1 Samuel 18:3 Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul
“In the Hebrew Bible, ‘the covenant’ usually describes the entire relationship between God and the children of Israel. Terms such as ‘contract,’ ‘agreement,’ ‘treaty,’ ‘obligation,’ ‘brotherhood,’ ‘law,’ and ‘cutting’ or ‘binding’ express facets of the covenant. But none of these alone is sufficient to capture the full meaning of this distinctive, self-contained Israelite religious concept. It has been said that according to the Israelite concept of covenant, one enters into a fellowship of the strongest order with another party, virtually becoming like that person himself, as in the covenant between Jonathan and David in 1 Samuel 18:1, 3–4.” (John W. Welch, “Word Studies from the New Testament,” Ensign, Jan. 1995, 29)
1 Samuel 18:4 Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was upon him, and gave it to David
Apparently, Jonathan never wanted to be king. He was a fearless warrior who attacked the Philistines against great odds (1 Sam. 14:1-14). Everyone in Israel must have known him as a great warrior and a great prince. He had all the qualities that a king needed—except the desire to be king. When Jonathan stripped himself of the robe and gave it to David, he was saying, “I relinquish the right to my father’s throne; the Lord make thee king in my stead.”
Jeffrey R. Holland
Aristotle said once that friendship is a single soul dwelling in two bodies. No definition of friendship could better describe the relationship of David and Jonathan in the Old Testament. Jonathan, the son of King Saul, was a valiant soldier in his own right and a worthy young prince in Israel. But when David came onto the scene fresh from his mighty victory over Goliath, having already been anointed by the prophet Samuel, it was he, not Jonathan, who would be successor to the increasingly disobedient Saul.
To a lesser man—or a lesser friend—than Jonathan, David would have been a terrible threat, a natural rival. But he wasn’t. We don’t know that Jonathan expected to succeed his father as king, but he certainly could have foreseen that possibility. What we do know is that “the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul” (1 Sam. 18:1). So great was their devotion to one another that they “made a covenant” of loyalty. As a symbolic token of his devotion to the newly anointed king, Jonathan stripped himself of the princely robe he wore “and gave it to David, and his garments, even to his sword, and to his bow, and to his girdle” (1 Sam. 18:4). (“Real Friendship,” New Era, June 1998, 62–63)
1 Samuel 18:8 Saul was very wroth, and the saying displeased him
Saul was the king. He had all the money, power, and control he wanted. But that would not be enough. His envy led to a jealousy that revealed the smallness of his heart. Without the Spirit, his character deteriorated to a level of depravity reminiscent of a later royal despot, Herod the Great. He became a pathetic, paranoid person, jealous of the harp-playing shepherd boy.
Ezra Taft Benson
Saul became an enemy to David through pride. He was jealous because the crowds of Israelite women were singing that “Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands.” (1 Sam. 18:6–8.)
The proud stand more in fear of men’s judgment than of God’s judgment. (See D&C 3:6–7; D&C 30:1–2; D&C 60:2.) “What will men think of me?” weighs heavier than “What will God think of me?” (“Beware of Pride,” Ensign, May 1989, 5)
1 Samuel 18:12 Saul was afraid of David
Saul was afraid of David? You would think David would be afraid of Saul after the king twice tried to kill him. Fear and Jealousy are attributes of the wicked—they do not reside in the saints of God, “for perfect love casteth out all fear” (Moroni 8:16). David doesn’t ever seem afraid of Saul; he never resents him; he never seeks retaliation; he honors him as the Lord’s anointed king.
1 Samuel 18:17 let the hand of the Philistines be upon him
In a foreshadowing of David’s moment of greatest weakness, Saul tries to kill David by sending him against the Philistines. Does the Lord consider that murder? Is it better to let another do the murdering for you?
David sent Uriah into the heat of battle then commanded the officers to withdraw leaving him alone in battle (2 Sam. 11:14-17). The Lord still held David responsible for murder. The result was that David fell from his exaltation (D&C 132:39).
