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Bible Commentaries
1 Samuel 19

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and HomileticalLange's Commentary

Verses 1-24

Open Deadly Persecution of David by Saul, and David’s Flight from Saul

1 Samuel 19-27

I. Jonathan proves his friendship for David in Saul’s open attempts on David’s life. David’s first flight from Saul’s murderous attempts, and his escape by Michal’s help

1 Samuel 19:1-24

1And Saul spake to Jonathan his son, and to all his servants that they should 2kill [about killing1] David. But Jonathan, Saul’s son, delighted much in David. And Jonathan told David, saying, Saul, my father, seeketh to kill thee; now, therefore, I pray thee [and now] take heed to thyself [ins. I pray thee] until the morning [to-morrow morning,2 om. until the], and abide in a secret place, and hide 3thyself.3 And I will go out and stand beside my father in the field where thou art, and I will commune [speak] with [to] my father of thee; and what I see [I 4will see what he says] that [and] I [om. I] will tell thee. And Jonathan spake good of David unto Saul his father, and said unto him, Let not the king sin against his servant, against David; because [for] he hath not sinned against thee, and 5because [om. because] his works have been to thee-ward very good. For [And] he did put his life in his hand, and slew the Philistine, and the Lord [Jehovah] wrought a great salvation for all Israel;4 thou sawest it and didst rejoice; wherefore, then, wilt thou sin against innocent blood, to slay David without a cause? 6And Saul hearkened unto the voice of Jonathan, and Saul sware, As the Lord 7[Jehovah] liveth, he shall not be slain.5 And Jonathan called David, and Jonathan showed him all these things. And Jonathan brought David to Saul, and he was in his presence as in times past.

8And there was war again, and David went out6 and fought with the Philistines, 9and slew them with a great slaughter, and they fled from him. And the [an] evil spirit from the Lord [Jehovah7] was upon Saul; as he sat [and he was sitting] in his house, with [and] his javelin [ins. was] in his hand, and David played [was 10playing] with his hand. And Saul sought to smite David even [om. even] to the wall with the javelin, but he slipped away [got away] out of Saul’s presence, and he smote the javelin into the wall. And David fled, and escaped that night.8 11Saul also [And Saul] sent messengers unto David’s house to watch him, and9 to slay him in the morning; and Michal, David’s wife, told him, saying, If thou save 12not thy life to-night, to-morrow thou shalt be slain. So [And] Michal let David 13down through a [the] window, and he went and fled and escaped. And Michal took an image [the teraphim],10 and laid it in the bed, and put a pillow [the quilt] of goats’ hair for his bolster [at its head],11 and covered it with a cloth [the coverlet]. 14And when Saul sent messengers to take David, she12 said, He is sick. 15And Saul sent the messengers again [om. again] to see David, saying, Bring him 16up to me in the bed, that I may slay him. And when the messengers were come in [And the messengers came in and] behold, there was an image13 in the bed, with a pillow of goats’ hair for his bolster [behold the teraphim in the bed and the quilt 17of goats’ hair at its head14]. And Saul said unto Michal, Why hast thou deceived me so, and sent away mine enemy, that he is escaped? And Michal answered [said to] Saul, He said unto me, Let me go,15 why should I kill thee?

18And David fled and escaped and came to Samuel to Ramah, and told him all that Saul had done to him. And he and Samuel went and dwelt in Naioth.16 19, 20And it was told Saul, saying, Behold David is at Naioth in Ramah. And Saul sent messengers to take David; and when they saw the company17 of the prophets prophesying, and Samuel standing as appointed [as leader] over them, the Spirit of God was [came] upon the messengers of Saul, and they also prophesied. 21And when [om. when] it was told Saul, [ins. and] he sent other messengers, and they [ins. also] prophesied likewise [om. likewise]. And Saul sent messengers 22again the third time, and they prophesied also [also prophesied]. Then [And] went he also [he also went] to Ramah, and came to a [the] great well [cistern]18 that is in Sechu.19 And he asked and said, Where are Samuel and David? And 23one said, Behold, they be [are] at Naioth in Ramah. And he went thither to Naioth in Ramah; and the Spirit of God was [came] upon him also, and he went 24on and prophesied until he came to Naioth in Ramah. And he [ins. too] stripped off his clothes also [om. also] and [ins. he too] prophesied before Samuel in like manner [om. in like manner], and lay down naked all that day and all that night. Wherefore they say, Is Saul also among the prophets?


1 Samuel 19:1-7. Warding off through Jonathan’s mediation of the first open outbreak of Saul’s deadly enmity to David.

1 Samuel 19:1. Saul advances so far in his deadly hate towards David that he speaks openly to his courtiers of his purpose to kill him. The “killing” [Eng. A. V. is wrong, see Text. and Gram.—Tr.] refers not to Jonathan and Saul’s servants, but to Saul himself.

1 Samuel 19:2. Jonathan shows his friendship for David 1) in informing him of Saul’s designs on his life, and counselling him to conceal himself, and 2) in interceding for him with Saul, and trying to turn away his anger (1 Samuel 19:3), in which he succeeds.—In thus attempting to restore friendly relations between his father and David, Jonathan’s aim was to keep David at court for the welfare of his father and the people, because he saw in David a specially chosen instrument of the Lord for the welfare of Israel, as he expressly declares in 1 Samuel 19:4. (דִּבֵּר with בְּ as in Psalms 87:3; Deuteronomy 6:7 : “to speak concerning one.” Ew., § 217, 2.)—David is to hide in the field, as we infer from Jonathan’s saying that he will speak with his father in the field where David is. The place designated by Jonathan was perhaps one to which Saul used often to go, or where he was accustomed to hold confidential and private conversations. To “what” [see Text. and Gram.—Tr.] we must supply “he says” or “I hear” (Vulg.: et quodcunque videro tibi nuntiabo [so Eng. A. V.]). Against De Wette’s translation: “what it is,” Thenius properly urges that Jonathan already knew what Saul then had in mind. Against Thenius’ view that David was to hide near Saul in order to hear what he said is the fact that Jonathan himself says to David: “I will tell thee.” Rather we must suppose with Keil that Jonathan made this arrangement in order that he might tell David the result of the conversation immediately, without having to go far from his father, and thus awaken suspicion of an understanding with David.

