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1 Samuel 18:1-9


"After David had finished talking with Saul, he met Jonathan, the king's son. There was an immediate bond of love between them, and they became the best of friends. [2] From that day on Saul kept David with him at the palace and wouldn't let him return home. [3] And Jonathan made a special vow to be David's friend, [4] and he sealed the pact by giving him his robe, tunic, sword, bow, and belt. 

[5] Whatever Saul asked David to do, David did it successfully. So Saul made him a commander in his army, an appointment that was applauded by the fighting men and officers alike. [6] But something happened when the victorious Israelite army was returning home after David had killed Goliath. Women came out from all the towns along the way to celebrate and to cheer for King Saul, and they sang and danced for joy with tambourines and cymbals. [7] This was their song: 'Saul has killed his thousands, and David his ten thousands!'

[8] This made Saul very angry. 'What's this?' he said. 'They credit David with ten thousands and me with only thousands. Next they'll be making him their king!' [9] So from that time on Saul kept a jealous eye on David." (NLT)

It should have been a day of great celebration. Israel had defeated the threat against their national security. Goliath was dead, and his army was defeated. Saul's army was victorious in battle and the women came to cheer the soldiers as they returned home, but their song did not please the king. 'Saul has killed his thousands,' they said, 'and David his ten thousands!' Instead of rejoicing with the crowd at David's success, Saul became jealous and paranoid.

When Goliath defied the army of the Living God, Saul had his armor with him and he was quick to loan it to David, but wasn't willing to don it himself to protect his kingdom. When David came up with a plan and volunteered to help, Saul was eager to criticize his plan and belittle David for offering to help, but never did he say to the shepherd boy, "no, I'll do this, it is my place not yours." (As far as I'm concerned, David's plan for getting the job done was better than Saul's plan of not getting the job done.) But, as soon as the fighting was over, Saul wanted to ride at the front of the parade and take all the credit for victory. Really the women were gracious to Saul, they could have said, "Saul has really nice armor that he is willing to loan to men with courage, while David has courage that needs no armor." Instead of being angry that David was included in the song, he should have been grateful that the generous women mentioned his name at all. But we all know human nature and I don't think a single person here is surprised by Saul's reaction.

Verse 9 says he "kept a jealous eye on David."

Before the women welcomed the men from the battlefield, Saul appeared to be pleased with David and was promoting him through the ranks. In effect, he gave him a battlefield commission, making him a commander. The more seasoned soldiers and officers took no offense in the promotion-they didn't become jealous of David's success, instead they were pleased with it. After all, David had conquered the giant, I'm sure they were proud to serve under a man of such distinction, even if it meant they had to follow a younger, less experienced man. Saul's men were able to do what he couldn't-be happy for David's success. And well they should, because David's success meant they were successful too. Unfortunately, Saul couldn't comprehend that when a man under his command distinguishes himself, it reflects well on his country, his fellow soldiers and on his king. Instead, Saul chose to become jealous.

The next day, Saul tried to kill David, even as David was ministering to him. Another one of those evil spirits from the Lord that we talked about a few weeks ago came upon Saul, and David began playing the harp to soothe Saul. With David occupied, Saul grabbed a spear and threw it at David, intending on pinning him against the wall. David leaped out of the way and ran for his life. Why would Saul try to kill his son's best friend? Why would he try to kill his armor bearer-his bodyguard, and a commander in his military? He had morbid jealousy-the kind of jealousy that kills.

Writing for "The Spectator," the oldest continuously published magazine in the English language, Theodore Dalrymple coined that helpful term: "morbid jealousy." His column entitled, "Black-eyed monster" exposed the unhealthy life patterns of abusive, over-controlling jealous men. Typically, the cycle includes unreasonable demands, abusive behavior when the partner doesn't meet the demands, followed by remorse for the abusive behavior, promises never to act out again, which of course give way to the cycle beginning again with unreasonable demands. 

During the remorse stage, the abusive person usually lavishes love and affection on their partner, but really, love isn't the appropriate word. The kind of affection that an abuser shows when the pendulum swings is not really love. Jealousy is not really love, because love is self-giving, while jealousy is self-serving. 1 Cor. 13:4 says, "Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud." (NLT) Dalrymple writes, "But the morbidly jealous person does not love his lover; he loves himself, unfortunately, with a tender, extremely inflamed and fragile ego." (

"Extremely inflamed and fragile ego," are good words to describe the morbid jealousy Saul had. It was his own insecurity that formed the Petrie dish for his jealousy to grow. Saul continued to be threatened by David's success. Notice the contrast in the way Israel & Judah viewed David in verse 16 and the way Saul viewed him in verses 14-15: "David continued to succeed in everything he did, for the Lord was with him. [15] When Saul recognized this, he became even more afraid of him. [16] But all Israel and Judah loved David because he was so successful at leading his troops into battle." The Kingdom loved David because of his success, Saul became afraid of him. His fragile ego couldn't take someone else being successful, even if it meant David's success made him successful.

Saul's jealousy continued him down a morbid path; he began plotting to kill David. He offered David his oldest daughter in marriage if David proved himself "to be a real warrior." (Vs. 17) Saul didn't want David to prove anything, the end of verse 17 betrays his intent, "For Saul thought to himself, 'I'll send him out against the Philistines and let them kill him rather than doing it myself.'" David refused, not because he was afraid to prove himself "to be a real warrior," something I believe he had already done, but because he did not consider himself worthy to be the King's son-in-law. "'Who am I, and what is my family in Israel that I should be the king's son-in-law?' David exclaimed. 'My father's family is nothing!'"

Saul gave his daughter in marriage to another man. But later, when his daughter Michal wanted to marry David, Saul asked him again to become his son-in-law. When David confessed that he couldn't afford a dowry, Saul told him to bring back proof that he'd killed 100 Philistines and that would be dowry enough. In verse 25, Saul says, "Vengeance on my enemies is all I really want." But it also tells his intent in sending David off to battle, "But what Saul had in mind was that David would be killed in the fight." (NLT) David brings back proof that he killed twice as many men as Saul asked, so Saul gave his daughter to David to be his wife. All is well in paradise now, right? No not exactly, look at verses 28-30: "When the king realized how much the Lord was with David and how much Michal loved him, [29] he became even more afraid of him, and he remained David's enemy for the rest of his life. [30] Whenever the Philistine army attacked, David was more successful against them than all the rest of Saul's officers. So David's name became very famous throughout the land." (NLT)

Saul became even more jealous because God was with David and because Saul's daughter loved him. These realizations made him more afraid of David and made them lifelong enemies. The story takes an intermission at this point by underscoring what a pitiful man Saul was becoming, because of his jealousy and what a great man David was becoming, because of God's blessing.

Jealousy is a major league sin. Its tentacles grow long and deep into a man's heart until it controls his emotions and actions. That's why Paul wrote, "We should be decent and true in everything we do, so that everyone can approve of our behavior. Don't participate in wild parties and getting drunk, or in adultery and immoral living, or in fighting and jealousy." (Romans 13:13 NLT) 

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