1 Samuel 18


Saul’s Growing Fear of David

      • When he had finished speaking with Saul, David and Jonathan’s souls were knit together and Jonathan loved him as he loved himself. From that day on, Saul kept David with him and didn’t let him return home. Then Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as he loved himself. Jonathan took off the robe he was wearing and gave it to David along with his armor, sword, bow, and belt. David was successful on every mission Saul sent him on, so Saul set him over the army which pleased all the people and also Saul’s servants.

        • Just a reminder from last chapter, according to NET Bible’s text critical notes, most LXX mss do not contain the passage above.

        • The relationship between David and Jonathan has become prime fodder for those who are intent on reading biblical support for homosexual relationships into Scripture, despite the very explicit Scriptural condemnation for it found throughout the Bible. The attempt to mischaracterize David and Jonathan’s friendship starts in this passage. Evidence Unseen refutes these claims well in their article titled, “Were David and Jonathan gay?” The following are excerpts:

          • David had multiple wives and concubines (2 Sam. 5:13) and a lust for naked women like Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11). Moreover, Jonathan was also married to a woman (2 Sam. 9). This doesn’t fit with the narrative that David and Jonathan were attracted to each other. Additionally, these passages do not teach that David and Jonathan were sexually attracted to each other, when considered closely.”

        • Jonathan ‘loved’ David (1 Sam. 18:3). This Hebrew term for ‘love’ (ʾāheḇ) is never once used to describe same-sex attraction or homosexual acts. The term used for sex is the Hebrew word ‘know’ (yāḏaʿ). The ‘covenant’ that they make is one of loyalty—not lust. Later, we read that this covenant refers to protecting each other from their enemies (1 Sam. 20:16).”

        • Moreover, throughout this book, many people ‘love’ David, including Saul (1 Sam. 16:21), all Israel (18:16), Michal (18:20), and all of Saul’s servants (18:22). Does this imply that everyone in Israel had sexual lust for David?”

        • David and Jonathan ‘kissed each other’ (1 Sam. 20:41). We shouldn’t project our cold, Western view of physical affection back onto this ancient Near Eastern culture. It was common for men to greet each other with a kiss at that time.” (The author goes on to list 17 verses in support of this statement.)

        • The soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David’ (1 Sam. 18:1). OT scholar Michael L. Brown asserts that this Hebrew expression is ‘never once used in the Old Testament for a sexual or romantic relationship.’ In fact, this Hebrew expression (nep̱eš niqšerāh benep̱eš) is very close to the phrase used in Genesis 44:30 (nep̱eš qešûrāh benep̱eš). Genesis 44 describes a father’s love for his son: Jacob’s love for his son Benjamin.”

        • David and Jonathan were simply not sexual lovers, but close friends. It’s sad that interpreters cannot see the beauty of same-sex friendship, and can only see erotic attraction. A sexually erotic interpretation of David’s friendship with Jonathan is a case of reading Scripture through a hyper-sexualized lens, rather than reading our sexuality through a Scriptural lens.”

        • Considering what we are told about the character and personalities of both David and Jonathan, it is not difficult to see why they would have such an incredibly close friendship. Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers writes:

          • As has been before remarked, the character of the princely son of Saul is one of the most beautiful in the Old Testament story. He was the type of a true warrior of those wild, half-barbarous times—among brave men seemingly the bravest—a perfect soldier, whether fighting as a simple man-at-arms or as the general of an army—chivalrous and generous—utterly free from jealousy—a fervid believer in the God of Israel—a devoted and loyal son—a true patriot in the highest sense of the word, who sealed a devoted life by a noble death, dying as he did fighting for his king and his people.”

        • We read of this friendship as dating from the morrow of the first striking deed of arms performed by David when he slew the giant. It is clear, however, that it was not the personal bravery of the boy hero, or the rare skill he showed in the encounter, which so singularly attracted Prince Jonathan. These things no one would have admired and honoured more than the son of Saul, but it needed more than splendid gallantry and rare skill to attract that great love of which we read. What won Jonathan’s heart was the shepherd boy’s sublime faith, his perfect childlike trust in the ‘Glorious Arm’ of the Lord. Jonathan and David possessed one thing in common—an intense, unswerving belief in the power of Jehovah of Israel to keep and to save all who trusted in Him.”