1 Samuel 18:25 The king desireth not any dowry, but an hundred foreskins of the Philistines
I suppose David didn’t need to kill the Philistines to get the foreskins. What if he had just asked nicely? “Could I pretty please have 100 volunteers to give up their foreskins?” After all, Saul didn’t specifically require that the Philistines be killed.
1 Samuel 18:29 Saul was yet the more afraid of David
“Over the years these seeds [of envy] ripened into full bloom as jealousy began to eat away at Saul’s rational powers and move him to seek David’s death.
“On one occasion, Saul sent David on a seemingly impossible mission against the Philistines, hoping that the enemy would accomplish what he himself had been unable to do. But the mission was successful, bringing more honor to the young man who little needed it and a lessening of honor to the king.
“Saul subordinated everything else to his all-consuming desire to kill David: when his son, Jonathan, identified himself with David, an angry Saul almost killed him; eighty-five priesthood leaders, mistakenly accused of aiding David, were butchered in a pitiless massacre; whenever David’s whereabouts was ascertained, Saul led a personal campaign against him.
“David had succeeded in staying alive, despite Saul’s best efforts to the contrary. Never did he make any effort to avenge the accumulating wrongs committed against him by Saul. The king’s actions were left entirely to the Lord to judge and to reward in his own due time.
“On at least two occasions, in the cave and on the field, David could have killed Saul. Each time the young man’s followers urged him to kill the king, believing that Saul had been delivered into David’s hands. But David knew that all men are in the hands of God, and he refused to draw his sword against the Lord’s anointed. The impeccable faith of the boy who went forth to meet Goliath was still burning deep in the young man, who knew that his time would come to be king.
“Although David undoubtedly had a strong desire to defend himself and take revenge on Saul, he was able to reconcile these desires with his absolute respect for authority in the form of the king, and with his love for the Lord. (See 1 Sam. 18–24.)” (Keith Meservy, “The Peaceful Life through Reconciliation: Five Stories from the Old Testament,” Ensign, July 1986, 21)
1 Samuel 19:20 the company of the prophets
James E. Talmage
Samuel, who was established in the eyes of all Israel as a prophet of the Lord (1 Sam. 3:19, 20), organized the prophets into a society for common instruction and edification. He established schools for the prophets, where men were trained in things pertaining to holy offices; the students were generally called "sons of the prophets" (1 Kings 20:35; 2 Kings 2:3, 5, 7; 4:1, 38; 9:1). Such schools were established at Ramah (1 Sam. 19:19, 20), Bethel (2 Kings 2:3), Jericho (2 Kings 2:5), Gilgal (2 Kings 4:38). The members seem to have lived together as a society (2 Kings 6:1-4). In the present dispensation, a similar organization was effected under the direction of the prophet Joseph Smith; this also received the name of the School of the Prophets. (Articles of Faith [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1981], 444)
1 Samuel 19:20 the Spirit of God was upon the messengers of Saul, and they also prophesied
Saul had difficulty with his servants following orders. He had commanded them previously to kill David (1 Sam. 19:1), but none of them seemed excited to carry out the order. Angry that a group of priests had fed and protected David, Saul commanded that they be killed. “But the servants of the king would not put forth their hand to fall upon the priests of the Lord” (1 Sam. 22:17). This time, Saul’s servants are sent to kill, but are instead overcome by the Spirit.
This story is reminiscent of the time a constable was sent to arrest Wilford Woodruff. Like Saul’s servants, he was so overcome with the Spirit that he could not perform his duty.
“On the 8th [of March 1840 in Herefordshire England] at the meeting a constable was sent on complaint of a minister to arrest Brother Woodruff for preaching to the people. Elder Woodruff said he had a license to preach as well as the rector, and if the constable would take a chair and sit beside him until the close of the meeting he would be at his service. He then gave a discourse on the first principles and at the close of the meeting opened the door for baptism. Several came forward among whom were four of the preachers and the constable, who said: ‘Mr. Woodruff, I would like to be baptized.’ He then went to the complaining rector and told him that if he wanted Mr. Woodruff arrested, he must serve the writ himself, for he had heard him preach the only true Gospel sermon he had ever heard.” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Church History and Modern Revelation, 4 vols. [Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1946-1949], 4: 52)
The Prophet Joseph Smith had this same power over people. As Parley P. Pratt said, “Even his most bitter enemies were generally overcome, if he could once get their ears.” (Hyrum Andrus, They Knew the Prophet, 57)
1 Samuel 19:24 he stripped off his clothes also, and prophesied before Samuel
Anciently, one who was shocked and horrified at bad news would rend their clothes symbolizing great grief and suffering (Gen. 37:34; Josh 7:6). On the other side of the emotional spectrum, Samuel appears to be celebrating his spiritual experience by stripping off his clothes. This symbolic gesture of submission is certainly not a practice we would condone today.
