Poole on 1 Samuel 18:20-30: Bloody Bride-Price
Verse 20: (1 Sam. 18:28) And Michal Saul’s daughter loved David: and they told Saul, and the thing pleased him (Heb. was right in his eyes).
The thing pleased him: Not for any respect he had to David, but for his own malicious and wicked ends, that he might make use of her love to David, to insnare and ruin him, which he thought might be done many ways, whereof one is here expressed.
Verse 21: And Saul said, I will give him her, that she may be (Ex. 10:7) a snare to him, and that (1 Sam. 18:17) the hand of the Philistines may be against him. Wherefore Saul said to David, Thou shalt (see 1 Sam. 18:26) this day be my son in law in the one of the twain.
[I will give her to him, so that she might be to him for a snare] After the likeness of another Delilah. For, as obligated to me, so faithful to me, will she be in betraying David (Tirinus out of Sanchez). But this counsel did not succeed. For, it was not for David’s destruction, but salvation (Martyr). In Michal the love of her spouse was stronger than the regard of her father. See a similar instance in Daniel 11:17, etc. (Tirinus out of Sanchez). She shall be a snare (Pagnine), a stumblingblock; that is to say, because of her he shall fall to ruin. He says this because of the Philistines that he was going to kill before the wedding (Vatablus).
This day, that is, suddenly, within a time which probably Saul prefixed.
[In two things shalt thou be my son-in-law, בִּשְׁתַּיִם] Verbatim: in two (Montanus). Through both (Syriac). [Some interpret it of persons, others of things.] Thus said, because both were for wives to him, because after the death of Merab he took Michal (Hebrews in Vatablus). In two, understanding, wives (Hebrews in Lapide). That is to say, my two daughters have I given to thee, and so thou shalt be my son-in-law by a twofold title. I betrothed Merab to thee (granting that on account of an emergent situation she was afterwards given to another), and now I betroth and give to thee Michal (Lapide out of the Hebrews, certain interpreters in Sanchez). Others thus: in one, or in the other, or through one of the two (Jonathan, Munster, Tigurinus, Junius and Tremellius, Castalio, Strigelius, Pagnine). Thus in Judges 12:7, he was buried in the cities of Gilead; that is, in one of the cities (certain interpreters in Sanchez). In one of the two, etc., one is indeed already contracted out, and so the other shall be due to thee (Munster). Hebrew: through two; that is, the second; the cardinal number is put in the place of the ordinal, as in 2 Kings 15:32 (Piscator out of Junius). Thus one is put in the place of first, Genesis 1:5; 8:5; 2 Chronicles 29:17 (Glassius’ “Grammar” 52). It is Heterosis (Piscator). [Others interpret it concerning things:] But things is not in the Hebrew (Lyra). Response: This error is infantile. For, it is well-known that the Hebrew put the feminine gender substantively in the place of the neuter, which they lack, as in Psalm 27:4, one thing have I desired of the Lord, etc. Indeed, this very word, שְׁתַּיִם, in feminine termination, without any adjective, is posited in the neuter, and signifies two things, Job 13:20; Psalm 62:11; Proverbs 30:7; Isaiah 51:19. Therefore, the Vulgate translates this in the best way, with which agrees the most ancient Spanish version (Sanchez). [But those that thus translate it vary in sense:] 1. In two things; that is, because of a twofold desert, namely, the killing of Goliath, and the foreskins, which thou shalt pay to me (Menochius, Tirinus, Lapide, Sanchez, Sa and Tostatus and Rupertus in Tirinus). 2. In one of two things thou shalt be my son-in-law, namely, by the giving of a dowry, or the foreskins; the latter of which Saul afterwards chose, since David alleged his own poverty (Menochius). 3. Jerome thinks that this was said, because he offered the foreskins of the Philistines twice; first for Merab, although it be not expressed; second for Michal, as it is here depicted (Mariana). 4. In two things; Hebrew, secondly, thou shalt contract affinity with me this day; that is, on the first occasion this affinity did not succeed; but now, on this second occasion, a wife shall fall to thee from my daughters (Osiander).
