1 Samuel 18

1 Samuel 18

SERIES: Leadership in Hard Times

Jealousy, the Jaundice of the Soul

SPEAKER: Michael P. Andrus

Introduction:  In our study of the OT book of 1 Samuel, we have discovered that Saul, the tall, brave, and charismatic first king of Israel, has been sliding down the slippery slope of spiritual defection.  He who once had so much going for him has demonstrated an amazing lack of integrity, a narcissistic spirit of independence, and virtually no heart for God.  So, God has already declared him bankrupt and has anointed the shepherd boy David to be the next king in his place.  

David needs seasoning, however, before the throne is handed over to him.  He is a lad of incredible courage, as demonstrated last week in his confrontation with the giant, Goliath.  But there are other giants he will face potentially even more dangerous than the Philistine, so in the last half of the book of 1 Samuel, we find God molding him for future service.  One of the ways God chooses to mold David is to allow him to become the object of a jealous rival–to see how he handles the pressure and how he might grow from it.  Any trial in our lives can produce either growth or rebellion.  Which will it be for David?

More importantly, which will it be for us?  Probably nearly every one of us in this room is either currently experiencing jealousy toward someone in our own heart or is the victim of someone who has a spirit of jealousy toward us.  So, the relevance of this topic should be unquestioned.  I trust we will allow God to mold us as we study together. 

Jealousy is defined by Webster’s as “hostility toward and intolerance of a rival or one believed to enjoy an advantage.”  Sometimes, of course, jealousy is a character asset, as when the rival is a real and present threat to one’s marriage or one’s commitment to the Lord.  In fact, the word “zealous”comes from the exact same root as the word “jealous” and describes the one who is righteously jealous.  God Himself is called a jealous God in this positive sense over 40 times in the Bible. 

But unrighteous jealousy is far more common than righteous jealousy.  It can sneak up on us at school because another student gets a higher grade on a test, or is chosen as a cheerleader, or gets asked out by the Big Man on Campus.  Jealousy may attack at work when a fellow-employee receives a promotion that we thought we deserved, or the boss asks the guy at the next desk to attend the Businessman’s Special at Royals Stadium with him.

Jealousy can even hit the church when someone deemed less qualified is elected as an Elder or a Deacon while we are passed over, or when a soloist receives great appreciation for her music while our faithful ministry in the nursery goes unrecognized, or when a pastor sees some of his prized parishioners begin to move their allegiance to another shepherd.  

The potential for jealousy is everywhere.  And not only is it prevalent; it is also enormously dangerous.  Shakespeare called jealousy “the green-eye’d monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on.”  Colton added, “Of all the passions, jealousy is that which exacts the hardest service, and pays the bitterest wages.”  More declared, “O Jealousy, thou ugliest fiend of Hell!  Thy deadly venom preys on my vitals, turns the healthful hue of my fresh cheek to haggard sallowness, and drinks my spirit up.”  

When we look to Scripture, we find a similar picture.  The Song of Solomon says that “Jealousy is as unyielding as the grave” (8:6).  And the book of Proverbs adds, “Anger is cruel and fury overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy?”  (27:4) The latter years of Saul are a profound commentary on this verse from Proverbs.  Perhaps nowhere else in the sacred pages of Scripture is there an example of a person so consumed with jealousy as was King Saul, nor one so thoroughly destroyed by it.  May God teach us some important lessons about jealousy in our own lives as we examine His Word together.  

Please follow along in your Bible as I read 1 Samuel 18 from the NIV:

After David had finished talking with Saul, Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself.  From that day Saul kept David with him and did not let him return to his father’s house. And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. Jonathan took off the robe he was wearing and gave it to David, along with his tunic, and even his sword, his bow and his belt.            

Whatever Saul sent him to do, David did it so successfully that Saul gave him a high rank in the army. This pleased all the people, and Saul’s officers as well.

