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Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible
1 Samuel 24

 

 

Introduction

Section 4 C. David’s Threefold Obedience In Sparing Fools (24:1-26:25).

In contrast with the threefold disobedience of Saul in 13-15 we now have three examples of David’s obedience to YHWH in the face of provocation, two in relation to Saul and one in relation to Nabal. As Saul had deteriorated, so David advances. We may see them as follows:

David Is Pursued In The Wilderness Of Engedi And Spares Saul’s Life Because He Is YHWH’s Anointed (1 Samuel 24:1-22).

David Seeks Hospitality From Nabal And On Being Rebuffed Sets Out To Gain Vengeance, Being Prevented By The Courage, Wisdom And Goodness Of Abigail, Nabal’s Wife (1 Samuel 25:1-44).

David Is Pursued In The Wilderness Of Ziph, And Spares Saul’s Life Because He Is YHWH’s Anointed (1 Samuel 26:1-25).

We note that there is an interesting parallel between Saul’s dual pursuit of David, and David’s pursuit of Nabal. Both were seeking vengeance and both were prevented from attaining their object by being made to feel ashamed. However, the difference between them lay in the fact that David had some justification for his action, and in that he was deeply concerned at the thought of the possibility of offending YHWH. This last trait of David, in fact, comes out in all three incidents.

A further point that comes out in the three incidents is David’s obedience to YHWH. In the first and third cases he restrains himself from vengeance and refuses to lay a hand on YHWH’s anointed, and in the second case he restrains himself from vengeance once the folly of his adventure is brought to his attention.

David Shows Mercy To Saul In Engedi (1 Samuel 24:1-22).

In this passage we have the first of three examples of David’s full obedience to YHWH. In this first example he has Saul at his mercy and yet spares him because he is ‘YHWH’s anointed’ (see 1 Samuel 24:6; 1 Samuel 24:10; 1 Samuel 26:9; 1 Samuel 26:11; 1 Samuel 26:16; 1 Samuel 26:23; 2 Samuel 1:14; 2 Samuel 1:16). He refuses to make a move before God’s time, on the one chosen by YHWH. The result is that Saul declares that one day he will be king over Israel (1 Samuel 24:20).

The whole chapter may be analysed as follows:

Analysis.

a David goes to the strongholds of Engedi (1 Samuel 23:29).

b Saul is delivered into David’s hands and his men call on him to take vengeance (1 Samuel 24:1-4 a).

c David cuts off the hem of Saul’s robe and refuses to act against YHWH’s anointed (1 Samuel 24:4-7).

d David reveals to Saul his innocence concerning his attitude towards YHWH’s anointed (1 Samuel 24:8-10)..

c David reveals the hem that he has cut from Saul’s robe and declares his innocence of any intention to hurt Saul (1 Samuel 24:11-16).

b Saul declares his admiration for the way that David has spared his life (1 Samuel 24:17-21).

a David returns to the stronghold (1 Samuel 24:22).


Verses 1-7

Saul Unwittingly Puts Himself At David’s Mercy (1 Samuel 24:1-7).

Even in Engedi David was not safe from a vengeful Saul, for once he had driven back the Philistines, Saul gathered three thousand of Israel’s best fighting men and made tracks for Engedi, in order to finally finish him off. Yet there he was able to find no trace of David, because the huge caves provided adequate shelter, and there were too many to search in safety. As he and his men looked them over their empty mouths must have appeared like a death trap which lure them in and swallow up all who entered them.

Analysis.

a And it came about that, when Saul was returned from following the Philistines, it was told him, saying, “Look, David is in the wilderness of Engedi.” Then Saul took three thousand chosen men out of all Israel, and went to seek David and his men on the rocks of the wild goats. And he came to the sheepcotes by the way, where was a cave, and Saul went in to cover his feet (1 Samuel 24:1-3 a).

b Now David and his men were abiding in the innermost parts of the cave (1 Samuel 24:3 b).

c And the men of David said to him, “Look, the day of which YHWH said to you, “Behold, I will deliver your enemy into your hand, and you will do to him as it will seem good to you.” Then David arose, and cut off the hem of Saul’s robe secretly (1 Samuel 24:3-4).

d And it came about afterward, that David’s heart smote him, because he had cut off Saul’s hem (1 Samuel 24:5).

c And he said to his men, “YHWH forbid that I should do this thing to my lord, YHWH’s anointed, to put forth my hand against him, seeing he is YHWH’s anointed.” (1 Samuel 24:6).

b So David tore into his men with these words, and would not let them rise against Saul. (1 Samuel 24:7 a).

a And Saul rose up out of the cave, and went on his way (1 Samuel 24:7 b).