In the one of the twain: whereas I have only two daughters, and thou wast disappointed of thy expectation in the one by an unexpected accident, thou shalt certainly have the other, which is the same thing. Hebrew: in the twain. Thus the cities of Gilead is put for one of them, Judges 12:7; and the sides of the ship for one of the sides, Jonah 1:5. Or he saith in the twain, or in both, because he was in effect betrothed to the one, and should be married to the other, and so was his son-in-law upon a double account.
Verse 22: And Saul commanded his servants, saying, Commune with David secretly, and say, Behold, the king hath delight in thee, and all his servants love thee: now therefore be the king’s son in law.
Commune with David, whom having so lately and grossly deceived, he found backward to embrace his motion, and therefore sets others on work to persuade him.
Verse 23: And Saul’s servants spake those words in the ears of David. And David said, Seemeth it to you a light thing to be a king’s son in law, seeing that I am a poor man, and lightly esteemed?
[Seemeth it small, etc.?] Prudently and modestly he does not refuse marriage, but he answers that he is poor and of low birth. At the same time, he does not at all complain of the perfidy of Saul, nor does he boast of his own merits: for he saw that he was dwelling in the midst of scorpions (Martyr). He says that he was poor, so that he might signify himself to have nothing to give for a wife as a dowry (Martyr).
I am a poor man, etc.: And therefore neither have estate nor credit to give (according to the manner, Genesis 34:12; Exodus 22:16, 17) a dowry suitable to her quality.
Verse 24: And the servants of Saul told him, saying, On this manner (Heb. according to these words) spake David.
Verse 25: And Saul said, Thus shall ye say to David, The king desireth not any (Gen. 34:12; Ex. 22:17) dowry, but an hundred foreskins of the Philistines, to be (1 Sam. 14:24) avenged of the king’s enemies. But Saul (1 Sam. 18:17) thought to make David fall by the hand of the Philistines.
[The king has no need of a dowry] Hebrew: it is not pleasure to the king in a dowry, etc. It is a Hebraism. The King does not seek another dowry, etc. (Vatablus). Note, that, as among the Romans, so also among the Hebrews, marriages were wont to be made by fictitious sale. Thus Hosea bought his wife of fornication: Jacob, Leah and Rachel: Christ, the Church (Tirinus). See what things we have on Exodus 4:26 (Lapide).
[An hundred foreskins of the Philistines] But why does Saul require foreskins? why not heads? Responses: 1. Lest any deceit creep in; or lest, instead of the Philistine enemies, Dave should attack Israelites or other friends: which was now not able to be done, because the Israelites were without the foreskin (Tirinus out of Sanchez). 2. So that he might incite the hearts of the Philistines against David. For, nothing horrified them more than circumcision. But David could appear to have circumcised them as actually dead, if they, being yet alive, were unwilling (Martyr). 3. So many heads were not able to be brought without inconvenience, not to be seen by the King without horror (Sanchez, Lapide).
An hundred foreskins: these he desires rather than their heads; partly, for the greater convenience of bringing them, and presenting them before him; partly, to cover his malice against David with a pretence of zeal for God, and for his people, and for the covenant of circumcision; and partly, that the Philistines might be the more enraged against David for this reproachful and barbarous usage of them, and might therefore watch all opportunities to destroy him.
Verse 26: And when his servants told David these words, it pleased David well to be the king’s son in law: and (see 1 Samuel 18:21) the days were not expired (Heb. fulfilled).
It pleased David; as for other reasons, so especially because this opened the door to the kingdom which God had promised him.
[After a few days] Hebrew: and the days were not fulfilled. The time fixed by the king was not yet fulfilled (Junius, Piscator, Vatablus); the predetermined time of giving those foreskins (Malvenda, Sanchez); or the time appointed for marriage, whether by the King, or by custome (Sanchez).
The days, that is, the time allowed by Saul to David for the execution of this exploit.
Verse 27: Wherefore David arose and went, he and (1 Sam. 18:13) his men, and slew of the Philistines two hundred men; and (2 Sam. 3:14) David brought their foreskins, and they gave them in full tale to the king, that he might be the king’s son in law. And Saul gave him Michal his daughter to wife.
[He smote two hundred] So that he might show liberality and generosity to Saul (Lapide).
Two hundred men: He doubled the number required; partly to oblige Saul the more to the performance of his promise; and partly to show his great respect and affection to Saul’s daughter.
