goodbye02I Samuel 19

1. Now Saul spoke to Jonathan his son and to all his servants, that they should kill David; but Jonathan, Saul’s son, delighted greatly in David.

Up to this point, Saul has kept his scheming against David a secret. Yet now he brings his desire to murder David into the open, communicating it to his servants and to his son Jonathan. He probably feels that it should be obvious to all now, once he points it out, that David must be the one the LORD spoke of as being His choice to replace Saul as King. Surely he feels that his son, who otherwise would be the next to take the throne, and his servants, who were part of his household and enjoyed all the privileges from it, will be eager to do away with any threat to their position over the country.

We might wonder if Jonathan knew before this time of the prophecy of the LORD against Saul, telling him that he would be taken from the throne and another given it? The two who knew about it were Saul and Samuel, and it seems Saul would not have been very likely to advertise this fact around. Samuel had left Saul after telling him this and never came to him again, so it seems doubtful word would have spread from him. The only way word would have gotten out is if others were with Saul when he came to Samuel in chapter 15, yet from the record it appears that this was more or less a private conversation. Therefore, this may be the first Jonathan has heard that he is not to be the next one to take the throne.

Yet it seems Saul, for all his scheming, has not learned of the close relationship between his oldest son and David. Jonathan loves David, as we saw in I Samuel 18:1, and so he does not react to this news as his father had hoped. If there was a struggle in Jonathan’s heart between his love for David and his own ambition to take the throne, ambition was quickly defeated by love in the heart of this Godly man. Even if it meant that he would not get to be the next king, he would not abandon his love for David. He delighted in David, and if he had to give up the throne to him, then he was willing to do it.

2. So Jonathan told David, saying, “My father Saul seeks to kill you. Therefore please be on your guard until morning, and stay in a secret place and hide.

Jonathan quickly goes to inform David of his father’s murderous plot. He has been thinking fast, and he presents David with a plan. David is to take great care for himself, and to hide in a secret place until morning.

3. And I will go out and stand beside my father in the field where you are, and I will speak with my father about you. Then what I observe, I will tell you.”

Jonathan will be aware of David’s hiding place, and will arrange to speak with his father near that place. He will then plead for David and try to convince his father to change his mind. David will probably be able to hear this conversation, but if he is not able to hear, Jonathan will let him know what Saul says, and whether or not he was able to change Saul’s mind.

4. Thus Jonathan spoke well of David to Saul his father, and said to him, “Let not the king sin against his servant, against David, because he has not sinned against you, and because his works have been very good toward you.

Jonathan carries out this plan, bringing Saul to the prearranged place the next day. There, he pleads with Saul for David, pointing out to him that David has done nothing against Saul except serve him faithfully. He has always spoken well of Saul, and never has sinned against him or his family in any way. He has done Saul’s works, and has done nothing but benefit Saul and his family. All this was true, though Saul was perhaps too jealous to believe it, or even to care whether or not it was true.

5. For he took his life in his hands and killed the Philistine, and the LORD brought about a great deliverance for all Israel. You saw it and rejoiced. Why then will you sin against innocent blood, to kill David without a cause?”

Jonathan reminds Saul that David took his life in his hands to kill Goliath. This was still David’s most famous act, and the greatest proof of his godliness, his zeal, and his good work on behalf of Israel, the nation over which Saul was king. The LORD used David to bring about this great deliverance for Israel, and Saul rejoiced in that at the time. Why then, Jonathan argues, does he want to kill David now? There is no reason for it. David is innocent, and Saul’s plot is causeless. David is no rebel, and will never become one. He does not deserve execution, or even punishment.

The phrase “took his life in his hands” is not quite correct, for the word Jonathan uses is the Hebrew nephesh, which is the word for “soul,” not life. Yet the way the Hebrews used the word nephesh, and indeed the way God used it, it meant a person’s life and existence. One meaning of “soul” is “living being,” and so it was his very life, his existence as a living being, that David had risked by taking on the Philistine. That is what Jonathan means when he speaks of David’s soul here.