When the men were returning home after David had killed the Philistine, the women came out from all the towns of Israel to meet King Saul with singing and dancing, with joyful songs and with tambourines and lutes. As they danced, they sang: 

“Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.” 

Saul was very angry; this refrain galled him. “They have credited David with tens of thousands,” he thought, “but me with only thousands. What more can he get but the kingdom?” And from that time on Saul kept a jealous eye on David. 

The next day an evil spirit from God came forcefully upon Saul. He was prophesying in his house, while David was playing the harp, as he usually did. Saul had a spear in his hand and he hurled it, saying to himself, “I’ll pin David to the wall.” But David eluded him twice. 

Saul was afraid of David, because the LORD was with David but had left Saul. So he sent David away from him and gave him command over a thousand men, and David led the troops in their campaigns. In everything he did he had great success, because the LORD was with him. When Saul saw how successful he was, he was afraid of him. But all Israel and Judah loved David, because he led them in their campaigns. 

Saul said to David, “Here is my older daughter Merab. I will give her to you in marriage; only serve me bravely and fight the battles of the LORD.” For Saul said to himself, “I will not raise a hand against him. Let the Philistines do that!” 

But David said to Saul, “Who am I, and what is my family or my father’s clan in Israel, that I should become the king’s son-in-law?” So when the time came for Merab, Saul’s daughter, to be given to David, she was given in marriage to Adriel of Meholah. 

Now Saul’s daughter Michal was in love with David, and when they told Saul about it, he was pleased. “I will give her to him,” he thought, “so that she may be a snare to him and so that the hand of the Philistines may be against him.” So Saul said to David, “Now you have a second opportunity to become my son-in-law.” 

Then Saul ordered his attendants: “Speak to David privately and say, ‘Look, the king is pleased with you, and his attendants all like you; now become his son-in-law.’ ” 

They repeated these words to David. But David said, “Do you think it is a small matter to become the king’s son-in-law? I’m only a poor man and little known.” 

When Saul’s servants told him what David had said, Saul replied, “Say to David, ‘The king wants no other price for the bride than a hundred Philistine foreskins, to take revenge on his enemies.’ ” Saul’s plan was to have David fall by the hands of the Philistines.

When the attendants told David these things, he was pleased to become the king’s son-in-law. So before the allotted time elapsed, David and his men went out and killed two hundred Philistines. He brought their foreskins and presented the full number to the king so that he might become the king’s son-in-law. Then Saul gave him his daughter Michal in marriage.

When Saul realized that the LORD was with David and that his daughter Michal loved David, Saul became still more afraid of him, and he remained his enemy the rest of his days. 

The Philistine commanders continued to go out to battle, and as often as they did, David met with more success than the rest of Saul’s officers, and his name became well known. 

Jealousy stirs up anger and suspicion.

When jealousy gets hold of a person, the inevitable result is anger toward the object of that jealousy.  We simply cannot be jealous of someone and kind to them at the same time, at least not for long.  We may be able to fake it for a while, but eventually our jealousy will show itself in anger.  After all, the person of whom we are jealous is controlling our emotions and is standing in the way of our peace and tranquility of mind.  Usually, they are in possession of something we think we should have, or they are receiving recognition that we crave, or they are enjoying someone’s affection that we covet for ourselves.

Anger is the most natural way to deal with such a situation, but along with anger usually comes suspicion, for we feel the need to blame the other person for our anger.  Thus, we begin to suspect their every motive and question their every action.  Even their kindnesses are commonly viewed as devious means to a suspicious end.  

Let’s look at how anger and suspicion play themselves out in the life of Saul.

Saul is angry because of the praise David receives (18:6-9).  Following his great victory over Goliath and the army’s resultant victory over the Philistines, David becomes a national hero.  As the army returns from battle the women come out from all the towns of Israel singing and playing instruments.  As they dance, they sing, “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.”  They are probably not trying to be political; they do not intend a dig at Saul.  But he becomes very angry, for it says the song “galled him.”  

