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1 Samuel 18:12-30 – Two Hundred Foreskins

Updated: Sep 30, 2021

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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.

17 Saul said to David, “Here is my older daughter Merab. I will give her to you in marriage; only serve me bravely and fight the battles of the Lord.” For Saul said to himself, “I will not raise a hand against him. Let the Philistines do that!”

18 But David said to Saul, “Who am I, and what is my family or my clan in Israel, that I should become the king’s son-in-law?” 19 So when the time came for Merab, Saul’s daughter, to be given to David, she was given in marriage to Adriel of Meholah.

20 Now Saul’s daughter Michal was in love with David, and when they told Saul about it, he was pleased. 21 “I will give her to him,” he thought, “so that she may be a snare to him and so that the hand of the Philistines may be against him.” So Saul said to David, “Now you have a second opportunity to become my son-in-law.”

22 Then Saul ordered his attendants: “Speak to David privately and say, ‘Look, the king likes you, and his attendants all love you; now become his son-in-law.’”

23 They repeated these words to David. But David said, “Do you think it is a small matter to become the king’s son-in-law? I’m only a poor man and little known.”

24 When Saul’s servants told him what David had said, 25 Saul replied, “Say to David, ‘The king wants no other price for the bride than a hundred Philistine foreskins, to take revenge on his enemies.’” Saul’s plan was to have David fall by the hands of the Philistines.

26 When the attendants told David these things, he was pleased to become the king’s son-in-law. So before the allotted time elapsed, 27 David took his men with him and went out and killed two hundred Philistines and brought back their foreskins. They counted out the full number to the king so that David might become the king’s son-in-law. Then Saul gave him his daughter Michal in marriage.

28 When Saul realized that the Lord was with David and that his daughter Michal loved David, 29 Saul became still more afraid of him, and he remained his enemy the rest of his days.

30 The Philistine commanders continued to go out to battle, and as often as they did, David met with more success than the rest of Saul’s officers, and his name became well known.


I thought of this reading last night as I was beginning to drift off to sleep. A dawning came to me, which I want to share now. This morning, I checked the reverse directory for the Episcopal Lectionary and found these verses are never scheduled to be read aloud in Episcopal churches. I did a check online of the search question: Why did David bring back two hundred foreskins? There was very little said about it, nothing more than casual opinion.

There is more listed on the Internet about Jewish circumcision. The removal of the foreskin is a commanded act, which Yahweh said must take place on the eighth day after birth. Jesus was circumcised on his eighth day of life. Here is that law:

Genesis 17:11–12 reads: "Every male among you shall be circumcised. And ye shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin, and it shall be a token of a covenant betwixt Me and you. And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every male throughout your generations."

There is opinion expressed on Jewish websites that explain that Abram did not know Yahweh until he was forty-eight years of age. At that time Abram learned that the removal of the foreskin was necessary. However, they report Abram circumcised himself when he was ninety-nine – or – when he would sire Isaac with Sarai.

One site reports: “In Exodus 4:25, it is the circumcision blood that saves Moses' life when Zipporah circumcises Moses' son (or possibly Moses, himself).”

In the story of Dinah, the daughter of Jacob and Leah, she fell in love with Shechem, who was a prince of the land. They had premarital sex [of some kind], but Shechem asked his father Hamor for her hand in marriage. The sons of Jacob demanded every man in the village be circumcised first, in order for them to allow that marriage to take place. Shechem agreed and all the males of the village were circumcised. Then, Genesis 34:25-29 states this happened:

“25 Three days later, while all of them were still in pain, two of Jacob’s sons, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, took their swords and attacked the unsuspecting city, killing every male. 26 They put Hamor and his son Shechem to the sword and took Dinah from Shechem’s house and left. 27 The sons of Jacob came upon the dead bodies and looted the city where their sister had been defiled. 28 They seized their flocks and herds and donkeys and everything else of theirs in the city and out in the fields. 29 They carried off all their wealth and all their women and children, taking as plunder everything in the houses.”

That act by Simeon and Levi became a curse upon them. That curse should be seen as a guiding principle that became what led both Saul and David in this reading from 1 Samuel 18, even though it is not directly stated.

The Philistines were the enemies of Israel. One could even imagine they were such staunch enemies because they were somehow descended from those males murdered by Simeon and Levi, although the city of Shechem is in the region of Samaria, not land where the Philistines had strongholds. The Levites were allotted no land when Canaan was divided between the tribes, due to this curse. They were, however, given the city of Shechem as their place to train priests, as a headquarters. The land allotted the Tribe of Simeon is completely surrounded by land allotted to the Tribe of Judah, the only such cut off tribal land. That land is separated from the Philistine States [the Gaza strip] by Judah. So, there can be a connection to this past history and the animosity between the Philistines and Israel.