1 Samuel 19:4-5. Jonathan’s statement to Saul is three-fold: 1) he spoke good of David, that is, he spoke favorably of him, pointing out his excellent qualities and his services to Saul and the nation; 2) on the ground of this he implored Saul not to sin against his servant. This designation of David as his servant accords with the foregoing reference to the good which David, as Saul’s faithful servant, had done; 3) to this he adds two reasons, a negative:he hath not sinned against thee,” that is, he has done nothing to call forth thy vengeance; and a positive: “his works are very useful to thee,” that is, far from doing thee harm, he hath done thee only great service by his deeds.—The relation of 1 Samuel 19:5 to the latter part of 1 Samuel 19:4 is this, that Jonathan, continuing his mediation, here reminds his father of the deed which is specially to be taken into consideration, the slaying of the Philistine, and how he had therein ventured his life: “he put his life in his hand”20 (1 Samuel 28:21; Judges 12:2), risked his life (perhaps alluding to David’s hand, which swung the sling against the giant, on the firmness and certainty of which his life depended).—Jonathan then proceeds to point out how serviceable to Saul this deed of David was: and the Lord wrought a great salvation for all Israel; thou sawest it and didst rejoice. This reminder of Saul’s joy at David’s exploit (seen with his own eyes) and its grand results, this vivid presentation of the situation at that time is the psychological stepping-stone to the ethical change which is brought about in Saul’s attitude towards David by Jonathan’s pressing and yet modest supplication: Why wilt thou sin against innocent blood, to slay David without cause?—Saul was changeable and uncertain in his unstable inner life, because there was yet in him a noble germ whence good fruit might yet come.

1 Samuel 19:6. Saul swore, a characteristic indication of his to go to one extreme or another. David’s life was now saved. [Some think that Saul swore insincerely, to put Jonathan off his guard; but this is not so probable as that he was here sincere, but fell again under the power of jealousy (1 Samuel 19:10).—Tr.].

1 Samuel 19:7. Jonathan, having performed this friendly service for David, informs him of the result according to promise (1 Samuel 19:3), and David resumes his place at court. David was in Saul’s presence “as yesterday and the day before,” that is, as in times past.

1 Samuel 19:8-17. David’s first flight in consequence of another murderous attempt on Saul’s part, the result of envy and jealousy.

1 Samuel 19:8. The background of this narrative is formed by the military life which was connected with the continued wars with the Philistines. The “went out” is not to be changed into some other word (with Then. after Sept. κατίσχυσε), but to be retained (as in 1 Samuel 18:5; 1 Samuel 18:16) as expressing David’s marching forth to battle.

1 Samuel 19:9. The ethical ground of Saul’s new outburst of rage after David’s success is his envy and jealousy of David’s honor and glory, as is intimated by the preceding mention of the latter’s victory over the Philistines.—“We have two similar accounts of Saul’s outbreaks (1 Samuel 18:10 sq. and 1 Samuel 19:9 sq.) simply because such outbreaks were really frequent (comp. especially 1 Samuel 18:18) and like one another” (Nägelsbach in Herz. XIII. 403). An evil Spirit of Jehovah came upon Saul.—While this evil spirit is in 1 Samuel 16:15 and 1 Samuel 18:10 referred to Elohim, the Deity in general, Jehovah is here affirmed to be its sender, because Saul’s condition, which was there only ascribed in general to a higher divine causality in respect to his person, is here regarded as a judgment of the covenant-God of Israel on the reprobate king, who hardens his heart against God.—Along with his military calling, David here again takes his old place as harpist. He did not abandon the post assigned him by the Lord, so long as the Lord did not through events command him to leave it, as was afterwards the case, cf. 1 Samuel 20:0.—The Sept. took offence at the “evil spirit of Jehovah” and left out “Jehovah.”21 But the Genitive means nothing more than what is said in 1 Samuel 16:14, that the God of Israel sent an evil spirit on Saul, or gave him over to the power of the evil spirit.

1 Samuel 19:10. David escapes Saul’s spear, which penetrates the wall. He flees the same night. (The Art. of the Pron. is lacking from similarity of sound, Ew. § 392 a, and § 70 c). The Sept. reads: “and it came to pass that night that Saul sent” (inserting וִיְהִי and connecting with the following), looking to 1 Samuel 19:12, where the flight by night is first mentioned. Against this it is not necessary to insist that the narrator here in Hebrew fashion gives the result first by anticipation, and then details the immediate incidents; for Saul’s attempt may have occurred in the evening, or, if it happened in the day-time, David may first have hidden in Saul’s house, and then at night have fled to his own house. That David fled to his own dwelling and remained there till night, appears from 1 Samuel 19:11, according to which Saul sends messengers to his house to watch him and to kill him in the morning (that is, when he went out again). With this agrees exactly the fact that Michal, who acquainted him with the danger threatening him in his house, presses him to flee that night, because in the morning he would be slain. In the night of the same day on which the attempt on his life occurred, David fled from Saul’s house to his own, and the same night by Michal’s means he fled from his own house. [Kitto: “We may guess that only the fear of alarming the town, and of rousing the populace to rescue their favorite hero, prevented him from directing them to break into the house and slay David there.” Others suggest the fear of alarming or injuring Michal. She could easily get notice of Saul’s design from Jonathan or others.—Tr.]

1 Samuel 19:12. Through the window, because the door was watched (1 Samuel 19:11) by Saul’s men. For similar escapes through windows see Joshua 2:15; Act 9:25; 2 Corinthians 11:33.—With this flight of David began his weary fleeing before Saul, and the great sufferings and dangers which he encountered in this unsettled life.