Granted that wasn’t a very smart song for the women to sing in Saul’s presence, but if he chooses to be mad at anyone it should be the singers, not David.  David didn’t ask for such praise; in fact, I strongly suspect David was embarrassed by all the hoopla.  All he ever did was to successfully carry out the orders of the King.  But Saul blows the praise all out of proportion.  In fact, he complains, “What more can he get but the kingdom?”  One little song creates a threat that is tantamount to a coup in Saul’s mind.  Can you see the beginnings of obsession and emotional illness here, as jealousy begins to take control of his life?

Let me ask you a question about that person of whom you may be jealous today.  We, of course, don’t like to admit jealousy, even to ourselves, but if you find yourself disturbed at the success of someone else, it’s probably an indication that you are jealous of that person.  But what do we do about it?  Hold on to that question, because we are going to try to answer it specifically later this morning.  

Now from the point of this song on, according to verse 9 Saul keeps a jealous eye, or as some of the versions read, “a suspicious eye” on David, verse 9.  

Saul becomes suspicious of everything David does. (18:9) David can’t say anything or go anywhere without the King being paranoid, creating an evil scenario in his mind concerning what he is up to.  He commits what is very common in such a situation–“assumicide”—which is not a word but ought to be.  He assumes that David is his enemy and is plotting against him even though there is virtually no evidence to substantiate the notion.  Frankly, suspicion is a pitiful state for a believer to find himself in.  It is the very opposite of what God desires for us.  In the great love chapter of 1 Corinthians one of the characteristics of love is that it always trusts.  The jealous person cannot do that, for anger and suspicion drive out all trust.

Jealousy produces a spirit of fear and insecurity.

Three times in chapter 18 we are told specifically that Saul fears David–verse 12, 15, and 29.  Now that isn’t exactly what one would expect!  Since Saul’s jealousy has reached a murderous degree, one would expect David to be afraid of Saul.  But, in fact, Saul is more afraid of David!  The psychological profile of Saul given here is very true to life.  When we become jealous of others, we begin to fear them because we view them as a threat to our own security and self-worth.  We fear that they will take away what little is left of our significance and value. 

Saul fears David because the Lord is with David.  (12) Verse 12:  “Saul was afraid of David, because the Lord was with David but had left Saul.”  In the previous paragraph we were told that an evil spirit from God came forcefully upon Saul, and therefore, he prophesied.  This raises several fascinating questions.  How can an evil spirit come from God?  And why would an evil spirit result in the exercise of a spiritual gift, namely prophecy?  I think the shortest answer to the first question is that God sends some things by a direct act of His sovereign will, and He sends other things by allowing depravity to take its course.  The Lord had already left Saul, and without the Holy Spirit’s restraining influence in his life, there is nothing to prevent an evil spirit from getting control of him.[i]  

As to why an evil spirit would cause someone to prophesy, we simply must realize that Satan works overtime to imitate everything good that God creates.  The ability to prophesy or speak in ecstatic languages can have one of two possible sources–the Holy Spirit or Satan–and it takes great discernment to determine which it is in any individual case.

The point here, however, is that Saul apparently knows that God is no longer active in his live, and therefore he knows he is no match for David spiritually.  So, he fears him.  Frankly, I think this explains a lot of tensions in the Body of Christ.  A person gets out of fellowship with the Lord because of overt sin or maybe just plain apathy.  He is no longer comfortable around those who are living a vital faith.  As a result, he becomes critical of those who are walking with God, perhaps resorting even to persecution.  He does this not so much because he despises the spiritual believer as because he fears him.  Saul fears David because his presence is a continual reminder that things are not right between Saul and the Lord. 

Saul fears David because David is successful in everything he does.  (18:14-15) Verse 15 reads, “When Saul saw how successful he was, he was afraid of him.”  Why would David’s success create fear in Saul?  Because Saul’s self-worth and confidence are not in the Lord, but rather are totally grounded in performance and comparison.  A success on David’s part becomes a defeat for Saul.  He views it as a zero-sum game, and the more successful David is the more insecure Saul becomes.  

