Shaul wages war against David

Summary: Saul plotted with his servants and his son Jonathan to kill David. Yet Jonathan loved David and forewarned David of the growing danger. While Jonathan reasoned with his father not to hurt David, Saul’s hatred grew stronger. He sent messengers to kill David in his house, but was tipped off by Michal who deceived Saul’s hit men allowing David to escape. David fled to Ramah where Samuel lived. Saul attempted to have David arrested there but subsequent groups of messengers were unable to as they began to have prophesies there. Saul himself travelled to Ramah and also began to prophesise in front of Samuel saving David from immanent capture.

A deeper look: As Saul plotted to kill David, his son Jonathan tried to reason with him to spare David’s life. Jonathan decided to investigate to see if his father was resolute in his aspiration to see David killed. He reminded his father that David had saved the Jewish people from the Philistines and in particular from Goliat (Goliath). Saul pledged that David’s life was safe and David returned to play his sweet music for the melancholy king.

Saul had hoped that at some point David would be killed fighting the Philistines, so after David returned again victorious, his mood soured (Samuel I 19:8-9). As was playing his soothing music, Saul suddenly lunged at him with a spear. David managed to escape and fled the palace.

Rabbi Levi ben Gershon (d. 1344) noted that David was in the middle of playing music when Saul tried to strike. He attacked David in such a way that he caught David off guard; the spear was sure to kill him. Yet miraculously, David was able to move away at the last moment.

Rabbi Moshe ben David (d. 1777) points out the source for this miracle. When Saul originally swore to Jonathan that he would not kill David, Saul said חַי יְקֹוָק אִם יוּמָת, ‘As God lives, he will not die’. He should have said חַי יְקֹוָק אִם “אַמִיתָּנוּ” ‘As God lives, I will not kill him’. Rabbi Valle explains that the use of the passive voice was because the oath was not in fact Saul’s, but God’s speaking through Saul. David’s primary quality was that he recognised the Source of his salvation was God alone (see Psalms 27:1 and ibid. 20:8) and God once again replied in turn.