1 Samuel 19:13. By a trick with the Teraphim Michal deceives Saul’s catchpolls.—The teraphim were the images of domestic or private gods (Penates) which the Israelites retained as the remnant of the idolatry brought from the Aramæan or Chaldean home (Genesis 31:19; Genesis 31:34) in spite of their removal after the entry of Jacob’s family into Canaan (Genesis 35:2 sq.) and of the absolute prohibition of idolatry in the Law, which reappear especially in the period of the Judges (Judges 17:5; Judges 18:14 sq.) and particularly meet us in the houses of Saul and David in spite of Samuel’s prophetic zeal against such idolatry (1 Samuel 15:23; comp. Hosea 3:4; Zechariah 10:2). The Plu. here represents a single image, which it seems (1 Samuel 19:16) must have had the human form at least as to head and face, though the size may have varied, since (Genesis 31:30 sq.) it was so small that Rachel could conceal it under the camel-saddle, while Michal here uses it to make Saul’s men believe that David was in the bed. The teraphim which Laban calls his “Elohim” were probably originally tutelar deities, dispensers of domestic and family good fortune. On the derivation and meaning of the name see Rödiger in Ges. Thes. III. 1520, Hävernick on Ezek. p. 347 sq., and Delitzsch Gen. II. p. 220 [and Art. “Teraphim” in Smith’s Bib. Dict.—Tr.].22 On the meaning see particularly the Arts. in Winer and Herzog. Whether it was a wooden image is uncertain, as also, whether Michal had such domestic gods on account of her barrenness (Michaelis, Thenius, Keil). כְּבִיר (which the Sept. read כָּבֵד “liver,” whence Joseph says that Michal put a palpitating goat-liver into the bed to represent a breathing sick man) is from כָּבַר [“to braid”] and means woven-work or net [rendered quilt or mattress, Eng. A. V. pillow.—Tr.]. The plural of “goat” (עֵז) here = goats’ hair. The Def. Art. points to something which belonged to the furnishing of a couch or bed.23 She put it at his head, which may mean either that she put a woven cover under his head, or a hairy cover on or around his head. In any case Michal’s purpose was to make the head of the teraphim look as much as possible like a human head. The בַּבָּ‍ֽגֶד [“with the coverlet”] must, on account of the article, be understood of some piece of household stuff, therefore of the bed-cover. The word (בֶּגֶד) means the upper garment of the Oriental, which is a wide cloth thrown around the person, and served also for bed-clothing.

1 Samuel 19:14. When Saul’s messengers come the first time, Michal says to them that David is sick. [On this untruth see “Histor. and Theolog.” to this chap. at end.—Tr.].

1 Samuel 19:15. Saul, determined to carry out his purpose orders David to be brought up to him on the bed, that is, to his house, which, therefore, was higher than David’s. “Saul must therefore have resided in Gibeah on the height” (Then.).

1 Samuel 19:16. The messengers come and discover the deceit. The express mention of the “goat-hair cover at his head” shows that this had materially contributed to the success of the deception. It appears from 1 Samuel 19:13 that to the words [of the Heb.]: “behold teraphim in the bed,” we must supply “laid” or “placed.”

1 Samuel 19:17. Saul demands an explanation of Michal. Why hast thou sent away my enemy?—In these words appears all Saul’s bitterness and blindness. It is a sort of “persecuting mania” that shows itself in David’s persecutor.—Michal’s defence does not agree with the statement in 1 Samuel 19:11-12, that she herself urged David to flight. From fear of her father she tells a “lie of necessity,” saying: “He said to me, send me away, why should I kill thee?” She pretends that she wished to prevent his flight, but he threatened to kill her if she stood in his way. [To this deliverance is referred Psalms 59:0 by its title and Psalms 7:0 by some critics.—Tr.]

1 Samuel 19:18-24. David’s flight to Ramah to Samuel.

1 Samuel 19:18. David told Samuel all that Saul had done to him.—That David takes refuge in Samuel’s quiet seat of the prophets is explained by the intimate connection which David already had with Samuel and the prophetic school presided over by him, and especially by the official-theocratic connection which David’s anointing had brought about between the two men. Samuel now becomes God’s instrument for saving and preserving David as the Lord’s Anointed from the attempts of Saul. David dwelt “at Naioth” with Samuel, who went thither with him. Naioth is to be distinguished from Ramah, Samuel’s dwelling-place, and to be regarded as a place where Samuel stayed as long as David, who had at first reported to him at Ramah, was with him (comp. 1 Samuel 19:22-23). The Kethib has everywhere Nevaioth, Vulg. (with Qeri) Naioth. The appellative, signifying “dwellings,” became the proper name of the place where dwelt the prophets who gathered about Samuel as their head (comp. 1 Samuel 19:20). The plu. form indicates a colony consisting of several dwellings, a prophetic cenobium.24

1 Samuel 19:19-20. Saul, having been informed of David’s stay in this cenobium, sent messengers to fetch him.25 The prophets26, here appear 1) in an assembly, 2) therein engaged in prophesying, and 3) under the lead of Samuel. It is to be noted that we have here prophets, who in inspired discourse give forth their inner life filled with the Holy Ghost, not sons of the prophets, as in 2 Kings 4:38; 2 Kings 6:1, who as scholars and learners sit at the feet of their master and teacher. The prophetic community here, therefore, under Samuel as head is not yet a prophetic school, to educate young men for the prophetic calling, but is a prophetic seminary, in which, under Samuel’s guidance in an externally strictly ordered yet internally free association, the prophetic powers are practiced and strengthened, mutually incite, nourish, and further one another, and the prophetic charisma finds ever new nourishment and new growth by this common holy discipline. And the Spirit of God came upon the messengers of Saul; Spirit of God, not Spirit of Jehovah, because we here have not to do with the Spirit of the covenant-God, but with the supernatural principle of inspiration. And they too prophesied. Clericus: “They sang divine praises, being seized on by a sudden afflatus which they could not resist (as Saul, 1 Samuel 10:10), so that they no longer had control over themselves.” The condition of Saul’s messengers is that of ecstatic ravishment, into which they were brought by the overpowering might of the inspired song or word of the prophets.

