1 Samuel 18-20 The Message (MSG)
Jonathan and David—Soul Friends
18 By the time David had finished reporting to Saul, Jonathan was deeply impressed with David—an immediate bond was forged between them. He became totally committed to David. From that point on he would be David’s number-one advocate and friend.
2 Saul received David into his own household that day, no more to return to the home of his father.
3-4 Jonathan, out of his deep love for David, made a covenant with him. He formalized it with solemn gifts: his own royal robe and weapons—armor, sword, bow, and belt.
5 Whatever Saul gave David to do, he did it—and did it well. So well that Saul put him in charge of his military operations. Everybody, both the people in general and Saul’s servants, approved of and admired David’s leadership.
David—The Name on Everyone’s Lips
6-9 As they returned home, after David had killed the Philistine, the women poured out of all the villages of Israel singing and dancing, welcoming King Saul with tambourines, festive songs, and lutes. In playful frolic the women sang,
Saul kills by the thousand,
This made Saul angry—very angry. He took it as a personal insult. He said, “They credit David with ‘ten thousands’ and me with only ‘thousands.’ Before you know it they’ll be giving him the kingdom!” From that moment on, Saul kept his eye on David.
10-11 The next day an ugly mood was sent by God to afflict Saul, who became quite beside himself, raving. David played his harp, as he usually did at such times. Saul had a spear in his hand. Suddenly Saul threw the spear, thinking, “I’ll nail David to the wall.” David ducked, and the spear missed. This happened twice.
12-16 Now Saul feared David. It was clear that God was with David and had left Saul. So, Saul got David out of his sight by making him an officer in the army. David was in combat frequently. Everything David did turned out well. Yes, God was with him. As Saul saw David becoming more successful, he himself grew more fearful. He could see the handwriting on the wall. But everyone else in Israel and Judah loved David. They loved watching him in action.
17 One day Saul said to David, “Here is Merab, my eldest daughter. I want to give her to you as your wife. Be brave and bold for my sake. Fight God’s battles!” But all the time Saul was thinking, “The Philistines will kill him for me. I won’t have to lift a hand against him.”
18 David, embarrassed, answered, “Do you really mean that? I’m from a family of nobodies! I can’t be son-in-law to the king.”
19 The wedding day was set, but as the time neared for Merab and David to be married, Saul reneged and married his daughter off to Adriel the Meholathite.
20-21 Meanwhile, Saul’s daughter Michal was in love with David. When Saul was told of this, he rubbed his hands in anticipation. “Ah, a second chance. I’ll use Michal as bait to get David out where the Philistines will make short work of him.” So again he said to David, “You’re going to be my son-in-law.”
22 Saul ordered his servants, “Get David off by himself and tell him, ‘The king is very taken with you, and everyone at court loves you. Go ahead, become the king’s son-in-law!’”
23 The king’s servants told all this to David, but David held back. “What are you thinking of? I can’t do that. I’m a nobody; I have nothing to offer.”
24-25 When the servants reported David’s response to Saul, he told them to tell David this: “The king isn’t expecting any money from you; only this: Go kill a hundred Philistines and bring evidence of your vengeance on the king’s behalf. Avenge the king on his enemies.” (Saul expected David to be killed in action.)
26-27 On receiving this message, David was pleased. There was something he could do for the king that would qualify him to be his son-in-law! He lost no time but went right out, he and his men, killed the hundred Philistines, brought their evidence back in a sack, and counted it out before the king—mission completed! Saul gave Michal his daughter to David in marriage.
28-29 As Saul more and more realized that God was with David, and how much his own daughter, Michal, loved him, his fear of David increased and settled into hate. Saul hated David.
30 Whenever the Philistine warlords came out to battle, David was there to meet them—and beat them, upstaging Saul’s men. David’s name was on everyone’s lips.
The Black Mood of Saul
19 1-3 Saul called his son Jonathan together with his servants and ordered them to kill David. But because Jonathan treasured David, he went and warned him: “My father is looking for a way to kill you. Here’s what you are to do. Tomorrow morning, hide and stay hidden. I’ll go out with my father into the field where you are hiding. I’ll talk about you with my father and we’ll see what he says. Then I’ll report back to you.”
