1 Samuel 18 Commentary: David’s Rise and Saul’s Envy

1 Samuel 18 Commentary

1 Samuel 18 unfolds a dramatic chapter in the story of David, Israel’s future king, and his complex relationship with King Saul and his family.

This chapter captures the turning points that define David’s journey, from his deepening friendship with Jonathan to the onset of Saul’s envy and hostility.

It explores themes of loyalty, jealousy, and divine favor, as David’s rise to prominence begins to overshadow Saul’s reign.

The narrative weaves a tale of political intrigue, personal relationships, and spiritual dynamics, offering insights into the characters’ motivations and the unfolding of God’s plan for Israel.

This chapter not only advances the story of David but also reflects on the human condition, revealing timeless lessons about power, faith, and leadership.

1 Samuel 18:1-5, Jonathan’s Covenant with David and David’s Success

After David’s victory over Goliath, a deep bond formed between him and Jonathan, King Saul’s son.

This bond was so strong that Jonathan made a covenant with David, symbolized by giving him his robe, armor, and weapons. This act represented Jonathan’s recognition of David’s future as Israel’s leader, a remarkable gesture considering Jonathan’s position as the heir apparent.

As soon as he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. And Saul took him that day and would not let him return to his father’s house. Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul. And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was on him and gave it to David, and his armor, and even his sword and his bow and his belt.

1 Samuel 18:1-4, ESV

David’s success continued as he took on more responsibilities in Saul’s service.

His success wasn’t just in battle; he also won the respect and love of those around him, including Saul’s officials and soldiers.

This speaks to David’s character and leadership abilities, showing that he was respected not just for his military prowess but also for his conduct and wisdom.

And David went out and was successful wherever Saul sent him, so that Saul set him over the men of war. And this was good in the sight of all the people and also in the sight of Saul’s servants.

1 Samuel 18:5, ESV

1 Samuel 18:6-9, Saul’s Jealousy Sparked by the Women’s Song

The women of Israel, celebrating David’s victories, sang a song that sparked jealousy in King Saul.

They sang, “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands.” This comparison struck a chord in Saul, leading him to view David as a rival rather than a loyal servant.

Saul’s insecurity is evident here, as he perceives David’s success and popularity as threats to his own position and legacy.

And the women sang to one another as they celebrated,

“Saul has struck down his thousands,
    and David his ten thousands.”

1 Samuel 18:7, ESV

Saul’s jealousy grew from this point forward, and it significantly altered his relationship with David. This change in Saul’s attitude marks a turning point in the narrative, as it sets the stage for the subsequent conflict and tension between Saul and David.

Saul’s inability to rejoice in David’s success reveals a tragic flaw in his character – a susceptibility to envy and fear of being overshadowed.

And Saul was very angry, and this saying displeased him. He said, “They have ascribed to David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed thousands, and what more can he have but the kingdom?” And Saul eyed David from that day on.

1 Samuel 18:8-9, ESV

1 Samuel 18:10-11, Saul’s Attempt to Kill David

The next day, an evil spirit from God came forcefully upon Saul.

He was prophesying in his house while David was playing the lyre, as he usually did. Saul had a spear in his hand and hurled it at David, trying to pin him to the wall. But David eluded him twice.

This episode illustrates the deteriorating mental state of Saul and his growing hostility towards David. It’s notable that Saul’s attempt on David’s life was not a premeditated plot but a spontaneous act of violence, highlighting his unstable mindset.

The next day a harmful 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. And Saul hurled the spear, for he thought, “I will pin David to the wall.” But David evaded him twice.

1 Samuel 18:10-11, ESV

1 Samuel 18:12-16, David’s Growing Fame and Saul’s Fear

Saul became afraid of David because the Lord was with him but had departed from Saul. David’s growing fame and divine favor contrast sharply with Saul’s decline and loss of divine favor.

This dynamic further fuels Saul’s fear and insecurity.

Saul was afraid of David because the Lord was with him but had departed from Saul.

