When Saul was informed that David cared deeply for Michal, Saul’s younger daughter, a new scheme occurred to him. He instructed his servants to casually let David know that he was so well-liked by Saul and those about him that it was hoped by all the he would soon marry Michal (I Sam. 18:17-22).
In the next few days David was surprised as the number of Saul’s aides, servants and officers who mentioned to him how much it would please everyone if David would marry Michal.
“I am not a wealthy man,” was his usual answer. “It would hardly be proper for one with my humble background to presume to ask a king’s daughter to marry me.”
David’s remarks were carried to Saul, who decided that the only obstacle to David’s and Michal’s marriage was the inability of David and his family to contribute the costly gifts that would ordinarily be expected from the groom and his parents.
“As soon as the opportunity presents itself,” Saul told his servants, “mention to David that I would never expect any son-in-law of mine nor his family to contribute gifts when a daughter of mine is married. Being a military man, I would expect instead that my son-in-law be enough of a warrior to approach the enemy and cause the death of a hundred Philistine soldiers. Of course I would require proof of the deed within a few days. If my prospective son-in-law couldn’t produce proof of what I expect of him, I wouldn’t allow him to marry my daughter” (I Sam. 18:23-25).
Shortly afterward David was approached by many individuals who gave him the same information. He readily realized that it was something promoted by Saul, and so he gave to all the answer he knew that Saul hoped to receive.
“I’ll set out at once to rid the land of a hundred Philistines,” David said. “And when you report this to Saul, be sure to add that I’ll hold you as a witness in the event he decided to give Michal in marriage to some other fellow before I get back.”
This jibe by David embarrassed Saul’s servants, as David intended it to be in a bantering way, because Saul and his aides had been so clumsy in approaching David. David knew that none of the servants would incur Saul’s anger by reporting David’s remark about Saul giving his daughter in marriage to someone else. They wouldn’t have dared to mention such a thing.
Saul was elated when he learned that David was setting out to fulfill the conditions he had established for marriage to his daughter. He was certain that David loved Michal so much that he would try to gain his goal as soon as possible by some youthfully rash action against the well-seasoned warriors of Philistia. He thought his would-be son-in-law would surely lose his life in battle (I Sam. 18:26).
Keeping his plans to himself, David secretly marched a company of his troops westward to where there was a small garrison of Philistines. He approached and attacked at night, completely surprising the enemy. His men succeeded in routing all of the Philistines and killing more than two hundred of them.
Saul had set a time when proof of the slaying of a hundred Philistines should be brought to him. He had been generous in this matter, being confident that David wouldn’t live to carry out the requirements. It was quite a shock to the Israelite king when he was informed only two or three days later that David and his soldiers had returned victorious. He was even more upset when he was told that David’s men had brought back small parts of the bodies (foreskins) of two hundred Philistine troops as proof that twice the required number of the enemy had been slaughtered.
“I’ll believe it only after I see proper evidence,” Saul declared indignantly. “David isn’t going to get away with any tricks!”
Saul didn’t have to wait long before David appeared before him with two men bearing the evidence in a basket. It was placed provokingly close to the Israelite leader.
“Sir, here is my proof that my men and I have done away with two hundred Philistine soldiers,” David declared. “That is twice the number you requested, and so I feel that there should be no doubt that I have more than fulfilled your wish.”
“Should I take your word in this matter?” Saul inquired suspiciously. “How do I know what you have in this basket?”
“I don’t expect you to take my word or that of anyone else,” David replied. “I respectfully suggest that you personally inspect the contents of the basket.”
Saul had already seen too much. With a curt and sickly wave of hasty resignation to David, he hurried away to his private quarters. Later, Saul’s servants gave a full, fair account of David’s bloody tokens, and Michal was given to David in marriage.