4-5 Jonathan brought up David with his father, speaking well of him. “Please,” he said to his father, “don’t attack David. He hasn’t wronged you, has he? And just look at all the good he has done! He put his life on the line when he killed the Philistine. What a great victory God gave Israel that day! You were there. You saw it and were on your feet applauding with everyone else. So why would you even think of sinning against an innocent person, killing David for no reason whatever?”
6 Saul listened to Jonathan and said, “You’re right. As God lives, David lives. He will not be killed.”
7 Jonathan sent for David and reported to him everything that was said. Then he brought David back to Saul and everything was as it was before.
8 War broke out again and David went out to fight Philistines. He beat them badly, and they ran for their lives.
9-10 But then a black mood from God settled over Saul and took control of him. He was sitting at home, his spear in his hand, while David was playing music. Suddenly, Saul tried to skewer David with his spear, but David ducked. The spear stuck in the wall and David got away. It was night.
11-14 Saul sent men to David’s house to stake it out and then, first thing in the morning, to kill him. But Michal, David’s wife, told him what was going on. “Quickly now—make your escape tonight. If not, you’ll be dead by morning!” She let him out of a window, and he made his escape. Then Michal took a dummy god and put it in the bed, placed a wig of goat’s hair on its head, and threw a quilt over it. When Saul’s men arrived to get David, she said, “He’s sick in bed.”
15-16 Saul sent his men back, ordering them, “Bring him, bed and all, so I can kill him.” When the men entered the room, all they found in the bed was the dummy god with its goat-hair wig!
17 Saul stormed at Michal: “How could you play tricks on me like this? You sided with my enemy, and now he’s gotten away!”
18 Michal said, “He threatened me. He said, ‘Help me out of here or I’ll kill you.’”
David made good his escape and went to Samuel at Ramah and told him everything Saul had done to him. Then he and Samuel withdrew to the privacy of Naioth.
19-20 Saul was told, “David’s at Naioth in Ramah.” He immediately sent his men to capture him. They saw a band of prophets prophesying with Samuel presiding over them. Before they knew it, the Spirit of God was on them, too, and they were ranting and raving right along with the prophets!
21 That was reported back to Saul, and he dispatched more men. They, too, were soon prophesying. So Saul tried a third time—a third set of men—and they ended up mindlessly raving as well!
22 Fed up, Saul went to Ramah himself. He came to the big cistern at Secu and inquired, “Where are Samuel and David?”
A bystander said, “Over at Naioth in Ramah.”
23-24 As he headed out for Naioth in Ramah, the Spirit of God was on him, too. All the way to Naioth he was caught up in a babbling trance! He ripped off his clothes and lay there rambling gibberish before Samuel for a day and a night, stretched out naked. People are still talking about it: “Saul among the prophets! Who would have guessed?”
A Covenant Friendship in God’s Name
20 David got out of Naioth in Ramah alive and went to Jonathan. “What do I do now? What wrong have I inflicted on your father that makes him so determined to kill me?”
2 “Nothing,” said Jonathan. “You’ve done nothing wrong. And you’re not going to die. Really, you’re not! My father tells me everything. He does nothing, whether big or little, without confiding in me. So why would he do this behind my back? It can’t be.”
3 But David said, “Your father knows that we are the best of friends. So he says to himself, ‘Jonathan must know nothing of this. If he does, he’ll side with David.’ But it’s true—as sure as God lives, and as sure as you’re alive before me right now—he’s determined to kill me.”
4 Jonathan said, “Tell me what you have in mind. I’ll do anything for you.”
5-8 David said, “Tomorrow marks the New Moon. I’m scheduled to eat dinner with the king. Instead, I’ll go hide in the field until the evening of the third. If your father misses me, say, ‘David asked if he could run down to Bethlehem, his hometown, for an anniversary reunion, and worship with his family.’ If he says, ‘Good!’ then I’m safe. But if he gets angry, you’ll know for sure that he’s made up his mind to kill me. Oh, stick with me in this. You’ve entered into a covenant of God with me, remember! If I’m in the wrong, go ahead and kill me yourself. Why bother giving me up to your father?”
