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Bible Commentaries
1 Samuel 19

The Biblical IllustratorThe Biblical Illustrator

Verse 4

1 Samuel 19:4

And Jonathan spake good of David unto Saul his father.

The blessed Peacemaker

I need not tell you how fast weeds grow; your own gardens show you every day: and if you have eyes to look within, your own hearts will show the same sad truth. Saul’s evil eye had now grown into continual hatred--he cares not even to conceal from man the murderous desires of his heart; and being disappointed, both in his own skill and craft he now openly speaks to Jonathan and all his servants that they should kill David. Well doth the Holy Ghost testify, “Evil men and seducers wax worse and worse.” “And Jonathan spake good of David unto Saul his father,” etc. “And Saul hearkened unto the voice of Jonathan,” etc. “Blessed are the peacemakers!” why? “They shall be called the children of God.” And is this the grand family likeness? how should we covet ill? Ah! surely if there is one feature that shines more brightly than another in our adorable elder brother, it is that of peacemaker. Do angels see their God cradled in a manger? it is as Peacemaker, while flocking multitudes strike up the new anthem which unites forever the choir below with the choir above, “Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace, good will towards men.” Do they see their maker agonised? a stranger to peace? a man of sorrows? It is that He might make peace forever by the blood of His cross, and proclaim peace to those who were afar off. Does He now appear as a Lamb slain? forever making intercession? For some David He is pleading, for some afflicted one He is interceding. (Helen Plumptre.)

Verse 12

1 Samuel 19:12

So Michal let David down through a window; and he went, and fled, and escaped.

David a fugitive

In this passage there is a minute account of an appalling danger to which David was exposed.

God’s servants are frequently exposed to alarming dangers.

1. This danger came at an unexpected time. David was now the king’s son-in-law, a great hero in the eyes of the nation, and beloved by all the people, and yet Saul thirsted for his blood.

2. This danger proceeded from a powerful enemy. Saul was himself a formidable antagonist, but he also had many servants, watching to do his bidding.

3. The danger assumed an alarming aspect. The king’s assassins had tracked David’s steps to Gibeah, and surrounded the palace, and apparently guarded every way of escape. The dangers to which David was exposed are typical of the dangers that beset God’s servants now. We are surrounded by dangers ovary moment. Many dangers arise from natural onuses. Many dangers arise from spiritual influences: personal habits, social engagements, and Satanic agency.

God’s servants are frequently warned of approaching danger. Before God destroyed the old world He warned Noah, and commanded him to prepare an ark for himself and family. Before God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah He revealed His purpose to Abraham, and warned Lot of the impending danger. Before Herod sent forth to day all the children that wars in Bethlehem God warned Joseph in a dream, not to return to his own country. Before Saul had completed his plan far the murder of David, “Michal, his wife, told him saying: If thou save not thy life tonight, tomorrow thou shalt be slain.”

1. David’s warning came from different sources. Jonathan and Michal warned David. Intimation of approaching danger comes in many ways. By dreams, suggestions, and Divine impulses. God speaks clearly by His word, earnestly by His son, and constantly by His Spirit.

2. David’s warning demanded immediate attention.

3. David’s warning led to decisive action. He listened to his wife and saved his life. Our safety depends upon decisive action.

God’s servants are frequently delivered from impending dangers. The context shows that God delivers His servants in four ways.

1. By friendly mediation. Jonathan’s prudent and persuasive intercession softened the king’s obduracy. God can touch the hearts of our bitterest enemies.

2. By personal watchfulness. Saul had made the most solemn profession of reconciliation; but David kept his eye upon Saul’s javelin, while his fingers were upon his own harp. The enemy of our souls never slumbers; whether we watch or not, he watches.

3. By conjugal fidelity. Saul gave David Michal “to be a snare to him,” but she proved a protector. “The devil is sometimes outshot with his own bow.”

4. By Divine interposition. The path marked out for David was dark and dangerous, but God saw him, led him, and defended him. (J. T. Woodhouse.)

Verse 20

1 Samuel 19:20

The Spirit of God was upon the messengers of Saul, and they also prophesied.

The contagious influence of faithful prophesying

The prophet of former days was, in all substantial point, identical with the preacher of these. The commission both of prophet and preacher is to set forth the Divine Oracles; to speak to their fellow sinners the word which proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord. It is only an accidental, not an essential difference between the two, that in the case of the prophet this word is derived from immediate inspiration, while in that of the preacher it is gathered by prayerful study out of the pages of a written record. Nor, so long as the testimony borne by both is a testimony of God’s Word, does it constitute an essential difference, that in the prophet’s case the testimony should oftentimes be a warning of future and impending events, in the preacher’s an admonition of present privileges and present duties.

A spiritual influence exerted upon certain persons. Both the messengers of Saul and Saul himself were constrained by a strange and irresistible impulse to prophesy before Samuel. In this seizure and ecstasy of minds, previously bent on the prosecution of a hostile purpose, there was, no doubt, something miraculous, or rather, something that must not be confounded with the ordinary operations of the Holy Spirit. But yet there were circumstances in the former which may usefully remind us of the latter. Saul stripping off his royal apparel, and lying down in the very dust before Samuel--what a picture does this present to us of the sinner’s self-abasement, when the convicting and converting influences of the Holy Spirit first pour in upon his heart! How does he prostrate himself, in deepest humiliation of spirit, at the foot of that cross which has now become his only hope? A blessed and happy influence this, which has been exerted upon his spirit; and one, haply, no less marvellous than the impression made upon Saul of old. Of the latter, men said, “Is Saul also among the prophets?” The spiritual character sat strangely and unwontedly upon this furious and worldly prince. So marvellous in men’s eyes was the transformation, that “Saul among the prophets” passed into a proverb of marvellousness. And is not the result of the Holy Spirit’s ordinary operations as much a marvel, in the strict and true sense of that word, as His bestowal of extraordinary gifts?

