1 Samuel 19:9
And the evil spirit from the LORD was on Saul, as he sat in his house with his javelin in his hand: and David played with his hand.
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(9) And the evil spirit . . . was upon Saul.—Again the terrible malady was upon the king—not unlikely brought on by the wild storm of jealous fury which Saul allowed to sweep unchecked across his soul. Once more—

“Out of the black mid-tent’s silence, a space of three days,

Not a sound hath escaped to thy servants of prayer nor of


To betoken that Saul and the spirit have ended their strife,

And that, faint in his triumph, the monarch sinks back

upon life.”


But the time when the skilled musician with his Divine strains had roused him into life again was passed (see 1Samuel 16:21-23), not now as in old days, when, to use the words the great poet put into David’s mouth—

“—I looked up to know

If the best I could do had brought solace: he spoke not, but


Lifted up the hand slack at his side, till he laid it with care,

Soft and grave, but in mild settled will, on my brow; through

my hair

The large fingers were pushed, and he bent back my head.

with kind power—

All my face back, intent to peruse it as men do a flower.

Thus held he me there, with his great eye that scrutinized


And oh, all my heart how it loved him! . . .”


This time, seizing the tall spear which was ever by his side, he hurled it with deadly intent at the sorrow-stricken, loving face, and David fled in hot haste from the doomed presence for ever. The LXX. was offended at the statement “evil spirit of (or from) Jehovah,” and cuts the knot by leaving out “Jehovah.” It is, no doubt, a hard saying, and no human expositor has ever yet been able fully to explain it.

To the expression Ruach Jehovah, “Spirit of Jehovah” (for “of” is more accurate than “from”), and the equivalent phrase, Ruach Elohim, “Spirit of God” (1Samuel 16:14-15), the epithet “evil” is added. We cannot attempt to fathom the mysteries of the spirit world—we have absolutely no data—we simply possess in the sacred book a few scattered notices, which indicate the existence of evil spirits. To suppose that these malignant or evil beings were part of the heavenly host employed by the Eternal is a supposition utterly at variance with our conception of the All-Father. We may, however, safely grant (1) the existence of evil spirits—probably beings fallen through sin and disobedience from their high estate; and (2) we may suppose that these evil spirits—all, of course, belonging to the Eternal, even in their deep degradation (so though “evil,” still “spirits of God, or Jehovah,”)—receive occasional permission, for some wise—though to us unknown—reasons, to tempt and plague for a season the souls of certain men.

The introduction to the Book of Job (Job 1:6; Job 2:1-7), and the circumstance which led to the death of King Ahab before Ramoth Gilead (1Kings 22:19-22), at least favour this hypothesis. The presence of those evil spirits, or “devils, who possessed those unhappy ones whom we meet so often in the Gospel story, points to the same conclusion. Why certain souls should have been exposed to this dread experience is, of course, beyond our ken. From the scanty information vouchsafed to us, it seems, however, that the power of the evil spirit was sometimes permitted to be exercised (a) as a trial of faith, as in the case of Job; or (b) as a punishment incurred by the soul’s desertion of God, as in the case of Saul.

19:1-10 How forcible are right words! Saul was, for a time, convinced of the unreasonableness of his enmity to David; but he continued his malice against David. So incurable is the hatred of the seed of the serpent against that of the woman; so deceitful and desperately wicked is the heart of man without the grace of God, Jer 17:9.The days were not expired - David was so rapid in his attack upon the Philistines that he was able to bring the required dowry within the time, and to receive his wife (Michal), before the time had expired within which he was to receive Merab. 1Sa 19:8-17. Saul's Malicious Rage Breaks Out against David.

8-10. David went out, and fought with the Philistines, and slew them with a great slaughter—A brilliant victory was gained over the public enemy. But these fresh laurels of David reawakened in the moody breast of Saul the former spirit of envy and melancholy. On David's return to court, the temper of Saul became more fiendish than ever; the melodious strains of the harp had lost all their power to charm; and in a paroxysm of uncontrollable frenzy he aimed a javelin at the person of David—the missile having been thrown with such force that it pierced the chamber wall. David providentially escaped; but the king, having now thrown off the mask and being bent on aggressive measures, made his son-in-law's situation everywhere perilous.

David’s successes against the Philistines, which should have cheered his heart, made him sad, and the devil watched the opportunity to improve his melancholy, as before he bad done. And the evil spirit from the Lord was upon Saul,.... His melancholy and frantic disorder returned upon those victories of David, and he grew envious, jealous, spiteful, and malicious:

as he sat in his house with his javelin his hand; which either describes the posture he was in when the evil spirit came upon him; or the effects of it, he became dull and melancholy, did not care to go abroad, but kept at home, and was suspicious of everybody; and therefore kept a javelin in his hand to defend himself; or it may be rather to dispatch David with it, when an opportunity should offer, which quickly did:

and David played with his hand; on some instrument of music, particularly the harp, to drive away the evil spirit, the melancholy disorder, from Saul; which showed his humility, that though he was an officer in the army, had a considerable post in it, yet deigned to act the part of a musician to Saul, and his great kindness and affection for him his sovereign, willing to serve him what he could to promote his health and comfort, and the trust and confidence he put in his promise and oath, or rather in the providence of God for his protection in the way of his duty, though he knew how spiteful and injurious Saul had been to him.

And the evil spirit from the LORD was upon Saul, as he sat in his house with his javelin in his hand: and David {d} played with his hand.

(d) He played on his harp to appease the rage of the evil spirit, 1Sa 16:23.

9. the evil spirit] See on 1 Samuel 16:14.

as he sat, &c.] Now he was sitting in his house with his spear in his hand, and David was playing with his hand. These words are a parenthesis picturing the circumstances under which Saul attempted to murder David. On Saul’s spear see at 1 Samuel 18:10.Jonathan warded off the first outbreak of deadly enmity on the part of Saul towards David. When Saul spoke to his son Jonathan and all his servants about his intention to kill David (את־דּוד להמית, i.e., not that they should kill David, but "that he intended to kill him"), Jonathan reported this to David, because he was greatly attached to him, and gave him this advice: "Take heed to thyself in the morning; keep thyself in a secret place, and hide thyself. I will go out and stand beside my father in the field where thou art, and I will talk to my father about thee (בּ דּבּר, as in Deuteronomy 6:7; Psalm 87:3, etc., to talk of or about a person), and see what (sc., he will say), and show it to thee." David was to conceal himself in the field near to where Jonathan would converse with his father about him; not that he might hear the conversation in his hiding-place, but that Jonathan might immediately report to him the result of his conversation, without there being any necessity for going far away from his father, so as to excite suspicion that he was in league with David.
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