9 “Never!” exclaimed Jonathan. “I’d never do that! If I get the slightest hint that my father is fixated on killing you, I’ll tell you.”
10 David asked, “And whom will you get to tell me if your father comes back with a harsh answer?”
11-17 “Come outside,” said Jonathan. “Let’s go to the field.” When the two of them were out in the field, Jonathan said, “As God, the God of Israel, is my witness, by this time tomorrow I’ll get it out of my father how he feels about you. Then I’ll let you know what I learn. May God do his worst to me if I let you down! If my father still intends to kill you, I’ll tell you and get you out of here in one piece. And God be with you as he’s been with my father! If I make it through this alive, continue to be my covenant friend. And if I die, keep the covenant friendship with my family—forever. And when God finally rids the earth of David’s enemies, stay loyal to Jonathan!” Jonathan repeated his pledge of love and friendship for David. He loved David more than his own soul!
18-23 Jonathan then laid out his plan: “Tomorrow is the New Moon, and you’ll be missed when you don’t show up for dinner. On the third day, when they’ve quit expecting you, come to the place where you hid before, and wait beside that big boulder. I’ll shoot three arrows in the direction of the boulder. Then I’ll send off my servant, ‘Go find the arrows.’ If I yell after the servant, ‘The arrows are on this side! Retrieve them!’ that’s the signal that you can return safely—as God lives, not a thing to fear! But if I yell, ‘The arrows are farther out!’ then run for it—God wants you out of here! Regarding all the things we’ve discussed, remember that God’s in on this with us to the very end!”
24-26 David hid in the field. On the holiday of the New Moon, the king came to the table to eat. He sat where he always sat, the place against the wall, with Jonathan across the table and Abner at Saul’s side. But David’s seat was empty. Saul didn’t mention it at the time, thinking, “Something’s happened that’s made him unclean. That’s it—he’s probably unclean for the holy meal.”
27 But the day after the New Moon, day two of the holiday, David’s seat was still empty. Saul asked Jonathan his son, “So where’s that son of Jesse? He hasn’t eaten with us either yesterday or today.”
28-29 Jonathan said, “David asked my special permission to go to Bethlehem. He said, ‘Give me leave to attend a family reunion back home. My brothers have ordered me to be there. If it seems all right to you, let me go and see my brothers.’ That’s why he’s not here at the king’s table.”
30-31 Saul exploded in anger at Jonathan: “You son of a slut! Don’t you think I know that you’re in cahoots with the son of Jesse, disgracing both you and your mother? For as long as the son of Jesse is walking around free on this earth, your future in this kingdom is at risk. Now go get him. Bring him here. From this moment, he’s as good as dead!”
32 Jonathan stood up to his father. “Why dead? What’s he done?”
33 Saul threw his spear at him to kill him. That convinced Jonathan that his father was fixated on killing David.
34 Jonathan stormed from the table, furiously angry, and ate nothing the rest of the day, upset for David and smarting under the humiliation from his father.
35-39 In the morning, Jonathan went to the field for the appointment with David. He had his young servant with him. He told the servant, “Run and get the arrows I’m about to shoot.” The boy started running and Jonathan shot an arrow way beyond him. As the boy came to the area where the arrow had been shot, Jonathan yelled out, “Isn’t the arrow farther out?” He yelled again, “Hurry! Quickly! Don’t just stand there!” Jonathan’s servant then picked up the arrow and brought it to his master. The boy, of course, knew nothing of what was going on. Only Jonathan and David knew.
40-41 Jonathan gave his quiver and bow to the boy and sent him back to town. After the servant was gone, David got up from his hiding place beside the boulder, then fell on his face to the ground—three times prostrating himself! And then they kissed one another and wept, friend over friend, David weeping especially hard.
42 Jonathan said, “Go in peace! The two of us have vowed friendship in God’s name, saying, ‘God will be the bond between me and you, and between my children and your children forever!’”