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Bible Commentaries
1 Samuel 19

The Pulpit CommentariesThe Pulpit Commentaries

Verses 1-24



JONATHAN'S LOVE FOR DAVID (1 Samuel 19:1-7).

1 Samuel 19:1

Saul spake to Jonathan his son...that they should kill David. The translation of the last clause is untenable; it really means "about killing David," and so both the Septuagint and the Syriac render it. The descent of men once full of noble impulses, as was the case with Saul, into open crime is gradual, and with many halts on the way. Saul first gave way to envy, and instead of struggling against his bad feelings, nourished them. Then, when scarcely accountable for his actions, he threatened David's life; and next, with growing malice, encouraged him in dangerous undertakings, in the hope that in one of them he might be slain. And now he goes one step farther. He talks to Jonathan and his officers concerning the many reasons there were for David's death; argues that without it there will be no security for himself and his dynasty; represents David probably as a traitor, with secret purposes of usurping the throne; and reveals what hitherto had been but the half-formed wishes of his heart. But even now, probably, he still spoke of David's death as a painful necessity, and had many misgivings in his own mind. But he was really encouraging himself in crime, and by cherishing thoughts of murder he was gradually descending towards the dark abyss into which he finally fell.

1 Samuel 19:2, 1 Samuel 19:3

Until the morning. Rather, "in the morning." Saul's purpose was taking shape, and as there are always men too ready to commit crime at the bidding of a king, there was the danger that secret murder might be the quick result of Saul's open communication of his wishes to his men of war. Jonathan, therefore, warns David of the king's malice, and urges him to hide himself until he has made a last entreaty for him. This was to take place in the field, the open common land. There was no idea of David overhearing the conversation, but when the king took his usual walk Jonathan was to join him, and hold a conference with him apart in the unenclosed hill pastures. After probing his father's real feelings he would continue his walk, and, without awakening any suspicions, would meet David and communicate to him the result. What I see, that I will tell thee. More exactly, "I will see what (he says), and will tell thee."

1 Samuel 19:4-7

In the field Jonathan intercedes for David, assures his father of his friend's innocence, reminds him of his noble exploit, and of Saul's own joy at it, and beseeches him not to shed innocent blood. And Saul, fickle and selfish, yet not destitute of noble feelings, repents of his purpose, and with characteristic impetuosity takes an oath that David's life shall be spared. Whereupon a reconciliation takes place, and David resumes his attendance upon the king's person.


1 Samuel 19:8, 1 Samuel 19:9

The—more correctly an—evil spirit from Jehovah. The friendly relations between Saul and David continued for some time; but when at length war broke out again, David acquitted himself with his usual ability and success, whereupon Saul's envy and jealousy returned, and fits of melancholy, deepening into insanity, once again over. clouded his reason. It is no longer called "an evil spirit from God," as in 1 Samuel 18:10, but from Jehovah, as in 1 Samuel 16:14, suggesting that it was no longer a natural influence, but that Saul, having broken his covenant relations with Jehovah, was now punished by him. While in this moody state the same temptation to slay David with his javelin came over him, but with such violence that he was no longer able to restrain his evil intent.

1 Samuel 19:10-12

Saul sought to smite David. The verb used here is not that rendered cast in 1 Samuel 18:11, where probably we had the record of a purpose threatened, but not carried out. Here Saul actually threw his javelin at David with such violence that it was fixed into the wall. But David, though playing some instrument of music at the time, was on his guard, and slipped away. And David fled, and escaped that night. As usual, the historian gives the ultimate results of Saul's violence first, and then returns and gives the particulars; for plainly David first went home, and it was only when he found that the house was surrounded by Saul's emissaries that he fled away to find refuge with Samuel. Saul also sent messengers. As is often the case, this outbreak of violence on Saul's part broke down all the former restraints of upright feeling and conscience. He had lost his self-respect, was openly a murderer as regards everything but the success of his attempt, and he determined that.that should not be long wanting. He sends persons, therefore, to watch David's house, with orders that when in the morning he came out, suspecting no danger, they should fall upon him and slay him. But Michal in some way or other became aware of her husband's danger. Possibly she had been at her father's house in the afternoon, and with quick observation had noticed that more than usual was going on, and seeing that her own house was the object of these preparations, had divined their intent; or possibly Jonathan may have given her information, and so she warned David of his danger. As the entrance was guarded, he was let down through a window, like St. Paul afterwards, and so began the weary life of wandering which lasted through so many troubled years.

1 Samuel 19:13

Michal took an image. Literally, "the teraphim," a plural word, but used here as a singular. Probably, like the corresponding Latin word penates, it had no singular in common use. It was a wooden block with head and shoulders roughly shaped to represent a human figure. Laban's tera-phim were so small that Rachel could hide them under the camel's furniture (Genesis 31:34), but Michal's seems to have been large enough to pass in the bed for a man. Though the worship of them is described as iniquity (1 Samuel 15:23), yet the superstitious belief that they brought good luck to the house over which they presided, in return for kind treatment, seems to have been proof against the teaching of the prophets; and Hosea describes the absence of them as on the same level as the absence of the ephod (Hosea 3:4). A pillow of goats' hair for his bolster. More correctly, "a goat's skin about its head." So the Syriac and Vulgate. The object of it, would be to look at a distance like a man s hair. The Septuagint has a goat's liver, because this was supposed to palpitate long after the animal's death, and so would produce the appearance of a person's breathing. But this involves a different reading, for which there is no authority; nor was Michal's deception intended for close observation. She would of course not let any one disturb David, and all she wanted was just enough likeness to a man to make a person at a distance suppose that David was there. Soon or later her artifice would be found out, but her husband would have had the intervening time for effecting his escape. As the word rendered pillow, and which is found only here, comes from a root signifying "to knot together," "to intertwine," some commentators think that it means a network of goats' hair, perhaps to keep off flies. But this is a mere guess, and not to be set against the combined authority of the two versions. With a cloth. Hebrew, beged. This beged was David's every day dress, and would greatly aid Michal in her pious artifice. It was a loose mantle, worn over the close-fitting meil (see 1 Samuel 2:19). Thus Ezra (Ezra 9:3, Ezra 9:5) says, "I rent my beged and my meil," which the A.V. with characteristic inexactness translates "my garment and my mantle." In Genesis 28:20, where it is rendered raiment, Jacob speaks of it as the most indispensable article of dress; and in Genesis 39:12, where it is rendered garment, we find that it was a loose plaid or wrapper. In those simple days it was used for warmth by night as well as for protection by day, and it is interesting to find David in his old age still covered up for warmth in bed by his beged (1 Kings 1:1), where it is translated clothes.

1 Samuel 19:14-17

When, after waiting till the usual hour for David's appearance, he came not, the watchers send and inform Saul, who now orders his open arrest. But Michal despatches a messenger to tell her father that he is sick. Upon this Saul orders bed and all to be brought, that he may slay him. As an Oriental bed is usually a mere strip of carpet, this would be easy enough. But when the messengers force their way through, in spite of every obstruction which Michal can devise to waste time, and come up close to the sleeping figure, "Lo, teraphim in the bed, and a goatskin at its head." They carry the news to Saul, who sends for Michal, and reproaches her for letting his enemy go. And she, afraid of bringing her father's anger upon herself, answers with a falsehood, such as we find David also too readily having resort to; for she tells Saul that his flight was David's own doing, and that she had taken part in it only to save her life. Why should I kill thee? She pretends that David had told her not to force him to kill her by refusing to give her aid in his escape. Saul, no doubt, saw that she had been a willing agent; but as she professed to have been driven to do what she had done by David's threats, he could say no more.


