First Samuel 18-26 records the tragic story of how King Saul wickedly pursued David and tried many times to catch him so that he could slay him. Although I have read this account more than 25 times over the years, I noticed this week an aspect of Saul’s enmity against David that I do not remember every paying attention to in all my previous readings.
Demonic Influence That Repeatedly Incited Saul to Slay David
King Saul first became at odds with David after he was angered greatly when women honored David’s military exploits far more than they did his (1 Sam. 18:6-9). Immediately after this passage, we read that an evil spirit afflicted him, and he sought to kill David (1 Sam. 18:10-11).
Saul later tried to use his daughters as a means to have David slain (cf. 1 Sam. 18:17, 21ff.), but he was unsuccessful. His attempt to have Jonathan, his son, and all his [Saul’s] servants kill David similarly failed (1 Sam. 19:1-5).
Under the influence of the evil spirit, Saul yet again sought to slay David but could not (1 Sam. 19:9-10). Michal then spared David’s life by deceiving the servants that Saul sent to slay David in his home (1 Sam. 19:11-17).
From First Samuel 18-19, it is clear that direct demonic influence incited Saul at least twice to slay David. His other attempts to kill David may also have been incited by the evil spirit, even though there are no direct statements to that effect.
Evil Human Influence That Incited Saul to Slay David
Two later passages reveal that another key influence besides the evil spirit played a role in Saul’s enmity against David and his efforts to kill him:
1Sa 24:9 And David said to Saul, Wherefore hearest thou men’s words, saying, Behold, David seeketh thy hurt?
10 Behold, this day thine eyes have seen how that the LORD had delivered thee to day into mine hand in the cave: and some bade me kill thee: but mine eye spared thee; and I said, I will not put forth mine hand against my lord; for he is the LORD’S anointed.
1Sa 26:19 Now therefore, I pray thee, let my lord the king hear the words of his servant. If the LORD have stirred thee up against me, let him accept an offering: but if they be the children of men, cursed be they before the LORD; for they have driven me out this day from abiding in the inheritance of the LORD, saying, Go, serve other gods.
20 Now therefore, let not my blood fall to the earth before the face of the LORD: for the king of Israel is come out to seek a flea, as when one doth hunt a partridge in the mountains.
These passages show that David pled with Saul on at least two occasions not to listen to the words of wicked men who were stirring him up against David by lying to him by saying that David was trying to hurt him (1 Sam. 24:9; cf. 26:19). These two statements are remarkable because the Holy Spirit does not provide us with any other record of any such lying statements made by evil people who were inciting Saul to slay David!
Based on the earlier statements about the evil spirit and on these direct statements by David, we can be certain that Saul was incited by both demonic influence and evil human influence to attempt repeatedly to kill David. Although Scripture does not say so, it is very likely that the latter was in reality another facet of the former, so that demonic influence on other people was directly responsible for their lying about David to Saul.
Beyond learning a key truth about Saul’s enmity against David that I have overlooked in the past, I am both amazed and challenged by my having overlooked for all these years the statements by David about evil human influences on Saul. Although I have studied the Bible very carefully and intensely for years, this discovery motivates me to read Scripture even more carefully than I have in the past.