When the Philistines heard what had happened to their slain men, they angrily sent small battalions to launch barbarous attacks on Israelite villages in western Canaan. It was only because David was so alert and active with his soldiers that he constantly outwitted and outfought most of these troublesome invaders. The former shepherd’s popularity and fame continued to grow in Israel because of the courageous manner in which he helped protect the people (I Sam. 18:27-30).
Meanwhile, Saul had a growing fear, dislike and envy of David. It was increasingly clear to him that God was protecting David, and that he was destined to become Israel’s next king. Regardless of what he thought God might do to him, Saul made it known to his servants, aides and officers that they should kill David whenever an opportunity came that would make the killing appear as an accident. He even made this an order to his son Jonathan, who respected and admired David. Saul should have realized that his son’s friendship with David would mean that Jonathan would warn David that his life was in danger.
“Don’t sleep at your home tonight,” Jonathan told David. “If you do, you could be dead before morning. Take blankets and sleep in the bushes in the field beyond this building” (I Sam. 19:1-3).
Next morning Saul took a walk in the same field where David lay hidden. When Jonathan saw his father there, he hurried out to join him.
“Your order to have David killed must surely be quite displeasing to God,” Jonathan observed after the two men had exchanged morning greetings.
“And displeasing to you, too,” Saul frowned. “Don’t think I haven’t noticed how friendly you two are.”
“I’m concerned about you as well as David,” Jonathan explained. “Surely you wouldn’t want to be responsible for the death of a valiant young man who has been so loyal to you – who killed Goliath after he had reproached your army for 40 days. I would fear what God would do to me if I were the cause of the murder of an innocent man who has done so much for Israel.”
Saul walked along in silence. Although he had become increasingly rebellious as a servant of God, there were times when he went through brief periods of remorse. This was one of those times.
“You are right, my son,” Saul finally spoke. “I have acted hastily in this matter. I’ll tell my men right away that they are not to harm him. I promise you that David shall remain alive as far as my servants are concerned.”
David was so nearby in his place of concealment that he could hear what Saul said, and he was greatly relieved. He was later received in Saul’s household as though everyone had always been the best of friends (I Sam. 19:4-7).
Shortly afterward the Philistines began another series of attacks on the Israelites’ western towns. Saul ordered various parts of his army to rout the enemy. As usual, because of careful planning, brilliant battle strategy and brave leadership, David’s troops were so successful in driving back the Philistines that David was again hailed as a national hero.
Once more Saul was consumed with envy. He was overcome by the evil spirit that had troubled his mind so often in the past when he had lost control of his emotions. Invisible hands seemed to be trying to cut off his breath. After struggling to finally free himself from this miserable situation, he fell into a mood of intense depression.
“Send for David!” he barked at a servant. “Tell him to bring his harp!”
When David arrived, Saul scowlingly motioned for him to sit down and play. David obeyed, choosing his most restful tunes.
But the music didn’t soothe Saul, nor did the Israelite leader expect that it would. He had a different purpose in getting David to his quarters. After a while he stretched out on his couch, and it seemed to David that he was falling asleep. Suddenly he rolled to his feet, seized his nearby spear and hurled it toward David. The younger man jerked his harp aside and bobbed forward. The spear missed his back only by inches and buried itself into the heavily paneled wall. If David hadn’t dodged quickly, the spear would have gone through his body as well as into the wall.
Saul muttered angrily to himself because of his failure, then leaped forward to retrieve his spear so that he could use it again. The only right thing for David to do was run and run fast. When he reached home he told his wife what had happened (I Sam. 19:8-10).
“Unless my father’s terrible state of mind changes, another attempt will be made on your life tonight!” Michal exclaimed anxiously. “Leave at once and go to Samuel’s home at Ramah. You’ll be safe there.”
“I’ll go if you’ll come with me,” David said.
At that moment there was a noise outside. Michal peeped out an upstairs window to see that several of Saul’s soldiers were gathering at the front door of the house.
“My father’s men are here!” she whispered to David. “It’s too late for both of us to escape. Leave quickly through the window at the back of the house before they surround our home!”
