a sacrifice in the city, and my brother has commanded me to be there. So now, if I have found favour in your sight, let me get away, and see my brothers.” For this reason he has not come to the king’s table.’

30 Then Saul’s anger was kindled against Jonathan. 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? 31For as long as the son of Jesse lives upon the earth, neither you nor your kingdom shall be established. Now send and bring him to me, for he shall surely die.’ 32Then Jonathan answered his father Saul, ‘Why should he be put to death? What has he done?’ 33But Saul threw his spear at him to strike him; so Jonathan knew that it was the decision of his father to put David to death. 34Jonathan rose from the table in fierce anger and ate no food on the second day of the month, for he was grieved for David, and because his father had disgraced him.

35 In the morning Jonathan went out into the field to the appointment with David, and with him was a little boy. 36He said to the boy, ‘Run and find the arrows that I shoot.’ As the boy ran, he shot an arrow beyond him. 37When the boy came to the place where Jonathan’s arrow had fallen, Jonathan called after the boy and said, ‘Is the arrow not beyond you?’ 38Jonathan called after the boy, ‘Hurry, be quick, do not linger.’ So Jonathan’s boy gathered up the arrows and came to his master. 39But the boy knew nothing; only Jonathan and David knew the arrangement. 40Jonathan gave his weapons to the boy and said to him, ‘Go and carry them to the city.’ 41As soon as the boy had gone, David rose from beside the stone heap* and prostrated himself with his face to the ground. He bowed three times, and they kissed each other, and wept with each other; David wept the more.* 42Then Jonathan said to David, ‘Go in peace, since both of us have sworn in the name of the Lord, saying, “The Lord shall be between me and you, and between my descendants and your descendants, for ever.” ’ He got up and left; and Jonathan went into the city.*

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10 February 2011

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