THE GREEN EYE OF ENVY
Dear God, I ask that you open my eyes to see you, my lips to praise you, and my hands to share you.
Read 1 SAMUEL 17:55 – 18:16
55 As Saul watched David going out to meet the Philistine, he said to Abner, commander of the army, “Abner, whose son is that young man?”
Abner replied, “As surely as you live, Your Majesty, I don’t know.”
56 The king said, “Find out whose son this young man is.”
57 As soon as David returned from killing the Philistine, Abner took him and brought him before Saul, with David still holding the Philistine’s head.
58 “Whose son are you, young man?” Saul asked him.
David said, “I am the son of your servant Jesse of Bethlehem.”
Saul’s Growing Fear of David
18 After David had finished talking with Saul, Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself. 2 From that day Saul kept David with him and did not let him return home to his family. 3 And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. 4 Jonathan took off the robe he was wearing and gave it to David, along with his tunic, and even his sword, his bow and his belt.
5 Whatever mission Saul sent him on, David was so successful that Saul gave him a high rank in the army. This pleased all the troops, and Saul’s officers as well.
6 When the men were returning home after David had killed the Philistine, the women came out from all the towns of Israel to meet King Saul with singing and dancing, with joyful songs and with timbrels and lyres. 7 As they danced, they sang:
“Saul has slain his thousands,
and David his tens of thousands.”
8 Saul was very angry; this refrain displeased him greatly. “They have credited David with tens of thousands,” he thought, “but me with only thousands. What more can he get but the kingdom?” 9 And from that time on Saul kept a close eye on David.
10 The next day an evil[a] spirit from God came forcefully on Saul. He was prophesying in his house, while David was playing the lyre, as he usually did. Saul had a spear in his hand 11 and he hurled it, saying to himself, “I’ll pin David to the wall.” But David eluded him twice.
12 Saul was afraid of David, because the Lord was with David but had departed from Saul. 13 So he sent David away from him and gave him command over a thousand men, and David led the troops in their campaigns. 14 In everything he did he had great success, because the Lord was with him. 15 When Saul saw how successful he was, he was afraid of him. 16 But all Israel and Judah loved David, because he led them in their campaigns.
- 1 Samuel 18:10 Or a harmful
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Have you ever felt jealous of someone who had something you wanted? What helped you overcome your envy?
Most of us have experienced envy when someone had what we wanted for ourselves, whether possessions, a particular job, abilities, a happy marriage, children, friendship, love, or recognition. Such desires can often be fulfilled without it being a zero-sum game. However, it is more challenging to rejoice over someone’s advancement when it threatens our own position. As David’s popularity grows, we witness the contrasting reactions of the king and his son.
On the one hand, Jonathan forms a deep friendship with David. Although to modern ears the strong love-language feels embarrassing, there is no indication of anything sexual or untoward in the relationship. Central to it is the covenant loyalty expressed through the bestowing of robe and weapons (18:4). Since clothing generally expressed one’s social status and weapons were scarce in Saul’s time,1 these mark Jonathan as royalty and their gifting is a tacit acknowledgement that David will succeed to the throne.2 The act contrasts with Saul, who earlier held on to Samuel’s robe when he wanted continued legitimation even though the Lord had rejected him as king.3 Saul’s suspicion and torment now do not stop at emotions but drive him to attempt to kill David and then, failing that, to remove him from court. However, he cannot fight God, who is with David (vs 12,14).
Jonathan’s faith in the Lord4 and his willingness to hold power loosely qualify him for kingship, but as Saul’s son he is not God’s choice. Stepping aside for the sake of his friend without any sense of bitterness speaks of a generosity that grows out of a humble submission to God’s will. In contrast, Saul’s unwillingness to accept God’s verdict on his kingship feeds his jealousy.
Lord, help us to seek you for the fulfillment of our desires rather than poison ourselves with comparison to others. May we humbly submit to your will.
Lord, I confess I am sometimes envious. Help me to recognize these feeling and guide me to a place of graciousness and even celebration for the triumphs of others.
1 E.g. 2 Sam 13:18; 1 Sam 13:22 2 David G Firth, 1 & 2 Samuel, Apollos, 2009, p208 3 1 Sam 15:26–28 4 1 Sam 14:6–15
Click here to sign up to receive the EXTRAs via email each quarter.
© 2024 Scripture Union U.S.A. All rights reserved. Reproduction of the whole or any part of the contents without written permission is prohibited.
Encounter with God is published in the USA under license from Scripture Union England and Wales, Trinity House, Opal Court, Opal Drive, Fox Milne, Milton Keynes, MK15 0DF.