1 Samuel 18:17
And Saul said to David, Behold my elder daughter Merab, her will I give thee to wife: only be thou valiant for me, and fight the LORD'S battles. For Saul said, Let not mine hand be upon him, but let the hand of the Philistines be upon him.
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(17) Behold my elder daughter Merab, her will I give thee to wife.—This was but the fulfilment of a much earlier promise. The king had said he would give his daughter in marriage to the hero who should slay the Philistine giant champion. For one cause or other he had declined, or at least postponed, the carrying out of his pledge; and the dark thought crossed his mind, Could he not endanger the hated life, while seeming to wish to keep the old promise? He speaks of the Philistine war as the Lord’s battles. This was a feeling which inspired every patriotic Israelite. “He was,” when fighting with the idolatrous nations, “warring for the Lord”—so David felt when he spoke of the Philistine giant as having defied the ranks of the living God, and alluded to the battle as the Lord’s (1Samuel 17:26; 1Samuel 17:47). The same idea is expressed in the title of that most ancient collection of songs which has not been preserved to us—“Book of the Wars of the Lord” (Numbers 21:14).

1 Samuel 18:17. And Saul said to David, Behold my elder daughter Merab, &c. — He at last bethinks himself of the promise he had publicly made unto him that should kill Goliath; the performance of which David did not demand, but in modesty left it to Saul’s own conscience; who now judges it would be a proper bait to be laid for his destruction. “David had been very successful; but it did not follow that he must always be so; he had prudence, prowess, and conduct; but all these are often disappointed and defeated in their best-laid schemes. What means, then, so likely to destroy him as flattering him in his good fortune, and inflaming his vanity to yet higher and bolder attempts? What human heart is proof against flattery well conducted? and what so likely to point it right as the prospect of the king’s alliance? Merab, therefore, the king’s eldest daughter, is promised to him in marriage, on condition of his exerting all his fortitude in the defence of his master and his country, against the enemies of God and them.” — Delaney. Only be thou valiant for me — Thus, at the same time that he proposed to give David his daughter, he intimated that he should first perform some other military exploits, and, to give the better colour to this request, he calls it fighting the Lord’s battles. Let not my hand be upon him — Now he seems to have some sense of honour, and to lay aside those base thoughts of murdering him himself. But the hand of the Philistines — By whose hand God’s just judgment so ordered things that Saul himself fell!

18:12-30 For a long time David was kept in continual apprehension of falling by the hand of Saul, yet he persevered in meek and respectful behaviour towards his persecutor. How uncommon is such prudence and discretion, especially under insults and provocations! Let us inquire if we imitate this part of the exemplary character before us. Are we behaving wisely in all our ways? Is there no sinful omission, no rashness of spirit, nothing wrong in our conduct? Opposition and perverseness in others, will not excuse wrong tempers in us, but should increase our care, and attention to the duties of our station. Consider Him that endured contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be weary and faint in your minds, Heb 12:3. If David magnified the honour of being son-in-law to king Saul, how should we magnify the honour of being sons to the King of kings!Saul had not hitherto fulfilled the promise of which David had heard (marginal reference); nor was it unnatural that Saul should delay to do so, until the shepherd's boy had risen to a higher rank. 1Sa 18:17-21. He Offers Him His Daughter for a Snare.

17. Saul said to David, Behold my elder daughter Merab, her will I give thee to wife—Though bound to this already [1Sa 17:25], he had found it convenient to forget his former promise. He now holds it out as a new offer, which would tempt David to give additional proofs of his valor. But the fickle and perfidious monarch broke his pledge at the time when the marriage was on the eve of being celebrated, and bestowed Merab on another man (see on [246]2Sa 21:8); an indignity as well as a wrong, which was calculated deeply to wound the feelings and provoke the resentment of David. Perhaps it was intended to do so, that advantage might be taken of his indiscretion. But David was preserved from this snare.

Her will I give thee to wife: this was no more than Saul was obliged to do by his former promise, 1 Samuel 17:25, which here he renews and pretends to perform, though he intended nothing less, as the sequel shows; whereby he makes himself guilty of ingratitude, injustice, and breach of trust, and withal of gross hypocrisy.

Let the hand of the Philistines be upon him; he thought so great an offer would oblige him, who was of himself valiant enough to give proofs of more than common valour, and to venture upon the most dangerous enterprises.

