The Plot to Kill David – 1 Samuel 18 & 19

The tales of David’s conquest of the giant spread throughout the land, garnering the love and respect of all the people of Israel. Even the soldiers in Saul’s army respected David as he led them in countless battles, and with God by his side, they would always come out victorious. The admiration for David was not limited to the people of Israel, as Saul’s own children loved David more than they respected their father. Saul was losing control of his subjects, his army, his kingdom and even his own family and desperately sought to get rid of this humble shepherd boy that God had handpicked to replace him.

Love With A Divine Purpose

Jonathan himself was a soldier in Saul’s army and had experienced God’s mighty intervention in his life when he and his armour-bearer were able to slay close to two dozen men. But what he saw in David was something that he had not experienced himself, a two-way communication with God. David did not rely on Urim or Thummim or any prophet to communicate with God but was always conversing with Him even when he was tending to his father’s cattle. He saw the love that David had for God when he spoke about the Creator and witnessed God leading David to succeed in every walk of his life.

Jonathan loved David as himself, the kind of love that Jesus has asked us to have even for our enemies. Saul was threatened by the friendship between his firstborn and the man, who he feared was after his throne. Jonathan even gave David his robe, tunic, belt, bow and sword, perhaps a symbolic gesture of passing the baton. But Saul was unhappy with David’s growing popularity among everyone in Israel and kept a close eye on him, as he plotted to kill David.

The next day an evil spirit from God came forcefully on Saul. He was prophesying in his house, while David was playing the lyre, as he usually did. Saul had a spear in his hand and he hurled it, saying to himself, “I’ll pin David to the wall.” But David eluded him twice.

1 Samuel 18:10-11 (NIV)

When the evil spirit from God came upon Saul, it brought out what was already in Saul’s heart. Pinning David to the wall is what Saul actually wanted to do to David and that’s why his actions were aligned with the manifestations of the evil spirit. The evil spirit that came on Saul was also a sign from God for David, that he was walking on the right path. This made the evil forces of the world come after his life. Saul himself might not have realised that he was against God even though he was anointed by God and perhaps this was a way for God to reveal to His people the evil that resided in their king and thereby swing the public opinion in favour of David.

Saul who was once chosen by God to lead His nation had fallen from grace and had gone against His will at every opportunity. His lips were still praising God as he was putting on a show for the people around him, but his heart was far from God. When we walk in the way of the Lord, in the path that He has chosen for us, we are not walking on plains but are climbing up a steep hill. What we must realise is that in our walks with God there is no neutral gear, either you are moving towards Him or sliding down into satan’s gorge. Saul had abandoned his walk with God and was sinking in the quicksand that he had gotten himself in.

From this incident what we must also realise is that God will reveal to us what the people around us really think of us in different ways, some might be even more violent than Saul throwing a spear at David. When God reveals the heart of someone whom we thought was close to us and we find out the hatred that they have for us, at those junctures of our lives we must come closer to God. But we would rather draw closer to that friend and try to reconcile and understand their point of view. David did not waste his time trying to understand the reason behind Saul’s actions but kept moving forward in his walk with God.

After an unsuccessful attempt on his life, Saul was afraid of David as he knew that it was God who was leading him. He offered his older daughter Merab’s hand in marriage as a peace offering but more importantly to keep tabs on David. But David did not see it fit for him to marry the king’s daughter and Saul had his daughter marry another man. However, Saul found out that his other daughter Michal was in love with David and this reignited his ploy to have control over David’s movements.

Saul is determined to kill David and does not want to lose any opportunity, at the same time he thinks his daughter will be loyal to him over David. Saul is not a man of his word as he had promised to give his daughter’s hand in marriage to the person who killed Goliath which he conveniently ignored. But now when he is looking for ways to put a target on David’s back, he feels that it is the right move. To Saul, his needs take priority over everyone else’s as he doesn’t think about the effect his personal rivalry is having on his family. He is unable to tolerate the success that God had given David and he wanted to bring him down at any cost. Instead of learning a lesson from David he wanted to kill the instrument that God was using to lead Israel.

Saul planned to use his own daughter as a snare so that the Philistines had even more reason to kill David when he would face them in their next battle. He was blinded by his jealousy of David and was willing to use anyone just to have an opportunity to kill David. Once satan enters our life we are focused on derailing God’s plan. He will use us as a vessels till we are useful to him in his mission to deter God from carrying out His will. He uses our emotions towards our fellow believers to accentuate our hatred for them. As a result, we end up being pawns in his schemes rather than being partakers in carrying out the will of God.

