Deliver me from mine enemies, O my God: defend me from them that rise up against me.
Deliver me from the workers of iniquity, and save me from bloody men.
For, lo, they lie in wait for my soul: the mighty are gathered against me; not for my transgression, nor for my sin, O LORD.
One by one Saul’s attempts to destroy David by ordering him into dangerous situations came to naught. It was uncanny, and it troubled Saul. Underneath he knew that there was a higher hand protecting David, and it frightened him no end. Never, however, did he approach the point where he considered turning back from his designs against David. Rather he became ever more intense. If he could not rely upon the Philistines to put an end to David’s career, then he would have to move on a different front. He would enlist his own family to the cause. They ought to be able to close in upon David without too much difficulty or suspicion. After all, Jonathan was David’s best friend and Michal was his wife. Who better than they could help to lead David into a trap.
More and more, Saul’s mind was becoming dominated by his determination to destroy David. It had started only as an impulsive reaction to his despair, but it had become almost his sole concern. Everything he saw and thought and planned was important to him only as it reflected upon this aim. He could think of David as being nothing but a very subtle and conscious challenger to his throne. In his mind there was hardly a doubt but that his family would be able to see this too once he had tipped them off to it.
Thus it was that on a certain day Saul called together his son Jonathan and all of the most intimate servants of his household. There without ceremony he announced to them that David had to be killed. Whether he went further into detail to tell them the reasons for this decision we do not know; but apparently the announcement was met with absolute silence upon the part of all. Saul may well have taken it as a silence of consent; but to the others it was more a matter of stunned amazement. They all had come to know David well and to love him. By them he was considered one of the most faithful and trustworthy servants which Saul had, and his great and courageous exploits in behalf of Israel seemed to prove it. It seemed almost beyond believing that all this had earned for David was the king’s most bitter hatred.
Among them, no one was more completely shocked than was Jonathan. All along Saul had thought of Jonathan as his most certain ally, for it was Jonathan’s throne and Jonathan’s future to which David was the greatest threat. But Jonathan was not one who rested his life upon dreams of future grandeur. All he cared for was bound up in the fellowship of faith and love which he shared most intimately with David. It was that which was shocked, even painfully wounded by the announcement of Saul’s determination.
From the presence of his hate-filled father, Jonathan raced in frenzied anguish to find his friend. No sooner had he found him than he poured out, half in tears and half in anger, all that he had learned, saying, “Saul my father seeketh to kill thee: now, therefore, I pray thee, take heed to thyself until the morning, and abide in a secret place, and hide thyself: and I will go out and stand beside my father in the field where thou art, and I will commune with my father of thee; and what I see, that I will tell thee.”
If the hatred of Saul was amazing to Jonathan, it was even more so to David, for personal animosity was completely foreign to his nature. He knew hatred, of course, in his relationship to the heathen, but that was a different matter. They were the enemies of Israel and Israel’s God, and his hatred toward them was only an expression of his love and concern for his own people and God. In turn he expected to be hated by them. But why should Saul hate him? They were both members of the same race, they both served the same God, they both followed the same goal in life. Surely Saul as king knew this; and he had served both Israel and Saul with single dedication and without regard to his own life. All the jealousy, bitterness, hatred, and pride that moved the heart of Saul were as yet beyond the comprehension of David’s young and innocent mind. Numbed with uncomprehending astonishment, for the first time meeting a foe whom he did not know how to counteract, David in dumb silence submitted himself to the instructions of Jonathan.
Near to the palace where the king lived, there was a large field of wild, undeveloped terrain. It formed the palace grounds. In it they hunted, games were played, target practice was held with arrows and spears, and all kinds of recreation was sought. Here Saul would go to walk each morning as he thought and made his plans. It was here that Jonathan had spent countless hours with David in the way that young men are apt to do. They knew the field from end to end as no one else did. In it they had even discovered a secret hiding place, a secluded cave perhaps, where they could go when they wanted to be sure to be alone. To this cave Jonathan sent David until he could investigate more surely just how serious the danger really was.
The next morning as Saul went out for his usual walk, Jonathan was there to meet him. His words were respectful but firm. He said, “Let not the king sin against his servant, against David; because his works have been to thee-ward very good: for he did put his life in his hand, and slew the Philistine, and the LORD wrought a great salvation for all Israel: thou sawest it, and didst rejoice: wherefore then wilt thou sin against innocent blood, to slay David without a cause?”