And Saul said to David,.... Not in friendship and good will to him, but designing to lay a snare for him:

behold, my eldest daughter Merab, her will I give thee to wife; most interpreters understand it, that he was obliged to this by promise, on account of David's slaying Goliath, 1 Samuel 17:25; but Abarbinel is of another mind, and he rightly observes, that the words referred to are not the words of Saul, but of the men of Israel, who might suppose what the king would do; or if they heard anything like it spoken by Saul, it was only in a hyperbolical way, signifying he did not care what he gave, and what he parted with, to the man that killed the Philistine, but was not strictly bound to this particular thereby; nor did David ever claim such promise, nor did Saul think himself bound to do it, but proposes it as an instance of his great kindness and favour, as he pretended, and therefore expected great returns for it, as follows:

only be thou valiant for me, and fight the Lord's battles: he knew he was a valiant man, and ready enough to fight; but he expected that in consideration of such a favour, and such high honour as this, that he would exert himself in an extraordinary manner, and engage in hazardous attempts, and show himself worthy to be the son of a king, in the defence of him and of his country, and for the glory of the God of Israel; all this he suggests, when his view was, that he should expose his life to such danger, that it might be hoped it would be taken away:

for Saul said; not openly and verbally, but in his heart; he thought within himself:

let not mine hand be upon him; he had attempted to lay hands on him, or to kill him with his own hands, but now he thought better, and consulted his credit among the people:

but let the hand of the Philistines be upon him; he hoped by these means that he would fall by their hands at the head of his troop, while he was displaying his valour, and hazarding his life for the good of his king and country; what Saul contrived proved his own case, he died in battle with the Philistines, 1 Samuel 31:4.

And Saul said to David, Behold my elder daughter Merab, her will I give thee to wife: only be thou valiant for me, and {g} fight the LORD'S battles. For Saul said, Let not mine hand be upon him, but let the hand of the Philistines be upon him.

(g) Fight against them that war against God's people.

17. Merab] = Increase. Saul offered her to David in fulfilment of his promise (1 Samuel 17:25). In return for this honour Saul expects him to fight his battles, treacherously hoping that he may fall by the hand of the Philistines.

the Lord’s battles] Israel’s wars were “the wars of Jehovah,” because they were undertaken for the defence and establishment of His Kingdom, and His aid might be claimed in waging them. Cp. ch. 1 Samuel 25:28; Numbers 21:14 David expresses the same idea in 1 Samuel 17:36; 1 Samuel 17:47.

Saul said] i.e. thought, as above in 1 Samuel 18:11, 1 Samuel 16:6, &c. To such cowardly and treacherous hypocrisy has jealousy reduced the once brave and generous soldier!

17–19. Saul’s treacherous offer of his daughter Merab to David

17–19 This section and the clause of 1 Samuel 18:21 which refers to it are omitted in the Sept. (B). See Note VI. p. 241.

Verses 17, 18. - Behold my elder daughter Merab. Saul had promised that he would give his daughter in marriage to whosoever should slay the giant (1 Samuel 17:25); and not only was there in this the honour of a close alliance with the royal house, but, as it was usual to give large presents to the father in return for the daughter's hand, the gift had also a substantial value. After long delay Saul now refers to this promise, not so much with the intention of fulfilling it, as of leading David on to enterprises which might cost him his life. The marriage may have been deferred at first on account of David's youth; the subject is now revived, but with evil intentions. My eider daughter is literally "my daughter, the great one," while Michal is "the little one," a way of speaking used only where there are but two daughters. Be thou valiant, etc. This exhortation would be natural under the circumstances; but Saul hoped that David, in order to secure so great a prize, would be encouraged to undertake rash adventures. For Saul said. I.e. in himself; his purpose was to urge David to perpetual fighting, that so in some rash undertaking he might be slam. Thus Saul s malice grows, and though not prepared as yet to put David to death himself, he would have felt relief if he had died by the fortune of war. David answers modestly and discreetly that he is not worthy of so great an honour. We are not to suppose that he discerned Saul's treachery, which only came-to light afterwards. What is my life, - i.e. my condition, - or my father's family? The or is not in the Hebrew, and the meaning is, What is my condition, even my father's family? etc. David's condition or rank in life was settled by the rank which his father held. 1 Samuel 18:17Craftiness of Saul in the betrothal of his daughters to David. - 1 Samuel 18:17. As Saul had promised to give his daughter for a wife to the conqueror of Goliath (1 Samuel 17:25), he felt obliged, by the growing love and attachment of the people to David, to fulfil this promise, and told him that he was ready to do so, with the hope of finding in this some means of destroying David. He therefore offered him his elder daughter Merab with words that sounded friendly and kind: "Only be a brave man to me, and wage the wars of the Lord." He called the wars with the Philistines "wars of Jehovah," i.e., wars for the maintenance and defence of the kingdom of God, to conceal his own cunning design, and make David feel all the more sure that the king's heart was only set upon the welfare of the kingdom of God. Whoever waged the wars of the Lord might also hope for the help of the Lord. But Saul had intentions of a very different kind. He thought ("said," sc., to himself), "My hand shall not be upon him, but let the hand of the Philistines be upon him;" i.e., I will not put him to death; the Philistines may do that. When Saul's reason had returned, he shrank from laying hands upon David again, as he had done before in a fit of madness. He therefore hoped to destroy him through the medium of the Philistines.
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