1 Samuel 19:18

David...came to Samuel. We have seen that there is every reason to believe that David had been taught and trained by Samuel among the sons of the prophets, and now, conscious of his innocence, he flees for refuge to his old master, trusting that Saul would reverence God's prophet, and give credence to his intercession and his pledge that David was guiltless. He and Samuel went and dwelt in Naioth. Rather in Nevayoth, as in the written text. This is not the name of a place, but signifies "dwellings," "lodgings," and is always translated in the Chaldee "house of study," i.e. student's lodgings. Somewhere near to Ramah Samuel had erected buildings to receive his young men, who were called "sons of the prophets," not because their fathers were prophets, but because they were under prophetic training, with prophets for their teachers, though not necessarily intended to be prophets themselves. At first Samuel, we may suppose, built one nevath, one simple hospice for his students, and then, as their numbers grew, another, and yet another, and so the plural, nevayoth, came into voile as the name of the students' quarters.

1 Samuel 19:19, 1 Samuel 19:20

On hearing where David was, Saul sends messengers to arrest him, and we thus incidentally gain a most interesting account of the inner condition of Samuel's schools. Evidently after Saul had become king Samuel devoted his main energies to this noble effort to raise Israel from the barbarous depths into which it had sunk; and when the messengers arrive they enter some hall, where they find a regularly organised choir, consisting not of "sons of the prophets," young men still under training, but of prophets, men who had finished their preparatory studies, and arrived at a higher elevation. The Chaldee Paraphrast calls them scribes; and doubtless those educated in Samuel's schools held an analogous position to that of the scribes in later days. And Samuel himself was standing—not as appointed over them; he was the founder and originator of these schools, and all authority was derived from him. What the Hebrew says is that he was "standing as chief over them," and they, frill of Divine enthusiasm, were chanting psalms to God's glory. So noble was the sight, that Saul's messengers on entering were seized with a like enthusiasm, and, laying aside their murderous purpose, joined in the hearty service of the prophetic sanctuary. Instead of they saw the Hebrew has "he saw," but as all the versions have the plural, it is probably a mere mistake. The Hebrew word for company is found only here. By transposing the letters we have the ordinary word for congregation, but possibly it was their own technical name for some peculiar arrangement of the choir.

1 Samuel 19:21-24

Saul sends messengers a second and even a third time with the same result, and finally determines to go in person. Having set out, he came to a—more correctly thegreat well that is in Sechu—more probably the cistern or tank there. From the value of water it was no doubt a well known spot at the time, but in the present ruined state of the country all such works have perished. Sechu, according to Conder ('Handbook'), was probably on the site of the present ruin of Suweikeh, immediately south of Beeroth. Having there made inquiries whether Samuel and David were still at Ramah, courageously awaiting his craning, he proceeds on his way. But even before arriving in Samuel's presence, with that extraordinary susceptibility to external impressions which is so marked a feature in his character, he begins singing psalms, and no sooner had he entered the Nevavoth than he stripped off his clothes—his beged and meil—and lay down naked—i.e. with only his tunic upon him—all that day and all that night. His excitement had evidently been intense, and probably to the chanting he had added violent gesticulation. But it was not this so much as the tempest of his emotions which had exhausted him, and made him thus throw himself down as one dead. And once again the people wondered at so strange an occurrence, and called back to mind the proverb, Is Saul also among the prophets? When first used (1 Samuel 10:11) Saul's enthusiasm was an outburst of piety, genuine but evanescent, and which had long since passed away. What was it now? The Chaldee, as explained by Rashi, says he was mad. More probably, in the violent state of excitement under which Saul had for some time been labouring, the thought of seeing Samuel, from whom he had been so long separated, brought back to his mind the old days when the prophet had loved and counselled him, and made him king, and been his true and faithful friend. And the remembrance overpowered him. What would he not have given to have continued such as he then was! And for a time he became once again the old Saul of Ramah; but the change was transient and fitful; and after these twenty-four hours of agony Saul rose up, full perhaps of good intentions, but with a heart unchanged, and certain, therefore, very quickly to disappoint all hopes of real amendment, and to become a still more moody and relentless tyrant.


1 Samuel 19:1-7

Open enmity and open friendship.

The facts are—

1. Saul reveals his purpose to kill David.

2. This being made known to Jonathan, he arranges with David to let him learn the result of an effort to turn Saul from his purpose.

3. He pleads with Saul David's good services and personal risks, God's approval, and the king's own joy therein.

4. Saul yields to persuasion, resolves not to shed "innocent blood," and recalls David into his personal service. The historian traces the progress of Saul to ruin, and of David to royal honours, and here brings out the aroused hostility of Saul on the one side, and the open services of Jonathan's friendship on the other. Father and son are at cross purposes concerning the life of one who in the providence of God is to supplant both. Each performs his part with perfect naturalness; and in the progress of the conflict between enmity and friendship there is a revelation not only of the individual characteristics of the men, but also of principles in constant operation. We have here an instance of—

I. THE INEVITABLE GROWTH OF SECRET SIN. Except in occasional seasons of moodiness, Saul's conduct towards David had not found formal expression. His servants probably set down his violence (1 Samuel 18:11) to irritability, and we have seen how cleverly Saul had striven to throw on Providence the slaying of David while he was doing him honour (1 Samuel 18:17-30). The frustration of these secret schemes brought out the fact that the sin so long cherished in the heart, and for very shame concealed, had, by that very nurture, gained such power over the entire man as to force its way into open day, regardless of all considerations of prudence and self-respect. The murder in intent became murder avowed. The ruling passion of the inner life now became the acknowledged master, and a public avowal of servitude to it is therefore voluntarily made. Saul's experience is but an instance of the experience of multitudes. Progress in wickedness is from within outwards. Lust, when it hath conceived, brings forth sin (James 1:15). Every deliberate murder, theft, deed of adultery, fraud, and rebellion against Christ's authority was at first germinal in the heart. Each stage of internal growth lessened the power of the will over its progress, till at last it revealed its evil nature in open acts. This psychological genesis of sin is an awful fact, and may well cause those to tremble whose dalliance with secret evil becomes habitual. Truly he who committeth sin is "the servant of sin," and every consideration of duty and interest should urge us to cry daily for a "clean heart," and that sin may have "no more dominion" over us (Psalms 139:23; Romans 6:14).

II. THE STUPIDITY CONSEQUENT ON THE DOMINION OF SIN. Facts prove that all sin is a species of madness. Adam and Eve imagined that a thicket would hide them from God. Saul's clearness of intellect suffered by his first public disobedience; and now that the evil passion had gained ascendancy, extreme stupidity appears in his soliciting the aid, in the execution of his cruel purpose, of Jonathan, David's bosom friend (1 Samuel 18:1-4; 1 Samuel 19:1). If he knew nothing of their friendship, which is very improbable, he ought to have known enough of so good and devout a son as to be sure that he would be no party to a base and villanous deed. If he imagined that Jonathan was likely to be actuated by jealousy of a rival, he performed the stupid act, common to base men, of thinking that reasons which have force with themselves have force with others. In proportion to the power of sin over the will is the effect of it on the intellect. Even the most clever sinners, when seeking to cover their sin from man, manifest some infatuation or folly which affords the clue to their crime. But it is especially in relation to God and the future issues of sin that this stupefying effect appears. It is only this blinded spirit that explains the ease with which men read of the coming "terrors of the Lord" (2Co 5:10, 2 Corinthians 5:11; 2 Corinthians 4:3, 2 Corinthians 4:4; Hebrews 2:3).

III. THE DOMESTIC SORROWS CREATED BY SIN. It was with a sad, heavy heart that Jonathan had witnessed the gradual decay of his father's character, but the saddest blow was when the father sought to make the son partaker in his sin. The grief of the son would be proportionate to his piety. To be tempted by a father, to have filial obedience tested in deeds of evil, to see the utter ruin of a parent's moral character, was a bitter trial; and, as a true son, Jonathan could not but bear these sorrows as a fearful secret. In how many families are there sorrows of this kind! How many a child has to watch the decay of a father's reputation, to bear inducements to sin, and to hide deeds and intentions of evil! A parent is far gone when children are prompted to wrong. A child is indeed a "child of sorrow" when compelled to carry on a pure heart the secrets of a sinful home.