The words hit Saul hard where it hurt. This was his son Jonathan talking, the one whom he had counted on the most to help him against David, the one whose throne he was trying to protect. But what could he say in answer? How could he explain to Jonathan the danger he saw without revealing to him what Samuel had said? — and that he could never do. To himself it had seemed so clear; but to explain it all to someone else was almost impossible. Besides, there was an element of logic to what Jonathan had said. Maybe he was pressing too hard. Maybe he had better draw back.
But Jonathan was not to be satisfied with that. He was determined to have the matter finished. He pressed his father further until Saul was forced to sware an oath, “As the LORD liveth, he shall not be slain.” It was hard for Saul to do; but he was not prepared to have his own son turn against him. For the time being he had to give in.
For a while it almost seemed as if things had returned to normal in the palace once again. Saul was finally relenting from his determination to find ever new and more dangerous assignments for David to fight. He was beginning to realize that that was of no use. In fact, David was even allowed to return to Saul’s court, to eat with the men at the royal table, and to relax with Jonathan as they had in the past. It was the Philistines that brought about the next change. They had not remained unmoved by the many attacks of David upon their ranks, and they were longing for their opportunity to have their revenge. When at last, therefore, David had returned to the palace and all was quiet, it appeared to them the opportunity to invade and set up their defenses had come. But it didn’t last long. Almost immediately David had called his company together and had gone out to obliterate the efforts of the Philistines completely.
Israel was overjoyed. There seemed to be no end to the victories that David was able to bring about, and once again they welcomed him home with a great, excited celebration. But that was almost the worst thing they could have done, at least insofar as Saul was concerned. It opened all of the old wounds again, it brought out all of the old jealousy, bitterness and hatred. He was the king, and he was the one who ought to be honored, not this upstart David. And with that fell once again into deep, dark depression.
Once again the halls of the royal palace were like a cold, foreboding tomb. Everyone felt the weight of Saul’s evil spirit, and almost no one expected it to come out well when David decided to go on as though nothing had happened between him and the king and to play his harp for the troubled king. It was all somehow like an old drama re-enacted too often. The music, played no doubt as skillfully as ever, had lost its sparkle until it seemed to sound more like a dirge than a hymn. Everyone in the court stood anxiously with bated breath knowing only too well what to expect until at last the fingers of Saul reached out and grasped, it seemed more slowly this time, the javelin that stood by his side. Only the thrust appeared more vehement, more determined, more visibly filled with hatred than before. But David was gone almost before it left Saul’s hand, and the king knew without even turning back to look how futile it all had become. Even David was not surprised this time, only saddened and deeply pained. How he had hoped that it might be different; but it couldn’t be. This time he did not stop with leaving the room. He went on and left the palace until he came at last to his own home. He was never to return again.
For Saul, too, this time was enough. It was not going to happen again. He was determined, and no one was going to talk him out of it. Out of the streets of the city he called to himself a group of base and wicked men. In fact, they were not even Israelites. They were heathen, refugees perhaps from the law of some other land. But that was what he needed, men who felt no loyalty or gratitude to David. His instructions for them were to go to David’s house and lie in wait for him and to slay him when he came out.
But David was not one to be so easily fooled. He was a man of war and he recognized an enemy when he saw him. He saw the men approaching. He detected them in hiding while they still thought themselves well hidden. It only made the whole thing more painful. Was he a common criminal that he had to be pursued and hounded, waited for and entrapped by men who were mean and vulgar like dogs. Had they come directly to his door and ordered him in the name of the king to follow them, he no doubt would have gone without resistance. He was not one to refuse the command of his king. But to be surrounded and waited for like an animal was too much, the shame too great. Had not Michal interfered, he no doubt would have waited for the order of Saul to come anyway; but at her urging he slipped away under cover of dark until he came to Samuel. There he remained, and there he composed the pained words of Psalm 59:
Deliver me from mine enemies, O my God:
deliver me from them that rise up against me.
Deliver me from the workers of iniquity,
and save me from bloody men.
For, lo, they lie in wait for my soul:
the mighty are gathered against me;
not for my transgression,
nor for my sin, O LORD.
They run and prepare themselves without my fault:
awake to help me, and behold.
Thou therefore, O LORD God of host, the God of Israel, awake to visit all the heathen:
be not merciful to any wicked transgressors.
They return at evening:
they make noise like a dog,
and go round about the city.
Behold, they belch out with their mouth:
swords are in their lips:
for who, say they doth hear?
But thou, O LORD, shalt laugh at them;
thou shalt have all the heathen in derision.
Because of his strength will I wait upon thee:
for God is my defense…..”