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Poole on 1 Samuel 18:8-11: Of Music and Demons (Revisited)

Verse 8:[1] And Saul was very wroth, and the saying (Eccles. 4:4) displeased him (Heb. was evil in his eyes[2]); and he said, They have ascribed unto David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed but thousands: and what can he have more but (1 Sam. 15:28) the kingdom?

[And Saul was very wroth] Like Nero at Corbulo,[3] Domitian at Agricola.[4] See Tacitus (Grotius). Anyone more worthy is feared as a successor by a bad prince: Pliny’s Panegyric[5] (Gataker). Tyrants want all praise to be their own. Fear over the kingdom was added (Martyr). He was inferring that this was the one unto whom his kingdom was to be transferred (Lapide). Chrysostom and others condemn the imprudence of the women; for all comparison is odious, even among equals; how much more if an inferior is equated with, or place over, his superior? And so Saul was justly angry with the women, but not with unoffending David (Menochius). Those women did no injury to Saul: for he actually deserved nothing. For, for forty days because of fear he secured himself in the camp. Therefore, that praise belonged to David. Nevertheless, the women admitted Saul unto some part of that honor. Whatever the case may be, David neither composed, nor sung, that song (Martyr). [Moreover, the expression of this place, וַיִּ֙חַר לְשָׁא֜וּל מְאֹ֗ד, and it was kindled to Saul very much, is the same as in Genesis 4:5, וַיִּ֤חַר לְקַ֙יִן֙ מְאֹ֔ד, and it was kindled to Cain very much, which Malvenda calls an extraordinary construction.[6] See on that passage.]

[What is left, except the kingdom alone? וְע֥וֹד ל֖וֹ אַ֥ךְ הַמְּלוּכָֽה׃] Verbatim: and further to him? [but Montanus reads it without the interrogation] certainly the kingdom (Vatablus). And further, understand, what is left? certainly the kingdom also to him will they give (Vatablus, similarly Jonathan). And in addition (or yet [Munster, Strigelius], or further [Junius and Tremellius]), surely (only [Junius and Tremellius]) to him the kingdom, understanding, will they give (Munster, Malvenda), or may be added (Junius and Tremellius): that is to say, I see that the grace of God, the favor of the people, bellicose virtue and fortune is transferred from me to David. What is left, except that my kingdom be transferred unto him? (Lapide).

What can he have more but the kingdom? What greater honour can they give him but that of the kingdom? Or thus, And moreover, this will not rest here, they will certainly give him the kingdom; they will translate the crown from me to him. Or thus, And moreover, the kingdom certainly belongs to him, that is, I now perceive that this is the favourite of God, and of the people; this is that man after God’s own heart, to whom Samuel told me that God would transfer my kingdom.

Verse 9:[7] And Saul eyed David from that day and forward.

[With eyes not right he was regarding] Hebrew: and Saul was עֺוֵן.[8] Verbatim: eyeing David (Vatablus, Piscator); regarding malignly (Montanus, thus Tigurinus, Castalio, Vatablus), or grimly (Pagnine, Strigelius, similarly Munster). He was looking upon, or suspecting (Septuagint, Manuscripts), lying in wait for David (Jonathan, Munster). Saul began to pursue David with hatred (Syriac, Arabic). And Saul was fixing his eyes upon David (Junius and Tremellius), that is, he was regarding and observing him, so that he might harm him (Junius). The manner of the invidious is to regard from the side (Lyra). The affections of men shine out especially from the eyes. Alas, says he,[9] how difficult it is not to project one’s guilt on the face (Martyr). This is one of those places, in which the middle Yod (י), or in the middle inflection, is supposed to be lacking: They (namely, the Hebrews [Malvenda]) maintain that it is read עוֹיֵן,[10] so that it might be a Qal Benoni[11] of the verb עָיַן, formed from the noun עַיִן/eye (Cappel’s Sacred Criticism 147). (But some derive it from עָוָה/avah, to commit iniquity, and translate it, and Saul was aiming, or intending, iniquity against David.) Some maintain that the Yod (י) was added, to indicate the perverse soul of Saul, or the grim stare (Malvenda). But why could it not be said that the radical Yod (י) here was changed into a Waw (ו); and that perhaps by the design of the sacred writer, so that that word might be variable to עַיִן/eye, and עָווֹן/iniquity, so that thus it might be indicated that Saul was looking upon David with a malignant and evil eye (Cappel’s Sacred Criticism 147).