Note that in ‘a’ Saul came among the caves of Engedi and selected what seemed a safe cave where he could relieve himself, and in the parallel he leaves the cave safely unaware of how close to death he has been. In ‘b’ David’s men were in hiding in the cave and in the parallel David has to firmly dissuade them From killing Saul. In ‘c’ his men urge that YHWH has delivered Saul into his hands, and in the parallel David refuses to lift up a hand against him because he is YHWH’s anointed. Centrally in ‘d’ David is even conscience stricken at having cut the hem off Saul’s outer robe.

1 Samuel 24:1

And it came about that, when Saul was returned from following the Philistines, it was told him, saying, “Look, David is in the wilderness of Engedi.” ’

As soon as Saul returned from driving back the Philistines, his spies informed him that David and his men were now in hiding in the wilderness of Engedi. This wilderness was a desolate and barren limestone desert on the western side of the Dead Sea, a desolation and barrenness only relieved by the oasis at Engedi (meaning ‘spring of the kid’) which gave the area its name. It was an area full of caves which went deep into the limestone cliffs, and a regular hiding place for bandits who could disappear into the caves without trace. Some caves were at ground level and others higher up the cliff face. These cliffs were the haunt of wild goats who could scamper along the narrow paths in a way that caused men to speak with admiration of the ‘surefootedness of a mountain goat’. The caves at ground level would sometimes be used as a shelter in bad weather for sheep, and the shepherds would build a rough wall round the entrance for the purpose, turning them into a sheepcote.

1 Samuel 24:2

Then Saul took three thousand chosen men out of all Israel, and went to seek David and his men on the rocks of the wild goats.’

It was in this barren and desolate area that Saul, with three thousand chosen troops, began his search for David, no doubt traversing the goat tracks on the cliffs at the risk of their lives as they searched the caves. But they discovered nothing. It began to look as though David and his men had moved on.

1 Samuel 24:3

And he came to the sheepcotes by the way, where was a cave, and Saul went in to cover his feet. Now David and his men were abiding in the innermost parts of the cave.’

Coming to a group of caves at ground level which had clearly been used by shepherds as sheepcotes Saul reckoned it was safe to enter one in order to relieve himself. As king he seems to have felt that it was below his dignity to perform this function in front of his men. But what he did not know was that he had actually chosen the very cave where David was in hiding with some of his men. These caves were very large with many recesses and side passages, and were pitch black to any who entered them from the sunlight, although once men had been in them a few hours and had become attuned to the darkness, and were looking towards the mouth of the cave, they could see more clearly. Thus Saul would have been able to see nothing, while the men in the cave, of whom he was unaware, were very much aware of his presence.

1 Samuel 24:4

And the men of David said to him, “Look, the day of which YHWH said to you, “Behold, I will deliver your enemy into your hand, and you will do to him as it will seem good to you.” Then David arose, and cut off the hem of Saul’s robe secretly.’

Recognising that the person who had entered the cave was an unguarded Saul David may well have turned to his men in the recesses of the cave and explained the situation, with the result that they came to him in the pitch blackness and whispered triumphantly in his ears that YHWH had delivered Saul into David’s hands, ‘as He said to you’.

Their words they cited were, ‘“Behold, I will deliver your enemy into your hand, and you will do to him as it will seem good to you.” We have no record of these words but it is quite possible here that they had in mind some unrecorded Psalm that David had regularly sung to them in anticipation of some such event as he sought to keep up their spirits. It may possibly even have been based on a prophecy spoken by Samuel or Gad. Alternately it might simply have been their own interpretation of something that David had sung, suitably adapted by them, especially in the last part, so as to say what they themselves felt. The words certainly to some extent reflect similar ideas found in his recorded Psalms where deliverance from his enemies and his vindication over them are predicted, and his men may well in a general way have applied the wording in Judges 16:24 to them (‘our God has delivered into our hand our enemy’). See, for example, Psalms 25:2-3; Psalms 25:19-20; Psalms 31:15; Psalms 54:7; Psalms 59:10; Exodus 23:22 for fairly parallel ideas.

David then appears to have crept over to where Saul was in the pitch darkness and have cut part of the hem, or possibly a tassel, off Saul’s robe. It may be that Saul had laid the robe aside while he was relieving himself, or it may have been that David did it extremely carefully so that Saul was unaware that it was happening. If Saul did feel anything he may simply have thought that his robe had momentarily caught on a rock. We must remember that he did not suspect that anyone was in the cave, and that from his point of view it was pitch black. (In so short a time he would not have had time to accommodate his vision to the darkness in the cave).

