1 Samuel 18
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
1 Samuel 18:1-30. (GIBEAH.)
On his victory over Goliath, David was conducted by Abner (1 Samuel 14:50) into the presence of Saul, "with the bead of the Philistine in his hand." He appears to have been unrecognised by the king, perhaps because of the alteration that had taken place in his personal appearance. Henceforth he resided at Gibeah (ver. 2), where he remained for two or three years. The court of Saul, while unlike that of Solomon, half a century later, was not destitute of worldly show, and was marked by the obsequiousness, self-seeking, emulation, and intrigue which too often prevail in such places, especially when the monarch is capricious, proud, and without the fear of God (1 Samuel 22:6, 7). David's connection with it was of great importance in relation to the position which he was destined by Divine providence to occupy; continued his education for it; and afforded (as every promotion to high place does in its measure a wider scope for -


1. Outward circumstances, though they may not create eminent ability, serve to call it forth. Much excellence doubtless exists, but is never displayed on account of the absence of favourable conditions.

2. Great genius is shown in one who has the faculty of adapting himself to varied positions in life and their varied requirements.

3. The proper use of power strengthens it and develops it to perfection.

4. The humble, faithful, and efficient discharge of duty in one position prepares the way for another and a higher. It was thus with David, who passed from the narrow circle of private life to the wider one of public life, from the sheepfold to the palace, from contending against a lion and a bear to military expeditions (vers. 5, 13, 30) against the enemies of Israel, and ultimately from loyal obedience to royal rule.

II. ACQUAINTANCE WITH MEN, and the knowledge of human nature. David was familiar with "fields, and flocks, and silent stars," but needed training in another school.

1. There are few things more valuable than an accurate and extensive knowledge of men: their divers temperaments, tendencies, and capacities; their peculiar excellences and defects; their varied wishes and aims; and underneath all the great principles of humanity that are the same in all.

2. Some circumstances afford special opportunity for the attainment of such knowledge. What a field of observation were the court and camp of Saul to one of such mental activity and profound insight as David!

3. The knowledge of men produces in the heart that is sincere, devout, and acquainted with itself a large sympathy with them in their sorrows, joys, imperfections, and strivings after higher things. Of this sympathy the psalms of David are a wonderful expression.

4. It is necessary to the knowledge of the most effectual methods of dealing with them - one of the most needful and desirable qualifications in a ruler.

III. THE TRIAL OF PRINCIPLE. David, no less than Saul, must be put to the test, and his fidelity to Jehovah tried as silver "in a furnace of earth."

1. Trial is needful to prove the reality of principle, and manifest its strength and brightness.

2. One trial is often followed by another and a greater. The royal favour into which David was suddenly raised was as suddenly succeeded by royal jealousy, hatred, and craft. Surely no man was ever more fiercely assailed by temptation.

3. When endured aright, in faith and obedience, trial, however painful, is morally beneficial.

4. The victory which is gained over one temptation is an earnest of a victory over the next. The triumph of humility in David was followed by that of simplicity, patience, and forbearance.

IV. ADVANCEMENT IN POPULAR FAVOUR (vers. 7, 16, 30), which, in the case of David, paved his way to the throne; though he neither coveted nor, during the life of Saul, put forth any effort to gain that object.

1. A course of wise and prosperous action, as it well deserves, so it generally obtains the approbation of the people.

2. Such a course of action ought to be aimed at, rather than the popular favour with which it is attended.

3. The favour of the people is to be valued only in subordination to the favour of God, and in so far as it accords with it.

4. Popular favour should be regarded not as an end in itself, but as a means of promoting the Divine glory and human welfare. - D.

1 Samuel 18:1-4. (GIBEAH.)
(References: - 1 Samuel 19:1-5; 1 Samuel 20:1-23; 1 Samuel 23:16-18.)

1. Friendship is a mutual affection between persons of congenial minds, arising out of their esteem for each other's excellence, and expressing itself in kindly offices. Attachment to kindred is in some respects surpassed by that which is felt towards the friend "who is even as thine own soul" (Deuteronomy 13:6). In allusion to it "Abraham was called the friend of God" (2 Chronicles 20:7; Isaiah 41:8; James 2:23) - possibly in the first instance by God himself; and "God spake to Moses as a man to his friend" (Exodus 33:11). The Book of Proverbs abounds in statements concerning the worth and claims of friendship (Proverbs 17:17; Proverbs 18:24; Proverbs 27:6, 9, 10, 17). And Jesus said to his disciples, "I have called you friends" (John 15:15).

2. Much that is usually called friendship is not worthy of the name. "There are three things that engender friendship - profit, pleasure, virtue. The first two do not beget true friendship, for as soon as the profit or pleasure ceaseth, friendship is gone; but virtue only maketh love and friendship to continue" (Willet).

