1 Samuel 18:6
And it came to pass as they came, when David was returned from the slaughter of the Philistine, that the women came out of all cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet king Saul, with tabrets, with joy, and with instruments of music.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(6) When David was returned.—The triumphant return of the young soldier does not refer to the homecoming after the death of the giant, but to the close of the campaign which followed that event. Evidently a series of victories after the fall of the dreaded champion—perhaps spread over a very considerable period—had for a time restored the supremacy of Israel in Canaan. In this war, David, on whom after his great feat of arms the eyes of all the soldiery were fixed, established his character for bravery and skill.

Singing and dancing.—This was on some grand occasion—probably the final triumph at the end of the war. The Speaker’s Commentary, on the English rendering “singing and dancing,” remarks that “the Hebrew text is probably here corrupt, and suggests that for vau, ‘and,’ we ought to read beth, ‘with’ and that then the sense would be to sing ‘in the dance,’ or ‘with dancing.’ The action was for the women to dance to the sound of the timbrel, and to sing the Epinicium with strophe and antistrophe as they danced and played.” (Comp. Exodus 15:20-21; Judges 11:34.)

We know that music and song were originally closely connected with dancing. David, for instance, when a mighty king, on one great occasion in Jerusalem actually himself performed dances before all the people (2Samuel 6:14; 2Samuel 6:16). (See Note on Exodus 15:20.)

1 Samuel 18:6-9. The women came out of all the cities — All the neighbouring cities. And the women answered one another as they played — They sang, as well as played on musical instruments. And they sang alternately, as they did Exodus 15:21. And the burden of the song seems to have been that which follows. And said, Saul hath slain his thousands, &c. — To understand this it is necessary to observe, that the usual way of singing at that time was in parts. So that some of these women having taken up or begun the song with, Saul hath slain his thousands, another party answered them in their turn in the same strain, And David his ten thousands. And Saul was very wroth — He began to be jealous they would advance David to the throne in a little time, having so highly magnified him above their king. And Saul eyed David — Narrowly observed him, or looked upon him with an envious eye.18:6-11 David's troubles not only immediately follow his triumphs, but arise from them; such is the vanity of that which seems greatest in this world. It is a sign that the Spirit of God is departed from men, if, like Saul, they are peevish, envious, suspicious, and ill-natured. Compare David, with his harp in his hand, aiming to serve Saul, and Saul, with his javelin in his hand, aiming to slay David; and observe the sweetness and usefulness of God's persecuted people, and the barbarity of their persecutors. But David's safety must be ascribed to God's providence.The Philistine - Rather as in the margin. The allusion is not to Goliath, but to one of the expeditions referred to in 1 Samuel 18:5.

Singing and dancing - Women used to dance to the sound of the timbrel, and to sing as they danced and played.

(instruments of music The word means, an instrument like the triangle, or with three cords.

6. the women came out of all cities of Israel—in the homeward march from the pursuit of the Philistines. This is a characteristic trait of Oriental manners. On the return of friends long absent, and particularly on the return of a victorious army, bands of women and children issue from the towns and villages, to form a triumphal procession, to celebrate the victory, and, as they go along, to gratify the soldiers with dancing, instrumental music, and extempore songs, in honor of the generals who have earned the highest distinction by feats of gallantry. The Hebrew women, therefore, were merely paying the customary gratulations to David as the deliverer of their country, but they committed a great indiscretion by praising a subject at the expense of their sovereign. When David was returned from the slaughter of the Philistine; either, first, From some eminent victory obtained by him against the Philistines, though not particularly related, wherein also Saul might be present and concerned. Or rather, secondly, From the slaughter of Goliath, and the other Philistines with him. Against this it is objected, that this song was sung either after David was advanced and employed, as is related 1 Samuel 18:5, and therefore not immediately after that great victory; or, before he was so advanced; and then it would have raised Saul’s jealousy and envy, and consequently hindered David’s advancement. But it may be replied, that this song, though placed afterwards, was sung before David’s advancement, related 1 Samuel 18:5. And that this did not hinder David’s preferment, must be ascribed partly to Saul’s policy, who, though he had an eye upon David, and designed to crush him upon a fit occasion; yet saw it necessary for his own reputation, and the encouragement of other men’s valour, and for the satisfaction of Jonathan’s passionate desire, and the just and general expectation of the whole army and people, to give him some considerable preferment for the present; and principally to God’s providence overruling Saul, against his own inclination, and his mistaken interest.

Out of all cities of Israel, i.e. out of all the neighbouring cities, by or through which the victorious army marched.

