Antiquities of the Jews     by Flavius Josephus
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Book VI, Chapter 11

How David, Upon Saul's Laying Snares For Him, Did Yet Escape The Dangers He Was In By The Affection And Care Of Jonathan And The Contrivances Of His Wife Michal: And How He Came To Samuel The Prophet

1. HOWEVER, Saul was not disposed to persevere long in the state wherein he was, for when he saw that David was in great esteem, both with God and with the multitude, he was afraid; and being not able to conceal his fear as concerning great things, his kingdom and his life, to be deprived of either of which was a very great calamity, he resolved to have David slain, and commanded his son Jonathan and his most faithful servants to kill him: but Jonathan wondered at his father's change with relation to David, that it should be made to so great a degree, from showing him no small good-will, to contrive how to have him killed. Now, because he loved the young man, and reverenced him for his virtue, he informed him of the secret charge his father had given, and what his intentions were concerning him. However, he advised him to take care and be absent the next day, for that he would salute his father, and, if he met with a favorable opportunity, he would discourse with him about him, and learn the cause of his disgust, and show how little ground there was for it, and that for it he ought not to kill a man that had done so many good things to the multitude, and had been a benefactor to himself, on account of which he ought in reason to obtain pardon, had he been guilty of the greatest crimes; and "I will then inform thee of my father's resolution." Accordingly David complied with such an advantageous advice, and kept himself then out of the king's sight.

2. On the next day Jonathan came to Saul, as soon as he saw him in a cheerful and joyful disposition, and began to introduce a discourse about David: "What unjust action, O father, either little or great, hast thou found so exceptionable in David, as to induce thee to order us to slay a man who hath been of great advantage to thy own preservation, and of still greater to the punishment of the Philistines? A man who hath delivered the people of the Hebrews from reproach and derision, which they underwent for forty days together, when he alone had courage enough to sustain the challenge of the adversary, and after that brought as many heads of our enemies as he was appointed to bring, and had, as a reward for the same, my sister in marriage; insomuch that his death would be very sorrowful to us, not only on account of his virtue, but on account of the nearness of our relation; for thy daughter must be injured at the same time that he is slain, and must be obliged to experience widowhood, before she can come to enjoy any advantage from their mutual conversation. Consider these things, and change your mind to a more merciful temper, and do no mischief to a man, who, in the first place, hath done us the greatest kindness of preserving thee; for when an evil spirit and demons had seized upon thee, he cast them out, and procured rest to thy soul from their incursions: and, in the second place, hath avenged us of our enemies; for it is a base thing to forget such benefits." So Saul was pacified with these words, and sware to his son that he would do David no harm, for a righteous discourse proved too hard for the king's anger and fear. So Jonathan sent for David, and brought him good news from his father, that he was to be preserved. He also brought him to his father; and David continued with the king as formerly.

3. About this time it was that, upon the Philistines making a new expedition against the Hebrews, Saul sent David with an army to fight with them; and joining battle with them he slew many of them, and after his victory he returned to the king. But his reception by Saul was not as he expected upon such success, for he was grieved at his prosperity, because he thought he would be more dangerous to him by having acted so gloriously: but when the demoniacal spirit came upon him, and put him into disorder, and disturbed him, he called for David into his bed-chamber wherein he lay, and having a spear in his hand, he ordered him to charm him with playing on his harp, and with singing hymns; which when David did at his command, he with great force threw the spear at him; but David was aware of it before it came, and avoided it, and fled to his own house, and abode there all that day.

