The Song of the Slayer

“And David went out whithersoever Saul sent him, and behaved himself wisely: and Saul set him over the men of war, and he was accepted in the sight of all the people, and also in the sight of Saul’s servants. And it came to pass as they came, when David was returned from the slaughter of the Philistine, that the women came out of all cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet king Saul, with tabrets, with joy, and with instruments of music. And the women answered one another as they played, and said, Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands” (1 Samuel 18:5-7).


What started out innocently enough would turn into one of David’s greatest trials. The women sang to welcome home a hero in much the same way as sportsmen and women are honoured by the city, but King Saul would take offence to their song, though he would not take it out on the singers, but instead seek the destruction of David.


David earned his promotion because what he achieved on the battlefield. King Saul made him a general in his army. Those who want to use them for their own political aims always promote heroes. So it seems that David was given a high-ranking position of “considerable command in” Saul’s army (Matthew Poole), which was just under that of Abner’s. We know that the king would later regret giving him this promotion.

The first statement of our text refers to the fact that David never used intrigue to gain position, but instead served Saul faithfully by doing everything that he was ordered to do. The Hebrew word behind “wisely” means to “prosper.” David was no crooked politician looking out for self. He behaved wisely and as a result was mightily blessed by the Lord. Neither did he let his promotion get the better of him. “He was able to bear all this respect and honour flowing in upon him on a sudden without being lifted up above measure” (Matthew Henry).

Everyone honoured and respected David because he practiced what he preached. People were impressed by the way he conducted his life in and outside of the King’s court, so that even those who had served Saul much longer than he were not disgruntled by his promotion. The bottom line is, they found no fault in him that was worthy of criticism. We can be sure that David faithfully served God regardless if anyone took notice or not. “Provide things honest in the sight of all men” (Romans 12:17) … “Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men: Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free” (Ephesians 6:5-8) … “Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God: And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ” (Colossians 3:22-24).


News of David’s victory over Goliath quickly went before him, so by the time the army arrived back in Jerusalem, the cheerleaders were already out on the streets praising him. This was David’s triumphant procession into Jerusalem. Two thousand years later the Lord Jesus Christ would be received into the city in a similar fashion. “On the next day much people that were come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, Took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord” (John 12:12-13) … “And many spread their garments in the way: and others cut down branches off the trees, and strowed them in the way. And they that went before, and they that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna; Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord: Blessed be the kingdom of our father David, that cometh in the name of the Lord: Hosanna in the highest” (Mark 11:8-10).

The women sang of David slaying “tens of thousands”, but this is of course poetic licence. In slaying the giant, in the eyes of the Israelites, David had slain all of the Philistines. Everyone was happy when Saul slew the Ammonites (see 1 Samuel 11), but now they were overjoyed with his new right-hand man. For a brief moment the population of Jerusalem had forgotten just how cruel and suspicious Saul could be. “The Hebrew women, therefore, were merely paying the customary congratulations to David as the deliverer of their country, but they committed a great indiscretion by praising a subject at the expense of their sovereign” (Jamieson, Fausset, Brown Commentary).


We see here how the course of a person’s life can turn on a seemingly innocent and insignificant event. The singing of the women of Jerusalem changed David’s life, but instead of surfing on the crest of a wave, he would find heartache, sorry and persecution.