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Saul Comes to Fear David

18 When David[a] had finished talking with Saul, Jonathan and David became bound together in close friendship.[b] Jonathan loved David as much as he did his own life.[c] Saul retained David[d] on that day and did not allow him to return to his father’s house. Jonathan made a covenant with David, for he loved him as much as he did his own life.[e] Jonathan took off the robe he was wearing and gave it to David, along with the rest of his gear including his sword, his bow, and even his belt.

On every mission on which Saul sent him, David achieved success. So Saul appointed him over the men of war. This pleased not only all the army, but also Saul’s servants.[f]

When the men[g] arrived after David returned from striking down the Philistine, the women from all the cities of Israel came out singing and dancing to meet King Saul. They were happy as they played their tambourines and three-stringed instruments.[h] The women who were playing the music sang,

“Saul has struck down his thousands,
but David his tens of thousands!”

This made Saul very angry. The statement displeased him and he thought,[i] “They have attributed to David tens of thousands, but to me they have attributed only thousands. What does he lack, except the kingdom?” So Saul was keeping an eye on David from that day onward.

10 The next day an evil spirit from God rushed upon Saul and he prophesied[j] within his house. Now David was playing the lyre[k] as usual. There was a spear in Saul’s hand, 11 and Saul threw the spear, thinking, “I’ll nail David to the wall!” But David escaped from him on two different occasions.

12 So Saul feared David, because the Lord was with David but had departed from Saul. 13 Saul removed David[l] from his presence and made him a commanding officer.[m] David led the army out to battle and back.[n] 14 Now David achieved success in all he did,[o] for the Lord was with him. 15 When Saul saw how very successful he was, he was afraid of him. 16 But all Israel and Judah loved David, for he was the one leading them out to battle and back.

17 [p] Then Saul said to David, “Here’s my oldest daughter, Merab. I want to give her to you in marriage. Only be a brave warrior[q] for me and fight the battles of the Lord.” For Saul thought, “There’s no need for me to raise my hand against him. Let it be the hand of the Philistines!”

18 David said to Saul, “Who am I? Who are my relatives or the clan of my father[r] in Israel that I should become the king’s son-in-law?” 19 When the time came for Merab, Saul’s daughter, to be given to David, she instead was given in marriage to Adriel, who was from Meholah.

20 Now Michal, Saul’s daughter, loved David. When they told Saul about this, it[s] pleased him. 21 Saul said, “I will give her to him so that she may become a snare to him and so the hand of the Philistines may be against him.” So Saul said to David, “Today is the second time for you to become my son-in-law.”[t]

22 Then Saul instructed his servants, “Tell David secretly, ‘The king is pleased with you, and all his servants like you. So now become the king’s son-in-law.’” 23 So Saul’s servants spoke these words privately to[u] David. David replied, “Is becoming the king’s son-in-law something insignificant to you? I’m just a poor and lightly esteemed man!”

24 When Saul’s servants reported what David had said, 25 Saul replied, “Here is what you should say to David: ‘There is nothing that the king wants as a price for the bride except 100 Philistine foreskins, so that he can be avenged of his[v] enemies.’” (Now Saul was thinking that he could kill David by the hand of the Philistines.)

26 So his servants told David these things and David agreed[w] to become the king’s son-in-law. Now the specified time had not yet expired[x] 27 when David, along with his men, went out[y] and struck down 200 Philistine men. David brought their foreskins and presented all of them to the king so that he could become the king’s son-in-law. Saul then gave him his daughter Michal in marriage.

28 When Saul realized[z] that the Lord was with David and that his[aa] daughter Michal loved David,[ab] 29 Saul became even more afraid of him.[ac] Saul continued to be at odds with David from then on.[ad] 30 [ae] The leaders of the Philistines would march out, and as often as they did so, David achieved more success than all of Saul’s servants. His name was held in high esteem.


