Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
And Saul spake to Jonathan his son, and to all his servants, that they should kill David.Ch. 1 Samuel 19:1-7. Jonathan’s intercession with his father on David’s behalf
1. Saul spake, &c.] Perhaps in some outburst of passion like Henry the Second’s against Thomas à Becket. No definite command seems to have been given.
But Jonathan Saul's son delighted much in David: and Jonathan told David, saying, Saul my father seeketh to kill thee: now therefore, I pray thee, take heed to thyself until the morning, and abide in a secret place, and hide thyself:2. until the morning] Rather, in the morning.
And I will go out and stand beside my father in the field where thou art, and I will commune with my father of thee; and what I see, that I will tell thee.3. in the field where thou art] Jonathan may have wished David to hear and judge for himself of Saul’s intention; or to be close at hand so that he might at once inform him of the result of his appeal.
And Jonathan spake good of David unto Saul his father, and said unto him, Let not the king sin against his servant, against David; because he hath not sinned against thee, and because his works have been to theeward very good:4. spake good of David] Had Jonathan simply advised David to flee, without endeavouring to bring Saul to a better mind, he would have acted to the prejudice of his father’s interests, by depriving him of the best support of his kingdom.
to thee-ward] “Ward” is used as a termination denoting (a) direction (Exodus 37:9), (b) as here, relation.
For he did put his life in his hand, and slew the Philistine, and the LORD wrought a great salvation for all Israel: thou sawest it, and didst rejoice: wherefore then wilt thou sin against innocent blood, to slay David without a cause?5. put his life in his hand] i.e. voluntarily exposed himself to peril of death. The figure seems to be that of taking a treasure out of a safe place, and carrying it about with the risk of losing it Cp. ch. 1 Samuel 28:21; Jdg 12:3; Psalm 119:109.
wrought a great salvation] See 1 Samuel 11:9 (note), 13.
sin against innocent blood] Incur bloodguiltiness by the murder of an innocent man. Cp. Deuteronomy 19:10-13; Psalm 94:21.
And Saul hearkened unto the voice of Jonathan: and Saul sware, As the LORD liveth, he shall not be slain.6. Saul sware] Sincerely no doubt for the time, but with no real repentance for his murderous design.
And Jonathan called David, and Jonathan shewed him all those things. And Jonathan brought David to Saul, and he was in his presence, as in times past.
And there was war again: and David went out, and fought with the Philistines, and slew them with a great slaughter; and they fled from him.8–11. Saul’s attempt on David’s life
8. David went out, &c.] This preliminary mention of David’s fresh successes implies that Saul’s attack of madness was due to jealousy excited by them.
And the evil spirit from the LORD was upon Saul, as he sat in his house with his javelin in his hand: and David played with his hand.9. the evil spirit] See on 1 Samuel 16:14.
as he sat, &c.] Now he was sitting in his house with his spear in his hand, and David was playing with his hand. These words are a parenthesis picturing the circumstances under which Saul attempted to murder David. On Saul’s spear see at 1 Samuel 18:10.
And Saul sought to smite David even to the wall with the javelin; but he slipped away out of Saul's presence, and he smote the javelin into the wall: and David fled, and escaped that night.10. escaped that night] It is perhaps better to follow the Sept. in joining “that night” to the next sentence and reading, “and it came to pass that night that Saul, &c.”
Saul also sent messengers unto David's house, to watch him, and to slay him in the morning: and Michal David's wife told him, saying, If thou save not thy life to night, to morrow thou shalt be slain.11. in the morning] As he left his house. Cp. Jdg 16:2. “We may guess that only the fear of alarming the town, and of rousing the people to rescue their favourite hero, prevented him from directing them to break into the house, and to slay David there.” Kitto’s Bibl. Illustr.
Psalms 59 is referred by its title to the present occasion. If this is correct, the Psalm supplements the history, shewing that David was in danger not from Saul only, but from ruffians among Saul’s followers who prowled about the streets of Gibeah threatening his life.
So Michal let David down through a window: and he went, and fled, and escaped.12–17. David’s escape by the aid of Michal
12. through a window] Compare the escape of the spies from Jericho (Joshua 2:15), and St Paul from Damascus (2 Corinthians 11:33). If David’s house, like Rahab’s, was upon the town wall, it would be easy for him to escape thus though the door was watched by Saul’s men.
fled, and escaped] Thus began that fugitive life of hardship and peril, which was to form a new element in the education of the future king. See Introd. p. 40.
And Michal took an image, and laid it in the bed, and put a pillow of goats' hair for his bolster, and covered it with a cloth.13. an image] The teraphim. These were the penates or house-hold images of the Israelites, brought originally from their Chaldean home (Genesis 31:19). In spite of the strict prohibition of idols, they were used by those who professed to worship Jehovah in the time of the Judges (Jdg 17:5; Jdg 18:14 ff.), and even down to the later days of the Kings (2 Kings 23:24). They seem to have been a kind of fetish or household charm for good luck, rather than an object of worship, and were used in divination (Zechariah 10:2; Ezekiel 21:19-22). It is surprising to find teraphim in David’s house. It has been conjectured that Michal, like Rachel, kept them secretly on account of her barrenness. The plural teraphim here denotes a single image, in human form, apparently of life-size.
put a pillow, &c.] Put the quilt of goat’s hair at its head, and covered it with the coverlet. Michal wrapped the head of the image in a rough rug, either to hide it, or to imitate a man’s hair, and covered up the whole with the beged, a square piece of woollen cloth, which was used for an upper garment, or for a bed-covering. Cp. Deuteronomy 24:12-13.