[And he numbered them to the king, וַיְמַלְא֣וּם לַמֶּ֔לֶךְ] And they fulfilled them to the King (Malvenda, Montanus, Pagnine); fully (or, to the full [Vatablus]) they delivered (Pagnine, similarly Junius and Tremellius, Mariana), that is, they numbered all those to him. They delivered with the number perfect and complete (Vatablus). The verb, מָלֵא, is put here by itself with an ellipsis of נָתוֹן, to give; he fulfilled to give; as elsewhere with an ellipsis of לֶכֶת, to go, as in Numbers 14:24; 32:11, 12; Deuteronomy 1:36; Joshua 14:8; 1 Kings 11:6. In both cases it is to be explained adverbially by fully (Glassius’ “Grammar” 348).
Verse 28: And Saul saw and knew that the LORD was with David, and that Michal Saul’s daughter loved him.
Verse 29: And Saul was yet the more afraid of David; and Saul became David’s enemy continually.
[And he was made an enemy] He saw that God was with David, and yet he hated him. What was this, except that he hated God in David? (Martyr).
Saul was yet the more afraid of David: Because he both lost his design against David’s life, and had now paved a way for him to the throne.
Verse 30: Then the princes of the Philistines (2 Sam. 11:1) went forth: and it came to pass, after they went forth, that David (1 Sam. 18:5) behaved himself more wisely than all the servants of Saul; so that his name was much set by (Heb. precious; 1 Sam. 26:21; 2 Kings 1:13; Ps. 116:15).
[And the princes of the Philistines went forth] To war against the Israelites: Either, 1. Out of their ancient and innate distrust and hatred for the Hebrews (Lapide, similarly Sanchez, Menochius). Or, 2. To erase the shame contracted in the slaying of Goliath (Lapide). Or, 3. On account of the recent injuries inflicted by David (Menochius); inasmuch as he had killed two hundred of them, and had presented their foreskins to Saul: which they were esteeming to be an enormous disgrace and shame upon themselves. The Rabbis add another reason; that David, as a new husband, in the first year would abstain from war, would be free for his wife and family, according to the law in Deuteronomy 24:5. But this law does not command, but merely permits, him to abstain from war (Lapide out of Sanchez).
Went forth, to wit, to war against the Israelites, being provoked both by their former losses, and especially by that act of David’s, related above, verse 27.
[From the beginning of their going forth, מִדֵּ֣י צֵאתָ֗ם] Verbatim: from the time to go forth, or of their going forth (Vatablus). When they were going forth (Munster). They explain מִדֵּי by בְּכָל־זְםַן, in all time (Kimchi and Jonthan in Munster). As often as they were proceeding (Junius and Tremellius).
[He was conducting himself more prudently, etc. (thus Munster, Pagnine, Tigurinus, Junius and Tremellius), שָׂכַל] He understood (Montanus); he did prosperously (Jonathan, similarly the Syriac, Vatablus, Junius and Tremellius); he was more successful in war (Vatablus).
