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84. DAVID PERSECUTED BY SAUL.
[1 Sam. XVIII.—XXIV.] David was now frequently sent out by Saul on military expeditions; he was successful in whatever he undertook, and was held in honour and respect both by the courtiers and the people. But a slight incident, unduly magnified by the king's morbidness, soon disturbed the friendly relations between Saul and David. As both returned together to Gibeah, after the pursuit and slaughter of the Philistines, the women came forth out of their tents to meet the conquerors with singing and dancing, with tabrets and harps and cymbals. They played and sang to one another, "Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands. Alas! for the evil spirit that was upon Saul; it took, in this instance, the form of jealousy, which was keenly aroused by those words. He will have even the kingdom !'he exclaimed; and he looked from that day upon David with uneasiness and distrust. The old gloom settled upon him more darkly; it could now no more be chased away by music; David's harp had lost its charm. Nay, one day when David was playing to him as usual, Saul threw his javelin at his head, intending to kill him. David happily eluded the thrust of the weapon twice, and hastened out of the king's presence. Afraid of the young warrior, and yet not daring to attack his life again, because he saw that God's favour was with him, Saul removed him from his household, and made him captain over a thousand men, in the hope that the dangers and chances of war would accomplish what he desired. With this object, he sent him forth to do battle against the Philistines, promising him the hand of his daughter Merab as the reward of his victories. David was victorious, yet Merab was given in marriage to Adriel the Meholathite.
Saul had a second daughter, Michal, who loved David devotedly. When he was told of her affection, he feigned approval, and openly encouraged David in his hopes, trusting that he might thus ensnare him in a fatal combat with the ruthless Philistines. But David said discreetly, “Does it seem to you a small thing to be a king's son-in-law, seeing that I am
a poor man, and lightly esteemed?' But the servants of Saul told David that the king wished indeed to give him his daughter in marriage, and that the only dowry he required would be a hundred lives of the Philistines. So David went forth and slew the enemy. Returning with double the demanded trophies, he claimed Michal for his wife.
Saul's fears grew as David's military triumphs became more numerous and more brilliant, till the jealousy was fanned into hatred. It became so violent and so unrestrained that he once more resolved to kill him, and it was only on the earnest and pathetic entreaties of Jonathan, who reminded him of David's important services, that he desisted from his criminal purpose, and became even reconciled to the youthful hero. But the friendly intercourse did not last long. Another war broke out against the Philistines. David was as courageous and successful as ever.
This roused Saul's envy to such a degree, that again, in a fit of ungovernable fury, he attempted to slay him with his javelin. David was alarmed, and sought refuge in his own house. There, however, he was followed by the king's messengers, who were ordered to prevent his flight. Michal, justly fear
ing for the life of her husband, caused him to escape • through a window, and thus to elude his pursuers. She
then took an image of the Teraphim, laid it in David's bed, and covered it. When Saul's messengers came to her, demanding that David should be given up to them, she said that he was ill; and when they had reported this
reply, they returned with the king's orders, Bring him up to me in the bed, that I may slay him.' Then she led them into the room, and showed them the image in the bed. Saul upbraided his daughter, but she pleaded that David had threatened to kill her on the spot unless she sent him away unharmed.
Meanwhile David had proceeded for protection to Samuel in Ramah, whence, for greater safety, both soon afterwards went to Naioth. Thither also the implacable king sent his men with peremptory commands to bring the fugitive back to Gibeah ; but as they approached Naioth, and came to one of the schools of prophets founded by Samuel, they were suddenly filled with religious ardour, and, joining Samuel and his disciples, they stayed and prophesied. Seeing that they did not come back, Saul again sent messengers, but these also were seized by the Divine spirit, and did not return. For the third time royal delegates came to Naioth, and they remained and were inspired as the others had been. Then Saul went himself to Ramah, and asked the people, Where are Samuel and David ? When he was told that they were at Naioth, he at once set out towards this place; and as he approached the town, the spirit of God descended upon him, and his soul was stirred to its very depths. He came before Samuel in a state of frenzied enthusiasm; stripping off his clothes, he lay fasting before him through all that day and the following night.
David continued but a short time in Naioth. He was a man of action, and could not remain long in seclusion, associating only with the prophets and musicians trained and led by Samuel. He secretly returned to Gibeah, and came to Jonathan with a tone of deep despair in his cry: •What have I done, what is my iniquity, and what is my sin before thy father that he seeks my life?' Jonathan endeavoured to comfort him, but it was in vain, for
David knew full well that Saul would leave nothing untried to take his life. Jonathan resolved to ascertain his father's designs. On the morrow, the first day of the New-moon, it was customary for the king to feast with his court. David was expected to take part in the banquet, as usual, but he determined to remain away, on the plea that he had gone to Bethlehem, to be present at the yearly sacrifice of his family. Should this reason satisfy Saul, it would be considered a favourable sign for David; but should it kindle his anger, then he would know that his life was in danger. Jonathan agreed to this plan, and bade David hide himself in the fields by the stone Ezel. Thither he would return to him after the feast, and there he would let him know by a prearranged sign whether he might approach Saul or ought to flee. In this time of harassing anxiety and affliction, the two friends renewed their vows of attachment. Jonathan, well divining the future greatness of David and the decline of his own family, fervently said: “The Lord be with thee as He has been with my father; but do not cut off thy kindness from my house for ever; no, not when the Lord has cut off the enemies of David every one from the face of the earth. So “then Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying, Let the Lord even require it at the hand of David's enemies. ... And as regards the matter of which thou and I have spoken, behold, the Lord be between thee and me for ever.'
At the banquet, at which, besides Jonathan, also Abner, the captain of the host, and other men of distinction were present, David's place was unoccupied. The king thought he might have been prevented by some chance or unavoidable accident. But when the seat was empty on the following day likewise, he asked Jonathan, Why did the son of Jesse not come to the meal, neither yesterday nor to-day?' Jonathan mentioned the annual sacrifice which was being
solemnised by Jesse's house at Bethlehem. Then Saul's wrath was suddenly roused; he burst into uncontrollable rage, both at the innocent Jonathan and at his friend. He commanded his son to bring David at once before him, that he might slay him with his own hand. Jonathan calmly replied, “Why shall he be killed ? What has he done?' This answer so exasperated the unhappy Saul, that in his madness he cast his javelin at his son. Jonathan rose from the table in sorrow and shame. Unconcerned about the great danger to which he himself was exposed, he was grieved for David, because his father had disgraced him. On the following morning he went out into the field where he knew David was hidden, and was followed by a servant who carried his arrows, ostensibly with the purpose of shooting at the target. Advancing to the stone of Ezel, where David lay concealed, he bade the boy stand and observe on which side of the stone the shafts would fall, as he shot them. As the missile sprang from the bow, Jonathan exclaimed, • Is not the arrow beyond thee?' To the ears of David, these words, according to his agreement with Jonathan, conveyed this meaning - Saul will slay thee.' The boy picked up the arrow for his master, and was then sent back to the city. When he was out of sight, David issued from his hiding-place, and the two friends met -the king's son and the king's successor.
Did they feel that this was almost their last meeting? For a long time they remained silent; they wept bitterly in each other's arms; they were unable to restrain their grief, but it was too heavy for words. At length Jonathan spoke. "Go in peace,' said he, and it remains as we have sworn both of us in the name of the Lord, saying, The Lord be between me and thee, and between my seed and thy seed for ever!' So they parted—David to flee and to wander homelessly, Jonathan to return to the royal town