David tried to avoid the notoriety his new found fame brought him, but he couldn’t. The palace buzzed with the news of the young shepherd from Bethlehem who had slain the Philistine giant, and everywhere David turned, there was someone staring, whispering or both. The servants treated him with awe and the guards with respect. David’s biggest problem, however, was Saul. It didn’t take much for David to feel the jealousy from him, the malevolence that oozed from him even when he smiled. There were times David would catch a glimpse of Saul looking at him when no one else was watching and his skin crawled at the hatred in Saul’s eyes. He felt that Saul had a sinister plan; he just couldn’t shake the feeling of unease. That feeling increased on a daily basis as he sat and played for Saul, strumming his lyre and watching.
One evening as he played he noticed Saul getting the familiar glazed look in his eyes that signaled the torment of the demon; only this time it was different. His eyes shone brighter with evil intent and David could almost hear the grinding of his teeth. Saul’s breathing changed and his eyes darted to and fro, as though he was looking for something. Suddenly, Saul reached over to the guard on his left, snatched his spear and turned toward David.
David ducked just as the spear hurtled toward him, its sharp point slicing past his left shoulder, the searing pain blinding. The spear bounced off the wall and landed on the ground next to David with a loud clank. David looked up with shock; Saul’s eyes had rolled back and he was mumbling incoherently; his guards looking at one another in confusion, not knowing what to do. He gripped his shoulder which had begun to bleed, the blood seeping past his fingers and dripping on the floor. One of the guards looked at David and motioned with a slight shake of his head, indicating the door and David quickly ran out.
He did not go to his room, running instead to the garden so he could gather his wits and decide what to do next. Anger coursed through his veins at the unjust treatment received at the hands of Saul. Saul was of the mind to kill him! He would have been pinned to the wall but for Divine Intervention. He looked up to the indigo sky and caught a glimpse of the stars twinkling overhead and wondered what to do, melancholy seeping into his being and tearing his soul in two.
“Yahweh, where art Thou? Where are You, my Lord and my God? Did you send me here to die at the hands of the king? Did I bring back the head of the giant only to have mine hanging on the walls of Gibeah by dawn? Is this your Grand Plan?”
He considered running, leaving the palace and finding refuge in the craggy hills of Israel, but he didn’t feel the release within him to leave just yet. He listened intently for hurried footsteps, convinced that Saul would send his guards to finish of what he had started, but all was silent, save the swishing of the palm branches and song of the crickets. It was as though nothing untoward had happened; the only evidence of the evening’s events being his bleeding shoulder. He walked toward one of the clear pools of water and washed his arm, gritting his teeth against the stinging. He would stay, he thought, and he would live. As long as he had no release from Yahweh, he would go nowhere.
David remained in his chambers for a few days, until Saul summoned him to the Throne Room. He entered with a mixture of fear and resignation; if he was to die today, he would do so with dignity, knowing that he had done nothing wrong to Saul.
However, what Saul said to him surprised him.
“Ah David…how are you? Yes, yes…well, I have been thinking. I will make you a commander in the army. You seem to be warrior of note and the men respect you so it only seems fit that you lead them. You shall lead…oh, let’s say, a thousand men?”
David’s eyes widened and he swallowed convulsively. Only a few days ago Saul had wanted to pin him against the wall and now he was to be given a prestigious post in the army? It seemed too good to be true. He bowed.
“As you wish, my lord.”
“Good…then you start today. Go out and lead the men against the Philistines for they are a thorn in my side.” And with a wave of his hand, Saul dismissed David.
He turned and walked out, ready to prepare himself for his new leadership role, battle and all Yahweh had in store for him. He left the palace with the cheers of servants in the hallways…and the stifled sobs of Michal in the privacy of her bedchamber.
The weeks turned into months as he led campaign after campaign, each of them successful. For every victory his fame and tales of his military prowess spread in Israel and Judah, much to Saul’s chagrin. Saul had the secret desire for David to die in battle; then at least he would not only be rid of him, but his hands would technically be free of David’s blood. David reported to him on a fortnightly basis and in truth, he dreaded those visits because it seemed to him that each time he saw David, the blasted boy became more and more of a man. If he were an ordinary man, it wouldn’t be an issue, but the boy had something – something Saul couldn’t quite put his finger on, and it scared him.