Eyed: that is, Narrowly observed all his counsels and actions, that he might understand whether he had any design upon the kingdom or no, and that he might find some colourable pretence of putting him to death.

Verse 10:[12] And it came to pass on the morrow, that (1 Sam. 16:14) the evil spirit from God came upon Saul, (1 Sam. 19:24; 1 Kings 18:29; Acts 16:16) and he prophesied in the midst of the house: and David played with his hand, as at other times: (1 Sam. 19:9) and there was a javelin in Saul’s hand.

The evil spirit from God came upon Saul: Saul’s envy, and jealousy, and discontent revived his melancholic distemper, which the devil, according to his wont, struck in with.

[And he was prophesying (thus the Septuagint, Manuscripts, Syriac, Montanus, Arabic, Munster, Tigurinus, Vatablus), וַיִּתְנַבֵּא] And he was acting in a prophetic manner (Junius and Tremellius), that is, he was beside himself, and composed his words and actions as the good prophets were wont to do (Junius). He prophesied, that is, he set forth the words of familiar spirits (Arabic). He acted insane, or out of his mind (Jonathan, Hebrews in Munster), that is, after the manner of those acting out of their minds he was speaking strange and absurd things (Vatablus). He is said to have prophesied, either, 1. Truly, just as previously he was also among the Prophets, 1 Samuel 10 (Menochius). Or, 2. Because, after the manner of those prophesying, he was singing songs and psalms previously unknown to him, as the mad and the possessed are wont to do (Tirinus). Or, 3. Improperly; that is, because, after the manner of those possessed, he was speaking strange and absurd things (Estius). Fools are said to prophesy, that is, to babble absurdities, because they do not understand the things that they say; just as the Prophets appear to to speak things absurd and ridiculous to those that are without the Spirit of God, without whom they are not able to understand them (Vatablus). Hence the Prophets were vulgarly thought to be insane, as in 2 Kings 9:11 (Menochius). There is a Metaphor in the word יִתְנַבֵּא,[13] which sort is common among the Latins in the word limfari[14] (Grotius). Moreover, Plato in Timæus, and Plutarch is his Book concerning Oracles, call Enthusiasts, who, being moved by an evil spirit, say and do remarkable things, Prophets: but Cicero in his Oration for Sextius used vaticinari, to prophesy or to rave, and insanire, to be out of one’s mind. Thus Seneca in “Medea”: Uncertain, of which sort is one entheos (that is, roused by the spirit of a god), she ran to and fro: As, with the God already received, the Mænad raves.[15] And Virgil, Æneid 6, concerning Æneas’ Sibyl:[16] The prophetess is frenzied, if she might be able to shake the great God from her breast… (Lapide).

He prophesied, or, he feigned himself to be a prophet, for so the Hebrew verbs in Hithpahel oft signify, that is, he used uncouth gestures, and signs, and speeches, as the prophets, or sons of the prophets, used to do; for which they were by the ignorant and ungodly sort reputed madmen, 2 Kings 9:11. And it may seem probable that Saul did now speak of Divine things politicly, that thereby he might lull David asleep, and kill him before he suspected any danger. There was a javelin in Saul's hand, which he kept there for the following purpose.

Verse 11:[17] And Saul (1 Sam. 19:10; 20:33; Prov. 27:4) cast the javelin; for he said, I will smite David even to the wall with it. And David avoided out of his presence twice.

[And he was holding a javelin, וַיָּ֤טֶל שָׁאוּל֙ אֶֽת־הַחֲנִ֔ית] And Saul lifted (cast [Arabic, Pagnine, Castalio, Syriac, Junius and Tremellius, similarly Mariana, Strigelius, Osiander]) a javelin (Septuagint, Jonathan, Montanus). Lifting a javelin, etc. (Munster, Tigurinus).

[Thinking that he could pierce through, etc., וַיֹּ֕אמֶר אַכֶּ֥ה בְדָוִ֖ד וּבַקִּ֑יר] And he said (understanding, within himself [Vatablus]), I will pierce into David, and into the wall (Montanus), or David even to the wall (Junius and Tremellius, English). That is, with one blow, with David pierced, I will fasten the javelin to the wall, or I will drive it into the wall (Vatablus). Saul was affected by the demon in such a way that he nevertheless had free use of his reason (Sanchez).

