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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary

1 Samuel 19

 

 

Verse 1

1 Samuel 19:1 And Saul spake to Jonathan his son, and to all his servants, that they should kill David.

Ver. 1. And Saul spake to Jonathan his son.] Detexit facinus fatuus et non implevit, saith Tacitus of one that was sent by the senate to kill another, but revealed it to one that disclosed and prevented it. Did Saul think that Jonathan would kill David whom he so dearly loved? How grossly mistaken was Saul! how shameless and impudent! This was in peius proficere: wicked men grow worse and worse, till wrath come upon them to the utmost.

And to all his servants.] Who were, while, great admirers of David, [1 Samuel 18:5] but now cold friends at best; not one of them speaks for him, and not a few of them are ready to act against him, according to the courtier’s motto, Quicquid regi placet, mihi placet; whatsoever pleaseth the king shall please me. Jonathan said nothing at present, lest he should seem publicly to oppose his father: whom also he now perceived to be in a rage, and so not in case to hear good counsel. Seedsmen sow not in a storm; physicians give not a potion in a fit.

That they should kill David.] But reason or cause he allegeth none. It was indeed the very same that Graecinus died for. Graecinum Iulium virum egregium Caesar occidit ob hoc unum, quod melior vir erat quam esse quenquam tyranno expedirer, saith Seneca: (a) that is, Graecinus Julius was by Caesar put to death for this only reason, because he was a better man than the tyrant could well away with.


Verse 2

1 Samuel 19:2 But Jonathan Saul’s son delighted much in David: and Jonathan told David, saying, Saul my father seeketh to kill thee: now therefore, I pray thee, take heed to thyself until the morning, and abide in a secret [place], and hide thyself:

Ver. 2. But Jonathan Saul’s son.] And heir apparent to the kingdom, which might have made him an enemy to David, whom he knew likely to succeed his father.

And Jonathan told David.] Wherein he did him a most friendly office, for darts foreseen are dintless, (a) and to his father no disservice at all; by hindering him from imbruing his hands in innocent blood.

Saul my father seeketh to kill thee.] Before he had sought to do it more covertly; but now more overtly; so true is that of Luther, Hypocritis nihil est crudelius, impatientius, et vindictae cupidius, &c., there is nothing in the world more cruel, more impatient, and more vindictive, than are hypocrites: truly they are very serpents, spiteful, venemous, and revengeful.

Take heed to thyself until the morning,] viz., That thou be not surprised by my father’s assassins and cut-throats.

Abide in a secret place.] Such a hidingplace, as thou knowest of, near to Saul’s walk: where thou mayest hear what passeth betwixt us; and what thou hearest not I will tell thee.


Verse 3

1 Samuel 19:3 And I will go out and stand beside my father in the field where thou [art], and I will commune with my father of thee; and what I see, that I will tell thee.

Ver. 3. And what Isee, that I will tell thee.] This was not treachery to his father, but true love to his friend, with whom he was in covenant, ad commoriendum et convivendum.


Verse 4

1 Samuel 19:4 And Jonathan spake good of David unto Saul his father, and said unto him, Let not the king sin against his servant, against David; because he hath not sinned against thee, and because his works [have been] to thee-ward very good:

Ver. 4. And Jonathan spake good of David.] Though to the hazard of his own life, as 1 Samuel 20:32; 1 Samuel 20:37. The picture of true friendship among the ancients was this, A fair young man, with head uncovered, with bosom open, so that his heart might be seen; whereupon was written, Longe, Prope, Far and Near. In his forehead was written, Aestas, Hyems, Summer and Winter; in the skirt of his garment, Mors et Vita, Death and Life.

And because his works have been to thee-ward very good.] To render evil for evil is brutish: but to render evil for good is devilish. Heathens abhorred ingratitude. Lycurgus would make no law against it, quod prodigiosa res esset beneficium non agnoscere, because he held it a thing monstrous and almost impossible.


Verse 5

1 Samuel 19:5 For he did put his life in his hand, and slew the Philistine, and the LORD wrought a great salvation for all Israel: thou sawest [it], and didst rejoice: wherefore then wilt thou sin against innocent blood, to slay David without a cause?

Ver. 5. For he did put his life in his hand.] offered it, as it were, to Goliath to take away if he could: like as the King of Sweden said of Queen Elizabeth when she took upon her the protection of the Netherlands, that she took the crown from her own head, and set it upon the head of fortune.

And the Lord wrought, &c.] And shall he be murdered who hath so highly merited? Absit nefas.


Verse 6

1 Samuel 19:6 And Saul hearkened unto the voice of Jonathan: and Saul sware, [As] the LORD liveth, he shall not be slain.

Ver. 6. And Saul hearkened to the voice of Jonathan.] So far did Jonathan’s oratory and David’s innocency together triumph in Saul’s conscience.

