1 Samuel 18
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
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. the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David] The same expressive phrase is used of Jacob’s love for Benjamin in Genesis 44:30, which might be rendered “seeing his soul is knit up with the lad’s soul.”

loved him as his own soul] Cp. 1 Samuel 20:17; Deuteronomy 13:6; 2 Samuel 1:26. Thus commenced that attachment “which is the first Biblical instance of a romantic friendship, such as was common afterwards in Greece, and has been since in Christendom; and is remarkable, both as giving its sanction to these, and as filled with a pathos of its own, which has been imitated but never surpassed, in modern works of fiction. Each found in each the affection that he found not in his own family.” Dean Stanley in Dict. of Bible, I. 1122. Theseus and Peirithous; Achilles and Patroclus; Orestes and Pylades; Damon and Pythias; Epaminondas and Pelopidas; are the most familiar instances in classical literature.

Ch. 1 Samuel 18:1-5. Jonathan’s friendship for David

1–5. This section also is not found in the Septuagint (B).

And Saul took him that day, and would let him go no more home to his father's house.
Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul.
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.
4. Jonathan stript himself, &c.] Jonathan gave David (1) his mĕîl or long outer robe for ordinary wear (see on 1 Samuel 2:19); (2) his military dress (1 Samuel 17:38) and girdle: (3) even his sword, and the famous bow which was his special weapon (2 Samuel 1:22). The act was at once a ratification of their compact and a pubic mark of honour. See Genesis 41:42; Esther 6:8. We may compare the exchange of armour between Glaucus and Diomede when they met before Troy, as a pledge of old family friendship (Hom. Il. VI. 230).

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.
5. David went out &c] David was appointed to some post of command, and “went out” upon military expeditions. In these “he behaved himself wisely”—the word combines the ideas of prudence and consequent success: and in spite of this sudden promotion, which might naturally have excited the jealousy of the courtiers, won their good-will. This verse anticipates, and describes summarily facts which are mentioned again in 1 Samuel 18:13-16 in their proper place.

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.
6–9. The celebration of David’s victory

6. And it came to pass, &c.] The narrative has made a digression to relate the circumstances of David’s permanent reception into Saul’s service, the commencement of the friendship between him and Jonathan, and his ultimate promotion and success. It now goes back to relate the welcome which David received when the army returned in triumph from the successful completion of the Philistine war. Ch. 1 Samuel 18:6 is to be read (as it actually stands in the Sept.) in connexion with 1 Samuel 17:54, though some time may have elapsed, during which the army was occupied in following up its first success. The Sept. reads 1 Samuel 18:6 thus; “And the dancing women came out of all the cities of Israel to meet David, with tabrets and rejoicing and cymbals.”

the women came out, &c.] To escort the victors home with singing and dancing. Dancing was the usual expression of rejoicing upon occasions of national triumph like the present; cp. Exodus 15:20-21; Jdg 11:34; and at religions festivals (Psalm 68:25; Psalm 149:3). These dances were as a rule confined to women—David’s dancing in 2 Samuel 6:14 was exceptional—and probably resembled the modern Oriental dance, in which the evolutions are extemporaneous, and not confined to any fixed rule, but varied at the pleasure of the leading dancer, who is imitated by the rest of the company.

with tabrets, &c.] The dance was accompanied (1) by the “tabret” or “timbrel” (Exodus 15:20; Jdg 11:34): i.e. the hand-drum, an instrument still used by the Arabs, and described as “a hoop (sometimes with pieces of brass fixed in it to make a jingling) over which a piece of parchment is distended. It is beaten with the fingers:”—(2) “with joy:” i.e. jubilant shouts and songs: (3) “with instruments of music;” either “triangles,” or “three-stringed instruments.”

And the women answered one another as they played, and said, Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands.
7. answered one another] The women who “played”—i.e. danced and gesticulated—sang in antiphonal chorus (Exodus 15:21) the refrain of a popular song, which evidently became widely current, as it was well known even among the Philistines (1 Samuel 21:11, 1 Samuel 29:5).

David his ten thousands] For the Philistine champion was a host in himself. Comp. the people’s words to David: “thou art worth ten thousand of us” (2 Samuel 18:3).

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.
9. Saul eyed David] With a suspicious jealousy which soon ripened into a deadly hatred. There is no need to suppose that David’s anointing by Samuel had been reported to him. “The prophet had distinctly told him in the day of his sin, that the Lord had rent the kingdom from him, and had given it to a neighbour that was better than he. And in David he could read the marks of such a man.” Wilberforce’s Heroes of Heb. Hist. p. 245.

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.
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.