Singing and dancing, according to the custom of those times and places; of which See Poole "Exodus 15:20", See Poole "Judges 11:34". And it came to pass, as they came,.... The armies of Israel, with their commanders at the head of them:

when David was returned from the slaughter of the Philistine; either from the slaughter of Goliath, with his head in his hand, going to Jerusalem, and Saul accompanying him; or rather from the slaughter of the Philistines at some other time, the singular being put for the plural; since, according to the order of the history, this seems to be done after David was brought to court, and had been made a captain, and had been sent out on military expeditions, and had been successful therein, and from one of which he now returned:

that the women came out of all the cities of Israel; through which they passed:

singing and dancing; as were usual after great victories obtained, and deliverances wrought, the female sex being generally greatly affected with such things; since when things go otherwise they suffer much, and their fears rise high in time of battle; and when victory goes on their side, it gives them great joy, and which they used to express in this way:

to meet King Saul; the commander-in-chief, with his other officers, and David among the rest:

with tabrets, with joy, and with instruments of music; with pipes or flutes, which they both blew with their mouths, and played on with their hands, and other musical instruments exciting joy; the last word is, by the Targum, rendered,"with cymbals;''and so the Septuagint version; it signifies a musical instrument of three cords, according to Kimchi; and others, as Ben Gersom, understand it of principal songs, in which things wonderful, excellent, and honourable, were spoken of: see Exodus 15:20. Such sort of women were among the Romans called Cymballatriae and Tympanistriae (t), who shook the cymbals, and beat upon tabrets and drums at times of rejoicing.

(t) Vid. Pignorium de Servis, p. 166, 174.

And it came to pass as they came, when David was returned from the slaughter of the {c} Philistine, that the women came out of all cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet king Saul, with tabrets, with joy, and with instruments of musick.

(c) That is, Goliath.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
6–9. The celebration of David’s victory

6. And it came to pass, &c.] The narrative has made a digression to relate the circumstances of David’s permanent reception into Saul’s service, the commencement of the friendship between him and Jonathan, and his ultimate promotion and success. It now goes back to relate the welcome which David received when the army returned in triumph from the successful completion of the Philistine war. Ch. 1 Samuel 18:6 is to be read (as it actually stands in the Sept.) in connexion with 1 Samuel 17:54, though some time may have elapsed, during which the army was occupied in following up its first success. The Sept. reads 1 Samuel 18:6 thus; “And the dancing women came out of all the cities of Israel to meet David, with tabrets and rejoicing and cymbals.”

the women came out, &c.] To escort the victors home with singing and dancing. Dancing was the usual expression of rejoicing upon occasions of national triumph like the present; cp. Exodus 15:20-21; Jdg 11:34; and at religions festivals (Psalm 68:25; Psalm 149:3). These dances were as a rule confined to women—David’s dancing in 2 Samuel 6:14 was exceptional—and probably resembled the modern Oriental dance, in which the evolutions are extemporaneous, and not confined to any fixed rule, but varied at the pleasure of the leading dancer, who is imitated by the rest of the company.

with tabrets, &c.] The dance was accompanied (1) by the “tabret” or “timbrel” (Exodus 15:20; Jdg 11:34): i.e. the hand-drum, an instrument still used by the Arabs, and described as “a hoop (sometimes with pieces of brass fixed in it to make a jingling) over which a piece of parchment is distended. It is beaten with the fingers:”—(2) “with joy:” i.e. jubilant shouts and songs: (3) “with instruments of music;” either “triangles,” or “three-stringed instruments.”Verse 6. - When David was returned from the slaughter of the Philistine. Or more probably, as in the margin, "of the Philistines." The allusion is not to the combat with Goliath, but to one of the expeditions referred to in ver. 5, in which David had gained some decisive victory. The women would not have described the slaughter of one champion as the slaying of ten thousand, nor would there have been any contrast between this act and the military enterprises of Saul. Probably he too would have looked with indifference upon this Oriental exaggeration of the daring bravery of a boy; but what galled him was David's continual success in repeated campaigns. The Philistine means the whole people of that name; and as the war between them and Saul lasted all the days of Saul's life, and was his main kingly work, he saw with envy the rapid growth of David's reputation; and when, after some noble achievement, the women gave David an ovation, and declared in their songs that he had achieved a success ten times as great as Saul, an outburst of ill feeling was the result. Saul suddenly became aware that the young captain on whose shoulders he had devolved the chief labours of the war had supplanted him in the popular estimation, and hatred took the place of the good feeling which he had previously entertained towards him. The women came out of all cities of Israel... to meet king Saul. It is evident that this refers to some grand occasion, and probably to the conclusion of a peace between the two nations. The battle in the valley of Elah was probably followed by several years of warfare, during which David developed those great military qualities which made him subsequently the founder of the wide empire over which Solomon reigned. It was unendurable for Saul, himself a great soldier, to find, when the war at last was over, that the people recognised in his lieutenant higher military qualities than they had discovered in himself. With tabrets. See on 1 Samuel 10:5. With joy. As this is placed between the names of two instruments of music, it must mean some kind of joyous shouting or singing to the sound of their tabrets. With instruments of music. Hebrew, with triangles, a very ancient but effective instrument for an outdoor procession accompanied with dancing. When David returned "from the slaughter of the Philistine," i.e., after the defeat of Goliath, and when Abner, who probably went as commander to meet the brave hero and congratulate him upon his victory, had brought him to Saul, the king addressed the same question to David, who immediately gave him the information he desired. For it is evident that David said more than is here communicated, viz., "the son of thy servant Jesse the Bethlehemite," as we have already observed, from the words of 1 Samuel 18:1, which presuppose a protracted conversation between Saul and David. The only reason, in all probability, why this conversation has not been recorded, is that it was not followed by any lasting results either for Jesse or David.
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