David was already aware of Saul’s desire to kill him for he had been forewarned by Jonathan.
“My father is trying to kill you. Please be careful tomorrow morning; hide in some secret place and stay there. I will go and stand by my father in the field where I will speak to him about you. If I find out anything, I will let you know.” David did as he was told.
And so it was, Jonathan spoke on his behalf and elicited a vow from Saul not to try and kill David. David didn’t place much value on that vow and knew that it would only be a matter of time before Saul tried to murder him again. Once again Saul sent for him and ordered him to the battle front.
One of the benefits of leading military campaigns was the fact that David was outdoors most of the time, in the wilderness for weeks at some points. He loved the times he could slip away from camp and communicate with Yahweh like he used to when he guarded his father’s sheep. Nature was his palace and the vast canopy of the sky his grand ceiling. He hadn’t quite developed the taste for the luxury of royal living as such, preferring the company of his boisterous, often crude but honest soldiers. He found that the coarse speech of the soldier was often better than the finely-oiled words of the palace officials.
The days were filled with sporadic fights with Philistines, most of who cowered in fear once they heard Israel’s ‘Champion’ was the commander of the unit. The nights were filled with companionable conversation and then silence as each man retreated into his thoughts. David often found his mind competing with songs and psalms of praise and images of Michal. There was still the issue of marrying one of Saul’s daughters, but he wasn’t keen to press on it, considering Saul’s current disposition. He was convinced that Saul only wanted him on the battle front so that he would die. He never knew what to expect from Saul every time he saw him and the next time he did, he was in for a little surprise.
One evening when David came back for his usual report, Saul had thrown a banquet for him with all the higher ranking officials present. He suddenly stood up and clapped his hands. All chatter ceased and eyes turned to the king.
He looked to his bodyguard, and said, “Fetch me my daughter Merab. Tell her to make herself presentable, for tonight her destiny changes.”
In a few minutes the tinkling of bells and jewels could be heard resonating down the halls as Merab entered with her entourage and bowed low before her father. Her face was covered below the eyes with a gossamer veil stitched through with sparkling stones, her deep brown eyes rimmed with dark powder.
Saul smiled condescendingly, looking from her to David. He then remarked almost offhandedly to David, “Here is my elder daughter Merab. I will give her to you for a wife. Only be valiant for me and fight the Lord’s battles.”
David stole a quick look at Merab, whose eyes had widened in shock as she looked quickly from her father to the man to whom she had so summarily been handed over to. She then bowed again to her father, then turned to David and bowed her head. When she looked up, David caught a glimpse of sadness in her eyes and his heart felt pity. It was not him she wanted, and neither was it she whom he wanted. But, in all things, expediency and astuteness was key, and David knew that marrying a daughter of Saul would bring him to heights he may not have been able to achieve at that point in his life.
“Who am I, and who are my relatives, my father’s clan in Israel, that I should be son-in-law to the king?” David said.
That made Saul erupt in loud laughter, and the entire hall following soon after. The musicians began to play and those sitting close to David leaned in to offer their congratulations. Merab stood as still as a statue until her father dismissed her with a toss of his head.
She left the chamber and soon enough talk resumed, with wine goblets being filled and rich food being passed around. David did not partake of much, preferring the more Spartan way of the army. He did not care much for the trappings of palace life, looking around and seeing the flushed faces of the officials, already having drunk too much wine and partaken of luxurious food. As he made small talk, he felt a shiver run down his spine and he looked up to face Saul. He had that look again, the predatory look, and David realized then that Saul’s quest for his life was not yet over.
“What do you mean Merab has been given to Adriel the Meholathite as wife? She was promised to me by King Saul!” David shouted as the young soldier cowered in fear.
“I’m sorry my lord but that is the news from Gibeah,” the young soldier squawked, his voice cracking.
