Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
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.A Providence Or a Temptation?
1 Samuel 24:10
The touching and picturesque incident here related is an extract from the life of an outlaw. It took place amid the wild deep ravines that overhang the oasis of Engedi. This spot, situate about halfway down the western shore of the Dead Sea, owes its name, as it does its luxuriant growth of vegetation, to a fountain which rises from the limestone rock and falls in long silver ribbands to the sloping plain below. There were many reasons why David should take refuge here. The deep gorges and bleak hills were safe. Wood and water abounded. The solitude had its own charm. But no long time elapsed till the solitude was broken rudely by the warlike invasion of King Saul. With a fierce band of troops he had hurried out to seize the fugitive alive or dead, for just then there burned in him a fever-heat of malignant envy. Too often the prey had escaped his grasp, but this time he would make sure. This time the expedition must finish its work. It was a skilful plan, likely enough to be successful, if man were the only partner in the transaction. But God cannot safely be forgotten in our schemings; and although He may not always melt the heart of men like Saul, He finds many ways of tying their hands. So this chapter has lessons worth pondering by all who move amid the changing passions of human life.
Note the greatness of David's temptation. To let Saul escape would be madness and impiety; what had happened was as good as a command to rise and strike home. Deal him the fatal blow here and now. Creep up behind him where he lies unconscious, and smite him to the heart.
It was a temptation all but overwhelming. Particularly for an Eastern mind, it did look extremely like a Divinely given opportunity. David had a long list of grievances to settle, and one thrust of a dirk would pay them all.
But what is the principle that rules his action, curbing both the savage purposes of those around him and the hot fever racing in his own veins? What but this, that men!must not go faster to their goal than the will of God permits? Do not take short cuts to happiness, if to do it you have to leave the high road of rectitude and mercy. It was a promise of God to David that one day he should wear the crown, but he would not step up to it over Saul's dead body. He would not be king before God's time at such a price as that! How often men ruin their lives by, as we say, 'playing Providence' to their own career. What looks like Providence may be a snare of the devil. So beware of that policy on which you can embark only by soiling your clear sense of right. Beware of side-paths that lead through the mire. Stick to the highway of the King, and leave the future issues in His keeping. Wave back the eager or contemptuous arguments of others when they plead for your real worldly interest, or cry that you are a fool to be so scrupulous; and say with brave Nehemiah, and in his reliance on a higher will, 'So did not I, because of the fear of God'.
—H. R. Mackintosh, Life on God's Plan, p. 256.
References.—XXV. 1.—W. M. Taylor, David King of Israel, p. 110. XXV. 10, 11.—H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, The Children's Bread, p. 113. XXVI.—W. M. Taylor, David King of Israel, p. 95. XXVII.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. viii. No. 439. XXVII.-XXXI.—W. M. Taylor, David King of Israel, p. 199.
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.
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.
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.
And it came to pass afterward, that David's heart smote him, because he had cut off Saul's skirt.
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.
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.
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.
And David said to Saul, Wherefore hearest thou men's words, saying, Behold, David seeketh thy hurt?
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.
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.
The LORD judge between me and thee, and the LORD avenge me of thee: but mine hand shall not be upon thee.
As saith the proverb of the ancients, Wickedness proceedeth from the wicked: but mine hand shall not be upon thee.
After whom is the king of Israel come out? after whom dost thou pursue? after a dead dog, after a flea.
The LORD therefore be judge, and judge between me and thee, and see, and plead my cause, and deliver me out of thine hand.
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.
And he said to David, Thou art more righteous than I: for thou hast rewarded me good, whereas I have rewarded thee evil.
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.
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.
And now, behold, I know well that thou shalt surely be king, and that the kingdom of Israel shall be established in thine hand.
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.
And David sware unto Saul. And Saul went home; but David and his men gat them up unto the hold.