David knew that it would be unwise to stay a minute longer, and that his wife would probably be safe under any circumstance. The window at the back of the building was too high for a safe leap to the ground, but Michal successfully lowered her husband with a rope. David waved to her and slipped quietly into the darkness (I Sam. 19:11-12).
Shortly afterward officers pounded on the door. When Michal appeared, they demanded to see David.
“My husband is ill,” Michal declared curtly. “What is so important that you should drag a sick man from his bed?”
Ignoring Michal, Saul’s men stomped upstairs and into the bedroom. When they glanced at the silent figure in bed, they withdrew from David’s home. One of them went to report to Saul that David was ill, and that they had respected Saul’s daughter’s wish that her husband not be removed from his bed.
“I too shall respect her wish!” Saul shouted angrily. “Go back and tell my men to bring David to me at once, bound to his bed! I’ll dispose of him while he’s still prone!”
When Saul’s men again went up to David’s bedroom, they deftly tossed ropes across the bed and quickly bound their victim. Then they discovered, to their embarrassment, that David wasn’t there. Michal had cleverly arranged some objects under the blankets to give the appearance of a person in bed, thus giving her husband more precious time for escape (I Sam. 19:13-16).
Saul’s men were so angry that they seized Michal, even though she was a princess, and forcefully brought her before her father. When Saul heard what had happened, he was more upset than his men.
“What kind of a daughter are you to deliberately let my enemy escape?” he fumed. “Your disloyalty to me could cost me my life!”
Michal didn’t know what to say, so in fear of her father she lied: “I had to let him go; he threatened me.”
Shortly after his escape, David arrived at Samuel’s residence in Ramah. He related to the elderly prophet all that had recently taken place between him and Saul.
“Don’t worry about your wife or yourself,” Samuel comforted the younger man.
“Rest here for a while. Then we’ll go to Naioth, just outside this town, where my college for minister is located. You should be safe there for a time.”
Next day one of Saul’s alert spies happened to see David at Naioth, however, and it wasn’t long before a group of military police strode into the college. They arrived just when the students were carrying on a spirited song session. The soldiers were so impressed by the strong devotional manner of this service led by Samuel that they forgot their mission and enthusiastically added their voices to those of the others (I Sam. 19:17-20).
It wasn’t very far from Gibeah, where Saul was, to Naioth, and so it wasn’t very long before Saul heard what was going on. He immediately dispatched more soldiers to seize the first group as well as David, but the second group also arrived during a song service and was moved to join fellow soldiers and the students in hymns of praise to God.
When Saul heard what had happened to the second contingent, he wrathfully sent a third, only to be advised later that it too, had gone the peaceful way of the others.
“I should have gone in the first place!” Saul stormed, gesturing wildly to his aides to muster more troops. “Any man of mine who is guilty of falling in with Samuel’s pious plot to protect David will suffer the same fate David is about to experience!”
Later, just as Saul and his soldiers carefully surrounded the building where Samuel was addressing his students and Saul’s first three groups of men, Samuel paused to suggest that his audience would become more alert if it indulged in a singing session. The singing began just as Saul and his men broke into the room. Samuel and his audience continued as though nothing unusual had happened, singing with such fervor and feeling that Saul and his men came to a halt. They stood and listened for a minute or two, and then joined in little by little until they were all expressing themselves as loudly as the others!
Certain onlookers were surprised to see Israel’s king at the college. A report later went over the land that Saul was studying to become a minister – much to Saul’s indignation!
Just as those sent before him forgot the reason for coming to Naioth, so did Saul forget. Probably they didn’t entirely forget, but for a time they didn’t care. Saul even felt that he wasn’t attired properly for religious services. He removed is armor and commanded his men to do likewise (I Sam 19:21-24). Then he stayed a day and a night with Samuel in a worshipful, friendly mood, not realizing that God had caused this attitude so that David could freely escape again!