I Samuel 18–20 David Soars and Disappears.

Key Notes: David was in and out of favor with Saul. A dowry for Michal. She saved David. Jonathan was also in danger. David had to go into exile. The blessing of a close friend.

After David’s victory over Goliath,  he was a national hero, but his success was just beginning. In these chapters, he was so victorious that he became a threat to the monarchy and had to disappear. Saul was not affectionate toward those who challenged him. When Samuel prophesied that his kingdom would not prevail,  he also became Saul’s enemy (I Sam. 16:2) and could not travel freely. David was a rival in warfare and outclassed Saul, provoking his jealous rage.

18:1–5 David was assigned to the king’s military service. Jonathan befriended David and gave him his royal robe and armor (sword, bow and girdle),  making him like his brother, another son of Saul. Everyone approved.

18:6–16 Then the women who accompanied Saul and David home from battling the Philistines sang in antiphonal chorus: “Saul has slain his thousands—and David his ten thousands.” Over and over they sang it:  David is ten times better than Saul. No insult intended,  but poison to a jealous king. Saul twice threw his spear at David while he played the harp to sooth Saul’s soul. David was agile, and he was at once out of the king’s presence. Quartered with the army, he was popular wherever he went.

18:17–30 Saul decided to use his daughter as bait. Merab, his eldest, apparently was not in love with David and was given to another,  but Michal loved David. Marriage to the king’s daughter was out of the question for a poor man. What might the bridal dowry be? Previous to the defeat of Goliath the king promised the victor “great riches, and will give  him his daughter and make his father’s house free in Israel”—that is,  the family would not be under obligation for the king’s service. (I Sam.17:25). It was an empty promise, forgotten in the flush of victory, another evidence of Saul's weakness.

Now the dowry was 100 dead Philistines,  presented in token to the king by their post-mortem circumcisions. Saul hoped that the Philistines would kill David and relieve him of the responsibility. David went out with his men and was happy to oblige with 200 dead Philistines, their body-parts duly counted out in front of the king. Whatever Saul tried to do to David only hurt himself.

“He who digs a pit will fall into it, and a stone will come back upon him who starts it rolling. “ (Prov.26:27)

19:1–7 Saul now made his hatred of David obvious. Jonathan took David’s part and advised him to hide until he was sure of his father’s intention. When Jonathan recounted David’s outstanding military achievements,  Saul swore an oath: “As the Lord lives, he shall not be put to death.” and David was once again allowed  into  Saul’s presence.

19:8–10 But as soon as David won another victory over the Philistines, Saul’s rage boiled over and he almost pinned David to the wall. David fled.

19:11–17 Now it was Michal’s turn to rescue David. Saul sent a posse to David’s house. Michal let David out of a window and he escaped. When the posse came in after him, Michal stalled them saying he was ill,  and when they came to take him in his sick-bed,  they found instead an idol dressed up with goat’s hair. Saul was angry, but Michal lied her way out.

The idol was a household god, a “teraphim”,  the image of a human being that might be as small as a doll (such as was hidden under Rachel's camel saddle Gen.31:30–35) or, this case, the size of an adult. They were found in Israel over a span of hundreds of years. Their religious significance is not clear but they were not a particular target of the prophets. Hos. 3:4

19:18–24 The third attempt to get David also failed in a unique and humorous way. Saul’s informants reported David at Ramah with Samuel. The first posse saw Samuel at the head of the company of the prophets, prophesying,  and they joined in prophesying with them. The next two posses also were immobilized. Finally Saul came and the Holy Spirit came upon him as well and he was on the ground, half-naked, in an ecstatic state for most of a day and night. That made for a renewed joke among the gentry. “Is Saul also among the prophets?”

So Saul had made a fool of himself and found himself opposed by his own son, Jonathan,  his daughter, Michal, and the Spirit of God!

            “The eyes of the Lord are in every place,
            keeping watch on the evil and the good.” (Prov.15:3)
            “When a man’s folly brings his way to ruin,
            his heart rages against the Lord.” (Prov.19:3)
            “No wisdom, no understanding, no counsel,
            can avail against the Lord.” (Prov.21:30)

20:1–11 David came back to Jonathan from Ramah and complained of his ill-treatment at the hands of Saul. Evidently Jonathan did not know about the events at Ramah. He was not ready to believe that his father was bent on murder. {Had not Saul sworn an oath to God to protect David in Jonathan’s presence? I Sam.20:6}. David arranged to be absent at the new moon festival (I Sam.20:18), knowing that that might provoke Saul the host, to anger. If David had done wrong,  Jonathan should kill David himself.

20:12–23 Jonathan promised to find out the truth and if David was in danger, to help him get away safely. In return, Jonathan made David swear to protect him and his family when David came to power. Jonathan loved David as he loved himself. I Sam.18:1,3; 20:17

       “Iron sharpens iron and one man sharpens another. “ (Prov.27:17)

20:24–42 On the second day of the new moon feast, David had not appeared and Jonathan made an excuse for his absence. Saul was furious with Jonathan, called him a “son-of-a….”, intending to insult Jonathan more than his mother. When he protested David’s innocence, Saul blurted out that David was a threat to the kingdom and Jonathan’s succession. He threw the spear at Jonathan and Jonathan left the table and did not eat.

       “There are six things which the Lord hates,
            seven which are an abomination to Him:
            haughty eyes, a lying tongue,
            and hands that shed innocent blood,
            a heart that devises wicked plans,
            feet that make haste to run to evil,
            a false witness who breathes out lives,
             and a man who sows discord among brothers.” (Prov.6:16–19)

Jonathan and David had arranged a sign to communicate  Saul’s intentions. The next morning David hid behind a pile of rock and Jonathan came out into the field with his bow and arrows and his young servant. If the arrows fell short of the boy, it was a signal that David was safe in court. If the arrow went beyond the boy, it was a warning that David must go into exile. “Is not the arrow beyond you?” Jonathan then sent the boy in and David came out. They wept over each other for some time. Jonathan repeated the prayer that the Lord would be between their families and they parted.

“A friend loves at all times, And a brother is born for adversity.” (Prov.17:17)
"A brother helped is like a strong city….” (Prov.18:19)
“There are friends who pretend to be friends, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (Prov.18:24)

Everyone should have such a friend.   May God grant you that blessing.