Saul fears David because Saul’s loved ones love David.  (18:28-29) Be honest with me now.  If you are feeling jealous and angry toward someone, what is the one thing you cannot stand above all else?  Isn’t it for a member of your family or a close friend of yours to say something good about that person?  Boy, that really hurts!  You expect your friends to take your side even if you are being irrational and unloving, and when they don’t, you can find your anger transferring to them as much as to the original object.

That’s exactly what happens to Saul.  Look at verse 28:  “When Saul realized that the Lord was with David and that his daughter Michal loved David, Saul became still more afraid of him, and he remained his enemy the rest of his days.”  And if that weren’t enough, Saul has the misfortune of learning later that his son Jonathan is David’s best friend.  Fear grips his soul as he feels more and more isolated in his anger towards his imaginary enemy.  How tragic that he could not see that, far from being a threat, David could have been a great ally.  But Jealousy has blinded him. 

I experienced a very painful bout with jealousy some years ago that is hard to share with you, but I want to do so because I think it might be helpful.  Back in the middle seventies Chuck Swindoll got on the radio in Wichita and began to attract a great many committed followers.  Since he graduated from the same Seminary I did and we had some mutual friends, I invited him to come and speak here at First Free.  He came–I don’t remember the year, but it was about 1980.  That Sunday was a special time for our church, and many of you recall it with fondness.  But one of the results was that his following in our church increased in numbers and intensity.  

For the most part that was a positive thing, for he is an excellent Bible expositor and a balanced teacher.  But it really galled me when an occasional parishioner would say to me, “I couldn’t get through the day if it weren’t for Chuck.”  Or when after I had preached my heart out on some passage, someone would say to me as they were leaving church, “Would you like to hear a tape of Swindoll’s sermon on that passage?”  “Oh yes,” I’d say, “I’d love to!”  Not!!!  Jealousy began to creep into my heart.  I began to look for negative things about him that I could use to cut him down to size.

An opportunity to do just that arose the next year.  I heard that Swindoll was quitting the Lockman Foundation, which had sponsored his immensely popular New Standard for Living broadcast, and he was going independent with his own company, Insight for Living.  I heard rumors that it had something to do with money.  So, I wrote a letter to the Lockman Foundation asking for the facts. Naturally I expressed my interest in very spiritual terms, but my motive was not spiritual.  Well, it backfired.  One of the secretaries at the Lockman Foundation mistakenly sent the letter on to Swindoll himself, who returned it to the Lockman Foundation with a personal note asking them to respond.  I felt like a real heel when the Chairman of the Lockman Foundation personally called and informed me that Chuck had seen my letter.  

It took a long time, but eventually I wrote to Swindoll, confessed my jealousy, and asked for his forgiveness.  He wrote back a very gracious letter, forgiving me.  Several years later I was invited to preach the Fall Bible Conference at Dallas while he was President.  I learned a valuable lesson through all that, but it is a lesson that needs to be relearned regularly as I go through life. 

Jealousy leads to revenge and even murder.  

Jealousy develops a pattern which, if not checked, can lead to unbelievable results.  On at least ten specific occasions Saul tried to take David’s life, and the amazing thing is that the sole reason was jealousy.  David never once provoked the King, never once showed disloyalty, never once mounted an armed rebellion.  No, David was an imaginary enemy created by jealousy, and Saul would not be satisfied until vengeance was taken and his Enemy destroyed. 

Saul tries three times to kill David with a spear.  (18:10-11; 19:9-10) While Saul was prophesying under the influence of the evil spirit, and while David was playing the harp for him, Saul hurled a spear at him to pin him to the wall.  Later he did it a second time, but again David escaped.  Then in the next chapter, 19:9-10 we read about a third nearly identical attempt on Saul’s part.  

