18:1 Jonathan was bound to David in close friendship is literally “Jonathan’s life was bound together with David’s.” The same expression occurs in Gn 44:30 in reference to Jacob and his son, Benjamin. Both David and Jonathan were valiant warriors who had taken stands of faith against incredible opposition (1Sm 14:6-14; 17:31-51), so it is not surprising they would become close friends. As much as he loved himself could also be translated “as much as he loved his own life.” The phrase is repeated in v. 3 and 20:17.
18:2 Before the victory over the Philistines, David would sometimes return to his father’s house in Bethlehem to look after family matters. Now, the king wanted David to remain constantly with him.
18:4 The covenant between Jonathan and David may have included the giving of special gifts to David, the new warrior hero. David thus secured not only Goliath’s sword (17:54), but the robe . . . military tunic . . . sword . . . bow, and belt of Israel’s prince, showing that God was preparing him for his royal role.
18:5 David enjoyed success with the army wherever Saul sent him, so the king made him head of the army. The expression Saul’s servants probably designate either the king’s military officers or his closest advisers.
18:6 The phrase David was returning from killing the Philistine probably refers to a later campaign than David’s original battle with Goliath because v. 5 mentions David’s promotion, implying some passage of time. Earlier traditions of women . . . singing and dancing to celebrate military victories were well known (Ex 15:21; Jdg 5:1-31). The cities of Israel were safe from the Philistine threat, and that was reason to celebrate.
18:7 The words Saul has killed his thousands, but David his tens of thousands are the only ones preserved from the women’s singing. They were not necessarily contrasting Saul’s conquests with David’s or exalting David over Saul. The Hebrew word translated “but” also may mean “and,” and the words for “thousand” and “ten thousand” occur elsewhere as a word pair in poetry (Dt 32:30; Ps 91:7; Mc 6:7). In fact, the women may have intended to praise Saul by what they affirmed about David—the king had made an excellent choice by naming David his commander.
18:8 Whatever the women intended by their song, Saul resented what he perceived as their lower assessment of his fighting ability. Perhaps Saul also remembered Samuel’s words about God already having chosen his successor (13:14; 15:28). Saul’s words, What more can he have but the kingdom? reveal the depth of his suspicion.
18:9 The Hebrew word for jealously is related to the word for “eye” and suggests that Saul kept a close eye on David from that day forward.
18:10 On evil spirit sent from God, see note at 16:14. The Hebrew term translated rave literally means “prophesy,” but the word also is used of false prophets (1Kg 18:29; 22:10). In this context it may refer more to Saul’s excited, agitated state. Jeremiah 9:26 may also denote this latter sense.
18:11 The evil spirit’s influence, combined with Saul’s jealousy, may have led him to hurl his spear. The allusion to David’s twofold escape suggests he remained after Saul’s first throw, perhaps intending to reason with the king and help him through his tormented state.
18:12 “Saul reasoned correctly that the only way the young man was able to evade the point of his spear at such close range was that the Lord was with David but had left Saul” (Robert Bergen).
18:13-14 Saul sent David away to military duty to get him out of his presence.
18:15 Saul’s fear of David increased in proportion to David’s successes.
18:17 Saul tried a new strategy to rid himself of David. He proposed that David marry Saul’s oldest daughter Merab in exchange for David’s increased role as a warrior. Saul knew David’s chances of death increased the more time he spent in war; perhaps the Philistines would kill him and end Saul’s problem.
18:20 Michal, another daughter of Saul, loved David. The text may imply that Merab, by contrast, had no feelings for David.
18:21-22 Perhaps Saul thought Michal would be a trap because she might distract David’s attention from his military duties, or that the bride price Saul intended to request (v. 25) would put David in a life-threatening situation. Yet another possibility is that Saul thought Michal would lead David away from the Lord. First Sm 19:13 has been cited to support this, but the context is uncertain.
18:25 To pay the bride price David had to kill a hundred Philistines.
18:26 David was pleased (lit “it was right in David’s eyes”) that Saul would put character and valor above ancestral bloodline. Before the wedding day arrived (lit “The days were not full”) is perhaps a reference to the time Saul had given David to secure the bride price.
18:27 David and his men secured twice the payment required—further evidence of David’s desire to please Saul regardless of the risk.
18:28 Saul realized (lit “Saul saw and knew”) too late what perhaps he should have realized earlier (vv. 13-14)—the Lord was with David. Further, perhaps Saul had anticipated Michal’s loyalties would remain with him, her father, but now he saw that Michal loved David. Through David’s friendship with Jonathan (vv. 1-3) and now through his marriage to Michal, he was firmly established as part of the royal family.
18:29 Tragically, jealousy and Saul’s tormented spirit nullified any family bond or loyalty his son-in-law David showed him.
18:30 Saul’s officers certainly included some of Saul’s relatives (7:55), thus heightening the tension between David and Saul. As David’s name became well known, many people probably began to speculate that he would become Saul’s successor.