As we have seen earlier there are indications that the hem of the robe was seen as of some significance. In the case of the king he would have a hem connected with the royal authority of the wearer so that such an act may well have been intended specifically to contribute towards the downfall of his kingdom by a kind of prophetic ‘magic’, as well as it acting to remind Saul and his men that he was rejected by God (compare 1 Samuel 15:26-28; 1 Kings 11:29-30). This would explain why David felt so guilty about it afterwards.

1 Samuel 24:5

And it came about afterward, that David’s heart smote him, because he had cut off Saul’s hem.’

Having done what he did David’s conscience was smitten. It is possible that he felt that he had tried to put YHWH on the spot by trying to force Him to act against Saul against His will. Or it may simply be that he felt convicted for touching, with an intention of doing hurt to him, the very person of YHWH’s anointed. He may well have felt that it was almost like touching YHWH himself. For in Israel this man represented YHWH, and David was very religiously sensitive. To him what he had done was therefore like touching something which was ‘very holy’, and was forbidden, such as the Ark. We can compare what happened later to the man who touched the Ark of God YHWH (2 Samuel 6:6-7). Perhaps David felt similarly about Saul.

1 Samuel 24:6

And he said to his men, “YHWH forbid that I should do this thing to my lord, YHWH’s anointed, to put forth my hand against him, seeing he is YHWH’s anointed.” ’

His men probably were probably continuing to urge him to take advantage of this opportunity to get rid of Saul, with the result that he felt that he had to speak to them very firmly, (tear into them’), in order to prevent them taking further action (verse 7). He forbade what they were suggesting in the Name of YHWH on the grounds that Saul was ‘YHWH’s anointed’, in other words, one who was holy to YHWH and therefore untouchable. It is clear that David felt that to attack his person was to attack YHWH. It says much for the respect that his men had for him that they did agree to restrain themselves even though they probably did not feel the same way as he did.

1 Samuel 24:7 a

‘So David tore into his men with these words, and would not let them rise against Saul.’

The belligerence of his men against Saul (for they had suffered much as a result of his activities) meant that David had to speak to them very strongly. He had to use all his authority in order to prevent them from ‘rising against Saul’.

This brings out that one of the main purposes of this passage and its later parallel is in order to emphasise David’s total loyalty, and to demonstrate that he was in no way at fault in his approach to the kingship, taking no steps towards taking the crown until YHWH gave it to him. He patiently awaited YHWH’s time, and when that came he wanted to b sure that his appointment was wholly by YHWH without his needing to resort to force of arms. (Even Ishbosheth’s death was not of his doing).

1 Samuel 24:7 b

‘And Saul rose up out of the cave, and went on his way.’

But the final result was that Saul was able to leave the cave quite unaware of how close to death he had been and of the tumult that he had left behind him. His complacency did not, however, last for long.


Verses 8-22

David Reveals Himself To Saul And Demonstrates That He Has Proved By His Restraint In Not Killing Him That He Is Totally Loyal To Him (1 Samuel 24:8-22).

Once Saul had left the cave David boldly revealed himself to him and pointed out to him that if he had intended hurt him he could have killed him while he was in the cave and at his mercy, at which Saul responded accepting the justice of David’s position and acknowledging that David would undoubtedly one day be king, and requested that when that should happen he would have mercy on Saul’s family. But we should note that while Saul goes away at that point and withdraws his men there is no full reconciliation, with the consequence that David and his men remain in their stronghold. David had clearly recognised that he could not rely on what Saul had said, and that what had happened had simply bought his men respite for a time.

The conversation that follows brings out David’s extraordinary attitude towards Saul, and it was clearly seen as very important by the writer. What then was his purpose in recording it so fully? A number of suggestions can be made:

1). That the writer wants us to see that David restrained his hand because he saw Saul as sacred to YHWH, in that he was the chosen and anointed of YHWH, and appointed to rule over his lifetime. David clearly felt that he must allow YHWH to judge when that should end. This was something which the writer saw as indicating David’s true godliness. That this was one reason was undoubtedly so, but even it only partly explains what is said. For David was in fact quite prepared to think of YHWH acting against Saul in order to put an end to his existence, as he made clear when he said, “YHWH judge between me and you, and YHWH avenge me of you, but my hand shall not be upon you” (1 Samuel 24:12). What he would not do was act against Saul himself. He left any action to YHWH.

