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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

1 Samuel 19

 

 

Verses 1-7

JONATHAN’S INTERCESSION FOR DAVID, 1 Samuel 19:1-7.

Finding that the snares laid for David’s life all fail, Saul no longer conceals his dark designs. He instructs his servants, and, fortunately for David, he also instructs Jonathan, to destroy him — Jonathan, his covenant friend, who loved David as his own soul, and who would therefore take speedy measures to frustrate the cruel intentions of his father. In his intercession for David we have a most touching exhibition of Jonathan’s tender, true, and loving heart. By judicious appeals and earnest persuasion he effects a reconciliation, and David walks again in the royal presence as before. It is probable that upon this reconciliation Saul immediately countermanded the orders he had previously given his servants to kill David.


Verse 2

2. Take heed to thyself until the morning — For in the darkness of the night Saul’s servants would be most likely to execute their master’s bloody purpose.


Verse 3

3. In the field where thou art — So that, in case Saul persisted in his fell purpose, David might see and hear for himself, and act accordingly; and also that Jonathan might have easier opportunity of communicating to him the result of his intercession.


Verse 8

SAUL’S RENEWED ATTEMPTS UPON THE LIFE OF DAVID, 1 Samuel 19:8-17.

8. There was war again — Saul’s reconciliation soon came to an end. New wars crowned David with fresh laurels, and the king’s envious soul became a prey again of deep melancholy and wicked thoughts. Thus invited, the evil spirit again entered, and fired his darkest passions into sevenfold rage.


Verse 10

10. David fled, and escaped that night — Fled from the king’s presence and first sought refuge in his own house. To some it seems strange that David did not effect his escape altogether from Saul after his former attempt to smite him. 1 Samuel 18:11. But doubtless David regarded Saul’s former attack as an outburst of his madness, not flowing from any deep-seated design against his life. But now, after the startling revelations which Jonathan had made to him of Saul’s deadly purpose, he feels that his life is no longer safe in the royal court.


Verse 11

11. Sent messengers unto David’s house — Whither he had fled immediately after his escape from the king’s presence. See David’s psalm on this occasion. Psalms 59.

To slay him in the morning — When he came forth, unsuspicious of assault and unprepared to defend himself.


Verse 13

13. An image — Margin, teraphim. See on Genesis 31:17, and Joshua 24:14. These images were common in Israel, as we may readily infer from the fact that they were tolerated in the house of the pious David. They were a relic of the old Aramaic idolatry. They seem to have been of human form, and were, perhaps, images of deceased ancestors.

A pillow of goats’ hair for his bolster — A better rendering of the Hebrew is, a texture of goats’ hair at its head, so as to make it resemble the head of a sleeping person with disheveled hair. Or the meaning may be, that she covered the face with a fly net woven of goats’ hair, a custom common in hot countries. Josephus, following the Septuagint, supposes that Michal placed under the bed cover a goat’s liver, yet quivering with life, to make the messengers believe that a living person was breathing there. But how long could she expect the liver of a slain goat to palpitate?


Verse 17

17. Why should I kill thee — This was falsehood on the part of Michal, by which she sought to deceive her father. Whatever apology be made for it, it is still a lie. There may be times when we should withhold the truth, but never when we should utter falsehood.


Verse 18

DAVID’S FLIGHT TO RAMAH, AND SAUL’S PURSUIT, 1 Samuel 19:18 to 1 Samuel 24:18.

David fled… to Samuel — Whither could he better go for help and counsel at a time like this? Surely, he thinks, Samuel will defend me against Saul.

He and Samuel went and dwelt in Naioth — Naioth is not to be regarded as a proper name. The word means habitations, dwelling places, and refers to the dwellings of the band of prophets over whom Samuel presided. The plural is used because of the number of cells or huts in this locality. The Targum renders the word house of instruction, and Ewald defines it as studium, or school. Here these disciples of Samuel dwelt, and disciplined themselves in holy exercises. How long David enjoyed this society of Samuel and these prophets before Saul ascertained whither he had fled we cannot determine, but probably not long.


Verse 20

20. The company of the prophets prophesying — See note on 1 Samuel 10:5.

Samuel standing as appointed over them — Or, standing chief over them. He was their president and leader. The scene presented by the aged prophet standing as leader in the assembly of prophets, and all together engaged in worship according to some impressive ceremonial, was in itself awe-inspiring. When they saw the impressive spectacle, and heard the thrilling strains of song and prayer, the messengers were overwhelmed with awe, forgot their mission, and fell helpless before the power of prophecy.


Verse 21

21. Sent… the third time — Here we have a striking exhibition of Saul’s blind infatuation. In the face of signal displays of Divine power frustrating the mission of his messengers, he seems to take no warning, but still insists on invading the sanctity of the prophetic schools to capture David. His action reminds one of Ahaziah, who dispatched successive bands of men to take Elijah, and took no warning, though fire from heaven twice consumed his messengers. 2 Kings 1:1-12.


