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1 Samuel 17:57-18:16 – Saul Becomes Jealous of David


David continues to achieve success despite the jealous machinations of a jealous Saul.


Poor Saul. No matter what he does, David continues to enjoy unparalleled success while Saul's life and mental state continue to decline into ever-increasing darkness. Following David's success against "the Philistine," that is, against Goliath in chapter 17, the women praise David with the words, "Saul has killed his thousands, and David his ten thousands" (18:7). Recent investigations of Hebrew poetry have determined that the poetic element consists in a "that is true, and what's more, this is also true" approach. In other words, the poetry of the women's praise testifies to David's superiority over Saul, not to actual numbers. Depending upon how one unravels the complicated chronological problems of these chapters, David may have only killed one Philistine--granted a humongous one! The acclamation of the women led to an explicit statement of Saul's jealousy and hatred of David (v. 8-9). Saul's decline is marked by the frequent visitation of an "evil spirit from God" (16:14, 15, 16, 23 twice; 19:9). In his depression, he throws his spear at David, twice (18:10-11), and even makes David a field officer in the hopes of killing him (v. 13). Nevertheless, all Saul's plans crash to the ground as David's success mounts: "for the LORD was with him" (v. 14).

1 Samuel 17:57-18:16

57On David’s return from killing the Philistine, Abner took him and brought him before Saul, with the head of the Philistine in his hand. 58Saul said to him, ‘Whose son are you, young man?’ And David answered, ‘I am the son of your servant Jesse the Bethlehemite.’

Jonathan’s Covenant with David

18When David* had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was bound to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. 2Saul took him that day and would not let him return to his father’s house. 3Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul. 4Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that he was wearing, and gave it to David, and his armour, and even his sword and his bow and his belt. 5David went out and was successful wherever Saul sent him; as a result, Saul set him over the army. And all the people, even the servants of Saul, approved.

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.

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