“How was the meeting?”
“Great until the Stake President took his clothes off and started prophesying!”
Culturally, such a gesture must have been a demonstration of humility and submission to the Lord. Later we find David celebrating before the Lord, “David danced before the Lord with all his might; and David was girded with a linen ephod” (2 Sam. 6:14). His wife, Michal, thought he was underdressed, “How glorious was the king of Israel to day, who uncovered himself to day in the eyes of the handmaids of his servants, as one of the vain fellows shamelessly uncovereth himself.” David felt no guilt, replying, “I will play before the Lord.” (2 Sam. 6:20-21)
“In both the Old and New Testaments we have instances in which the bodily functions of prophets were suspended as part of a revelatory experience. Indeed, such a state was recognized as a vehicle for receiving revelation. The first of such stories involved Balaam, who, ‘falling into a trance,’ had ‘his eyes open[ed]’ that he might see ‘the vision of the Almighty’ (Numbers 24:4, 16). The second involved King Saul and his search for David. Having been told that David was at Ramah, Saul ‘sent a party of men to seize him. When they saw the company of prophets in rapture, with Samuel standing at their head, the Spirit of God came upon them and they fell into prophetic rapture. When this was reported to Saul he sent another party. These also fell into a rapture, and when he sent more men a third time, they did the same. Saul himself then set out for Ramah and came to the great cistern in Secu. He asked where Samuel and David were and was told that they were at Naioth in Ramah. On his way there the Spirit of God came upon him too and he went on, in a rapture as he went, till he came to Naioth in Ramah. There he too stripped off his clothes and like the rest fell into a rapture before Samuel and lay down naked all that day and all that night. That is why men say, Is Saul also among the prophets?’ (New English Bible, 1 Samuel 19:20-24.)
“We read of Ezekiel being transported by the Spirit to Tell-abib, near the river Chebar, where he apparently remained in a trance for seven days. At the end of that period the word of the Lord came to him… From what we can deduce from scriptural writ, it appears that a trance is a state in which the body and its functions become quiescent in order that the full powers of the Spirit may be centered on the revelations of heaven. Freed from the fetters of a mortal body, man's spirit can be ushered into the divine presence; it can hear what otherwise could not be heard and see what otherwise could not be seen-even the visions of eternity and even the Almighty himself. Yet the trance, like all other spiritual experiences, is subject to counterfeiting. Such counterfeits were common, for instance, to the frontier camp meetings of the United States. The trance might be likened to another medium of revelation, namely that of the gift of tongues, which was also commonly mimicked at the camp meetings and in many other settings. None would question tongues as a legitimate gift of heaven, and likewise there is no question that the gift of tongues has been and is often counterfeited.” (Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, 4 vols. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1987-1992], 3: 139)
1 Samuel 20:26-27 he is not clean; surely he is not clean
What is Saul thinking is wrong with David? He is concerned that he is unclean according to the strict requirements of the Law of Moses. A man could be “unclean until the even” for many things, including touching a bandage, soiled bedding, or something dead. If a man and woman lay together, they were both unclean for that day. Similarly, “if any man’s seed of copulation go out from him, then he shall wash all his flesh in water, and be unclean until the even.” (Lev. 15:5-18)
These violations of sterility all related to the unclean aspects of the mortal body. Physical cleanliness became a metaphor to help the children of Israel understand spiritual cleanliness and purity. For the most part, the individual was unclean for one day only. This must have been a common reason for a man’s absence. While certain other violations meant longer periods of uncleanness, the most common only lasted one day. That is why David’s absence the second day becomes much more conspicuous. Certainly, there must be another reason why David was absent, “Wherefore cometh not the son of Jesse to meat, neither yesterday, nor to day?”
