Bottom line? Saul doesn’t like David.
So Saul was David’s enemy continually.
Notice how the writer names the source of antagonism. Saul is called “David’s enemy.” Not the other way around. In fact, nowhere is David ever called “Saul’s enemy.” That’s a detail worth mulling over.
Now the the writer provides us with three vignettes of how Saul becomes to obsess over David to the point of planning his death.
1) The parade
After the victory over the Philistines and the death of Goliath, there’s a big party, a ticker tape parade. Saul gets upset because the ladies wrote a song that celebrates David more than him. Jealousy is only a normal human reaction, right? And it was David that brought the victory after all. Saul wants credit for something he didn’t do.
And if there’s anybody here that should feel threatened by David it’s Jonathan. Normally it’s the son of the king who becomes king next. The throne should be Jonathan’s. But Jonathan seems to want to play on David’s team.
2) Saul’s house.
Back in chapter 16, we established that David became Saul’s court musician, soothing Saul’s inner demons with his harp. But this time the tension explodes into a full out attack. Saul throws his spear at David. Twice this happens.
3) David gets a wife.
Not the most romantic courtship in the world. In the ancient world, any marriage within the royal family was political in nature. If Saul can marry David within his family, perhaps that can guarantee him some security. David has courage and is gaining a military reputation and a popular following among the people. No wonder Saul feels threatened.
So, to gain the hand of the fair maiden, David goes to battle against the Philistines and collects, well, 400… just read it for yourself. There’s a story you never heard in Sunday school.
Saul is a bad king. He’s driven to paranoia by the success of David. Perhaps a lesson to us is that good leaders are willing to forego the spotlight and celebrate the success of those they lead.