And Saul sware.] He was a customary swearer, and made little reckoning of an oath. His bare word should have been as the laws of the Medes and Persians: how much more when bound thus with an oath? That was a great dishonour to the heathen Romans, that it should be said of them by Mirrhanes the Persian general, Romanis promittere promptum est, promissis autem quanquam iuramento fermatis minime stare, (a) they are free of their fair promises, but careless of performing the same, yea, although they have sworn to them. But what a base shame is it to the modern Romanists, those pseudo-Christians, that they should so break their promises and oaths made not to Turks only, as did Ladislaus, king of Hungary, by the consent and counsel of the Pope’s legate, - but to Protestants: witness their proceedings against John Huss, and Jerome of Prague, contrary to the emperor’s safe conduct; and the horrible massacre in France, &e.

He shall not be slain.] And it is very likely Saul now spake as he thought. But if good thoughts look at any time into a wicked heart, they stay not there, as those that like not their lodging. The flashes of lightning may be discerned in the darkest prisons, but they are soon gone thence again: so here.


Verse 7

1 Samuel 19:7 And Jonathan called David, and Jonathan shewed him all those things. And Jonathan brought David to Saul, and he was in his presence, as in times past.

Ver. 7. And he was in his presence, as in times past.] But nothing so well assured of Saul’s favour, now restored, as the chief butler was of Pharaoh’s; or Essex of Queen Elizabeth’s: whom when she had first imprisoned and then enlarged, she no less loved him than before, after that he had signified to her Majesty that he kissed her royal hands, and the rod which had corrected him, not ruined him, &c. (a)


Verse 8

1 Samuel 19:8 And there was war again: and David went out, and fought with the Philistines, and slew them with a great slaughter; and they fled from him.

Ver. 8. And slew them with a great slaughter.] His name was no less terrible to them, likely, than was afterwards Hanniade’s to the Turks, or Zisca’s to the Papists in Bohemia and other parts; the mothers quieted therewith their crying children.


Verse 9

1 Samuel 19:9 And the evil spirit from the LORD was upon Saul, as he sat in his house with his javelin in his hand: and David played with [his] hand.

Ver. 9. With his javelin in his hand.] This he would not be without, as being ever in fear. The great Turk, that tyrant, hath always as he sitteth in his throne, lying at hand ready by him a target, a scimitar, an iron mace, with bow and arrows, for his defence. (a) Our Richard III had always his naked sword stuck by his bedside. (b)


Verse 10

1 Samuel 19:10 And Saul sought to smite David even to the wall with the javelin; but he slipped away out of Saul’s presence, and he smote the javelin into the wall: and David fled, and escaped that night.

Ver. 10. And Saul sought to smite David.] Whom he now raged against more than ever before: contrary to his oath. So little trust or truth is there in the envious.

Even to the wall with the javelin.] See 1 Samuel 18:11, {See Trapp on "1 Samuel 18:11"} Envy was Saul’s master sin: as all hypocrites do customarily live in some known sin without sorrow or amendment: Judas in covetousness, Herod in voluptuousness, Diotrephes in ambition, &c.; and these devour them, as the moth in a garment, as a thief in a candle, as a worm in a tree: these put out the little good that was in them, as the sunlight putteth out the firelight.


Verse 11

1 Samuel 19:11 Saul also sent messengers unto David’s house, to watch him, and to slay him in the morning: and Michal David’s wife told him, saying, If thou save not thy life to night, to morrow thou shalt be slain.

Ver. 11. To watch him, and to slay him in the morning.] When he thought they might do it with less noise and less resistance than in the night. Josephus saith (a) that Saul had appointed judges to sit upon him that morning, and to condemn him for a traitor: as our Richard III dealt by the Lord Hastings, whom he hastily executed.

And Michal, David’s wife, told him.] She might haply hear of that murderous design by some friend: or she might see the assassins about the house by night. And although she had little religion in her, yet nature had taught her to prefer a husband to a father. Man and wife are as the two branches in the prophet Ezekiel’s hand, enclosed in one bark, and so closing together that they make but one piece: they should therefore mutually seek the preservation and good one of another. Mary, queen of Hungary, showed the like kindness to her husband Sigismund, who was afterwards chosen Emperor of Germany, A.D. 1411, but so did not Mary, queen of Scots.


Verse 12

1 Samuel 19:12 So Michal let David down through a window: and he went, and fled, and escaped.

Ver. 12. So Michal let down David through a window.] She bestirred her every way; love is laborious. Antiochus the Great gave Cleopatra his daughter to Ptolomy Epiphanes, king of Egypt, thinking to use her as an instrument to destroy him; but she, contrary to his expectation, clave to her husband, according as Daniel had before prophesied of her, "She shall not stand on his side." [Daniel 11:17]


Verse 13

1 Samuel 19:13 And Michal took an image, and laid [it] in the bed, and put a pillow of goats’ [hair] for his bolster, and covered [it] with a cloth.

