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1Sa 24:1 And it came to pass, when Saul was returned from following the Philistines, that it was told him, saying, Behold, David [is] in the wilderness of Engedi.
Ver. 1. It was told him, saying. ] They that told him knew what would please him - they found him out some new game: they knew his implacable spirit fraught with malice, and fomented it. Mithridates was so mad a hunter that, taken with that sport, for seven years’ space, neque urbis neque ruris tecto sit usus, saith the historian, he came not within any house in city or country. Saul was as madly set against David, whom he had lately seen must strangely snatched out of his hands.
1Sa 24:2 Then Saul took three thousand chosen men out of all Israel, and went to seek David and his men upon the rocks of the wild goats.
Ver. 2. Upon the rocks of the wild goats. ] Per rupes rupicaprarum: where they ventured their necks at every step almost, so steep and craggy were those cliffs. The wild goats hanging on them, and sometimes falling down, are said to pitch upon their horns without hurt. a
a Plin., lib. viii. cap. 53.
1Sa 24:3 And he came to the sheepcotes by the way, where [was] a cave; and Saul went in to cover his feet: and David and his men remained in the sides of the cave.
Ver. 3. And Saul went in to cover his feet. ] To ease nature. See Judges 3:24 , See Trapp on " Jdg 3:24 " Alexander Medices, duke of Florence, and son-in-law to Charles V, Emperor, was slain by his near kinsman Laurentius, as he was doing his easement. a
And David and his men remained in the sides of the cave. ] Here and at this time it was that David said, "I will cry unto God most High, unto God that performeth all things for me," Psa 57:2 where the Chaldee hath, Unto God who sent the spider to make a web in the mouth of the cave for me. It may very well be that Saul, seeing the entrance of the cave overgrown with cobwebs, might think that no David lurked there. The like providence is reported for the preservation of Felix, a martyr, one time from his persecutors, whereupon Paulinus singeth -
“ Sic ubi Christus adest, nobis et aranea muro est:
At cui Christus abest, et murus aranea fiet ”
a Gal, Hist. Epit.
1Sa 24:4 And the men of David said unto him, 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. Then David arose, and cut off the skirt of Saul’s robe privily.
Ver. 4. Behold the day of which the Lord said unto thee. ] But when and where did the Lord say this to David? Either not at all, but they spoke it of their own heads, to move him to make an end of Saul, the cause of all their sorrows and sufferings; or else they collected it from God’s general promise to deliver all David’s enemies into his hands; their fingers even itched to be doing at Saul, and therefore they urge the matter so hard upon David to despatch him out of the way: the present opportunity here thrust into his hands they looked upon as an oracle and warrant good enough, and therefore not to be slighted or let slip. Thus we see how ready we are to hasten the Lord’s promise, if the occasion serve never so little, saith the Geneva note here.
And cut off the skirt of Saul’s robe privily.] Sine impetu aut strepitu alam pallii abscidit. Abulensis thinketh that God at this time made David extraordinarily nimble, and Saul extraordinarily deaf; but the noise of Saul’s soldiers without the cave, and Saul’s upper garment lying at some distance from him as then, might easily give David this opportunity of cutting a lap of it undiscerned.
1Sa 24:5 And it came to pass afterward, that David’s heart smote him, because he had cut off Saul’s skirt.
Ver. 5. David’s heart smote,] i.e., His conscience, which keeps court in every faculty of the soul, checked him: such was his tenderness then. Bee masters tell us that those are the best hives that make the greatest noise; so is that the best conscience that checketh for smallest sins. David feared that what he had done to the king might be taken for an ignominy and an injury: he is therefore pricked inwardly. Bonorum enim mentium est culpam agnoscere ubi culpa non est, saith Bernard. Good men are afraid of the least show of sin, being jealous over themselves with a godly jealousy.
1Sa 24:6 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.
Ver. 6. The Lord forbid that I should do this thing. ] Thus he blesseth himself from such a disloyalty to his master and sovereign. The Janizaries have learned of the Jesuits to kill their king if he please them not. Peter du Moulin said truly of many of the priests of France, that they were for their loyalty not beholden to the maxims of Italy.
1Sa 24:7 So David stayed his servants with these words, and suffered them not to rise against Saul. But Saul rose up out of the cave, and went on [his] way.
Ver. 7. So David stayed his servants. ] Dispescuit, diffidit: He staved them off, when they rose from both sides of the cave to lay violent hands upon Saul; and this was a greater victory, saith Chrysostom, than that he once got over Goliath, because now he overcame himself, and manfully repressed his unruly soldiers with a word in season.
