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1 Samuel Chapter Nineteen                            


1 Samuel 19

Chapter Contents

Jonathan reconciles his father to David, Saul again tries to slay him. (1-10) David flees to Samuel. (11-24)

Commentary on 1 Samuel 19:1-10

(Read 1 Samuel 19:1-10)

How forcible are right words! Saul was, for a time, convinced of the unreasonableness of his enmity to David; but he continued his malice against David. So incurable is the hatred of the seed of the serpent against that of the woman; so deceitful and desperately wicked is the heart of man without the grace of God, Jeremiah 17:9.

Commentary on 1 Samuel 19:11-24

(Read 1 Samuel 19:11-24)

Michal's stratagem to gain time till David got to a distance was allowable, but her falsehood had not even the plea of necessity to excuse it, and manifests that she was not influenced by the same spirit of piety which had dictated Jonathan's language to Saul. In flying to Samuel, David made God his refuge. Samuel, as a prophet, was best able to advise him what to do in this day of distress. He met with little rest or satisfaction in Saul's court, therefore went to seek it in Samuel's church. What little pleasure is to be had in this world, those have who live a life of communion with God; to that David returned in the time of trouble. So impatient was Saul after David's blood, so restless against him, that although baffled by one providence after another, he could not see that David was under the special protection of God. And when God will take this way to protect David, even Saul prophesies. Many have great gifts, yet no grace; they may prophesy in Christ's name, yet are disowned by him. Let us daily seek for renewing grace, which shall be in us as a well of water springing up into everlasting life. Let us cleave to truth and holiness with full purpose of heart. In every danger and trouble, let us seek protection, comfort, and direction in God's ordinances.

── Matthew HenryConcise Commentary on 1 Samuel


1 Samuel 19

Verse 4

[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:

Spake good — Which he could not do without hazard to himself. Herein therefore he performed the duty of a true friend, and of a valiant man.

Verse 6

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

As the Lord, … — And without all doubt, he intended what he said, feeling a real change in himself for the present. "God," says Mr. Henry, "inclined the heart of Saul to hearken to the voice of Jonathan."

Verse 8

[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.

And David, … — So David continues his good service, tho' it was ill requited. They who are ill paid for doing good, yet must not be weary of well doing, remembering how bountiful a benefactor God is, even to the evil and unthankful.

Verse 9

[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.

The evil spirit — David's successes against the Philistines revived his envy, and the devil watched the opportunity, as he had done before.

Verse 13

[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.

Goats hair — Or, put great goats hair upon his bolster; upon the head and face of the image, which lay upon his bolster, that it might have some kind of resemblance of David's head and hair, at least in a sick man's bed, where there useth to be but a glimmering light.

Covered it — Upon pretence of his being sick, and needing some such covering.

Verse 18

[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.

To Samuel — Both for comfort and direction in his distress; and for safety, supposing that Saul would be ashamed to execute his bloody designs in the presence of so venerable a person as Samuel.

Verse 20

[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.

Over them — To instruct and direct them in those holy exercises. For though they prophesied by Divine inspiration, yet they were both to prepare themselves for it before hand, and to make good improvement of it afterwards, in both which they needed Samuel's counsel and assistance. And whereas some might falsely pretend to those raptures; or the devil might transform himself into an angel of light, Samuel's presence and judgment was necessary to prevent and to detect such impostures. Besides, Samuel would by his present conjunction with them in those holy exercises, encourage them, and stir up others to the coveting of those gifts, and to the performance of such religious duties.

Prophesied — Being inspired by God as Balaam was; that being wrapt up into such an extasy, their minds might be wholly taken off from their design of seizing David.

Verse 23

[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.

The spirit — It came upon him in the way; whereas it came not upon his messengers 'till they came to the place. Hereby God would convince Saul of the vanity of his designs against David, and that in them he fought against God himself.

Verse 24

[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?

