1 Samuel 19
Pulpit Commentary
And Saul spake to Jonathan his son, and to all his servants, that they should kill David.
Verse 1. - Saul spake to Jonathan his son...that they should kill David. The translation of the last clause is untenable; it really means "about killing David," and so both the Septuagint and the Syriac render it. The descent of men once full of noble impulses, as was the case with Saul, into open crime is gradual, and with many halts on the way. Saul first gave way to envy, and instead of struggling against his bad feelings, nourished them. Then, when scarcely accountable for his actions, he threatened David's life; and next, with growing malice, encouraged him in dangerous undertakings, in the hope that in one of them he might be slain. And now he goes one step farther. He talks to Jonathan and his officers concerning the many reasons there were for David's death; argues that without it there will be no security for himself and his dynasty; represents David probably as a traitor, with secret purposes of usurping the throne; and reveals what hitherto had been but the half-formed wishes of his heart. But even now, probably, he still spoke of David's death as a painful necessity, and had many misgivings in his own mind. But he was really encouraging himself in crime, and by cherishing thoughts of murder he was gradually descending towards the dark abyss into which he finally fell.
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:
Verses 2, 3. - Until the morning. Rather, "in the morning." Saul's purpose was taking shape, and as there are always men too ready to commit crime at the bidding of a king, there was the danger that secret murder might be the quick result of Saul's open communication of his wishes to his men of war. Jonathan, therefore, warns David of the king's malice, and urges him to hide himself until he has made a last entreaty for him. This was to take place in the field, the open common land. There was no idea of David overhearing the conversation, but when the king took his usual walk Jonathan was to join him, and hold a conference with him apart in the unenclosed hill pastures. After probing his father's real feelings he would continue his walk, and, without awakening any suspicions, would meet David and communicate to him the result. What I see, that I will tell thee. More exactly, "I will see what (he says), and will tell thee."
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.
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:
Verses 4-7. - In the field Jonathan intercedes for David, assures his father of his friend's innocence, reminds him of his noble exploit, and of Saul's own joy at it, and beseeches him not to shed innocent blood. And Saul, fickle and selfish, yet not destitute of noble feelings, repents of his purpose, and with characteristic impetuosity takes an oath that David's life shall be spared. Whereupon a reconciliation takes place, and David resumes his attendance upon the king's person. RENEWED ATTEMPT TO SLAY DAVID FRUSTRATED BY MICHAL (vers. 8-17).
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?
And Saul hearkened unto the voice of Jonathan: and Saul sware, As the LORD liveth, he shall not be slain.
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.
Verses 8, 9. - The - more correctly an - evil spirit from Jehovah. The friendly relations between Saul and David continued for some time; but when at length war broke out again, David acquitted himself with his usual ability and success, whereupon Saul's envy and jealousy returned, and fits of melancholy, deepening into insanity, once again over. clouded his reason. It is no longer called "an evil spirit from God," as in 1 Samuel 18:10, but from Jehovah, as in 1 Samuel 16:14, suggesting that it was no longer a natural influence, but that Saul, having broken his covenant relations with Jehovah, was now punished by him. While in this moody state the same temptation to slay David with his javelin came over him, but with such violence that he was no longer able to restrain his evil intent.
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.
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.
Verses 10-12. - Saul sought to smite David. The verb used here is not that rendered cast in 1 Samuel 18:11, where probably we had the record of a purpose threatened, but not carried out. Here Saul actually threw his javelin at David with such violence that it was fixed into the wall. But David, though playing some instrument of music at the time, was on his guard, and slipped away. And David fled, and escaped that night. As usual, the historian gives the ultimate results of Saul's violence first, and then returns and gives the particulars; for plainly David first went home, and it was only when he found that the house was surrounded by Saul's emissaries that he fled away to find refuge with Samuel. Saul also sent messengers. As is often the case, this outbreak of violence on Saul's part broke down all the former restraints of upright feeling and conscience. He had lost his self-respect, was openly a murderer as regards everything but the success of his attempt, and he determined that that should not be long wanting. He sends persons, therefore, to watch David's house, with orders that when in the morning he came out, suspecting no danger, they should fall upon him and slay him. But Michal in some way or other became aware of her husband's danger. Possibly she had been at her father's house in the afternoon, and with quick observation had noticed that more than usual was going on, and seeing that her own house was the object of these preparations, had divined their intent; or possibly Jonathan may have given her information, and so she warned David of his danger. As the entrance was guarded, he was let down through a window, like St. Paul afterwards, and so began the weary life of wandering which lasted through so many troubled years.