4. But at night the king sent officers, and commanded that he should be watched till the morning, lest he should get quite away, that he might come into the judgment-hall, and so might be delivered up, and condemned and slain. But when Michal, David's wife, the king's daughter, understood what her father designed, she came to her husband, as having small hopes of his deliverance, and as greatly concerned about her own life also, for she could not bear to live in case she were deprived of him; and she said, "Let not the sun find thee here when it rises, for if it do, that will be the last time it will see thee: fly away then while the night may afford thee opportunity, and may God lengthen it for thy sake; for know this, that if my father find thee, thou art a dead man." So she let him down by a cord out of the window, and saved him: and after she had done so, she fitted up a bed for him as if he were sick, and put under the bed-clothes a goat's liver (18) and when her father, as soon as it was day, sent to seize David, she said to those that were there, That he had not been well that night, and showed them the bed covered, and made them believe, by the leaping of the liver, which caused the bed-clothes to move also, that David breathed like one that was asthmatic. So when those that were sent told Saul that David had not been well in the night he ordered him to be brought in that condition, for he intended to kill him. Now when they came and uncovered the bed, and found out the woman's contrivance, they told it to the king; and when her father complained of her that she had saved his enemy, and had put a trick upon himself, she invented this plausible defense for herself, and said, That when he had threatened to kill her, she lent him her assistance for his preservation, out of fear; for which her assistance she ought to be forgiven, because it was not done of her own free choice, but out of necessity: "For," said she, "I do not suppose that thou wast so zealous to kill thy enemy, as thou wast that I should be saved." Accordingly Saul forgave the damsel; but David, when he had escaped this danger, came to the prophet Samuel to Ramah, and told him what snares the king had laid for him, and how he was very near to death by Saul's throwing a spear at him, although he had been no way guilty with relation to him, nor had he been cowardly in his battles with his enemies, but had succeeded well in them all, by God's assistance; which thing was indeed the cause of Saul's hatred to David.

5. When the prophet was made acquainted with the unjust proceedings of the king, he left the city Ramah, and took David with him, to a certain place called Naioth, and there he abode with him. But when it was told Saul that David was with the prophet, he sent soldiers to him, and ordered them to take him, and bring him to him: and when they came to Samuel, and found there a congregation of prophets, they became partakers of the Divine Spirit, and began to prophesy; which when Saul heard of, he sent others to David, who prophesying in like manner as did the first, he again sent others; which third sort prophesying also, at last he was angry, and went thither in great haste himself; and when he was just by the place, Samuel, before he saw him, made him prophesy also. And when Saul came to him, he was disordered in mind (19) and under the vehement agitation of a spirit; and, putting off his garments, (20) he fell down, and lay on the ground all that day and night, in the presence of Samuel and David.

6. And David went thence, and came to Jonathan, the son of Saul, and lamented to him what snares were laid for him by his father; and said, that though he had been guilty of no evil, nor had offended against him, yet he was very zealous to get him killed. Hereupon Jonathan exhorted him not to give credit to such his own suspicions, nor to the calumnies of those that raised those reports, if there were any that did so, but to depend on him, and take courage; for that his father had no such intention, since he would have acquainted him with that matter, and have taken his advice, had it been so, as he used to consult with him in common when he acted in other affairs. But David sware to him that so it was; and he desired him rather to believe him, and to provide for his safety, than to despise what he, with great sincerity, told him: that he would believe what he said, when he should either see him killed himself, or learn it upon inquiry from others: and that the reason why his father did not tell him of these things, was this, that he knew of the friendship and affection that he bore towards him.

7. Hereupon, when Jonathan found that this intention of Saul was so well attested, he asked him what he would have him do for him. To which David replied, "I am sensible that thou art willing to gratify me in every thing, and procure me what I desire. Now tomorrow is the new moon, and I was accustomed to sit down then with the king at supper: now, if it seem good to thee, I will go out of the city, and conceal myself privately there; and if Saul inquire why I am absent, tell him that I am gone to my own city Bethlehem, to keep a festival with my own tribe; and add this also, that thou gavest me leave so to do. And if he say, as is usually said in the case of friends that are gone abroad, It is well that he went, then assure thyself that no latent mischief or enmity may be feared at his hand; but if he answer otherwise, that will be a sure sign that he hath some designs against me, Accordingly thou shalt inform me of thy father's inclinations; and that out of pity to my case and out of thy friendship for me, as instances of which friendship thou hast vouchsafed to accept of the assurances of my love to thee, and to give the like assurances to me, that is, those of a master to his servant; but if thou discoverest any wickedness in me, do thou prevent thy father, and kill me thyself."