        • Jonathan’s conferring of his robe and military items certainly has significance, but not of any inappropriate/sexual sort. As the NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible explains:

        • In light of Jonathan’s later references to David’s ascendancy (20:14-15; 23:17), the act here seems to symbolize a transference of the right to the throne to David. Jonathan’s action may perhaps be likened to symbolic acts performed by the prophets, but it almost certainly had legal significance. Texts from Ugarit and Emar, e.g., illustrate the symbolic significance of mantles (robes) in matters relating to inheritance or even royal succession. Two texts describe how ‘a son who refuses to obey his father is forced to leave the house and deposit his mantle on the stool or the door-bolt.’ The implication is that the son no longer holds legal status as a member of the family. Another addresses a situation in which a prince must choose whether to stay with his father, Ammistamru, king of Ugarit, or follow his divorced mother. Should he choose to follow his mother, he must leave his mantle on the throne and depart, with the implication that he has relinquished his legal status as prince. These and other extra-Biblical examples do not fully match Jonathan’s action, as they mention only the relinquishment of the mantle, not its transference to another, but the general point seems clear. A special robe or mantle could serve as a symbol of a person’s identity and status, so that to transfer it to another person signified a transfer of status. In this instance, (as in later instances mentioned above), Jonathan acknowledges David’s right to the throne.”

      • When the soldiers were returning, after David came back from killing the Philistine, the women from all the cities of Israel came out singing and dancing to meet King Saul. They joyfully played tambourines and three-stringed instruments as they sang: “Saul has killed his thousands, and David his ten-thousands.”

        • NLT Illustrated Study Bible notes, “This dramatic increase in number between two lines of Hebrew poetry was a way of intensifying the statement…Because of his great military victories, David was beginning to eclipse Saul (1 Sam 18:16, 30; 21:11).”

      • Saul was furious and those words greatly displeased him. He said, “They have credited David with tens of thousands, but they have credited me with only thousands. What more can he have but the kingdom?” So Saul kept his eye on David from that day forward.

        • Guzik writes, “This is a typical over-reaction in the proud and insecure. Saul could have thought, ‘David did well, and he has his glory today. I’ll keep serving the LORD and have this kind of praise another day.’ Instead, he over-reacted and said, ‘Now what more can he have but the kingdom?‘ However, there is another dynamic at work in Saul: a guilty conscience. He remembered the prophet Samuel told him, ‘The LORD has rejected you from being king over Israel.’ Saul knew his sin disqualified him from being king, and he clung to the throne in the energy of his flesh. An honorable man would step down, but if Saul were an honorable man, he wouldn’t be in this mess. Instead, Saul constantly worried, ‘When will God cast me off the throne? Who will He raise up to replace me?’ This insecurity, borne of guilt, also made Saul over-react to the praise and popularity given to David…Now Saul’s mind is filled with suspicion towards David. He began to hear most everything David said with suspicious ears. He looked at David’s actions with suspicious eyes. His thoughts were twisted by suspicion.”

      • The next day, as David was playing the lyre as he did daily, an evil spirit from God rushed upon Saul and he began to prophesy in his house. There was a spear in Saul’s hand and he hurled it, thinking to himself, “I’ll pin David to the wall.” But David got away twice.

        • HCSB points out a discrepancy in translation here, “Did Saul prophesy, or rave like madman? Some English versions of the Bible state that Saul was prophesying here, but others say that he was raving. The difference arises from how translators choose to render the same Hebrew word…”

          • The HCSB begins by fairly explaining the issue, but the rest of the commentary, in my opinion, does what so many others do- and that is make a decision for rendering the text based on theological presuppositions rather than textual considerations. The obvious issue is that many have a problem with connecting prophecy with what is explicitly stated to be an evil spirit. This is usually accomplished via citations viewed to be culturally relevant refutations. However, I don’t find these explanations to be convincing.

        • NET Bible’s text critical notes offers this discussion of the issue, “This same construction appears in 1 Sam 10:10 ‘the spirit of God rushed upon him and then he prophesied in their midst.’” After a brief discussion of the cultural background data, the same source concludes, “Although most biblical references to Israel’s prophets do not involve ecstatic experiences, the original audience would probably not have made a distinction here, that is, ‘raving’ and ‘prophesying’ would not have been considered alternatives.” So, basically, they aren’t convinced either.