2). That the writer wants us to see that David would take no steps towards taking the throne until he knew that it was YHWH’s time. He was indicating that David was prepared to wait patiently for YHWH to work His purposes through, because he saw YHWH as sovereign over men’s affairs. In other words it draws out that David had no overweening ambition of such a kind as to drive him to act before God was ready for him to do so, while being confident that YHWH certainly would act in His own good time. This also was undoubtedly true, and there is an important lesson for us to learn from it of the danger of our attempting to hurry God along before He is ready to act. We often need to walk patiently with Him, waiting until He is ready to work His purposes out, for in that way we will ensure the greatest blessing. On the other hand that should not prevent us from praying urgently for Him to ensure that His Name is hallowed, and that His Rule might come about in men’s hearts. What it does warn against is our laying down our own rules for Him to follow.

3). That the writer is seeking to establish the idea of sacred kingship, not in order to benefit Saul but in order to benefit the later Davidic kingship. (We must remember that he was living under the Davidic kingship). It may be, therefore, that he wanted all to learn the lesson that the Davidic king’s position was sacred and therefore not to be seen as something which could be rebelled against or curtailed by man. This principle was on the whole preserved in Judah until the Exile, in total contrast to the situation in Israel, partly because of this and partly because it was based on the later promise of the everlasting kingship (2 Samuel 7:12-16).

Analysis.

a 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 bowed with his face to the earth, and did obeisance (1 Samuel 24:8).

b And David said to Saul, “Why do you listen to men’s words, saying, ‘Look, David seeks your hurt?’ Behold, this day your eyes have seen how that YHWH had delivered you today into my hand in the cave, and some bade me kill you, but my conscience spared you, and I said, ‘I will not put forth my hand against my lord, for he is YHWH’s anointed’ ” (1 Samuel 24:9-10).

c “Moreover, my father, see, yes, see the hem of your robe in my hand, for in that I cut off the skirt of your robe, and did not kill you, know you and see that there is neither evil nor transgression in my hand, and I have not sinned against you, though you hunt after my life to take it” (1 Samuel 24:11).

d “YHWH judge between me and you, and YHWH avenge me of you, but my hand shall not be upon you” (1 Samuel 24:12).

e “As says the proverb of the ancients, ‘Out of the wicked comes forth wickedness,’ but my hand shall not be upon you” (1 Samuel 24:13).

f “After whom is the king of Israel come out? After whom do you pursue? After a dead dog, after a flea. YHWH therefore be judge, and give sentence between me and you, and see, and plead my cause, and deliver me out of your hand” (1 Samuel 24:14-15).

g And it came about that, when David had made an end of speaking these words to Saul, Saul said, “Is this your voice, my son David?” And Saul lifted up his voice, and wept (1 Samuel 24:16).

f And he said to David, “You are more righteous than I, for you have rendered to me good, whereas I have rendered to you evil” (1 Samuel 24:17).

e “And you have declared this day how that you have dealt well with me, forasmuch as when YHWH had delivered me up into your hand, you did not kill me. ‘For if a man find his enemy, will he let him go well away?’ ” (1 Samuel 24:18-19 a).

d “Wherefore YHWH reward you good for that which you have done to me this day” (1 Samuel 24:19 b).

c “And now, see, I know that you will surely be king, and that the kingdom of Israel will be established in your hand” (1 Samuel 24:20).

b “Swear now therefore unto me by YHWH, that you will not cut off my seed after me, and that you will not destroy my name out of my father’s house” (1 Samuel 24:21).

a And David swore to Saul. And Saul went home, but David and his men took themselves up to the stronghold (1 Samuel 24:22).

Note that in ‘a’ David arose and came out of the cave and made obeisance to Saul, and in the parallel he made an oath to Saul and he and his men again took themselves to the stronghold. In ‘b’ David points out that he has spared Saul’s life in spite of the protestations of others, and in the parallel Saul seeks that he will also spare the lives of his descendants. In ‘c’ David points out that he had cut off the hem of Saul’s robe, the emblem of his kingship, and in the parallel Saul recognises that that kingship will go to David. In ‘d’ David puts his plea before YHWH to take care of his case, and in the parallel Saul looks to YHWH for him to be rewarded. In ‘e’ David cites a proverb and says that his hand will not be on Saul, and in the parallel Saul points out that David had restrained his hand from him, and also cites a proverb. In ‘f’ David asks that YHWH judge between them, and in the parallel Saul does judge between them. Centrally in ‘g’ Saul responds to ‘his son David’ with weeping.