3. The true friendship which subsisted between Jonathan and David "shines for all ages an eternal type." It is "the first Biblical instance of such a dear companionship as was common in Greece, and has been since in Christendom imitated, but never surpassed, in modern works of fiction" (Stanley). The most celebrated of the instances referred to were those of Orestes and Pylades, Damon and Pythias, Nisus and Euryalus.

4. The friendship of Jonathan toward David (the formation of which is here described) was Divinely provided as a means of guarding the life of the latter from the attacks of Saul, and of preserving his loyalty to the king and his faith in God. "Thy love to me was wonderful" (2 Samuel 1:26). On the other hand, that of David toward Jonathan exerted an elevating and sanctifying influence upon him. Of true friendship observe that -

I. IT EXISTS ONLY IN NOBLE SOULS. Both Jonathan and David were virtuous, generous, and devout. They were one in "the love of virtue and the fear of God." Persons destitute of these principles can neither esteem the excellence of others nor be esteemed for their own. "We are so formed by nature that there should be a certain social tie among all; stronger, however, as each approaches each. Now friendship is nothing else than a complete union of feeling on all subjects, Divine and human, accompanied by a kindly feeling and attachment. The entire strength of friendship consists in an entire agreement of inclinations, pursuits, and sentiments" (Cicero, 'On Friendship').

"A generous friendship no cold medium knows,
Burns with one love, with one resentment glows"

(Homer) A good man in the best friend, and therefore soonest to be chosen, longest to be retained, and, indeed, never to be parted with, unless he ceases to be that for which he was chosen (Jeremiah Taylor).

II. IT IS FOUNDED UPON MUTUAL ESTEEM. When David "had made an end of speaking unto Saul," in which he doubtless said much more than is recorded, the soul of Jonathan was knit (linked or chained) with the soul of David, etc. (ver. 1). Nothing is said of Jonathan at the time of David's conflict with Goliath. He may have been absent; or, if present, not permitted to risk his life in the encounter. Perhaps his faith and courage were not strong enough. But "he loved that which went beyond his own spirit, yet was of the same heroic order. He saw in David a higher and greater Jonathan, the ideal of his own actual life, himself transfigured and perfected. What he had dreamt he might be he beheld in David" (B. Kent). He admired the faith, courage, modesty, and moral excellence which lay beneath the "outward appearance." "Now they are worthy of friendship in whom there exists a reason why they should be loved; a rare class, for in truth all that is excellent is rare" (Cicero).

III. IT CONSISTS OF DISINTERESTED AFFECTION. "Jonathan loved him as his own soul "(vers. 1, 3; 1 Samuel 20:17); with the same kind and the same measure of affection. Hence the sympathy, generosity, fidelity, and constancy which he displayed. A friend is "another self." "Though judgment must collect the materials of the goodly structure of friendship, it is affection that gives the cement" (Melmoth). "It really seems to consist in loving rather than being loved. It is the wishing a person what we think good for his sake, and not for our own, and, as far as is in our power, the exerting ourselves to procure it. And a friend is he who entertains and meets a return of this feeling" (Aristotle, 'Ethics,' 8.; 'Rhetoric,' 2). "I hope I do not break the fifth commandment if I conceive I may love my friends before the nearest of my blood, even those to whom I owe the principles of life. I have loved my friend as I do virtue, my soul, my God" (Sir T. Browne, 'Religio Medici').

IV. IT UNITES IN A STEADFAST BOND. Knit - sincerely, closely, firmly joined, grappled together "as with hooks of steel." "A friend loveth at all times," in adversity as well as in prosperity; and his friendship endures the strain caused by conflicting interests, misrepresentation, and many imperfections; it may even be said to be "one soul dwelling in two bodies." "Now the foundation of that steadfastness and constancy which we seek in friendship, is sincerity; for nothing is steadfast which is insincere" (Cicero). Friendship founded on worldly principles is natural, and, though composed of the best elements of nature, is not exempt from its mutability and frailty; but friendship founded on religion is spiritual, and therefore unchanging and imperishable" (R. Hall, 'Works,' 5.).

V. IT IS CONFIRMED BY A SOLEMN COMPACT. "And Jonathan and David made a covenant," etc. (ver. 3; 1 Samuel 20:16, 17). In it they gave and received assurance of affection, agreed to be faithful to each other under all circumstances, and called the Lord in whom they trusted to be witness between them; to it they were impelled by the strength of their love and "a loftier necessity of finding and loving in one another, if possible in a yet higher degree, the purely Divine power already felt within, and thus mutually living under its influence" (Ewald); and by it their friendship was rendered sacred and strong and permanently established. In times when "the love of many waxes cold and iniquity abounds," men of a common faith and love toward God do well to draw closely together and strengthen each other's hearts and hands by sacred vows.