And when Saul sent messengers to take David, she said, He is sick.14. she said, He is sick] Apparently she took the messengers into the outer chamber and pointed to the figure in bed in an inner closet, not letting them go near enough to detect the imposture. The plan gained David time to escape. The Sept. has, “and they [the messengers] brought word that he was sick.”
And Saul sent the messengers again to see David, saying, Bring him up to me in the bed, that I may slay him.15. Bring him up] This indicates that Saul’s residence was on the hill of Gibeah, David’s in the lower town.
And when the messengers were come in, behold, there was an image in the bed, with a pillow of goats' hair for his bolster.16. There was an image, &c.] The teraphim was in the bed, and the quilt of goat’s hair at its head.
17 He said unto me, &c.] Michal adds another lie to screen herself from Saul’s anger. In this she was but following her father’s example (1 Samuel 19:6), and with more excuse. Compare the deceit practised by Rahab (Joshua 2:4 ff.); by the woman at Bahurim (2 Samuel 17:20); and in modern times, by Grotius’ wife, who to save her husband represented the box in which he was concealed as a box of theological books. Scripture affirms the universal duty of Truth without any exception (Leviticus 19:11), nor can it he understood to sanction breaches of this general law by recording them without disapproval. It is left to the casuist to discuss whether any necessity is sufficient to justify a falsehood or an act of deception. See Whewell’s Elements of Morality, Chaps. 15, 16.
And Saul said unto Michal, Why hast thou deceived me so, and sent away mine enemy, that he is escaped? And Michal answered Saul, He said unto me, Let me go; why should I kill thee?
So David fled, and escaped, and came to Samuel to Ramah, and told him all that Saul had done to him. And he and Samuel went and dwelt in Naioth.18–24. David takes refuge with Samuel at Ramah
18. to Samuel] Turning naturally for direction at this crisis to the prophet who had anointed him, and hoping that Saul would at least reverence the age and authority of Samuel. No doubt David had had much intercourse with Samuel since their first meeting at Bethlehem.
in Naioth] Naioth, which was at or near Ramah, is a quasi-proper name signifying dwellings, and in al probability denotes the College, or common residence of the society of prophets collected together at Ramah by Samuel. See Introd. ch. 6 p. 33. Cp. 2 Kings 6:1-2. The Targum renders the word “house of instruction.” Hither Samuel took David, partly as being a safer place of refuge than his own house; partly that he might be spiritually strengthened by a share in the religious exercises of the society (1 Samuel 19:20).
And it was told Saul, saying, Behold, David is at Naioth in Ramah.
And Saul sent messengers to take David: and when they saw the company of the prophets prophesying, and Samuel standing as appointed over them, the Spirit of God was upon the messengers of Saul, and they also prophesied.20. prophets prophesying] Some common religious exercise conducted by Samuel, who is described as standing as president over the prophets, is meant by “prophesying.” See on 1 Samuel 10:5. The Targum paraphrases: “They saw the company of scribes praising, and Samuel standing as instructor over them.”
And when it was told Saul, he sent other messengers, and they prophesied likewise. And Saul sent messengers again the third time, and they prophesied also.21. they prophesied also] Carried away by the religious excitement they forgot their errand, and joined the chant of the prophets.
Then went he also to Ramah, and came to a great well that is in Sechu: and he asked and said, Where are Samuel and David? And one said, Behold, they be at Naioth in Ramah.22. a great well] The great cistern, some well known landmark in Sechu, a place nowhere else mentioned, between Gibeah and Ramah. The reading is uncertain. The Sept. has “the well of the threshing-floor that is in Sephi (or, the hill).”
And he went thither to Naioth in Ramah: and the Spirit of God was upon him also, and he went on, and prophesied, until he came to Naioth in Ramah.23. until he came to Naioth] The inspiration seized Saul even before he reached the company of prophets. He was to be convinced of the irresistible might of the Divine Spirit against whose influence he had striven. He was to be taught, if his heart was not already too utterly hardened to learn, that in fighting against David he was fighting against God, and engaging in a futile struggle. For this reason Saul, as the chief agent in David’s persecution, was struck down more completely than his servants, and lay there unconscious “all that day and all that night.”
And he stripped off his clothes also, and prophesied before Samuel in like manner, and lay down naked all that day and all that night. Wherefore they say, Is Saul also among the prophets?24. naked] Not literally naked, but stripped of his outer garment.
Is Saul also among the prophets?] The origin of the proverb is related in 1 Samuel 10:11. It now received a fresh exemplification. This burst of prophetic inspiration was a startling reminder to Saul of that former occasion when the Spirit of God came upon him to fit him for that office in which he had failed so sadly. See Maurice, Prophets and Kings, p. 17 ff.