1 Samuel 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 bowed with his face to the earth, and did obeisance.’

We can imagine something of the shock that Saul must have received when he heard David calling to him and, on turning round, recognised that he had been present in the cave that he had just left. He was probably just as surprised when David humbled himself before him (safely at a distance). David was seeking to bring home to Saul his genuine loyalty and desire only to serve him. This was, as we will now learn, because he saw him as YHWH’s anointed.

David’s Plea.

1 Samuel 24:9-10

And David said to Saul, “Why do you listen to men’s words, saying, ‘Look, David seeks your hurt?’ Behold, this day your eyes have seen how that YHWH had delivered you today into my hand in the cave, and some bade me kill you, but my conscience spared you, and I said, ‘I will not put forth my hand against my lord, for he is YHWH’s anointed.’ ”

David then asked Saul why he listened to the men who claimed that David was seeking to do him hurt. He was still unable to believe that the one who had previously shown him such kindness, and had even made him his son-in-law, could have turned against him of his own volition. (He was, of course, not aware of what Saul’s motive had really been in making him his son-in-law). And he pointed out to him that some of his men had urged him to kill Saul when he had been delivered into his hand, but that because of his conscience about putting out his hand against the one who was anointed by YHWH he had refrained.

The point about the continued reference to Saul as ‘YHWH’s anointed’ was not just that he was the generally anointed king, but that David knew from Samuel that Saul had specifically been anointed for the whole of his lifetime, after which, as a result of his disobedience, his line would then cease to rule and David would take over as the new ‘YHWH’s anointed’. It seemed to David, therefore, presumptious, and almost sacrilegious, to seek to hasten that event before the end of God’s allotted period. It is another reminder to us that history is in God’s hands.

1 Samuel 24:11

Moreover, my father, see, yes, see the hem of your robe in my hand, for in that I cut off the skirt of your robe, and did not kill you, know you and see that there is neither evil nor transgression in my hand, and I have not sinned against you, though you hunt after my life to take it.”

He then produced the piece of cloth/tassel which he had cut off from the hem of Saul’s royal robe as evidence of the fact that he had been close enough to Saul to choose whether he would cut off the hem or kill him. And it demonstrated quite openly that he had chosen not to kill him. Did not that prove conclusively that there was no evil or transgression in his hand? Did it not prove that he had not sinned against Saul, even while, paradoxically and mistakenly, Saul was hunting after his life to take it? What more proof did Saul need of his genuineness?

Note also his reference to Saul as ‘my father’. For Saul was his father in that he had married Saul’s daughter, and he was also his ‘father’ in that he was his king. It was a further indication of David’s respect for Saul.

1 Samuel 24:12

YHWH judge between me and you, and YHWH avenge me of you, but my hand shall not be upon you.”

Then he called on YHWH to act as judge between them. He wanted Saul to know that while YHWH might choose to avenge him for what Saul was doing to him, he himself would not do so. He assured him that whatever happened in the future his hand would not come against him in treachery.

There can be no question but that David was revealing a magnanimity and generosity that was beyond that of ordinary men. He was showing in practise what Jesus would later teach, a love for his enemy, even though in fact in his case it was limited to Saul and was because Saul was YHWH’s anointed. Thus it was as much a manifestation of his love and regard for YHWH as for Saul.

1 Samuel 24:13

As says the proverb of the ancients, ‘Out of the wicked comes forth wickedness,’ but my hand shall not be upon you.”

He then cited a proverb in order to prove that there was no wickedness in his heart. For, he pointed out, had he been wicked he would have behaved wickedly, and would have smitten him. But all could testify that he had refrained from laying his hand on him, and he wanted him to be assured that he never would. On the other hand let Saul consider what his (Saul’s) behaviour revealed about him.

1 Samuel 24:14

After whom is the king of Israel come out? After whom do you pursue? After a dead dog, after a flea.”

Furthermore he wanted King Saul recognise who it was to whom he was doing all this. Did he not realise that it was not to anyone of great importance. What Saul as the exalted King of Israel was chasing was simply someone who was the equivalent of a dead dog, or even lower still, of a flea from the dead dog’s back. Why then was he behaving in this way towards him? Was a flea really worth all this trouble? In a sense he was probing Saul as to why he was hunting him.

1 Samuel 24:15

YHWH therefore be judge, and give sentence between me and you, and see, and plead my cause, and deliver me out of your hand.”