VI. IT IS MANIFESTED IN GENEROUS GIFTS. "And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was upon him," etc. (ver. 4). He gave him what best expressed the gift of himself, and what would continually remind David of his friend and increase his confidence and love. It was little that David could give him in return of an outward kind, but he gave him confidence for confidence, love for love, life for life. Friendship is practical, self-sacrificing, and helpful, and gives of its best. "David is seen in Jonathan's clothes that we may take notice he is Jonathan's second self. Our Lord Jesus Christ has thus showed his love to us, that he stripped himself to clothe us, humbled himself to enrich us. Nay, he did more than Jonathan - he clothed himself with our rags, whereas Jonathan did not put on David's" (M. Henry). Exhortation: -

1. Seek friendship only among the wise and good. If you would have a true friend, make a friend of him who is a friend of God.

2. Strive to be as worthy of the friendship of the good as David was of the friendship of Jonathan.

3. Be as sincere and faithful to your friend as Jonathan was to David.

4. Value the friendship of Christ beyond all other. - D.

One great exploit performed in the sight of two armies took David at once and forever out of obscurity. Thenceforth he was a man much observed. The quiet pastoral life at Bethlehem was ended, and could never be resumed. Sudden success brings rapid distinction, but also brings trials and risks from which the obscure are free. David leaped at a bound into honour and fame, but for that very reason he found himself at the beginning of his troubles. Well that, before those troubles began to press him, he knew the Lord as his refuge; well, too, that he won to himself in the very sphere of danger a loving and faithful friend.

I. JONATHAN'S LOVE. If there was a man in Israel who had reason to be jealous of David, it was the Prince Jonathan. He was a gallant soldier, and here was a greater hero to eclipse him. He had by personal valour gained a signal victory over the Philistines, and here was a personal courage still more brilliant, and a discomfiture of the enemy more easy and more complete. He was the heir to the throne, and if this youth should aspire to rule as well as deliver Israel, it was Jonathan whom he would supplant. Yet in this generous prince there appeared not even a shade of envy. He saw in the young shepherd a congenial spirit - a temper adventurous as his own, with a faith in God firm and ardent as his own. The soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David. It was good for Jonathan to find a friend who could evoke an admiration and affection so intense. He could no longer look up to his own father with respect or confidence. In the circle or court about the king the finer qualities of Jonathan's nature found no harmony, no encouragement. But here was one who could understand him, and in whom he could see and admire what a leader in Israel ought to be. It was good for David, too, to find that he was cared for, that his pure and devout patriotism was appreciated, and that he had the fraternal sympathy of at least one in that higher grade of life on which he was now so suddenly to enter. The time was at hand when such strong and faithful love would be very precious.

II. SAUL'S JEALOUSY. At first it appeared as though David was to have nothing but honour. The king obeyed his good impulse, and gave the young hero high promotion among his officers, with the evident approval of the soldiers and all the people. But a black cloud of jealousy soon gathered. Saul could not bear to hear this new champion praised more than himself; and he began to brood over the thought that this might be the man at whom Samuel hinted, to whom the Lord would give the kingdom. "What can he have more but the kingdom? And Saul eyed David from that day forward." We soon read of the jealous king trying to take David's life. Oh, cruel envy! No worthiness, no goodness is a defence against it. The sight of good excites it to evil. It is the passion of a mean spirit; or, if it fastens on a character which has some great qualities, it tends to weaken and degrade it. Indeed, no more wretched fate can befall any man than to be filled with envy, and so to chafe and jibe at all who surpass him; to become a prey to jealousy, and mistrust or disparage all who seem to please God or man more than he. How fatal for Saul himself was this jealous passion! By the help of David the king might have recovered something of his lost health and happiness, and repaired some of the errors of his reign. But once jealousy took possession of him all this was impossible. Saul became gloomy, crafty, and cruel; and the more David did for the kingdom, hearing himself wisely in camp and court, the more was he watched with envious eyes, and pursued with sullen hatred. "Wrath is cruel, and anger is outrageous; but who is able to stand before envy?" This seemed an ominous beginning for David; but it served its purpose in the training through which God meant him to pass. After Saul was anointed he was put through no such ordeal. The slight opposition which was made to his sudden elevation was soon surmounted, and the son of Kish stepped up to the throne of Israel with very little difficulty. But this was really ominous. It was a sign that God was to have little service or glory from King Saul. The son of Jesse had a higher destiny, and therefore he was tried and proved. His faith was tested as by fire; his discretion was ripened by the knowledge that jealous eyes were watching him; his patience was perfected; his staying power developed through an experience hard and harassing.