1 Samuel 19:21. Saul’s second and third companies of messengers fall into a similar ravishment. [The repeated occurrence of this supernatural seizure adds greatly to the force and effectiveness of the narrative. The purpose of this in the divine providence, we may suppose, was to bring Saul himself.—Tr.]

1 Samuel 19:22. Then went he also to Ramah and came (on the way thither) to the great cistern (well known, as the Art. shows) that was in Sechu,—a now unknown region or locality near Ramah. The Sept. has “cistern of the threshing-floor” (גֹרֶן), instead of “great” cistern, and “on the hill” (שְׁפִי), instead of “Sechu.” But, though it is true that threshing-floors were usually on hills, there is no need here of a change of text.27 Saul, learning that David and Samuel were at Naioth in Ramah, went thither.

1 Samuel 19:23. While he was still in the way there happened to him what happened to his messengers. The Spirit of God came upon him also, and he went on and prophesied till he came to Naioth in Ramah. The difference between Saul and his messengers was simply that the inspiration came on him as he was approaching the residence of the prophet, and that it attained a higher grade and lasted longer, completely suppressing his self-consciousness.

1 Samuel 19:24, namely, relates: And he too stripped off his clothes, and he too prophesied before Samuel. The throwing off of the clothing was the effect of the heat of body produced by internal excitement. Abarbanel: “because of inward warmth, and to spread the garments out.” We may suppose that the messengers also cast away their garments (though it is not expressly so said), as the prophets in their times of excitement and heat may well have done. The “he also” is not found in the following sentence: he lay naked all day and all night. This does not necessarily mean complete nakedness (עָרֹם, 2 Samuel 6:20), because there was worn under the kethoneth or tunic a fine woven shirt of linen or cotton (מָדִין, Judges 14:12 sq.; Isaiah 3:23), and over it a long sleeveless outer garment (מְעִיל, 1 Samuel 18:4; 1 Samuel 14:5-12). Comp. Keil, Bibl, Arch., II., 39.—Saul lay in his under-garment (a sort of shirt which was next to the body, but did not completely cover it) unconscious; so completely was he overcome by the ecstacy. Wherefore they say, Is Saul also among the prophets? See 1 Samuel 10:11-12, where the origin of this saying is related. Here we have not the origin, but the application of the already existing proverb.


1. The picture of a true, faithful friend, already presented to us in Jonathan, is here completed in the account of his conduct towards Saul and David in individual significant traits and clear colors; but at the same time along with this picture of noble friendship we find one of an humble, reverent, childlike spirit towards the sinful purpose of his father. As soon as Jonathan has learned from his father the danger that threatened David’s life, he shows his faithful love for his friend by imparting to him the evil designs of his father, by enjoining on him to hide himself, by promising to soften if possible his father’s wrath, and by informing him how he (David) should soon learn the result of his effort at mediation and rescue. But Jonathan’s noble character appears in yet clearer light in his conduct towards his father. For his friend’s sake he dares, at the risk of his life, to oppose the rage and the sinister designs of his own father. Openly and frankly he represents to his father the great crime he would commit by slaying David. His heart is free from envy and jealousy while he sets before his father David’s great services to the royal house and the whole nation. His words and bearing show manly firmness and decision, and yet childlike piety, reverence, and obedience; no word not in keeping with the Fourth Commandment from his lips. And in addition to all this is his magnanimous self-denial, since he doubtless suspected that his friend would ascend the throne after his father. Though he himself possessed all the qualities which should adorn God’s Anointed on the throne, heroic courage, undisputed, universally acknowledged military renown, firm trust in the living God, and a noble disposition, he shows not the slightest trace of envy and unkindness towards David. “Notwithstanding all this he was not only nobly ready, if the Lord should so command, to give up his birthright, but strove wisely and vigorously to defeat all that was conceived and undertaken against God’s decree, even at the risk of falling by his own father’s hand, a sacrifice to his piety and friendship” (F. W. Krummacher). Jonathan is a character that rises on the platform of Old Testament-life in peculiarly noble, harmonious, ethical-sympathetic form, whether we regard him as the heroic warrior and leader, or as faithful, self-denying friend, or as humble, modest prince-royal, or as the frank, unshrinking denouncer of wrong and sin.

2. In David’s ethical-historical character, as presented to us in this section, we have to note in the first place his humble and obedient behaviour in the calling appointed him by the divine providence at the royal court, in spite of the quickly changing and fiercely outbreaking passionate moods of Saul, and in spite of the dangers which he saw threatened him. Every moment he put himself at the king’s disposition, and was at his side to help him whenever it was necessary. He went quietly on the way which the Lord had appointed him. And therefore he was under God’s protection, and experienced the preserving help of his God.—Yet this flight, in which his wife’s faithful love was the Lord’s means of saving him, began the unbroken series of severe sufferings and trials by which David was to be confirmed in his faith and trained in a hard school for his royal calling. In this long life of suffering he had uninterrupted experience as a confirmed servant of God of the help, the consolation, the strengthening from above to which his Psalms bear testimony. Roos: “Lay David’s good and bad fortune in the balances. A courtier and officer, who falls under the king’s displeasure, whom the king with implacable rage seeks to kill, whom the courtiers and many others, to please the king, despise and persecute, a man who is compelled to flee, who in need and affliction must always conceal himself, who can often find no place on earth where to lay his head, such a man may well talk of misfortune, and is in this view a miserable person. But if we remember that God in his deepest needs vouchsafes gracious visitations to the soul of this man, lifts it, as it were, above all mists and clouds, grants it clearest insight into truth, refreshes it by undeceptive addresses and friendly consolations, and through it points all men to happiness, we must admit that this man’s good fortune is greater than his bad fortune, that his honor is greater than his reproach, and that the good that he has super-abundantly makes up for all his outward want.”

