1 Samuel 18
Benson Commentary
And it came to pass, when he had made an end of speaking unto Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.
1 Samuel 18:1. The soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David — On account of the prudence and modesty of his discourse and behaviour after such an heroic action, and the other excellent virtues which shone forth both in his speeches and actions; for the service he had done to God and to his people; and for the similitude of their age and qualities.

And Saul took him that day, and would let him go no more home to his father's house.
1 Samuel 18:2. Saul took him that day — By which it appears, that, before this, David had not had his constant residence at court, after he first came thither, but went home to his father when Saul was well, and had no need of him. This confirms the remarks made on the former chapter.

Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul.
1 Samuel 18:3. Jonathan and David made a covenant — Solemnly entered into an agreement of perpetual friendship. Because he loved him, &c. — Or rather, as Le Clerc renders it, so that each loved the other as his own soul. For it cannot be supposed but that David loved Jonathan as well as Jonathan loved him. Their covenant seems to have implied an engagement for mutual assistance and defence, even until death, and kindness to the posterity of each other after either of them was dead. This was wisely ordered by the providence of God, who, by this means, preserved David in that sharp persecution which shortly after rose against him at court.

And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was upon him, and gave it to David, and his garments, even to his sword, and to his bow, and to his girdle.
1 Samuel 18:4. Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was upon him — This he did that he might do honour to, as well as show his affection for, David. For it is probable that David was before clothed in a rustic habit, not fit to appear in at court.

And David went out whithersoever Saul sent him, and behaved himself wisely: and Saul set him over the men of war, and he was accepted in the sight of all the people, and also in the sight of Saul's servants.
1 Samuel 18:5. David went out, &c. — Upon military expeditions, of which that phrase is often used. And behaved himself wisely — Showed as much prudence in his conduct as he did courage. Saul set him over the men of war — Not over all, for Abner was general, as we speak, of all his forces; but he made him captain of his guard, or gave him some principal command in his army.

And it came to pass as they came, when David was returned from the slaughter of the Philistine, that the women came out of all cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet king Saul, with tabrets, with joy, and with instruments of musick.
1 Samuel 18:6-9. The women came out of all the cities — All the neighbouring cities. And the women answered one another as they played — They sang, as well as played on musical instruments. And they sang alternately, as they did Exodus 15:21. And the burden of the song seems to have been that which follows. And said, Saul hath slain his thousands, &c. — To understand this it is necessary to observe, that the usual way of singing at that time was in parts. So that some of these women having taken up or begun the song with, Saul hath slain his thousands, another party answered them in their turn in the same strain, And David his ten thousands. And Saul was very wroth — He began to be jealous they would advance David to the throne in a little time, having so highly magnified him above their king. And Saul eyed David — Narrowly observed him, or looked upon him with an envious eye.

And the women answered one another as they played, and said, Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands.
And Saul was very wroth, and the saying displeased him; and he said, They have ascribed unto David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed but thousands: and what can he have more but the kingdom?
And Saul eyed David from that day and forward.
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.
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.

And Saul cast the javelin; for he said, I will smite David even to the wall with it. And David avoided out of his presence twice.
And Saul was afraid of David, because the LORD was with him, and was departed from Saul.
1 Samuel 18:12-13. Saul was afraid of David — Lest, as he had gained the favour of God, and of all the people, he should also take away his kingdom. Saul removed him from him — From his presence and court; which he did because he feared lest David should find an opportunity to kill him, as he had designed to kill David; because his presence now made him more sad than ever his music had made him cheerful; and principally, that hereby he might expose him to the greatest hazards. And made him his captain over a thousand — Instead of captain of his guard, which required his attendance at court, he gave him a command abroad; but where, or at what distance, we are not informed. This he did, hoping he might be killed in some expedition, or that an opportunity might occur for taking away his life privately. And he went out and came in, &c. — As the leader of those thousand men.

Therefore Saul removed him from him, and made him his captain over a thousand; and he went out and came in before the people.
And David behaved himself wisely in all his ways; and the LORD was with him.
1 Samuel 18:14-15. David behaved himself wisely — He headed them in all their expeditions, with a bravery and conduct equally distinguished; greatest in command, but greater in his example. He behaved in such a manner that no exception could be taken at any of his actions. The Lord was with him — Made all his undertakings prosperous. Saul’s fears, however, increased in proportion as he saw David still behave so well.

Wherefore when Saul saw that he behaved himself very wisely, he was afraid of him.
But all Israel and Judah loved David, because he went out and came in before them.
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.
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!

And David said unto Saul, Who am I? and what is my life, or my father's family in Israel, that I should be son in law to the king?
1 Samuel 18:18. David said, Who am I? and what is my life? — How little is my life worth, that by the exposing of that to some hazard, I should purchase a king’s daughter! In these expressions David showeth not only his humility, but also his wisdom, in discovering so deep a sense of his own meanness, that Saul might see how far he was from aspiring at the kingdom. Or my father’s family in Israel? — In riches, for otherwise David’s family was as noble as any in Israel. That I should be son-in-law to the king — This was not a refusal of the honour but a modest acknowledgment how unworthy he was of it; and it indicates such modesty and prudence, that, considering David’s youth, and all other circumstances, we may well conclude that nothing but the Spirit of the Lord being with him could have made him act so wisely.

