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Bible Commentaries
1 Samuel 24

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

Verses 1-22

1 Samuel 24:1 . En-gedi was adjacent to the dead sea. Strabo, speaking of the caverns in Syria and Iturea, says, there is one which will hold four thousand men. Lib. 16.

1 Samuel 24:3 . Saul went in to cover his feet; a modest phrase for easing nature; and laying aside his robe, David now approached and cut off a small part.

1 Samuel 24:4 . I will deliver thine enemy into thy hand. Rabbi Lyranus says, that Samuel had told him this when his wife had aided his escape from the executioners sent by Saul.

1 Samuel 24:20 . Thou shalt surely be king. It was the general opinion in the army and nation, that David should succeed to the throne.


The destruction of David being the leading passion of Saul, he scarcely allowed himself time to check the Philistines, before he returned to the most dishonourable pursuit of the best of men. Malice, when rooted in the heart, is the most awful of human passions.

Saul was subtle as well as malicious; and so much so, that the vigilant David was in a manner surprised a second time. But behold him, who laid a snare for another, fall into a mortifying snare which no man had laid for his feet. While the army marched on, Saul alone approached the cave, being watched by David and his friends. The king, not suspecting the presence of an enemy, ventured to enter and enjoy the shade. And David’s friends, on Saul’s approach, had not been wanting to remind him that the promise by Samuel or Gad, was now accomplished, that God would deliver his enemy into his hand. Yea, David himself could not forget the spear twice thrown to pierce him; nor would Abiathar be wanting to plead for the just vengeance of his father’s blood, and the blood of all his brethren. But a servant of God must never do an action unworthy of his holy name. A son must never conspire against a father. No crown becomes a virtuous prince but a crown of righteousness.

Saul, unconscious Saul, had scarcely retired from the cave, before a voice cried after him, My lord my father! He turned and saw David, sometimes bowing to the earth, and sometimes holding up the shred of his robe. He wondered and listened to the defence of his son. Struck for the moment with the risk he had run, and amazed to find in David a protector, his soul softened; the tears flowed, and truth raised her voice above prejudice and passion. He acknowledged his errors, and the superior rectitude of his son. Now the friends of Saul and of David gather round to hear the extraordinary conversation; now the two armies approach, but not to fight. It is not to destroy David, but to contract a covenant with him, and to do him homage as the king of Israel.

But how shall Doeg show his face at this interview? How shall he meet the eyes of David, and of Abiathar? How shall all the liars, and all the flatterers of Saul, who had whispered in the royal ear a thousand treasons against David, lift up their head? The shred of the robe makes them all afraid: and the eyes of one innocent man covers the countenance of a thousand culprits with confusion. And how, we may farther ask, will this guilty world, who have made light of Christ and his gospel, and who have offered ten thousand indignities to his name and to his church, dare to see him on his throne? By and by their feet will fall into the cave; and happy if they may find a David to let his enemies go. Let the christian be instructed by this interview concerning the weapons of his warfare; they are not carnal, but mighty through grace. Yesterday it was rebel David, traitor David, and a price was set on his head. To-day, it is “my son David.” The live coal had thawed the heart of Saul.

Saul, defective in virtue and often imprudent, was not defective in common sense. He acknowledged David as the successor to the crown; and wisely stipulated for the protection of his house. This was a measure of consummate policy, and happy in its effects. So he parted from David grateful that he had shed tears, not blood. He returned humbled indeed, and branded in his robe, but that was far better than to have it stained with innocent blood.

If Saul was prudent, David was still more so. He still preferred his hold, which secured a partial safety, and a retreat at pleasure to the desert, to a mansion in the court. He preferred the goats and sheep for neighbours rather than Saul’s courtiers; he was but too well acquainted with the variable temper of the king. He wisely feared that the tears of Saul were only as the giving of a frosty day, when acted upon by the warmth of noon; in the evening the cold prevails with a greater power than before. Hence we should endeavour to live peaceably if possible with wicked men, but not to put ourselves in their power. We should also learn, that transient tears for past faults are no marks of genuine repentance, unless they are followed by the correspondent fruits of faith, obedience and love.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 24". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/1-samuel-24.html. 1835.
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