2. The title of the 59th Psalm refers its origin to David’s dangerous situation in Gibeah, “when Saul sent and they watched the house to kill him.” And in fact the recurring verses 7 and 15 [6 and 14] of this very artistically arranged Psalm point to ambushments which begin in the evening. But it is repeated ambuscades that are there spoken of. Since now in our history only one night is mentioned, it seems more appropriate not to refer this Psalm to those dangerous days in Gibeah (Delitzsch, Moll), but with Hengstenberg to find its occasion in David’s remembrance of the deliverance wrought that night through Michal, which was the beginning of the weary flight, wherein he encountered such unspeakable dangers and sufferings. “Such being the importance of the fact, we should expect David to perpetuate its recollection by a Psalm” (Hengst.). The Psalm was sung when he looked back on the long line of enemies’ snares and divine deliverances, of which the events of that evening and night were the beginning and type. We must not, however, confine ourselves to that event alone, but must include all David’s similar experiences of Saul’s traps. “From the Psalm it appears only that it was called forth by an attempt on the singer’s life; in other respects the circumstances are those which belong in general to the Saul-period” (Hengst.).28

4. The teraphim-image, which Michal employs, shows that these Aramæan idols, these forms of “strange gods” which Rachel took secretly from her father’s house (Genesis 31:19; Genesis 31:34)—in spite of their burial by Jacob (Genesis 35:2 sq.), and their ordered removal by Joshua (Joshua 24:22) and Samuel’s zealous opposition to them (1 Samuel 15:23)—hid in the privacy of domestic life, whence in the time of the Judges they came openly forth (Judges 17:0 compared with 1 Samuel 18:14 sq.), still maintained themselves. As the teraphim were oracular deities in their old homes (so in Ezekiel 21:21 Nebuchadnezzar inquires through them whether he shall march against Jerusalem or against Ammon), so also in Israel (Judg. 17:18; 1 Samuel 15:23; Hosea 3:4; Ezekiel 21:26; Zechariah 10:2) they were superstitiously used as oracles, counsel being asked through them concerning the future. Hävernick (on Ezekiel 21:26): “The use of the teraphim as oracles came no doubt through their connection with the Ephod (comp. Hosea 3:4; Zechariah 10:2), the ancient general notion of their magical power passing over into the more special one of prediction”. Under Josiah (2 Kings 23:24) their removal was decreed in connection with other idolatrous abominations, but they kept their place till the Exile.

5. In respect to the history and theocratic significance of the so-called Schools of the prophets, we must distinguish the two periods in which, in point of fact, the only mention of them occurs. In the first place we meet with prophetic unions or prophetic communities in the age of Samuel, which are more exactly defined during his relations with Saul: first that band of prophets (1 Samuel 10:5; 1 Samuel 10:10), which in Gibeah descends from the sacrificial hill and meets Saul, prophesying with music and song. Perhaps this community resided in Gibeah, in support of which we may perhaps with Keil adduce the name “Gibeah of God.” In 1 Samuel 19:0 the prophetic community stands in a near relation to Samuel as the “president.” The members are called Nebiim (prophets]; they prophesy under Samuel’s lead; their inspiration (as in 1 Samuel 10:0) is so mighty that persons that do not belong to them, as Saul’s servants and Saul himself, are seized and overpowered by it, and fall into a like ecstacy. David is closely connected with them, as is shown by his flight to them and stay with them. He found there only temporary safety indeed from Saul’s persecutions, but abiding consolation and strength in the inspired prophetic word, in the blessings of the fraternal community, and in the consoling and elevating power of the holy poetic art, whereby he doubtless stood in peculiarly intimate connection with the community. The members of the body formed a Cenobium; their outward life of union symbolized their inward union under the mighty impulse of one and the same Spirit, the Holy Spirit, a union which they saw accomplished through this prophetic Spirit which informed them all. In point of fact we find certainly at this time such an organized prophetic community only in Ramah; whether Samuel, who was its president there in the latter part of his life, was also the establisher of the form of associated life, is doubtful; but in any case it may be confidently maintained that through the powerful influence which he exerted on his contemporaries by the prophetic Spirit which dwelt and worked in him, awakening and fashioning a new life, this Spirit, which in its essential nature tended to produce association, showed itself in such unions of prophetic men. The original power and vigor of this Spirit expresses itself in these extraordinary phenomena and overwhelming effects, just as in the Apostolic church they appear as the fruit of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:0; 1 Corinthians 14:0). The theocratic significance of this association consisted in the fact that, along with Samuel’s lofty prophetical form, they were the centre and source of the reviving religious-moral life of the nation, after it had lost its theocratic centre in the national sanctuary, which was despoiled of the ark of the covenant. The prophetic men of this community, which is by no means to be regarded as an association of pupils, represent the manifold theocratic-prophetic influence on the people, which was first completely brought to bear by Samuel’s labors; they form, when Samuel’s life is approaching its end, the aftergrowth (nurtured by him) of the combined divinely-appointed theocratic office of prophet and judge (alongside of the royal office), as bearers of which we find the prophets in David’s time. In their midst originated and was cultivated the theocratic-prophetic writing of history, as representatives of which a Gad (comp. 1 Samuel 22:5) and a Nathan are mentioned along with Samuel (1 Chronicles 29:29). Comp. Thenius on 1 Samuel 19:19; 1 Samuel 22:5—On the prophetic schools under Samuel see Oehler in Herz. R.-E., s. v. Prophetenthum des A. T., XII. 214–217.

