In the last essay we studied the story of David and Goliath in 1 Samuel 17. In this essay we study 1 Samuel 18-19, which reveal Saul’s jealousy and fear of David. The very day that David killed Goliath and was brought to Saul with the head of Goliath in his hand, the heart of Jonathan, Saul’s son, was bonded to that of David (18:1). That day also was the end of David’s moving back and forth between Saul’s court and his father’s house (18:2). From that day on David was to remain with Saul.
Jonathan immediately struck up a friendship with David, which led to a friendship covenant between the two (vv. 3-4). Meanwhile everything Saul assigned David to do he did successfully, which led to great popularity for David (v. 5). Indeed David was so successful in the war against the Philistines that when the army returned from battle, and the celebrations began, the women of Israel made a hero of David in song: “Saul has killed his thousands, and David his ten thousands” (vv. 6-7).
Saul was angry. He was the king, but David was the hero. The only thing left for David to attain was the throne itself, and the thought of that enraged Saul (vv. 8-9). The next day while David played the lyre for Saul, Saul had one of his spells; and he tried to kill David with his spear, which according to ancient custom he held as a scepter. David had to elude the spear twice (vv. 10-11).
At this point Saul was aware not only of his fear of David, but of the reason. He realized that it was due to the fact that the Spirit of the Lord had departed from him, and was with David (v. 12). So Saul, apparently to avoid such a public spectacle from happening again, sent David from his presence by making him the captain of a thousand men (v. 13). David was enormously successful as a military leader (vv. 14-16).
In the rest of the chapter (vv. 17-30) we see that Saul gave permission to David to marry his eldest daughter, Merab. This was to fulfill his promise made at the time of the Goliath incident to give his daughter to the one who killed Goliath. All David had to do in return was be valiant in the wars against the Philistines. Saul said that, because he was hoping that David would be killed in battle (v. 17). David replied humbly (v. 18); but Saul, for reasons that are not revealed, gave his daughter to someone else (v. 19).
But Saul had another daughter, Michal, who wanted David as her husband (v. 20). So Saul began negotiations with David (vv. 21-24). David couldn’t afford to pay an appropriate dowry for the king’s daughter, so Saul suggested a different kind of dowry. He asked for a hundred Philistine foreskins. Of course, once again, his hope was that the Philistines would kill David (v. 25). As always, David had no difficulty with the Philistines; and within the time period designated, David delivered 100 foreskins to Saul (vv. 26-27; compare 2 Sam. 3:14).
At this point Saul’s hostility towards David became life-long enmity (v. 29). Saul was no longer moved just by mental illness. He was now David’s enemy during his sanest moments. In 19:1-7 we have an account of a temporary reconciliation between Saul and David. Saul began to talk openly to Jonathan and the court about killing David, but Jonathan intervened. First he told David about it (v. 1-2). Then he talked with his father and successfully convinced him to reconcile with David; and David returned to court (vv. 3-7). But the peace didn’t last long.
David won another major victory over the Philistines (v. 8). Then Saul’s evil spirit returned, and he once again attempted to kill David with his spear. So David had to flee (vv. 9-10). At first he went to his home; but Saul sent people to watch David so that he could have him killed in the morning. But Michal heard about it, and helped David to escape by letting him down from a window and making a dummy in his bed. This bought David the time he needed to get away (vv. 11-16). Saul was angry with Michal, but she claimed that David threatened to kill her if she didn’t help him (v. 17).
In the rest of the chapter we see that David fled to Samuel (v. 18). And the Lord protected him there long enough for him to escape once again. Three times Saul sent messengers to take David; and all three times they fell into a prophetic frenzy against their will and did not succeed (vv. 19-21). Then Saul went himself; and he too fell into a prophetic frenzy and was humiliated by lying naked on the ground for a day and a night (vv. 22-24). Thus Saul failed to apprehend David when he was with Samuel.
Turning to application, there are many places in these two chapters on which we could focus; but I want us to look at chapter 18, verses 6-16. In this passage we see Saul’s jealousy flaring out. Envy is one of the seven deadly sins, but we don’t talk about it very much. So let’s take a look at Saul’s jealousy.
However first, I want us to think about the contrast between Saul and his son Jonathan. If there was a man in Israel who had reason to envy David, it was Jonathan. Jonathan was a gallant soldier, and a genuine hero in Israel; but David had become a greater hero. Jonathan was the heir to Saul’s throne. So if David were to become king, it would be Jonathan whom he would supplant. Yet there is not one shred of evidence that Jonathan ever felt even a twinge of jealousy. Indeed he loved David, and was completely loyal to him.
Now contrast that to Saul. Saul at first obeyed his better impulses. He brought David to his court and used him as a leader in his army. But the black cloud of jealousy quickly gathered. When the people began to praise David more than himself, Saul could not bear it. And he began to plot David’s murder.
Envy obviously is a major evil. And as we look at Saul’s jealousy, we learn some things about how envy functions. First, envy t takes root in the heart. In Saul’s case his heart had become evil. But any of us can become vulnerable. It begins with alienation from God. Saul had disobeyed the Lord, and the Spirit of the Lord left him. Then he morbidly began to concentrate on himself, thinking that no one should get more adulation than the king. And that led to his opening himself up to an evil spirit (or to mental illness). Envy takes place in the heart.
Second, envy flourishes in the shade of another’s glory. The thing that seemed to put Saul over the edge was the singing by women of Israel that Saul had killed his thousands, but David his ten thousands. Envy always is a negative response to the accomplishments of others. There always seems to be someone who does better than us. And we can respond to that as Jonathan did, or as Saul did.
Third, sprouting envy produces ugly fruit. It produces the fruit of irrationality. That is, like Saul, it raises ugly emotions even when the object of jealously does nothing to cause it. It produces the fruit of ingratitude. By that I mean that a jealous person has no gratitude for the gifts and accomplishments that he or she has in hand. And envy produces the fruit of failure to love. Indeed it is quite the opposite of love. Envy gives all of its energy to the self, as Saul demonstrated. Thus envy produces is ugly fruit.
And fourth, envy produces deadly fruit. It produces hatred of the person who is the object of jealousy. And it produces an insidious inner poison in the envious one’s own heart. I pray that all of us are free, and remain free, of this evil passion.