Ver. 13. And Michal took an image.] Either a statue, David’s own statue, or else some superstitious image (the Hebrew is teraphim) which she kept secretly, as Rachel had done, David knowing nothing of it. Some have probably gathered that Michal, though a good wife, yet was no good woman: both because she had an image in the house, and afterward she mocked David for his devotion.

And put a pillow of goats’ hair.] Which might make the messengers believe it was the hair of David’s head. This she did that she might gain more time for her fleeing husband. Or such a pillow, as for ease and warmth.


Verse 14

1 Samuel 19:14 And when Saul sent messengers to take David, she said, He [is] sick.

Ver. 14. She said, He is sick.] This officious lie she held belike either no sin, or a very peccadillo, since it was to save the life of her husband: wherein she becometh an example of human infirmity.


Verse 15

1 Samuel 19:15 And Saul sent the messengers [again] to see David, saying, Bring him up to me in the bed, that I may slay him.

Ver. 15. Bring him up to me in the bed.] So greedily did this sanguinary seek, and so fain would he have sucked David’s blood: but the bird was flown, God having better provided; and David was now making or singing that Psalms 59:1, "Deliver me from mine enemies, O God," &c., as appeareth by the title. {See Trapp on "Psalms 59:1"}

That I may slay him.] And then say of him as bloody Caracalla the emperor did of his brother Geta, whom he had slain and afterwards deified; Sit divus, modo non sit virus, Let him go to heaven, so that I may not be troubled with him upon earth.


Verse 16

1 Samuel 19:16 And when the messengers were come in, behold, [there was] an image in the bed, with a pillow of goats’ [hair] for his bolster.

Ver. 16. Behold, there was an image.] See 1 Samuel 19:13. So have persecutors been frequently frustrated, as those that sought after Jeremiah and Baruch, Athanasius, Luther, and others whom the Lord hid till the storm was over.


Verse 17

1 Samuel 19:17 And Saul said unto Michal, Why hast thou deceived me so, and sent away mine enemy, that he is escaped? And Michal answered Saul, He said unto me, Let me go; why should I kill thee?

Ver. 17. He said unto me, Let me go; why should I kill thee?] This was a second lie, as it is usual with liars to lay one lie upon another, and a worse than that former. [1 Samuel 19:14] If that were an officious lie, this was surely a pernicious one: slandering her husband to save herself. How much better the wife of Polixenus, who was sister to Dionysius, the tyrant: and when her husband, being accused of treason, was fled into Italy, she being asked by her brother, why she did not give notice unto him of her husband’s fleeing, confidently answered, An ita me degenerem putas, &c., Thinkest thou that I am so undutiful a wife, that if I had known my husband would have fled away, I would not have fled away with him? And here I cannot but insert what I have read of that brave Bohemian woman in the late bloody persecution there. The Major of Litomeritia had apprehended twenty-four godly citizens, of whom his own son-in-law was one, and after he had almost pined them in prison, he judged them to be drowned in the river Albis: whereupon his daughter, wringing her hands and falling at her father’s feet, besought him to spare her husband. But he, harder than a rock, bade her hold her peace, saying, What! can you not have a worthier husband than this? to which she answered, You shall never espouse me to any: and so beating her breasts and tearing her hair she followed her husband to the river. And when he was cast into the midst of the river bound, she leaped in and caught him about the middle; but being unable to draw him forth, they were both drowned together, and the next day were found embracing one another. (a)


Verse 18

1 Samuel 19:18 So David fled, and escaped, and came to Samuel to Ramah, and told him all that Saul had done to him. And he and Samuel went and dwelt in Naioth.

Ver. 18. And came to Samuel to Ramah.] For direction and comfort, which is to be had, if anywhere upon earth, in the communion of saints, in the company of good people. Here also, if anywhere in the land, he might hope to be safe under Samuel’s wing, and in a college of prophets, as in a sanctuary of safety. See 1 Samuel 10:5, with the note.

And he and Samuel went and dwelt in Naioth.] Which was a college or school of prophets, adjoining to Ramah. The word Naioth signifieth a solitary place in the pastures and fields: this was fittest for study and meditation. Here was professed the true philosophy which is, saith Aristotle, (a) θειον τι και δαιμονιον οντως χρημα, a divine and heavenly doctrine indeed; far different from that vain deceitful philosophy which the apostle inveigheth against in Colossians 2:8. This is nothing else but sophistry; which, saith the same Aristotle, (b) is φαινομενη σοφια, ουσα δε μη; a seeming but not a substantial wisdom.