But Saul rose up out of the cave. ] Little thinking how near he had been to a mischief, and how easily he might have died before his time; Ecc 7:17 that is, than when it had been better for him to have done anything than have died. See Ecclesiastes 9:12 .
1Sa 24:8 David also arose afterward, and went out of the cave, and cried after Saul, saying, My lord the king. And when Saul looked behind him, David stooped with his face to the earth, and bowed himself.
Ver. 8. And went out of the cave. ] That by his just apology he might make his own innocency to triumph in the tyrant’s conscience, as indeed it did.
1Sa 24:9 And David said to Saul, Wherefore hearest thou men’s words, saying, Behold, David seeketh thy hurt?
Ver. 9. Wherefore hearest thou men’s words?] The tale hearer is no less faulty than the tale bearer; for as this carrieth the devil in his tongue, so doth that other in his ear. David blameth not so much Saul as his toadies, yet showeth that both were blameworthy.
1Sa 24:10 Behold, this day thine eyes have seen how that the LORD had delivered thee to day into mine hand in the cave: and [some] bade [me] kill thee: 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.
Ver. 10. Behold, this day thine eyes have seen. ] This is David’s defence; wherein each word hath its weight, each syllable its substance. We may lawfully, when wronged, clear our own innocence, so we do it, as here, with meekness and wisdom. Sed o quam hoc non est omnium.
1Sa 24:11 Moreover, my father, see, yea, see the skirt of thy robe in my hand: 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 in mine hand, and I have not sinned against thee; yet thou huntest my soul to take it.
Ver. 11. And killed thee not. ] Chrysostom saith that David, by his sparing of Saul, gave a deep wound to the devil, that old manslayer, qui non nisi caedes sitit, et suscitat. The Rabbins say that David went toward Saul with a purpose to have killed him, but that, as he went, he better bethought himself. See to the contrary of this, 1 Samuel 26:10 , which the Vulgate hath here inserted.
That there is neither evil nor trangression in mine hand. ] For that had been to have taken vengeance into his own hand, and to have raised trouble in the commonwealth. David was of his temper, - or rather of a far better, - who had escaped three tyrants, Caligula, Claudius, and Nero, - who had slain many good men, - and being asked how, answered, Iniurias accipiendo, et insuper gratias agendo, by bearing wrongs, and returning thanks for them.
1Sa 24:12 The LORD judge between me and thee, and the LORD avenge me of thee: but mine hand shall not be upon thee.
Ver. 12. The Lord judge between me and thee. ] He appealeth to God the righteous Judge: as did Athanasius, when Constantine the Arian emperor sent him into banishment, Iudicet Dominus inter me et te, O Imperator, quia calumniis inimicorum credidisti. So did John Huss, and many more martyrs, who cited their adversaries to answer them before God’s tribunal, setting them a time.
And the Lord avenge me of thee. ] This he desireth ex recto iusticiae zelo, from a right principle: and woe be to those whom God’s persecuted people shall put over to him to be punished. He is the Lord God of recompences, and will surely requite. Jer 51:56
But mine hand shall not be upon thee. ] I will not do thee that wrong, nor myself that disservice; fear it not.
1Sa 24:13 As saith the proverb of the ancients, Wickedness proceedeth from the wicked: but mine hand shall not be upon thee.
Ver. 13. Wickedness proceedeth from the wicked. ] They are carried away even as they are led, 1Co 12:2 they act as they are acted and agitated by the devil Eph 2:2 and their lusts. Tit 3:3 If a graceless man "find his enemy, will he let him go well away?" 1Sa 24:19 But my hand shall not be upon thee, far I am an honest man; and as thou never hast, so thou never shalt find me otherwise. He that is once wicked, is presumed to be so always, as occasion serveth him. But "the counsel of the wicked is far from me," Job 21:16 therefore thou needest not fear any hurt from me. I abhor the motion.
1Sa 24:14 After whom is the king of Israel come out? after whom dost thou pursue? after a dead dog, after a flea.
Ver. 14. After a dead dog, after a flea. ] Egregiam vero laudem, a great praise, a great purchase sure, to kill a dead dog, to fight with a flea! Is this an employment fit for a king? an exploit worthy of such an army? a Caligula took his army to the ocean, as if he would have passed over into Brittany, and done great matters there: but he only caused his soldiers to pick up cockle shells that lay on the shore, and so returned to Rome: Magnifie glorians quasi oceano subacto. Ridiculum caput! b Domitian spent his time in catching flies: and Artaxerxes in making knife handles. Was this handsome? Aquila non captat muscas, as saith the proverb of the ancients.
a Facis quod est tanto rege indignum, dum me tenuissimum, infimum, et infirmissimum tanto comitatu persequeris. - Jun.
b Dio, in Calig.