Saul twice plots David’s death at the hands of the Philistines.  (18:17; 18:24-25) First, he offers David his older daughter Merab in marriage.  Notice the spiritual words Saul uses, all the while he is plotting against David:  “I will give her to you in marriage; only serve me bravely and fight the battles of the Lord.”  But to himself he said, “I will not raise a hand against him.  Let the Philistines do that!”  In other words, as David goes into the hottest battles in his attempt to win Saul’s daughter, he will likely be killed, and Saul’s problem will be over.

Saul’s plot doesn’t work because David is too humble to accept the marriage proposal to the King’s daughter, and besides he doesn’t seem to be attracted to her.  Saul plots again with his other daughter, Michal, who happens to be in love with David, and probably he with her.  This time Saul asks for a dowry of 100 Philistine foreskins, a bloody prize tantamount to the scalps that Indians collected in the American west.  Notice the deceit, however, at the end of verse 25:  “Saul’s plan was to have David fall by the hands of the Philistines.”  That too fails, for David kills 200 Philistines and brings back twice the number of trophies requested by Saul.  

Saul orders others to kill David.  (19:1,11) Since nothing else has worked, Saul simply orders that David be murdered.  Look at the first verse of chapter 19:  “Saul told his son Jonathan and all the attendants to kill David.”  In verse 11 he sends men to David’s house to kill him.  But Saul’s daughter helps him escape by putting a dummy in his bed and telling Saul’s men that he is sick.  Killing a sick man was considered cowardly, but even this is not beyond Saul.

Saul sends men to capture David so he can kill him himself (19:15).  He says, “Bring him up to me in his bed so that I may kill him.”   Saul apparently believes in that old aphorism, “If you want something done right, do it yourself.”  

Saul tries to kill his own son, Jonathan, because he protected David (20:32-33).  In verses 32 & 33 Jonathan intercedes for David with his father:  “Why should he be put to death?  What has he done?”  But Saul hurls his spear at Jonathan to kill him.  Jonathan too escapes.  

Others do not escape, however, from the growing murderous insanity of the King, for in chapter 22 we learn that …

Saul murders the 85 priests of Nob, plus their families, because they innocently help David. (22:18-19) We don’t have time to read this story, but in essence we find David running for his life and desperately needing food.  He goes to Nob where there is a sanctuary (a priestly outpost) and he lies to the head priest there, telling him that he is on a secret mission for Saul.  The priest agrees to give David some food, but when Saul hears about it, he orders the 85 priests at Nob to be put to death, plus all the inhabitants of the town, including women, children, infants, cattle, donkeys, and sheep.  All because of jealousy!  David grieves that these innocent lives are lost because of him, but Saul feels nothing but an even greater sense of revenge.

Jealousy can become such an obsession that it results in total self-destruction.  

If you have been honest enough to identify jealousy in your own life this morning, I want you to take it very seriously and ask God to help you deal with it in a godly way, because if you don’t, it may destroy you. 

Saul completely neglects the nation’s economy, its security, and of course, its spiritual health in his obsessive drive to eliminate David.  What a sad commentary we find in these chapters as Saul relentlessly pursues David!  He commits virtually all his energy, his resources, and his army to finding and killing him.  Only when the Philistines threaten a major attack on Israel does Saul back away from his obsession and take care of the nation’s needs.  Then as soon as the crisis is over, he returns to hunting David. 

It kind of reminds me of Richard Nixon during the 1972 election.  He won the election handily, and if it hadn’t been for his paranoia, which caused the Watergate break-in and many other foolish decisions, he might have gone down as a great President.

If Saul invested as much energy in dealing with his real enemies as with the imaginary enemy of whom he was so jealous, he might have been a very successful king.  And, friends, it is right at this point that all of us need to look inward.  Think of that person toward whom you have experienced feelings of jealousy.  Hopefully it hasn’t progressed to the point where you have been plotting murder, but to the extent that you have funneled any of your resources to assuaging your jealousy, you have wasted those resources.  The principal victim of your jealousy will always be yourself.  Others too will be hurt, but if you allow it to continue unabated, you will eventually be destroyed.