The instrumentality employed in making this impression upon Saul himself and his messengers. In the case of the latter, we are distinctly informed that it was not until they saw the company of the prophets prophesying and Samuel standing as appointed over them, that they also prophesied. What sight is so infectious, if we may be allowed to use the term, as that of a congregation of persons solemnly assembled for Divine worship, and joining, as with one heart and one tongue, in the sacred exercises of prayer and praise? Can such a sight fail--even if it make no permanent impression upon the spectator--of absorbing his mind for a season into the current of devotion? Over and above the associations of the place (which of themselves lend wings to devotion) there is a sympathy abroad--a sympathy recognised by the spiritual faculty within us--which lifts up the soul, as by an instinct, into unison with the song of praise and thanksgiving. When we see the company of the prophets prophesying, and Samuel standing as appointed over them, the Spirit of God is upon us, and we also prophesy. Such is, we believe, the experience of every devout mind; such the Christian’s realisation of the blessing annexed by charter to Public Worship, “Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them.” (E. M. Goulburn, D. D.)

Verse 24

1 Samuel 19:24

And he stripped off his clothes also, and prophesied before Samuel.

Religious enthusiasm, true and false

This passage brings before us three very remarkable men--Samuel, and Saul, and David. And this passage speaks to me of religious consolation and religious excitement. Now I ask you to observe that in the case of David there is no record of any agitation or excitement. It would have been little wonderful if he, fleeing for his life, had been overcome with emotion when he found himself with Samuel and with the servants of God, in safeguard. It was the servants of Saul that became excited, and then it was Saul himself showed religious frenzy. The son of Kish was one exceedingly sensitive to the influences of music and song. When his fit of mania came upon him the voice and harp of David wonderfully soothed and even melted him. We read at an earlier period, before he came into possession of the kingdom, that he met a company of prophets, and he too joined them. Years had passed, and now he was a worse man that he was at that day. His character had sorely deteriorated, but through that very disorder of his mind he was in some respects more susceptible than ever to a sort of religious excitement. When he came to Naioth he was quite beyond himself; the spiritual electricity of the place was too much for him, and he fell into a sort of paroxysm of enthusiasm. But he was no prophet. You may be among the prophets, and join your voices among them, and yet be no prophet.

1. There is a religious excitation or excitement which may not have any moral quality or influence whateverse It is not affected; it is real. It is not insincere; it is sincere. I despise the man who would play a part and pretend to be religiously excited when he is not. He is too base a creature. But I mean a person who really is lifted up and carried along with a rush of sacred enthusiasm. He cries for mercy, and he sings loudly of salvation. When he was alone he could not pray at all. He was carried along with the prophets. He had a wonderful fervour, his emotions were all aglow, and his brain was excited with a sort of sacred ecstasy. Now, this happens all the more easily if a man has a constitution accessible to such influences. I do not say that all excitement is useless, but I say that there is an excitement that only amounts to this. God forbid that we should for a moment deny that there are cases in which people get real permanent good. But the excitement is only the accompaniment; it is not the change. Excitement wears itself out. Paroxysms and ecstasies pass away.

2. The second thing is this: the degree in which religious emotion overpowers the body is generally proportioned to the ignorance of the mind, or to its alienation or estrangement from God. David joined the company of these prophets without any excitement or frenzy. I do not read a word about his lying naked upon the ground for a day and a night. Why was that? Because David had more of the matter in him than Saul. There was no resistance in David, therefore his body was not overpowered. But Saul was in an evil mood. He had come down to Naioth in a very evil mood. Envy and murder were in his heart, and when this pure sacred impulse came upon him, it met with the strongest resistance. If this is right, and surely this is right, this case should teach those persons who have at various times made a great ado over prostrations and trances and long lastings as signs of the work of grace, to be somewhat more cautious in their utterances. These things occur almost always in the case of a morbid hysterical temperament, in which case they are only a sign of disease, not of health; or in the case of a very ignorant person who is overwhelmed with things of which he has no intelligent conception; or in cases where there has been a very awful estrangement from God, and the Word of His grace finds an obstruction. There is a sympathy between the body and the spirit. They suffer together, they rejoice together. The body is not overpowered because the spirit of the man is open to the teachings of the Spirit of God. Mark you, it is Saul, not David, that cast off his garments in his excitement, and that threw himself in fanatical exhaustion upon the ground, if you reflect now and consider this, that this Bible is a collection of Eastern books, and remember that the East has always been the home of strange religious extravagance, do not you recognise a new proof of the Divine wisdom that pervades this Bible, that it is really inspired of the Holy Ghost in its well-balanced sobriety of mind? The Lord Jesus, Whom the Bible sets forth as the Holy One, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners--Jesus Whom the Bible calls us to admire and love and follow, is full of the grandest enthusiasm. God was with Him. If ever there was a man full of Spirit it was the Man Christ Jesus. He was filled with the Holy Ghost, and went everywhere led by the Spirit, and at the same time full of sweet self-possession, full of meekness and wisdom, and so answered all questions on the spur of the moment in the wisest possible manner, and set forth perfectly the cause of righteousness. The Bible teaches us, and especially to be calm and fervent, fervent and calm. (Donald Fraser, D. D.)


Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "1 Samuel 19". The Biblical Illustrator. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tbi/1-samuel-19.html. 1905-1909. New York.
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