1 Samuel 20:34 Jonathan arose from the table in fierce anger, and did eat no meat the second day
“Jonathan had left the feast in moral indignation at the scene which had taken place before the whole court. But deeper far was his grief for the wrong done to his friend. That day of feasting became one of fasting to Jonathan. Next morning he went to give the preconcerted signal of danger. But he could not so part from his friend. Sending back the lad to the city with his bow, quiver, and arrows, the two friends once more met, but for a moment. There was not time for lengthened speech; the danger was urgent. They were not unmanly tears which the two wept, ‘till David wept loudly.’ The parting must be brief—only just sufficient for Jonathan to remind his friend of their covenant of friendship in God, to Whose care he now commended him. Then Jonathan retraced his lonely way to the city, while David hastened on his flight southward to Nob. Only once again, and that in sadly altered circumstances, did these two noblest men in Israel meet.” (Alfred Edersheim, Old Testament Bible History, [Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Publishers, 1995] 483)
1 Samuel 23:13-14 David and his men… went whithersoever they could go
“David’s flight takes him throughout the land, from Nob, the city of the priests; to Gath, the hometown of Goliath; to the Cave of Adullam, in the far western regions of Judah; to the land of Moab, on Judah’s eastern border; and back to Keilah, again on the western border with Philistia. Additional retreats take him to Ziph, southeast of Keilah; to En-gedi, an oasis on the Dead Sea; and to Maon and Hachilah, towns in Judah. Throughout this time spent in the wilderness, David gathers about him a militia, all the while becoming more threatening to Saul (1 Samuel 22:1-2)…
“David’s stay at Keilah is particularly telling of the tragedy that continues to plague Israel because of Saul’s refusal to relinquish the office of kingship (1 Samuel 23:1-14). The city of Keilah, located at the foothills of Judah’s territory, is continually besieged by its enemy, who is infamous for raiding their harvests… The struggle between Saul and David has tragic implications for the people of this beleaguered city. Threatened now, not by the Philistines, but by their very own king, they so fear Saul’s retaliation for harboring the fugitive David that they plot to betray the latter. David discovers this by another inquiry to God and flees before it is too late. The greater damage to the loyalties of the unified regions of Judah, however, cannot be undone, and the hunt for the popular hero David will continue to divide the people.” (Barry J. Beitzel, ed., Biblica: The Bible Atlas, [Australia: Global Book Publishing, 2006], 231-232)
1 Samuel 23:14 Saul sought him every day, but God delivered him not into his hand
“Saul had lost all control. As he struggled against the decision of God, personified in David, he became more and more aware that his efforts were futile. But this dawning recognition was at war with his stubborn will. There was no fault in David—David respected Saul as the anointed of the Lord. Twice he spared Saul’s life—first in the dark cave at En-Gedi, and second in Saul’s camp in the wilderness of Ziff. Realizing this, Saul wept and cried aloud, admitting his evil to David and calling out plaintively to him that he, too, knew that David would surely be king over Israel.
“The final days of Saul’s tragic life are heightened by his growing paranoia and his terrible need for help outside himself. Formerly, he had been able to appeal to God, to the prophet Samuel, and to the priests. Now, however, “when Saul enquired of the Lord, the Lord answered him not, neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets.” (1 Sam. 28:6.) He was completely alone. Samuel was dead, and Saul himself had murdered the priests. Saul’s own family no longer respected him. The people whom he had sought to serve refused to support him.
