1 Samuel 19 Commentary: Jonathan’s Aid and David’s Escape

1 Samuel 19 Commentary

At the heart of 1 Samuel 19 lies King Saul’s growing jealousy towards David, contrasted with Jonathan’s unwavering loyalty to his friend.

This narrative captures the intense familial and political dynamics of Saul’s court, as David navigates treacherous waters, marked by assassination attempts and narrow escapes. Michal, David’s wife, also plays a crucial role, demonstrating bravery and quick wit in the face of danger.

This chapter not only highlights the personal struggles of its characters but also reflects on themes of loyalty, divine protection, and the complexities of human relationships in times of crisis.

1 Samuel 19:1-7, Jonathan Intercedes for David

Saul’s jealousy and fear of David’s rising popularity and potential threat to his throne escalate in this chapter. Initially, Saul expresses his intention to kill David to his son Jonathan, who is David’s close friend.

And Saul spoke to Jonathan his son and to all his servants, that they should kill David. But Jonathan, Saul’s son, delighted much in David. And Jonathan told David, “Saul my father seeks to kill you. Therefore be on your guard in the morning. Stay in a secret place and hide yourself.

1 Samuel 19:1-2, ESV

Jonathan’s loyalty to David is evident as he not only warns David of his father’s intentions but also speaks well of David to Saul. Jonathan highlights David’s loyalty to Saul and his contributions to the kingdom.

This conversation underscores the conflict between Jonathan’s duty to his father and his friendship with David.

And Jonathan spoke well of David to Saul his father and said to him, “Let not the king sin against his servant David, because he has not sinned against you, and because his deeds have brought good to you. For he took his life in his hand and he struck down the Philistine, and the Lord worked a great salvation for all Israel. You saw it, and rejoiced. Why then will you sin against innocent blood by killing David without cause?”

Lamentations 4:11, NIV

Remarkably, Jonathan’s words have a temporary impact on Saul, who swears not to harm David. This change in Saul’s attitude, however, is fleeting, as subsequent events reveal.

And Saul listened to the voice of Jonathan. Saul swore, “As the Lord lives, he shall not be put to death.” And Jonathan called David, and Jonathan reported to him all these things. And Jonathan brought David to Saul, and he was in his presence as before.

Lamentations 4:11, NIV

The intervention of Jonathan demonstrates the power of advocacy and mediation in resolving conflicts, even in the face of deadly intentions and highlights the complexity of relationships within Saul’s household, where personal loyalties often clash with political ambitions and fears.

1 Samuel 19:8-10, Saul’s Renewed Attempt to Kill David

Despite the temporary reconciliation, the underlying tension between Saul and David reemerges. A military success by David, which should have been a cause for celebration, triggers Saul’s jealousy and fear again.

David’s success on the battlefield is juxtaposed with Saul’s increasing instability and malice. This stark contrast between David’s rising stature and Saul’s declining mental state becomes more pronounced.

And there was war again. And David went out and fought with the Philistines and struck them with a great blow, so that they fled before him. Then a harmful spirit from the Lord came upon Saul, as he sat in his house with his spear in his hand. And David was playing the lyre.

1 Samuel 19:8-9, ESV

In a moment of rage, Saul tries to kill David with a spear, a vivid demonstration of his uncontrollable jealousy and fear. David’s escape from this assassination attempt symbolizes a degree of his personal capabilities of agility and elusion, but more importantly – divine protection.

And Saul sought to pin David to the wall with the spear, but he eluded Saul, so that he struck the spear into the wall. And David fled and escaped that night.

1 Samuel 19:10, ESV

This section reflects the volatile nature of Saul’s kingship and his inability to control his emotions, further alienating him from those who could have been his allies.

1 Samuel 19:11-17, Michal Helps David Escape

The chapter shifts to focus on Michal, Saul’s daughter and David’s wife, highlighting her loyalty to David over her father. Michal’s actions in helping David escape Saul’s assassins show her courage and quick thinking.

Saul sent messengers to David’s house to watch him, that he might kill him in the morning. But Michal, David’s wife, told him, “If you do not escape with your life tonight, tomorrow you will be killed.” So Michal let David down through the window, and he fled away and escaped.

1 Samuel 19:11-12, ESV

Michal’s deception, using an idol to simulate David’s presence in bed, raises questions about her own beliefs and the spiritual state of Saul’s household. This act of trickery creates a critical window for David’s escape.

Michal took an image and laid it on the bed and put a pillow of goats’ hair at its head and covered it with the clothes. And when Saul sent messengers to take David, she said, “He is sick.”

1 Samuel 19:13-14, ESV

When confronted by Saul, Michal lies to protect David, indicating the complex dynamics of family loyalty and the lengths to which individuals will go to protect those they love.

And when the messengers came in, behold, the image was in the bed, with the pillow of goats’ hair at its head. Saul said to Michal, “Why have you deceived me thus and let my enemy go, so that he has escaped?” And Michal answered Saul, “He said to me, ‘Let me go. Why should I kill you?’”

1 Samuel 19:16-17, ESV

Michal’s role in this episode underscores the importance of individual agency within larger political and familial conflicts, as well as the personal sacrifices made in these high-stakes situations.

1 Samuel 19:18-24, David Flees to Samuel in Naioth and Saul’s Prophetic Experience

David’s escape to Samuel in Naioth marks a significant turning point. Seeking refuge with the prophet Samuel not only provides safety but also spiritual counsel and support.

Now David fled and escaped, and he came to Samuel at Ramah and told him all that Saul had done to him. And he and Samuel went and lived at Naioth. And it was told Saul, “Behold, David is at Naioth in Ramah.”

1 Samuel 19:18-19, ESV

Saul’s pursuit of David, even to the prophetic community in Naioth, reveals his obsession and determination to eliminate David. However, Saul’s experience in Naioth is extraordinary and unexpected.

Then Saul sent messengers to take David, and when they saw the company of the prophets prophesying, and Samuel standing as head over them, the Spirit of God came upon the messengers of Saul, and they also prophesied. When it was told Saul, he sent other messengers, and they also prophesied. And Saul sent messengers again the third time, and they also prophesied.

1 Samuel 19:20-21, ESV

Saul’s encounter with the prophetic spirit, leading him to prophesy, is paradoxical: It contrasts his spiritual decline with a moment of involuntary participation in a divine act. This event can be seen as a divine intervention, temporarily disrupting Saul’s destructive path.

Then he himself went to Ramah and came to the great well that is in Secu. And he asked, “Where are Samuel and David?” And one said, “Behold, they are at Naioth in Ramah.” And he went there to Naioth in Ramah. And the Spirit of God came upon him also, and as he went he prophesied until he came to Naioth in Ramah. And he too stripped off his clothes, and he too prophesied before Samuel and lay naked all that day and all that night. Thus it is said, “Is Saul also among the prophets?”

1 Samuel 19:22-24, ESV

This final segment highlights the ongoing divine protection over David and the unpredictable ways in which God can intervene in human affairs.

Saul’s prophetic experience also serves as a momentary pause in his relentless pursuit of David, showcasing the complexity and unpredictability of God’s involvement in the lives of His people.