Then Saul said to David, “Here is my elder daughter Merab. I will give her to you for a wife. Only be valiant for me and fight the Lord‘s battles.” For Saul thought, “Let not my hand be against him, but let the hand of the Philistines be against him.” And David said to Saul, “Who am I, and who are my relatives, my father’s clan in Israel, that I should be son-in-law to the king?” But at the time when Merab, Saul’s daughter, should have been given to David, she was given to Adriel the Meholathite for a wife.
Now Saul’s daughter Michal loved David. And they told Saul, and the thing pleased him. Saul thought, “Let me give her to him, that she may be a snare for him and that the hand of the Philistines may be against him.” Therefore Saul said to David a second time, “You shall now be my son-in-law.” And Saul commanded his servants, “Speak to David in private and say, ‘Behold, the king has delight in you, and all his servants love you. Now then become the king’s son-in-law.’” And Saul’s servants spoke those words in the ears of David. And David said, “Does it seem to you a little thing to become the king’s son-in-law, since I am a poor man and have no reputation?” And the servants of Saul told him, “Thus and so did David speak.” Then Saul said, “Thus shall you say to David, ‘The king desires no bride-price except a hundred foreskins of the Philistines, that he may be avenged of the king’s enemies.’” Now Saul thought to make David fall by the hand of the Philistines. And when his servants told David these words, it pleased David well to be the king’s son-in-law. Before the time had expired, David arose and went, along with his men, and killed two hundred of the Philistines. And David brought their foreskins, which were given in full number to the king, that he might become the king’s son-in-law. And Saul gave him his daughter Michal for a wife. But when Saul saw and knew that the Lord was with David, and that Michal, Saul’s daughter, loved him, Saul was even more afraid of David. So Saul was David’s enemy continually.
Then the commanders of the Philistines came out to battle, and as often as they came out David had more success than all the servants of Saul, so that his name was highly esteemed. – 1 Samuel 18:17-30 ESV
In attempting to rid himself of David, Saul had tried the direct approach. On multiple occasions, in one of his fits of rage, he had unsuccessfully attempted to kill David with a spear. But his failures only fueled his desire to get rid of this threat to his reign as king. So he became more clandestine and creative in his efforts. He would develop plans by which he could expose David to life-threatening circumstances, while making it look like he was innocent and non-complicit.
For whatever reason, Saul had not yet kept his promise to reward the one who killed the Philistine champion, Goliath. He had promised to “enrich the man who kills him with great riches and will give him his daughter and make his father’s house free in Israel” (1 Samuel 17:25 ESV). And yet, David, the very one who had met the conditions to receive the reward, had not been given Saul’s daughter to marry. And when Saul finally decides to give David his eldest daughter, Merab, to marry, he adds conditions and exposes his expectations. David could marry Merab as long as he agreed to fight Israel’s enemies. And it was this added condition that revealed Saul’s true motivation. He cleverly disguised his intent by telling David, “Only be valiant for me and fight the Lord’s battles” (1 Samuel 18:17 ESV). He appealed to David’s sense of valor and his dedication to God. He was going to use David’s faithfulness to God and country as a means to have him eliminated.
For Saul thought, “Let not my hand be against him, but let the hand of the Philistines be against him.” – 1 Samuel 18:17 ESV
But David, ignorant of Saul’s devices, simply turned down the king’s generous offer, because he did not see himself as worthy of the honor.
Because of David’s polite refusal to accept Merab’s hand in marriage, she was eventually given to another. But Saul would soon learn that his other daughter, Michal, loved David very much. It has already been revealed that David and Jonathan, Saul’s son, had developed a very close friendship. No doubt, David spent a great deal of time in Jonathan’s company and, as a result, had been able to get to know Michal well. Upon discovering his daughter’s affection for David, Saul saw another opportunity to rid himself of David once and for all.
Saul thought, “Let me give her to him, that she may be a snare for him and that the hand of the Philistines may be against him.” – 1 Samuel 18:21 ESV
He already had a plan. He would give Michal to David but on the condition that he pay a dowry that consisted of one hundred Philistine foreskins. Once again, Saul would appeal to David’s sense of duty. He knew full well that David came from a less-than-affluent family and would be unable to pay the customary dowry and one fit for the daughter of a king. So he would allow David to use his military skills and his hatred for the enemies of God, the Philistines, to come up with a somewhat unorthodox dowry payment. And in all of this, we are given a glimpse into David’s character. Saul sent his servants to prime the pump and to convince David to strongly consider Saul’s offer of Michal. But David simply responded, “How can a poor man from a humble family afford the bride price for the daughter of a king?” (1 Samuel 18:23 NLT). He knew he was out of his league. He was unworthy to be the son-in-law to the king. He didn’t have the financial means or the family heritage to warrant such a thing. But that was not going to deter Saul. He would actually use David’s financial condition to his advantage, replacing the customary dowry price with that of the 100 Philistine foreskins. He knew that David, being a man of integrity, would take him up on his offer. But he also knew that the risk involved in David accomplishing such a feat was going to be great, and the likelihood of David dying in the process was even greater.
Verse 27 matter-of-factly states: “David arose and went, along with his men, and killed two hundred of the Philistines. And David brought their foreskins, which were given in full number to the king, that he might become the king’s son-in-law. And Saul gave him his daughter Michal for a wife” (1 Samuel 18:27 ESV). Much to Saul’s chagrine, David took the king up on his offer and fulfilled the requirement to have Michal as his wife. He even doubled the number of foreskins, just to make sure that he didn’t underpay for the privilege of becoming the king’s son-in-law.
Saul’s plan had failed. His strategy to eliminate David had actually elevated him. Now David was a permanent member of his family. He was married to his daughter and would more than likely give him grandchildren and potential heirs to the throne. And not only that, Saul became increasingly aware that God was with David. Everything he did was successful. And with each successive blessing of God on David, Saul’s fear of him grew exponentially. “So Saul was David’s enemy continually” (1 Samuel 18:30 ESV). This last line is significant, because it reveals that the animosity between Saul and David was one-way. David had done nothing but honor Saul, serving him as his personal armor bearer, court musician, and military commander. While David’s reputation had grown, it never appears that David was out for fame and glory. He was not prideful or arrogant. There is never an indication that he had aspirations for the crown. It is still unclear whether David even knew that his earlier anointing by Samuel had been to make him the next king of Israel. No, David simply served, faithfully and unselfishly. At no time does he seem to see Saul as his enemy, even though the king had tried to kill him with his own hands. He never utters a bad word about the king. Saul’s hatred for David was one-directional. And his attempts to kill David would continue to prove unsuccessful, because God had a greater plan in place. David would be the next king, whether Saul like it or not, and regardless of whether Saul loved David or not. David’s fame would continue to grow. So would Saul’s hatred for David. But God was not yet done. His preparation of David for the throne was not yet complete. Things would get worse before they got better. The tension between David and Saul was about to reach a boiling point and the next phase of God’s king-creating curriculum was about to begin.