Lay down — Heb. fell, down upon the earth; for his mind being in an extasy, he had not the use of his senses. God so ordering it, that David might have an opportunity to escape.

Naked — That is, stript of his upper garments, as the word naked is often used; and it is here repeated to signify how long he lay in that posture.

Day and night — So God kept him as it were in chains, 'till David was got out of his reach.

Is Saul — The same proverb which was used before, is here revived, as an evidence of God's wonderful care over David; he made Saul in some sort a prophet, that he mightst make David a king.

── John WesleyExplanatory Notes on 1 Samuel


19 Chapter 19


Verses 1-24

Verse 4

1 Samuel 19:4

And Jonathan spake good of David unto Saul his father.

The blessed Peacemaker

I need not tell you how fast weeds grow; your own gardens show you every day: and if you have eyes to look within, your own hearts will show the same sad truth. Saul’s evil eye had now grown into continual hatred--he cares not even to conceal from man the murderous desires of his heart; and being disappointed, both in his own skill and craft he now openly speaks to Jonathan and all his servants that they should kill David. Well doth the Holy Ghost testify, “Evil men and seducers wax worse and worse.” “And Jonathan spake good of David unto Saul his father,” etc. “And Saul hearkened unto the voice of Jonathan,” etc. “Blessed are the peacemakers!” why? “They shall be called the children of God.” And is this the grand family likeness? how should we covet ill? Ah! surely if there is one feature that shines more brightly than another in our adorable elder brother, it is that of peacemaker. Do angels see their God cradled in a manger? it is as Peacemaker, while flocking multitudes strike up the new anthem which unites forever the choir below with the choir above, “Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace, good will towards men.” Do they see their maker agonised? a stranger to peace? a man of sorrows? It is that He might make peace forever by the blood of His cross, and proclaim peace to those who were afar off. Does He now appear as a Lamb slain? forever making intercession? For some David He is pleading, for some afflicted one He is interceding. (Helen Plumptre.)

Verse 12

1 Samuel 19:12

So Michal let David down through a window; and he went, and fled, and escaped.

David a fugitive

In this passage there is a minute account of an appalling danger to which David was exposed.

I. God’s servants are frequently exposed to alarming dangers.

1. This danger came at an unexpected time. David was now the king’s son-in-law, a great hero in the eyes of the nation, and beloved by all the people, and yet Saul thirsted for his blood.

2. This danger proceeded from a powerful enemy. Saul was himself a formidable antagonist, but he also had many servants, watching to do his bidding.

3. The danger assumed an alarming aspect. The king’s assassins had tracked David’s steps to Gibeah, and surrounded the palace, and apparently guarded every way of escape. The dangers to which David was exposed are typical of the dangers that beset God’s servants now. We are surrounded by dangers ovary moment. Many dangers arise from natural onuses. Many dangers arise from spiritual influences: personal habits, social engagements, and Satanic agency.

II. God’s servants are frequently warned of approaching danger. Before God destroyed the old world He warned Noah, and commanded him to prepare an ark for himself and family. Before God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah He revealed His purpose to Abraham, and warned Lot of the impending danger. Before Herod sent forth to day all the children that wars in Bethlehem God warned Joseph in a dream, not to return to his own country. Before Saul had completed his plan far the murder of David, “Michal, his wife, told him saying: If thou save not thy life tonight, tomorrow thou shalt be slain.”

1. David’s warning came from different sources. Jonathan and Michal warned David. Intimation of approaching danger comes in many ways. By dreams, suggestions, and Divine impulses. God speaks clearly by His word, earnestly by His son, and constantly by His Spirit.

2. David’s warning demanded immediate attention.

3. David’s warning led to decisive action. He listened to his wife and saved his life. Our safety depends upon decisive action.

III. God’s servants are frequently delivered from impending dangers. The context shows that God delivers His servants in four ways.

1. By friendly mediation. Jonathan’s prudent and persuasive intercession softened the king’s obduracy. God can touch the hearts of our bitterest enemies.