6. So Saul heeded the voice of Jonathan, and Saul swore, “As the LORD lives, he shall not be killed.”

Saul knows that what Jonathan says is true, and so he is persuaded, at least for a time. He cannot argue against all that Jonathan says, and perhaps he is ashamed not to admit the correctness of Jonathan’s counsel. Saul in his better moments shows he knows what the right thing is, but when the time comes he seldom is willing to do it.

So Saul swears in Jehovah’s name that David will not be killed. That should have settled the matter if Saul had been any kind of a Godly man. Yet he was not, and swearing in the name of Jehovah meant very little to him. He would swear such a thing one day, and then be trying to kill David again the next, as the mood took him. It is clear that he has turned his back on Jehovah entirely at this time. Yet for now Jonathan’s persuasion has won the day, and he promises that he will give up his plan to kill David.

7. Then Jonathan called David, and Jonathan told him all these things. So Jonathan brought David to Saul, and he was in his presence as in times past.

Jonathan now calls David out of his hiding place. Apparently, David was not able to hear everything that was said from where he was hiding, so Jonathan informs him of what has happened, and of what his father swore to do. Thus David is restored to Saul’s court, and things go on like they had before.

We cannot help but note the generous and forgiving attitude of David here. If a man had planned your death, you might not find yourself in much of a mood to forgive and forget. Yet it is clear that David was truly able to do this. He really wished to serve Saul faithfully, and he probably wanted to believe that Saul really meant what he said and would keep his word. It is clear that Jonathan believed his father and thought he would do as he had sworn to do. Alas, little did this Godly man Jonathan recognize the moral degeneration that was taking place in the heart of the man who was his father! Yet Jonathan believed his father, and so David was inclined to believe Saul as well, wanting what he said to be true. So David and Jonathan go on as they had before, thinking that Saul has been convinced and that this unpleasant episode is now behind them. Alas, this is not to be!

8. And there was war again; and David went out and fought with the Philistines, and struck them with a mighty blow, and they fled from him.

Not much time passes until another incident arises to provoke Saul’s jealousy. War with the Philistines arises once again, and as usual David takes his place in the war as a commander in the army. As always, Yahweh is with David, and he strikes them a mighty blow, leading a great route of the Philistine army.

9. Now the distressing spirit from the LORD came upon Saul as he sat in his house with his spear in his hand. And David was playing music with his hand.

No doubt Saul’s jealousy again is brought to the surface by David’s success in battle.  It arises that he is again being troubled by a spirit, or his spirit is troubled, as the case might be. This trouble was sent upon him by the LORD, and it could have been a great instrument for his good if in his distress he had sought the LORD, as the future king David would so often do. Yet instead Saul clung more and more fiercely to his jealousy and desire for power, and so the spirit the LORD sent only brought him trouble.

As usual when this happens, David is called for, and plays the harp to sooth him. His duties in the army did not negate or erase his duties as a court musician. Saul, the man of war, is holding a javelin in his hand as this troublesome spirit is bothering him. David, on the other hand, is holding only his musical instrument.

10. Then Saul sought to pin David to the wall with the spear, but he slipped away from Saul’s presence; and he drove the spear into the wall. So David fled and escaped that night.

Saul’s distress increases until he acts with murderous intent. He tries to pin David to the wall with the javelin. He probably figured this would be easy enough, with David unarmed. Yet remember that he had earlier taken an oath in the name of the LORD that he would not do this! We can see here how little the LORD’s name has come to mean to him, as his jealously quickly makes him forget his oath made in the Name. Yet his wicked plan fails, as the LORD again is with David. This time David does not wait for Saul to try his hand twice. He can clearly see that Saul has broken his oath before the LORD. Thus, he flees and escapes from Saul’s presence that night.

11. Saul also sent messengers to David’s house to watch him and to kill him in the morning. And Michal, David’s wife, told him, saying, “If you do not save your life tonight, tomorrow you will be killed.”

At this point, we might have expected David to head for the hills, but he does not. Instead, he simply returns home. This seems like a very dangerous and foolish move on his part. Couldn’t he see that Saul wanted to kill him? Yet I think we need to realize that David probably did not want to believe that Saul was really so far gone as to try to murder him in cold blood in violation of his oath to Jehovah. Remember that Saul had tried to kill David twice before when he was being troubled by this spirit, as we saw in I Samuel 18:10-11. Perhaps he thought that Saul was just worked up, and that he would calm down and remember his oath, and then nothing more would come of it.