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.
11. Saul cast the javelin; for he said] Probably; Saul lifted (or brandished) the spear, and said. It does not seem to be meant that he actually cast it, as he did upon the later occasion (1 Samuel 19:10). The threatening gesture was twice repeated, and David prudently withdrew on both occasions.

avoided] “Withdrew,” “escaped.” The word is connected with the adj. void, and Norm. Fr. voider, to empty, from Lat. viduare. It is generally transitive: comp. “six of us only stayed and the rest avoided the room” (Bacon): but the intransitive usage is supported, e.g., by Shakespeare, Tempest, IV. 1.

“Well done, avoid, no more.”

And Saul was afraid of David, because the LORD was with him, and was departed from Saul.
12–16. David’s advancement

12. In the Sept. (B) this verse follows immediately after the clause of 1 Samuel 18:8, “to me they have ascribed but thousands,” and reads simply, “and Saul was afraid of David.”

Therefore Saul removed him from him, and made him his captain over a thousand; and he went out and came in before the people.
13. made him his captain over a thousand] What was summarily mentioned by anticipation in 1 Samuel 18:5 is here related with more detail in the order of time.

And David behaved himself wisely in all his ways; and the LORD was with him.
Wherefore when Saul saw that he behaved himself very wisely, he was afraid of him.
15. was afraid of him] Stood in awe of him, a stronger expression than that in 1 Samuel 18:12, denoting primarily the avoidance of the person feared. (Cp. Sept. εὐλαβεῖτο ἀπὸ προσώπου αὐτοῦ.)

But all Israel and Judah loved David, because he went out and came in before them.
16. because he went out and came in before them] Acted as their leader in war. Saul made David captain over a thousand partly to get rid of him from his presence, partly perhaps in the hope that he might lose his life in battle (1 Samuel 18:17; 1 Samuel 18:25): but the result was that he became firmly established in the affections of the people. Cp. 1 Samuel 18:5.

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.
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.

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?
18. what is my life] Probably, who are my folk, even my father’s family? David acknowledges himself unworthy of the proposed honour on the score of social position.

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.
19. the Meholathite] Of Abel-Meholah, a town in the Jordan valley near Beth-shan. It was the birth-place of Elisha (1 Kings 19:16). Why Saul changed his purpose does not appear. It has been inferred from 1 Samuel 18:25 that Adriel had given a rich dowry.

And Michal Saul's daughter loved David: and they told Saul, and the thing pleased him.
20–30. David’s marriage with Michal

20. Michal Saul’s daughter loved David] According to the text of the Sept. this follows immediately upon 1 Samuel 18:16. By his bravery David won the affections of the people, and even of the king’s daughter.

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.
21. a snare] Michal was to he the bait to lure David into some venturesome raid upon the Philistines in which he might lose his life

Wherefore Saul, &c.] Probably, And Saul said to David a second time, Now shalt thou be my son-in-law. The Sept. (B) omits the clause, but adds, “Now the hand of the Philistines was against Saul.”

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.
22. Commune] i.e. “converse.” The word is derived from Lat. communicare, through the old Fr. communier. It would seem that David mistrusted Saul and returned no answer, so Saul set his courtiers to work to persuade him.

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?
23. a poor man] And therefore unable to offer the “dowry,” or price such as it was usual for the suitor to pay to the father of the bride, either in money (Genesis 34:12) or in service (Genesis 29:20). The same custom prevailed among the ancient Greeks (Hom. Il. XVI. 178; Od. VIII. 318), Babylonians, and Assyrians, and still survives in the East. Tacitus notices it as a peculiarity of the Germans, that “it is not the wife who offers a dowry to her husband, but the husband to his wife” (Germ. c. 18).

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.
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.
26. the days were not expired] Apparently referring to some time which had been fixed for David to accept or decline the king’s offer. The Sept. (B) omits the words.

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.
27. two hundred men] He slew double the stipulated number of Philistines. The Sept. however reads “one hundred.” Cp. 2 Samuel 3:14.

in full tale] “Tale” = a number told or counted off, a reckoning. Compare

“Every shepherd tells his tale

Under the hawthorn in the dale.”

Milton, L’Allegro, l. 67.

And Saul saw and knew that the LORD was with David, and that Michal Saul's daughter loved him.
28. that Michal Saul’s daughter loved him] The reading of the Sept. certainly suits the context better: “that all Israel loved him.”

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.
30. Then the princes, &c.] “And the princes, &c., and it came to pass as often as they went forth, &c.” This notice of David’s continual success and growing popularity gives the ground of Saul’s increasing enmity, and prepares the way for the narrative of the next chapter.

set by] i.e. esteemed. Cp. Psalm 15:4 in the P. B. V. “He that setteth not by himself.”

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