David is now coming into his own. Jonathan, Saul’s son and steady warrior, befriends David and essentially adopts him as his brother. This should be good news:
Whatever mission Saul sent him on, David was so successful that Saul gave him a high rank in the army. This pleased all the troops, and Saul’s officers as well. 1 Samuel 18:5
But the praise of David goes over the top and Saul becomes jealous, to put it mildly. Whatever character flaws that were hidden deep within Saul are now being forced out for all to see.
The next day an evil [harmful] spirit from God came forcefully on Saul. He was prophesying in his house, while David was playing the lyre, as he usually did. Saul had a spear in his hand and he hurled it, saying to himself, “I’ll pin David to the wall.” But David eluded him twice. 1 Samuel 18:10-11
Looking back at chapter 16, we gain some perspective on “as he usually did,”
Whenever the spirit from God came on Saul, David would take up his lyre and play. Then relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him. 1 Samuel 16:23
David was in Saul’s service to soothe the tormenting spirit that God allowed. I’ve read lots of commentaries on this subject, but it’s hard to understand why this is allowed to happen–it’s hard to wrap my mind around. Actually, it’s impossible because, wait for it, I’m not God! I certainly get that! Lord help me how to respond to those who do not know you, who would use verses like this to fuel the flame of their denial of you. Much like Judas, Saul is tormented by a demon that is undefined and leaves us wanting more. Difficult.
Saul devises a plan to show his appreciation for David’s advanced fighting skills: he sends him out to battle more and more often! Surely the Philistines will kill David in battle and relieve Saul of his rival! The Lord is with David and he wins battle after battle.
Saul offers his oldest daughter Merab to David in marriage, but David refuses because of his lowly state (really?). Next, Saul provides another opportunity to marry Michal if David can deliver the foreskins of 100 Philistines for his dowery. Ouch! Saul’s plan is to get David killed in battle (again), but David sees this challenge as simple, plus it seems he has eyes for Michal, so he goes out and kills 200 and delivers the foreskins as required.
When Saul realized that the Lord was with David and that his daughter Michal loved David, Saul became still more afraid of him, and he remained his enemy the rest of his days. 1 Samuel 18:28-29
David’s fame continued to spread–Saul’s anger continued to grow. A bad formula for sure.
Chapter 19 begins with a direct word from Saul to his servants to kill David. Jonathan talks tells David to hide while he talks to his father to find out what he actually said. Saul assures Jonathan,
Saul listened to Jonathan and took this oath: “As surely as the Lord lives, David will not be put to death.” 1 Samuel 19:6
Once again David is successful in battle. Once again Saul tries to pin David to a wall with a spear! David escapes with the help of his wife, Michal, but Saul tries again and again to capture and kill David. Crazy stuff! David finds Samuel and tells him what’s happening. When Saul sends his men there, they all just start prophesying. When Saul eventually goes there himself, the Spirit is so strong that he begins prophesying,
He stripped off his garments, and he too prophesied in Samuel’s presence. He lay naked all that day and all that night. 1 Samuel 19:24
David and Jonathan meet and devise a plan to see if Saul’s intentions have changed. Jonathan makes a covenant with David to seal the deal and the plan is set in motion. The New Moon festival begins and David’s absence is noticed on the second day. Saul asks Jonathan and the scripted response is given. Saul is enraged!
Saul’s anger flared up at Jonathan and he said to him, “You son of a perverse and rebellious woman! Don’t I know that you have sided with the son of Jesse to your own shame and to the shame of the mother who bore you? As long as the son of Jesse lives on this earth, neither you nor your kingdom will be established. Now send someone to bring him to me, for he must die!” 1 Samuel 20:30-31
Somehow I’m pretty sure the Bible translators softened verse 30 a bit! Jonathan is so upset he is unable to eat at the feast. He goes and tells David. They weep together and depart ways, David in hiding, Jonathan to his royal responsibilities.