Indeed, David’s life was about to take a huge change for the worse, and he is not the first person to want to fail to believe that when he can see it happening. How many people, when their bodies start giving them clear warning signs that something significantly is wrong with their health, try to ignore those signs and do not wish to believe it? Indeed, even people whose hearing is going seem to be reluctant to see that, when that is not even life threatening. How much more when the problem is much more serious! So perhaps we can understand why a man who was a privileged army commander, the king’s son in law, and a hero of the land would be reluctant to believe that he was about to become a hunted fugitive through no fault of his own. Yet that was about to happen to David, like it or not.

David might have thought that Saul would calm down and let this incident slide, but the reality is that nothing will please Saul but David’s death. David might have been in denial of this fact, but his wife Michal has clearer vision about it. She learns of her father’s plan, no doubt as part of her privileged position as a former princess and part of his family. So she warns her husband of Saul’s plan to kill him. We can give her credit where credit is due and admit that her loyalty was now to her husband as it should have been, rather than to her father. This at least she had right, though later her actions towards David were less than what they should have been. Therefore she comes to David and warns him that he needs to face reality. If he does not act to flee and save his life right away tonight, then tomorrow it will be too late, and he will be assassinated by her jealous father.

12. So Michal let David down through a window. And he went and fled and escaped.

Apparently Michal knows that David has already been followed and the door of his house is being watched. Therefore, Michal lets David out by lowering him down from an upper window while Saul’s men watch the doors on the ground floor. Some houses at that time would actually be built up against the city wall on one side, and it may be that David’s house was like this, in which case David’s escape would have been much like that of the two spies of Israel from Jericho (Joshua 2:15) or like that of Saul from Antioch in Syria (Acts 9:25). Thus David gets away from Saul’s soldiers, flees, and escapes.

Yet here we must pause and consider the actions of Michal. She urged him to save his own life. She let him down through a window to flee. Yet might she not have said, “If we do not save our lives tonight, tomorrow we will be killed?” Or even if she did not believe her father would harm her, could she not have said that “we must flee”? Why did Michal remain behind when her husband must flee? Why did she not flee with him? Surely a good wife who truly loved her husband more than her own comforts and the luxuries of a princess would have done so.

Therefore this is the conclusion we must come to about Michal. She did not want to see her husband killed by her father, yet at the same time she was not willing to sacrifice her own comfortable life to join him in the hardships of being a fugitive. She was too soft, and loved too much the life of being a princess, to do that. It had been one thing to dream of being the wife of the handsome and popular commander of her father’s armies, the hero of the nation and the valient warrior who saved them from the Philistines. It was quite another to be the wife of a fugitive and an exile living the hardships of a woman with her man who is on the run. It is clear that Michal was not willing to consider this kind of life or to live it. She was not one of David’s mighty and Godly friends who stuck with him no matter what. When push came to shove, she was a daughter of Saul, and acted like a daughter of Saul, not a friend of David.

In this way we will see she sadly acted much like her brother Jonathan, who though he had formerly been a valiant man of God, when the test came and the time to follow David arrived, he hung back and stayed with his rebellious father instead. Though they both worked to save David, neither was willing to sacrifice a comfortable life to join with him. For Jonathan the end result was death with his father. For Michal, as we will see, it will be a life of chaos and humiliation.

13. And Michal took an image and laid it in the bed, put a cover of goats’ hair for his head, and covered it with clothes.

Michal uses an image to make a dummy in David’s bed. This raises the question as to what exactly this “image” was, and what it was doing in David’s house. Was not David a man after God’s own heart, whom God himself acknowledges was always loyal to Him? By this, God clearly means that he never turned aside from worshipping Him to worship idols, as we can see from His words about Solomon in I Kings 11:4.

4. For it was so, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the LORD his God, as was the heart of his father David.