IV. THE TRIUMPH OF RELIGIOUS FRIENDSHIP. It is scarcely likely that Saul would speak to Jonathan about killing David without pointing out how dangerous a rival he was to both father and son. It raised in Jonathan's mind the conflict of worldly interest and fidelity to a friend. Not a few have yielded to such temptations. But Jonathan's pure soul was equal to the occasion. His conduct was marked by exquisite delicacy of feeling and wisdom. He would not so degrade his father as to tell David that he had been asked to slay his friend, while be assured David of his real danger. While not assuming the tone of an advocate, he skilfully handled facts so as to achieve the end in view. The point of the temptation was to sacrifice friendship to private and public interests. There are persons still subject to the same trial. May we not also see something analogous to the common temptations of Christians to renounce the "anointed One" for reasons pertaining to earthly wealth and glory? Where there is real oneness of heart with Christ, no blandishments of sin, no prospect of greater worldly distinction, avail to break the sacred bond.

V. THE FORCE OF TRUTH ON THE CONSCIENCE. Jonathan simply, in a kindly, gentle way, conversed with his father on the matter, and called his attention to a few facts,—David's risks, services, and evident approval by God, and Saul's own joy in his victories,—and then asks whether such innocent blood should be shed. The effect even on the impenitent Saul is to soften his hard heart and draw forth the declaration that he shall be spared. Happy the son who has such influence with an unhappy, wicked father! In dealing with hardened sinners three things are necessary.

1. Truth to present to the conscience. That David was innocent Saul knew; but ordinarily passion blinded him to the due recognition of it. If we can hold forth "the word of life," the actual truth concerning Christ, so that it shall shine straight in upon the conscience, men cannot but acknowledge its power, and it will exercise some restraint on their conduct.

2. A kindly, unaffected manner. It was the manner of Jonathan that secured an attentive hearing and disarmed Saul's suspicion. Harsh language tends to arouse antagonism. The secret of success lies in so presenting the truth that it stands forth alone, unmixed with disturbing elements from our personality. "He that winneth souls is wise" (Proverbs 11:30).

3. Prayerfulness of spirit. We may be sure that Jonathan as well as David prayed in spirit on this occasion. The tone of our mind is wonderfully affected by prayerfulness. We then speak for God and man with a gentle force which guilty men cannot but feel.

General lessons:

1. More attention should be called to the importance of crushing out sinful feelings on their first appearance, and means suggested for so doing.

2. Parents and persons in positions of influence should be earnestly warned of the fearful crime of seeking to induce young persons to violate their sense of right and truth.

3. The good that is in us may be much more utilised if we strive to act with the "wisdom of the serpent and the harmlessness of the dove."

1 Samuel 19:8-17

Revived sins and troubles.

The facts are—

1. The fresh fame of David arouses the latent ill-will of Saul, who seeks in vain to smite him with a javelin.

2. David fleeing to his house, Saul sends men to lie in wait for and slay him.

3. Michal warns him of danger, and during the night aids his escape.

4. By a clever device she diverts his enemies from an immediate pursuit, and on being accused of aiding her father's enemy, she pleads self-preservation. The troubles of life are but temporarily overcome. It was destined for David to smite the national enemy, since he went forth as none other did, strong in the "name of the Lord." The fame of his exploits no sooner reached the ears of Saul than the effect of Jonathan's recent endeavour to reconcile him to David was utterly lost; and hence arose a series of new troubles for persecutor and the persecuted. We see here—

I. That A RADICAL CHANGE OF DISPOSITION IS THE ONLY GUARANTEE OF CONDUCT AND CHARACTER. The change wrought in Saul by Jonathan's recent presentation of truth was only superficial. The old sin was loved and unrepented of. The nature of the man was alienated from the life of God; and hence on the slightest approach of temptation the old spirit broke forth. It is universally true that no intellectual recognition of truth, no acquiescence of conscience in the injustice of a course, no reformation consequent on human influence over the feelings or the intelligence, will make man, or enable him to be, what he ought to be. The fundamental disposition must be renewed. There are instances of this in Christian history. The lion becomes a lamb. A Saul of Tarsus becomes an apostle of Christ. It is in the nature of things that so it should be. For in the ordained subordination of the powers of the mind there is a ruling disposition to which all bend: if it be pure all will move in a holy direction; if it be impure the whole life will he stained. Out of the heart are the issues of life. It is the weakness of all systems of morality that they exalt virtue and teach the evils of vice, but furnish no adequate power to render the life virtuous in the highest sense of the term. Moralists may be immoral. The doing of truth is not involved in a knowledge of it. Here it is that the New Testament comes in to supplement man's knowledge, and to perfect codes of morality. By the gift of the Holy Spirit it builds up outward character from within, and insures that at last sin shall have no dominion over us. There is danger of men overlooking this truth, especially when many run to and fro, and knowledge is increased. Civilisation, by securing a presentable exterior, diverts attention from the "hidden man of the heart." The indirect effect of Christianity is to incorporate with the ordinary character many of the virtues nourished only by itself, and hence men imagine that society would be what it is without Christianity. It is extremely important, therefore, to insist on the New Testament teaching of the need of a radical change by the power of the Holy Spirit; to seek to bring our children early under his renewing power, and to pray constantly that men may be renewed and become new creatures in Christ Jesus.

II. That THE AFFLICTIONS OFTEN BEFALLING THE SERVANTS OF GOD PUT A SEVERE STRAIN ON THEIR FAITH. If Psalms 59:1-17 was written in reference to this persecution, we can see the propriety of the assertion, "Not for my transgression, and not for any sin of mine" (Psalms 59:3), do they "set themselves." To a young man conscious of his integrity, and not without hope of being accepted of God, it must have seemed a strange providence which allowed his life to be so troubled. Could Samuel's anointing really have a Divine significance? (1 Samuel 16:13). Was it not a mistake to have left the quiet sheepfold for the scene of conflict? (1 Samuel 17:20). Would it not be well even now to retire into private life? Why should an innocent, sincere soul have such constant reason to cry, "Awake to help me, and behold?" (Psalms 59:4). The experience is not confined to David. One greater than David, when in pursuit of his higher work in the world, was a "Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief." And likewise for many a year his Church, when pursuing her holy and beneficent course, was exposed to relentless persecution. It is still true that "many are the afflictions of the righteous," and that "through much tribulation "we enter the kingdom. But all this is not a matter of chance, nor an indication of imperfect wisdom and love. The world is evil, and goodness can only live in it by conflict. It is part of the great battle of the universe that sin shall be exterminated by endured sorrows. History proves that the purest lives and most beautiful virtues have flourished in times and by means of severe trial. Every sufferer knows how blessed it is to be driven nearer to God. The tribulation is only for a brief space, and works out a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. Hence faith can bear the strain; the more so as God does succour and delight the soul with his comforts (Psalms 59:17; Psalms 94:19).