1 Samuel 18:12, ESV

Despite Saul’s animosity, David continued to succeed in his military campaigns, earning the admiration of the people and Saul’s soldiers.

This admiration from the public and the military further solidified David’s position in Israel, exacerbating Saul’s fear and jealousy.

So Saul removed him from his presence and made him a commander of a thousand. And he went out and came in before the people. And David had success in all his undertakings, for the Lord was with him. And when Saul saw that he had great success, he stood in fearful awe of him. But all Israel and Judah loved David, for he went out and came in before them.

1 Samuel 18:13-16, ESV

1 Samuel 18:17-19, Saul’s Deception with His Daughters Merab and Michal

Saul, sensing an opportunity to endanger David, offered him his daughter Merab in marriage.

However, this offer was a ruse, as Saul hoped David would be killed in the process of proving himself worthy of the marriage.

This deceptive maneuver by Saul reveals his cunning and desperation to remove David as a threat.

Then Saul said to David, “Here is my elder daughter Merab. I will give her to you for a wife. Only be valiant for me and fight the Lord’s battles.” For Saul thought, “Let not my hand be against him, but let the hand of the Philistines be against him.”

1 Samuel 18:17, ESV

However, when the time came to give Merab to David, Saul deceitfully married her off to someone else.

This act of betrayal not only broke Saul’s promise but also demonstrated his manipulative and untrustworthy nature.

And David said to Saul, “Who am I, and who are my relatives, my father’s clan in Israel, that I should be son-in-law to the king?” But at the time when Merab, Saul’s daughter, should have been given to David, she was given to Adriel the Meholathite for a wife.

1 Samuel 18:18-19, ESV

1 Samuel 18:20-25, Michal’s Love for David and Saul’s Second Plot

Meanwhile, Michal, Saul’s other daughter, fell in love with David.

Saul saw this as another opportunity to ensnare David and instructed his servants to encourage the relationship. Saul’s scheming is evident here, as he viewed his own daughter’s feelings as tools to further his agenda against David.

Now Saul’s daughter Michal loved David. And they told Saul, and the thing pleased him. Saul 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.”

1 Samuel 18:20-21, ESV

Saul set a high bride price, hoping David would fall in battle while trying to meet this demand. Despite the danger, David accepted the challenge, further demonstrating his courage and commitment.

This incident highlights both Saul’s cunning and David’s bravery and faith.

And the servants of Saul told him, “Thus and so did David speak.” Then Saul said, “Thus shall you say to David, ‘The king desires no bride-price except a hundred foreskins of the Philistines, that he may be avenged of the king’s enemies.’” Now Saul thought to make David fall by the hand of the Philistines.

1 Samuel 18:24-25, ESV

1 Samuel 18:26-30, David’s Success and Continued Favor

David succeeded in fulfilling Saul’s challenge, presenting the required tokens of victory, which led to his marriage to Michal. This success further cemented his position in Israel and demonstrated God’s continued favor upon him.

And when his servants told David these words, it pleased David well to be the king’s son-in-law. Before the time had expired, David arose and went, along with his men, and killed two 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. And Saul gave him his daughter Michal for a wife.

1 Samuel 18:26-27, ESV

David’s success and wisdom made him more respected and renowned throughout the land.

His reputation and accomplishments continued to grow, overshadowing Saul’s own achievements. This growth in fame and respect among the people and Saul’s servants underscores the divine blessing and destiny upon David’s life.

But when Saul saw and knew that the Lord was with David, and that Michal, Saul’s daughter, loved him, Saul was even more afraid of David. So Saul was David’s enemy continually.

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 name was highly esteemed.

1 Samuel 18:28-30, ESV

The contrasts between Saul and David are stark: Saul’s decline is marked by jealousy, fear, and manipulation, while David’s rise is characterized by bravery, wisdom, and divine favor.

These dynamics set the stage for the subsequent narrative of David’s journey to kingship and Saul’s tragic end.