      • Saul was afraid of David because Yahweh was with David, but had left Saul. So Saul sent David away from him and made him a commanding officer. David led the troops and was successful in everything he did because Yahweh was with him. When Saul saw how successful David was, he was afraid of him. But all of Israel and Judah loved David because he was leading their troops.

      • Saul said to David, “Here is my oldest daughter Merab. I will give her to you in marriage if you will fight valiantly for me and fight Yahweh’s battles.” Saul was thinking to himself, “I don’t need to raise a hand against him, let the hand of the Philistines come against him.”

        • Guzik says, “By all outward appearance, Saul is in control. Saul has the throne. Saul has the army. Saul has the spears. Yet Saul was afraid of David because the LORD was with him… This made Saul uncomfortable with David and made it hard for Saul to have David around (Therefore Saul removed him from his presence)…Saul’s desire was not to bless David, but to set him up for harm. Saul’s jealousy has made him manipulative, working a hidden, secret agenda on David.”

      • David replied, “Who am I, and who are my relatives, my father’s family in Israel, that I should become the king’s son-in-law?” When the time came for Saul’s daughter, Merab, to be given to David, she was given in marriage to Adriel the Meholathite instead.

        • Guzik explains, “This was a trap because of the dowry that Saul would demand. In that day, a dowry was required whenever a man married. The dowry was paid to the bride’s father, and the more important and prestigious the bride and her family, the higher the dowry price. Since David was from a humble family, there was no way he could pay the dowry for the daughter of a king. Saul knew this and will demand that David kill 100 Philistines as a dowry. Saul figured that the job was too big and too dangerous for David, and he would be killed gaining the dowry to marry a king’s daughter…When David was initially hesitant to marry Merab, Saul tried another strategy. He suddenly gave her to another man, to try and make David angry or jealous.”

      • Now Saul’s daughter Michal loved David and when this was reported to Saul he was pleased. He thought, “I’ll give her to him so that she will become a trap for him and so the hand of the Philistines will be against him.” So Saul said to David, “Now you have a second opportunity to become my son-in-law.” Then he commanded his servants, “Talk to David privately and say, ‘Look, the king is pleased with you and all his servants love you. Become his son-in-law now.’” Saul’s servants told these things to David, but he replied, “Does becoming the king’s son-in-law seem like a small matter to you? I’m just poor and a man of no reputation.”

        • Guzik writes, “It doesn’t surprise us that Michal was attracted to David, because of his character, qualities, and fame. But as is evident later in David’s marriage to Michal, she was not really attracted to David’s heart for the LORD.” How could she be a trap for him? Guzik continues, “This may be meant in two ways. First, obviously Saul wanted David to be snared by the dowry. But it may also be that Saul knew Michal’s character and heart and knew that she would be snare for him as a wife, as turned out to be the case in some regard (2 Samuel 6:16-23).”

      • The servants told Saul what David said and he replied, “Tell David this: ‘The king wants no other bride price except 100 Philistine foreskins to take revenge on his enemies.” Now Saul’s intention was to cause David’s death by the hand of the Philistines.

      • When his servants reported these terms to David, it pleased David to accept the offer to become the king’s son-in-law. Before the allotted time had expired, David and his men went out and killed 200 Philistine men. He brought their foreskins and presented them in full number to the king to become his son-in-law. Then Saul gave him his daughter Michal in marriage.

      • But when Saul realized that Yahweh was with David and that his daughter, Michal, loved him, Saul became even more afraid of David. Saul was David’s enemy from then on. Every time the Philistine commanders came out to battle, David was more successful than all of Saul’s servants. So his name became very well-known.

          • NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible writes, “…Payment of a bride price was common enough in the OT world, as it is still in some cultures today. It was the prerogative of the bride’s father to set the price, and Saul set it dangerously high at 100 Philistine foreskins. Body parts (hands, heads, etc.) often served as trophies of war, and Saul’s unusual choice was designed to assure that David actually killed Philistines- others among Israel’s neighbors would likely have been circumcised…David met Saul’s challenge twice over presenting 200 foreskins…This success was viewed by Saul as evidence that Yahweh was with David (v. 28), and his fear of him grew into full-blown enmity (v. 29).”

        • NET Bible’s text critical notes adds the following, “The final sentence of v. 29 is absent in most LXX mss…Verse 30 is absent in most LXX mss.”

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