III. SUGGESTIONS OF JESUS CHRIST, LOVED AND HATED. As David in his youth, and on the threshold of his public career, overcame the strong enemy of Israel in single combat, so Jesus in youth, and on the threshold of his public life, encountered the adversary of the people of God, and overcame the tempter in the wilderness. Then, as David endured much before he reached the throne, so Jesus Christ endured much before God raised him up and gave him glory. And during that time of his lowly suffering Jesus was, like his human ancestor David, solaced by love and pursued by envy.

1. Loved. The Son of David had the applause of the multitude, and bore himself so wisely that the keenest observers could find no fault in him. Withal he had the power of knitting souls to himself, so as to make them willing to forsake all for his sake. Now this was always a strong characteristic of David - a charm of character and bearing which attached to him many lovers and friends. Jonathan loved him in youth as his own soul. His warriors were so devoted to him, that he had but to wish for water from the well of Bethlehem, and three heroes dashed through the ranks of the Philistines to draw water and bring it to their chief. Ittai the Gittite and others are evidences that David retained this attaching power even in old age. And did not the Son of David, with an attraction which we cannot analyse or define, draw to himself the sons of Zebedee, and the sons of Jonas, the brother and sisters at Bethany, Mary of Magdala, and many more who found in his companionship and favour all that their hearts desired? Did he not afterwards draw to himself the persecutor, Saul of Tarsus, and engage the all-enduring loyalty and love of Paul? And are there not thousands on thousands who, though they have not seen him, love him, and in whose eyes he is never more worthy of love than when contemplated as One despised and rejected of men, "a Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief"? It was a solace to Jesus in his deepest suffering that they who knew him best loved him. How often he dwelt on it, on the night in which he was betrayed 1 "If ye love me keep my commandments" "He that loveth me shall be loved of my Father." "The Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me." Just as it comforted David when hunted and proscribed to know that Jonathan loved him truly and well, so it comforted the Son of David, that though men might hate and kill him, there were those who loved him truly and well, and whom neither death nor life could separate from his love.

2. Hated. We have seen how David's courage and discretion stirred Saul's jealousy. A man so rare in his qualities, so evidently fitted for greatness, drew after him eyes of cruel envy. So it befell the Son of David. Because Jesus drew to him disciples and friends, the priests and rabbis hated him. Because he was followed by multitudes, the rulers took counsel together against him. Because he answered and acted wisely, the scribes and Pharisees were filled with malice against him. Wherever he went, jealous eyes watched him, and crafty questions laid wait for him. The Scripture was fulfilled: "They hated me without a cause." Pontius Pilate easily detected the motive (no just cause)which led the Jewish Council to arraign the Son of David at his judgment seat. "He knew that for envy they had delivered him." So it is today. Jesus Christ is proclaimed as mighty to save. The world is being filled with his name, and everywhere cries ascend of "Hosanna to the Son of David." And how is it taken? Some love, but some also hate. Some feel as Jonathan did. They are quite drawn out of themselves to the Lord Jesus. He is, he must be, their Beloved and their Friend. And how significant of his greatness it is that he, now unseen, awakens in human hearts a faith as strong, an attachment as ardent, as thrilled the breasts of apostles who accompanied him and women who ministered to him in Galilee! Paul, who had not seen him in the flesh, loved him as truly and served him as enthusiastically as Peter and John, who had. Christians of the eleventh century, like Bernard of Clairvaux, or of the fifteenth, like him who wrote as Thomas a Kempis, clave to him as devoutly as the Fathers who lived within a few generations of the apostles. And comparative moderns, like Herbert, Bengel, Rutherford, Madame Guyon, Brainerd, Whitefield, the Wesleys, Toplady, Hervey, Henry Martyn, McCheyne, Adolph Monod, have held him as precious as did the most fervent spirits of earlier times. Jesus Christ has always known how to draw men to himself, and hold them by cords of spiritual attraction, so that they have loved him as their own souls. Others, however, eye him as Saul eyed David, in order to find fault with him. Oh, what a triumph it would give to a certain class of men if they could only find a blot in the Lord Jesus; if they could show him to have been no better or higher than ether men! But it cannot be done. His way is perfect. His character, however closely scrutinised, reveals no flaw. It comes to this, that men hate him because he is so good. They love the darkness rather than the light, because their deeds are evil. - F.

He loved him as his own soul (ver. 3). Human friendship is a shadow of Divine. The greatest and best Friend is God in Christ Jesus. Happy is every one who can say from the heart, "This is my beloved, and this is my friend" (Song of Solomon 5:16). Consider -

I. ITS CONDITIONS, on the part of man.

1. Rationality: capacity of thought, voluntary choice, moral esteem. "Amidst the ashes of our collapsed nature there slumber certain sparks of celestial fire" (Owen).

2. Reconciliation; inasmuch as man is alienated from God, and under condemnation.

3. Renewal in righteousness and true holiness, so that we may be "partakers of the Divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4). "Friendship is a union of souls, and souls can be united only where there is more or less accord" (Amos 3:3).