8. But Jonathan heard these last words with indignation, and promised to do what he desired of him, and to inform him if his father's answers implied any thing of a melancholy nature, and any enmity against him. And that he might the more firmly depend upon him, he took him out into the open field, into the pure air, and sware that he would neglect nothing that might tend to the preservation of David; and he said, "I appeal to that God, who, as thou seest, is diffused every where, and knoweth this intention of mine, before I explain it in words, as the witness of this my covenant with thee, that I will not leave off to make frequent trims of the purpose of my father till I learn whether there be any lurking distemper in the most secret parts of his soul; and when I have learnt it, I will not conceal it from thee, but will discover it to thee, whether he be gently or peevishly disposed; for this God himself knows, that I pray he may always be with thee, for he is with thee now, and will not forsake thee, and will make thee superior to thine enemies, whether my father be one of them, or whether I myself be such. Do thou only remember what we now do; and if it fall out that I die, preserve my children alive, and requite what kindness thou hast now received to them." When he had thus sworn, he dismissed David, bidding him go to a certain place of that plain wherein he used to perform his exercises; for that, as soon as he knew the mind of his father, he would come thither to him, with one servant only; "and if," says he, "I shoot three darts at the mark, and then bid my servant to carry these three darts away, for they are before him, know thou that there is no mischief to be feared from my father; but if thou hearest me say the contrary, expect the contrary from the king. However, thou shalt gain security by my means, and shalt by no means suffer any harm; but see thou dost not forget what I have desired of thee in the time of thy prosperity, and be serviceable to my children." Now David, when he had received these assurances from Jonathan, went his way to the place appointed.

9. But on the next day, which was the new moon, the king, when he had purified himself, as the custom was, came to supper; and when there sat by him his son Jonathan on his right hand, and Abner, the captain of his host, on the other hand, he saw David's seat was empty, but said nothing, supposing that he had not purified himself since he had accompanied with his wife, and so could not be present; but when he saw that he was not there the second day of the month neither, he inquired of his son Jonathan why the son of Jesse did not come to the supper and the feast, neither the day before nor that day. So Jonathan said, That he was gone, according to the agreement between them, to his own city, where his tribe kept a festival, and that by his permission: that he also invited him to come to their sacrifice; "and," says Jonathan, "if thou wilt give me leave, I Will go thither, for thou knowest the good-will that I bear him." And then it was that Jonathan understood his father's hatred to David, and plainly saw his entire disposition; for Saul could not restrain his anger, but reproached Jonathan, and called him the son of a runagate, and an enemy; and said he was a partner with David, and his assistant, and that by his behavior he showed he had no regard to himself, or to his mother, and would not be persuaded of this, - that while David is alive, their kingdom was not secure to them; yet did he bid him send for him, that he might be punished. And when Jonathan said, in answer, "What hath he done that thou wilt punish him?" Saul no longer contented himself to express his anger in bare words, but snatched up his spear, and leaped upon him, and was desirous to kill him. He did not indeed do what he intended, because he was hindered by his friends; but it appeared plainly to his son that he hated David, and greatly desired to despatch him, insomuch that he had almost slain his son with his own hands on his account.

10. And then it was that the king's son rose hastily from supper; and being unable to admit any thing into his mouth for grief, he wept all night, both because he had himself been near destruction, and because the death of David was determined: but as soon as it was day, he went out into the plain that was before the city, as going to perform his exercises, but in reality to inform his friend what disposition his father was in towards him, as he had agreed with him to do; and when Jonathan had done what had been thus agreed, he dismissed his servant that followed him, to return to the city; but he himself went into the desert, and came into his presence, and communed with him. So David appeared and fell at Jonathan's feet, and bowed down to him, and called him the preserver of his soul; but he lifted him up from the earth, and they mutually embraced one another, and made a long greeting, and that not without tears. They also lamented their age, and that familiarity which envy would deprive them of, and that separation which must now be expected, which seemed to them no better than death itself. So recollecting themselves at length from their lamentation, and exhorting one another to be mindful of the oaths they had sworn to each other, they parted asunder.


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Matt Curtin
Last modified: Wed Apr 15 19:48:23 EDT 1998