The history is silent concerning the prophetic communities during the whole period from Samuel to the age of Elijah and Elisha. Not till the epoch in the development of the prophetic Order in Israel marked by the grand prophetic characters of Elijah and his successor Elisha do we again meet with these communities, and then only in the kingdom of the Ten Tribes at Gilgal, Bethel, and Jericho, in which places there was a numerous membership (2 Kings 4:38; 2 Kings 2:3; 2 Kings 2:5; 2 Kings 2:7; 2 Kings 2:15-16; 2Ki 4:1; 2 Kings 4:43; 2 Kings 6:1; 2 Kings 9:1); here, however, they are not called “prophets” as under Samuel’s lead, but sons of the prophets (1 Kings 20:35), a name which indicates that they stood to the leaders and presidents of the communities in a dependent relation as scholars and disciples. They have their places of assembly and abode, designed for a large number, where they sit at the feet of their prophetic masters (comp. 2 Kings 6:1 sq.), and receive prophetic instruction and cultivation. Only such can we properly call prophetic schools, whose prophetic presidents and leaders (as Elisha’s case shows) had to legitimate themselves by the power of the prophetic spirit dwelling in them. While under Samuel’s presidency the prophetic communities appear as freer associations of prophetic men for the exertion of united influence on the people, these later ones are distinct Unions, in which teachers and scholars, masters and disciples stand in a relation of mutual co-ordination [control and subordination]. The subject-matter of the instruction was the divine law and the history of the divine dealings with the covenant people; the aim of the instruction was the nurture and furtherance of the prophetic spirit by holy discipline in an organized God-serving life. The pupils were trained in unconditional obedience to the divine law, in living appropriation of the holy will of God as absolute norm for their own wills; from their Cenobia thus equipped they went forth among the people to testify of the living God, of His word and His righteous and gracious dealings, and with absolute obedience to perform the special tasks imposed on them by the masters with divine authority (comp. 1 Kings 13:20 sq.). Besides this general theocratic significance these Unions had the special duty to form the centre of the service of God for the people in their separation from the sanctuary at Jerusalem (comp. 2 Kings 4:23; 2 Kings 4:42), and in the prophetical work of their members to oppose a solid power to the heathenism which pressed in on the people under an idolatrous government, and to maintain the honor of the living God. Comp. Oehler ubi supra, p. 220 sq.—In respect to the historical continuity of such prophetic associated life in the interval between the prophetic communities of Samuel and these later schools of the prophets, nothing can be certainly determined, although, as Oehler shows against Keil (as above, p. 215), the great number of prophets, which, according to 1 Kings 18:13, must have existed when Elijah appeared, seems to favor such continuity. Comp, on the other side Keil’s remarks in his commentary on 1 Samuel 19:0. p. 147 sq. [Eng. Transl., pp. 199–205.]

[Michal’s deception in 1 Samuel 19:13) may be called a stratagem, her statement in 1 Samuel 19:14 is a falsehood carrying out the stratagem, and her answer to her father in 1 Samuel 19:17 is, as Erdmann terms it, a “lie of necessity;” that is, a lie held to be necessary, in order to save one from suffering or perplexity. Clearly this last is unjustifiable; when Saul demanded an explanation Michal ought to have answered that she thought it right to save her husband. Her stratagem (1 Samuel 19:13 may be defended on the ground that Saul, in assuming the position towards David of an open enemy (without legal warrant), having previously tried to kill him, had thus put himself out of ordinary relation with him, and was to be treated as a public enemy or a madman. Whether the statement in 1 Samuel 19:14 is then properly a part of the stratagem is not so easy to say. The decisive question is: Was it necessary to the success of the stratagem? was it based on Saul’s abnormal, unnatural, criminal attitude towards David?—Tr.]


1 Samuel 19:1-4. Berl. Bible: So far is Saul carried by self-love, which often transforms itself into fury against the friends of God, and it is incredible how far it can go wrong. Jonathan acted as a true friend to David, and presents therein a picture of a faithful and upright friend, who not only warns David of danger and gives him good counsel, but also at his own peril speaks to his father for him, declares his innocence and praises his noble services, and thereby brings him again into his father’s favor.—Schlier: Even in grown persons there is nothing more beautiful than reverence for parents, and doubly beautiful is this ornament when one thing is understood, how to lead parents away from sin and yet in so doing always show modesty and respect, when one thing is understood, how to fulfil the Fourth Commandment in truth and love. [Taylor: Such a manifestation of prudence and principle combined. Prudence did not go so far as to make him silent about the sin which Saul was purposing to commit; principle was not so asserted as to arouse his father’s indignation.—Tr.].

1 Samuel 19:6 sqq. Berl. Bible: A kindly and hearty, an humble but also righteous opposition is suited to turn away the evil that has been resolved on and hinder it from coming to the birth.—Schlier: Open thy mouth for thy neighbor, and stand up for him, excuse him where thou canst, speak to his advantage wherever it is possible, let it be a joy to thee to bring to light his good side, be in earnest to promote peace wherever it is practicable.

1 Samuel 19:8. Berl. Bible: O my God, how wonderfully dost Thou lead Thy servants! Scarcely are they out of one trial when again Thou stirrest up for them another.

1 Samuel 19:9. Schlier: God the Lord allows the evil spirit no power over us, if we have not first called down punishment upon ourselves by our sins; he who is in the power of darkness and therefore does the works of darkness, has before given himself up to darkness.

1 Samuel 19:10. Berlenb. Bible: Temptation with men who are grudging and envious and cannot bear the righteousness of the child of God, does not last long, because such men condemn their unrighteousness.

1 Samuel 19:11. Krummacher: The Lord in every way takes care that His servant David, adorned with His laurels, shall not lift his head too high. In David, too, is richly verified the apostolical saying: Whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.

1 Samuel 19:13-14. Cramer: In cases of urgent need, where there is no time for long reflection, a woman can often more quickly devise a plan, surpassing therein the male sex (Ecc. 25:19; Genesis 31:35; Joshua 2:6). [Hall: Who can but wonder to see how … Saul’s own children are the only means to cross him in the sin, and to preserve his guiltless adversary.—Tr.].

1 Samuel 19:17. Schlier: A “lie of necessity” is never permissible, wrong can never become right; lying always remains wrong, and doubly wrong when the lie is spoken to a father. Truth is well-pleasing to God the Lord, and truth, spoken with an eye to the Lord, always finds the Lord’s protection.—Cramer: There are three sorts of lies: lies of necessity (Exodus 1:19; Genesis 20:2; Genesis 26:7; Joshua 2:6); lies of sport (Genesis 42:9; Genesis 27:15; Judges 9:8); shameful and hurtful lies. Guard against all three, and speak and love the truth from thy heart.—[Taylor: Michal’s affection for David could not stand the strain of trial. It was not like that of Jonathan, because it had not, like Jonathan’s its root in devotion to the Lord. She could not and did not follow her husband through persecution, and exile, and danger, because she was not one with him in God. (An idolater perhaps without the cognizance of her husband). She could tell lies for David, but she had not the courage and the faith to go with him into suffering, or to tell the truth for him.—Tr.]