II. ITS CHARACTERISTICS, on the part of the Lord. All his perfections render it in every respect transcendently excellent. But notice more particularly -

1. Its disinterestedness. "He first loved us," with a pure, free, condescending, self-sacrificing love. "Greater love hath no man," etc. (John 15:13).

2. Its faithfulness.

3. Its constancy. "The love of friends of this world is defective in three respects - they begin to love late, cease early, love little. But the love of God is an unequalled love. He loves us without beginning, without intermission, and without end" (Nouet).

III. ITS BENEFITS, or the blessings enjoyed by those who have fellowship with him.

1. Counsel, warning, rebuke. Reproofs are "the graver looks of love."

2. Defence, support, and effectual help.

3. Sympathy, encouragement, and everlasting consolation. "And now," said Jonathan Edwards, on his death bed, turning from his earthly friends toward the approaching darkness, "where is Jesus of Nazareth, my true and never failing Friend?"

IV. ITS CLAIMS, or the duties of those who enjoy such benefits and desire their continuance.

1. To cherish proper feelings toward him - confidence, affection, and delight in intercourse with him.

2. To do those things that please him. "Ye are my friends if ye do whatsoever I command you."

3. Not to be ashamed of him, but to confess his name before men; to love and serve his friends for his sake, and to seek in all things his honour and glory. - D.

And Saul eyed David from that day forward (ver. 9). How extraordinary are the moral contrasts which are often presented in human life! The friendship of Jonathan here stands in opposition to the envy of Saul. Hardly had David experienced the one before he was exposed to the other. "His victory had a double issue, Jonathan's love and Saul's envy, which God so mixed that the one was a remedy of the other" (Hall). On the day of public rejoicing the seeds of jealousy, envy, and hatred were sown in his heart. He eyed David not with favour, as before, but with dislike on account of the honour given to him beyond himself. The general suspicion which he entertained in consequence of the intimations of Samuel concerning his successor also seems to have fastened on him as the man; and henceforth he looked upon him as a dangerous rival. "Mingling with his constitutional malady, it poisoned his whole future relations with David." Of envy notice that -

I. IT TAKES ROOT IN AN EVIL HEART. In the case of Saul the soil was congenial and ready prepared by -

1. Alienation from God and conviction of his disfavour.

2. Selfishness and morbid concentration of thought upon himself.

3. Self-will, pride, and worldly ambition, still continuing and increasing.

4. Wrathful passion. He was very wroth, and the saying displeased him (ver. 8). "He who is apt to feel indignation, feels pain at those who are undeservedly successful; but the envious man, going beyond him, feels pain at every one's success" (Aristotle, 'Ethics').


1. Popular estimation. "They have ascribed unto David ten thousands," etc. (ver. 8). "What properly occasions envy is the fruit of the accomplishments of others; the pre-eminence which the opinion of the world bestows, or which we dread it will bestow, on their talents above ours" (Blair).

2. Successful achievements, from which such preference proceeds. "The bright day brings out the adder." Prosperity is generally attended by envy.

3. Personal excellences. David "behaved himself wisely" (ver. 5); "very wisely" (ver. 15); "more wisely than all" (ver. 30). He acted prudently, cautiously, skilfully, and therefore prosperously. Base envy withers at another's joy, And hates the excellence it cannot reach (Thomson).

4. Divine approbation, which appears in prosperous enterprises. "And Saul was afraid of David, because the Lord was with him," etc. (ver. 12). "And Cain was very wroth," etc. (Genesis 4:5; 1 John 3:2). The envy felt at the favour shown to another by God is peculiarly criminal, because of its opposition to God himself.


1. Unreasonableness.

2. In most cases ingratitude. David had conferred a great benefit on Saul and Israel by his victory over Goliath; he "went out whithersoever Saul sent him," and fought his battles; and often soothed his melancholy with the music of his harp (ver. 10).

3. Injustice. He did him "shame" (1 Samuel 20:34) by entertaining suspicions of his loyalty and treating him as a traitor.

4. Ungodliness and all uncharitableness. "Charity envieth not." "Envy is the worst of all passions, and feedeth upon the spirits, and they again upon the body; and so much the more because it is perpetual, and, as it is said, keepeth no holidays" (Bacon, 'Essays').

