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Bible Commentaries

Expositor's Dictionary of Texts

1 Samuel 24

Verses 1-22

A Providence Or a Temptation?

1 Samuel 24:10

The touching and picturesque incident here related is an extract from the life of an outlaw. It took place amid the wild deep ravines that overhang the oasis of Engedi. This spot, situate about halfway down the western shore of the Dead Sea, owes its name, as it does its luxuriant growth of vegetation, to a fountain which rises from the limestone rock and falls in long silver ribbands to the sloping plain below. There were many reasons why David should take refuge here. The deep gorges and bleak hills were safe. Wood and water abounded. The solitude had its own charm. But no long time elapsed till the solitude was broken rudely by the warlike invasion of King Saul. With a fierce band of troops he had hurried out to seize the fugitive alive or dead, for just then there burned in him a fever-heat of malignant envy. Too often the prey had escaped his grasp, but this time he would make sure. This time the expedition must finish its work. It was a skilful plan, likely enough to be successful, if man were the only partner in the transaction. But God cannot safely be forgotten in our schemings; and although He may not always melt the heart of men like Saul, He finds many ways of tying their hands. So this chapter has lessons worth pondering by all who move amid the changing passions of human life.

Note the greatness of David's temptation. To let Saul escape would be madness and impiety; what had happened was as good as a command to rise and strike home. Deal him the fatal blow here and now. Creep up behind him where he lies unconscious, and smite him to the heart.

It was a temptation all but overwhelming. Particularly for an Eastern mind, it did look extremely like a Divinely given opportunity. David had a long list of grievances to settle, and one thrust of a dirk would pay them all.

But what is the principle that rules his action, curbing both the savage purposes of those around him and the hot fever racing in his own veins? What but this, that men!must not go faster to their goal than the will of God permits? Do not take short cuts to happiness, if to do it you have to leave the high road of rectitude and mercy. It was a promise of God to David that one day he should wear the crown, but he would not step up to it over Saul's dead body. He would not be king before God's time at such a price as that! How often men ruin their lives by, as we say, 'playing Providence' to their own career. What looks like Providence may be a snare of the devil. So beware of that policy on which you can embark only by soiling your clear sense of right. Beware of side-paths that lead through the mire. Stick to the highway of the King, and leave the future issues in His keeping. Wave back the eager or contemptuous arguments of others when they plead for your real worldly interest, or cry that you are a fool to be so scrupulous; and say with brave Nehemiah, and in his reliance on a higher will, 'So did not I, because of the fear of God'.

H. R. Mackintosh, Life on God's Plan, p. 256.

References. XXV. 1. W. M. Taylor, David King of Israel, p. 110. XXV. 10, 11. H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, The Children's Bread, p. 113. XXVI. W. M. Taylor, David King of Israel, p. 95. XXVII. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. viii. No. 439. XXVII.-XXXI. W. M. Taylor, David King of Israel, p. 199.

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Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 24". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/edt/1-samuel-24.html. 1910.