“’All of you have conspired against me,’ Saul cried at Gibeah. ‘There is none of you that is sorry for me.’ (1 Sam. 22:8.) Yet Saul did not repent; neither did he change.” (Richard G. Ellsworth, “The Tragic Dimensions of Saul,” Ensign, June 1990, 40)
1 Samuel 23:23 take knowledge of all the lurking places where he hideth… I will search him out throughout all the thousands of Judah
(Barry J. Beitzel, ed., Biblica: The Bible Atlas, [Australia: Global Book Publishing, 2006], 231)
1 Samuel 24:10 I will not put forth mine hand against my lord; for he is the Lord’s anointed
“David’s adversary was delivered into his hands. With one thrust of his spear, David could have been rid of Saul and the discomforts of life that Saul had caused him. His men urged him to do it. But he wouldn’t…
“Nearly the same scenario repeated itself two chapters later: Saul came down against David with 3,000 of his troops. At night, when they were sleeping, David and one of his men snuck into Saul’s camp and came to Saul’s side. David’s companion urged him to take up Saul’s spear and thrust it through him, to put an end to the misery Saul had been causing him. But David wouldn’t. ‘The Lord forbid that I should stretch forth mine hand against the Lord’s anointed,’ he answered… (1 Sam. 26:16-20)
“David’s response in each of these situations fills me with wonder. How is such a response possible? How can we not only resist vengeance toward those who have harmed us but apparently feel no desire for it? David’s response at the news of Saul’s death in Second Samuel chapter 1 makes this question even more salient, for when he heard that both Saul and Jonathan had been killed in battle, he wept for Jonathan and Saul alike: ‘Then David took hold on his clothes, and rent them… and wept, and fasted until even, for Saul, and for Jonathan his son… And David lamented with this lamentation over Saul and over Jonathan his son… Saul and Jonathan were lovely and pleasant in their lives, and in their death they were not divided: they were swifter than eagles, they were stronger than lions… How are the mighty fallen…!’ (2 Sam. 1:11-27)
“What is striking about David’s response here is that there is almost no difference in his expressed feelings for Saul and for Jonathan. He is devastated by both of their deaths. One would expect him to feel that way about Jonathan, but Saul? How could David’s feelings for one who tried to destroy him be so similar to the feelings he had for one who loved him as his own soul?
“Accordingly, the last half of First Samuel presents us with two intriguing questions: How is it possible that two men, Saul and Jonathan, could respond so differently to their loss of the throne? And how is it possible that one man, David, could respond with the same loving attitude toward two men, Saul and Jonathan, whose treatment of him was so different? What makes such responses possible?
“Few questions are more pertinent to our lives, for who has not felt envious, angry, or embittered toward others? Such feelings seem to haunt our lives, but Jonathan and David suggest that they don’t have to. Their lives testify of a better way.” (James L. Ferrell, The Hidden Christ, [Deseret Book, 2009] 163-165)
1 Samuel 24:12 The Lord judge between me and thee… but mine hand shall not be upon thee
Abraham H. Cannon
We of all people upon the face of the earth should be filled with that love of God which cannot be overcome by the acts of men, even though these acts are injurious to us. We should be able to say when wrong is done us, "The Lord judge between me and thee;" and from our hearts there should be crushed out every feeling of bitterness and hatred; for it we allow a spark thereof to remain, it will rankle, and it will grow as the weed, choking out the good seed and preventing the development of the power of the Spirit of God within us. (Brian H. Stuy, ed., Collected Discourses, 5 vols. [Burbank, Calif., and Woodland Hills, Ut.: B.H.S. Publishing, 1987-1992], vol. 4, February 2, 1896)
Joseph Fielding Smith
We hope and pray that you will go from this conference to your homes feeling in your hearts and from the depths of your souls to forgive one another, and never from this time forth to bear malice toward another fellow creature. We ought to say in our hearts, let the Lord judge between me and thee, but as for me, I will forgive. Go home and dismiss envy and hatred from your hearts; dismiss the feeling of unforgiveness; and cultivate in your souls that spirit of Christ that cried out upon the cross, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." (Luke 23:34.) This is the spirit that the Latter-day Saints ought to possess all the day long. It is a good thing to be at peace with the Lord. (Conference Report, October 1969, Third Day—Morning Meeting, 109)
Spencer W. Kimball
Sometimes the spirit of forgiveness is carried to the loftiest height to rendering assistance to the offender. Not to be revengeful, not to seek what outraged justice might demand, to leave the offender in God's hands this is admirable. But to return good for evil, this is the sublime expression of Christian love. (The Miracle of Forgiveness [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1969], chap 19)