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.
So Michal let David down through a window: and he went, and fled, and escaped.
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.
Verse 13. - Michal took an image. Literally, "the teraphim," a plural word, but used here as a singular. Probably, like the corresponding Latin word penates, it had no singular in common use. It was a wooden block with head and shoulders roughly shaped to represent a human figure. Laban's tera-phim were so small that Rachel could hide them under the camel's furniture (Genesis 31:34), but Michal's seems to have been large enough to pass in the bed for a man. Though the worship of them is described as iniquity (1 Samuel 15:23), yet the superstitious belief that they brought good luck to the house over which they presided, in return for kind treatment, seems to have been proof against the teaching of the prophets; and Hosea describes the absence of them as on the same level as the absence of the ephod (Hosea 3:4). A pillow of goats' hair for his bolster. More correctly, "a goat's skin about its head." So the Syriac and Vulgate. The object of it, would be to look at a distance like a man s hair. The Septuagint has a goat's liver, because this was supposed to palpitate long after the animal's death, and so would produce the appearance of a person's breathing. But this involves a different reading, for which there is no authority; nor was Michal's deception intended for close observation. She would of course not let any one disturb David, and all she wanted was just enough likeness to a man to make a person at a distance suppose that David was there. Soon or later her artifice would be found out, but her husband would have had the intervening time for effecting his escape. As the word rendered pillow, and which is found only here, comes from a root signifying "to knot together," "to intertwine," some commentators think that it means a network of goats' hair, perhaps to keep off flies. But this is a mere guess, and not to be set against the combined authority of the two versions. With a cloth. Hebrew, beged. This beged was David's every day dress, and would greatly aid Michal in her pious artifice. It was a loose mantle, worn over the close-fitting meil (see 1 Samuel 2:19). Thus Ezra (Ezra 9:3, 5) says, "I rent my beged and my meil," which the A.V. with characteristic inexactness translates "my garment and my mantle." In Genesis 28:20, where it is rendered raiment, Jacob speaks of it as the most indispensable article of dress; and in Genesis 39:12, where it is rendered garment, we find that it was a loose plaid or wrapper. In those simple days it was used for warmth by night as well as for protection by day, and it is interesting to find David in his old age still covered up for warmth in bed by his beged (1 Kings 1:1), where it is translated clothes.
And when Saul sent messengers to take David, she said, He is sick.
Verses 14-17. - When, after waiting till the usual hour for David's appearance, he came not, the watchers send and inform Saul, who now orders his open arrest. But Michal despatches a messenger to tell her father that he is sick. Upon this Saul orders bed and all to be brought, that he may slay him. As an Oriental bed is usually a mere strip of carpet, this would be easy enough. But when the messengers force their way through, in spite of every obstruction which Michal can devise to waste time, and come up close to the sleeping figure, "Lo, teraphim in the bed, and a goatskin at its head." They carry the news to Saul, who sends for Michal, and reproaches her for letting his enemy go. And she, afraid of bringing her father's anger upon herself, answers with a falsehood, such as we find David also too readily having resort to; for she tells Saul that his flight was David's own doing, and that she had taken part in it only to save her life. Why should I kill thee? She pretends that David had told her not to force him to kill her by refusing to give her aid in his escape. Saul, no doubt, saw that she had been a willing agent; but as she professed to have been driven to do what she had done by David's threats, he could say no more. DAVID'S FLIGHT TO SAMUEL AT RAMAH (vers. 18-24).
And Saul sent the messengers again to see David, saying, Bring him up to me in the bed, that I may slay him.
And when the messengers were come in, behold, there was an image in the bed, with a pillow of goats' hair for his bolster.
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.