David’s heart was always loyal to the LORD his God. Yet how, then, could he have had an image in his house? Some have suggested that this was Michal’s image, and so the fault was hers, and not David’s. Yet would David not have been responsible for such a thing being in his house? Would not the LORD have told us that David was ignorant of its presence, if this is really what is meant? And how could he have been ignorant, if Michal really had this thing to worship it? No, there must be more to the story than this.

The word that is translated “image” here is the Hebrew word teraphim. The question, then, is what exactly a teraphim was, and how did it differ from an “idol,” (the word cemel or statue) or the “graven image” (Hebrew pecel) outlawed in the ten commandments.

There can be no doubt but that this word teraphim is used in a negative sense, yet I do not believe that this was always the case. I think the best way we can understand this is to remember that very important to your status in Israel was your family line. It was crucial that you knew who your family was and were able to name your ancestors back to one of the twelve sons of Jacob, whose name was changed to Israel. This was because this lineage told you what your place was in the land and among the tribes, and what privileges you had as a part of your tribe and of your tribal family.

Yet we also need to realize that common to many of the nations around Israel was a form of ancestor worship. Since they believed Satan’s lie that “dying you shall not die,” but “you will be like God,” men have always been reluctant to believe that death is really death, but that it rather is another form of life. In ancient times, men seemed to think that their dead ancestors were not really dead, but would still hang around the homes and lands that they had formerly occupied. Thus, they would often pray to and worship these ancestors, hoping that they would provide the currently-living members of the family with their help and support. This was the idea then of “household gods.”

So we can see a possible conflict and overlap here. While it was true that a Godly Israelite would want to know his ancestors and have a record of them, an ungodly Israelite could well begin to copy the ways of the nations around Israel and use those records to worship them. This is what I believe the teraphim were all about. Apparently, the record of the names of one’s ancestors would be carved into tablets, upon which they could be kept permanently and passed down to future generations. This was an important record for any Israelite to have. Yet in the hands of an ungodly Israelite, this record could be used to worship those same ancestors, which would be a very wicked thing. Thus the thing that might be wicked in one person’s hands might be quite innocent in the hands of a righteous man like David. This is what I believe this teraphim was.

These tablets recording David’s ancestors apparently struck Michal as being the perfect thing with which to make a dummy and fool Saul’s men. Of course, crucial to David getting away would be him having time to do so, and that involved delaying Saul’s men in their pursuit as long as possible. So she uses teraphim for a body and goat’s hair for the head, covering it with David’s clothes to make it appear that he is lying in bed.

14. So when Saul sent messengers to take David, she said, “He is sick.”

Saul sends messengers to arrest David. The word is mal’ak, which is often translated “angel.” Here, it is clear that these “angels” of Saul are actually humans. Moreover, they are more than messengers, but agents sent to carry out Saul’s will. This is important information, for “angels” are often agents, carrying more than just messages.

Michal meets these messengers and carries out her plan, pretending that David is sick in bed and cannot get out of it. Apparently they see this dummy she made lying in the bed, and assume that this is indeed David and that her words are true. They are not aware of the depth of Saul’s murderous intent against David, so they think that David’s illness should be enough to win him a reprieve, so they return to Saul without him.

15. Then Saul sent the messengers back to see David, saying, “Bring him up to me in the bed, that I may kill him.”

When they report this to Saul, he does not care in the slightest if David is sick. To him, this just means that he will be easier to deal with when he executes him. Therefore Saul sends them back with orders to carry David, bed and all, back to his house so he can kill him right there in his sick bed. Saul indeed was a bloody and dangerous man!

16. And when the messengers had come in, there was the image in the bed, with a cover of goats’ hair for his head.

The messengers go to carry out his orders, and discover the dummy made of the teraphim put there in David’s place with the goat hair put as his head. Now, of course, they realize that they have been fooled.

17. Then Saul said to Michal, “Why have you deceived me like this, and sent my enemy away, so that he has escaped?”
And Michal answered Saul, “He said to me, ‘Let me go! Why should I kill you?’”

