A Pastor’s Commentary
The Life of David
Lesson 5: “Attempted Murder”
I Samuel 18:10-30
Human nature often envies those who are in high places. It is easy to suppose that they enjoy many privileges and benefits that those of us below them don’t have. But that is more imagined than real. And even where it is true, in most cases it is offset by the burdens and responsibilities that go with such a position. And David at this point in his life is an example of that misconception. There is a sense in which David in the sheepfold was much better off than David in the palace; tending the sheep was not nearly as dangerous waiting on Saul. And of course, the lesson for us to learn from that is to be contented with whatever place it is that God has placed us, no matter how “lowly” it many seem.
In our last lesson we saw David beginning to feel the effects of the jealousy of Saul. We saw God’s provision of friendship with Jonathon in verses 1 through 3. Then we saw the praise of the females in verses 4 through 9. And those things together led to Saul’s jealousy and fear of David. So now we come to the third section of the chapter which has to do with the pursuit by the fallen king in verses 10 through 30. And first we see the setting of the pursuit in verses 10 through 16. First there is a precursor to the pursuit in verse 10 and 11.
And it happened on the next day that the distressing spirit from God came upon Saul and he prophesied within the house. So David played music with his hand, as at other times; but there was a spear in Saul’s hand And (11) Saul cast the spear; for he said “I will pin David to the wall with it.” But David escaped his presence twice.
How quickly things can change. Just a few days ago David was hearing songs of praise; now he hears the whistle of a spear going past his head.
And that should teach us to not put too much value on the good things of this life. One of the puritans wrote, “build not thy nest in any earthly tree, for the whole forest is doomed for destruction.” It is only when we “set our affections on things above” that we will never be disappointed. But there is something else to notice here: And that is that here is a direct connection between the jealousy and suspicion of verse 9 with the coming of this “distressing spirit” in verse 10. When a person yields to these kinds of temptations they “give place to the devil,” to use New Testament terminology. They open themselves up to jealousy and suspicion. And then notice that Saul “prophesied in the house.” Here is another example of the fact that Satan can duplicate the acts of God (up to a point.) This prophesying may have been designed to throw David off balance – he didn’t expect an attempt on his life by a man who had just been prophesying! And David’s reaction in verse 11 is another picture of Jesus: he escaped his presence twice. Most of us would hve picked up the spear and throne it back at Saul. But David was like what Peter would later record of Jesus: “When he suffered he threatened not, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously.” So that is the precursor of the pursuit. But in verses 12 through 30 we find the pretense in the pursuit beginning to take place. First, there was removal from Saul’s presence in verses 12 through 16. The removal itself is in verses 12 and 13.
Now Saul was afraid of David because the Lord was with him, but he had departed from Saul (13) Therefore Saul removed him from his presence and made him his captain over a thousand; and he went out and came in before the people.
Here is another example of how sin can blind us. Even in his darkened spiritual condition, Saul could see that God was with David. (Unbelievers and people living in sin often can – and they often have higher standards for us than God does!)
But rather than listening to God’s message and confessing his sin, Saul just tried get rid of the messenger. And it is another example of how “God makes the wrath of men to praise him.”
In verses 14 through 16 we see David’s reaction to the removal:
And David behaved wisely in all his ways, and the Lord was with him. (15)Therefore, when Saul saw that he behaved very wisely he was afraid of him. (16) But all Israel and Judah loved David, because he went out and came in before them.
No doubt Saul thought that David would get “lost in the shuffle” of military affairs if he made him a regimental commander. But what he didn’t count on was that he would be “going out and coming in” before the people. And the people loved that! Someone has said that “the “the army was the NFL and NBA of Israel”) David could have said to Saul what Joseph said to his brothers many years before: “You meant it for evil against me, but God meant it for good.” (Genesis 50:20) Don’t be alarmed when something terrible happens to you at the hand of your enemy (or any other source) – God may be maneuvering you into a place where you can do a great deal of good.
Now we have been talking about the people’s reaction to David, but verse 15 points out Saul’s reaction to it all. Look at it again:
Therefore when Saul saw that he behaved wisely he was afraid of him.
Saul wasn’t afraid of David per se, but he was afraid of what God might do to him through David. And this is often the case. In Mark 6:20 we read that “Herod feared John (the Baptist) because he recognized the power of God in him.”
So Saul first tried to remove David from his presence. But when that failed, in verses 17 through 30 we see the return of Saul’s passions. And here is a demonstration of one of Satan’s favorite tricks. If he can’t get us by going one way, he will get us by going the opposite way. Here was David, first put out of Saul’s very sight; now, as we will see, brought right into the family! Saul’s duplicity is expressed very clearly in verse 17.
Then Saul said to David, “Here is my daughter Merab;I will give her to you as a wife. Only be valiant for me and fight the Lord’s battles” For Saul thought “Let my hand not be against him, but let the hand of the Philistines be against him.”
This incident may very well have been what David had in mind when he wrote in Psalm 55: 21:
The words of his mouth were smoother, than butter, but war was in his heart; his words were softer than oil, but yet they were drawn swords.”