When Saul realized that the LORD was with David and that his daughter Michal loved David, Saul became still more afraid of him, and he remained his enemy the rest of his days.

1 Samuel 18:28-29 (NIV)

The Escape

Saul revealed his hatred for David to his son Jonathan and to his attendants when he asked them to kill David. What he did not know was that Jonathan’s love for David surpassed any shred of respect that he had left for his father. Jonathan spoke to his father reminding him about the battles David had won for the king and country and how God had brought Israel victory through him.

He took his life in his hands when he killed the Philistine. The LORD won a great victory for all Israel, and you saw it and were glad. Why then would you do wrong to an innocent man like David by killing him for no reason?”

1 Samuel 19:5 (NIV)

It is at this moment that Saul realised that Jonathan would never be in on the plot to kill David as he understood that God was behind David’s success. After his talk with Jonathan in the fields, Saul was supposedly ready to bury the hatchet and even swore in the name of the Lord that David will not be put to death, an oath that he would have surely made with his fingers crossed. No sooner than the next war with the Philistines broke out, Saul was back to the drawing board plotting to have David killed at the hands of the enemy.

But an evil spirit from the LORD came on Saul as he was sitting in his house with his spear in his hand. While David was playing the lyre, Saul tried to pin him to the wall with his spear, but David eluded him as Saul drove the spear into the wall. That night David made good his escape.

1 Samuel 19:9-10 (NIV)

Saul sent men to watch over David’s house so that he would not run away. He asked his men to look for an opportune time to assassinate him. But Saul’s own daughter Michal who was privy to Saul’s plan to kill David warned her husband to make his escape in the dark of the night. Another mistake that Saul made was thinking that his daughter would choose to be loyal to her father over her husband. David made his way out the window as the men were probably guarding the door. David recounted his brush with death that day in his Psalm as the Lord had helped him evade his enemies (Psalm 59).

So Michal let David down through a window, and he fled and escaped. Then Michal took an idol and laid it on the bed, covering it with a garment and putting some goats’ hair at the head.

1 Samuel 19:12-13 (NIV)

Saul’s children could see that David was in the right and that he had not done anything wrong against their father. Saul was simply jealous of the fact that David was outshining him. In front of the nation, the shepherd boy who is protecting the country with the help of God is the person worth saving. Saul keeps giving him difficult missions one after another and God keeps using them for good and to accomplish His will. People might not have realised why they love David but it is because of God’s grace on him.

Shelter In The Hills

David knew that he could not go back to his father’s house as he feared for his family’s safety, so he went to Ramah, Samuel’s hometown instead. He told Samuel what Saul had done to him and how he had made his escape all the way to the hill country of Ramah. Samuel knew that news of David’s arrival would have reached Saul’s ears and so they moved to Naioth. When Saul found out he sent his soldiers to capture David and bring him back to his palace. But every group of soldiers that he sent were not able to even approach David or Samuel as the Spirit of God would come upon them forcing them to Prophesy. He kept sending men in numbers to kill David but every single one of them received the Spirit of God and could not help but Prophesy. Finally, Saul himself went to Naioth at Ramah hoping to kill David but he also started prophesying as he stripped off his clothes and lie naked. This was an ultimate act of humiliation for a nations’ leader to lie in this state.

We always think of the gift of prophecy as a gift reserved for God’s chosen people but over here an entire army is forced to prophesy. So prophecy, rather than a gift seems like a timeout for these men. We must understand that God chooses to bestow His gifts on anyone according to His plan. But when someone has an evil spirit within them, God’s Spirit coming on them will surely torment the spirit within them. It is not surprising though that the evil spirit readily aligns with God’s plan as they are afraid to cross God while we who have not yet faced His wrath are not ready to follow His will.

So remember that people can prophesy even using an evil spirit and do things much worse than stripping off one’s clothes. Only God can help us discern if a prophecy is from Him or not. If we are living our lives with fear and anxiety, like Saul we will never be able to discern God’s will. But if like David, we deny ourselves and surrender our will completely to Him, God will lead us and give us the greatest gift, the ability to accomplish His will.

Discussion Questions

  • V18:10 – Why did God send an evil Spirit to kill David?
  • V18:20 – Saul thinks that David is such a great threat that he is willing to use his own daughters as pawns. What makes him do that?
  • V19:4&14 – Why are the children of Saul on David’s side?
  • V19:13 – How can someone like David have idols in his house?
  • V19:23 – Can the gift of prophecy be also given to the people who are against God?

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