You know something?  The very fact that David experienced incredible divine protection from Saul time and again should have awakened Saul to the hopelessness of his murderous schemes.  This whole story has Psalm 2 written all over it.  Saul is one of the earth’s kings plotting against the Lord and His anointed, and God is shouting to him the words of Psalm 2:10-12: 

“Be wise, be warned, you rulers of the earth.  Serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling.  Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment.  Blessed are all who take refuge in him.”  

You can bash yourself against omnipotence, but the success rate is nil.  Heaven laughs at such stupidity.  (Consider Psalm 2:4)[ii]

Conclusion:   The NT indicates that jealousy is one of the deeds of the sinful nature, along with hatred, discord, and fits of rage (all of which accompanied jealousy in Saul’s life), and Gal. 5:21 says regarding such deeds and attitudes, “I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will notinherit the kingdom of God.”  In no way can we excuse our jealous feelings by saying, “That’s just the way I am,” or “He provoked me.”  Jealousy is sin, and it is very serious sin.  

A few verses earlier in Galatians 5 the Apostle spoke these words, “The entire law is summed up in a single command:  ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.”  The cannibalism he speaks of, the biting and devouring of others, is a pretty apt description of jealousy in action.  Spiritually speaking, Saul was a virtual cannibal in his attitude toward David.  

J. I. Packer, one of my favorite theologians, was commenting upon the only man in American history to be tried and convicted of cannibalism.  With some chagrin Packer acknowledged that this man’s last name was the same as his.  Alferd E. Packer was a mountain guide who took three men into the Rockies for dinner (literally).  Interestingly, I understand the dining hall on the University of Colorado campus is affectionately named the “Alferd E. Packer Memorial Dining Hall” (undoubtedly so named by the students, not the administration).  Packer (J. I., that is) then went on to state the obvious–that it is wrong to eat people, whether literally or metaphorically, and he gives some very practical examples of how this is done in even some of our evangelical churches.[iii]  Jealousy is certainly one of the more common ways.

And what is the solution?  In a rather lengthy treatise on envy and jealousy the writer of the epistle of James concludes, “Submit yourselves, then, to God.”  That may sound like a pretty generic solution to the problem, but it isn’t really.  The principal problem when jealousy strikes is that we feel someone else has received more than his or her share of possessions or attention or praise.  But the one who determines our share of everything is the Lord Himself.  We need to plead our case before God and let Him judge, trusting Him to make it right if something is out of kilter.  We need to acknowledge His sovereignty.  

There is another passage of Scripture which says, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay,” (Rom. 12:19) saith the Lord.  Instead of harboring those feelings of jealousy and nurturing them, we need to turn them over to God and say, “You made that person, and you made me.  You are the Creator and the Giver of every good and perfect gift.  I submit myself to your justice and ask that you help me to accept willingly what Your hand offers.”

I also want to suggest a very practical way to lower the jealousy quotient in your life: pray for the person of whom you are jealous.  You simply cannot remain jealous if you are sincerely praying for God’s blessing on his or her life.  Think about the good qualities that person has.  Go out of your way to affirm them.  

The answer to jealousy is ultimately security–the security of knowing who you are in Christ, of knowing that God created you, loved you, gave His one and only Son for you, gifted you, and calls you to serve Him faithfully, even amid your brokenness.  Let’s pray.

DATE:  July 18, 2004





[i] Interestingly, there are a few places in Scripture where we are told that God Himself employed evil spirits to do His will.  For example, in 1 Kings 22:19-23 Ahab is told, “the Lord has put a lying spirit in the mouths of all these prophets of yours.”  

[ii] Dale Ralph Davis, 1 Samuel, Looking on the Heart, 162.

[iii] J. I. Packer, Christianity Today,  April, 1988.