“And Saul was very wroth, and the saying displeased him; and he said, They have ascribed unto David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed but thousands: and what can he have more but the kingdom? And Saul eyed David from that day and forward. And it came to pass on the morrow, that the evil spirit from God came upon Saul, and he prophesied in the midst of the house: and David played with his hand, as at other times: and there was a javelin in Saul’s hand. And Saul cast the javelin; for he said, I will smite David even to the wall with it. And David avoided out of his presence twice” (1 Samuel 18:8-11).
King Saul did not take too kindly to the jingle that the cheerleaders were singing. Being of a very suspicious disposition he immediately believed that David was planning to take over the kingdom. He had forgotten that David entered the camp as an innocent shepherd boy earlier that day.
The green-eyed monster of envy got the better of Saul. He was no longer planning great things for Israel’s hero, but instead began to plot his death. The song of victory that was being chanted around Jerusalem deeply angered Saul. Why were there no songs for him? Was he not their leader? It was like singing the National Anthem to Queen Elizabeth’s pet corgi rather than to the Queen herself! Saul literally seethed (Hebrew ‘charis’) with anger against David. Alexander Maclaren writes, “Envy and jealousy of those who threaten to outshine, or in anyway outdo, us is not confined to people in high places or with great reputations. The roots of them are in us all.” Jealous people do not take too kindly to others being honoured. “Such is the fruit of envy and uncharitableness” (John Wesley).
We can see something of what the “evil spirit” was in our text. Saul’s anger increased day by day as he “eyed David” as he went about his duties in the court. He watched for the slightest sign that David was about to lead a military coup against him. We know that Saul did highly regard David, but the problem was that he also had a “malignant hatred” in his heart (Jamieson, Fausset, Brown Commentary). “David came to Saul, and stood before him: and he loved him greatly; and he became his armourbearer” (1 Samuel 16:21) … “Saul became David’s enemy continually” (1 Samuel 18:29). What mischievous plan did he think David was scheming while he played the harp before him?
If the “evil spirit” was literally a demon rather than simply a mental disorder, then we have to conclude that God had ordered the spirit to get Saul to kill David, not once but twice. This seems highly unlikely. The word “prophesied” probably means that Saul was ranting and raging like a mad man before David began to play. We find exactly the same thing happening amongst the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18:29. Jamieson, Fausset, Brown suggest that the king “was in a frenzy, violent [and] raving.” Let us remember that it was because of the same jealous spirit that Christ was pinned to the cross and a javelin pierced His side. “Therefore when they were gathered together, Pilate said unto them, Whom will ye that I release unto you? Barabbas, or Jesus which is called Christ? For he knew that for envy they had delivered him” (Matthew 27:17-18) … “For he knew that the chief priests had delivered him for envy” (Mark 15:10).
David was in Saul’s presence to quieten his foul mood by playing music. He must have been warned about what Saul was like when he was in this condition, so stayed very alert. Somehow, probably due to his well-trained ear that was able to hear the slightest movement of a wild animal, he heard Saul reaching for his javelin. Saul ended his music therapy very dramatically.
David had done nothing to warrant Saul’s suspicion or anger, but now the King was attempting what Goliath had failed to do. This is further evidence of Saul’s dark and evil heart. God was with David, so one day Saul would be pinned to the ground rather than David pinned to the wall.
If others do not take notice of us, but instead seem to be honouring others, let us not take it to heart, but rather continue to commit our way unto God. “Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass” (Psalm 37:5) … “Commit thy works unto the LORD, and thy thoughts shall be established” (Proverbs 16:3). The green-eyed monster will destroy those who feed it. “A sound heart is the life of the flesh: but envy the rottenness of the bones” (Proverbs 14:30).