III. That THOSE WHO DEVISE EVIL AGAINST THE SERVANTS OF GOD ARE SOMETIMES CAUGHT IN THEIR OWN DEVICES. In the exercise of his low cunning Saul gave Michal to David that she might be a snare to him (1 Samuel 18:21), her character and tendencies being such as might in his judgment bring him into trouble. It now turned out that the snare for David became a snare for Saul (Psalms 7:14, Psalms 7:15). Wicked men cannot always reckon safely on their instruments. Men laid snares for Christ, but were entangled in their own talk (Matthew 22:15-22). Pharaoh thought he would find Israel "entangled in the land" (Exodus 14:3), and he found himself ensnared therein to his own destruction. Snares are laid for the Church of God in modern times, and some of these will doubtless prove the reverse of the original intent. We are invited with persuasive voice to enter the pathway of severe historical criticism and of physical science, and it is hoped thereby to disenchant us of the fascination of a supernatural Christianity. Men are as confident of the result as was Saul when he gave Michal to David (1 Samuel 18:21); but we have nothing to fear, for criticism and science thus far only bring out the truth that the CHRIST is unexplainable on any hypothesis but that of the supernatural; and hence, on the ordinary principles of scientific research, men are bound to accept that hypothesis, or else declare themselves unscientific. "He must reign till he hath put all enemies under his feet" (1 Corinthians 15:25),

IV. That ALTHOUGH IMPERFECT MORAL CONDUCT MAY SUBSERVE THE INTERESTS OF GOD'S SERVANTS, IT NEVERTHELESS IS DISHONOURING TO THEM. Michal acted a lie, and also told deliberate lies, in order to shield David and then herself. The issue was advantageous to David, as it put a wide distance between him and his pursuers. The statement of the facts in Scripture is by no means identical with approval of them. God's purposes have sometimes been furthered by the actions of imperfect men, but the actions have been their own, and never have had Divine approval. It is true still that many a defective "earthen vessel" is the instrument of good. Indeed, were God to refrain from working out his blessed purposes of mercy till we were all pure as the angels, the prospects of the world would be dark enough. The safe rule is "not to do evil that good may come." Good does come often in spite of evil, as when God's truth is diffused in spite of the mixed motives and strifes of those engaged in his service, and when comfort and joy flow to the poor from money given even for purposes far from benevolent. The command of God is "Lie not one to another" (Le Psalms 19:11). It is not for us to say that dangers will be avoided by occasional lies. The principle involved in truth speaking is of vast importance in all times and places, and is worth the sacrifice of much for its vindication. Suppose a man is slain rather than utter a lie, does not his martyrdom for truth, in the enduring moral sphere, bring greater good to moral beings and himself than could have come from trampling on a sacred principle for a present advantage? God, moreover, does not leave his servants when they do right. Had Michal stated the facts she would have saved her husband from slander, and there were ten thousand ways by which God could have frustrated the purpose of the men and shielded David. Our duty is to be true and leave consequences to God. God does not lie—we are children of God; Christ did not lie—we are followers of Christ. We may be sure that permanent good must ensue on our being conformed to Christ, the image of God. There is a gain which is loss, and a loss which is gain.

General lessons:

1. The influence of Christians may restrain the development of sin in some of its grosser forms, but it is an imperfect Christianity which rests in that.

2. The "wrath of man" is made to praise God, in that persecutions issue in greater spirituality of mind and fitness for permanent service (Romans 5:3-5).

3. We need not fret and be uneasy about the snares of the wicked if only we are in God's service, as time is on our side (Psalms 37:1-40.).

4. Christians should strive to put down all practical forms of falsehood prevalent in society, and train children in a severe love of truth at any cost.

1 Samuel 19:18-24

Saintly refuge and spiritual restraint.

The facts are—

1. David takes refuge with Samuel at Naioth in Ramah.

2. The messengers sent by Saul to take David are restrained in the presence of Samuel and the prophets, and themselves begin to prophesy.

3. Other messengers come under the same influence.

4. Venturing to go himself, he, on approaching the place, also falls under the prophetic influence, and is utterly overcome by it in the presence of Samuel. Human wisdom may be almost confounded by the prominent facts of this section, but this must not be taken as proof of our infallibility, nor of the unfitness of the event with the order of Divine providence. Had it been left to man to invent and regulate the process by which the earth and life upon it arrived at the forms now familiar to us, would he have introduced some of those ancient physical conditions and changes which must have been so utterly unlike what now prevail? The convulsions, the transformations, the climatic conditions, the huge forms of life of some past ages are as much unlike the present facts as the spiritual manifestations of the prophetic schools are unlike the orderly course of Christian influence. It is only of late years that men have in some degree traced the naturalness of the physical process, and even now there is diversity of opinion on the subject. It is not to be wondered at, therefore, if, in man's comparative ignorance of the unseen spiritual sphere in which the great development of God's purpose in Christ really occurs, he should not be able to supply all the links connecting the spiritual manifestations of the era of Samuel with the rigid legal era of Moses and the more calm and orderly methods of the Christian dispensation.

"Blind unbelief is sure to err,

And scan his work in vain;

God is his own interpreter,

And he will make it plain."

Looking at the teaching of the section, we see—

I. As IMPORTANT SPIRITUAL POWER BEING NOURISHED AMIDST THE TURMOIL OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS. While battles were being fought, and the kingdom was troubled with the unsatisfactory condition of the court, Samuel was quietly gathering around himself a band of men who, devoting attention to the records of Israel's history, the exercise of psalmody and music, and the spiritual interests of men, were becoming a power to influence the national life in days to come. The extent and strength of that influence cannot be minutely traced, because of its spiritual nature; but the higher tone of national life during the reigns of David and Solomon was doubtless largely due to it. Centres of spiritual influence are formed when the great political world is intent on its wars and intrigues. Notably, Christianity arose and found its first nourishment amidst the quiet valleys and hills of Palestine while Roman imperialism was intent on conquests and ignorant almost of its existence. The band of men and women who met for prayer in an upper room (Acts 1:13, Acts 1:14) cultivated there the power which afterwards penetrated into all parts of the Roman empire. The quiet retreats and colleges of the middle ages in some respects were the seats of an influence which the world could ill spare. During the close of the last century small bodies of Christians nourished here and there the missionary spirit which has since affected the destinies of millions in the East and South. Amidst all the conflicts of politics and controversies of science and worry of commerce there are quiet fellowships of Christians devoted to the nourishment of a life destined to conserve and elevate the national life. The Christian Church has need to form and sustain "schools of the prophets" to meet the demands of the age. Samuel's course and the injunctions of Paul to Timothy (1 Timothy 3:1-7; 1Ti 5:21, 1 Timothy 5:22; 2 Timothy 2:4; cf. Ephesians 4:11-15) suggest that it is the duty of the Church as a whole, and not to be left as a private enterprise to a few zealous individuals, to provide for the training of men for spiritual service. Had more care been devoted to this in years past it had been well for the world.

II. THE SORROWFUL SOUL SEEKS REFUGE FROM THE CARES AND TROUBLES OF LIFE IN FELLOWSHIP WITH THE DEVOUT. It was a spiritual instinct that drew David to Samuel. The penalties of public life had already fallen heavily upon him. He had found, even in the beginning of his career of service to mankind, that "offences must needs come." The whole tone of life around the throne was out of accord with his most cherished aspirations. He was conscious of being misunderstood and misrepresented. The earlier days of quiet service and holy communion with God were now but sweet memories, bringing the bitter realities of daily life into stronger relief. With bounding heart and rapid flight, therefore, did he seek consolation, counsel, and rest with the honoured man who once anointed him to some unexplained service. Many have been, and still are, in full sympathy with the troubled David. The devout heart is brave, and dares not shun to fight the holy battles of the Lord in daily life. Religion is to flourish in face of evil and care, and not away in solitude. The business of life must not be left to the greedy and the vile. The great prayer was not that the disciples should be taken from the world, but that they should be kept from its evil (John 17:15; cf. 1 Corinthians 5:10). Yet human nature cries out under the strain; the spiritual mind is disgusted with the sins it witnesses; the sense of belonging to a higher citizenship rises in force; sympathy with kindred spirits is longed for; the support of stronger natures is a pressing need; and opportunities for prayer and for contemplation on the loftier aims of life are earnestly desired. Under this common inspiration, Jacob and Moses and Elijah sought each his "Bethel," and found strength for the coming trials and relief from present cares. It was in the same participation in human infirmities and sorrows that Christ loved to retire from the alien world to seek solace with his Father and with his people. For the same reason we love to retire from the turmoil of life to the fellowship of a pious home, a meeting for prayer and counsel, and the service of the sanctuary. It is helpful to court occasional retirement. The "communion of saints" should be more than an article in our creed.