And that still happens to people under Satan’s attack today! But it was in that context that David also wrote verse 22 of Psalm 55:
Cast your burden upon the Lord and He will sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved.
So verse 17 talks about Saul’s duplicity. “But in stark contrast to that, verse 18 shows David’s deference:
So David said to Saul, “Who am I, and what is my life or my father’s family in Israel, that I should be son-in-law to the king?”
Look at David’s humility here: Not only did he express humility about himself, but about his anancestry. But this is the attitude that God can use (if it is genuine) And again, it is a picture of Jesus – in Matthew 11:29 He said, “I am meek and lowly in heart.”
And Romans 12:3 says that every Christian should be very careful “not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think.”
Now the ball is bouncing back and forth: “Saul’s duplicity” in verse 17; “David’s deference” in verse 18; now back to Saul’s deviousness in verses 19 through 21. That deviousness is shown, first in removing his daughter in verse 19.
But it happened at the time when Merab, Saul’s daughter should have been given to David that she was given to Adriel, the Meholathite as a wife.
This was probably designed to provoke David and throw him off in his anger. But whatever the purpose, it demonstrates again the untrustworthiness of a person who has taken matters into his own hands. But then Saul’s deviousness is shown from a still different angle in verses 20 through 27, in replacing the daughter. The purpose is very clear in verses 20 and 21
Now Michal, Saul’s daughter, loved David. And they told Saul, and the thing displeased Saul. (21) So Saul said, “I will give her to him that she may be a snare to him, and that the hand of the Philistines may be against him. “Therefore Saul said to David a second time, you shall be my son-in-law today.”
Here is the worst kind of treachery: plotting a person’s death and yet using pious language to express it.
What a father this guy was! First of all, somebody else had to tell him hat his daughter was in love with David. Then, he thought of her only as a bargaining chip or a tool to accomplish his purpose of getting David killed. Here is a perfect example of what James would later write: a double minded man is unstable in all his ways.”
But God is not to be undone! In chapter 19 we are going to see that Michal thwarted Saul’s purpose and helped David escape. And this is not the first time God has done this kind of thing. It is the same thing exactly as when Pharaoh’s daughter’s heart was turned toward Moses and by rescuing him she thwarted her father’s evil plans. And so, of course, we have here another example of “all things working together for good.”
So the plan the plan that Saul comes up with is in verses 22 through 26:
And Saul commanded his servants, “communicate with David secretly, and say, “look, the king has delight in you, and all his servants love you. Now, therefore, become the king’s son-in-law. (23) So Saul’s servants spoke those words in the hearing of David. And David said, Does it seem to you a light thing to be a king’s son-in-law, seeing I am a poor and lightly esteemed man?(24)And the servants of Saul told him saying, “In this manner David spoke” (25) Then Saul said, thus you shall say to David: “the king does not desire any dowry but one hundred foreskins of the Philistines, to take vengeance on the king’s enemies.” But Saul thought to make David fall by the hands of the Philistines. (26) So, when his servants told David these words, it pleased David well to become the king’s son-in-law.
Notice the flattery and deceptiveness in Saul’s invitation in verse 22. “The king has delight in you.” etc.
People who are out of fellowship and left to their own devices to accomplish their goals will stop at nothing. Saul could have just as easily criticized and condemned David if had suited his purposes! By contrast, notice David’s continuing humility in verse 23: “I am a poor and lightly esteemed man”
And there is a lesson in this for us: if David, with all of his qualifications was humbled by the thought of being a son-in-law to a human king, how much more humbled should we be at the thought of being actual sons of the King of kings? Part of the problem, too, was that David was not able to pay a dowry to the bride’s father – and no more can we. But after all the give and take, in the ensuing verses, we see the actual promotion of David.
(27) Therefore, David arose and went, he and his men, and killed two hundred men of the Philistines. And David brought the foreskins, and they gave them in full count to the king, that he might become the king’s son-in-law. Then Saul gave him Michal his daughter as a wife.
Back in verse 25 the requirement was for 100 foreskins – but here David doubles the number. And nothing could have infuriated the Philistines more than to have 200 of their fighters killed to fulfill this hated Jewish ceremony. And so in verses 28 through 30 Saul’s duplicity and deviousness turn to Saul’s dismay.
(28) Thus Saul saw and knew that the LORD with David and that Michal, Saul’s daughter loved David, and that (29) and Saul was still more afraid of David. So Saul became David’s enemy continually (30) Then the princes of the Philistine went out to war. And it was, whenever they went out that David behaved more wisely than all the servants of Saul, so that his name became highly esteemed.
Saul had every reason to be dismayed. Every plan he tried was thwarted and turned back on him. And now David is in his own family! But notice how David reacted to all this. He “behaved himself wisely.” And his name became highly esteemed. And of course, here is another picture of Christ, who has “a name that is above every name.” And we will see in the next chapter how that caused his rage to become even worse. But in conclusion, let this be a warning to us: When we turn away from the Lord and take matters into our own hands, nothing will work right (in the long run) no matter intricate plans may be. But when we walk with the Lord He can honor everything that we do and thwart our enemies in ways we may not even be aware of. But when we walk with the Lord, he can honor everything we do and thwart our enemies in ways we may not even be aware of.