2. By personal watchfulness. Saul had made the most solemn profession of reconciliation; but David kept his eye upon Saul’s javelin, while his fingers were upon his own harp. The enemy of our souls never slumbers; whether we watch or not, he watches.

3. By conjugal fidelity. Saul gave David Michal “to be a snare to him,” but she proved a protector. “The devil is sometimes outshot with his own bow.”

4. By Divine interposition. The path marked out for David was dark and dangerous, but God saw him, led him, and defended him. (J. T. Woodhouse.)

Verse 20

1 Samuel 19:20

The Spirit of God was upon the messengers of Saul, and they also prophesied.

The contagious influence of faithful prophesying

The prophet of former days was, in all substantial point, identical with the preacher of these. The commission both of prophet and preacher is to set forth the Divine Oracles; to speak to their fellow sinners the word which proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord. It is only an accidental, not an essential difference between the two, that in the case of the prophet this word is derived from immediate inspiration, while in that of the preacher it is gathered by prayerful study out of the pages of a written record. Nor, so long as the testimony borne by both is a testimony of God’s Word, does it constitute an essential difference, that in the prophet’s case the testimony should oftentimes be a warning of future and impending events, in the preacher’s an admonition of present privileges and present duties.

I. A spiritual influence exerted upon certain persons. Both the messengers of Saul and Saul himself were constrained by a strange and irresistible impulse to prophesy before Samuel. In this seizure and ecstasy of minds, previously bent on the prosecution of a hostile purpose, there was, no doubt, something miraculous, or rather, something that must not be confounded with the ordinary operations of the Holy Spirit. But yet there were circumstances in the former which may usefully remind us of the latter. Saul stripping off his royal apparel, and lying down in the very dust before Samuel--what a picture does this present to us of the sinner’s self-abasement, when the convicting and converting influences of the Holy Spirit first pour in upon his heart! How does he prostrate himself, in deepest humiliation of spirit, at the foot of that cross which has now become his only hope? A blessed and happy influence this, which has been exerted upon his spirit; and one, haply, no less marvellous than the impression made upon Saul of old. Of the latter, men said, “Is Saul also among the prophets?” The spiritual character sat strangely and unwontedly upon this furious and worldly prince. So marvellous in men’s eyes was the transformation, that “Saul among the prophets” passed into a proverb of marvellousness. And is not the result of the Holy Spirit’s ordinary operations as much a marvel, in the strict and true sense of that word, as His bestowal of extraordinary gifts?

II. The instrumentality employed in making this impression upon Saul himself and his messengers. In the case of the latter, we are distinctly informed that it was not until they saw the company of the prophets prophesying and Samuel standing as appointed over them, that they also prophesied. What sight is so infectious, if we may be allowed to use the term, as that of a congregation of persons solemnly assembled for Divine worship, and joining, as with one heart and one tongue, in the sacred exercises of prayer and praise? Can such a sight fail--even if it make no permanent impression upon the spectator--of absorbing his mind for a season into the current of devotion? Over and above the associations of the place (which of themselves lend wings to devotion) there is a sympathy abroad--a sympathy recognised by the spiritual faculty within us--which lifts up the soul, as by an instinct, into unison with the song of praise and thanksgiving. When we see the company of the prophets prophesying, and Samuel standing as appointed over them, the Spirit of God is upon us, and we also prophesy. Such is, we believe, the experience of every devout mind; such the Christian’s realisation of the blessing annexed by charter to Public Worship, “Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them.” (E. M. Goulburn, D. D.)

Verse 24

1 Samuel 19:24

And he stripped off his clothes also, and prophesied before Samuel.