III. A DIVINE RESTRAINT IS PUT ON THE ENEMIES OF GOD'S SERVANTS. Saul's wicked desperation was great when he sent to Naioth to take David, and at its highest pitch when, after three despatches of men, he ventured to go to the abode of Samuel on a cruel errand. Hitherto Saul appeared to be fighting solely against David; but now that the mysterious spirit of prophecy came upon his messengers and rendered them harmless, it ought to have been obvious to him that in persecuting David he was at war with God. The knowledge of this mysterious restraint on them could not but add to his mental confusion, though it was not sufficient to the subjugation of his wild passion. Yet Saul was not bereft of reason; and could he have travelled to Ramah on such an errand without passing in review events prior and subsequent to his last intercourse with Samuel? (1 Samuel 15:26-35). Must he not have gone back in thought to the fearful day when the prophet declared the doom of his reign; the earlier days when as king he received the cheers of the people and the instructions of the prophet (1 Samuel 10:24, 1 Samuel 10:25); and the still earlier time when, fresh from his anointing, on meeting a band of prophets, the spirit of prophecy came on him and turned him into another man? (1 Samuel 10:5-9). And now, after long separation, he was drawing near to that revered man of God and the company of the prophets, not the former Saul, full of hope and courage, but a man sinking deeper and deeper in sin, and with only the courage bred of remorse. If he was to be restrained and rendered harmless, what more natural method—more in harmony with the characteristics of the age and locality, and the psychological facts—than that for a season the old prophetic excitement should come upon him? It is no solitary fact that the mental and moral atmosphere of a place exercises power over men. The main truth, however, is that God restrains. Divine restraint enters into all things. The nature of things is but their limit assigned by God. The original relation of forces in the physical world is so settled by God that their interaction shall be bounded by. definite results. To every effect wrought out in the development of the material universe it has been virtually said, "Thus far shalt thou go, and no farther." Scripture makes known the restraint which God puts on' hearts and on moral beings. Lions dare not touch a Daniel. Evil spirits beg permission of Christ before they can go forth. Men sent to seize the Saviour were unable to fulfil their mission (John 7:46), and soldiers were powerless in his presence (John 18:5-6). The history of the Church and of individual Christian life brings out instances of the restraining power which silently lays hold of man and renders his enmity innocuous. "It shall not come nigh thee" (Psalms 91:7) has often been verified. In all these instances we have but glimpses of that unseen Power by which in due time all principalities and powers, and whatever opposeth itself to God and his Church, shall be either turned unto him or deprived of their power of injury (Isaiah 11:9; Isaiah 35:9, Isaiah 35:10; 1 Corinthians 15:24-26; Philippians 2:9-11; Colossians 1:19, Colossians 1:20; Revelation 21:22-27).


1 Samuel 19:1-7. (GIBEAH.)

The proof of true friendship.

Adversity is the touchstone of friendship, as of many other things; and its experience, sooner or later, is certain. Notwithstanding the secret jealousy and plotting of Saul, the prosperity of David continued to increase; and at length, unable to endure the sight of it, he "spoke to Jonathan his son, and to all his servants, about killing David." Persons in high places are generally attended by some men who, like Doeg (1 Samuel 21:7; 1 Samuel 22:22) and Cush (Psalms 7:1-17; inscription), are ready to carry out their evil wishes. The danger of David was now imminent. And with the revelation of it to him by Jonathan his troubles began. Whilst adversity shows the insincerity and worthlessness of false friends, it also shows the sincerity and worth of true. "In adverse hours the friendship of the good shines most." The proof of true friendship appears in—

I. THE STEADFASTNESS OF ITS ATTACHMENT. "Jonathan delighted much in David." Notwithstanding—

1. Misrepresentation on the part of enemies. There can be no doubt that Saul spoke of David as treacherously aiming at the throne. The mouths of others were full of detraction and calumny, by which they sought to destroy him as with sharp swords (Psalms 59:7).

2. Urgent claims on the part of friends and kindred. A father's wishes are sometimes opposed to a friend's welfare.

3. Self-interest. If David were spared Jonathan's accession to the throne would be jeopardised (1 Samuel 21:13). But true friendship stands the test. It "thinketh no evil" of a friend, will do him no wrong, nor admit the least feeling of jealousy or envy. The wintry storm only serves to strengthen its attachment. "Yet these two charges of inconstancy and of weakness condemn most men: either in their prosperity they despise a friend, or in his troubles they desert him" (Cicero).

II. THE FAITHFULNESS OF ITS COMMUNICATIONS. "And Jonathan told David," etc. (1 Samuel 19:2, 1 Samuel 19:3).

1. It reveals the whole truth and conceals nothing. "If you think any one your friend in whom you do not put the same confidence as in yourself you know not the real power of friendship" (Seneca).

2. It gives the best counsel in its power.

3. It promises aid as it may be needed.

III. THE SELF-DEVOTION OF ITS ENDEAVOURS. "And Jonathan spake good of David," etc. (1 Samuel 19:4, 1 Samuel 19:5).

1. It undergoes personal risk in undertaking the cause of a friend.

2. It makes earnest entreaty on behalf of the absent one; asserting his innocence, enumerating his services, setting forth his claims upon gratitude and esteem, and remonstrating against his being injured "without cause" (1 Samuel 19:5; John 15:25).

3. It shows a prudent and respectful regard for those whom it wishes to influence. In Jonathan prudence and principle were 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" (W.M. Taylor).

IV. THE VALUE OF ITS ACHIEVEMENTS. "And Saul hearkened," etc. (1 Samuel 19:6, 1 Samuel 19:7). "How forcible are right words!" Even the heart of Saul is moved, and his better feelings gain the ascendancy. How often by a generous and prudent attempt at peace making is—

1. A threatening evil averted.

2. A reconciliation, of the alienated effected.

3. Intercourse between friends renewed, "as in times past." "Blessed are the peacemakers," etc. (Matthew 5:9). "There are four, young man" (says an Eastern sage), "who, seeming to be friends, are enemies in disguise—the rapacious friend, the man of much profession, the flatterer, and the dissolute companion These four, young man, are true friends—the watchful friend, the friend who is the same in prosperity and adversity, the friend who gives good advice, and the sympathising friend" ('Contem. Rev.,' 27:421).—D.

1 Samuel 19:8-18. (GIBEAH.)

David's escape from court.

"And David fled, and escaped that night" (1 Samuel 19:10). "There was war again" (1 Samuel 17:1-58.; 1 Samuel 18:5, 1 Samuel 18:30), victory by David again, an evil spirit upon Saul again (1 Samuel 16:23; 1 Samuel 18:10); and, as David once more sat in the palace, "playing with his hand," the king not merely brandished his spear as before, but hurled it at him. It was his last attempt of the kind. After what had taken place he might not be trusted again; and David fled, first to his own house, and during the night from the city. It is one of the memorable nights of the Bible.

1. That night was the commencement of his open persecution by Saul, and of the long and varied troubles he experienced as an outlaw. He had been at court some three or four years, and now at three and twenty went forth to his seven years' wanderings (2 Samuel 5:5 : "He lived seventy years"—Josephus).