1 Samuel 19:18. Osiander: Those who are in trouble should betake themselves to the assembly where God’s word is taught, and there seek consolation.—Cramer: God always raises up for His people good friends and patrons, who must help them (1 Kings 18:13).—Schlier: Instead of any further answer, Samuel led David to his Naioth, into his school of the prophets; amid the songs of praise of his prophet-scholars, amid their common prayers and studies of God’s word it was good to dwell; there was consolation and peace, there was help to be found even for such a troubled heart as David had. Let not such an example be presented you in vain. Are you troubled, then seek the word of the Lord and prayer, seek it especially there where men are gathered to attend to God’s word and to pray. [Hall: God intended to make David not a warrior and a king only, but a prophet too. As the field fitted him for the first, and the court for the second, so Naioth shall fit him for the third.—Tr.].

1 Samuel 19:20 sqq. Starke [from Hall]: It is good going up to Naioth, into the holy assemblies; who knows how we may be changed, beside our intention? Many a one hath come into God’s house to carp, or scoff, or sleep, or gaze, that hath returned a convert (1 Corinthians 14:24-25).—As one coal kindles another, so it happens that where good is taught and heard, hearts also do not remain unmoved (Acts 16:13-14).—Berl. Bible: That is the blessing which God Often grants to devout assemblies, that many a one goes in with an evil, impure and hostile mind, and comes out again with quite another heart and mind.

1 Samuel 19:23-24. Wuert. Summ.: Saul’s prophesying was more an irresistible work of divine power, than an evidence of divine grace. We see also by his example, that not all who prophesy, who exhibit extraordinary movements of spirit, are thereby shown to have the Spirit of God, and to stand in favor with Him. Many of them, according to the saying of Jesus (Matthew 7:22-23), will on that day be found out and condemned as evil-doers.—Schlier: In Saul we have an example how God follows a man till he either turns or hardens himself. How deep was Saul already sunken; yet God the Lord did not yet leave him, but again turned toward him. He felt the mighty hand of God, and yet he would not bow. Then God’s hand, which could not make him bow, must harden him more and more.—When the Lord’s hand comes upon us, we wish to bow, we wish to enter into ourselves, and to humble ourselves. Well for him who lets himself be reproved and chastised, but woe to us if we shut ourselves up against the Lord’s hand.—[Taylor: In reviewing this narrative, observe how diversified are the resources which Jehovah has at command for the protection of His people. Each time the means by which David was delivered are different. At first he is defended by God’s blessing on his own valor against the Philistines; then he is indebted for his safety to the mediation of Jonathan; then to the agency of Michal; and finally to the miraculous work of God’s own Holy Spirit, In the subsequent portion of the history we shall find that the same principle holds, and that in each new peril he is preserved by some new instrumentality.—Tr.]

1 Samuel 19:11-12. F. W. Krummacher: A new storm: 1) By what David is threatened; 2) How he is delivered from the danger.

1 Samuel 19:18. David at Ramah: 1) He breathes the atmosphere of the communion of the saints; 2) He sees a new plan to murder him wonderfully frustrated.

[1 Samuel 19:4-7. An attempt at Peacemaking: 1) The means employed. Jonathan appeals, with tact and delicacy, to justice, gratitude, piety, memories of the past, conscience. 2) The apparent effect. Saul’s better feelings revived, his conscience aroused. In his passionate way, he takes a solemn oath, no doubt with superficial sincerity. All seems restored “as in times past,” 3) The final result. David’s merits, at the call of Providence, shine forth with new lustre. Slumbering envy wakes, and the last enmity is worse than the first. (Comp. 1 Samuel 20:33-34). Lessons: (1) It is at any rate a consolation to have tried, and to have had even temporary success. (2) Peacemaking does not always fail. (3) We must fear for the results wherever the wrong-doer does not repent of the sin involved; the only sure peacemaking must begin in peace with God. (4) How deep-rooted and ruinous a sin is envy; it may swallow up the noblest feelings, break the most solemn promises, lead to madness and murder. And no wonder, for the envious man sins at once against himself, his neighbor, and his God.—Tr.]

II. Jonathan’s faithful friendship proved by his last vain attempt at a reconciliation of Saul and David. Chapter 1 Samuel 20:1 to 1 Samuel 21:1 [Eng. A. V., 1 Samuel 20:42]

1. Conference between David and Jonathan as to the discovery of Saul’s disposition towards the former and the mode of informing him thereof


[1][1 Samuel 19:1. This is the literal rendering of the Heb., and so the ancient VSS., except Vulg., which makes “they” the subject of the killing (so Eng. A. V.), and Arab., which correctly makes “he” (Saul) the subject. The context shows that neither to Jonathan nor to the servants of Saul was charge given to slay David.—Tr.]

[2][1 Samuel 19:2. Literally: “in the morning.” Sept. αὔριον πρωί, which Thenius says is the rendering of Heb. מָחָר; but בַּבֶֹּקר, as Wellh. points out, includes the notion “early in the morning.”—Tr.]

[3][1 Samuel 19:2. Sept. reverses the order and reads: “hide thyself and remain in secret,” as if the hiding must precede the dwelling in secret; but the hiding may just as well be regarded as the consequence of dwelling in secret (against Wellh.).—Tr.]

[4][1 Samuel 19:5. Sept.: “all Israel saw and rejoiced,” other VSS. as Heb. It is here more fitting and politic in Jonathan to refer to Saul’s own knowledge of David.—Tr.]

[5][1 Samuel 19:6. Sept., Syr. and some MSS. have Qal.: “shall not die.”—Tr.]

[6][1 Samuel 19:8. Sept. κατίσχυσε, either an explanation (Schleusner), or they read וַיָּאֶץ (Wellh.); the Heb. is to be maintained.—Tr.]