But it came to pass at the time when Merab Saul's daughter should have been given to David, that she was given unto Adriel the Meholathite to wife.
1 Samuel 18:19. She was given unto Adriel — The son of Barzillai, as he is called 2 Samuel 21:8. This was an act of great injustice, at the same time that it was a most high affront to David, and accordingly this marriage was accursed by God, and the children begotten in it were, by God’s appointment, cut off, 2 Samuel 21. How Jonathan resented this usage of David we are not told. It is likely his duty to his father made him entreat him to take it patiently, and to look upon Saul as sometimes beside himself, and one that did not know what he did.

And Michal Saul's daughter loved David: and they told Saul, and the thing pleased him.
1 Samuel 18:20-21. The thing pleased him — Not out of any love to David, or desire to perform his promise; but because he hoped, by her means, to bring his ends about of destroying David. That she may be a snare to him — He hoped his daughter, in obedience to him, might be persuaded to bring him into some snare that he would lay for him: or that, being exposed to great dangers, (which he was to undergo, as a condition of having her to wife,) he might perish in some of them. Thou shalt be this day my son-in- law — That is, shortly, within a little time. In the one of the twain — Saul seems in this to have told David that though some reasons of state had obliged him to give his elder daughter to Adriel, yet still he would have him for his son-in-law, by giving the other unto him.

And Saul said, I will give him her, that she may be a snare to him, and that the hand of the Philistines may be against him. Wherefore Saul said to David, Thou shalt this day be my son in law in the one of the twain.
And Saul commanded his servants, saying, Commune with David secretly, and say, Behold, the king hath delight in thee, and all his servants love thee: now therefore be the king's son in law.
1 Samuel 18:22-23. Commune with David secretly — It seems David was not forward to embrace Saul’s offer, having been before so grossly abused. Therefore Saul ordered his courtiers, in private discourse, to take occasion to persuade him to it. Seeing that I am a poor man — Having no estate, and of small credit; and therefore unable to endow her according to her quality.

And Saul's servants spake those words in the ears of David. And David said, Seemeth it to you a light thing to be a king's son in law, seeing that I am a poor man, and lightly esteemed?
And the servants of Saul told him, saying, On this manner spake David.
And Saul said, Thus shall ye say to David, The king desireth not any dowry, but an hundred foreskins of the Philistines, to be avenged of the king's enemies. But Saul thought to make David fall by the hand of the Philistines.
1 Samuel 18:25. The king desireth not any dowry — It was customary in those times for the husband to give a present, or, as it is rendered, a dowry, to his father-in-law when he received his wife. But a hundred foreskins of the Philistines — Saul made this demand of David, probably thinking that the necessity he would be under of attacking the Philistines at a disadvantage, or, at all hazards, in order to get the proposed number of foreskins within the time limited, would bring him into such dangerous encounters, as he could scarcely escape from. It is likely that Saul required the foreskins rather than the heads of the Philistines, to take away all possibility of David’s deceiving him, by bringing the heads of such of his own men as might fall in battle, and passing them on him for the heads of the Philistines.

And when his servants told David these words, it pleased David well to be the king's son in law: and the days were not expired.
1 Samuel 18:26-27. The days were not expired — That is, the time allowed by Saul to David for the execution of this exploit. Two hundred — He doubled the number required; to oblige Saul the more to the performance of his promise, and to show his great respect and affection to Saul’s daughter.

Wherefore David arose and went, he and his men, and slew of the Philistines two hundred men; and David brought their foreskins, and they gave them in full tale to the king, that he might be the king's son in law. And Saul gave him Michal his daughter to wife.
And Saul saw and knew that the LORD was with David, and that Michal Saul's daughter loved him.
1 Samuel 18:28-29. Saul knew that the Lord was with David — He was convinced of it, by the success which he constantly had in all his undertakings. And Saul was yet the more afraid of David — Having thus advanced him; and seeing no hope of bringing his designs to pass against him. And Saul became David’s enemy continually — He was every day more resolved to destroy him. Such strange blindness did his anger and hatred, and such like passions, bring upon him, that he set himself against him, who he saw and knew, had God for his friend! In what a lost condition must Saul’s mind have now been!

And Saul was yet the more afraid of David; and Saul became David's enemy continually.
Then the princes of the Philistines went forth: and it came to pass, after they went forth, that David behaved himself more wisely than all the servants of Saul; so that his name was much set by.
1 Samuel 18:30. The princes of the Philistines went forth — To fight with the Israelites: who had highly incensed them by David’s late action, as well as by former losses. David behaved himself more wisely than all the servants of Saul, &c. — By discovering, it is likely, the designs of the Philistines, and preventing them. For we do not read that they came to a battle.

Benson Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

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