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Bible: What Does 1 Samuel 18-20 Teach Us About Demonic Activity and Loyal Friendship?

Updated on August 21, 2016

Deception: A Way of Life?

As you peruse today's reading, note how often the characters practice deception in order to protect their loved ones from harm.

Ask yourself:

Do you think God "frowns upon" such deception, yet nevertheless permits it as part of His plan?

Can you think of other instances where Biblical heroes told lies?

David and Saul


Saul: Demon-Possessed?

Do you think Saul was demon-possessed or merely demon-harassed?

See results

Saul's Suspicion of David

David's victory on the battlefield also wins him a lifelong friend in Jonathan, Saul's son (v. 1).

Since Saul habitually recruited “mighty men of valor” for his army (cf. 14:52), he keeps David nearby (v. 2).

Jonathan, David's new covenant-brother, then honors the hero with a princely gift (vv. 3-4).

David’s many military triumphs gain him more responsibility (v. 5a), great respect from the army, and widespread popularity in Saul's court (v. 5b).

As threatening as David’s fame is to Saul's tenuous hold on the kingdom, even more so is the lavish praise the former receives from the female minstrels of Israel, who ascribe to him greater glory than they do to the king (vv. 6-7).

From that day on, Saul regards suspiciously his former favorite (vv. 8-9).

In fact, the next day a demon-tormented Saul tries twice (but fails) to skewer David against a wall with his javelin, while the latter was ministering musically to him (vv. 10-11).

As David's popularity increases in all Israel and Judah—for it was evident to all that he "behaved very wisely" (vv. 14, 15), that he "went out and came in before them" as the captain of a thousand (vv. 13, 16), and that the "LORD was with him" (vv. 12, 14)—so does Saul's fear of him because the LORD had departed from his life (vv. 12, 15).

[This departure probably signifies that God no longer was “with him” in the sense of empowering him as the anointed king].

A Triumphant David


Saul recovers temporarily from his dementia, but his antagonism toward David takes on a different form.

While putting up a friendly façade, promising to make humble David his son-in-law and charging him to "fight the LORD's battles," he now secretly decides to depend upon the Philistines to "do him in" (vv. 17-18).

The king's original scheme falls flat, for his daughter Merab marries another man. In the meantime, an alternate plan involving his other daughter Michal (who apparently has Philistine loyalties) presents itself and pleases the king (vv. 19-21).

Through his servants, Saul endeavors to convince David to become his son-in-law, but the latter feels completely unworthy of the honor, being aware that he is but a peasant boy from a lower-class family (vv. 22-24).

Instead of a dowry, the king cunningly suggests that David bring him the foreskins of one hundred Philistines, hoping that the young warrior would fall in battle (v. 25).

David, overwhelmed with the prospect, kills twice as many of his enemies.

By fulfilling Saul's request in such a magnificent fashion, he becomes the king's son-in-law (vv. 26-27).

David's victories and progress in grace cause Saul to fear him more, even to the point of hatred; meanwhile, the young king-to-be continues to behave wisely and gain greater fame in Israel (vv. 28-30).



1 Samuel 19

Commanded to kill David (v. 1), Jonathan instead acts as his protector (v. 2), spy (v. 3), and intercessor/advocate (vv. 4-5).

After the king's son pleads for his friend, Saul relents and again invites David into his court, swearing that he would do him no harm (vv. 6-7).

But as soon as David wins another great victory over the Philistines, Saul, tormented by demons, attempts to murder him again; however, once more he fails to achieve his purpose (vv. 8-10; cf. 18:10-11).

Meanwhile at David’s home, Michal encourages her husband to escape before morning to avoid death at the hands of Saul's servants (vv. 11-12a).

To help him evade capture, she disguises one of her household idols as a human being, places it in David's bed, and then tells the king's messengers that her husband is ill (vv. 13-14).

Detecting this report as a delay tactic, Saul sends his men back to David's house specifically to arrest him (v. 15).