David let out a growl and stalked out of his tent, passing by a few startled soldiers, his fury blinding him. Saul had reneged on an agreement, a most dishonorable thing to do, and in the process had shamed David.
He found a spot on the hill overlooking the camp and gritted his teeth, his mind racing. I have had enough from this man, LORD. He has tried to kill me and as if that wasn’t enough now he is out to shame me in front of my men. I don’t know what to do. The man in me wants to confront him and take the life out of him but yet…I know You have a greater plan.
Sometime later he strolled back into camp calmer, finding the men subdued and looking at him with curiosity. He cleared his throat.
“Men…we attack the camp by Gath tomorrow…”
It was several months until David returned to Gibeah. He had grown stronger not only in body but in spirit, and Saul sensed it. Now the people no longer whispered David’s name, they spoke of him in the open, regaling each other with tales of his exploits, some true and others exaggerated. Saul regretted his decision to give out Merab to Adriel, knowing that to renege on an agreement was not honourable, especially for a king. He had better plans though. During David’s absence he had gotten wind of some rather useful information: Michal was in love with the boy. Ordinarily it would have distressed him to see his daughter so enamored with his ‘enemy’, but then he realized he could use her love for David as a snare. Michal had always possessed an uncanny ability to draw those around her near, beguiling them with her exceptional looks and character. Saul could easily use her as a way to keep David in line. David was a man: he would be no different; all men were prey to beauty and lust from the beginning of time. So once again, Saul promised his daughter to David and was pleased to see a flash of satisfaction in the young man’s eyes before he quickly glossed it over and bowed.
“Behold, the king has delight in you, and all his servants love you. Now then become the king’s son-in-law,” said Micmash, one of Saul’s servants as he laid out David’s linens in his chamber one day.
David chuckled and answered. “Does it seem to you a little thing to become the king’s son-in-law, since I am a poor man and have no reputation?”
“No reputation, sire? Surely not, for what I say is true,” Micmash said as David exited the room, laughing.
Micmash quickly relayed the conversation to King Saul.
A few days later, as David prepared to set out for camp the next day Micmash was in his room, polishing his armor and sword. “Sire…” he said thoughtfully, “there is news in the palace…” He left the sentence hanging, hoping David would take the bait.
“What news, Micmash?” David said wearily, for he was tired and eager to sleep in readiness for the tedious day ahead. He leaned back against the overstuffed pillows, closing his eyes and wishing the gossip-eager servant would fulfill his duty and go away.
“It would seem that the King has decided the Bride Price for Princess Michal.”
David opened his eyes and slowly turned his head toward Micmash. “I’m listening.”
Micmash looked to the left and right conspiratorially, as if looking to see if there were any spies and then, satisfied that he and David were alone continued. “The king desires no bride-price except a hundred foreskins of the Philistines, that he may be avenged of the king’s enemies.”
David closed his eyes and began to laugh, the idea sounding so ridiculous that it never crossed his mind that it could be true. “Oh Micmash, you really are the most dreadful gossip,” David snorted, tears running down his face and his body shaking with mirth. “Of all the ridiculous things to demand…a hundred Philistine foreskins.”
He was still chuckling when he looked at Micmash to find a pained expression on his face, and he immediately sobered. “Wait…you mean to tell me that this is true?” he asked, cleaning the tears from his face.
“May the Lord strike me dead if I lie,” Micmash replied vehemently, distress at David’s reaction written across his face.
David sat up and a pensive look crossed his face. “So…a hundred Philistine foreskins, is it? Then so shall it be. It pleases me to be the son-in-law of the King,” he said. With that, he rolled over and fell asleep.
Written by Sifa Asani Gowon
This episode wraps up the Heart Of A King series, guys. The writer, Sifa, is considering turning it into a book, hence the cessation. Whatever follow-up, I shall keep all you devoted readers updated. Thanks for sticking around. Your readership has always been appreciated. For more of Sifa’s stories, do visit her blog at http://sifushka.blogspot.com