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Bible Commentaries
1 Samuel 24

Grant's Commentary on the BibleGrant's Commentary

Verses 1-22

Having 600 men with him, David could not easily be hidden, and Saul gets the report of his being in the wilderness of En-gedi. Not being exactly a brave man himself, Saul required 3000 chosen men of Israel (five times as many men as were with David) to go with him to seek David and his men. Thus the army, maintained at the expense of the people of Israel, is used by their king, not for the benefit of Israel, but for the king's personal wicked enterprise! He would allow nothing to stand in the way of his killing David.

On his way Saul finds sheep-folds with a cave nearby. Likely the folds were build there because the cave would provide shelter for shepherds when they put their sheep in the folds for the night. Saul would of course not know how large the cave was. He left his men in order to have a nap in the cave. Certainly it was the Lord who arranged this, for David and his men were inside the cave. Little did Saul think he was putting himself into the hands of the man he considered his enemy!

When Saul entered the cave alone and lay down to sleep, some of David's men who were in the cave were in favor of killing Saul. They appealed to the fact that God had intimated that David would be king, but they interpret the facts in a way that was not precisely right (v.4). We have no record that God had told David He would deliver Saul into his hands, that David could do with him as seemed good. Yet there was no doubt that God had done this. To David's men it seemed good that he should kill Saul. If the tables had been reversed certainly Saul would have been glad to kill David. But David remembered to give respect to the man God had first anointed to be king. He would not kill him, though he cut off the skirt of his robe. Even then this was an irritation to his conscience: his heart smote him even because of this indignity done to God's anointed king.

There is a lesson here that every believer should learn. When we suffer unjustly it is natural (not spiritual) that we should want to retaliate. God may give us grace to resist this temptation, so that we are kept from any spirit of fighting for our own rights. Yet we may even then take advantage of an opportunity to expose our adversary to the eyes of others, so that they will know we are in the right. But if we are walking with God we should want to avoid even this. Faith can depend on Him to eventually bring everything to its proper level. It is wiser that we do not seek to put anyone in a bad light because of his opposition to us. If God exposes him, this is a different matter. David's words in verse 6 express the sober exercise of genuine faith. He still considered Saul to be his master and would not dare to harm him.

However, this occasion gives David opportunity for making a personal appeal to Saul. When Saul is a little distance away, David calls to him, "My lord the king" (v.8). Saul turned and David stooped and bowed himself as was befitting to his position as the king's servant. Then David asks why Saul was listening to men's words to the effect that David was seeking to harm Saul. David was letting Saul down easily in his saying this, because it was Saul's own imagination that had conceived these thoughts (though possibly others had dishonestly added fuel to the fire).

David further pressed on Saul what Saul knew was true, that though the Lord had delivered Saul into David's hand in the cave, yet David had not harmed him. He says that some had urged him to kill Saul, but he would not do this to the Lord's anointed. He shows Saul the skirt of his robe, emphasizing that in his only cutting this off he was proving he was not Saul's enemy, in spite of which Saul was seeking to kill him (v.11).

He appeals to the Lord as judge between them, and expects the Lord to avenge him rather than taking vengeance himself (v.12). He is decisive in saying, "my hand shall not be against thee." Quoting an ancient proverb, he tells Saul, "Out of the wicked comes forth wickedness." David would not stoop to practices of wickedness, though he does not say how Saul would be classified in application of the truth of this proverb!

In effect he tells Saul he was pursuing a dead dog or a flea, something from which he could expect not the slightest danger. His final appeal therefore is to the Lord to be judge in this matter and deliver David out of Saul's hand (v.15).

Saul's conscience is seriously affected. He calls David his son, and weeps. His confession to David seems sincere, though it is sad that later circumstances showed it to be all on the surface. He tells David he was more righteous than Saul, but this implied that Saul was righteous, only less so than David. Nevertheless he acknowledge that David had done good to him while he had done evil to David. This illustrates the fact that one who is not born of God is still capable of recognizing what is good in contrast to what is evil and capable also of acknowledging his own wrongs. He knew it was not natural for one to allow his enemy to go fully free when he had him in his power (v.19), so that the grace of David's heart was far superior to the vindictive attitude of Saul. He seems to mean it too when he expresses the desire that the Lord will reward David good for the good he had done to Saul. Yet he makes not the slightest suggestion that he himself would reward good to David!

Saul makes a most striking confession to David to the effect that he knew well that David would certainly be king, with the kingdom of Israel established under his rule (v.29). Samuel had told Saul that God had chosen another man to be king, and all the evidence pointed to David. If even at this time Saul had found grace to willingly give up his authority into the hand of David, how much brighter would have been the rest of his life! But though he knew David would eventually reign, Saul was determined to reign just as long as he could. Many men of the world know that the Lord Jesus Christ is the one ruler whom God has ordained to reign eventually, but they will not bow to Him now!

Selfishly Saul asked David to swear to him by the Lord that he would not cut off his family or destroy Saul's name out of Israel Why did he ask this? Because Saul himself had the desire to cut David off, and he expected that David might have the same attitude. The position was such that it ought to have been Saul swearing to David that he would not seek his life, but Saul's self-centeredness rendered him undiscerning as to the simplest moral principles. Yet David was willing to give his oath to Saul. He more than fulfilled this in his kindness to Mephibosheth when reigning (2 Samuel 9:1-13).

Saul then goes home, making not even a suggestion that he would restore David to a place of honor in the kingdom. David also evidently had no confidence that Saul's attitude was permanently changed, for he returned to his refuge in the mountains.

Bibliographical Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 24". Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lmg/1-samuel-24.html. 1897-1910.
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