When they discover the image instead of the fugitive, Saul scolds Michal for her deception; she, however, covers her fabrication neatly with yet another lie (vv. 16-17).

Meanwhile, David flees to Samuel and relates to him Saul's misdeeds toward him.

They both leave town (v. 18), but the king's spies report their whereabouts (v. 19).

Then some very peculiar events occur. Saul sends three successive groups of messengers to David's refuge in Naioth, and they all begin prophesying while in Samuel's presence (vv. 20-21).

Finally, the king himself visits Naioth, and even he prophesies (vv. 22-23)!

Not only does he prophesy, but Saul also strips to his undergarments while standing before Samuel. Consequently, the proverb circulates again (v. 24; cf. 1 Samuel 10:12).

[In order to prevent men from killing a righteous man, the Spirit of God comes upon them and enables them to prophesy.

How very, very odd this episode is, yet it is also surprisingly effective]!

1 Samuel 20

When David, puzzled by Saul's actions against him, asks Jonathan why the king still seeks to kill him, Jonathan is incredulous (vv. 1-2).

Swearing before God, David asserts that the king truly wants him dead, and suggests that Saul is keeping Jonathan in the dark about the matter to spare him grief (v. 3).

Giving David “the benefit of the doubt,” Jonathan maintains his pledge of support for his friend (v. 4).

David therefore plans a test for the New Moon meal to learn Saul's intentions (v. 5): Jonathan must tell his father a lie about David's whereabouts (vv. 6-7).

[Clearly, David resorted to deception here to further his strategy.

Was his plan ethical?

Was this decision the best one he could have made?]

David reminds Jonathan of their covenant, and the latter determines to stay loyal to his friend, even if he must oppose his father (vv. 8-9).

They go to the field—David's hideout for the next three days—to plan further action (that is, if Jonathan should learn that Saul still hates David) [vv. 10-11].

Regardless of the circumstances—whether good or evil—Jonathan promises under oath to Yahweh that he would inform David about Saul's mind as soon as he discerns what it is (vv. 12-13).

Saul's son also wants David to assure him that he will preserve him and his house from revenge. Jonathan’s future lord so swears (vv. 14-16).

Once he discovers Saul's purposes, Jonathan promises David that he would return to the field near the stone Ezel where the latter would be dwelling, and he would signal him (vv. 17-20).

Jonathan prearranges to send his young attendant to retrieve arrows in one of two directions; David would act according to whatever direction he hears (vv. 21-23).

David and Jonathan


On the day of the New Moon, everyone is present at dinner, except David; Saul thinks little of his absence, dismissing it as a case of uncleanness (vv. 24-26).

On the second day the king inquires of Jonathan, and the latter tells his father the prearranged lie as well as David's excuse (vv. 27-29).

Greatly incensed, Saul curses Jonathan and commands him to bring David to him that he may die (vv. 30-31).

When Jonathan questions his father's reasoning, Saul hurls a spear at him; angry and grieving, Jonathan retires without eating (vv. 32-34).

The next morning Jonathan takes a lad with him to the field, pretending to try out a new bow.

After shooting some arrows, he directs the boy to fetch them according to his pre-arrangement with David (vv. 35-37).

When his young helper returns with the arrows, Jonathan gives him his weapons and tells him to take them to the city (vv. 38-40).

With the boy gone, David appears from his hiding place, and thanks Jonathan in typical, near Eastern style (v. 41).

The time comes for the two friends to part; the sorrowful encounter ends with Jonathan reciting their sworn covenant (v. 42).

© 2013 glynch1


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    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      5 years ago from The Caribbean

      Another interesting account! In response to your question at the top, I do not know whether God frowns. However, when He neither condemns nor approves the act, I am tempted to think that in His big scheme of things, it is not worth His mention. Like in the case of Rahab's lie we can focus on it and miss the bigger picture of how God used her. Here too, there is a bigger plot of God's purpose. What do you think?


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