1 Samuel 18:10
And it came to pass on the morrow, that the evil spirit from God came upon Saul, and he prophesied in the midst of the house: and David played with his hand, as at other times: and there was a javelin in Saul's hand.
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(10) The evil spirit.—The evil spirit comes now over the unhappy king in quite a new form. Hitherto, when the dark hour came upon Saul the madness showed itself in the form of a dull torpor, a hopeless melancholia, an entire indifference to everything connected with life, as well in the lower as in the higher forms. This earlier phase of the soul’s malady has been exquisitely pictured by Browning in his poem of “Saul.” Now the madness assumes a new phase, and the king is consumed with a murderous jealousy, that fills his whole soul, and drives him now to open deeds of ruffianly violence—now to devise dark plots against the life of the bated one. What a fall for the hero- king of Israel, the anointed of the Lord, whose reign had begun so brilliantly and successfully!

And he prophesied.—In his wild phrenzy—under the control of a power higher than himself, had he not by his breaking off all communion with God, left his soul defenceless and prepared for the presence of the evil spirit?—in his wild phrenzy we read “Saul prophesied.” The Dean of Canterbury well calls attention here to the conjugation employed in the original Hebrew of the word rendered “prophesied”—the Hith-pael, which is never used by an Old Testament writer of real true prophecy, this being always expressed by the Niphal conjugation. This of Saul’s was but a bastard imitation.

Saul was in a state of phrenzy, unable to master himself, speaking words of which he knew not the meaning, and acting like a man possessed. In all this there was something akin to the powerful emotions which agitated the true prophet: only it was not a holy influence, but one springing from violent) passions.

1 Samuel 18:10-11. On the morrow the evil spirit from God — Which had formerly troubled him, producing melancholy, (1 Samuel 16:14,) was brought again upon him. The very next day after he conceived envy at David, discontent and anger, the evil spirit was permitted by God to seize him again. Such is the fruit of envy and uncharitableness! And he prophesied in the midst of the house — That is, he was actuated by such motions and agitations of body as the prophets sometimes were. And David played with his hand, as at other times — To compose and quiet his disturbed spirits. And there was a javelin in Saul’s hand — Which he had provided on purpose, as the following words show, to despatch David. And Saul cast the javelin — Being now quite under the power of that evil spirit. Twice — Once now, and another time, on a like occasion, 1 Samuel 19:10.

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.He prophesied - This, as the effect of the evil spirit coming upon him, is singular as regards Saul, but is borne out by what we read in 1 Kings 22:22. (Compare Acts 16:16-18; Acts 19:15; 1 John 4:1-3). It is impossible to give the sense of "raving" to the word "prophesied," as though a merely natural state of frenzy were intended. The "prophesying" here was as directly the effect of the coming of the evil spirit upon Saul, as the "prophesying" in 1 Samuel 10:10 was the effect of the Spirit of God coming upon him. At the same time it is quite true that "madness" and "prophesyings" were considered as near akin (see Jeremiah 29:26; 2 Kings 9:11). 1Sa 18:10-12. Seeks to Kill Him.

10. on the morrow, that the evil spirit from God came upon Saul—This rankling thought brought on a sudden paroxysm of his mental malady.

he prophesied—The term denotes one under the influence either of a good or a bad spirit. In the present it is used to express that Saul was in a frenzy. David, perceiving the symptoms, hastened, by the soothing strains of his harp, to allay the stormy agitation of the royal mind. But before its mollifying influence could be felt, Saul hurled a javelin at the head of the young musician.

there was a javelin in Saul's hand—Had it been followed by a fatal result, the deed would have been considered the act of an irresponsible maniac. It was repeated more than once ineffectually, and Saul became impressed with a dread of David as under the special protection of Providence.

Saul’s envy, and jealousy, and discontent revived his melancholic distemper, which the devil, according to his wont, struck in with.

He prophesied, or, he feigned himself to be a prophet, for so the Hebrew verbs in Hithpahel oft signify, i.e. he used uncouth gestures, and signs, and speeches, as the prophets, or sons of the prophets, used to do; for which they were by the ignorant and ungodly sort reputed madmen, 2 Kings 9:11. And it may seem probable that Saul did now speak of Divine things politicly, that thereby he might lull David asleep, and kill him before he suspected any danger.

There was a javelin in Saul’s hand, which he kept there for the following purpose.

And it came to pass on the morrow,.... After the women had met him with their music and dancing, and when returned home:

that the evil spirit from God came upon Saul; thinking on the above things that had passed, he became melancholy:

and he prophesied in the midst of the house; either really, delivering out divine songs, as the prophets did; according to Abarbinel, he foretold that David would be king, and the kingdom would be taken from him, and given to him; or he feigned himself a prophet, mimicking their motions and gestures; or, as the Targum, acted like a mad man, or a fool, uttering foolish words, and using ridiculous gestures, which seems most agreeable to the evil spirit in him:

and David played with his hand as at other times; upon his harp, to remove the evil spirit, or melancholy disposition from Saul; for though he was now advanced at court, and an officer in the army, and high in the affections and applause of the people: yet he did not think it below him to act as a musician, to do service to his prince; of such an humble, kind, and ingenuous disposition was he:

and there was a javelin in Saul's hand; a kind of spear, or half pike, which he had taken into his hand on purpose to kill David while playing; for persons in such circumstances as his, as they are very mischievous, so very subtle at contriving.

