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Bible Commentaries
1 Samuel 24

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

Verses 1-8

First Samuel - Chapter 24

David Spares Saul’s Life, vs. 1-8

Saul treated the invasion of the Philistines as a temporary interference in his campaign to capture David. As soon as he had disposed of that matter, and having heard that David was wandering in the wilderness of En-gedi, he mustered his men to go after him. His army was a specially chosen one, consisting of three thousand able soldiers. He intended to take David by all means this time.

En-gedi was about halfway down the coast of the Salt (Dead) Sea, on its west shore. The wilderness around it was full of caves and strewn with rocks. The town itself was the site of a spring rising in the mountain six hundred feet above the Sea. It was noted for the wild goats which roamed over it. Some commentators say En-gedi is the place meant by the city of palm trees" (Genesis 14:7), though others think the term refers to the city of Jericho.

The sheep cotes to which Saul came in his search were caves where sheep were penned. Saul went into the caves to "cover his feet", or to relieve himself. In so doing he laid aside his robe, thus making it easy for David to take it in the darkness without Saul being aware of it. He could easily be seen by David’s men, who had him between themselves and the light of the cave’s mouth while Saul’s own eyes would have been dimmed by coming out of the daylight into the darkness of the cave.

On the surface of things it looked as though the Lord was putting Saul in the cave where David and his men were hiding so that they could dispose of him. Thus David could succeed to the kingship as the Lord intended that he should. David’s men urged him to slay the king, and it seems that David may have contemplated doing that very thing momentarily, in that he cut off the skirt of Saul’s robe which he had laid aside. Immediately, though, David was conscience-smitten and by his oath disclaimed any further thought of such. It was the Lord who had Saul anointed as king of Israel, and the Lord had not removed him. Therefore David should not take into his own hands the removal of Saul.

So David prevented his men from harming Saul, and the king went out of the cave still unaware of his close call with death. Soon thereafter David followed calling to the king. When Saul looked about and saw him, David bowed before him with his face to the ground. David demonstrated great boldness in this act. Saul was there with three thousand men to take David and slay him, but David exercised faith in the Lord in coming thus into Saul’s presence.

Verses 9-22

Saul’s Insincere Repentance, vs. 9-22

Having gained King Saul’s attention David proceeded to administer a quite stern rebuke to him, though in a very humble manner. First, David chided the king for believing that David sought to do him hurt, a belief which has right then been very convincingly proved wrong. For, second, Saul was in the power of David, and David had been urged to kill the king who wished to kill him. But David had refused to allow Saul to be harmed, and had, thirdly, sworn not to put forth his hand to harm the king, because he was the anointed of the Lord. David then showed Saul the skirt which he had cut off the king’s robe while he was in the cave. Thus David has no evil motive or harmful intent toward Saul, for the sword which bobbed off his robe could have as well taken off the king’s head.

Fourthly, David called the Lord to judge between himself and Saul, for Saul had been scouring the country to take the life of David. David was willing to leave vengeance against Saul in the hand of the Lord, remembering what the law said about avenging oneself (De 32:43). In the fifth place, David quoted a proverb of the ancients which was an indictment of wickedness against Saul and a claim of innocence on the part of David. Saul’s pursuit of David was ridiculous in that David was no more a threat to Saul than a dead dog or a flea.

Finally, David made it clear to Saul that he was leaving all in the hand of the Lord who would judge between them and who would deliver David out of Saul’s hand.

Saul asked, "Is this thy voice, my son David?" Why did he ask this? Perhaps David was far enough away that Saul could not recognize him by sight, though having just left the cave make this questionable. It is probable that Saul had brooded over his problem for so long and persuaded himself that David was out to get him that he could hardly believe that David would say these things. Saul had just heard the earnest and honest voice of David, and it held no animosity for him.

He commended David as righteous in that he spared Saul’s life, who was his enemy. He admitted that the Lord had put him in David’s power, but David had not treated him as an enemy. For this Saul invoked the blessings of the Lord on David. Next Saul admitted that he knew the Lord would one day make David king of Israel and establish the kingdom in his hand. Finally, he asked of David that, when these things had transpired, David would swear not to put Saul’s family to death and cut off his descendants from the earth. David did swear to Saul, and Saul returned to his home. However, David could not trust Saul’s good feeling to last. He took his men and went into the hold, or a defensive position.

Several lessons are to be found here: 1) The devil never gives up trying to destroy the Lord’s people; 2) it is easy to take matters into one’s own hand and bring unending grief upon he who does so; 3) God’s people should be ready to boldly proclaim the sins of the lost to them; 4) humility is always in place when seeking to persuade others to do right; 5) one must never trust the promises of the world.

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 24". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/1-samuel-24.html. 1985.
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