IV. IT IS PRODUCTIVE OF MUCH DEADLY FRUIT, in relation both to others (Proverbs 27:4) and to the envious man himself (Proverbs 14:30); partly of hatred and partly of grief. "As it shows itself in hatred it strikes at the person envied; but as it affects a man in the nature of grief it recoils and does execution upon the envier. It lies at the heart like a worm, always gnawing and corroding and piercing it with a secret, invisible sting and poison" (South, 'Sermons,' 58.). In Saul it produced unrest of soul, increased subjection to the power of evil - "it came to pass on the morrow," etc. (ver. 10); ungovernable rage - "he poised the javelin" twice; craft and hypocrisy; fear (vers. 11, 15); continual enmity (ver. 21); deliberate avowal of murderous intentions (1 Samuel 19:1); open and unceasing persecution; despair and self-destruction. "When in the last judgment envy is placed at the bar of God, what an indictment will he laid against the evil spirit! The insulting anger of Eliab, the cruelty of Joseph's brethren, the murderous wrath of Cain, and the greatest share in the greatest crime in the world - the crucifying of the Lord of glory - will be charged upon him. To cast this demon out of our bosoms before that final condemnation is one purpose of Jesus, and with all our hearts we should pray for his complete and. speedy victory" (C Vince). Conclusion: - In order to the cure or prevention of this evil passion, seek a renewed heart; dwell much on the Divine love "that spurns all envying in its bounty;" estimate aright temporal advantages; entertain lowly thoughts of self; learn to admire excellence in others, and regard it as if it were your own; check the first impulse of jealous or envious feeling; and "commit thy way unto the Lord."

"O man! why place thy heart where there doth need
Exclusion of participants in good?
Heaven calls, And, round about you wheeling, courts your gaze
With everlasting beauties. Yet your eye
Turns with fond doting still upon the earth.
Therefore he smites you who discerneth all"

(Dante, 'Purg.' 14.) - D.

1 Samuel 18:17-30. (GIBEAH.) -
There is a simplicity which springs from ignorance, and is displayed in folly and presumption (Proverbs 22:3). There is also a simplicity which is the fruit of innocence, truthfulness, and goodness, and appears in an ingenuous mind, a guileless disposition, and straightforward speech and conduct. In its best sense (simplicitas - without fold or twist) it is opposed to duplicity, deception, and "cunning craftiness" (Romans 12:8; Romans 16:19; 2 Corinthians 1:12; 2 Corinthians 11:3); and it was exemplified, in an eminent degree, by David, especially in his earlier intercourse with Saul; for, through familiarity with court life, and much more in consequence of the straits to which he was reduced by the craft and persecution of the king, the simple-minded, open-hearted shepherd youth once and again turned aside:from the right path (1 Samuel 21:2). Consider simplicity as -

I. BESET BY THE WORKING or CRAFT. Having given way to envy, and in a violent fit of madness threatened the life of David, Saul continued to hate and fear him (Mark 11:18), and sought to get rid of him, though indirectly from restraint of conscience and secretly from fear of the people (Mark 6:20; Luke 22:2). Sin works in the dark. Malicious craft often -

1. Seeks to accomplish ends which it may not dare to avow. Springing from jealousy for personal position and renown, it aims at the depreciation of every one by whom they seem to be endangered; and at his removal, whether accidentally by the hands of others, or by his committing some overt act which may justify his open punishment (vers. 17, 21, 25). And toward these ends it works with ever greater directness and less concealment; for that which is hidden in the heart must sooner or later come to light.

2. Makes use of fair professions, and uses pretexts which are specious, false, and hypocritical. David was assured that no harm was really meant him, and made "captain over a thousand" (ver. 13); whereas he was removed from the presence of the king because he was hated and feared, and that he might be exposed to greater danger. His not receiving the fulfilment of Saul's promise (1 Samuel 17:25) was probably accounted for by his lack of wealth and social status (ver. 25); but the promise was repeated insincerely. "Only be thou valiant for me" (expose thyself to every hazard)," and fight the Lord's battles" (with zeal for Jehovah, which I know thou hast), and (sub voce) "let not my hand be upon him," etc. (ver. 17). On the loss of Merab he was consoled by the promise of Michal (ver. 21), but only as "a snare," and her love was made use of for the purpose. And at length (when the king had formed his plan, and felt sure of its success), he was told by his servants (as if in confidential communication), "Behold, the king hath delight in thee," etc. (ver. 22), "desireth not any dowry," etc. (ver. 25); "but Saul thought to make David fall by the hand of the Philistines."

3. Adopts means which are unworthy, base, and godless. Scheming, plotting, murderous attempts on life under the sanctities of affection and religion; at heart, infatuated opposition to the will of God. If it were not the Divine purpose that David should be king, why fear him? if it were, of what avail would resistance be?

II. DISPLAYED IN THE MIDST OF CRAFT. The snares that were woven around David seem plain enough to us; but there is no reason to suppose that they were at first observed by him. The simple-hearted man -

1. Is accustomed to look upon others as sincere like himself, regards their statements and assurances as truthful, and is slow to suspect their evil intentions. Even to the last David could hardly believe that Saul, of his own accord, sought his life (1 Samuel 26:19). He is "simile concerning evil." Large experience makes men cautious; but it is better to be deceived a hundred times than to lead a life of continual suspicion.

