Admired in Israel but Hated by King Saul
Events following David’s encounter with Goliath caused growing recognition, admiration, and pains for him. His position as high-ranking officer and commander provided him opportunity to demonstrate leadership and grow reputation as potential future king of Israel. He cherished the opportunity and persevered despite growing enmity from Saul. He was loyal to Saul but vigilant to protect himself while faithfully providing Saul palliative care. However, he suffered an apparent misstep by marrying Saul’s daughter Michal despite indications that the marriage was not of God.
Several events that David encountered following his victory over Goliath caused changes important to his preparation to become king of Israel. Some of the changes were clearly positive whereas others appear negative. We discuss the events and the changes they caused: to understand the positive and apparently negative changes and David’s behavior as they developed. Through the discussion, we seek better understanding of how David waited for God’s time in his preparation for kingship and how the understanding could apply to a person’s day to day life in waiting for God’s intervention.
Growing Positive Reputation for David
Some of the events resulted in growing recognition and admiration of David among the people of Israel. David’s recognition in Israel was virtually at the level of obscurity prior to his encounter with Goliath, as illustrated through an interaction with Saul at the time. Though he was in Saul’s service as harp player and armorbearer, Saul did not know him enough to recognize him outside. Therefore, after he cleared David to fight Goliath, Saul directed his commander Abner to find out David’s identity. As David returned from killing Goliath, Abner brought him to Saul with David still holding the Philistine’s head. There, David informed Saul that “I am the son of your servant Jesse of Bethlehem” [1 Samuel 17:58].
His name recognition grew rapidly after he killed Goliath and led Israel to victory over Philistines. For example, Israeli women celebrated the victory by singing of him as one that accomplished more in the battle than the king: “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands” [1 Samuel 18:6]. Following the victory, David was admired increasingly among Israeli people, as evidenced by several examples.
First, Saul’s son Jonathan entered into covenant with David in admiration of his character and bravery. Second, Saul changed David’s service to full time instead of the prior arrangement of David working part time for him and part time as shepherd. Third, Saul promoted David in recognition of successful performance in missions and the promotion pleased his troops and officers. Fourth, when Saul appointed David to position of battalion commander to get him out of the way, David was so effective as commander that “…all Israel and Judah loved David, because he led them in their campaigns” [1 Samuel 18:16].
On the whole, David’s reputation grew rapidly as an effective leader, army commander, and maybe potential future king of Israel.
Growing Pains for David
David also encountered events that appeared negative for him. The events arose from Saul’s attitude to David, which changed from liking and admiring him initially to hating and being jealous and afraid of him as his popularity in Israel increased. Saul was jealous of David’s apparent closeness with God and afraid that David could potentially win over the heart of Israeli people to be their next king. Saul sought unsuccessfully to kill David in a staged accident that he could have blamed on mental sickness. Also, he appointed David as battalion commander to increase his exposure to the enemy, but the appointment became an opportunity with great advantage for David. In other attempts at David’s life, Saul sought to lure him into marriage with his daughter, expecting the marriage would snare him in a dangerous encounter with Philistines so “the hand of the Philistines may be against him” [1 Samuel 18:20].
Loyal but Vigilant
Interactions with Saul became a source of growing pains for David, whereby he needed to be vigilant to protect his life while being loyal to fulfill his responsibilities to Saul. He eluded Saul twice when Saul hauled a spear at him, hoping to “pin David to the wall” [1 Samuel 18:11]. The events indicate David was sensitive to his environment while providing palliative care to assuage Saul’s mental illness. He served the king faithfully but was vigilant to protect himself from the king.
Temptation through Marriage Proposals
Other interactions with Saul became channels for temptation to David. First, Saul proposed to David to marry his first daughter Merab. All he demanded of David in return was to “only serve me bravely and fight the battles of the Lord” [1 Samuel 18:17]. Saul intended to use the marriage to lure David into taking greater risks against the enemy. However, David was not interested and, thus, successfully dodged the temptation.
However, David appeared less vigilant in a second similar temptation. He accepted to marry Saul’s second daughter despite an indication that the marriage was not of God. As we discuss in a previous study under Motivation for Marriage—David and Michal, the marriage was unproductive and a source of agony for David.
To convince David to marry Michal, Saul had challenged him to pay “…no other price for the bride than a hundred Philistine foreskins, to take revenge on his enemies” [1 Samuel 18:25]. The demand from Saul appears inconsistent with the image of God and, thus, should be an indication that the marriage would not be right. Killing enemies to defeat them in a battle is one thing, but desecrating the dead bodies thereafter appears inconsistent with our mission to represent God in every interaction. Indeed, Saul’s intention with the gruesome challenge was to “have David fall by the hands of the Philistines” [1 Samuel 18:25]. However, David apparently considered the demand a challenge to his bravery and decided to provide more than Saul stipulated. He “…took his men with him and went out and killed two hundred Philistines and brought back their foreskins” [1 Samuel 18:27].
Summary of What We Learned
David responded enthusiastically to his evolving roles in Saul’s army and, as a result, his reputation as effective leader grew in Israel. Also, he responded with vigilance to the growing pains caused by increasing enmity from Saul.
- David’s position in Saul’s army as a high-ranking officer and battalion commander provided him opportunity to demonstrate excellent leadership and grow his reputation as potential future king of Israel.
- He cherished and utilized the opportunity as best as he could and persevered even in the face of growing enmity from Saul.
- He was vigilant to protect himself from Saul while providing palliative care to assuage Saul’s mental illness.
- He triumphed against risky exposure to the enemy that Saul engineered for him.
- However, he suffered an apparent misstep by marrying Saul’s second daughter Michal despite indications that the marriage was not of God.