 Hebrew: וַתֶּאֱהַ֛ב מִיכַ֥ל בַּת־שָׁא֖וּל אֶת־דָּוִ֑ד וַיַּגִּ֣דוּ לְשָׁא֔וּל וַיִּשַׁ֥ר הַדָּבָ֖ר בְּעֵינָֽיו׃  Hebrew: וַיִּשַׁ֥ר הַדָּבָ֖ר בְּעֵינָֽיו׃.  Hebrew: וַיֹּ֙אמֶר שָׁא֜וּל אֶתְּנֶ֤נָּה לּוֹ֙ וּתְהִי־ל֣וֹ לְמוֹקֵ֔שׁ וּתְהִי־ב֖וֹ יַד־פְּלִשְׁתִּ֑ים וַיֹּ֤אמֶר שָׁאוּל֙ אֶל־דָּוִ֔ד בִּשְׁתַּ֛יִם תִּתְחַתֵּ֥ן בִּ֖י הַיּֽוֹם׃  See Judges 16.  Hebrew: וַיִּקָּבֵ֖ר בְּעָרֵ֥י גִלְעָֽד׃.  2 Kings 15:32: “In the second year (בִּשְׁנַ֣ת שְׁתַּ֔יִם, in the year of two) of Pekah the son of Remaliah king of Israel began Jotham the son of Uzziah king of Judah to reign.”  Genesis 1:5: “And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day (י֥וֹם אֶחָֽד׃, the one day).”  Genesis 8:5: “And the waters decreased continually until the tenth month: in the tenth month, on the first day (בְּאֶחָד, on the one) of the month, were the tops of the mountains seen.”  2 Chronicles 29:17: “Now they began on the first day (בְּאֶחָד, on the one) of the first month to sanctify, and on the eighth day (וּבְי֧וֹם שְׁמוֹנָ֣ה, on the day of eight) of the month came they to the porch of the Lord: so they sanctified the house of the Lord in eight days; and in the sixteenth day (וּבְי֙וֹם שִׁשָּׁ֥ה עָשָׂ֛ר, on the day of sixteen) of the first month they made an end.”  That is, the use of one number, gender, case, person, mood, etc., for another.  Hebrew: אַחַת, in the feminine gender.  Job 13:20, 21: “Only do not two things (שְׁתַּיִם) unto me: then will I not hide myself from thee. Withdraw thine hand far from me: and let not thy dread make me afraid.”  Psalm 62:11: “God hath spoken once; twice (שְׁתַּיִם) have I heard this; that power belongeth unto God.”  Proverbs 30:7: “Two things (שְׁתַּיִם) have I required of thee; deny me them not before I die…”  Isaiah 51:19: “These two things (שְׁתַּיִם) are come unto thee; who shall be sorry for thee? desolation, and destruction, and the famine, and the sword: by whom shall I comfort thee?”  Vulgate: in duabus rebus.  Hebrew: וַיְצַ֙ו שָׁא֜וּל אֶת־עֲבָדָ֗ו דַּבְּר֙וּ אֶל־דָּוִ֤ד בַּלָּט֙ לֵאמֹ֔ר הִנֵּ֙ה חָפֵ֤ץ בְּךָ֙ הַמֶּ֔לֶךְ וְכָל־עֲבָדָ֖יו אֲהֵב֑וּךָ וְעַתָּ֖ה הִתְחַתֵּ֥ן בַּמֶּֽלֶךְ׃  Hebrew: וַֽיְדַבְּר֞וּ עַבְדֵ֤י שָׁאוּל֙ בְּאָזְנֵ֣י דָוִ֔ד אֶת־הַדְּבָרִ֖ים הָאֵ֑לֶּה וַיֹּ֣אמֶר דָּוִ֗ד הַֽנְקַלָּ֤ה בְעֵֽינֵיכֶם֙ הִתְחַתֵּ֣ן בַּמֶּ֔לֶךְ וְאָנֹכִ֖י אִֽישׁ־רָ֥שׁ וְנִקְלֶֽה׃  Hebrew: וַיַּגִּ֜דוּ עַבְדֵ֥י שָׁא֛וּל ל֖וֹ לֵאמֹ֑ר כַּדְּבָרִ֥ים הָאֵ֖לֶּה דִּבֶּ֥ר דָּוִֽד׃  Hebrew: כַּדְּבָרִ֥ים הָאֵ֖לֶּה.  Hebrew: וַיֹּ֙אמֶר שָׁא֜וּל כֹּֽה־תֹאמְר֣וּ לְדָוִ֗ד אֵֽין־חֵ֤פֶץ לַמֶּ֙לֶךְ֙ בְּמֹ֔הַר כִּ֗י בְּמֵאָה֙ עָרְל֣וֹת פְּלִשְׁתִּ֔ים לְהִנָּקֵ֖ם בְּאֹיְבֵ֣י הַמֶּ֑לֶךְ וְשָׁא֣וּל חָשַׁ֔ב לְהַפִּ֥יל אֶת־דָּוִ֖ד בְּיַד־פְּלִשְׁתִּֽים׃  Hebrew: אֵֽין־חֵ֤פֶץ לַמֶּ֙לֶךְ֙ בְּמֹ֔הַר.  