“And Saul was afraid of David, because the LORD was with him, and was departed from Saul. Therefore Saul removed him from him, and made him his captain over a thousand; and he went out and came in before the people. And David behaved himself wisely in all his ways; and the LORD was with him. Wherefore when Saul saw that he behaved himself very wisely, he was afraid of him. But all Israel and Judah loved David, because he went out and came in before them. And Saul said to David, Behold my elder daughter Merab, her will I give thee to wife: only be thou valiant for me, and fight the LORD’S battles. For Saul said, Let not mine hand be upon him, but let the hand of the Philistines be upon him. And David said unto Saul, Who am I? and what is my life, or my father’s family in Israel, that I should be son in law to the king? But it came to pass at the time when Merab Saul’s daughter should have been given to David, that she was given unto Adriel the Meholathite to wife” (1 Samuel 18:12-19).
Like all despots Saul was convinced that there was going to be an attempt to remove him from power, especially since he had tried to kill David. Maybe he feared that David would retaliate and seek his death. The people loved David, so Saul could not lay a finger upon him. Instead he concocted an evil plot to have him removed for good. He thought that all his problems would disappear if one man was dead. “Ungodly conduct brings with it great fears” (John G. Butler).
Saul promoted David once again, but he hoped that it would be his downfall. The text tells us that Saul’s fear was so great that he did not want David anywhere near him. There was no need to do this, since David was not evil-minded like the king. He thought that if he could remove his rival from the spotlight then the hearts of the people would return to him. Even though this was the wicked plan of Saul to destroy David, God used it to get His servant away from danger.
Saul’s new captain obeyed every command to the letter, even to fighting in the worst of battles, but the Lord was with David, so no sword or spear could stop him. David’s promotion was actually a demotion, and he could easily have been humiliated by it. Saul had made him a captain over a thousand, but he had already been given authority “over the men of war” (1 Samuel 18:5).
David had won the victory over Goliath and so ought to have had Saul’s daughter in marriage. “And the men of Israel said, Have ye seen this man that is come up? surely to defy Israel is he come up: and it shall be, that the man who killeth him, the king will enrich him with great riches, and will give him his daughter, and make his father’s house free in Israel” (1 Samuel 17:25). We see then that Saul had not kept his promise the first time, but tries the same thing once again.
The king did not intend to keep his latest promise either. He had tried, but failed to kill David himself, so thought that he would surely die in battle, but he did not. David trusted in God even in the worst of situations Saul sent him into, so the enemy was always vanquished by him. It is highly likely that David knew that the king was planning his demise, hence his argument why he was not worthy to marry the king’s daughter.
Some commentators believe that Saul intended to make David bitter and angry in giving his daughter to another man instead of David. If he could get him to speak evil of the king, then that would be sufficient grounds to execute him. By marrying off Merab to Adriel Saul brought a curse upon them. “But the king took the two sons of Rizpah the daughter of Aiah, whom she bare unto Saul, Armoni and Mephibosheth; and the five sons of Michal the daughter of Saul, whom she brought up for Adriel the son of Barzillai the Meholathite: And he delivered them into the hands of the Gibeonites, and they hanged them in the hill before the LORD: and they fell all seven together, and were put to death in the days of harvest, in the first days, in the beginning of barley harvest” (2 Samuel 21:8-9).
God was with David. David acted wisely. These two statements tell us why David was always going to be victorious regardless of what others planned for him. The same holds true for us too. “What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). David had been removed, demoted, and humiliated, but he kept his eyes on the Lord. The king tried to belittle him in the eyes of the people, but they loved David even more. “God turned all Saul’s devices upon himself, and to David’s advantage” (Matthew Poole).