1 Samuel 24:5
And it came to pass afterward, that David's heart smote him, because he had cut off Saul's skirt.
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(5) David’s heart smote him.—Not for what he had done to Saul, but his conscience smote him for the momentary thought that had stained his soul of slaying the Lord’s Anointed. This is better than with Clericus to say, “David was afraid that Saul would take this, though a clear sign of his [David’s] magnanimity, in bad part, and regard it as a violation of his royal majesty.” There is no sign at all of David’s even regretting he had cut off the fringe of the king’s garment. It was the far more terrible thought of slaying the God-anointed king which troubled David. The words of the next verse show us clearly what was passing in his mind when he gravely rebuked his men, and evidently restrained them, with some little trouble, from rushing upon Saul, even after he had left the sleeping form, with the piece of the mantle in his hand. The Hebrew word rendered “stayed” is a forcible one, and, literally, would be crushed down. There is a curious Note, however, in the Babylonian Talmud on this passage in the Book of Samuel which tells how David cut off a piece of Saul’s robe, in which the act is evidently very strongly condemned. Rabbi Yosi ben Rabbi chanîna on the words, “Then David arose, and cut off the skirt of Saul’s robe privily,” said, “Whoever treats clothes slightingly will at last derive no benefit from them, for it is said (1Kings 1:1), ‘And they covered him [David] with clothes, but he gat no heat.’”—Treatise Berachoth, fol. 62, Colossians 2.

This is evidently one of the “cryptographs,” of which there are such innumerable instances in the Talmud. The lesson intended to be taught by the famous Rabbi was probably intense reverence for the teachers and guides of Israel, here represented by Saul; any act of disrespect shown to one of these, even by injuring the clothes they wore, would be punished by God sooner or later.

1 Samuel 24:5-6. David’s heart smote him — His intention in cutting off Saul’s skirt was only to give certain proof that he did not seek his life, in that he had spared it when it was wholly in his power; yet no sooner had he done it, but the consideration how Saul might be affected by it, whether it might not enrage him the more, and how the action might be esteemed by others, troubled him greatly. And he said to his men — When he returned to them, and they again pressed him, as is probable, to kill Saul; The Lord forbid, &c. — He considers Saul now, not as his enemy, and the only person that stood in the way of his preferment, (for then he would have been induced to hearken to the temptation,) but as his master, to whom he was obliged to be faithful, and as the Lord’s anointed, whom God had appointed to reign as long as he lived, and who, as such, was under the particular protection of the divine law.

24:1-7 God delivered Saul into David's hand. It was an opportunity given to David to exercise faith and patience. He had a promise of the kingdom, but no command to slay the king. He reasons strongly, both with himself and with his men, against doing Saul any hurt. Sin is a thing which it becomes us to startle at, and to resist temptations thereto. He not only would not do this bad thing himself, but he would not suffer those about him to do it. Thus he rendered good for evil, to him from whom he received evil for good; and was herein an example to all who are called Christians, not to be overcome of evil, but to overcome evil with good.David's heart smote him - He thought the action inconsistent with the respect which he owed to the king. 4-7. the men of David said … Behold the day of which the Lord said unto thee, Behold, I will deliver thine enemy into thine hand—God had never made any promise of delivering Saul into David's hand; but, from the general and repeated promises of the kingdom to him, they concluded that the king's death was to be effected by taking advantage of some such opportunity as the present. David steadily opposed the urgent instigations of his followers to put an end to his and their troubles by the death of their persecutor (a revengeful heart would have followed their advice, but David rather wished to overcome evil with good, and heap coals of fire upon his head); he, however, cut off a fragment from the skirt of the royal robe. It is easy to imagine how this dialogue could be carried on and David's approach to the king's person could have been effected without arousing suspicion. The bustle and noise of Saul's military men and their beasts, the number of cells or divisions in these immense caverns (and some of them far interior) being enveloped in darkness, while every movement could be seen at the cave's mouth—the probability that the garment David cut from might have been a loose or upper cloak lying on the ground, and that Saul might have been asleep—these facts and presumptions will be sufficient to account for the incidents detailed. Not only because it was injurious, and reproachful, and dangerous to the king; but possibly because he had some secret thought of doing more to him, though he suppressed and overcame it; for he attempted this in pursuance of his soldiers’ suggestion, 1 Samuel 24:4 which if followed would have carried him to further action.

And it came to pass afterward, that David's heart smote him,.... His conscience accused him, and he repented of what he had done:

because he had cut off Saul's skirt; which though less than what his servants put him upon, and he might have thoughts of doing, yet was considered by him as a great indignity to his sovereign, and therefore sat uneasy on his mind.

And it came to pass afterward, that David's heart {d} smote him, because he had cut off Saul's skirt.

(d) For seeing it was his own private cause, he repented that he had touched his enemy.

5. David’s heart smote him] David’s conscience reproached him for offering even so slight an indignity to the king.

1 Samuel 24:5But his heart smote him after he had done it; i.e., his conscience reproached him, because he regarded this as an injury done to the king himself.
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