2. Entertains modest and lowly views of himself, takes contempt and disappointment without complaint, and accepts humbly and cheerfully whatever honour may be conferred upon him (vers. 18, 23). "Seekest thou great things for thyself? seek them not" (Jeremiah 45:5). "A pious man is even in prosperity humble in heart."

3. Is intent upon the honest, faithful, and efficient discharge of the duty that lies before him, and fears danger little because he fears God much (vers. 5, 14, 27). "David's calm indifference to outward circumstances affecting himself were very strikingly expressed in his conduct. Partly from his poetic temperament, partly from his sweet, natural unselfishness, and chiefly from his loving trust in God, he accepts whatever happens with equanimity, and makes no effort to alter it" (Maclaren). It has been remarked that "genius is rumply the carrying into the maturity of our powers the simplicity and ardour of childhood."

III. PRESERVED FROM THE DEVICES OF CRAFT. It is the best means of preservation, inasmuch as -

1. It affords the least occasion for an adversary to take an advantage. Although the ingenuous man may appear to lie open to attack, yet he is really most effectually guarded against it.

2. It attracts the respect of other men (ver. 16), gains the love of those who warn and help him (ver. 28; 1 Samuel 19:11), and makes it difficult for his enemies to prevail over him.

3. It insures the favour of God. "The Lord was with him" (vers. 12, 14, 28) to guide, defend, and help him (Psalm 37:24, 33). "In thee do I trust."


1. Instead of returning no more from the conflict, he returns in triumph, and receives an unwilling honour from the hand that was lifted up against him (vers. 27, 28; Revelation 3:9).

2. Instead of being less an object of terror to the wicked, he is more so (ver. 29).

3. Instead of being deprived of the love of the people of God (ver. 16: "All Israel and Judah loved David"), he is more completely enthroned in their hearts (ver. 30). Remark -

1. How ineffectual are the devices of the wicked against "the upright in heart."

2. How beneficial may even their devices become when met with "simplicity and godly sincerity."

3. How inexpressibly beautiful is the character of the Son of David - "meek and lowly in heart."

4. How necessary is the "anointing of the holy One," that we may become like unto him. - D.

I. EXEMPLARY CONDUCT UNDER TRIAL. One can hardly imagine a course of events more likely to turn a young man's head and make him giddy with elation than the rapid promotion of the youthful David. Brought at once from comparative obscurity into the full blaze of public admiration as a national hero, appointed as an officer of high rank in the army, made son-in-law to the king, and at the same time trusted and honoured by the people, the son of Jesse had much to tempt him to self-complacence. It is a sign that the Lord was with him that he bore himself meekly, circumspectly, and with "sublime repression of himself." A man who is conscious of fitness for a great position can afford to wait. It must come to him, if he lives long enough; and if he is not to live, why should he fret his few years with an idle ambition? David had something better than such a consciousness; he knew himself to be anointed and ordained of God to fill an eminent place in his service. True, that nothing seems to have been said about the kingship at the private anointing in Bethlehem; and David's gift of sacred song seemed to point him out as successor of Samuel rather than of Saul. But kings, not prophets, were anointed; and the thought of being king, especially after the exploit at Elah, must have passed and repassed through the young hero's mind. Yet because he believed God he did not make haste. If the high and perilous seat of a king of Israel was destined for him, let it come; but he would not grasp it, or climb into it by dispossessing its first occupant. Not by him would Saul be dethroned, or any dishonour done to a head which had received a holy anointing. God would give what he pleased, as and when he might see fit. Enough that David should act wisely and justly in the station to which he was assigned. This was no fatalism. The history shows that David used all lawful (and some rather questionable) endeavours to preserve his own life, and that he missed no opportunity to advance his public interest. He was far from inferring that, as God had marked out for him a destiny, he must not give any heed to his way or to his safety, because God would bring his own purpose to pass. On the contrary, he knew that the fulfilment of the destiny must be through his own discretion, valour, and proved fitness for the royal dignity. Therefore, while David would not push his way ambitiously to the throne, he was careful to do nothing that would make such promotion impossible. In fact David took the course which may be recommended to every young man who desires to rise in the esteem and confidence of others. He did well whatever was given him to do. He behaved himself wisely as a minstrel, as a soldier, as a prince. The historian marks the steps of his advance "wisely," "very wisely," "more wisely than all the servants of Saul" (vers. 14, 15, 30). If we read "prospered," "prospered exceedingly," prospered more, the lesson remains the same. We are reminded of the youthful Joseph, always prosperous in administration, whether in Potiphar's house, in charge of the prison, or in the government of Egypt. It was because the Lord was with him (Genesis 39:2, 23). Yet the promotion of Joseph was through his well approved discretion and fidelity winning for him more and more confidence (Genesis 39:39-41). So David prospered; every step of his elevation bringing out more clearly to view his fine combination of boldness and discretion, and his consequent fitness to rise yet higher, and to be the leader and ruler of all Israel. Happy the nation where such proved fitness counts for more than the highest birth or the strongest interest! If survival of the fittest be a rule in nature, selection of the fittest is the true principle for the public service. Not that every one who holds an inferior position well is fit to hold a higher and rise toward the highest. Men have their range, beyond which they are ill at ease and incapable. But this is certain, that men who ale fit for a leading position will reveal their capacity while serving in a subordinate place. Only in judging of this account must be taken not of brain power and acquired knowledge merely, but of character, and that moral influence which character and conduct give. Is it not on this principle that God promotes the heirs of glory? All who have received his grace are anointed ones; but they have to serve before they rule, and to be tested in labours and patience before they can reign with Christ. Has not our Saviour taught in parables that his people must be servants till he returns, and that only good and faithful servants are to enter into the joy of their Lord? Has not St. Paul spoken of eternal life as given to those "who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory, honour, and immortality"? Behold the way to "the honour that comes from God only." Behave wisely in the present sphere of duty. Do well, and do it with patience. Make not your advancement in this world, or even in the world to come, a matter of passionate anxiety. Foster and obey the sense of duty, attend conscientiously to the obligations of your present station, and fear not but the Lord will give you as much elevation as is good for you in this present time, and in the age to come a place and a portion with the King and with his saints.