2. That night was, as is commonly thought, the occasion of the composition of the first of David's psalms. Psalms 59:0Psalms 59:0; 'the refuge of the persecuted,' "is perhaps the oldest of the Davidic psalms that have come down to us" (Delitzsch). It is not necessary to suppose that it was actually written on the night of his escape. The thoughts and feelings then entertained may have been penned subsequently; perhaps while he continued at Ramah with Samuel and "the prophets" (1 Samuel 19:18, 1 Samuel 19:20). Other psalms have been referred by some to the same occasion—viz; Psalms 6:1-10; Psalms 7:1-17; Psalms 11:1-7. "His harp was his companion in his flight, and even in the midst of peril the poet's nature appears which regards all life as materials for song, and the devout spirit appears which regards all trials as occasions of praise" (Maclaren). How wide and deep was the stream of sacred song of which this was the commencement!

3. That night afforded one of the most remarkable instances of the protecting and guiding providence of God by which the life of David was manifestly ordered. Notice—

I. HIS DANGER, and the anxiety and distress by which it was naturally attended (verses 11, 14, 17, compared with Psalms 59:1-17.). Adversity—

1. Often follows closely upon prosperity. In the morning David occupied a position of high honour as the king's son-in-law, the successful general, the popular hero; at night he was hiding in secret and fleeing for his life. Vicissitude is the law of life; and none, however exalted, may boast of their security or continuance (Job 29:18).

2. Appears sometimes to fall most heavily upon the godly man. "Not for my transgression nor for my sin" (Psalms 59:3). Why should it be permitted? To test, manifest, strengthen, and perfect his character. David had been tried by prosperity, he must also be tried by adversity.

3. Is due, in great measure, to the opposition and persecution of the ungodly. What a picture is here presented of the enemies of David, "when Saul sent messengers, and they watched the house to kill him"! (Psalms 59:3, Psalms 59:6, Psalms 59:14). And what a revelation does it make of the wickedness of the human heart, which was consummated in the crucifying of the Lord of glory! "As then he that was born after the flesh," etc. (Galatians 4:29). The conflict is renewed in every age and in every individual life. "All that will live godly," etc. (2 Timothy 3:12).

4. Leads the good man to more entire trust in God and more earnest prayer. This is one of its chief purposes.

"Deliver me from mine enemies, O my God!…
O Jehovah, God of hosts, God of Israel! ....
O my Strength, on thee will I wait,
For God is my Fortress?'

5. Is never so bitter to him as trouble to the wicked, for he has peace within and undying hope. How different was it with David in this respect from what it was with Saul]

6. However long the good man may suffer from the persecution of the wicked, his deliverance is certain for "God is Ruler in Jacob," etc. (Psalms 59:13). "By him actions are weighed."

II. HIS DELIVERANCE (verses 11, 12, 17, 18). The interposition of Providence, to which it was due—

1. Is not made without the watchful and diligent use of appropriate means. David did not presumptuously wait in the palace or his own house, but availed himself of the opportunity of escaping. "When they persecute you," etc. (Matthew 10:23).

2. Is shown in turning to good what was meant for evil. The snare that was woven for his soul (1 Samuel 17:21; 1 Samuel 17:11; Psalms 59:3) aided his escape.

3. Often fills the wicked with disappointment and confusion when most confident of success (verse 17).

4. Provides a home for the good man when driven out of their society. "Came to Samuel and told him all," etc. That night he was received by his revered friend, to whose instructions he had doubtless often listened; and with whom else could he have found such sympathy and shelter?

5. Causes him to render praise to God.

"But, as for me, I will sing of thy strength,
Yea, I will shout aloud of thy mercy in the morning;
For thou hast been a Fortress to me,
And a Refuge in the day when I was in distress:
O my Strength, unto thee will I harp,
For God is my Fortress, my merciful God."

6. Conduces to the benefit of many. These Psalms of David—the result (under "an unction from the Holy One") of his distresses and deliverances—are among our greatest spiritual treasures. "They are for all time. They never can be outgrown. No dispensation while the world lasts and continues what it is can ever raise us above the reach or the need of them. They describe every spiritual vicissitude, they speak to all classes of minds, they command every natural emotion. They are penitential, jubilant adorative, deprecatory;—they are tender, mournful, joyous, majestic;—soft as the descent of dew; low as the whisper of love; loud as the voice of thunder; terrible as the almightiness of God ["(Binney, 'Service of Song in the House of the Lord').—D.

1 Samuel 19:11-17. (GIBEAH.)


The women mentioned in the Books of Samuel are, for the most part, distinguished for their eminent piety. But what shall be said of Michal, the wife of David? She was a daughter of Saul, inherited much of his temperament and disposition, and (unlike Jonathan) was without the religious principle by which they might have been controlled and sanctified. She was—

1. Impressionable and impulsive. Fascinated by his personal appearance and popularity, the young princess "loved David," and made no secret of her affection; but she does not appear to have perceived anything of his highest qualities. The relation of husband and wife, no less than that of friends, is firmest when sanctified by common faith and love toward God.

2. Capable of a noble action. Under the influence of strong feeling she warned David of his danger and aided his escape, at the risk of her own life.

3. Designing and deceptive. Her quick wittedness devised the means of escape, deceived the messengers of Saul to gain time, and invented a ready story to disarm her father's wrath. Her fear of her father was greater than her love for truth; and her love for her husband greater than her hatred of sin. "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" (W. M. Taylor).

4. Superstitious. Teraphim (1 Samuel 15:23). See Bible Dictionaries. It is not said that David knew of her possession of these idolatrous objects.

5. Changeable and wayward. During the wanderings of David she was given in marriage to Phalti, apparently without reluctance (1 Samuel 25:44); and (as appears when restored to David) "she had evidently gained his affections; he most likely had won hers" (2 Samuel 3:16).

6. Proud, jealous, and scornful. Proud of her birth and rank, jealous of her rivals, Abigail and Ahinoam, and scornful toward her husband. "She despised him in her heart."

"Preceding the blest vessel, onward came,
With light dance leaping, girt in humble guise,
Israel's sweet harper; in that hap he seemed
Less and yet more kingly. Opposite
At a great palace, from the lattice forth
Looked Michal, like a lady full of scorn
And sorrow" (Dante, 'Purg.' 10.).

7. Unspiritual, and destitute of sympathy with the feelings of boundless gratitude, joy, and adoration expressed before the Lord.—D.

1 Samuel 19:20. (RAMAH.)

Samuel the president.

Of Samuel one more glimpse is afforded before his life closes. After his separation from Saul he appears to have devoted himself to the training of a body of younger men to carry on his prophetic work. The flight of David to him shows that an intimate relationship had previously subsisted between them. He went to him for counsel and sanctuary, and the intercourse of the young hero with the old prophet is full of suggestion. Samuel might have advised him to make armed resistance against the godless tyranny of Saul; in which, with his great popularity, he might have succeeded, but only at the cost of a long and ruinous civil war. As at the rejection of Saul he avoided violent measures m support of the theocracy, so now he counselled the same course, and took David with him from his own house to Naioth (dwellings), or the common residence of "the company of the prophets" (1 Samuel 10:10), in the neighbourhood of Ramah. It was the chief home of order, light, and religion; the centre of spiritual influence. "He found there only temporary safety, indeed, from Saul's persecution, 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" (Erdmann). "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 (Hall). How long he continued is not stated; but, on hearing of his refuge, Saul sent three times to take him by force, and ultimately went himself for the purpose. The messengers found an assembly (lahak, used here only, probably by a transposition of letters, i.q. kahal—Gesenius) of prophets engaged in religious exercises under the presidency of Samuel. It is not necessary to suppose that the service, which may have had a special character, was conducted in a large hall, though there may have been such; it was probably in the open air, and capable of being seen and heard from a distance (1 Samuel 19:22). With respect more particularly to Samuel, notice—

I. HIS HONOURED POSITION—"standing as appointed over them," or as leader; not probably appointed by any official act of theirs, but generally recognised and honoured, and directing their holy exercises. The honour in which he was held was due to—

1. The pre-eminent authority he possessed as a prophet of the Lord (1 Samuel 3:19).

2. The high character he had so long sustained in that office, and the course of labour he had pursued.

3. The special work he had accomplished in gathering around him such young men as seemed to be qualified by their gifts and piety to act as prophets in Israel, and forming them into a school or college of prophets. He was the venerable founder of their order, and reaped the reward of his labours in their reverence and affection, and still more in their devotion to Jehovah and their zeal for his honour.

