Bible Commentaries
1 Samuel 18

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary


A.M. 2941. B.C. 1063.

David becomes the friend of Jonathan, the constant attendant of Saul, and the favourite of all the people, 1 Samuel 18:1-5 . Saul’s envy raised, 1 Samuel 18:6-9 . He seeks to kill David, 1 Samuel 18:10 , 1 Samuel 18:11 . Is afraid of him, 1 Samuel 18:12-16 . Promises to give him his elder daughter, and gives him the younger, hoping to destroy him thereby, but in vain, 1 Samuel 18:17-27 . He is more feared by Saul and esteemed by the people, 1 Samuel 18:28-30 .

Verse 1

1 Samuel 18:1. The soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David On account of the prudence and modesty of his discourse and behaviour after such an heroic action, and the other excellent virtues which shone forth both in his speeches and actions; for the service he had done to God and to his people; and for the similitude of their age and qualities.

Verse 2

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

Verse 3

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

Verse 4

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

Verse 5

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

Verses 6-9

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

Verses 10-11

1 Samuel 18:10-11. On the morrow the evil spirit from God Which had formerly troubled him, producing melancholy, (1 Samuel 16:14,) was brought again upon him. The very next day after he conceived envy at David, discontent and anger, the evil spirit was permitted by God to seize him again. Such is the fruit of envy and uncharitableness! And he prophesied in the midst of the house That is, he was actuated by such motions and agitations of body as the prophets sometimes were. And David played with his hand, as at other times To compose and quiet his disturbed spirits. And there was a javelin in Saul’s hand Which he had provided on purpose, as the following words show, to despatch David. And Saul cast the javelin Being now quite under the power of that evil spirit. Twice Once now, and another time, on a like occasion, 1 Samuel 19:10.

Verses 12-13

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

Verses 14-15

1 Samuel 18:14-15. David behaved himself wisely He headed them in all their expeditions, with a bravery and conduct equally distinguished; greatest in command, but greater in his example. He behaved in such a manner that no exception could be taken at any of his actions. The Lord was with him Made all his undertakings prosperous. Saul’s fears, however, increased in proportion as he saw David still behave so well.

Verse 17

1 Samuel 18:17. And Saul said to David, Behold my elder daughter Merab, &c. He at last bethinks himself of the promise he had publicly made unto him that should kill Goliath; the performance of which David did not demand, but in modesty left it to Saul’s own conscience; who now judges it would be a proper bait to be laid for his destruction. “David had been very successful; but it did not follow that he must always be so; he had prudence, prowess, and conduct; but all these are often disappointed and defeated in their best-laid schemes. What means, then, so likely to destroy him as flattering him in his good fortune, and inflaming his vanity to yet higher and bolder attempts? What human heart is proof against flattery well conducted? and what so likely to point it right as the prospect of the king’s alliance? Merab, therefore, the king’s eldest daughter, is promised to him in marriage, on condition of his exerting all his fortitude in the defence of his master and his country, against the enemies of God and them.” Delaney. Only be thou valiant for me Thus, at the same time that he proposed to give David his daughter, he intimated that he should first perform some other military exploits, and, to give the better colour to this request, he calls it fighting the Lord’s battles. Let not my hand be upon him Now he seems to have some sense of honour, and to lay aside those base thoughts of murdering him himself. But the hand of the Philistines By whose hand God’s just judgment so ordered things that Saul himself fell!

Verse 18

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

Verse 19

1 Samuel 18:19. She was given unto Adriel The son of Barzillai, as he is called 2 Samuel 21:8. This was an act of great injustice, at the same time that it was a most high affront to David, and accordingly this marriage was accursed by God, and the children begotten in it were, by God’s appointment, cut off, 2 Samuel 21:0. How Jonathan resented this usage of David we are not told. It is likely his duty to his father made him entreat him to take it patiently, and to look upon Saul as sometimes beside himself, and one that did not know what he did.

Verses 20-21

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

Verses 22-23

1 Samuel 18:22-23. Commune with David secretly It seems David was not forward to embrace Saul’s offer, having been before so grossly abused. Therefore Saul ordered his courtiers, in private discourse, to take occasion to persuade him to it. Seeing that I am a poor man Having no estate, and of small credit; and therefore unable to endow her according to her quality.

Verse 25

1 Samuel 18:25. The king desireth not any dowry It was customary in those times for the husband to give a present, or, as it is rendered, a dowry, to his father-in-law when he received his wife. But a hundred foreskins of the Philistines Saul made this demand of David, probably thinking that the necessity he would be under of attacking the Philistines at a disadvantage, or, at all hazards, in order to get the proposed number of foreskins within the time limited, would bring him into such dangerous encounters, as he could scarcely escape from. It is likely that Saul required the foreskins rather than the heads of the Philistines, to take away all possibility of David’s deceiving him, by bringing the heads of such of his own men as might fall in battle, and passing them on him for the heads of the Philistines.

Verses 26-27

1 Samuel 18:26-27. The days were not expired That is, the time allowed by Saul to David for the execution of this exploit. Two hundred He doubled the number required; to oblige Saul the more to the performance of his promise, and to show his great respect and affection to Saul’s daughter.

Verses 28-29

1 Samuel 18:28-29. Saul knew that the Lord was with David He was convinced of it, by the success which he constantly had in all his undertakings. And Saul was yet the more afraid of David Having thus advanced him; and seeing no hope of bringing his designs to pass against him. And Saul became David’s enemy continually He was every day more resolved to destroy him. Such strange blindness did his anger and hatred, and such like passions, bring upon him, that he set himself against him, who he saw and knew, had God for his friend! In what a lost condition must Saul’s mind have now been!

Verse 30

1 Samuel 18:30. The princes of the Philistines went forth To fight with the Israelites: who had highly incensed them by David’s late action, as well as by former losses. David behaved himself more wisely than all the servants of Saul, &c. By discovering, it is likely, the designs of the Philistines, and preventing them. For we do not read that they came to a battle.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 18". Benson's Commentary. 1857.