[He turned aside from his face twice[18]] From the face of what? Response 1. From the face of the javelin (Rupertus in Lapide). (Thus we say from the face of hunger, cold, the bow, the sword; that is, from hunger, etc. Thus they maintain that David was attacked twice on the same occasion, and that he got out of the way twice [Sanchez].) But it hinders; 1. That the suffix is masculine on מִפָּנָיו, from his face. But חֲנִית/javelin, although it is once in the masculine, is most frequently feminine, and has a feminine termination. 2. It is not likely that those in attendance would return the javelin to Saul in his fury; or that David would remain there any longer (Sanchez). Response 2. From the face of Saul (thus Lyra, Tostatus, Lapide, Sanchez). Now, he is said to have turned aside from Saul twice, and to have avoided his home, and his company: 1. A little before the war. 2. At this time (Sanchez). Twice, for he flung a dart at David twice (although it be only once narrated in Scripture [Menochius]). But whether at this same time, or not, is not evident (Piscator).

Twice: Once at this time, and another time upon a like occasion, 1 Samuel 19:10.

[1] Hebrew: וַיִּ֙חַר לְשָׁא֜וּל מְאֹ֗ד וַיֵּ֤רַע בְּעֵינָיו֙ הַדָּבָ֣ר הַזֶּ֔ה וַיֹּ֗אמֶר נָתְנ֤וּ לְדָוִד֙ רְבָב֔וֹת וְלִ֥י נָתְנ֖וּ הָאֲלָפִ֑ים וְע֥וֹד ל֖וֹ אַ֥ךְ הַמְּלוּכָֽה׃ [2] Hebrew: וַיֵּ֤רַע בְּעֵינָיו֙. [3] Gnæus Domitius Corbulo (7-67) was a popular Roman general, brother-in-law of Caligula, father-in-law of Domitian. Nero, fearing Corbulo’s popularity, ordered him to commit suicide, which Corbulo did undaunted. [4] Gnæus Julius Agricolo (40-93) was a popular Roman general, responsible for much of the conquest of Britain. Later he served as governor of Britannia. In 85, he was recalled by Domitiian, and never employed again in such services, in spite of his success. [5] Gaius Plinius Cæcilius Secundus (61-112), or Pliny the Younger, was a lawyer and natural philosopher, eventually serving as imperial governor of Bithynia-Pontus. Pliny’s Panegyricus Traiani is his only surviving oration, in which he highlights Trajan’s virtues by contrasting them with Domitian’s vices. [6] It appears that there is an ellipsis of אַף/anger/nose in both passages. [7] Hebrew: וַיְהִ֥י שָׁא֖וּל עָוֹ֣ן אֶת־דָּוִ֑ד מֵהַיּ֥וֹם הַה֖וּא וָהָֽלְאָה׃ [8] Thus some manuscripts. [9] Ovid, Metamorphoses 2:447. Publius Ovidius Naso (43 BC-17 AD) was a Roman poet. [10] The Qere. [11] The active participle is sometimes called a Benoni. It can be treated as a verb or a noun, depending upon context. בֵּינוֹנִי/Benoni signifies central or middle, standing between the past and future tenses. [12] Hebrew: וַיְהִ֣י מִֽמָּחֳרָ֗ת וַתִּצְלַ֣ח רוּחַ֩ אֱלֹהִ֙ים׀ רָעָ֤ה׀ אֶל־שָׁאוּל֙ וַיִּתְנַבֵּ֣א בְתוֹךְ־הַבַּ֔יִת וְדָוִ֛ד מְנַגֵּ֥ן בְּיָד֖וֹ כְּי֣וֹם׀ בְּי֑וֹם וְהַחֲנִ֖ית בְּיַד־שָׁאֽוּל׃ [13]נבא can signify to prophesy, or to bubble up. [14]Limfari, or lymphari, can signify to be diluted with water, or to be driven mad. [15] The Mænads were the female followers of Dionysus. They are frequently portrayed as prophesying in an ecstatic frenzy. [16] The Sibyls were prophetesses of Ancient Greece, usually attached to holy sites. Æneas consults the Cumæan Sibyl, located near Naples. She is said to have bartered the Sibylline books to the last king of Rome, Tarquinius Superbus. [17] Hebrew: וַיָּ֤טֶל שָׁאוּל֙ אֶֽת־הַחֲנִ֔ית וַיֹּ֕אמֶר אַכֶּ֥ה בְדָוִ֖ד וּבַקִּ֑יר וַיִּסֹּ֥ב דָּוִ֛ד מִפָּנָ֖יו פַּעֲמָֽיִם׃ [18] Hebrew: וַיִּסֹּ֥ב דָּוִ֛ד מִפָּנָ֖יו פַּעֲמָֽיִם׃.

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