David’s faith and bravery were on full display in the previous chapter. Here in chapter 18we see the wisdom of David in action.
Saul gives David charge over men and whatever David does, he does it with wisdom, earning honor and the respect of those whom he commands. And as he does, two things build up simultaneously in these thirty verses: Saul’s jealousy of David and David’s successes. David’s competence and success come from God’s approval of him. Both King Saul and his son Jonathan were enamored of David, but where Saul’s primary reaction was jealousy, Jonathan’s was simple admiration. There is a lesson we can learn from Saul and David: how do we react to people whose prowess and/or success eclipses our own? Envy and jealousy might be an impulse. But if our heart is right and our judgment is godly, our reaction will be appropriate, as Jonathan’s is in this chapter.
As a king, Saul’s perspective should have been more spread-out than it was. For example, as David returned from slaughtering Goliath, the women of Israel came out singing, “Saul has slain his thousands, And David his ten thousands.” Saul’s ego could not bear this disparity in numbers. As the king, he really should have been happy that he had such a man as David in his kingdom to inspire the people and defeat the enemy. Instead, Saul was small-mindedly concerned with what he saw as a slight and a diminishment of his power.
Saul kept David close, keeping him around to play the harp to ease his fouler moods. But even when close to Saul, David was in danger: “but there was a spear in Saul’s hand. And Saul cast the spear, for he said, “I will pin David to the wall!” But David escaped his presence twice.” Saul’s impulses and emotions are getting the better of him.
One gets the impression that by verse 12 of this chapter, Saul is growing weary of David and wishes to be rid of his sight. So Saul made David captain over a thousand men. David only excelled in his reputation and the wisdom that dictated his behavior was evident to all.
Saul’s fear of David could have been a healthy one, but instead it was fearful to the point of making him an adversity. It is difficult to watch the wasted potential of Saul because we see his actions and we recognize how Saul could have been an advocate rather than an adversary of David’s. However, this was not God’s plan. Saul was never going to be a successful king in Israel.
Saul seeks to make David his son-in-law, but David is dubious, saying, ““Who am I, and what is my life or my father’s family in Israel, that I should be son-in-law to the king?” Notice how David’s humility and his wisdom work together in this chapter to only increase both his esteem and his appeal. After the first offered daughter is given away to another, David marries Saul’s other daughter Michal.
Saul kept David close because he was afraid of him, reminding us of the adage “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” Verse 21 reveals Saul’s intentions with David in actuality. Before this verse, we may have deduced that Saul feared David yet did not wish to do him actual harm. But here we learn that Saul’s jealousy and fear have crossed over into deeper sin: “So Saul said, “I will give her to him, that she may be a snare to him, and that the hand of the Philistines may be against him.” Therefore Saul said to David, “You shall be my son-in-law today.”
Even with the coming marriage arrangement, Saul’s jealousy of David makes him uneasy and he seeks to control him. Saul bids his servants to entreat David to comfortably become the son-in-law of the king. Instead of a dowry, Saul seeks for David to bring one hundred Philistine foreskins. Saul’s idea was that David would perish in this venture. But just as God was with David during the fight with Goliath, God is with David during this fight with the Philistines. David doubles the number of foreskins he brings to Saul to two hundred.
Saul, for all of his insecure thoughts and small-minded actions, gets nothing for his attempted manipulations with David except increased sorrow and feelings of inferiority. Contrast this with David: David’s humility and obedience are the prime ingredients of his success. These enable God’s blessings upon David and make the conditions of his success sure. David’s confidence in God is what propels him to his blessed state. Where Saul was worried about his image and legacy, David was concerned with honoring God and holding up His name.
How can we be more like David and less like Saul in our personal lives? How can we be more like David and less like Saul in our families? How can we prepare ourselves to be blessed like David? Obeying God and being humble are the right places to begin.