David's Dowry

200 Philistine Proselytes

by Joel Ramshaw

1 Samuel 18:10-11

10 And it came to pass on the morrow, that the evil spirit from God came upon Saul, and he prophesied in the midst of the house: and David played with his hand, as at other times: and there was a javelin in Saul's hand.

11 And Saul cast the javelin; for he said, I will smite David even to the wall with it. And David avoided out of his presence twice.

12 And Saul was afraid of David, because the LORD was with him, and was departed from Saul.


Saul had a habit of wanting to do things his own way instead of God’s way (something most of us can relate to right?). He never put in any genuine repentance for his mistakes but made excuses instead and thus became enemies with God. David meanwhile was constantly increasing in success and had become more popular with the people than Saul ever was. As a result Saul’s jealously of his #1 rival, his own servant, began to drive him into a fit of rage. You can read the whole chapter 1 Samuel 18 to get a sense of it. It got to the level where he had become essentially demonically possessed. In his court he tried to impale David with his javelin twice, but David escaped each time. As verse 12 states, Saul began to realize that David was under God’s own powerful protection and could not be harmed, unless he could somehow find a way to first break David’s relationship with God.

1 Samuel 18:25-27

25 And Saul said, Thus shall ye say to David, The king desireth not any dowry, but an hundred foreskins of the Philistines, to be avenged of the king's enemies. But Saul thought to make David fall by the hand of the Philistines.

26 And when his servants told David these words, it pleased David well to be the king's son in law: and the days were not expired.

27 Wherefore David arose and went, he and his men, and slew of the Philistines two hundred men; and David brought their foreskins, and they gave them in full tale to the king, that he might be the king's son in law. And Saul gave him Michal his daughter to wife.”


The king wanted to be avenged of his enemies. In this passage it is commonly assumed that Saul was demanding that David go to battle and kill 100 Philistines (after all, it will be difficult to get a man of a hostile nation to willingly circumcise himself right?). There is another possibility however, when we take a closer look at the evidence. This leads to an evangelistic interpretation of this story. Saul had been working hard to remove idolatry and witchcraft from Israel. 1 Samuel 28:3 says that Saul had exiled all those who practiced witchcraft out of the land. The kings of Israel had a constant struggle to remove Baal worship from the land. The "enemies of the king" were thus not simply opposing armies but were the false gods, religions, and ideologies of the lands bordering Israel. Warfare is not only physical, it can be economic, psychological, and spiritual. Through trade and relations the false religions would seep into Israel, corrupting the people from the purity of worshiping Yahweh alone. This would result in the nation losing God's blessing by breaking his covenant and thus allow the foreign nations armies to have victory over Israel.

Examining the Hebrew word ‘Nakah’ which is translated “slew,” in the original language it can also mean “taken” or “conquered” (as in religious conversion) as well as “to wound” (as in the act of circumcision). The word occurs 460 times in the Old Testament, yet only 1/4 of the time is translated as “slay,” “kill,” or “slaughter” and the rest of the time is usually translated as “smite.” Smite can refer to killing or it can refer to simply causing some kind of injury. When Christ says, “whosoever shall SMITE thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also,” does this “smite” refer to causing death or to a non-fatal injury? Most persons would survive being smacked on the cheek. Also, if death was meant, Saul would have asked for 100 philistine heads. The fact that foreskins were instead requested shows that evangelism was David’s test. A primary and mandatory sign of the Jews covenant with God was the circumcision of all their males. David thus had to evangelize and convert 100 philistines to the Hebrew faith before being considered worthy to receive Saul’s daughter Michal.

Saul knew that God was blessing and protecting his rival David, empowering him for success in every endeavor. As long as David had his connection with God, he could not be stopped. As a result, the only way Saul could hurt David was by first breaking the relationship David had with God. He had to find some way to discourage David and cause him to lose his faith in God. After this, he could have success in killing him. So Saul comes up with this strategy where he will send David off on a wild-goose chase. He knew David was protected in physical battles with sword and shield, but thought perhaps he could be defeated in a spiritual fight. Saul thought that the persecution David would receive while evangelizing to the Philistines would cause him to lose his faith and give up. As a result, God would no longer bless David and thus Saul’s only rival to the throne would be eliminated. Of course we know how the story goes. David went over and above the call of duty, achieving double of what Saul expected. When we put in kingdom ministry first, then God takes care of our needs. Sometimes we get distracted, thinking we need to seek for a partner first. Put the kingdom first and all these things will be taken care of afterwards.

Proverbs 24:27, “Prepare thy work without, and make it fit for thyself in the field; and afterwards build thine house.”

We need to do the field work (establish ministry, connection with God) before trying to build a house (asking God for a family/marriage). He first sought the things of God (evangelism) and only after establishing ministry was he given his wife Michal.

Matthew 5:41, “And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two.”

As David is a precursor to the deliverance of Christ he shows this in his fulfilling double of Saul’s request, collecting 200 foreskins instead of just 100. This was many centuries before Christ would teach us to go the extra mile when necessary. The joy of seeing souls won for God is overwhelming. After his 100-fold harvest David did not want to quit, he was on a roll. Only after getting 200 new Philistine proselytes (converts) did David feel his mission was truly over. Although he presented the foreskins to Saul, knowing David’s heart of worship I believe the one he really did it for is God. Many times human leaders will try to tie you up with a wild goose chase if they at all consider you a threat to their authority. This can apply to either the secular world or to ministry. Julius Caesar for example, was sent on a mission to far-off Britain so that he would not be a threat to Rome (of course that plan did not work out as good they as hoped for). For those of us working to establish God's kingdom, even if you are blocked from your destiny for a season, as long as your heart is of doing the service towards God, do not be discouraged in the work you do for the kingdom. Do it as unto the Lord and not unto man.

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