Saul and Jonathan appear here in their different characters, with reference to David.
I. Never was enemy so unreasonably cruel as Saul. He spoke to his son and all his servants that they should kill David, 1 Sam. 19:1. His projects to take him off had failed, and therefore he proclaims him an out-law, and charges all about him, upon their allegiance, to take the first opportunity to kill David. It is strange that he was not ashamed thus to avow his malice when he could give no reason for it, and that knowing all his servants loved David (for so he had said himself, 1 Sam. 18:22), he was not afraid of provoking them to rebel by this bloody order. Either malice was not then so politic, or justice was not so corrupted as it has been since, or else Saul would have had him indicted, and have suborned witnesses to swear treason against him, and so have had him taken off, as Naboth was, by colour of law. But there is least danger from this undisguised malice. It was strange that he who knew how well Jonathan loved him should expect him to kill him; but he thought that because he was heir to the crown he must needs be as envious at David as himself was. And Providence ordered it thus that he might befriend David’s safety.
II. Never was friend so surprisingly kind as Jonathan. A friend in need is a friend indeed. Such a one Jonathan was to David. He not only continued to delight much in him, though David’s glory eclipsed his, but bravely appeared for him now that the stream ran so strongly against him.
1. He took care for his present security by letting him know his danger (1 Sam. 19:2): “Take heed to thyself, and keep out of harm’s way.” Jonathan knew not but that some of the servants might be either so obsequious to Saul or so envious at David as to put the orders in execution which Saul had given, if they could light on David.
2. He took pains to pacify his father and reconcile him to David. The next morning he ventured to commune with him concerning David (1 Sam. 19:3), not that night, perhaps because he observed Saul to be drunk and not fit to be spoken to, or because he hoped that, when he had slept upon it, he would himself revoke the order, or because he could not have an opportunity of speaking to him till morning.
(1.) His intercession for David was very prudent. It was managed with a great deal of the meekness of wisdom; and he showed himself faithful to his friends by speaking good of him, though he was in danger of incurring his father’s displeasure by it—a rare instance of valuable friendship! He pleads, [1.] The good services David had done to the public, and particularly to Saul: His work has been to thee-ward very good, 1 Sam. 19:4. Witness the relief he had given him against his distemper with his harp, and his bold encounter with Goliath, that memorable action, which did, in effect, save Saul’s life and kingdom. He appeals to himself concerning his: Thou thyself sawest it, and didst rejoice. In that and other instances it appeared that David was a favourite of heaven and a friend to Israel, as well as a good servant to Saul, for by him the Lord wrought a great salvation for all Israel; so that to order him to be slain was not only base ingratitude to so good a servant, but a great affront to God and a great injury to the public. [2.] He pleads his innocency. Though he had formerly done many good offices, yet, if he had now been chargeable with any crimes, it would have been another matter; but he has not sinned against thee (1 Sam. 19:1), his blood is innocent (1 Sam. 19:5), and, if he be slain, it is without cause. And Jonathan had therefore reason to protest against it because he could not entail any thing upon his family more pernicious than the guilt of innocent blood.
(2.) His intercession, being thus prudent, was prevalent. God inclined the heart of Saul to hearken to the voice of Jonathan. Note, We must be willing to hear reason, and to take all reproofs and good advice even from our inferiors, parents from their own children. How forcible are right words! Saul was, for the present, so far convinced of the unreasonableness of his enmity to David that, [1.] He recalled the bloody warrant for his execution (1 Sam. 19:6): As the Lord liveth, he shall not be slain. Whether Saul swore here with due solemnity or no does not appear; perhaps he did, and the matter was of such moment as to deserve it and of such uncertainty as to need it. But at other times Saul swore rashly and profanely, which made the sincerity of this oath justly questionable; for it may be feared that those who can so far jest with an oath as to make a by-word of it, and prostitute it to a trifle, have not such a due sense of the obligation of it but that, to serve a turn, they will prostitute it to a lie. Some suspect that Saul said and swore this with a malicious design to bring David within his reach again, intending to take the first opportunity to slay him. But, as bad as Saul was, we can scarcely think so ill of him; and therefore we suppose that he spoke as he thought for the present, but the convictions soon wore off and his corruptions prevailed and triumphed over them. [2.] He renewed the grant of his place at court. Jonathan brought him to Saul, and he was in his presence as in times past (1 Sam. 19:7), hoping that now the storm was over, and that his friend Jonathan would be instrumental to keep his father always in this good mind.