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Bible Commentaries
1 Samuel 19

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


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

Saul is pacified by Jonathan, 1 Samuel 19:1-7 . Attempts again to kill David, 1 Samuel 19:8-10 . Is deceived by Michal, who sends David away, 1 Samuel 19:11-17 . David flies to Ramah, and Saul prophesies, 1 Samuel 19:18-24 .

Verse 1

1 Samuel 19:1. Saul spake to Jonathan, and all his servants When he could not destroy David by craft, he declares open enmity to him; and commands his son and his whole court to make him away; some of whom he thought would obey him. It is strange he should speak to Jonathan to murder David, if he knew the friendship he had for him; and he could not well be ignorant of it, since he had so publicly declared it, as we read chap. 1 Samuel 18:3-4. But he imagined his love to a father would overcome his love to a friend; and there was a great providence of God in his disclosing his mind so freely to Jonathan, as by that means David came to be certainly informed of his danger.

Verse 2

1 Samuel 19:2. But Jonathan delighted much in David, and told David Jonathan disobeyed the command, and, instead of murdering David, pleads his innocence and merits, as reasons for saving him. He also discovered his father’s design and fixed resolution to destroy him, and certainly in neither case acted inconsistently with his duty to his father, and king. “He,” says Dr. Dodd, “who knows of a conspiracy against an innocent person’s life, and doth not discover it; or, who kills such a one by another’s instigation and command, is himself a murderer; and no duty to a father, or allegiance to a prince, can oblige any one to shed innocent blood. Jonathan was therefore so far from acting contrary to his duty and allegiance, in refusing to become his father’s instrument in murdering David, that he gave a noble instance of filial piety, affection, and duty, in his repeated endeavours to preserve him from so unnatural a crime; and humanity and virtue will ever applaud him for the generous concern he expressed for the honour of his father and the preservation of his friend.” Take heed to thyself until the morning Jonathan knew not but some of the servants might be either so obsequious to Saul, or so envious at David, as to put the orders in execution which Saul had given, if they could light on David.

Verses 3-5

1 Samuel 19:3-5 . I will stand by my father in the field In which it is likely Saul used to walk in the morning and take the fresh air. Thereabouts he advised David to lurk in some secret place; that he might speedily acquaint him with the issue of his discourse with his father, 1 Samuel 19:4-7. Jonathan spake good of David unto Saul Which he could not do without hazard to himself. Herein, therefore, he performed the duty of a true friend and of a valiant man. He put his life in his hand Or, in the greatest hazard: And slew the Philistine He puts him in mind of that hazardous enterprise wherein he slew Goliath; in which David did indeed hazard his life greatly, for had he missed with his sling he must certainly have been slain.

Verses 6-9

1 Samuel 19:6-9. Saul sware, As the Lord liveth And, without all doubt, he intended what he said, feeling a real change in himself for the present. “God,” says Mr. Henry, “inclined the heart of Saul to hearken to the voice of Jonathan.” From this, however, and other similar instances, it appears that Saul was of a hasty, precipitate temper; and that he had too little reverence for an oath. And as he swore inconsiderately, so, he as quickly and inconsiderately broke his oath; which may be a lesson to us never to take an oath upon any occasion, but with the greatest seriousness and an inward veneration, 1 Samuel 19:8-9. And there was war again The battles of which were only between parties, for David commanded no more than a thousand men, 1 Samuel 18:13. And if the whole army of the Philistines had been gathered together, Abner would have commanded the army of Israel against them; for he was captain of the host. David went out and fought with the Philistines So David continues his good services, though they were ill requited. They who are ill paid for doing good, yet must not be weary of well-doing, remembering how bountiful a benefactor God is, even to the evil and unthankful. The evil spirit was upon Saul David’s successes against the Philistines revived his envy, and the devil watched the opportunity as he had done before. And David played with his hand He did not omit his duty to Saul, though he knew his danger.

Verse 10

1 Samuel 19:10. Saul sought to smite David with the javelin “How sad and shocking a scene was this! David labouring with all his study and skill to relieve Saul’s anguish; and Saul, in the same instant, meditating his destruction! sitting sullen and determined, with his javelin in his hand, watching his opportunity, and waiting, perhaps, until the power of music had so far calmed his spirits as to render his hand steady. He then darted his spear at David with all his might, and with such force, that, he happily declining it, it pierced and stuck into the wall; and David fled.” Delaney. Saul’s wrath and fury, on this occasion, made him entirely forget his oath. So dangerous it is to be possessed with such passions! It seems likely, from Saul’s having a javelin in or near his hand, that it was usual for kings, in those days, to hold one in their hands, in the same manner as a sceptre in after-times, as a mark of royal authority.

Verse 11

1 Samuel 19:11. To slay him in the morning As he went out of the door of his house. By this it is apparent, when Saul missed his blow, he was the more enraged, and implacably pursued David’s destruction. And Michal, David’s wife, told him She had intelligence either from her brother Jonathan, or some other friend at court: or, perhaps, she saw suspicious persons hovering about the house.

