Shortly after Saul takes David into his service, we read:

The next day an evil spirit of God gripped Saul and he began to rave in the house, while David was playing [the lyre], as he did daily. Saul had a spear in his hand, and Saul threw the spear, thinking to pin David to the wall. But David eluded him twice.—1st Samuel 18:10-11 (NJPS)

I see two ways to read this:

  1. Saul attacked David twice on one occasion (perhaps with two different spears) or
  2. Saul attacked David on two separate occasions.

Also, why didn't this cause problems with the two men's relationship? Later in the chapter, David becomes engaged to Saul's daughter Merab and, when that fell through, to his other daughter Michal.

1 Answer 1


The entire verse 11 is in the imperfect mood. It seems then that we must decide if that means that:

1a) It is used to describe a single (as opposed to a repeated) action in the past; it differs from the perfect in being more vivid and pictorial. The perfect expresses the "fact", the imperfect adds colour and movement by suggesting the "process" preliminary to its completion.

he put forth his hand to the door
it came to a halt
I began to hear


2) The kind of progression or imperfection and unfinished condition of the action may consist in its frequent repetition.

2b) In the past:

"and so he did" - regularly, year by year
a mist "used to go up"
the fish which "we used to eat"
the manna "came down" - regularly
he "spoke" - repeatedly

The other senses seem not to apply.

Since verse 10 indicates a specific time ("the next day"), it seems likely that the spear-throwing incident wasn't a regular occurrence (as was the lyre playing). Instead, it the incident was dramatically told: David had to work hard to escape Saul, who attacked him twice.

My best guess as to why this didn't end the two men's relationship is that David saw that Saul was under the influence of the "evil spirit of God". When he returned to his right mind, David and Saul were able to be civil with one another. This would be even more possible if the incident were isolated.

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