When Saul finds this out, his anger turns against his daughter Michal, and he accuses her of deceiving him, and wants to know why his daughter helped David escape. In Saul’s fleshly mind everything is all about him, and little does he care that a Godly woman’s first loyalty should be to her husband, not to her father, even in a case where the situation was more or less neutral, not to mention in a case where her father wanted to murder her husband! Michal could have told him this, but though this would have been heroic, it might not have been very wise for preserving her own safety. Besides, we have no particular reason to think that Michal was a Godly enough woman to care about this. Probably, she simply did what she did because she loved her husband. Well, that is a good enough reason as well.

Michal can see how dangerous her father is at this point. If she says the wrong thing, she might die herself. She could have been on the run, yes facing hardships, but at least with a man who loved her. Instead, she faces her mad father who might even execute his own daughter if the mood takes him. So she lies and says David threatened to kill her if she refused to help him. This spared her, but it certainly did not put David in a better light with Saul. At this point, though, perhaps that hardly mattered. Yet it is hard to say that Michal did a good thing when she gave Saul another reason to justify his wickedness.

18. So David fled and escaped, and went to Samuel at Ramah, and told him all that Saul had done to him. And he and Samuel went and stayed in Naioth.

Where is David to go, now that he is a fugitive? It would obviously do him little good to flee back to his home in Bethlehem, as Saul certainly would look for him there. David decides to flee to the one who, before God, was his superior. This was a wise plan indeed, and we can certainly credit David for following it! Thus, he flees to Ramah, the hometown of Samuel the prophet. He finds Samuel, and tells him what Saul has tried to do to him.

Now Samuel surely must see that associating with David will bring him no favor before Saul, and that to do so will risk his life. He had already known that to anoint David could cause Saul to murder him, as he told Yahweh in I Samuel 16:2. Will not Saul do much the same thing to him if he helps David in this circumstance? Yet Samuel has always been a courageous man, always ready to do whatever it took to serve Yahweh in the situation in which he found himself. Thus he readily takes in the young fugitive.

Yet it seems perhaps that Samuel figures that Saul will know David well enough to guess that Samuel might be the one he resorts to in this situation. Thus, he does not stay there at his home in Ramah, but rather he takes David and they go and dwell together in Naioth. Naioth means “Habitations,” and it was apparently not very far away from Samuel’s home in Ramah, for Saul’s messengers describe it to him as “Naioth in Ramah,” as we will see. Why did Samuel choose this place, and not somewhere further away? The only reason we can guess is that, from what we see in the following verses, apparently there was a group of prophets living there. Thus Samuel does much as David did, and they go together to dwell among God’s people at this time of crisis. This is a good lesson for all of us, though in the dispensation of grace we may not be promised safety in such an arrangement, as David and Samuel got from Yahweh.

19. Now it was told Saul, saying, “Take note, David is at Naioth in Ramah!”

David does not remain hidden for long with Samuel. Saul’s spies soon learn where David has fled, and report it to him.

20. Then Saul sent messengers to take David. And when they saw the group of prophets prophesying, and Samuel standing as leader over them, the Spirit of God came upon the messengers of Saul, and they also prophesied.

Saul sends messengers to arrest David. The word for “messengers” is again the word that is often translated “angels.” Here, since the meaning is clearly human beings, not heavenly ones, our translators have made it “messengers.” Again, this does not seem like a good translation either, as these men were not carrying a message to David, but rather were sent to arrest David. Again the idea seem to be more an agent than a mere messenger. An agent can do more than carry a message. He can also perform tasks, like making an arrest, as in this case.

These agents of Saul come upon the company of prophets prophesying. Remember that to prophesy is to speak God’s words, which is what these men are doing, with Samuel as their leader. Apparently David was among them as well, though he is not mentioned by name. Here they may have succeeded in their quest, had not God stepped in. But He did step in. The Spirit of God now comes upon Saul’s men, and they start speaking by inspiration as well. Notice that they probably did not want to do this. What they really wanted to do was to obey Saul and arrest David. Yet the Spirit came upon them as upon an enemy, and forced them to speak God’s words, like it or not.