Hosea 1:2, 3; 3:1-3;  Genesis 29.  Hebrew: וַיַּגִּ֙דוּ עֲבָדָ֤יו לְדָוִד֙ אֶת־הַדְּבָרִ֣ים הָאֵ֔לֶּה וַיִּשַׁ֤ר הַדָּבָר֙ בְּעֵינֵ֣י דָוִ֔ד לְהִתְחַתֵּ֖ן בַּמֶּ֑לֶךְ וְלֹ֥א מָלְא֖וּ הַיָּמִֽים׃  Hebrew: מָלְאוּ.  Hebrew: וְלֹ֥א מָלְא֖וּ הַיָּמִֽים׃.  Hebrew: וַיָּ֙קָם דָּוִ֜ד וַיֵּ֣לֶךְ׀ ה֣וּא וַאֲנָשָׁ֗יו וַיַּ֣ךְ בַּפְּלִשְׁתִּים֮ מָאתַ֣יִם אִישׁ֒ וַיָּבֵ֤א דָוִד֙ אֶת־עָרְלֹ֣תֵיהֶ֔ם וַיְמַלְא֣וּם לַמֶּ֔לֶךְ לְהִתְחַתֵּ֖ן בַּמֶּ֑לֶךְ וַיִּתֶּן־ל֥וֹ שָׁא֛וּל אֶת־מִיכַ֥ל בִּתּ֖וֹ לְאִשָּֽׁה׃  Numbers 14:24: “But my servant Caleb, because he had another spirit with him, and hath followed me fully (וַיְמַלֵּ֖א אַחֲרָ֑י), him will I bring into the land whereinto he went; and his seed shall possess it.”  Numbers 32:11, 12: “Surely none of the men that came up out of Egypt, from twenty years old and upward, shall see the land which I sware unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob; because they have not wholly followed me (כִּ֥י לֹא־מִלְא֖וּ אַחֲרָֽי׃): save Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenezite, and Joshua the son of Nun: for they have wholly followed the Lord (כִּ֥י מִלְא֖וּ אַחֲרֵ֥י יְהוָֽה׃).”  Deuteronomy 1:36: “Save Caleb the son of Jephunneh; he shall see it, and to him will I give the land that he hath trodden upon, and to his children, because he hath wholly followed the Lord (אֲשֶׁ֥ר מִלֵּ֖א אַחֲרֵ֥י יְהוָֽה׃).”  Joshua 14:8: “Nevertheless my brethren that went up with me made the heart of the people melt: but I wholly followed the Lord my God (וְאָנֹכִ֣י מִלֵּ֔אתִי אַחֲרֵ֖י יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהָֽי׃).”  1 Kings 11:6: “And Solomon did evil in the sight of the Lord, and went not fully after the Lord (וְלֹ֥א מִלֵּ֛א אַחֲרֵ֥י יְהוָ֖ה), as did David his father.”  Hebrew: וַיַּ֤רְא שָׁאוּל֙ וַיֵּ֔דַע כִּ֥י יְהוָ֖ה עִם־דָּוִ֑ד וּמִיכַ֥ל בַּת־שָׁא֖וּל אֲהֵבַֽתְהוּ׃  Hebrew: וַיֹּ֣אסֶף שָׁא֗וּל לֵרֹ֛א מִפְּנֵ֥י דָוִ֖ד ע֑וֹד וַיְהִ֥י שָׁא֛וּל אֹיֵ֥ב אֶת־דָּוִ֖ד כָּל־הַיָּמִֽים׃  Hebrew: וַיֵּצְא֖וּ שָׂרֵ֣י פְלִשְׁתִּ֑ים וַיְהִ֣י׀ מִדֵּ֣י צֵאתָ֗ם שָׂכַ֤ל דָּוִד֙ מִכֹּל֙ עַבְדֵ֣י שָׁא֔וּל וַיִּיקַ֥ר שְׁמ֖וֹ מְאֹֽד׃  Hebrew: וַיִּיקַר.  1 Samuel 26:21: “Then said Saul, I have sinned: return, my son David: for I will no more do thee harm, because my soul was precious (יָקְרָה) in thine eyes this day: behold, I have played the fool, and have erred exceedingly.”  2 Kings 1:13: “And he sent again a captain of the third fifty with his fifty. And the third captain of fifty went up, and came and fell on his knees before Elijah, and besought him, and said unto him, O man of God, I pray thee, let my life, and the life of these fifty thy servants, be precious (תִּיקַר) in thy sight.”  Psalm 116:15: “Precious (יָקָר) in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.”