And finally he put his case in YHWH’s hands. He was quite content that YHWH would judge and give sentence between them, and see and plead David’s cause and deliver him from Saul’s hand. He was ready to leave everything in YHWH’s hands. And the point is that these were not just smooth words. He really meant it. There can be no doubt that David’s powerful plea was a test of Saul’s heart, and that he was seeking a genuine response from Saul. He longed for Saul to truly repent and take him back again on the old terms. But in the end it failed because Saul’s heart was shallow and finally unresponsive. All this was thus a further manifestation of Saul’s inability to truly repent.

Saul’s Response.

1 Samuel 24:16

And it came about that, when David had made an end of speaking these words unto Saul, Saul said, “Is this your voice, my son David?” And Saul lifted up his voice, and wept.’

It will be noted that while in his response Saul made the right noises, and indeed called him ‘my son’ and wept to think of the magnanimity of what David had done, he still made clear that he saw David as his rival and even as his enemy. He acknowledged that David had been magnanimous, but it was not with a magnanimity that drew out his heart. He made no attempt at an offer of reconciliation. Rather there was a recognition on his part of what must always be a barrier between them, who would inherit the kingship. What David had done in showing compassion to him had even caused him to weep. But it did not cause in him a melting of their differences. He still intended to keep David at arm’s length, for he could not forgive him for being his family’s rival. So there was no rapprochement, no happy reunion. That is why after this incident they both went their ways rather than coming together again. It was because Saul’s heart was too hardened for him to be able to accept God’s verdict, and both of them knew it.

1 Samuel 24:17

And he said to David, “You are more righteous than I, for you have rendered to me good, whereas I have rendered to you evil.”

Saul acknowledged that David had behaved the better and was the more righteous man, because David had offered him mercy when all he would have offered David was death. David had offered good, where he would have offered evil.

1 Samuel 24:18

And you have declared this day how that you have dealt well with me, forasmuch as when YHWH had delivered me up into your hand, you did not kill me.”

He had to admit the fact that David’s own words revealed that when he had had Saul at his mercy he had spared him, even when it must have appeared to everyone as though YHWH had delivered him into his hands.

1 Samuel 24:19

For if a man find his enemy, will he let him go well away? Wherefore YHWH reward you good for that which you have done to me this day.”

He also showed himself as equally adept at citing proverbs. ‘If a man finds his enemy, will he let him go well away?’ The expected answer would be ‘no’, and yet David had answered ‘yes’. So he called on YHWH to reward him with good for the mercy that he had shown to Saul that day.

1 Samuel 24:20

And now, see, I know that you will surely be king, and that the kingdom of Israel will be established in your hand.”

And then he made clear why there could be no rapprochement between them. It was because he knew that David would take the kingship away from his own family. The kingdom, which was not to be established in his hand as Samuel had informed him (1 Samuel 13:14), was to be established in David’s hand

1 Samuel 24:21

Swear now therefore unto me by YHWH, that you will not cut off my seed after me, and that you will not destroy my name out of my father’s house.”

David’s act of pure mercy towards him had moved Saul enough for him to be able to contemplate for a short while the possibility that his family would lose the kingship after his death. The sentiment would not last for long, but while it did Saul pleaded for the lives of his descendants. It was normal practise for the king of a new dynasty to slaughter all the members of a deposed king in order to ensure that none later arose to claim the succession. Saul was asking David to swear by YHWH that if he became king he would not indulge himself in such behaviour, but would instead be merciful.

1 Samuel 24:22 a

‘And David swore to Saul.’

It was not difficult for David to comply with Saul’s request, because nothing was further from his mind than the slaughter of Saul’s descendants. Thus he gladly swore to Saul that he would not deliberately harm his family. And he kept his word, for while circumstances (and especially Abner, Saul’s uncle), would later force him to fight with Ishbosheth’s men, it was more Abner’s doing than his (2 Samuel 2:8-12; 2 Samuel 3:6). In the case of Mephibosheth. Jonathan’s son, he not only did not act against him, but took him under his protection and favoured him (2 Samuel 9).

1 Samuel 24:22 b

‘And Saul went home, but David and his men took themselves up to the stronghold.’

Still moved by David’s magnanimity Saul returned to Gibeah with his troops, leaving David alone for a period, while David and his men remained in their strongpoint. Both knew that it was an uneasy truce, not a genuine reconciliation. There was no thought in Saul’s mind of David being restored to favour. He was probably unsure about what he would do.

 


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Bibliography Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 24:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/1-samuel-24.html. 2013.

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Friday, December 13th, 2019
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