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Paul J. Bucknell
Purpose: 1 Samuel 18:17-30 comprises the second of Saul's two plots to kill David. David's reluctance to marry proves both his innocence of desiring the throne as well as God's blessing. This is part 5 of 5 in 1 Samuel 18's mini-series between Saul and David called Great Friendship and Horrible Jealousy.
Saul’s first plot failed. David eluded him while his success continued. Saul was subtle but deliberate on eliminating David’s life. The second plot protects Saul’s image while it paves the path to David’s death. Any tools to get rid of David were okay even if they were his daughters. Jealousy unbridled leads to madness.
“Then Saul said to David, “Here is my older daughter Merab; I will give her to you as a wife, only be a valiant man for me and fight the LORD’S battles.” For Saul thought, “My hand shall not be against him, but let the hand of the Philistines be against him.”
But David said to Saul, “Who am I, and what is my life or my father’s family in Israel, that I should be the king’s son-in-law?” So it came about at the time when Merab, Saul’s daughter, should have been given to David, that she was given to Adriel the Meholathite for a wife” (1 Samuel 18:17-19).
If Saul could use this romance to have David take extra risks and be killed, then the blame would be shifted away from Saul.
It is hard to imagine what was in Saul’s mind. Perhaps being so greedy for power, he just assumed that David would grab the chance to be the king’s son-in-law. He didn’t think much about the welfare of his daughters or family though. If he succeeded in having David killed in battle, his daughter would lose her husband and any grandchildren their grandpa. Hatred goes beyond reason.
Saul’s purpose of having the Philistines kill David was only to keep others from thinking that he wanted David killed. Saul evidently was being very nice to David. He poised to be a great father-in-law who really loved him to be part of his family. David, however, did not see this plot. It was too diabolical.
Time passed. David did not follow up on Saul’s bait. David’s response revealed his own heart.
He hardly was trying to occupy the throne. He was a nobody and could not marry the daughter of the king or presume to become the king’s son-in-law. This should have proved to Saul that David had no eye for the throne. That would have been easy. Marry and then eliminate potential heirs. David was not thinking like this. We can see from this how he had a heart after God.
“Now Michal, Saul’s daughter, loved David. When they told Saul, the thing was agreeable to him. And Saul thought, “I will give her to him that she may become a snare to him, and that the hand of the Philistines may be against him.” Therefore Saul said to David, “For a second time you may be my son-in-law today.”
Then Saul commanded his servants, “Speak to David secretly, saying, ‘Behold, the king delights in you, and all his servants love you; now therefore, become the king’s son-in-law”” (1 Samuel 18:20-22).
Saul no doubt was sad over the marriage of his first daughter. He wanted to use her to get David, but when he heard of Michal, his other daughter having affection for David, the old plans were revived. The scriptures tell us how he thought, “I will give her to him that she may become a snare to him, and that the hand of the Philistines may be against him.” How horribly vile.
So King Saul a second time approaches David with the proposal to marry his daughter. Saul’s command to his servants that they should secretly tell David that Saul and the staff all love him is extremely interesting. Was it because he felt his disdain for him was showing? Or was it that his servants might tell David what they heard him really saying?
“So Saul’s servants spoke these words to David. But David said, “Is it trivial in your sight to become the king’s son-in-law, since I am a poor man and lightly esteemed?” And the servants of Saul reported to him according to these words which David spoke. Saul then said, “Thus you shall say to David, ‘The king does not desire any dowry except a hundred foreskins of the Philistines, to take vengeance on the king’s enemies.’” Now Saul planned to make David fall by the hand of the Philistines. When his servants told David these words, it pleased David to become the king’s son-in-law.
Before the days had expired David rose up and went, he and his men, and struck down two hundred men among the Philistines. Then David brought their foreskins, and they gave them in full number to the king, that he might become the king’s son-in-law. So Saul gave him Michal his daughter for a wife” (1 Samuel 18:23-27).
When David hears these things, he thinks about not have anything to contribute to the marriage for the dowry. David has mentioned this before but, I believe, but perhaps Saul did not really believe this would be the problem. But this works out even better! Saul figures that David can be killed even before the marriage.
Saul simply tells him that he has a way for David to make up the dowry.2 All he needs to do is before the time for the marriage is to get a hundred foreskins of the Philistines. In other words, David had to kill an hundred enemies and that would be equated as an acceptable dowry.
Saul hoped that David would be killed in battle. David accepted the offer but to the king’s dismay safely returned with 200 foreskins. He of course did not care much for their heads as much as David’s. So Michal was reluctantly given to David to be his wife.
“When Saul saw and knew that the LORD was with David, and that Michal, Saul’s daughter, loved him, then Saul was even more afraid of David. Thus Saul was David’s enemy continually. Then the commanders of the Philistines went out to battle, and it happened as often as they went out, that David behaved himself more wisely than all the servants of Saul. So his name was highly esteemed” (1 Samuel 18:28-30).
Saul’s problem intensified once his plan backfired. Now David has the king’s daughter and will be partial heir to his things! His son, Jonathan, is David’s favorite friend. His daughter loves him. David continued to go out to battle (probably because of Saul’s command with hope that he would be killed in action), but he would come back victorious each time.
Saul was afraid of David because he could see David taking over the throne. His fear, like most fears, was all imagined. Saul was right that he would lose his throne as God had said but very wrong when he judged David’s motives. David had no ill will. He was not trying to take over the kingship. David continued From Saul’s perspective things were getting incrementally worse.
How was David able to be so successful? Did it have to do with his anointing by Samuel?
Why would God give him advantage over others?
David rides through these tough times by God’s grace. Have you ever been mislabeled by others? How did you handle it?
Although the focus is on Saul's mishandling of his jealousy, David is going through some terrible struggles.
"How can I be liked one day and hated the next?"
"What did I do wrong to be so wrongly treated ?"
"How am I to respect those in authority when they have succumbed to such evil devices?"
God is preparing David for serving Him. The training is tough. This passage reminds us that if we focus on the victory of the past or even of the present, then our joy of life will be taken from us. We must instead focus on doing the will of God, persevering to do what is right even when things look so wrong. Indeed the things David goes through reminds us clearly of the great misunderstandings and jealousies that Jesus had to face right up to the cross.