Verse 18. - David...came to Samuel. We have seen that there is every reason to believe that David had been taught and trained by Samuel among the sons of the prophets, and now, conscious of his innocence, he flees for refuge to his old master, trusting that Saul would reverence God's prophet, and give credence to his intercession and his pledge that David was guiltless. He and Samuel went and dwelt in Naioth. Rather in Nevayoth, as in the written text. This is not the name of a place, but signifies "dwellings," "lodgings," and is always translated in the Chaldee "house of study," i.e. student's lodgings. Somewhere near to Ramah Samuel had erected buildings to receive his young men, who were called "sons of the prophets," not because their fathers were prophets, but because they were under prophetic training, with prophets for their teachers, though not necessarily intended to be prophets themselves. At first Samuel, we may suppose, built one nevath, one simple hospice for his students, and then, as their numbers grew, another, and yet another, and so the plural, nevayoth, came into voile as the name of the students' quarters.
And it was told Saul, saying, Behold, David is at Naioth in Ramah.
Verses 19, 20. - On hearing where David was, Saul sends messengers to arrest him, and we thus incidentally gain a most interesting account of the inner condition of Samuel's schools. Evidently after Saul had become king Samuel devoted his main energies to this noble effort to raise Israel from the barbarous depths into which it had sunk; and when the messengers arrive they enter some hall, where they find a regularly organised choir, consisting not of "sons of the prophets," young men still under training, but of prophets, men who had finished their preparatory studies, and arrived at a higher elevation. The Chaldee Paraphrast calls them scribes; and doubtless those educated in Samuel's schools held an analogous position to that of the scribes in later days. And Samuel himself was standing - not as appointed over them; he was the founder and originator of these schools, and all authority was derived from him. What the Hebrew says is that he was "standing as chief over them," and they, frill of Divine enthusiasm, were chanting psalms to God's glory. So noble was the sight, that Saul's messengers on entering were seized with a like enthusiasm, and, laying aside their murderous purpose, joined in the hearty service of the prophetic sanctuary. Instead of they saw the Hebrew has "he saw," but as all the versions have the plural, it is probably a mere mistake. The Hebrew word for company is found only here. By transposing the letters we have the ordinary word for congregation, but possibly it was their own technical name for some peculiar arrangement of the choir.
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.
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.
Verses 21-24. - Saul sends messengers a second and even a third time with the same result, and finally determines to go in person. Having set out, he came to a - more correctly the - great well that is in Sechu - more probably the cistern or tank there. From the value of water it was no doubt a well known spot at the time, but in the present ruined state of the country all such works have perished. Sechu, according to Conder ('Handbook'), was probably on the site of the present ruin of Suweikeh, immediately south of Beeroth. Having there made inquiries whether Samuel and David were still at Ramah, courageously awaiting his craning, he proceeds on his way. But even before arriving in Samuel's presence, with that extraordinary susceptibility to external impressions which is so marked a feature in his character, he begins singing psalms, and no sooner had he entered the Nevavoth than he stripped off his clothes - his beged and meil - and lay down naked - i.e. with only his tunic upon him - all that day and all that night. His excitement had evidently been intense, and probably to the chanting he had added violent gesticulation. But it was not this so much as the tempest of his emotions which had exhausted him, and made him thus throw himself down as one dead. And once again the people wondered at so strange an occurrence, and called back to mind the proverb, Is Saul also among the prophets? When first used (1 Samuel 10:11) Saul's enthusiasm was an outburst of piety, genuine but evanescent, and which had long since passed away. What was it now? The Chaldee, as explained by Rashi, says he was mad. More probably, in the violent state of excitement under which Saul had for some time been labouring, the thought of seeing Samuel, from whom he had been so long separated, brought back to his mind the old days when the prophet had loved and counselled him, and made him king, and been his true and faithful friend. And the remembrance overpowered him. What would he not have given to have continued such as he then was! And for a time he became once again the old Saul of Ramah; but the change was transient and fitful; and after these twenty-four hours of agony Saul rose up, full perhaps of good intentions, but with a heart unchanged, and certain, therefore, very quickly to disappoint all hopes of real amendment, and to become a still more moody and relentless tyrant.

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.
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.
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?
The Pulpit Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright © 2001, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2010 by BibleSoft, inc., Used by permission

Bible Hub
1 Samuel 18
Top of Page
Top of Page