1. On the people. They were captivated by his gallantry and his discretion. Both in martial skill and in civil administration he surpassed all the public men of his country, and was fast becoming a popular idol. It is too true that, notwithstanding this, Saul was able to drive him into exile, and found soldiers enough to pursue him for his life. Popular favour did not protect him from such outrage. Yet two facts are worth noting.

(1) That David gave clear evidence of a man who could, and therefore should, sooner or later, lead his countrymen. This early approval of himself to all observers, however obscured or disparaged during the days of his persecution, was not forgotten by the people, and helped his ultimate elevation to the throne.

(2) That, though many turned against him at the bidding of Saul, David from this very time drew to himself friends that would not forsake him, for they saw in him the hope of Israel; and, following him to the caves among the rocks of Judah, and even to the land of the Philistines, were the companions, first of his tribulation, and then of his kingdom and glory.

2. On the king. The effect of David's well doing on Saul was sinister and shameful. The good points which had once appeared in this unhappy man now recede from view, and the bad points of his character come out in strong relief under the baleful influence of jealousy. When he was himself the sole hero, and the eyes of all Israel turned to him, he could be gracious and even humble in his bearing. But elevation had made him proud; power had made him wilful; and a bad conscience made him hate and fear a well doer near the throne. He felt that this youth from Bethlehem was far the better man, and he suspected that the nation thought so too. Envy completed the moral ruin of Saul. As the worm seeks out the best fruit to eat the heart of it, so envy fastens on the best and noblest persons to hate and hurt them. It goes by quick steps to injury - even to murder. "Saul spake to Jonathan his son, and to all his servants, that they should kill David." O cursed envy! O hideous ingratitude! O foul and furious jealousy!

III. THE TREATMENT OF JESUS CHRIST FORSHADOWED. The Son of David lived unblamably, answered discreetly, behaved himself wisely. The people gathered to him in multitudes, with eyes and ears of admiration. They judged him worthy to be made their king. It is true that the fickle populace took part with their rulers against our Lord, just as the fickle subjects of Saul took part with him against the son of Jesse. But, in the one case as in the other, some hearts clave to the persecuted One. And as all the malice that pursued David failed to keep him from the kingdom to which God had destined him and for which God had fitted him, so the rejection, betrayal, and crucifixion of Jesus could not keep him from the throne far above all principality and power which was his in virtue of an eternal covenant. The rulers bated him without a cause; his very wisdom and goodness irritated them, and they took counsel together how they might slay him. For envy they delivered him up to judgment, and demanded that he should be crucified. At the period described in our text a crisis had arrived in Israel. Men were forced to choose between Saul and David, for these were contrary the one to the other, and could not live in unity. We know what side such a man as Doeg took. But David had his friends, who dared everything rather than renounce his cause. Better, in their opinion, to be exiles and pilgrims with him than to remain with the moody tyrant from whom the Lord had departed. So, in the days of his showing to Israel, many refused Jesus, but some clave to him. Better, in their opinion, to be cast out of the synagogues, to go forth without the gate, bearing his reproach, than to take part with the world that hated him, especially with that hard and gloomy Judaism from which the Lord had departed. The crisis continues. Before all men the alternative lies - for Christ, or against him. Oh, receive him whom the world has rejected; give him your hearts; identify and associate yourselves with the "once despised Jesus." - F.

The Pulpit Commentary, Electronic Database.
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