Verse 19

1 Samuel 19:19 And it was told Saul, saying, Behold, David [is] at Naioth in Ramah.

Ver. 19. And it was told Saul.] By some of his Coryccei, his spies and flatters: as there is a wonderful sympathy between princes and such pests.


Verse 20

1 Samuel 19:20 And Saul sent messengers to take David: and when they saw the company of the prophets prophesying, and Samuel standing [as] appointed over them, the Spirit of God was upon the messengers of Saul, and they also prophesied.

Ver. 20. And Saul sent messengers to take David.] Contra gentes, as they say, and whosoever should say nay to it: not sparing the prophets, but if they opposed, putting them all to the sword, as he afterwards did the priests of Nob. All malice is bloody and barbarous so far as it dare show itself.

And when they saw the company of the prophets prophesying.] That is, Praising God, praying, and preaching, to the no small comfort of distressed David, who might well say, "In the multitude of my perplexed thoughts within me, thy comforts have refreshed my soul." [Psalms 94:19]

And Samuel standing as appointed over them.] As their president. For though Samuel had given over the public government of the commonwealth, yet he would not live to himself, as did Sulla after that he had resigned the dictatorship: but as Cato - after that he had ridden in triumph, and so had a writ of case given him - exercised himself still for the good of the public, -

Ut qui toti genitum se credidit orbi.

So Samuel hated to be idle or unprofitable: and therefore exercised himself in his prophetical office still. So Moses when he may not in Egypt, will be doing justice in Midian: in Egypt he delivered the oppressed Israelite, in Midian the wronged daughters of Jethro. I had rather be sick in my bed than idle, saith Seneca.

And they also prophesied.] They put off their military clothes, and acted the prophets in habit and gesture, forgetting the business they came about. Disce hic quantum valeat bonorum societas, saith A. Lapide. See here the efficacy of good company: surely as the loadstone draweth iron, so spiritual exercises are able to affect the hearts and affections of others.


Verse 21

1 Samuel 19:21 And when it was told Saul, he sent other messengers, and they prophesied likewise. And Saul sent messengers again the third time, and they prophesied also.

Ver. 21. And they prophesied also.] Such sudden changes we read of also in 2 Kings 1:13, John 7:46. So Augustine was suddenly converted by Ambrose; Latimer by hearing Mr Stafford’s lectures, which he came to scoff at, and Mr Bilney’s confession. (a) Concerning the Christian congregation in Queen Mary’s time, I have heard of one, saith Mr Fox, who being sent to them to take their names and to espy their doings, yet, in being amongst them, was converted, and cried them all mercy. At Miltenberg, a town in the territory of Mentz, an officer was sent to take a certain godly deacon sojourning in a widow’s house. The deacon meeting and embracing him said, Salve mi frater, frater enimvero meus es, Et adsum, transfode me, vel suffoca me: Hail, brother; here I am, stab me, hang me, do as thou pleasest to me. The officer, by a sudden innovation of his heart from heaven, said, Sir, I will do you no harm, nor shall any man else, if I can hinder it. And when the rustics came in to help to kill the deacon, the officer kept them off, and would not let them harm him. (b)


Verse 22

1 Samuel 19:22 Then went he also to Ramah, and came to a great well that [is] in Sechu: and he asked and said, Where [are] Samuel and David? And [one] said, Behold, [they be] at Naioth in Ramah.

Ver. 22. Then went he also to Ramah.] As if he had a mind to try it out with God, to wrestle a fall with the Most High.


Verse 23

1 Samuel 19:23 And he went thither to Naioth in Ramah: and the Spirit of God was upon him also, and he went on, and prophesied, until he came to Naioth in Ramah.

Ver. 23. And he went on, and prophesied.] Being suddenly cicurated, and sooner than his messengers had been - viz., by the way, and before he came to Naioth. So that the more he hardened himself against God, the more did God show his power upon him.


Verse 24

1 Samuel 19:24 And he stripped off his clothes also, and prophesied before Samuel in like manner, and lay down naked all that day and all that night. Wherefore they say, [Is] Saul also among the prophets?

Ver. 24. And he stripped off his clothes also,] i.e., His upper garments, or arms, as his messengers had done before. [Isaiah 20:2 Micah 1:8]

And prophesied before Samuel.] The same God which did at first put an awe of man upon the fiercest creatures, hath stamped in the cruellest hearts a reverent respect to his own image in his ministers: so as even they that hate them, do yet honour them.

And lay down.] Cecidit. The Vulgate hath it cecinit; he fell into a trance or ecstasy, forgetting the cause of his coming thither. "Whilst that I withal escape," singeth David. [Psalms 141:10]

Is Saul also among the prophets?] This was now spoken in a jeer. What! Is the bloody tyrant so tied up and manacled, in spite of all his malice and madness? It is well surely.

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 19:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/1-samuel-19.html. 1865-1868.

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