Our reading today begins with a description of the strong bond of friendship between David and Jonathan (18:1, 3). We read back in 17:15 that David would spend some time with Saul as the court musician, and some time at home. After David’s victory over Goliath, Saul does not let him go home anymore (v. 2). This accords with what we read in 14:52. We have seen how Jonathan was the only other military leader aside from Saul (see 13:22). Here, we see that David is anointed as the second in command after Saul with the symbolic passing of Jonathan’s armor and weapons (v. 4), and his appointment by Saul (v. 5).
And David is successful (v. 5); so much so that the people saw him as superior to Saul as a military man (vv. 6-7). The people have begun to choose David over Saul (v. 16), a fact that is not lost on Saul (v. 8). Saul is overcome with jealousy and anger, and seeks to kill David (v. 11). Don’t miss that this is all the plan of God (v. 10, 14), another fact not lost on Saul (v. 12, 15). In verses 17-19, we see that Saul offers his daughter to David if he will fight the Philistines, hoping that David will die in battle. When Saul’s other daughter Michal falls in love with David, Saul uses the opportunity to send David against the Philistines again in the hopes that he would die in battle (vv. 20-25). However, the plan backfires on Saul (vv. 27-29). The chapter ends with David growing in esteem with all of Israel (v. 30).
In chapter 19, Saul now includes his servants and his son in his plan to kill David (19:1). But Jonathan is loyal to David and seeks to protect him (vv. 2-5), and even talks his father (temporarily) out of his plan (vv. 6-7). But history repeats itself (vv. 9-10), and Saul plots again to kill David (v. 11). This time, Saul’s daughter is loyal to David (vv. 11-17). Even Saul’s own children recognize the anointing of the Lord on David. Indeed, he who does not hate their father for the sake of the Anointed is not worthy of the kingdom.
David flees to Samuel for safety (v. 18). We see in the servants of Saul and then even Saul himself prophesying, that God Himself is protecting David (vv. 20-24). This is indeed all part of God’s plan. Note in verse 24 that Saul is symbolically stripped of his kingly garments by God. The question “is Saul also among the prophets” echoes 10:11. There, it was a sign from God that he would be king. Here in chapter 19, it is a sign from God that he would lose his throne.
Psalm 11 is believed to have been written by David when Saul first plotted to kill him (1 Sam 19:1-3). Note that this is really a struggle between the wicked and the righteous (11:2-3). David has done everything right for Saul, yet Saul seeks to kill him. Note that David’s true refuge is in YHWH and does not want to flee from Saul (v. 1). David knows that this is all the plan of God. He is using it to test David, and at the same time to judge Saul (v. 5). David knows that if he is steadfast in obeying God, He will preserve him unto his final reward: God’s presence (v. 7).
Psalm 59 is believed to have been written by David when Saul plotted a second time to kill him (1 Sam 19:11-17). In 1 Samuel 19:17 Saul declares David his enemy. In Psalm 59:1-2, David prays for protection from his enemies. David says to God again that he has done nothing wrong, and prays for God to search him for sin (vv. 3-4). Notice in verse 5 that David prays for judgment of the nations – on those outside the covenant community of Israel. But he is praying against Saul. We see here that inclusion in the covenant is by faith (see Rom 9:6-8, Gal 3:7). The faithless Saul is not one of God’s people.
What Saul and other wicked people believe they do in secret, is no secret to God (vv. 6-8). David affirms that God is his fortress (refuge) and will yet deliver him (vv. 9-10). In verses 11-13, David prays not for instant death for his enemies, but that God would “bring them down” as an example. This is what God has been doing to Saul this whole time. David closes by twice singing of God’s steadfast love (our favorite Hebrew word: חֶ֫סֶד), twice declaring that He is David’s strength, and twice asserting that He is David’s fortress (echoing verses 9-10). Through it all, David still looks to God alone for salvation.