II. HIS PROPHETIC ASSOCIATES. They were '"prophets," not "sons" or disciples "of the prophets" (2 Kings 2:3), who seem to have occupied in later times a more dependent and inferior position. They were a union or free association of men "endowed with the Spirit of God for the purpose of carrying on their work, the feeble powers of junior members being directed and strengthened by those of a higher class" (Kitto, 'Cyc. of Bib. Lit.'). Among them probably were Gad (1 Samuel 22:5; 2 Samuel 24:11), Nathan (2 Samuel 7:2; 2 Samuel 12:1), and Heman, the grandson of Samuel (1 Chronicles 6:33; 1 Chronicles 25:5; "the king's seer," etc.).

1. They had been under his instruction in the knowledge of God and his law, and, as subservient to this, in reading and writing, poetry, music, and singing. "Education is not a panacea for all human ills, but it is an indispensable condition both of individual and of national progress" ('Expositor,' 3:344).

2. They were in sympathy with his purposes concerning the true welfare of the people of Israel, and strove to carry them into effect. They formed "a compact phalanx to stand against the corruption which had penetrated so deeply into the nation, and to bring back the rebellious to the law and the testimony" (Keil).

3. They were endowed, like Samuel himself, with a peculiar measure of the Divine Spirit for the accomplishment of their work. By his influence they were drawn together, variously gifted, and sometimes impelled to ecstatic utterances.

III. HIS DEVOUT OCCUPATION. He presided over the prophets, and took part with them in "prophesying," or uttering with a loud voice the praises of God. His last recorded act was one of worship, and under his influence David's intense love for public worship was probably acquired. The service was—

1. Accompanied with music (as in 1 Samuel 10:10). "A principal part of their occupation consisted—under the guidance of some prophet of superior authority, and more peculiarly under the Divine influence, as moderator and preceptor—in celebrating the praises of Almighty God, in hymns and poetry, with choral chaunts, accompanied by stringed instruments and pipes" (Lowth).

2. Edifying. Whilst their utterance expressed their inward feeling, it was also the means of teaching and exhorting one another, and of "awakening holy susceptibilities and emotions in the soul, and of lifting up the spirit to God, and so preparing it for the reception of Divine revelations."

3. United. which tends by the power of sympathy to intensify feeling, strengthen faith, enlarge desire, and perfect those dispositions in connection with which worship is acceptable to God.

IV. HIS POWERFUL INFLUENCE. "The Spirit of God came upon the messengers," etc. The immediate effect was to transform these men, to protect David from their power, and to afford a sign of the opposition of God to the designs of Saul. More generally, the influence of Samuel was put forth in and through the "company of prophets" for—

1. The maintenance of the principle of the theocracy, which was imperilled by the conduct of Saul. The prophets were its true representatives and upholders in every subsequent age.

2. The elevation of the people in wisdom and righteousness. Their work was to teach, reprove, and exhort those with whom they came into contact; and "through such a diffusion of prophetic training the higher truths of prophecy must have been most rapidly diffused among the people, and a new and higher life formed in the nation" (Ewald).

3. The preparation of men for a better time—the advent of Christ, the outpouring of the Spirit, and the proclamation of the gospel. The prophets, not the priests, were the true forerunners of the gospel ministry.—D.

1 Samuel 19:22-24. (RAMAH.)

The meeting of three remarkable men.

This appears to have been the only occasion on which Samuel, Saul, and David were present at the same time and place. The meeting was a notable one, and may be compared with others (Exodus 10:16; 1 Kings 18:16; Acts 25:24). Besides the three men just mentioned, there was also present One infinitely greater, and, although invisible, his power was displayed in a marvellous manner. Considered in relation to the Divine power, the narrative sets before us—

I. AN AGED PROPHET IMBUED WITH FEARLESS DIGNITY. His danger was great. What Saul might do may be judged from the fear which Samuel expressed on a former occasion (1 Samuel 16:2), and from what he actually did not long afterwards (1 Samuel 22:18, 1 Samuel 22:19). But the prophet went on with his holy service calm and undismayed. He was inwardly sustained by Divine power, as others have since been in danger and suffering (Acts 16:25). Such fearlessness is possessed by God's servants in connection with—

1. A firm persuasion that they are in the path of duty. They have within "a peace above all earthly dignities, a still and quiet conscience." If conscience "does make cowards of us all," it also makes us heroes. And

"He that hath light within his own clear breast
May sit in the centre and enjoy bright day;
But he that hides a dark soul and foul thoughts
Benighted walks under the midday sun" (Milton, 'Comus ').

2. A vivid realisation of the presence and might of the Lord. Faith "sees him who is invisible" and "the mountain full of horses and chariots of fire" (2 Kings 6:17).

3. A strong assurance of deliverance from their adversaries.

II. A PERSECUTING MONARCH TURNED INTO A HARMLESS ENTHUSIAST. The Divine power was exerted first upon Saul's messengers and then upon himself. In a somewhat similar manner, if not to the same extent, it is often exerted upon evil and persecuting men—

1. In connection with the utterances of the praises of God by his servants (2 Chronicles 20:22; Psalms 149:6). Instances are not unknown in which "one that believeth not" has come into their assembly, and, hearing their praises, has fallen down on his face and worshipped God (1 Corinthians 14:24, 1 Corinthians 14:25). This was not the first time that Saul was so affected, and the recollection of his earlier experience had probably some influence upon him. But then it was a sign that the power of God was for him, now that it was against him.

2. In order to restrain the wicked from carrying out their evil designs. He who holds the hearts of men in his hand thereby says, "Do my prophets no harm" (1 Chronicles 16:22).

3. In order to restore them to the right way. It was to Saul more than a warning that he was fighting against God. "He was seized by this mighty influence of the Spirit of God in a more powerful manner than his servants were, both because he had most obstinately resisted the leadings of Divine grace, and also in order that, if it were possible, his hard heart might be broken and subdued by the power of grace. If, however, he should nevertheless continue obstinately in his rebellion against God, he would then fall under the judgment of hardening, which would be speedily followed by his destruction" (Keil).

III. AN INNOCENT FUGITIVE RESCUED FROM IMPENDING DESTRUCTION. David was saved from the hand of Saul, and even (as it would appear) formally reconciled to him (1 Samuel 20:18, 1 Samuel 20:27). The putting forth of the power of God was to him—

1. An indication of the varied and abundant resources of God to protect in the greatest peril.

2. An assurance of Divine approbation in the way of trust and obedience.

3. An encouragement to patient endurance. He might be tempted to reach the goal for which, as he was now probably fully aware, he was destined (1 Samuel 20:15; 1 Samuel 23:17) by violent measures; but ever as he thought on this scene, together with the counsel and the whole course of the venerable prophet, he would feel that "the way of order is the best."

"The way of order, though it lead through windings,
Is the best. Right forward goes the lightning
And the cannon ball; quick, by the nearest path,
They come, opening with murderous crash their way
To blast and ruin! My son, the quiet road
Which men frequent, where peace and blessings travel,
Follows the river's course, the valley's bendings;
Modestly skirts the cornfield and the vineyard,
Revering property's appointed bounds,
And leading safe, though slower, to the mark"

(Schiller, 'Wallenstein').



1 Samuel 19:18-24

Religious consolation and religious excitement.

The consolation was tasted by David; the excitement was shown by Saul.

