I Samuel 18 Devotional
by Pastor Mark Hudson
Coming off the victory over Goliath, we see two different reactions from the same family. In 18:1-5, Jonathan loves David and esteems him. Saul, in vs. 6-9 is jealous of David. Jonathan may have known what Samuel said to Saul (13:14). Jonathan loved David, a verb that will be repeated in this chapter, and did the most surprising thing: He made a covenant with David. That involves cutting an animal in half and both of them walking between the two halves. In essence, saying, `If I break this covenant, may I end up like this animal.’ He then took off all the things that made him a prince: his robe, armor, sword, bow and belt. Jonathan recognizes the next king and does not hesitate to give up his rights. Clothing has been and is significant. A police officer wears a uniform. A judge does not wear jeans and a T-shirt to court. Jonathan has no more right to the throne. Amazing.
Saul has a different reaction. Saul hears the joy, dancing, and song about David and becomes angry – an emotion that Saul feels often. When Saul sees David, he sees loss. When Saul hears of the love (v. 16) the people have for David, he is jealous. As verse 9 comments, “Saul eyes David from that day on.” Saul cannot see what God is doing nor can He take his eyes off David. He could have rejoiced and worked with God for a smooth transition. Rather, Saul decided to oppose God.
Dale Ralph Davis notes that there are four references to David’s success (vs. 5, 14, 15, 30), three assertions that Yahweh is with David (vs. 12, 14, 28), and six uses of some form of the verb to love (vs 1, 3, 16, 20, 22, 28). Not Saul, however: he fears and stands in awe of David (vs. 12, 15, 29). Davis then provides a summary of chapter 18:
Saul’s son and his clothes 1-4
David’s success v. 5
Saul’s displeasure and his spear 6-11
David ‘s success 12-16
Saul’s daughter and her price 17-26
David’s success 28-30 (I Samuel, Dale Ralph Davis. P. 195)
These are violent men; Saul with the spear by his hand even in his house, and David with a history of warfare and as God promised in II Samuel 12:9, the sword never left his house. Saul though, was a much more dangerous and violent man. Saul’s disobedience ushered in a division in his family, conflict in his kingdom, a mania that would know lead to institutional care, and a refusal to accept God’s will. Saul wants David dead as if that will solve his problems.
The narrator gives us insight into Saul by telling us what he says and what he is thinking (vs. 8, 9, 11, 12, 15, 17, 21, 25, 29). David’s words are well-chosen, public, with no report of what he is thinking. David could very well know what is going on with Saul or he may not understand Saul’s spiritual and emotional state. David must see the incongruities with Saul and must have some inkling of his spiritual state, but the text does not let on that he knows or doesn’t know about Saul. We do know that God is with David, he is loved, and growing in popularity in the eyes of the people. This proves to be a dangerous combination.
Saul is so fickle. He promised the one who killed Goliath would become Saul’s son-in-law in 17:25 yet Saul promises one daughter and then marries her off and then asks for a bride price of 100 foreskins (not a picture you want in your mind) of the philistines. David brings back double the amount (are we to assume someone counted them? Ewh!). David honors Michal and Saul with that amount and his standing among the people is raised even higher.
To the reader, the trajectory of both Saul and David are clear but not to Saul. David is rising; Saul is falling. Yet Saul is fighting this inexorable course of events. There are so many times he could have, should have repented. He is spiraling down, and the country is trying to keep its bearings.
Jonathan begins this chapter and is not heard of again. He does return in chapter 19, but what takes center stage is Saul and David. Saul and David do not always speak face-to-face in the narrative but those two are prominent. In vs. 6-9, they are not together. In vs. 10-16, they are in the same room when Saul throws a spear at David. Verse 11 says, “David evaded him twice.”
We assume that David and Saul are together in vs. 17-19. But in 20ff, Saul uses his servants to communicate with David. It does not appear that Saul and David are together. We see this tendency in narratives where there are often only a few people, often two, in a scene at a time.
The struggle between David and Saul will consume the rest of the book until Saul dies in I Samuel 31, the last chapter of the book. For being a man after God’s own heart, David certainly has a most difficult time try to stay alive. He is God’s anointed, but he is running for his life.
Father, thank you for the story of Saul. While tragic there are lessons for all of us. For some reason, Saul had a hard time being honest and obeying You. That had destructive results for him, his family, the next king, and the nation. Keep me from the sin that haunts me. Preserve my life for Your glory. Keep my heart soft and pliable. Help me to see where I belong, what job I have, how much money I make, and my position within my company, family, or church. Most of all, help me to trust in You and Your Son for my eternal salvation. We make this prayer in the name of the perfect King, our Lord Jesus. Amen.