1 Samuel 19-20

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Saul wants to kill David, and tells his son Jonathan who warns David. Jonathan then proceeds to talk Saul out of killing David. He reminds Saul of how David has been a great blessing to Saul and the country by killing Goliath. A brief reprieve from Saul’s murderous intent is arrived at and another war with the Philistines comes upon them. David, again, goes out and fights and the Philistines flee. As David plays the lyre for Saul the harmful spirit again comes upon him and he throws a spear at David to kill him. David escaped that night with the help of his wife Michal. Michal covers up for him and Saul is furious that she helped her husband to his shame. He sends many messengers after David who has gone into hiding with Samuel, but they all end up prophesying at Samuel’s feet. When Saul goes himself, he also ends up prophesying lying at Samuel’s feet. David then goes to Jonathan to tell him of Saul’s desire to kill David, but Jonathan doesn’t believe it. So they work out a plan to confirm that Saul wants to kill David. Indeed, Saul gets upset at Jonathan as he did with Michal and throws a spear at his own son. Jonathan again warns David and they part ways making a covenant, swearing on their love for each other.


Saul, Jonathan, David, “the Philistine” = Goliath, the Philistines, messengers, Michal, Samuel, Abner, and a little boy

Key Verse

19:5 “For he took his life in his hand and he struck down the Philitine, and the Lord worked a great salvation for all Israel. You saw it, and rejoiced. Why then will you sin against innocent blood by killing David without cause?”

20:17 31 “And Jonathan made David swear again by his love for him, for he loved him as he loved his own soul…For as long as the son of Jesse lives on the earth, neither you nor your kingdom shall be established. Therefore send and bring him to me, for he shall surely die.””

Cross References

1 Samuel 28:21 “And the woman came to Saul, and when she saw that he was terrified, she said to him, “Behold, your servant has obeyed you. I have taken my life in my hand and have listened to what you have said to me.”

Judges 12:3 “And when I saw that you would not save me, I took my life in my hand and crossed over against the Ammonites, and the Lord gave them into my hand. Why then have you come up to me this day to fight against me?”

Judges 9:17 “for my father fought for you and risked his life and delivered you from the hand of Midian,”

1 Samuel 17:49-50 “And David put his hand in his bag and took out a stone and slung it and struck the Philistine on his forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face to the ground. So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and struck the Philistine and killed him. There was no sword in the hand of David.”

1 Samuel 11:13 “But Saul said, “Not a man shall be put to death this day, for today the Lord has worked salvation in Israel.””

1 Chronicles 11:14 “But he took his stand in the midst of the plot and defended it and killed the Philistines. And the Lord saved them by a great victory.”

Matthew 27:3-4 “Then when Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” They said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.””

18:1-3 “As soon as he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. And Saul took him that day and would not let him return to his father’s house. Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul.”


The two main things that jump out at me in these two chapters are anamnesis and the will of God.

First, anamnesis is a word that became very important to our family when we moved to Lebanon. This is the act of remembering all that God has done for us. Jonathan reminds his father of the good that David did for them. When we begin to fall into sin, listening to Satan, and we don’t take time to reflect and remember, it is easy to forget the purpose of others in our lives.

In marriage, for instance, if we do not stop and reflect we can get hung up on little things and begin to hate our spouse. Or to put it more on level with Saul’s actions, we can begin to seek out another lover because we begin to see and think only evil of the other person.

This may seem distant from us, but I truly believe this is common and easy for all of us in many situations. We do not start out planning to do or think evil of someone, but as we forget the good God has put in our life we can fall into that sin. Another example would be with coworkers. Every now and then I have worked with someone difficult to work with, or who I disagree with. As I pray for the person, God has usually revealed to me a purpose for them being at the workplace or in my life. If I forget that purpose I can return to hating that person, and perhaps even plotting how to avoid working with them altogether. But if I focus on God’s will that He had placed in my heart through prayer, I can help that person toward Christ.

This leads me to the second stand out that I saw in these chapters. God’s will. Jonathan and David are still focused on what God wants, and this is what gives their covenant weight. When Saul has made promises in this book they have often been empty, such as when he said he would kill anyone who had eaten. His promises do not sprout from God’s will, and therefore they are meaningless. When we turn to God’s plan, follow it, and share it with others, we are able to live a fuller life.

Also, this hope and faith in God’s plan is what truly gets us through the grief of losing people in our lives. As Jonathan and David separate at the end of chapter 20, they are in deep sadness, but they are in God’s will, which allows them to have comfort for the other person’s future. When we lose people to death or distance, we can leave them in God’s hands and have faith and hope.

When we have Christian friends, we are bound together with a hope and love that goes beyond life, and we will one day live in true, fulfilled community in eternal life.

Jesus in the Old Testament

“Earlier in the book, Eli set the pattern of how one is to respond to divine rejection from office—namely, give in”*

1 Samuel 3:18 “So Samuel told [Eli] everything and hid nothing from him. And he said, “It is the Lord. Let him do what seems good to him.””

“Saul refuses to give in to God, and this costs him dearly. He is progressively alienated from his family (Michal in 19:11-17; Jonathan in 20:13, 16; etc.), from his supporters (22:17), and even from his own mental capacities. With respect to the latter, Saul at first is willing to listen to Jonathan (19:4-6) but ends up cursing him (20:30) and even trying to kill him (20:33), hurling his spear at him, as he had more than once done to David (18:11, 19:10). Consumed with fear, Saul can think of little else than killing David. But the Spirit of God prevents him, overwhelms him, divests him of his royal robe, and puts him on his face before Samuel (19:23-24). Saul is, we might say, out of his mind. Prophesying in a posture of worship is so out of character for Saul that the people, with considerable irony, again take up the saying of 10:11: “Is Saul also among the prophets?” (19:24).”*

“How different is the work of the Spirit on those who trust God. To them God gives “a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Tim. 1:7). Those, like Saul, who refuse to “humble [themselves]…under the mighty hand of God” soon find themselves under the sway of a very different spirit, one which “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:6, 8).”*

2 Timothy 1:7 “I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience, as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. As I remember your tears, I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy. I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well. For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”

This text again brings out anamnesis. It increases our joy to reflect on those who came before us in the faith, those who led us into faith, those who were examples to us. It is in these memories that Paul reminds Timothy to bear fruit for Christ. It is easy to feel alone, but we are not alone. We are not called to bear fruit by ourselves, but in community. Saul has become lonely by alienating himself, but we are called to live in community so that we can move toward Christ and not get sidetracked by sin as Saul did.

1 Peter 5:6-11 “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.”

This 1 Peter text has so much bearing on these two chapters. Saul is in a panic about losing his place as king, but when we are in the center of God’s will, relying on him in faith, the suffering will not be long and God will establish us. Instead, Saul relies on man made power, which is no power at all. Jonathan is relying on God, and his name is established and we know that he had faith in God. Also, casting our anxieties on God is part of this equation, and is what all the Psalms show us David does during his time of exile. We cannot hold onto the anxiety we feel, we must fight it by giving it to God. He will take care of it, and then we can have peace in our suffering because we have faith in the One who will help us.

*Note: I am using the ESV Gospel Transformation Bible for the Jesus in the Old Testament section, so these are paraphrases and quotes from the commentary with my own ideas sprinkled in.

Thank you for reading. I am excited to hear your key verses, observations, and thoughts! Please take a moment to leave a comment to share them with us.

Next Week: 1 Samuel 21—22:5

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Author: Annie Liss

Currently a mother and a wife who loves reading. Formerly a middle school math teacher who kept too busy and stressed out to read. My husband and I are missionaries in Lebanon.

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