I. CONSOLATION. We are not surprised to learn that David, when driven from his house by the deadly malice of the king, betook himself to the prophet Samuel at his residence in Ramah. In reporting the treatment he had received to the venerable prophet, he reported it to God, whose authority was represented by Samuel. The path of his life seemed to be blocked by the undeserved ill will of Saul. Was there any further instruction for him from the Lord? There is no evidence that Samuel had held any communication with David from the time of his visit to Bethlehem to anoint the young shepherd; but it may be assumed that he had kept a watchful eye on his career, and prayed much for a youth with so great a destiny. Some painter ought to show us their meeting: the aged prophet, his countenance traced with sorrow for his own unworthy sons, and not less for the untoward career of Saul, receiving with outstretched arms and ready sympathy the fugitive David, in the very perfection of his gallant youth, yet coining with weary steps and dejected visage. The old man took the young chief to shelter with him in Naioth, where was a settlement of prophets—a group of dwellings where servants of God lived in retreat and cultivated sacred song and fraternal fellowship. David was not to tarry long in such a refuge, but it was good for him to visit it. It solaced and strengthened his spirit in God. Undisturbed by the jealousies of the court and the dangerous frenzy of the king, surrounded by an atmosphere of devotion, mingling not merely with aged seers like Samuel, but also with young men of his own age whose time was spent in sacred study and brightened with music and song, David must have been in his best element. He was a good soldier, and happy at the head of his troops, charging the Philistines. But he was still more a thinker, a poet, a minstrel, a prophet, a man of fervent spirit toward God, and so must have been happier in the goodly fellowship of the prophets at Naioth than in the rush of battle and the pride of victory. There is no record of the words of consolation and counsel which Samuel spoke to him; but doubtless we have traces and echoes of them in those psalms in which David has discussed the afflictions of the servants of Jehovah, and sung of their ultimate deliverance and reward. Psalms 59:1-17. is traditionally ascribed to the period when the armed men sent by Saul surrounded David's house to put him to death. As it is highly artificial in structure, it can hardly have been composed on the spur of the moment. Very probably it was written at Naioth while the impression of the danger was fresh, and was sung among the prophets there. In the case of David we read of no agitation or excitement. It would be little surprising if he, fleeing for his life, had been overcome by emotion when he found himself in safeguard. But all we read of his bearing is rational and calm.

II. EXCITEMENT. It was in the servants of Saul, and subsequently in Saul himself, that a religious excitement appeared. Three successive bands were despatched by the king to seize his son-in-law, but with a strange result. As each band saw the venerated Samuel stand forth at the head of the prophets, they feared to do violence to one under such august protection. Nay, more; the spiritual enthusiasm of the prophets communicated itself to them and overmastered them, so that they forgot their errand and joined in the burst of holy song. King Saul himself, provoked by the failure of his emissaries, went to Naioth, and he was more completely overpowered than they. We have seen already that his temperament was exceedingly amenable to the impressions of music and song. We remember how he had flung himself among the prophets in the very outset of his history; and although sadly deteriorated in character, he still retained his early sensibilities. Indeed, through the very disorder of his faculties he had become more susceptible than ever of religious excitement; so when he reached Naioth he was quite beyond himself. The spiritual electricity of the place was too much for him, and he fell into a very paroxysm of enthusiasm. At first when, on the way to Naioth, he lifted his voice m some sacred chant, it was well, and the historian does not hesitate to say that "the Spirit of God was upon him." But at Naioth he behaved like a fanatical devotee of some heathen god, or a wild dervish of the East. He threw off his royal tunic, and after long and exhausting exercise of body and spirit lay in nothing but his under dress, prone and probably motionless, on the ground for "all that day and all that night." But though "among the prophets," he was not of them. It was a mere fit of fervour soon to pass away. The heart of Saul was by this time hopelessly "jangled and out of tune." The subject of temporary religious excitement needs to be carefully thought out and discreetly handled. But it can never be fully explained—at all events not till more is known of the action of the nervous system, and till more light falls on the mysterious question of contagious emotion and imitative cerebral stimulation. One or two things, however, are plain enough, and deserve to be noted; e.g.

1. There is a religious excitation which carries with it no moral influence whatever. It is not feigned or insincere. He who is the subject of it is really lifted up or carried along as with a rush of earnest feeling. He cries for mercy; he prays with strong supplication; or he sings of pardon and of unutterable joys. His emotions are all aglow, and his brain is stirred to unusual activity. This occurs the more easily if one who is constitutionally accessible to such gusts of feeling falls among others who are much in earnest. He finds himself where prayers burst forth from importunate souls, and hymns are sung with a swing of enthusiasm. At once he feels as those around him do. Yet there is no change of his moral nature; he is merely a person of susceptible or imitative constitution, who has caught the contagion of religion from others, yet has not come, and may never come, to repentance. It is not for a moment to be denied that in many cases a real moral and spiritual change is produced in the midst of much excitement; but the excitement is only an accompaniment of the change—perhaps necessary for some minds, hut always fraught with some degree of danger. The only thing of lasting value is the exercise of conscience, and the turning of the affections and will to God in Christ.

2. The degree in which new religious emotion overpowers the body is generally proportioned to the previous ignorance of the mind, or its estrangement from God. David at Naioth fell into no frenzy, lay in no swoon, because he was a man of God, and devout feeling flowed through him unimpeded, found in him a congenial heart. But Saul had been in an evil mood; envy and murder were in his breast. So, when a pure and sacred impulse came upon him, it met resistance; and there were bodily manifestations which, far from being marks of grace, were signs of a moral state at variance with the Spirit of God. This case should teach caution in ascribing any religious value to prostrations, trances, and long fasts. These things most frequently recur in cases of a morbid hysterical temperament, or in very ignorant persons who are disturbed and terrified, or in instances where religious feeling, suddenly flowing in on unprepared minds, encounters obstinate obstruction. When the mind is thoughtful and refined, or when the heart is gentle and open to any good influx, religious fervour seldom causes any disorder in the nervous system or the physical constitution. We may be reminded here that David could show no small excitement, for he danced before the ark in the sight of all Israel (2 Samuel 6:14). True; but in all the enthusiasm of that great occasion King David was sober minded and self-possessed. He had good reasons for leading the sacred processional dance, as may afterwards be shown; but, far from giving way to excitement, or losing his senses like Saul, he went calmly through the duties of an eventful and fatiguing day. He offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. Then he blessed the people, causing provisions to be distributed among them. And after all this "David returned to bless his house." Such is the enthusiasm we desire. To be full of joy before the Lord, but at the same time to be of a healthy mind, ready for public or private duty hour by hour. But we see no good in nervous excitement or hysterical ecstasy. When we consider that the Bible is a collection of Eastern books, and that the East has always been the home of strange religious extravagances, we recognise in the well balanced sobriety of mind which pervades the Bible a new proof of its Divine inspiration. It takes notice of the varied phenomenal effects of strong religious feeling on the human frame; it tells of long prostrations, excited movements, and prophetic trances; but it always attaches moral significance and value not to such abnormal conditions, but to the effects which appear and remain in character and life. The greatest of all, the Man Christ Jesus, the Lord whom we are to love and follow, is shown to us full of a sublime enthusiasm, but full at the same time of meekness and of wisdom. The Scriptures teach us to be calm and fervent, fervent and calm. If rushes of devout emotion come upon us, be it so. If men who have no faith call us fanatical and mad, be it so. Such men said of our Master, "He rageth, and hath a demon;" and of Paul, "Thou art beside thyself." But let the evidence of our Christian faith and principle be found not in any moods of excitement, but in the moral excellence we exhibit, the fruit of the Spirit we bring forth. So shall we find consolation and strength when others only expose their weakness; and every pause at Naioth, or the place of prayer and holy fellowship, will brace our spirits for the trials that must yet befall us before we are perfected.—F.

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 19". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tpc/1-samuel-19.html. 1897.
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