Religious enthusiasm, true and false

This passage brings before us three very remarkable men--Samuel, and Saul, and David. And this passage speaks to me of religious consolation and religious excitement. Now I ask you to observe that in the case of David there is no record of any agitation or excitement. It would have been little wonderful if he, fleeing for his life, had been overcome with emotion when he found himself with Samuel and with the servants of God, in safeguard. It was the servants of Saul that became excited, and then it was Saul himself showed religious frenzy. The son of Kish was one exceedingly sensitive to the influences of music and song. When his fit of mania came upon him the voice and harp of David wonderfully soothed and even melted him. We read at an earlier period, before he came into possession of the kingdom, that he met a company of prophets, and he too joined them. Years had passed, and now he was a worse man that he was at that day. His character had sorely deteriorated, but through that very disorder of his mind he was in some respects more susceptible than ever to a sort of religious excitement. When he came to Naioth he was quite beyond himself; the spiritual electricity of the place was too much for him, and he fell into a sort of paroxysm of enthusiasm. But he was no prophet. You may be among the prophets, and join your voices among them, and yet be no prophet.

1. There is a religious excitation or excitement which may not have any moral quality or influence whateverse It is not affected; it is real. It is not insincere; it is sincere. I despise the man who would play a part and pretend to be religiously excited when he is not. He is too base a creature. But I mean a person who really is lifted up and carried along with a rush of sacred enthusiasm. He cries for mercy, and he sings loudly of salvation. When he was alone he could not pray at all. He was carried along with the prophets. He had a wonderful fervour, his emotions were all aglow, and his brain was excited with a sort of sacred ecstasy. Now, this happens all the more easily if a man has a constitution accessible to such influences. I do not say that all excitement is useless, but I say that there is an excitement that only amounts to this. God forbid that we should for a moment deny that there are cases in which people get real permanent good. But the excitement is only the accompaniment; it is not the change. Excitement wears itself out. Paroxysms and ecstasies pass away.

2. The second thing is this: the degree in which religious emotion overpowers the body is generally proportioned to the ignorance of the mind, or to its alienation or estrangement from God. David joined the company of these prophets without any excitement or frenzy. I do not read a word about his lying naked upon the ground for a day and a night. Why was that? Because David had more of the matter in him than Saul. There was no resistance in David, therefore his body was not overpowered. But Saul was in an evil mood. He had come down to Naioth in a very evil mood. Envy and murder were in his heart, and when this pure sacred impulse came upon him, it met with the strongest resistance. If this is right, and surely this is right, this case should teach those persons who have at various times made a great ado over prostrations and trances and long lastings as signs of the work of grace, to be somewhat more cautious in their utterances. These things occur almost always in the case of a morbid hysterical temperament, in which case they are only a sign of disease, not of health; or in the case of a very ignorant person who is overwhelmed with things of which he has no intelligent conception; or in cases where there has been a very awful estrangement from God, and the Word of His grace finds an obstruction. There is a sympathy between the body and the spirit. They suffer together, they rejoice together. The body is not overpowered because the spirit of the man is open to the teachings of the Spirit of God. Mark you, it is Saul, not David, that cast off his garments in his excitement, and that threw himself in fanatical exhaustion upon the ground, if you reflect now and consider this, that this Bible is a collection of Eastern books, and remember that the East has always been the home of strange religious extravagance, do not you recognise a new proof of the Divine wisdom that pervades this Bible, that it is really inspired of the Holy Ghost in its well-balanced sobriety of mind? The Lord Jesus, Whom the Bible sets forth as the Holy One, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners--Jesus Whom the Bible calls us to admire and love and follow, is full of the grandest enthusiasm. God was with Him. If ever there was a man full of Spirit it was the Man Christ Jesus. He was filled with the Holy Ghost, and went everywhere led by the Spirit, and at the same time full of sweet self-possession, full of meekness and wisdom, and so answered all questions on the spur of the moment in the wisest possible manner, and set forth perfectly the cause of righteousness. The Bible teaches us, and especially to be calm and fervent, fervent and calm. (Donald Fraser, D. D.)

──The Biblical Illustrator