What might God’s enemies have said by the word of prophecy when the Spirit came upon them? We cannot know for certain, of course, but probably they spoke something fitting to the occasion. Perhaps their words were of God’s glorious plans for David, or of the mighty works He had already done through David in the past. Whatever their words, in this way the Spirit stops them from carrying out Saul’s orders. This might seem strange to us, but we can really say nothing against it. The Spirit can do as He likes! If He wishes to come upon His enemies and force them to prophesy, He certainly can do so.

21. And when Saul was told, he sent other messengers, and they prophesied likewise. Then Saul sent messengers again the third time, and they prophesied also.

Saul sends agents again to arrest David, and again the Spirit stops them. Undaunted, he sends agents a third time, and again they are stopped and forced to prophesy.

This passage clearly shows us the error of those who think that the Spirit can only come upon a person to save him. The fact is that the Spirit of God, when sent, does exactly what God sends Him to do. He might come on a man to mark him out as saved, but, as in this case, he just as well might come upon a godless man to stop him from his rebellious behavior. If the Spirit was not sent on a man to save him, then he is not saved, just because he experiences the Spirit. God does as He likes with the Spirit, and He always accomplishes His ends, whatever they may be.

22. Then he also went to Ramah, and came to the great well that is at Sechu. So he asked, and said, “Where are Samuel and David?”
And someone said, “Indeed they are at Naioth in Ramah.”

Saul decides to go himself, since his agents were failing to get the job done. Perhaps he figures he will get the job done right by doing it himself. So Saul heads to Ramah, and comes to a well in Sechu. Sechu means “The Watch-tower,” and apparently was a tower near Ramah with a well nearby it. He has no exact information about the whereabouts of Samuel and David, so he asks those he finds at this well. (These could have been women, since they were traditionally the ones who drew water from the wells.) He is told that these two are at Naioth in Ramah. These two places, Sechu and Naioth, are obviously not far apart, since both are described as being in Ramah.

23. So he went there to Naioth in Ramah. Then the Spirit of God was upon him also, and he went on and prophesied until he came to Naioth in Ramah.

Thus Saul travels to Naioth, and as he is going there, the Spirit comes on him as well. The result is that he too prophesies, again probably speaking by the Spirit of the LORD’s great plans for David. What else did Saul think would happen? Did he think that the Spirit could not stop him just as He had stopped his agents? Perhaps he did think that He could not. Saul seems to have had a very exalted view of himself by this point. It is clear that his view is not justified. God stops him just as easily as He had stopped his men. He was nothing special or different, after all.

24. And he also stripped off his clothes and prophesied before Samuel in like manner, and lay down naked all that day and all that night. Therefore they say, “Is Saul also among the prophets?”

Saul not only prophesies, but he strips off his clothes as well, and prophesies before Samuel in this manner. He leaves his clothes off and rests naked all that day and the night that followed. This may not mean completely naked, though the word ‘arowm can mean this. It can also mean stripped or barely clad, like when we call someone “half-naked,” or it can mean “without protection.” Thus Saul might have been stripped down to his underwear, rather than completely naked. Either way, by causing him to strip off his clothes Jehovah humiliates this proud king before Himself. If only he had taken this humbling to heart, and turned from his stubborn and rebellious ways! But he does not at all seem to have learned his lesson.

Now we learn that a proverb is associated with this, “Is Saul also among the prophets?” Yet this is not the origin of this proverb. Remember, it came about because of an earlier event, as we read in I Samuel 10:11-12.

11. And it happened, when all who knew him formerly saw that he indeed prophesied among the prophets, that the people said to one another, “What is this that has come upon the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?” 12. Then a man from there answered and said, “But who is their father?” Therefore it became a proverb: “Is Saul also among the prophets?”

On this occasion, Saul was honored by being placed among the prophets. Some who saw him were amazed because of the poor reputation of his father Kish. Yet a wise man pointed out that becoming a prophet is dependent upon God’s choice of you as a person, and not on who your father is. This seems to have been the original meaning of the proverb. Yet now, it seems to change meaning. Before, Saul was on Yahweh’s side in spite of his father. Now, Yahweh speaks through Saul when he is His enemy. Thus, “Is Saul also among the prophets?” takes on an entirely new meaning. Now, he really did not deserve to be among them, and his presence there was only humiliation, not honor.