1Sa 24:15 The LORD therefore be judge, and judge between me and thee, and see, and plead my cause, and deliver me out of thine hand.
Ver. 15. The Lord therefore be judge, and judge. ] See 1 Samuel 24:12 .
1Sa 24:16 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? And Saul lifted up his voice, and wept.
Ver. 16. And Saul lifted up his voice, and wept. ] As overcome with David’s kindness, whose innocency now triumphed in Saul’s conscience, and produced a velleity, an imperfect motion of the will: but not voluntatem, a direct and complete will against his sin.
1Sa 24:17 And he said to David, Thou [art] more righteous than I: for thou hast rewarded me good, whereas I have rewarded thee evil.
Ver. 17. Thou art more righteows than I. ] This is a great mercy of God, and a great comfort to the godly, that their persecutors, convinced in their own consciences, are eftsoons forced to attest their innocency, and their own unrighteousness in acting against them. Thus - besides Maximinus and other of the ancient persecutors - the Papists could not but think and speak well of Luther, Bucer, Bradford, and others whom they persecuted, for their piety in life and patience at death. Si Luthero faverem ut viro bono, quod fatentur et hostes, &c., saith Erasmus. a At the digging up of Bucer’s bones in Cambridge, Dr Perne, vice-chancellor, made a sermon against him. Howbeit the same Perne, either immediately after his sermon, or before he went to it, striking himself on the breast, and in a manner weeping, wished at home at his house with all his heart that God would grant he might even then presently depart, and remain with Bucer; for he thought if any man’s soul were worthy of heaven, his in special to be most worthy. This was testified by Perne’s own familiar friends. b
a Tom. viii. epist.
b Act. and Mon., fol. 1780.
1Sa 24:18 And thou hast shewed 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.
Ver. 18. And thou hast showed this day. ] Saul being melted by those coals of kindness which David had heaped on his head, poureth out himself in a flood of passionate expressions, and for present spake as he thought. But good thoughts make but a thoroughfare of wicked hearts: they stay not there, as those that like not their lodging: their purposes, for want of performance, are but as clouds without rain, or as Hercules’ club in the tragedy, of a great bulk, but stuffed with moss and rubbish.
1Sa 24:19 For if a man find his enemy, will he let him go well away? wherefore the LORD reward thee good for that thou hast done unto me this day.
Ver. 19. For if a man find his enemy; will he let him go well away? ] Not likely, unless he be more than a natural man; for we are all revengeful enough. Aristotle thinketh revenge lawful. Mohammed’s laws run thus - Avenge yourselves of your enemies; marry as many wives as you can maintain; kill the infidels, &c. But we have not so learned Christ. God giveth more grace, &c.
For that thou hast done unto me this day. ] Thou hast given me my life, which is more to me than my kingdom. Therefore David, though but a subject, was herein greater than King Saul; Nil enim ira magnum et magnanimum facit, a for nothing showeth more a magnanimous man, than to love an enemy, and to pardon injuries.
a A. Lap.
1Sa 24:20 And now, behold, I know well that thou shalt surely be king, and that the kingdom of Israel shall be established in thine hand.
Ver. 20. And now, behold, I know well. ] How knew he this? Nimirum ex ipsis Davidis moribus, saith Chrysostom. Surely by David’s kingly virtues, and good success, whereby God made him formidable to his enemies, but amiable and admirable in the eyes of all Israel. Saul’s sin therefore was the greater in persecuting David, whom he knew God had set up. See Psalms 4:2-4 .
1Sa 24:21 Swear now therefore unto me by the LORD, that thou wilt not cut off my seed after me, and that thou wilt not destroy my name out of my father’s house.
Ver. 21. That thou wilt not cut off my seed. ] His care of posterity’s good was commendable; but till now he had taken a very ill course for them; as that Roman tyrant had done, whom when the people slew together with his children, they cried out, Of so ill a litter, not one whelp is to be left alive.
1Sa 24:22 And David sware unto Saul. And Saul went home; but David and his men gat them up unto the hold.
Ver. 22. And David sware unto Saul. ] The same in effect that he had sworn before to Jonathan.
And Saul went home. ] Convinced, but not converted; Punctus et repunctus, minime tamen ad resipiscentiam compunctus.
Gat them up unto the hold, ] i.e., Of Engedi, 1Sa 24:1 for they knew that there was little hold to be taken of Saul’s melting protestations, whom they had found so faithless. Credulity argueth folly.
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Trapp, John. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 24". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29