Verse 22

22. Well — Or pit, as the word is rendered 1 Samuel 13:6. In the Hebrew it is made emphatic by the article, to the great pit, referring to some well-known spot.

Sechu — This word means a watching place; and since it is made definite by the article, it is better to translate it as a common noun, thus: He came to the great pit which is by the watching place. Some spot near Ramah is meant; probably a height where watchmen were stationed, in the vicinity of a notable cistern or pit, which has since been filled up.

He asked — Probably of some watchman there.


Verse 23

23. The Spirit of God was upon him also — The same Spirit that had so powerfully affected the three successive bands of messengers that had been sent before him.

He went on, and prophesied — The Spirit seized him sooner than it did his messengers, and also wrought upon him more powerfully. Before he reached the dwellings of the prophets he became the helpless subject of a mighty spiritual power, and was driven on, in spite of himself, to speak and do what he intended not.


Verse 24

24. He stripped off his clothes — That is, his outer raiment; his royal and military vesture.

Lay down naked — Not in a state of utter nudity, but divested of his upper garments, as just stated. Compare Isaiah 20:2; Micah 1:8; Mark 14:52; John 21:7.

All that day and all that night — From ten to twenty hours. And when he recovered again his consciousness and self-possession he probably returned to his home at once, without any further attempt at that time to capture David. God thus indicated to Saul that in seeking to destroy David he was fighting against the divine Power — a Power that holds the hearts of all men in subjection, and can turn them whithersoever he will. This remarkable scene served to revive the proverb that originated with a former somewhat similar occasion (1 Samuel 10:12) — Is Saul also among the prophets?

The profoundly mysterious and interesting subject or the prophesying and catalepsy of Saul and his messengers is one of the physical and psychological problems connected with religion that has been the subject of extensive speculation. We regard this whole matter of Saul’s prophesying and falling down under the power of the Spirit as an ancient instance of substantially the same marvellous religious phenomena which the Christian Church has so often witnessed in modern times. The extensive religious revivals in the Western States fifty years ago were attended with hundreds of such phenomena, commonly called “the jerks.” In the great awakening in New England in Edwards’s day similar scenes were of frequent occurrence, and also in the British Isles during the ministry of Wesley, and earlier. They seem to have been always more or less common during seasons of great religions excitement, and to have a peculiar affinity for a certain class of minds. Persons, like Saul, of quick and powerful emotions, and given to sudden changes of feeling, have been the readiest subjects of this mysterious affection. But not only have pious and devoted persons, but wicked and blasphemous opposers of the truth, been seized upon by this strange influence. Some, in attempting to disturb religious meetings, and while yet, like Saul, beyond the bounds of the company of worshippers, and hastening on to intended acts of violence, have been seized by an unseen power, and held in subjection to it in spite of all their efforts to regain their self control. Some have remained in such a state for nearly a week at a time. See facts and references in Stevens’ History of Methodism, vol. ii, p. 425.

What the precise nature of Saul’s prophesying on this occasion was we are not informed. In one of the seasons of his madness, and when possessed by a demon, his prophesying seems to have been prompted by the evil spirit, and to have consisted of impassioned cries and incoherent ravings. See 1 Samuel 18:10, and note. But when he first prophesied at Gibeah, (1 Samuel 10:10,) his exercises, like those of the band of prophets whom he met, seem to have been the ecstatic utterance of prayer and praise to God. So, on this occasion, it was the Spirit of God that made him prophesy; and it is therefore probable that his utterances now, like the later ones recorded 1 Samuel 24:17-20; 1 Samuel 26:21; 1 Samuel 26:25, were confessions of his own sins, and predictions of David’s ultimate triumph.

We have space only to suggest that an explanation of these mysterious phenomena may be brought out in the scientific elaboration of the following propositions: All human beings have a common sympathetic nature, universally pervaded by a subtile and mysterious medium of influence, by means of which mind is brought in rapport with mind and heart with heart. This influence becomes intensely active in an assembly of persons where all hearts and minds are highly electrified by one common all-absorbing thought and state of feeling, and in such cases it may pass beyond the bounds of the assembly and make itself powerfully felt at a distance. It furnishes the psychical basis on which demoniacal possessions are possible, and also by which the Holy Spirit holds personal intercourse with man. By it these different external agencies will affect the different persons in different degrees of power, according to their different organism and temperament. But any attempt at a scientific explanation, which assumes all the phenomena to be merely physical, and not also psychical, must fail, as well as any explanation that denies that the Spirit of God may have often been exerted in their production; for this mysterious medium of influence seems to be the psychological basis both of divine and demoniacal possession.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 19:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/1-samuel-19.html. 1874-1909.

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