Verse 12

1 Samuel 19:12. He fled and escaped It seems likely that a considerable part of the eighteenth Psalm, namely, from the 1st to the 29th verse, refers to this escape of David. The 29th verse seems entirely descriptive of it, and applicable to no other event of David’s life that we read of. “By thee I have run through a troop, and by my God have I leaped over a wall.” Saul’s messengers, that were sent to slay him in the morning, undoubtedly surrounded his house, and were upon the watch, and therefore David had reason to look upon his escaping them to be a wonderful deliverance, in which the providence of God was concerned.

Verse 13

1 Samuel 19:13. Michal took an image In the Hebrew it is teraphim; which teraphim, as Dr. Dodd observes, it plainly appears from hence, must have been figures of the human form; for the design of Michal was manifestly to deceive the messengers of Saul, by showing them something in a bed so far resembling a man as to make them believe it was David himself asleep. Her intention was to procure David the longer time for escaping. And to render it still more like him, she covered the back part of the head of the image, which appeared in sight, with goats’ hair of the same colour as David’s was, so that any one might take it, at a slight view, especially in a sick man’s room, where only a glimmering light is wont to be kept, for the back part of David’s head. This is plainly the meaning of the next clause, not very properly interpreted in our translation, but which in the Vulgate is rendered, et pellem pilosam caprarum possuit ad caput ejus; and she put the hairy skin of goats to, or upon, his head. And covered it with a cloth Upon pretence of his being sick, and needing some such covering. If we may believe Abarbinel and Abendana, “women in those times were accustomed to have figures made in the likeness of their husbands, that when they were absent from them they might have their image to look upon.” If this really be a fact, it is probable that Michal’s image was one of this kind; or it was merely a statue for ornament. For we cannot suppose that any images, whether called teraphim or by any other name, were kept for the purposes of idolatry in David’s family.

Verses 14-17

1 Samuel 19:14-17. Saul sent messengers to take David As he did not come out of doors, where they waited for him, Saul sent other messengers to take him in the house. She said, He is sick Her affection for David, and fear for his life, induced her to tell a plain lie, in which she is neither to be justified nor imitated. She intended hereby, however, to keep Saul in suspense for a while, till David should arrive at some place of safety. He said, Let me go; why should I kill thee? This was another untruth; and an untruth very injurious to David’s reputation. Far was it from him either to intend or threaten to kill any one, much more his own wife. But Michal feared to enrage her father to too high a degree if she told the truth. Her weakness is to be pitied, while it is to be condemned and shunned.

Verse 18

1 Samuel 19:18. David escaped and came to Samuel Both for comfort and direction in his distress , and for safety, supposing that Saul would be ashamed to execute his bloody designs in the presence of so venerable a person as Samuel. And told him all that Saul had done to him Which, while it afforded relief to the mind of David amidst his distress and trouble, could not but exceedingly grieve the mind of Samuel, to be informed how low Saul had fallen. He and Samuel went and dwelt in Naioth Or, as the Chaldee renders it, The school of learning. This was that famous school or college of the prophets, which was dedicated to the study of the Jewish law, and was in all respects a religious seminary.

Verse 20

1 Samuel 19:20. Saul sent messengers to take David His implacable hatred had abolished all respect and reverence for Samuel, (under whose protection David now was,) and for the college of the prophets, which was a kind of sanctuary to those that fled to it. Samuel standing as appointed over them To instruct and direct them in their holy exercises. For though they prophesied by divine inspiration, yet they were both to prepare themselves for it beforehand, and to make good improvement of it afterward, in both which they needed Samuel’s counsel and assistance. And whereas some might falsely pretend to those raptures, or the devil might transform himself into an angel of light, Samuel’s presence and judgment were necessary to prevent and to detect such impostures. Besides, Samuel would, by his present conjunction with them in those holy exercises, encourage them, and stir up others to the coveting of those gifts, and to the performance of such religious duties. The Spirit of God was upon the messengers of Saul That, being rapt up into an ecstasy, and no longer masters of themselves, their minds might be wholly taken off from their design of seizing David. They prophesied Praised God in hymns, by a sudden impulse, which they could not resist.

Verses 21-23

1 Samuel 19:21-23. He sent other messengers Strange obstinacy, to contend so long with the Spirit of God. And they prophesied likewise That is, they joined with the rest in praising God. “Instead,” says Henry, “of seizing David, they were themselves seized.” Thus God again secured David, put an honour on the sons and school of the prophets, and manifested his power over the spirits of men. The Spirit of God was upon him also It came upon him in the way; whereas it came not upon his messengers till they came to the place. Hereby God would convince Saul of the vanity of his designs against David, and that in them he fought against God himself.

Verse 24

1 Samuel 19:24. And he stripped off his clothes also His royal robes. Perhaps this was intended to signify the taking away of his kingdom from him; and lay down Hebrew, fell down, upon the earth; for his mind being in an ecstasy, he had not the use of his senses; God so ordering it, that David might have an opportunity to escape; naked That is, stripped of his upper garments, as the word naked is often used; and it is here repeated to signify how long he lay in that posture. Day and night So God kept him as it were in chains, till David was got out of his reach. Is Saul also among the prophets? The same proverb which was used before is here revived, as an evidence of God’s wonderful care over David; he made Saul, in some sort, a prophet, that he might make David a king.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 19". Benson's Commentary. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/1-samuel-19.html. 1857.
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