From this perspective, when we read of Saul saying, “Say to David, ‘The king wants no other price for the bride than a hundred Philistine foreskins, to take revenge on his enemies,” the intent was not to send David to kill the enemy, but to have David offer himself up under a flag of truce, with the challenge being set by Saul for David to convert one hundred Philistines to Yahweh. Therefore, “Saul’s plan was to have David fall by the hands of the Philistines,” but not because Saul thought David would suddenly lose in battle. Instead, Saul counted on the Philistines taking advantage of a truce and killing David when he was unable to defend himself. Saul thought like one descended from Levi and Simeon, an Israelite who would pillage and rob because it was easy to do [not realizing Yahweh watches everything].

Having seen how David repeatedly refused to become the son-in-law of a king, turning down the hand of one daughter of Saul's in marriage, it was this challenge set forth by Saul that convinced David that it would be right for one so lowly to be a prince of Israel, if the path to that royalty were based on God’s Holy Spirit within him rising to the point of speaking to the enemy from a position of love and truth. David took the challenge because it was easy to kill an enemy in battle [with God’s help] but more challenging to win-over an enemy [again with God’s help], through speaking the truth of Yahweh to an enemy.

When we read, “David took his men with him and went out and killed two hundred Philistines and brought back their foreskins,” that translation is weak and misleading.

The Hebrew written that is translated as “killed” is “way·yaḵ.” That is rooted in “nakah,” which says “to smite.” The primary usage says, “literally, smite (with a single, non-fatal, blow), strike,” which is non-lethal. (Brown-Driver-Briggs) The same source adds, “rarely smite (in battle) so as (merely) to wound.” Because of this, the most frequent translations of this word are: struck (120), struck down (54), defeated (44), and wounded (5). (NAS Exhaustive Concordance)

All of this means David captured the Philistines (which might have come after a battle, when some men were killed), but there were two hundred still living, who were told circumcision was the path to serving the true God, the one that made young David unbeatable in battle. Rather than force the Philistine men, unwillingly, to be mutilated, there would have been a gentle discussion, where questions were asked and truthfully answered. As such, David would have "smite" them down verbally in truthful argument, speaking the Word of Yahweh to them. Therefore, all two hundred foreskins were willingly offered, with praise, just as were those of Shechem and the males of Hamor's land. Unlike Levi and Simeon, David did not kill them when they were recovering from those surgical procedures.

In the story of Saul's hatred for David, Saul was jealous because David was so evidently the one chosen by Yahweh [Anointed privately by Samuel, by Yahweh's direction]. Saul threw a spear at young David, which Yahweh caused to miss him. David would keep Saul from murdering him by hiding where Saul and his men could not find him. One most unlikely place was in Gath, which was where David and six hundred of his men (and their families) found willing acceptance. David even married there. Does that not make sense, when one connects the dots, that Gath was where David converted two hundred Philistine men to submit to Yahweh and let Him be their God? Through the bond of circumcision, and the spilling of blood in the name of Yahweh, they were no longer enemies, but relatives.

When this thought came to me, it spoke of the power of God going beyond the controls of the corrupted leaders of one’s religion. Saul was a corrupt leader of Israel, who thought he could get his real enemy – David – killed, by putting the carrot before him that said, “Serve Yahweh and He will protect you.” Saul then acted like Satan tempting Jesus in the wilderness, whose tricks had no effect. Those protected by marriage to Yahweh have no need to worry and fret, because love of God comes from absolute faith.

American Christianity is filled with Saul-like snakes that are corrupt. They elevate to positions of power by knowing how to be fluent in politi-speak and philoso-lying. They act all-powerful by talking trash, but then tremble when the reality of their failures outnumbers their successes. The task true Christians have before them is not to fall for their tricks, when they offer their daughters in marriage [wealth, influence and power], as a way to bring you into their fold of corruption. To marry into a corrupt family is more harmful than marrying into your enemy's family, as long as everyone is married to the same God. The challenge is to use one’s complete trust [faith] in Yahweh to go up to the enemy and convince the enemy he [or she] too can join with you, through marriage to Yahweh.

We are told “he and his men smite,” which says David had command over others who were just like him in their love of Yahweh and their complete commitment to serve Yahweh. They followed David because he was the Anointed one of Yahweh [His Christ]. When David did become King of Israel, all the Israelites became like his men who followed him in battle. Israel was pure because it had a pure leader. Thus, all who followed David were likewise asking, “Who am I, and what is my family or my clan in Israel, that I should become the king’s son-in-law?”

None of David’s men sought human favor, as they were all wives of Yahweh. When we read of David, “In everything he did he had great success, because Yahweh was with him,” this presence of the Holy Spirit was transferred onto those who followed him – in a truly Christian state of being.

America is filthy from corrupt leaders and a system of government that is the god that protects them and preserves evil ways. This country needs to return to this state of faith and stop being married to corrupt leaders, who secretly plot the demise of anyone who is righteous.

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