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Saul in the Cave
v. 1. And it came to pass, when Saul had returned from following the Philistines, just as soon as he had repulsed the invaders, made them desist from their raid, that it was told him, saying, Behold, David is in the Wilderness of Engedi, where the many caves in the limestone hills offered excellent places for concealment.
v. 2. Then Saul, still filled with the same bloodthirstiness which had brought him to the Wilderness of Maon, took three thousand chosen men out of all Israel, and went to seek David and his men upon the rocks of the wild goats, for, due to the wildness and steepness of the hills in this neighborhood, it was a favorite haunt of ibexes, or wild goats.
v. 3. And he came to the sheepcotes by the way, a locality with large caves which had been fitted up to house sheep, where was a cave; and Saul went in to cover his feet, to do his easement; and David and his men remained in the sides of the cave, they were in the rear of the cave or in some of its side passages.
v. 4. And the men of David said unto him, for they could plainly see Saul, as they looked toward the light, while Saul's eyes could not penetrate the darkness in the rear, Behold the day of which the Lord said unto thee, Behold, I will deliver thine enemy into thine hand, that thou mayest do to him as it shall seem good unto thee. Their reference seems to be only to what they considered a divine ordering of this favorable opportunity to take revenge upon Saul. Then David arose, and cut off the skirt of Saul's robe privily, a corner of his upper garment, which Saul had evidently laid aside.
v. 5. And it came to pass afterward that David's heart smote him, his conscience bothered him, because he had cut off Saul's skirt, for since he regarded the person of Saul as sacred, he feared that Saul might consider his act a violation of his royal majesty.
v. 6. And he said unto his men, The Lord forbid that I should do this thing unto my master, the Lord's anointed, to stretch forth mine hand against him, seeing he is the anointed of the Lord. Saul still held the office and had the dignity of a king in Israel, and for that reason his person, in the eyes of David, was inviolable.
v. 7. So David stayed his servants with these words, literally, "rent to pieces, cut down," said of a solemn rebuke, and suffered them not to rise against Saul, for the purpose of taking bloody revenge upon the oppressor. But Saul rose up out of the cave and went on his way. David's act was one of true magnanimity. Christians should always remember to leave vengeance to God, for He will requite in an adequate and just manner.
David Protests his Innocence
v. 8. David also arose afterward, and went out of the cave, boldly taking this opportunity to defend himself against the slanders which filled Saul's heart with mistrust against him, Psalms 7, and cried after Saul, saying, My lord the king! In these words he confesses himself bound to Saul as his subject and acknowledges him as the anointed of the Lord, who occupied his office by divine right. And when Saul looked behind him, David stooped with his face to the earth, and bowed himself, his behavior thus corresponding to his address of Saul.
v. 9. And David said to Saul, Wherefore hearest thou men's words, such as those of the men of Ziph and of Cush, the Benjamite, saying, Behold, David seeketh thy hurt? David thus represented the entire situation as due to intriguing tongues.
v. 10. Behold, this day thine eyes have seen how the Lord had delivered thee today into mine hand in the cave, for so the incident clearly appeared; and some bade me kill thee, the temptation to kill Saul had been presented to David; but mine eye spared thee, and I said, I will not put forth mine hand against my lord; for he is the Lord's anointed. This fact David urged in his favor, first of all.
v. 11. Moreover, my father, as David calls Saul in pious reverence, see, yea, see the skirt of thy robe in my hand, a bit of evidence which demonstrated how absolutely Saul had been in his power; for in that I cut off the skirt of thy robe and killed thee not know thou and see that there is neither evil nor transgression, deliberate crime and wickedness, in mine hand, and I have not sinned against thee, he could rightly protest his innocence; yet thou hunts my soul to take it, pursuing him like a dangerous animal through forests and over mountains.
v. 12. The Lord judge between me and thee, for to His decision David left the entire matter, and the Lord avenge me of thee, for this unwarranted persecution of David would not go unpunished, as he firmly believed; but mine hand shall not be upon thee, he would not seek or take his own revenge.
v. 13. As saith the proverb of the ancients, Wickedness proceeded from the wicked; but mine hand shall not be upon thee. A wicked and godless person might have embraced the opportunity to take revenge, but David had purposely refrained from doing so. And David finally urged that Saul's conduct was foolish and inconsistent with royal dignity.
v. 14. After whom is the king of Israel come out? After whom dost thou pursue? After a dead dog, who could no longer bite and bother people, after a flea, at best poor game for a royal hunter. David stressed his insignificance and harmlessness, for he neither had the desire nor was he in a position to work the king harm.
v. 15. The Lord, therefore, because David was innocent and because Saul's persecution was foolish, be judge, and judge between me and thee, and see, and plead my cause, and deliver me out of thine hand, to be freed from the persecution of Saul by the justice of God. David here is an example to all children of God, showing what love of the enemy means. Like him, Christians should spare their enemies and reward them good for evil.
Saul Acknowledges his Fault
v. 16. And it came to pass, when David had made an end of speaking these words unto Saul, that Saul said, Is this thy voice, my son David? Saul was deeply affected by the fervor of David, by the justice of his plea, by the pious reverence shown by him. And Saul lifted up his voice and wept, momentarily overcome by emotion.
v. 17. And he said to David, Thou art more righteous than I; for thou hast rewarded me good, whereas I have rewarded thee evil. The evidence before his eyes forced Saul to make at least this acknowledgment.
v. 18. And thou hast showed this day how that thou hast dealt well with me, forasmuch as when the Lord had delivered me into thine hand, thou killedst me not, David had not taken the opportunity offered by God's providence.
v. 19. For if a man find his enemy, will he let him go well away? It was a most unusual way of dealing with an enemy, to let him go scot-free when such a fine chance to dispose of him offered. Wherefore the Lord reward thee good for that thou hast done unto me this day. For the time being, Saul permitted the nobler sentiments to come into his heart, but there was no true conversion.
v. 20. And now, behold, I know well that thou shalt surely be king, and that the kingdom of Israel shall be established in thine hand. This conclusion was forced upon Saul by the evident protection of the Lord which David enjoyed, and he still remembered what Samuel had told him regarding his own rejection.
v. 21. Swear now, therefore, unto me by the Lord that thou wilt not cut off my seed, his children, after me, and that thou wilt not destroy my name out of my father's house. It was not unusual in the Orient for the king of anew dynasty to exterminate the entire family of the former king, down to the most remote relatives, and this Saul wanted to avoid.
v. 22. And David sware unto Saul. And Saul went home, returned to his royal residence; but David and his men gat them up unto the hold, for they knew better than to expect Saul to retain the kind disposition and bearing which he had last shown. Saul's emotion was no true repentance, his heart had not been changed. Such a person is and remains a child of wrath, whether he rages and raves against the Lord or whether he is more quiet.
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Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 24". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany