The Rise of David (18:1-16)
David has defeated Goliath, leading to Israel’s victory over the Philistines. David’s success as given to him by the power of the Lord will change David’s life. First, we see Jonathan, the son of Saul builds a relationship with David. Jonathan becomes so connected to David that he loves him like he loves himself. Now many have tried to import their 21 century thinking into this text and suggest more than the text reveals. Love in ancient Near Eastern culture is not about mere feelings like we often speak of it. Rather, love speaks to loyalty and faithfulness. Jonathan is going to loyal to David like he would be to himself. Jonathan makes a covenant with David, stripping his robe and giving it to David. This is a monumental declaration. Jonathan is the son of King Saul and is the heir to the throne. But Jonathan gives David his princely robe, indicated he has relinquished this legal status. Jonathan will be loyal to David as Jonathan understands that David is the rightful heir to the throne because God has anointed him to be the next king. Jonathan understands that David is the heir apparent and God’s chosen one.
David has great success as he serves Saul. We read earlier that David was in Saul’s service because of a tormenting spirit sent by God to Saul. After the victory over Goliath, David is now permanently put to work in Saul’s service (18:2). When David would go out in Israel’s battles, he was successful wherever he went. David is so successful that Saul makes him commander over his armies (18:5). The people, soldiers, and officers of Israel are all pleased to see this happen. But as Saul travels to various towns, the women of the cities come out a sing a celebration song. The words of the song were, “Saul as struck down his thousands, and David his ten thousands.” The celebration song was not a criticism of Saul but a praise of what David has accomplished. But Saul becomes very angry at these words because he thinks David is going to take the kingdom from him. Remember that Samuel told Saul that the king would be taken away from him. But rather than accepting this truth, Saul is going to be jealous and fearful of David. From this point on, Saul is going to keep a close eye on David (18:9). Notice Saul’s worry came from thinking about himself. We have seen in Saul a great concern about people honoring him. Saul is concerned about what people think about him. Saul wants people to honor him (15:30). This concern for people to pay attention to him leads him to be jealous of David. Saul will watch David with suspicion because of his own jealousy and his own need for people to pay attention to him.
The next day God sends the tormenting spirit over Saul, as had been happening ever since David’s anointing and Saul’s rebellion. David is in the room playing the lyre to soothe his tormented soul. Saul had his spear in his hand (a very unusual thing to be holding) and throws his spear at David. Saul thinks he will kill David, pinning David to the wall by throwing his spear at him. David has to escape Saul twice from doing this to him. The jealousy of Saul continues as he understands that the Lord was with David and no longer with him (18:12). Now we must read verse 13 with the lens of what we have been told so far. Saul gives David a promotion as a commander of a thousand soldiers. But he does not do this because he likes David, but because he is afraid of David. Saul sends David out to battles to have David killed. But everywhere David goes, he is successful because the Lord was with him (18:15). Thus, the whole nation loves David as he brings victory to Israel in every battle (18:16).
The Plans of Saul (18:17-30)
So Saul has another plan to have David killed. Saul tells David to go fight some battles for Israel and he will give David his daughter for a wife. The reasoning is given to us in verse 17. Saul thinks that he will not try to kill him but let the Philistines kill him. But look at the humility of David in verse 18. “Who am I that I should be son-in-law to the king?” Who are you? You are the one who killed Goliath! You are one who leads Israel into victory after victory! Yet none of David’s success has gone to his head. As expected, David is victorious but Saul does not give his daughter to David. Instead, he gave Merab to another. We see a lack of integrity with Saul. Remember that David was already supposed to marry Saul’s daughter for killing Goliath, along with receiving great riches and being free from taxation (17:25). Apparently these things had not been given to David. But another daughter of Saul, Michal, loved David. Saul sees this as an opportunity. Saul will use his daughter as a trap for David. Saul says that he will offer his daughter to David. David expresses his humility again (18:23) and says it would be a great honor to become the son-in-law to the king. To marry his daughter, David will have to bring 100 foreskins of the Philistines. So now we see the trap that Saul thinks he will get David killed if he has to go kill 100 Philistines and bring back their foreskins. Problem solved in Saul’s mind. But David goes and kills 200 Philistines and brings back those foreskins to Saul. Now Saul is even more afraid of David. He gives his daughter, Michal, to David for marriage. But Saul all the more understands that the Lord is with David and now he will be David’s enemy always (18:29). Meanwhile, as often as the Philistines attack, David is great success, even more than Saul so that David is highly praised in Israel.