  1. 1 Samuel 18:1 tn Heb “he”; the referent (David) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
  2. 1 Samuel 18:1 tn Heb “the soul of Jonathan was bound with the soul of David.”
  3. 1 Samuel 18:1 tn Heb “like his [own] soul.”sn On the nature of Jonathan’s love for David, see J. A. Thompson, “The Significance of the Verb Love in the David-Jonathan Narratives in 1 Samuel,” VT 24 (1974): 334-38.
  4. 1 Samuel 18:2 tn Heb “him”; the referent (David) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
  5. 1 Samuel 18:3 tn Heb “like his [own] soul.”
  6. 1 Samuel 18:5 tn Heb “it was good in the eyes of all the people and also in the eyes of the servants of Saul.”
  7. 1 Samuel 18:6 tn Heb “them.” The masculine plural pronoun apparently refers to the returning soldiers.
  8. 1 Samuel 18:6 tn Heb “with tambourines, with joy, and with three-stringed instruments.”
  9. 1 Samuel 18:8 tn Heb “said.” So also in vv. 11, 17.
  10. 1 Samuel 18:10 tn Or “he raved.” This same construction appears in 1 Sam 10:10 “the spirit of God rushed upon him and then he prophesied in their midst.” It is important to consider the agent affecting Saul, the verb describing his actions, and the broader cultural background. The phrase רוּחַ אֱלֹהִים (ruakh ʾelohim) could mean “a divine wind/spirit,” “a spirit from God,” or “the spirit of God.” Unlike 1 Sam 10:10, this case involves a harmful, or evil, spirit. The range of meaning of רָעָה (raʿah) can mean either harm or evil, and here indicates that this spirit’s purpose is to afflict Saul. The verb וַיִּתְנַבֵּא (vayyitnabbeʾ) is a Hitpael of the root נָבָא (nabaʾ) which means “to prophesy” in both the Niphal and the Hitpael. The difference may well be that the Niphal refers primarily to acting as a spokesman, while the Hitpael reflects an accompanying ecstatic experience on the part of the prophet (cf. 1 Sam 10:6; 19:24). 1 Kgs 18:29 also describes the antics of the prophets of Baal with the Hitpael of the root נָבָא (nabaʾ). Ecstatic experiences or expressions were sometimes associated with prophecy in the broader West Semitic culture as well as in the Israel. Some translations focus on the presumed outward effects of the afflicting spirit on Saul and render the verb “he raged” or “he raved” (NASB, ESV, NLT, NRSV). Although most biblical references to Israel’s prophets do not involve ecstatic experiences, the original audience would probably not have made a distinction here, that is, “raving” and “prophesying” would not have been considered alternatives.
  11. 1 Samuel 18:10 tn The Hebrew text adds here “with his hand.”
  12. 1 Samuel 18:13 tn Heb “him”; the referent (David) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
  13. 1 Samuel 18:13 tn Heb “an officer of a thousand.”
  14. 1 Samuel 18:13 tn Heb “and he went out and came in before the people.” See v. 16.
  15. 1 Samuel 18:14 tn Heb “in all his ways.”
  16. 1 Samuel 18:17 tc Much of the ms evidence for the LXX lacks vv. 17-19.
  17. 1 Samuel 18:17 tn Heb “son of valor.”
  18. 1 Samuel 18:18 tn Heb “Who are my relatives, the clan of my father?” The term חַי (khay), traditionally understood as “my life,” is here a rare word meaning “family, kinfolk” (see HALOT 309 s.v. III חַי). The phrase “clan of my father” may be a scribal gloss explaining the referent of this rare word.
  19. 1 Samuel 18:20 tn Heb “the matter.”
  20. 1 Samuel 18:21 tc The final sentence of v. 21 is absent in most LXX mss.
  21. 1 Samuel 18:23 tn Heb “in the ears of.”
  22. 1 Samuel 18:25 tn Heb “the king’s.”
  23. 1 Samuel 18:26 tn Heb “and it was acceptable in the eyes of David.”
  24. 1 Samuel 18:26 tn Heb “the days were not fulfilled.”
  25. 1 Samuel 18:27 tn Heb “arose and went.”
  26. 1 Samuel 18:28 tn Heb “saw and knew.”
  27. 1 Samuel 18:28 tn Heb “Saul’s.” In the translation the proper name has been replaced by the pronoun for stylistic reasons.
  28. 1 Samuel 18:28 tn Heb “him”; the referent (David) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
  29. 1 Samuel 18:29 tn Heb “of David.” In the translation the proper name has been replaced by the pronoun for stylistic reasons.
  30. 1 Samuel 18:29 tc The final sentence of v. 29 is absent in most LXX Heb “all the days.”
  31. 1 Samuel 18:30 tc Verse 30 is absent in most LXX mss.