Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

1 Samuel 24

Verse 1

DAVID AND SAUL IN THE WILDERNESS OF EN-GEDI, 1 Samuel 24:1-22.

1.When Saul was returned from following the Philistines — This was another of those bitter contests with that enemy against whom Saul was obliged to carry on war all his days, (1 Samuel 14:52;) but how long this war with the Philistines lasted, and of its relative importance, we are not informed.

En-gedi — The modern Ain-Jidy, situated about the middle of the western coast of the Dead Sea. Its name was transferred from a fountain near the sea to the whole neighbouring wilderness on the west, which is full of deep ravines, rocky ridges and dark caverns.

Verse 2

2.The rocks of the wild goats — Dr. Robinson thus speaks of his travels in this region: “As we now came in view of the ravine of the Wady Ghar a mountain goat started up and bounded along the face of the rocks on the opposite side. Indeed, we were now in the wilderness of En-gedi, where David and his men lived among ‘the rocks of the wild goats,’ and where the former cut off the skirts of Saul’s robe in a cave. The whole scene is drawn to the life. On all sides the country is full of caverns, which might then serve as lurking places for David and his men, as they do for outlaws at the present day.”

Verse 3

3.The sheepcotes by the way — Not caves in the rocks, but enclosures built by the shepherds in the valley for the purpose of protecting their flocks. These sheep perhaps belonged to Nabal. Compare 1 Samuel 25:7.

To cover his feet — Not to lie down for sleep, for that idea could have been expressed more simply, but a euphemism for performing the necessities of nature, which was done in a sitting posture, the person covering himself with the folds of his garment. Compare Judges 3:24.

In the sides of the cave — The note on 1 Samuel 22:1, on the cave of Adullam, shows that these mountain caverns afforded sufficient room for all the facts here mentioned.

Verse 4

4.Behold the day of which the Lord said unto thee — We have no mention elsewhere of any such oracle as this, though David may have received it through Gad or Abiathar. But probably we should understand it as a free construction by David’s friends of all such prophecies and events as had designated this son of Jesse for the throne of Israel. 1 Samuel 15:28; 1 Samuel 16:1; 1 Samuel 16:12; 1 Samuel 20:15; 1 Samuel 23:17.

The skirt of Saul’s robe — A corner or flap of his outer garment. This garment Saul had probably laid off when he entered the cave, and so David was able the more easily to cut a piece from it unobserved by the king.

Verse 5

5.David’s heart smote him — He felt that even the rending of Saul’s garment was going too far against the Lord’s anointed. Clarke supposes that David arose with the purpose of killing Saul, but was prevented by the remonstrance of God in his conscience; but we see no sufficient evidence of such purpose.

Verse 7

7.David stayed his servants — Literally, He split them. Vulgate: confregit; he broke them to pieces. The idea is, that by his words he completely nonplussed them, so as to check their furious desire to make an end of Saul.

Verse 11

11.My father, see — A reverential form of addressing an esteemed superior, (2 Kings 2:12; 2 Kings 5:13,) but in this place it may mean more. Saul was David’s father in law, and by this address the son of Jesse shows the king a childlike respect and reverence. It was a word of love that touched the heart of Saul, and brought the response My son. 1 Samuel 24:16.

Verse 13

13.Wickedness proceedeth from the wicked — And therefore were I the wicked man that some represent me, (1 Samuel 24:9,) I would have wrought wickedness against the king when it lay in my power. But the fact that I leave Jehovah to avenge me, and refuse to lift my hand against the king, shows that wickedness proceedeth not from me. These words of David also contain a tacit implication that wickedness was proceeding from Saul.

Verse 14

14.After a dead dog, after a flea — A term of contempt and a term of insignificance. By these terms David represents himself as one so contemptible and insignificant that it was beneath the dignity of Israel’s royal monarch to pursue him.

Verse 16

16.Saul lifted up his voice, and wept — “Behold,” says Kitto, “how that stern heart is melted! The hard wintry frosts thaw fast before the kindly warmth of David’s generous nature.”

Verse 20

20.I know well that thou shalt surely be king — The anointing by Samuel, the triumph over Goliath, the homage paid him by the enthusiastic people, and all the providential deliverances from the deadly pursuits of Saul, together with this last affair in the cave, thoroughly convinced the king that David was that neighbour who, according to Samuel’s prophecy, (1 Samuel 15:28,) was destined to succeed him on the throne. Here again, in fact, Saul is among the prophets, and thus confirms by his own words the predictions of Samuel.

Verse 22

22.The hold — The particular stronghold in this wilderness (chap. xxiii, 29) in which at the time David and his men had their headquarters. Yielding himself now to holy meditation and song, he commemorates his deliverance by the composition of Psalms 142.

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Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 24". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/1-samuel-24.html. 1874-1909.