The Deliverance of David (19:1-24)
Chapter 19 is going to confirm how the Lord was with David. Now that Saul is even more jealous and sees David as a greater threat than before, Saul is going to actively try to kill David. Yet David is the Lord’s anointed. So we are going to see great irony in how the Lord will be with and rescue his anointed.
First, Jonathan rescues David from Saul. Saul tells Jonathan and his servants to go kill David. Jonathan likes David and has made a covenant to be faithful to David as the Lord’s anointed. So Jonathan tells David to hide and he will go speak to his father. Listen to the words of verses 4-5. David has not sinned against you but has done good for you. He struck down the Philistine and the Lord worked a great salvation for all Israel that you saw yourself and rejoiced. Do not sin against innocent blood by killing him without cause. So Jonathan convinces Saul to not kill David. Saul takes an oath that he will not put David to death (19:6). Jonathan tells David and David returns to the presence of Saul. So Jonathan, the son of Saul, rescues David.
But a war with the Philistines breaks out again. Once again David goes to battle them and is greatly successful against them. This brings back Saul’s jealousy, a tormenting spirit returns on Saul, and Saul tries to kill David again, throwing his spear at him. So David escapes and leaves Saul. Saul sends his servants to go kill him. The way they will kill David is to watch his house. The next time David leaves his house, they will kill him. David’s wife is aware of the plan and lets David down through the window so that he can escape. She puts a large household idol in the bed, covered it with clothes and some goat hair to make it look like David is sleeping in bed because he is sick. So she tells these servants who are looking to ambush David that he is sick in bed. So they tell Saul this. Saul sends a message back to just go inside and kill him if he is sick in bed. What an easy thing to do! They go inside and find that David is not there but has escaped and this whole thing is a ruse. When the servants confront Michal about her deception, she says that David made her do it or else he would have killed her. So David escapes a second time, this time because Saul’s daughter rescued him. God is saving David from Saul, with great irony, through Saul’s children.
So David flees to Ramah where Samuel is. We have not seen Samuel in a long time in the account of this book. David tells Samuel all that Saul is doing to him (19:18). So Samuel and David live in Naioth of Ramah but news gets back to Saul that David is there. So another army is sent to go kill David there. But when they arrive, Samuel is standing with a company of prophets who are prophesying. As these soldiers approach, the Spirit of the Lord comes over them and they start prophesying, preventing them from pursuing David (19:20). Saul is told what happened so he sends more men to get David. When they arrive, the Spirit of the Lord comes upon those men and they start prophesying, prevent them from looking for David. Saul finds out so he goes there himself. The Spirit of the Lord comes upon Saul, so that he strips off his clothes, prophesying all night while laying naked on the ground. All of this is done so that David can escape. This time the Lord directly saves David from Saul. Please note the symbolism of what took place. Saul is compelled by the Spirit of the Lord take off his own kingly garments, showing the loss of his kingship by God’s power. Jonathan willingly yields his clothing to the anointed one, David. Saul unwillingly takes off his kingly clothing to show the rise of the anointed one, David.
There are a number of pictures that we are to see in these two chapters. First, we see the rise and fall of Saul. The way Saul is pictured in his fall is mirroring his rise. Saul came to Samuel at Ramah when he was declared to be king (9:6). Now Saul comes to Samuel at Ramah when he is losing his kingship (19:22). Saul came asking for directions at a well to find Samuel (9:11) and now Saul comes asking for directions at a well looking for Samuel again (19:22). Saul is anointed and prophesies with a group of prophets (10:5-6) and now he prophesies with a group of prophets again (19:23). The people marvel when Saul prophesies the first time, saying, “Is Saul also among the prophets?” (10:12). Now the people ridicule when Saul prophesies, saying, “Is Saul also among the prophets?“ (19:24). Finally, the Spirit of the Lord came on Saul and invested him with the authority of being king (11:6). Now the Spirit of the Lord comes on Saul and divests him of his clothing, symbolizing that he has lost his authority for being king (19:24). The Lord is picturing the rise and fall of Saul with the telling of these important details.