[7][1 Samuel 19:9. In this divine name the VSS. vary. The Vat. MS. has θεοῦ, Alex. has κυρίου, text in Stier and Theile’s Polygl. (which is an eclectic text) omits it, as does Arab.; the others as Heb. That רָעָה is without the Art. is not decisive in favor of אֱלֹהִים, for an evil spirit could as well come from Jehovah as from Elohim (i.e. the deity), and may as well be called “a spirit of Jehovah.” Elsewhere the Heb. has מֵעִם י׳; but it is at least as probable that the Vat. would change the text to secure uniformity as that the Masorites would change for no reason at all. See note on 1 Samuel 16:14.—Tr.]

[8][1 Samuel 19:10. On this reading see Erdmann in the Exposition.—Tr.]

[9][1 Samuel 19:11. Wellhausen (following Sept.) objects to the “and” on the ground that the two actions (of watching and killing) are not here co-ordinated, the killing not being entrusted to the watchers. This is perhaps an unnecessary refinement, 1 Samuel 19:14 being possibly a repetition of this statement, not necessarily a sending of additional messengers. Yet, as Saul sends in 1 Samuel 19:14 apparently to take, not to kill David, the reference of the killing here to Saul and the omission of the ו (which may have been repeated from the preceding word) give a good sense.—Tr.]

[10][1 Samuel 19:13. “Teraphim” is a plu. word, but is here used in the Heb. as sing.—Tr.]

[11][1 Samuel 19:13. The Eng. A. V. renders “bolster” to correspond to its above rendering “pillow.” The Heb. means simply “at its head;” the exact use which Michal made of the quilt is not clear.—Tr.]

[12][1 Samuel 19:14. The Sept. has “they said,” that is, the people of the house, the servants, speaking with the messengers at the door. But the Heb. text is perfectly natural: either it means Michal sent word, that is, said through her servants, or, if she herself spoke with the messengers, she reported David sick to gain time, having meantime prepared the bed to deceive her own servants (whose fidelity she might doubt) or Saul’s messengers in case they should go to look for David.—The Vulg. has the indefinite responsum est.—Tr.]

[13][1 Samuel 19:16. תּרפים, teraphim. Chald., Syr., Arab., Vulg., render “image.” Sept. has κενοτάφια, “cenotaphs, empty tombs,” a contemptuous designation of the vanity of the idols, Aq. gives μορφώματα or προτομαί, the latter (meaning “half figures”) being important as bearing on the form of the teraphim.—Tr.]

[14][1 Samuel 19:16. מְרַאֲשֹׁתָיו, from ראשׁ or רֶאשֶׁת by the local preformative מְ. The plu. would be properly מַרְאֲשׁוֹת (see Jeremiah 13:18) as from מַרְאֶשֶׁת. Comp. Ew., Gr. § 160 b, Fürst’s Concordance s. v.—Tr.]

[15][1 Samuel 19:17. Or: “send me away.” The verb is fem. in many MSS. and Edd.—Tr.]

1 Samuel 19:18; 1 Samuel 19:18. So the Qeri, but the Kethib is Nevaioth.—Tr.]

[17][1 Samuel 19:20. So universally taken (=קהלת). Lud. de Dieu, however, refers to the Æth. stem להק = crescere, whence he thinks our word may mean magnum numerum, or, senatum, presbyterium Prophetarum. In Æth. the word represents only magistracy, superiority (Dillmann, Lex. Æth.), which does not suit here.—Tr.]

[18][1 Samuel 19:22. The word is anarthrous, and so far supports the Sept.: “the cistern of the threshing floor” (Wellh.), as this construction is unusual; but that it is not unexampled is shown by 2 Samuel 12:4; 1 Kings 7:8; 1 Kings 7:12, and would be not unnatural here in speaking of a well-known cistern, where בּוֹר might almost have the force of a proper name. The addition of Sept. at beginning of 1 Samuel 19:22 : “and Saul became very angry,” is suspicious because of its naturalness.—Tr.]

[19][1 Samuel 19:22. Sept. Σεφί, Ar. Ramah. The Heb. is to be preferred.—Tr.]

[20][The Heb. (כַּף) means the “palm or hollow of the hand,” as the proper place in which to put something, usually the hand as receptacle, not as instrument.—Tr.]

[21][See “Text. and Gram.”—Tr.]

[22][See other opinions in Poole’s Synopsis on Genesis 31:19, and in Patrick’s Comm. here.—Tr.]

[23][On the character of the bed (here a separate couch, not the oriental divan) see Philippson in loco, and Works on Archæology.—Tr.]

[24][Chald. renders “house of instruction,” and in 1 Samuel 19:20 “scribes.” Smith’s Bib.-Dict., Art. Naioth.—Tr.]

[25]The Sing. וַיַּרְא is surprising. According to Ewald, § 316 a, 1, the Verb or Adj., when it stands as one half of the sentence before the yet unnamed (and not clearly conceived) subject, may remain in the most indefinite Pers., the masc. sing., as in 1 Kings 22:16; Joshua 8:20; Genesis 1:14; Micah 6:16 etc.; but when the subject has been named, this indefiniteness cannot exist. The Sing, must therefore be here regarded as a corruption, and we must read (with Ew., Then., and all vss.) the Plu.—The word לַהֲקַת, which sounds remarkably like the preceding לָקַהַת here from the connection = assembly = קַהֲלָה. It appears here only, and is to be regarded as a transposition (so the Greek and several Rabbis) of the word meaning “assembly,” occasioned by the similar sound of the preceding לָקַהַת.

[26][Chald: “They saw the company of the scribes praising and Samuel standing over them teaching.”—Tr.]

[27][See “Text. and Gram.” The Vat. Sept. reads Sephi, not “on the hill.”—Tr.]

[28][The way in which this Ps. contrasts Israel and the heathen makes it difficult to refer it to this incident in David’s life; and it is the city, not the house that the enemy here surrounds. The title is not necessarily part of the inspired Psalm.—Tr.]

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 19". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lcc/1-samuel-19.html. 1857-84.
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