And it came to pass on the morrow, that the evil spirit from God came upon Saul, and he {e} prophesied in the midst of the house: and David played with his hand, as at other times: and there was a javelin in Saul's hand.

(e) That is, spoke as a man beside himself for so the people abused this word, when they could not understand.

10. he prophesied] The word “prophesy” describes an ecstatic condition due to supernatural influence good or evil: the result in the one case being prophetic inspiration or religious enthusiasm: in the other raving madness. See on 1 Samuel 10:5.

and there was a javelin in Saul’s hand] Render, And the spear was in Saul’s hand. The spear served as a sceptre, and was the symbol of royalty. The King held it in his hand when he sat in council (1 Samuel 22:6) or in his house (1 Samuel 19:9); it was kept by his side when he sat at table (1 Samuel 20:33); stuck in the ground by his pillow as he slept in camp (1 Samuel 26:7). Compare the modern Arab practice. “We recognised the Sheikh’s tent, among a group of twenty others of which the encampment consisted, by the tall spear planted against it.” Tristram, Land of Israel, p. 259.

10, 11. Saul’s attempt to murder David

10, 11. The last sentence of 1 Samuel 18:8 and 1 Samuel 18:10-11 are not found in the Sept. (B). The narrative certainly gains by their omission, and describes the gradual growth of Saul’s enmity more naturally. At the same time there is no impossibility in supposing that the fit of passion to which Saul gave way on the day of the triumph brought on a return of his madness, in the frenzy of which he threatened David’s life: and yet that he afterwards retained him in his service and promoted him, yielding partly to the better impulses of his sane moments, partly to the force of popular opinion.

Verses 10, 11. - It came to pass on the morrow. The day had been a time of public triumph, and yet one of the chief actors goes home to a sleepless couch, because he thinks that another has received higher honour than himself. His melancholy deepens till a fit of insanity comes on. For the evil spirit from God came upon Saul. Literally, " an evil spirit (breath) of God descended mightily upon Saul" (see 1 Samuel 16:15). Just as all mighty enthusiasms for good come from God, so do strong influences for evil, but in a different way. In all noble acts men are fellow workers with God; when evil carries them away it is of God, because he it is who has made and still maintains the laws of our moral nature; but it is by the working of general laws, and not by any special gift or grace bestowed by him. Saul had brooded over his disappointment, and cherished feelings of discontent at his own lot and of envy at the good of others to such an extent that his mind gave way before the diseased workings of his imagination. And so he lost all control over himself, and prophesied. The conjugation employed here (Hithpahel) is never used of real, true prophecy (which is always the Niphal), but of a bastard imitation of it. Really Saul was in a state of frenzy, unable to master himself, speaking words of which he knew not the meaning, and acting like a man possessed. In all this there was something akin to the powerful emotions which agitated the true prophet, only it was not a holy influence, but one springing from violent passions and a disturbed state of the mind. In order to soothe him David played with his hand, as at other times, but without the desired effect. On the contrary, Saul brandished the javelin, which he carried as a sort of sceptre in his hand, with such violence that David twice had to escape from this threat of injury by flight. It is not certain that Saul actually threw the javelin. Had he done so it would be difficult to account for David escaping from it twice. After such an act of violence he would scarcely have trusted himself a second time in Saul's presence. Instead of Saul cast the javelin, the Septuagint in the Alexandrian codex and the Chaldee render lifted, i.e. retaining the same consonants, they put vowels which refer the verb to another root. But even with the present vowels it may mean "made as though he would cast," or aimed "the javelin." On a later occasion Saul actually threw the javelin, and struck the wall where David had been sitting (1 Samuel 19:10). 1 Samuel 18:10The next day the evil spirit fell upon Saul ("the evil spirit of God;" see at 1 Samuel 16:14), so that he raved in his house, and threw his javelin at David, who played before him "as day by day," but did not hit him, because David turned away before him twice. התנבּא does not mean to prophesy in this instance, but "to rave." This use of the word is founded upon the ecstatic utterances, in which the supernatural influence of the Spirit of God manifested itself in the prophets (see at 1 Samuel 10:5). ויּטל, from טוּל, he hurled the javelin, and said (to himself), "I will pierce David and the wall." With such force did he hurl his spear; but David turned away from him, i.e., eluded it, twice. His doing so a second time presupposes that Saul hurled the javelin twice; that is to say, he probably swung it twice without letting it go out of his hand, - a supposition which is raised into certainty by the fact that it is not stated here that the javelin entered the wall, as in 1 Samuel 19:10. But even with this view יטל is not to be changed into יטּל, as Thenius proposes, since the verb נטל cannot be proved to have ever the meaning to swing. Saul seems to have held the javelin in his hand as a sceptre, according to ancient custom.
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