Saul is stubbornly resisting the command of the Lord and trying to hold on to his power rather than yielding to the will of God. Saul is on the wrong side. Saul is not looking to be on the Lord’s side. He is trying to make the Lord be on his side. What happened this time to Saul? We see the problem of anger and jealousy. We see that anger and jealousy cause us to lose our spiritual, godly minds. Jealousy has skewed Saul’s thinking. There is nothing that David did against Saul. But all that he sees is David doing things against him. Have you noticed that anger does this? Have you noticed that jealousy and envy do this to us? We see everything in a negative light. We do not see actions being done from pure motives. Rather, we see people trying to get us, hurt us, or the like. This happens in marriages, friendships, and work relationships. We get jealous and angry and we are the ones who end up destroying the relationship. We are the ones who make the mess. We just do not like their success and we ruin the good relationship we have. We become so caught up in defending ourselves that we no longer see clearly. This is what Saul did. When we are filled with jealousy and anger, we are stubbornly resisting the Lord. We are not yielding to the Lord but are trying to hold on to our reputation. We care about how people think of us rather than what God thinks of us. We must root out jealousy and anger from our hearts.
Now I want us to not forget the messianic imagery that we have been seeing in David because the picture is clear here also. The anointed will be hated by the leadership of Israel and try to have him killed. Remember that we are told that the leadership is jealous and fearful of Jesus.
Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to release for the crowd any one prisoner whom they wanted. And they had then a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. So when they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” For he knew that it was out of envy that they had delivered him up. (Matthew 27:15–18 ESV)
But the anointed will be successful and bring victory as the multitudes will love him. God will allow his anointed to experience trouble and danger. But his anointed will ultimately be protected and bring victory. The words of Jonathan will ring just as true for the Lord’s anointed, Jesus, when he comes. He has not sinned against you. His actions have brought you good. The Lord worked a great salvation for all Israel through him. If you kill him, you are killing him without cause, sinning against innocent blood (19:4-5). Pilate repeatedly declared the innocence of Jesus. No guilt was found in him. Pilate even declared to the crowd that he was innocent of this man’s blood (Matthew 27:24).
One more picture we see here. The garments are symbolic of kingship and the kingdom in this book. We saw Saul tear Samuel’s clothes, indicating the tearing of the kingdom away from Saul. Jonathan gives his clothes to David, showing that the kingship will not come to Jonathan but to David. Saul is forced by the Spirit of the Lord to take off his clothes, showing his kingship was taken away by the power of God. There is a picture of this also in John’s gospel. John’s gospel is a highly symbolic gospel and I want you to turn to John 13 to see the picture. You know the scene well where Jesus is washing his disciples’ feet. Carefully look at what the text says in verse 3.
Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. (John 13:3–5 ESV)
Notice the attention that is placed on Jesus setting aside his outer garments and taking a towel. The imagery is that he will no longer have the kingly garments that he rightly possesses. Notice the text emphasizes that he knew the Father had given him all things and that he came from God. So he has all kingly rights and privileges. But what does he do? He lays those aside and ties a towel around himself. Now he looks like a servant. Now he is in a menial role which is why Peter rejects what Jesus is doing. He now will be a servant to all as he gives his life for the world. But now carefully look at verse 12.
When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you?” (John 13:12 ESV)
He put on his outer garment and resumed his place after washing their feet. Jesus will take back his kingly robes and his kingly place after making himself the offering for sins. Jesus will show himself to be the son of David, full of humility. Saul tries to hold on this power and authority at all costs. Jesus tells us to wash feet. You set aside your authority and who you think you are. Be humble and serve like Jesus. Jesus gave himself and we give ourselves.